Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Ragnar Racing Tip #4: Van Ettiquette

Spending 30 hours in a van with six other people? Worried that your physical and emotional stench will offend your van-mates? Well, here are a few handy tips to help you through this difficult, and possibly smelly time.

1. Wearing a shirt like the one below will not make you any friends, especially if you've just eaten a bean and cheese burrito. Keep it van appropriate people!

2. Ragnar is a silly event, let's be honest. We are constantly surrounded by idiots dressed up in weird costumes, face paint, vans that look like giant turtles, and out-of-state Coastie Dan types who show up and steal our thunder. One of the worst things you can do is show up looking like a complete moron, like the gentleman pictured below (for the record I dressed like that for a work thing). Keep it real people.

On the other hand, wearing shorty shorts, no shirt, and a cape is awesome.

3. Craig's #1 pet peeve - Hearing other people chew. For reelz people, chew with your mouth shut. If you don't you might get slapped in the mouth. Also, stinky food, even if you like it, can be offensive. Be careful what you eat. Pickled squid is just a big No-No.

4. While snuggling, spooning, and general comfort circle filtration is often discouraged - especially since most all of us a married folk - when you are spending that much time in a van together it may be appropriate, at times. However, let's keep it gender appropriate. Boy-Girl is going to spread rumors and cause problems. Coastie, since you are the only other guy in the van besides myself, why don't you just plan on cuddling up for some warmth. It's ok,  I don't bite.

5. Finally, each of us will be sleeping at different times. I fully feel it is ok to mess with someone when they sleep. The rule here is simple - NO PERMANENT MARKER! Outside of that pretty much anything goes.
This is my friend Scott. I mess with him just about every time we take a road trip. 

Hey gang, see you in like 3 days! Hahahaha.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Ragnar Tip 3: Finding the Right Pace

Regardless of what many people may imply, Ragnar is NOT a race, at least not for us. I'm fairly sure that we don't have much of a chance of winning the overall speed time and really shouldn't even be concerned about it. Yet, while we won't be in the race for the overall victory, it is common in Ragnar to be in a secondary race with other teams who are moving at or near our same pace. But even then, it is a long race and one that must be attacked with an understanding that there may be future opportunities to 'beat' someone later.

Everyone has a pace at which they enjoy their training runs. Then there is the pace they often race at. Race pace is usually significantly faster than training pace. And even when racing it often depends on the length of the race that determines your overall pace.

It boils down to this, if it's your first leg and it's a flat 4 miler, there's no need to go out at a 7 min/mile just so you can beat that pasty looking girl from Panguitch wearing the tea hat on her head. Trust me, you'll have other chances to knock that silly hat off her head later. Remember, you've got three legs to run. Ideally, I would suggest running your first leg the slowest, your second the fastest, then leave a little in the tank for your final leg.

As the person running the Ragnar leg you can be certain that I'm going to make sure I have enough energy left to run UP that entire hill while everyone else is walking. And trust me, that will be a sight as I cruise by in my tiny shorts and cape.

I've watched people in all kinds of races blow up early just to stagger across the finish line minutes or hours after their goal time because they couldn't hold back early in the race. Don't be tea hat girl. Instead, be the guy wearing shorty shorts and a cape. You'll be much happier and stronger as you cross the finish line. And you'll look better too.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Racing Tip #2 - Fueling

Sorry I have been slack in not posting my racing tips like I said I would. Last week I had my first big race of the season and I was really focused on doing well there. You can read the race report, if you like, on my other blog: http://refusetoquit.blogspot.com/. Since then I've been very focused with work and family. Now that I have a few minutes I'll finally share some of my thoughts on fueling.

But first, a little math.

While this does not apply to everyone, the general rule of caloric burn while running is roughly 100 calories burned per mile. So think about it, during each leg of your Ragnar race you will burn between 350 - 900 calories for an estimated grand total of about 1800 calories for the entire race. The recommended intake is 2000 for the average person. Most athletes have a BMR (Basic Metabolic Rate) of around 1800 - 2300 calories per day just to maintain weight and sustain body functions while doing nothing. Anything less than that and you will potentially lose weight, anything more and you can gain. Add in an extended workout or long/fast run and your caloric requirements just went up a bit. So what makes you think you can go out and run 8 miles without eating before and not taking anything while running?

