Like a Bigfoot

Motivation, Mindset, Positivity, Endurance, Adventure, Perseverance, and Possibility

Month: April 2016 (page 1 of 2)

Recovery Mode

Recovery week.

So far I’ve eaten the food.  ALL THE FOOD!

I’m taking a week off from the whole eating healthy and exercising routine.  Everything is fair game.  Burgers, Pizza, Reese’s, Cookies, Ice Cream.  Is it bad for you?  Fair game.

Let’s be fair…I won’t go completely off the deep end.  I’m like the kid in the pool who’s on that weird slope between the shallow and deep parts.  I’m still going to eat my normal healthy stuff for breakfast and lunch.  But dinner and dessert is going to be guilt free.

I need this.  After a big event I must hit refresh: physically AND mentallly.

Physically my body needs rest.  I’m trying to promote recovery through gentle activity like hiking, yoga, slackline, and very light weight lifting.  Just no running (more on this soon).  Active Recovery.

Active recovery is the best.  It will heal your body faster than just plopping on the couch like a slob.  (Even though you may want to after an ultra)

Mentally, my mind just needs to take a step out of training mode, a mode I’ve been in since the end of December.  I’m not fretting over nutrition (at least not to the extent I do during training) and I’m spending less time exercising and more time on one of the many other hobbies I would love to learn.

Stepping out of routine can be a good thing.  Especially after establishing the discipline it takes to easily jump back in.

Recovery mode is hard for someone who is constantly in athlete mode but YOU HAVE TO DO THIS for the health of your body and to sustain your career (aka avoiding over-training syndrome- read this fabulous article from outdoor magazine)

So the next few weeks are going to be different and therefore difficult but if I can run long distances in the mountains, I can surely recover in a smart way!

Thanks for reading!  Happy Tuesday!

P.S.- My recap from Grayson Highlands should be up sometime this week.  Check back!

50k Advice to a First Timer

My friend Travis is currently sitting in an airport awaiting his flight to Virginia where he is going to willing put himself through pain an agony for 31 miles.  He’s never ran a 50k before but is prone to crazy events that push him past the edge of comfort.  He is one of the most mentally tough people I know (i.e- dumb enough to never quit)

His only marathon was in college when he asked his sister to “drive me 26 miles out of town and I’ll run back.”  At about mile 20 he realized “huh, probably should have packed some water…”  At mile 22 he realized “huh, probably should have brought a map.” Lost and dehydrated he finally made it to a gas station around mile 26, called his sister, and admitted that he was lost and asked her to pick him up.  He physically could have handled an ultra marathon back to his dorm but it was getting dark and the dude is the worst person I know at directions.  He would have, most likely, been out there for days.

Oh yeah…he did all this just months after getting his achilles tendon reattached due to a football injury.

The dude is tough.  I’ve seen him go into “mindless mode” hiking 14ers, fight through cramps like the Terminator in adventure races, and puke on a offensive lineman in football (I don’t know why that last one is important…but the visual still makes me laugh…to Travis’s credit his opponent lost all will to play football for the rest of the game)

Although he’s a tough guy, I’m curious to see how he responds in a 50k.  So much of it is learned through experience.  Figuring out what to eat, how to stay hydrated, and how to stay one step ahead of fatigue.  First timers usually struggle a bit with these until they figure out what works for them and their bodies.

I told him I would write this article and give him a few little tricks that will help him have a successful race.

  • Tip #1:  Keep moving forward

At the end of the day an ultra is that simple.  Keep putting one foot in front of the other until you eventually cross the finish line.  You can run, walk, limp, crawl, whatever as long as you are keeping forward momentum.  All that matters is forward progress.  You will get there.

Travis has already promised that he is getting across the finish line “even if you have to drag my cold dead body.” So he already has the ultra-runner trait of pure stubbornness working for him.

