45 Miles

Motivation-November-20A week from Tuesday I face my biggest physical challenge to date, 45 miles. If it were not for taking control of my health I would never have consider this idea an option. Since achieving my goals I have had a new found energy to “do epic shit.” It started in 2013 when I completed my first half marathon in 1:58. In April this year I had the itch and completed my first 50K (31.7 miles) in 8:53. I walked around for 4 weeks on a runner’s high desiring to run longer, go further.

Based on a post by Mark Rowlands from the Trail and Ultra Running group on Facebook, I read about a challenge to run your age on your birthday. I thought about this for a moment…hmm, 45 years old. Looking back on the 50K and knowing how I felt the last 2 miles, could I accomplish another 13.3 miles for a total of 45 miles? I decided to look into the possibilities of pushing my body yet again.

While my training hasn’t been up to par recently due to other priorities, on November 11 I will be slipping on the Luna Sandals and looking to run farther than I ever have. I spent time reading up on 50 mile races, which I will be participating in for the first time next April (AR50mile.com). Originally I was planning on using trails at Contra Loma Regional Park. Unfortunately, the parking lot I wanted to use in order to stage my aid station never seems to be open, so I abandoned that course.

I wanted to keep the run to a 2-3 mile loop on relatively flat ground on trails. I started running during my son’s soccer practice at a Creekside Park in Oakley, each loop was only a quarter mile, but offered some things a trail wouldn’t. Looked at some of the local school for a bit longer loop but nothing fit the bill.

Without having to drag out all sorts of equipment and be gone probably 10-11 hours acting crazy (well, running) I started looking at the local trails around the house. Unfortunately none of them are dirt trails but I finally conceded the fact I would not be able to have a trail close to home, on dirt.

45milerunWhat I did come up with after some searching and mapping out routes was a 3.26 mile loop that would keep me close to home and take my by my house every 1.63 miles. This will allow me to use my house as an aid station and I won’t need others to help me along the way or have food and drinks ready to give me when I stop by. It also gives me access to a restroom, something that I only used once when I ran my 50K. The other nice feature, if I get tired and DNF, then it’s a short walk home and I reevaluate where the failure occurred.

I look forward to this run as it’s relatively flat and I should be able to manage a consistent pace. With that said, 45 is nothing to shake a stick at, it’s going to be tough and challenging. The 50K is the only distance run I can compare with and aid stations were roughly 8 miles apart. The best part is I don’t have to carry a hydration pack or hand held bottles for that matter.

To fuel this run I am planning on Medjool dates, yellow potatoes, boiled and quartered, bananas cut in half and possibly some pinole and chia based snacks from Fuel Your Run courtesy of No Meat Athlete. I have made the hand pies with bean and squash filling as well as iskiate, which is a chia fresca. I have read many comments from other ultra runners and some of the food they fuel themselves which sounds absurd. I am going to try and keep it all natural and not rely on the processed sugars see on the shelves and sponsoring many running events.

The goal, to finish. Times are irrelevant, but many judge endurance by how long or how far. Both will be personal bests WHEN my feet carry me over mile 45. While the AR50 will be more challenging and grueling, I believe I could accomplish this 45 miles run in 9 hours. Again, the goal is to finish, but tying a time to it will provide me something to shoot for. So if you live in Oakley and see that crazy guy running when you leave for you and running when you come home from work, it will be me. Looking forward to the challenge.

2014 Tough Mudder: Luna Sandals

Maybe I got caught up in the hype and excitement of reading Born to Run by ChristopherMcDougall. At the time I had not run further than 13.1 miles, finishing my first half marathon in a time of 1:58 after talking up running only 4 months earlier. After that run a co-worker recommended Born to Run and I was hooked! Much like finishing my first 50k on a runner’s high, I wanted to run…long distances. Inspired by the Rarámuri or Tarahumara I looked to transition to running sandals. If running was not enough I wanted to challenge myself and wear Luna Sandals for Tough Mudder.