People think they 'bonk' around mile 20 in a marathon because they 'went out to fast' or 'weren't prepared'. While these can contribute, the most often cause for a bonk is simply the lack of calories. Twenty miles into a race and you've already burned more than your body requires to sustain normal functions for an entire day. Certainly it won't hold up in a race being completely deprived of all fuel. While many elites have been able to train their bodies to run calorie deficient it doesn't quite work for the normal person. Nor should it.

So what's the take-away? It's simple, teach your body to allow you to eat food before and during a run. Here are a few thoughts that will help you plan for our race:

1. 'Carbo loading' the night or day before the Ragnar is pointless. POINTLESS! It will help you during your first leg, assuming you have one of the earliest legs, but will add no value to any run after that. For those of us in Van 2 it serves no purpose whatsoever. OK, that's a lie. It will, but we would need to carbo load the morning of the race. and it will still only add value to our first leg. So here's what you do. Just bulk up on calories the few days before and the morning of the race. Seriously, eat eat eat. I would recommend food that is still healthy, but calorie rich. But enjoy yourself. I love to eat pizza before a long race. Throw in some yogurt, candy, steak, seafood, I could go on forever. The point is, you need to eat.

2. Now, how to eat during a run. As an ultra runner I've taught my body to handle just about anything I put in it during a run. Yes, I can eat a cheeseburger 30 miles into a run, as long as I haven't been pushing a really fast pace. Yes, there is nothing better than some chicken noodle soup in the middle of the night . . . while I walk . . . followed by running. While that's cool and all, it isn't necessarily practical for something like Ragnar. There's no need to eat solid foods while you are running a leg, save that for the long hours in between. However, you'll want to carry a gel or it's equivalent along for your leg. I have my own favorites out there; you'll have to try different options out during your training to see what works for you. I prefer gels personally - Crank Sports eGels (150 calories per gel and they taste like liquefied Sprees, mmmm), Hammer gels (90 calories, but good texture and mild taste), Shot Blocks (Margarita flavor is high in salt and you can kill two birds with one stone), and Gu Chomps (just seriously tasty). And this may seem really weird, but beef jerky. Oh my gosh, beef jerky has been a life saver on many an occasion.

3. Coke and Pepsi are valuable assets to a runner. They are a staple at every aid station in an ultra. Why the marathon world hasn't figured it out yet is just weird. Look at the side of a can of Coke or Pepsi and you'll notice a few things; calorie rich, high in sodium, and plenty of sugar. Doesn't that sound just like the combination of what I've been preaching you should intake? And to cap it all off, it settles an upset stomach. I'm not saying you need to carry a bottle of Pepsi with you while you run (and by the way, Diet won't work, you must use normal), but having a half cup prior to your run can be awesome. I have a friend who used to be one of the top cyclists in the state. He told me that for any ride that lasted longer than 2.5 hours all he would consume was Coke. He just put it in his bottles and that's all he had. And he won the Tour of Park City doing that. Wow.

So here's the end result and a little more math.
If you're planning on your next leg to take 30 min - hour you can probably get away without eating a gel during the leg.
If you're planning on your next leg to take 1 - 2 hours you should plan on eating a gel every 30 - 40 minutes. Staying ahead on calories will guarantee not bonking. I have an alarm on my watch that just goes off every 30 minutes for runs lasting over 90 minutes.

For everyone, eat something as soon as your run is over. I would recommend having a protein shake immediately after you're done (if you won't drink it within 20 min of completing the run it won't due you nearly as much good). I just have Muscle Milk or something like that from Costco and a Blender Bottle. 12 oz is all it takes to replenish what you've lost and it really helps your muscles recover quickly, which we all need. I can relate story after story of friends who have learned how to fuel properly during and after a run. And because of that they have been able to run farther without the negative impacts and recover faster because they haven't starved their muscles. Put it to the test and you'll become a believer too.

Next week - Pace Yourself!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Tip #1: Beat the Heat

The Wasatch Back Ragnar Relay takes place deep within the Wasatch Mountains. The average elevation for the race is approximately 6,000 feet above sea level. Unfortunately, a common mistake many teams make is assuming that even though it is June and the beginning of summer that the elevation will compensate for the searing temperatures in the lower valleys. During the race temperatures will often reach into the 90s, even this time of year. And for most runners doing their legs in the middle of the day there will be little to no reprieve from the pounding sun and increasing temps.