  • Tip #2: Eat early and Keep eating

Consume calories early!  Consume calories often!  This should be his mantra.  Eating food in the first few miles feels really weird.  “I don’t need this yet!”  But if you want to be successful you have to stay one step ahead of the inevitable bonk that comes from calorie depletion.  Keep supplying our body with energy!  This is of the utmost important.  Eat when you’re not hungry…especially when you are not hungry!

  • Tip #3:  Take a moment to appreciate what you are doing

Enjoy the view, celebrate the energy of the other competitors, laugh at the bizarreness of the event.  Heck maybe you can appreciate the fact that for one day only you have NO RESPONSIBILITIES except taking one step and then another.  We are so busy in life.  There’s always a billion things going on, so many responsibilities all the time.  But in a long race, all of that fades away.  Appreciate that!

  • Tip #4: Buy running shorts

I’ve preached the beauty of running shorts for YEARS to this man and he refuses to listen.  I do not know what biases he has against running shorts, but the dude needs to get over it and purchase some.  If only he would try them out his eyes would be open to their amazing anti-chafing qualities.

  • Tip #5: Make friends

Find someone running around your same pace and talk to them.  Be social.  They could be a key contributor to your ultimate success.  If they are experienced ultrarunner they will be able to share great advice that could help you get across the finish line.

  • Tip #6: Set small goals and small rewards

“If I make it to the next aid station I will allow myself to listen to a kickass song.”  “When I hit ten miles I’m going to let out a primal roar!” “If my pee is clear, I will do a little dance.”  Silly little rewards keep the race fun and will help the time fly by.

  • Tip #7: Smile

Smiling releases endorphins.  Endorphins feel good when you feel like shit.  It’s science.

  • Tip #8: Recovery stream

Find a freezing cold stream and sit in it at the finish line (or during the race….or just dip you foot in it).  It will help your muscles recover after the destruction they just faced.

There are probably a million more tips I’m forgetting but will share with him on the drive to camp tomorrow.  I will be back sometime after to share the story of our adventure.  It’s going to be a great time!  RunBum puts on some of the best races in the Southeast.  Check him out if you are out this way!

Tapermode

Four days out from the Grayson Highlands 50k and I’m in full taper mode.

If you are not an active competitor in endurance races a taper is essentially the few weeks leading up to a race where you lighten the work load.  You take slowly take it easier and easier until (a few days before the race) you do nothing at all.

Everyone is going to taper differently because everyone’s body responds to stress, exercise and relaxation in different ways.  I always suggest experimenting with a few different tapers over a few different events to find out what works for you.  (I’m still trying to figure this out for myself)

There’s a billion websites out there that will give you specific taper strategies (this is not one of them!)

That being said a taper is a necessity.  Especially before your big race.  Without tapering you are facing the fearsome duo of overtraining and injury.

I’m still experimenting to find out what works best for me but I’ve been following this basic idea:

 Gradually ease up on the running workload and focus more on flexibility and nutrition.

  • Four weeks ago I completed my long run of 22 miles. (Usually I would do more but I am already mostly trained from the Holiday Lake 50k in February)
  • Three weeks ago I cut out any long run over 10 miles, eased up on my strength training, started focusing on yoga and movement, and (sadly) ate my last pizza and (even more sadly) drank my last beer.
  • Two weeks ago I stopped any intense (speedy) running, focused more on slow easy miles to keep the body loose, cut out any food that is “bad” for me, focused all strength training on higher reps with lighter weight, and began a routine of cold showers to promote recovery.
  • This week I’ve ran two slow flat training runs (to keep the legs loose), did some gentle yoga classes, went for a few hikes and practiced active recovery.

ACTIVE RECOVERY= Hikes, Slackline, Bodyweight Movements, Yoga, Super slow jogging, Walking.   Really it’s anything that keeps the body moving and loosens up your muscles.