I compared Luna Sandals with a competitor’s product (Xero Shoes) and based solely on price I bought the competitor’s “do it yourself” sandals. The learning curve was quite steep and I ended up with many blisters, sore feet and calves as I learned the proper way to run while wearing sandals. Eventually, the pain subsided and my feet toughened up and running in sandals felt refreshing.

Back in May I bought my first pair of Luna Sandals, after reading reviews and looking over the inventory for a pair of trail sandals. With my decision made I purchased the Leadville Pacer and awaited the package to arrive from Seattle, Washington. There was a shipping mix up and my sandals arrival were delayed, but I did get to speak with Barefoot Ted that in itself was cool.

The addition of the Tech Straps, which came standard on this sandal allowed my heel to remain securely in place and were comfortable. I snugged up the buckle on the nylon strap and I was off and running. The only problem I had with the Tech Straps came when they got wet. The nylon wanted to stretch the long tighter I pulled these straps, the less Velcro I had to keep them attached to. At no point did the straps ever come loose. When they completely dried after the event, the nylon straps returned to normal with no extra slack in them.

The Lunas were 5mm thicker than what I had run with before and it was very comfortable. Of course I wouldn’t really know how well they would respond until I hit the trails. Much like strapping you foot into sandals for the first time, it took me awhile to transition to the the Lunas for trail running.

Last year I purchased a pair of Salomon Speed Cross 3 trail shoes for Tough Mudder. After 11 miles and 20 obstacles, my feet never dried, I ended up with quite a bit of mud caked on the shoe and between the treads. I still hailed the shoes in a positive light, but I could not get over how sore my toes were. I rechecked at a local shoe store that the shoes I had were the right size.

I went back and forth for a few months, using my Lunas on the short runs while slipping into the Salomon’s for the long trail runs. After every trail run my toes were sore. This was most evident when I ran my first 50k this past April and they were bruised to the point of nearly losing a few toenails. After that run I vowed never to run in trail shoes again.

At work or at play!From that point forward I have worn nothing but my Luna Sandals. Five days a week you can find me wearing my Lunas from work to play and trails I frequent in the local hills. I am not very comfortable in my Lunas and while the occasional rock might find it’s way between my foot and sole, a quick shake and I am back in my stride.

Recently I made the decision to run Tough Mudder in my Lunas. I did not want a repeat performance of last year. I didn’t want my feet to feel miserable. I had some doubts about the sandals and bought my Salomon’s with me…just in case. Well being “Mas Loco!” I left the trail shoes at the bag check and this monkey took to the trails and obstacles in his Lunas.

The experience was beyond anything I imagined! I made sure I tightened the sandals before venturing off to the starting corral. When the horn sounded I was off and in my element. From narrow trails to steep climbs and dusty, rock strewn descents the Lunas were flawless. I felt at home with these sandals and my confidence grew the more miles I put in.

There was a bit of hesitation prior to the start that I might have some problems on the obstacles that required traction or footholds. The soles of my Leadville Pacers were quite worn, as these had turned into my “everyday” footwear. I felt confident enough that with the assistance of my teammates I would overcome any obstacle in my way.

The obstacles that required traction, Everest and Pyramid Scheme, were no problems for the Lunas. I conquered both obstacles without any issues. No slipping or sliding, which was a minor concern prior to starting Tough Mudder. On the climbs, Ladder to Hell, Balls to the Wall and Berlin Walls the Lunas provided enough support and traction that I climbed up and over like a good little monkey.

Through the water obstacles I knew I would get mud and debris between the shoe and my foot. The great thing about this was it was easy enough to clean without requiring me to take my shoes off. Better yet, I would find some loose dirt and kick it between my foot and sandals to shorten the drying time. Once dried the loose sand just fell out. It was awesome! I ran the entire event without wet feet and shoes.

The best part about wearing Lunas to Tough Mudder, they were a real conversation starter. Sure, I saw other participants wearing Vibrams, but I no one else in Lunas or sandals. I had many people ask me about the sandals and many were shocked to learn these were my running shoes. That usually led to a longer conversation about running in sandals. I would pass others up on trails or descents and sometimes I heard, “Look, he’s running flip flops!”