That being said, there is much that can be done to combat the dry, hot, energy sucking temps while out on the course. Each is addressed below.

1. Train in the Heat - As we roll into Spring and the days begin to heat up our natural tendencies will lean towards running from the heat and doing our training runs in the morning and evening, when the sun isn't directly over us. While normally there is nothing wrong with this, it certainly isn't going to prepare for what you'll face during our race. Find time to run out in the middle of the day at least twice a week. Your runs will be very difficult, but they will get easier, trust me. As I prepared for my first 100k  that took place in the mountains behind Provo, UT last August I spent the entire month previous to it running nearly every day in 90+ degree temps in the middle of the day. Thanks to that training I was ready for what I faced on race-day and wasn't bothered by the heat nearly as much as other competitors.

2. Water vs Salt - We all grew up with our parents telling us to drink, drink, drink on a hot summer day. I remember playing football and having 3-a-day practices in temperatures nearly 100 degrees. All I had was a gallon of water with some lemon juice squeezed in. Yet, no matter how much I drank I still found that I was fighting off cramps in my legs right around the 1 hour mark. I never knew what caused it. It wasn't until I became a runner and started doing research on maintaining energy that I realized that salt intake is equally as important as drinking. When our muscles cramp it isn't because of the lack of water, it is because of the lack of salt. Karl King has done a significant amount of research on the issue and is sited in an article by James Raia titled Sodium and Dehydration. Sports drinks like Gatorade, Powerade, or Crystal Light Energy are not enough. They only contain about 8% of your daily recommended intake. Energy gels and bars will provide you with up to another 10% (one brand, Crank Sports eGels provide significantly more), but it still isn't enough. Several companies make electrolyte capsules or tabs. While often no more than just salt and potassium they can prevent cramping or get rid of it within 5 minutes. I prefer to use SCaps! and have found that they have made a huge difference in my performance.

3. Hydration - Salt replacement is vital, but don't let me take away from the importance of proper hydration. On a given day I can run up to 10 or 12 miles without taking a drink and be just fine. On a very hot day that might drop to 6 or 8 miles, but the key element there is that I would have properly hydrated beforehand and would not have been running nearly as hard as in a race. During Ragnar it will be very important for everyone to have a water bottle to carry. I use handheld water bottles made by Ultimate Direction that have a hand strap on the back so that you don't have to grip it as hard. Camelback, Nathan, and Amphipod all make similar versions. If you want to go this route just go to a running store and find one that you like.
It is absolutely critical that everyone drinks a minimum of about 20oz of water over a 6 - 8 mile period when running during the day. At night you might be able to get by without carrying water, but it wouldn't be suggested.
As for water vs sports drinks. I've mentioned a bit above, but I will get slightly more specific here. Sports drinks are fine. If your stomach can handle the colored syrup found in sports drinks go right ahead and drink them. Several companies make colorless sports drinks that are milder to the taste and tend to have a higher electrolyte count. These companies include Hammer, First Endurance, Accelerade, and Succeed Ultra. They are all super tasty and work very well, but can be costly. I like water. It's all I need. Well, that and a little Coke along my run. Mmmm. I get plenty of electrolytes from my SCaps and energy gels.

4. Clothing - This one should be a no-brainer, but I've watched many a people along the Ragnar route dressed like idiots and they often pay for it. Running is simple people; throw on some shorts, a shirt, and a pair of shoes and you're good to go. You'd think so at least. Here are a couple of easy tips:
  • Stay away from cotton of any kind, especially for your socks. Cotton is hot and doesn't draw sweat away from you. Get some proper running socks and a good tech running shirt. 
  • Hats are key to reducing the sun's effects. I'm bald so it's a given for me, but you should be very mindful of it too.
  • Sunglasses - I can't run in the sun without them. You certainly don't have to wear them, but I like them and they make me look cool.
Well, that pretty much covers it. If you have any questions please let me know. craig.lloyd@gmail.com. Next week I'll be tackling "Fuel and Energy". Get ready for a little math!