What I’ve learned in this round of Tapering:

  • You need Hard Rock to get through a 5 minute freezing cold shower.  My favorite is “Calm Like a Bomb” by Rage Against the Machine.  You will suffer….but at least suffer with a little bit of rage.
  • Walking around DC with a two year old is enough to wear out even the most in shape ultrarunner.
  • You won’t be really good at Slackline right away.  I keep visualizing myself as Rocky at the beginning of the montage when it comes to slackline skills.
  • Nutrition is still hard to nail even if you are now experienced in endurance training.  Dessert always looks so delicious!
  • I sweat way more during a yoga class than I do going for a run.  It looked like rain was falling off my face.  Oh yeah, I smelled pretty bad too…

That’s all for today!  If you feel as though you are lost or have not accomplished anything of worth lately than I suggest signing up for an event or begin to plan a trip.  It’ll give you something to look forward to and more importantly something to train for!

Happy Wednesday!

Setting the Bar

“There’s something intimidating about setting the bar high.  Now there’s a new standard you are going to have to reach every day.”

-Brady Manriquez

Anticipation

“When was I the happiest?  Simple.  It was when I was dreaming.”

One of the biggest happiness tips I can offer is to plan a future event that you can look forward to.  I need this in my life.  If I don’t have something I am anticipating- be it a trip, an athletic event, an adventure- I find myself falling into a funk.

Currently I have:

  • Grayson Highlands 50k (this weekend!!!!)
  • A possible Linville Gorge backpacking trip
  • Friends from Iowa coming out to be involved in something I’m dubbing “the Chris Ward badass tour of Virginia”
  • A GIANT scary life-changing move

The events themselves are awesome, but part of the fun is simply the anticipation- the planning, the researching, the shit-talking (for mancations), the training, the roadtrips.

Currently I’m preparing for a buddy to fly out from L.A. to the Grayson Highlands 50k.  I’ve promised him the quintessential Appalachia experience in the most beautiful part of the state.  We are staying in North Carolina in some lady’s barn, possibly kayaking, hanging out by a campfire, and visiting some wild ponies.  It’s going to be a great time!

If you feel as if the wheels of your life are spinning, as if you have nothing to look forward to I would suggest stopping what you are doing, type in “beautiful places in ___________ (somewhere nearby)” to Google, email a bunch of friends (email 10 because at least one or two of them will be able to go), find a date a month or two away, and immediately plan a trip!

Good luck!

Now I gotta go pack up my bags for this weekend!  Happy Monday!

Random Friday Thoughts

“Would you rather aim to high and miss or aim to low and hit?” – Don’t know who came up with this quote, but it was the feature of a great discussion on the Joe Rogan Experience with John Dudley.

“You are more powerful than you think you are.  Act accordingly.” – Seth Godin

  • If you think your actions are not being noticed or are not powerful, I’m here to remind you that you are wrong.  People are observing, kids are picking up on your behaviors.  Act like the person you want others to become.

“To spend your life in fear, never exploring your dreams is cruel.”- Once again I’m not sure who said this…I need to become better at writing these things down!

“Try hard, be honest, help others and ourselves.” – The Obstacle is the Way (book by Ryan Holiday)

  • The three rules of life according to Ryan Holiday

“Trust the PROCESS.  Do the right things right now.” – I think this is a concept of Nick Saban (head football coach of Alabama)

Happy Friday!  Hope you are taking the right steps towards your dreams today!

Grayson Highlands 50k (one and half weeks away)

Picture from my first visit to Grayson Highlands- Summer 2013- Studly dude= Jake Reed

One week out from the Grayson Highlands 50k and I’m finally falling into my plan of attack.

Usually I get really focused on diet about a month before a race, but for whatever reason I have not nailed this aspect of training this time.  I’m curious to see if this comes back to bite me on the ass.