From a short run on pavement to trail running to mud races, I am sold on the Luna Sandals. I was very surprised at how the Lunas performed after 20 obstacles and 11.61 or varying terrain. I knew the trail running would be no issues, but held out hope I could be successful on the obstacles. Thankfully these sandals pulled through. The next Luna challenge, my first 50k next April, the American River 50 Endurance Run. No longer do I need to worry about shoes again, as Lunas fit the bill for my on and off road challenges.

Unlike many others who donated their muddy shoes at the end of Tough Mudder, I hosed them off and they looked brand new. So clean in fact I ended up wearing them for the 2 hour drive home. You would never know I ran Tough Mudder in Luna Sandals.

Tough Mudder 2014: T-Minus 7

toughmudderAfter participating in Tough Mudder for the first time last year in Lake Tahoe, I could not wait to get back to be even “more Mudder” in 2014. Otto’s Mudders will be in full force this year with nearly 30 team members ready to challenge the 11 mile course that will see a 2680 foot elevation change. Northstar Village is already at 6330 feet and over the course we will climb Mt Pluto at 8615′. The best part of TM14, 65% of the obstacles are new (including Legionnaires’ Loop)! This year there are many first timers participating and the goal of this event, to finish as a TEAM. Teamwork and camaraderie are stressed during every obstacles in shouts of encouragement and support from those you call teammates. Leave no man (or woman) behind. Hooorah!

Using the obstacle guide I wrote last year 55% of the obstacles return to Lake Tahoe; Glory Blade, Kiss of Mud, Arctic Enema, Lumberjacked, Berlin Walls, Funky Monkey, Mud Mile, Hold Your Wood, Walk the Plank, Warrior Carry, Everest and finishing the event with Electroshock Therapy. With that said, there are 7 new obstacles Otto’s Mudders will face including Devil’s Beard, Pitfall, Prairie Dog, Pole Dancer, Pyramid Scheme, Cliffhanger, Balls to the Wall, Ladder to Hell. Some of these looks very challenging, especially Pole Dancer, which is a set of parallel bars in a ‘v’ shape and Balls to the Wall, which require the Mudder to climb a 3.5 meter wall using a rope before descending the opposite side. Pyramid Scheme has the potential of being difficult, where you climb up a muddy diagonal wall using the bodies of your teammates.

ottos_muddersLast year the name of the game was team work, while leaving no teammate behind, injuries not withstanding. Eventually all of Otto’s Mudders gathered at the finish line to “run to glory” through Electroshock Therapy, locked arm in arm in a show of strength and for our beer. On the course some, Mudders (I was guilty) ran ahead of the other members, but always waited at the upcoming obstacle. Part of the enjoyment (for some, like me) of this event is the running between obstacles, which aren’t even 1 mile apart, while the terrain could be challenging and for the about 5.5 miles of the first 6 mile, uphill.

Things don’t get any easier after getting to the summit of Mt. Pluto, while it’s predominately downhill, fatigue will have started to set in. Looking at the organization of the course, the last 5 miles will be tougher based solely on the obstacles with 5 new ones to challenge Mudders. Even now, I don’t know if those of us who ran last year will be provided a green headband (and a special wristband) to access Legionnaires’ Loop. I would love an opportunity to take on the Leap of Faith.

lunasThis year I am still considering what footwear I am going to go with. I have seriously been thinking of running in my Luna Sandals. Yeah, call me crazy, but with very few problems last year with the Salomon Speedcross 3 I wore I might be willing to use them again for the added protection that the Luna Sandals won’t offer. One of the problems I suffered were sore toes. More recently during the Diablo Challenge 50K I nearly lost a few toenails from the continually pounding on my feet. Now that I have been trail running in sandals for nearly a year, I am not sure I want to go back to the Salmon’s this year. With all the mud and all the water, shoes were never dry and usually caked with mud. While I wasn’t unfortunate enough to lose a shoe in the mud, I did hear stories while on the course. We’ll see if I am “mas loco” enough to run like a monkey, yo with my Lunas. If not, I will tie on the Speedcross 3 and know what to expect.

As for the first timer, and we have many on Otto’s Mudders this year DON’T STRESS! This event is supposed to fun, yet challenging. You won’t be left behind, so don’t worry about that. Be safe, if you encounter an obstacle you are not quite sure of, bypass it. No one is going to think any less of your if you don’t do every obstacle. If you need help, ask! In fact you probably won’t even need to do that on many obstacles. Tough Mudder is about TEAMwork, there will be many lending you a hand to help you up and over an obstacle.

tm_team_01If you still have some doubts, I recommend you go back and read my previous articles from the 2013 Tough Mudder at Lake Tahoe. Curious what to wear? Read Tough Mudder What To Wear. Curious about 11 of the 20 obstacles you will face, including Electroshock Therapy and Arctic Enema? Read about the extreme conditions in Tough Mudder Obstacles. Finally if you want to read about what you may experience while running through the wild and up Mt. Pluto read Tough Mudder Experience. Personally, I am looking forward to rekindling friendships with some of the participants we met last year and running with many first time Mudders this year. The course looks exciting, especially for those returning from last year. All the best to those participating on Otto’s Mudders. Hooorah!


Journey to Greatness

jeff_sekerakThat title might sound a bit arrogant, as I look towards my next 2014 challenge, which takes place at Northstar at Tahoe in August, known as Tough Mudder (read Tough Mudder Experience). Last month, I achieved my biggest accomplishment to date, finishing a 50K on Mt. Diablo. It was an amazing run and now 3 weeks later I am still on a running high from that adventure. Now I have 3 months to prepare for my second Tough Mudder event.

Since my left shoulder surgery in October, 2012 to reattached a bicep tendon I have not lifted weights. I suffered further complications by contracting frozen shoulder during my rehabilitation that required rest and a Cortisone shot to finally relieve the pain. Thinking I had maintained my strength from last Tough Mudder I tried to climb the monkey bars to show my son how it was done. I grabbed the left rung and pain shot up my left shoulder and I dropped to the ground.

While I should have known better, the next 3 months will improve my strength and conditioning in order to participate in` Tough Mudder again, as well as get me into better shape than I was last year when I was challenging myself with Stronglifts 5×5, a program I still believe in. While I still own my power rack and weight set, those will supplement the full body exercises I am starting.

Been reading more about running and improving my endurance and strength in order to run faster and further in hopes of challenging a 50 mile race next year. I want to focus training on my calves, glutes and abs in order to make me a better runner. At the same time I want to increase upper body strength by adding muscle and reducing body fat. These are typical goals for those who turn to weight training, they were for me when I began Stronglifts.

I followed Jeff Sekerak onFacebook and bought Confessions of a Super Fit Vegan or ”I ate the food ‘of the gods,’ loaded up on carbs, forgot to count calories, and built the body of my dreams. You can too!”  His book was bought as a motivator to build a better, healthier body using body weight exercises (no gym memberships as an added bonus!) to improve the overall conditioning of the body including all major muscle groups. His approach to weight training is known as extreme minimalist fitness. In Jeff’s words, “essentially a series of calisthenics done one after the other in a circuit-training style–designed to build strength, flexibility, and endurance without needing separate workouts for each” (source).

leadville_pacerRunning won’t be optional, as I am already planning on a few challenges for next and possibly even a marathon at the end of 2014. I am excited to get back to the trails as my new Luna Leadville Pacers arrived by USPS yesterday. Tried them on last night and am wanting to see how they perform on the trails. This pair of running sandals move a bit further away from the Xero Shoes (sandals) I have been wearing for the last year. These Lunas have a nice 9mm Vibram sole, which makes the sandal very light. They also came with a pair of ATS laces or “add-on ankle strap that helps keep your heel strap and ankle secure.

I am hoping to detail the changes over the next 12 weeks if I am able to keep up regular workouts, which could take just 30 minutes a day with 7-10 miles of running every other day. Even now and then I would like to put in a long run of at least 20 miles in order to see how my body is responding to the changes it will be going through.