But for this last week and a half I’m on track!  I promise.  (Even though I’m going to D.C. this weekend where I’m assuming delicious not-so-healthy-food exists on every corner)

Here’s the plan for the next week and a half:

  • Thursday (today): Eat clean whole foods, run 4 miles, light squats and pullups
  • Friday:  Eat clean whole foods, run 6 miles, various body weight movement exercises
  • Saturday: Rest day, wander around the national zoo in D.C, eat salads (or something lame instead of all the junk I’d rather have), 15 minutes of yoga
  • Sunday: Eat a big beautiful brunch, find an awesome trail to hike/run on the way home from D.C.   (I’m driving back by myself while my wife and daughter vacation for a few extra days), recovery yoga
  • Monday: Eat clean whole foods, light squats and pullups, 4 mile trail run at a SLOW pace
  • Tuesday: Resist the temptation to consume ALL THE PIZZA and eat an omelet or something boring, 5 miles on flat pavement to keep the legs loose, body weight movements
  • Wednesday: No more running, recovery yoga, eat a GIANT MEAL of healthy food
  • Thursday: Pick up the man, the myth, the legend Travis Steffen (who is running his first Ultra with me) and proceed to carbo load and consume a crap-ton of pasta and bread
  • Friday: Move just enough to keep the body loose, drive to Grayson Highlands, look at the wild ponies
  • Saturday: Race day!!!!  I’ll write more this week on the advice I’m giving Travis before his first 50k.

After looking at the game plan, it seems that I have plenty of time.  Looking forward to dominating this week in order to have a successful race day!  Happy Thursday!

How Ultrarunners can Maintain Happy Relationships

Over the last few weeks my training has ramped up in preparation for the Grayson Highlands 50k (hopefully one of the prettiest races in Virginia).  That means added stress on my body, my mind (from not eating pizza) and most importantly my wife.

Ultrarunning adds many positive things to people’s lives- helps them stay in shape, shows them what is possible, demonstrates what they can overcome, makes them feel like a badass (complete with the superpower of running long long distances), etc, etc, etc.

But if you aren’t careful the negatives start to reveal themselves.

Specifically in relationships.  Countless families have probably suffered due to obsessing over this crazy sport.  I’m sure divorces have happened because one member places “running” above “making the other happy.”

I’m grateful to say that this isn’t the case in my household.

Ultimately I’m a husband/father first and an athlete second….and a wannabe chef/rock god in a very distant third.

These are a few strategies I use to follow the classic advice “a happy wife= a happy life.”

  • Involve your family- Invite them to your race.  Aid station volunteers, crew, post-race activities are all great ways in involving your family the day of the race.  The ultrarunning community is THE BEST and I highly suggest exposing your family to the other fantastic people you meet during a race.  My wife really enjoys hanging out at the finish line chatting with the other runners’ crew members.  Although she isn’t a runner, now she gets one of the reasons I love ultrarunning so much- the super cool people you meet.

 

  • Family time can mean training time– Hiking with your kids is just extra training.  Playing with your family after a long training run is just “overtime”.  Family time can be an opportunity to put in extra work.  Ultrarunning isn’t all about running, so do yoga with your kids, have them help you with foam rollers, go for walks or bike rides.  Your family might not be able to do your training runs with you, but all the other stuff counts,  so play with your family as much as possible and you will ultimately achieve extra training.

 

  • Wake up early- I mean EARLY.  Freakin’ early!  Man up and set the alarm for the tear-inducing early hours for your long training runs.  I usually do a 4am Saturday morning.  Running through the pitch black woods might be cold and scary but it’s a necessity in my training cycle.  Training for an Ultra takes time and it is important to prioritize your family before yourself.  So get up and run before sunrise (it’ll give you that much needed “night running” practice), have some extra coffee and spend the rest of your day with your family and friends.  You will enjoy the your day even more knowing you’ve already knocked training off the to do list.

 

  • Skip a training session– If something important comes up, skip training.  Family is more important and skipping one day is not going to hurt you.

 

  • Support your significant other’s passions– An eye for an eye.  They are supporting your goals so you have no excuse not to support whatever interest they have.

 

  • Be nice…even when you are bonking– They didn’t choose to run an ultra.  You did.  Have integrity to put their feelings above your own, especially when you are feeling like complete shit.

 

  • Smelly hugs are the best hugs– Don’t shy away from giving them a gigantic gross sweaty hug at the finish line.  You’ve been waiting a long time for this moment, they’ve been waiting a long time for this moment too.  Share your joy with them.  It’ll probably be the best hug ever!

Hope this advice helps!  Remember family always comes first.

The Path

At first running a mile was hard…my back ached…my feet hurt…my lungs were heaving.

Then it wasn’t.

Then running 3 miles was hard…I would put on rock music to try to distract myself from pain and misery.

Then it wasn’t.

Then 10 miles was hard…around this time my body would run out of fuel…my ribs hurt…my back cramped.

Then it wasn’t

Then 20 miles was hard…

You get the point.  Of course starting off was hard.  You have perceived limits.  Your body hasn’t adjusted to the discomfort.  It takes months, if not YEARS, to adjust.  If you are a new runner you shouldn’t be intimidated by these challenges and you definitely should not expect to be a gazelle right away.  It’s a process.  It’s something you have to adjust to.

One day, without warning, you will go out for a run and realize “holy crap! I actually enjoy this.”  Running will become a relaxation.  It will be WONDERFUL!

That day is in the future for you new runner.  Keep putting one foot in front of the other.  Be consistent (show up) and persistent (don’t stop showing up).  This is the path you must take.

Happy Tuesday!  Hope you get outside and enjoy the day.

Book Review: 81 Days Below Zero

“What Crane Learned was gathered in increments, plucked like stray threads from crises and moments of doubt.  His transformation bound him, in ways he probably couldn’t yet imagine, to some of the greatest feats of resolve.  In the words of one famous polar odds beater, it just comes down to putting one foot in front of the other.”

Over the last few years I’ve been obsessed with tales of survival (maybe since 3rd grade when we had to read Hatchet by Brian Paulson).  Endurance, Into Thin Air, Unbreakable, River of Doubt have all been engrossing reads that completely captured my imagination. Something about the amount of pain and suffering someone can overcome is utterly fascinating to me…

Is that weird?  Am I a masochist?  I promise I don’t want to be in a situation where I am forced to overcome massive amounts of misery (except for ultras)….but just knowing that I would be capable is important to me.

The latest book to add to that list is 81 Days Below Zero by Brian Murphy.

This is the true story of Leon Crane, the lone survivor of the harsh Alaskan wilderness when his B-24 bomber crash in the winter during World War II. (Part of the non-survival story was about Alaska’s role during WWII which was fairly compelling)

Leon was a city boy from Philadelphia who knew next to nothing about wilderness before this catastrophe.  Throughout the book he is forced to step up to the insurmountable challenges and through his experiences he slowly gains the competence he needs to survive.

I love the idea of small lessons and skills adding up over time.  It reminds me of one of my favorite non-fiction books The Slight Edge.  Crane doesn’t just instantly become a badass mountain man, rather he uses lessons from his failures to give him the education needed to survive (the failure cycle is something I’m constantly preaching).

The other interesting idea in the book is “LUCK”.  I don’t want to spoil anything but Crane gets unbelievably lucky repeatedly throughout the book.  Don’t get me wrong he still goes through hell and misery, but then he stumbles on a few commodities that are essential to his ultimate survival.  It reveals how circumstance and complete coincidence can affect our lives.

Crane never wallows in self pity, always keeps his ultimate goal in mind (get back to base and let his parents know he’s alive), breaks down his goal into smaller achievable tasks, gives gratitude when he stumbles onto good fortune, uses his talents as a critical thinker to solve problems, and endures.

Overall it was a good book to add to my ever-growing list of “inspiring survival books that are true stories about people overcoming impossible odds”, a very specific genre of books.

Keep reading and enjoy your Monday!

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