Thursday, June 26, 2014

Summer Racing Season, Part 1: The Dizzy Goat 6 Hour Race, Gretna, NE

This past Saturday I once again traveled over to Nebraska to compete in the Dizzy Goat put on by the local trail running group known as the GOATz or Greater Omaha Area Trail Runnerz.  The race is put on at the Schramm Park State Recreation Area outside of Gretna, NE which is just south of Omaha.  The course is a 3.25 mile mix of trails, grass, and pavement with 600 feet of elevation change per lap.  You run odd numbered laps clockwise and even numbered laps counterclockwise, thus leading you into the fog of a dizzy goat!

It is helpful that they have you wear different colored rubber bracelets to remind yourself of which way you are going, especially a few hours into the run when you yourself can forget just which colored flags you are suppose to be following!  Twelve hour runners began at 7am and 3 hour runners would begin at 4pm with us 6 hour runners starting at 1pm, right about the hottest time of the day, though I think it got hotter all afternoon!

The start of the 6 hr Dizzy Goat Race, photo by Mike Buckley
My original intention had been to come to the Dizzy Goat and run 8-10 laps within the 6 hour time frame. However, race day weather of high heat, (86F at 1pm) and humidity would see me need to reassess those plans while out on the course.  The 600ft of elevation change may not seem like much over 3.25 miles, but it adds up especially in the sun.  There is one hill, fondly known as "What the Hill?" which has 150 ft of gain/loss in one quarter mile.  Yeah, I hiked that all 3x I went up it.  I thought running down it would be tough on my quads, but I was actually able to slowly jog down it all 4x during the day.

The night before the Dizzy Goat, there was a downpour in the greater Omaha area that caused the course to start out being muddy in a few places, especially one short tenth of a mile stretch that ended up being tacky, (runners know what I mean) all day and had most of us resorting to an impromptu side trail around it on several laps.

Crossing the suspension bridge early in the race, photo by Mike Buckley
Another interesting piece of the course is the suspension bridge we crossed each lap.  Depending upon how many people may be running across it, this bridge can be easy to cross, or jump all over making your legs feeling pretty strange!  

The Dizzy Goat is staffed by some of the best and most excitable volunteers that you can find out there! Because my shirt had the word "Firecracker" on it, each time I would near the mid-lap water stop, a volunteer would loudly proclaim here comes "Firecracker."  In addition, at the end of each lap as I came to the aid station, a nice guy would take my water bottle from me and fill it with water and ice.  One of those times, ultrarunning star Kaci Lickteig, (the Pixie Ninja) even filled my bottle for me.  She was a real kind and encouraging volunteer as I would pass through changing laps.  It was so awesome to meet her in person. She will be carrying the hopes and dreams of many in Nebraska and the Midwest this weekend when she lines up in Squaw to run the Western States 100 for her first time.

Coming downhill towards the end of a counterclockwise loop, photo by Mike Buckley

Honestly, Saturday for 6 hours was a test of endurance and dealing with suffering.  In order to qualify for a finisher's medal at the Dizzy Goat you must either run the whole time of your designated race or finish the equivalent of 1 lap per hour of your race.  That may not seem like much, but it can be tougher than you think, especially with the 3 H's: Heat, Humidity, and Hills. Though my plan was to run 8-10 laps, that slowly slipped away during the day and I even considered calling it a day at 6 laps and 19.5 miles, but God helped me push through and finish a 7th lap about 5hrs and 43 minutes into the race.  Then I was done and received my medal, placing 16th/60 overall and 11th male/23.  

Praise God!  Here again the truth of Roman 5:3-5 comes to my mind of how God grows us in life,
"Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us."

Some people may think it's weird to rejoice in our sufferings, but it is through suffering that God makes us stronger, both spiritually, and physically.  I pray that as my character is built, it is a character that shines forth God and the hope I have in Him, for He has never put me to shame.  He is my hope and my strength, the ultimate reason I run and race, to give Him glory.  Like Eric Liddell in the movie Chariots of Fire, I live for those moments when I am running and "I feel His pleasure."  Yeah, Saturday was a sufferfest that I am still recovering from, but it was also joy in God's Creation and under His guidance I finished the race.  May we all be able to claim we have run the race of this life to His glory.


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

How to Prepare for a Trail Race When There's No Trails Around You

I was thinking about this today as I went out for my first run since the 6 hour Dizzy Goat race I did on Saturday afternoon in Gretna, NE.  Here in Iowa, a lot of us do not have an abundance of trails nearby like we read about for those who live in the trail running meccas out in the western states or even in New England.

But, good training can be done by mixing it up, especially in what I call multi-terrain runs.  Today for example, I ran about 4 1/3 miles.  The first 1+ mile was pavement.  The next 1+ mile was gravel.  Then I ran 1/2 - 1 mile on the local golf course.  Then after a tiny bit more gravel and pavement, I ran maybe 1/10-1/4 mile on a trail, before ending the run on pavement.  This constant change of surface breaks up the monotony of running and gets your body use to the various types of terrain that often come with trail running.  You get use to stepping on and off various types of terrain.  You find different paces depending upon surface and learn how to run to your advantages and/or work on your weaknesses.

The Dizzy Goat course for example has grass, trail and pavement...just like the loop I did today around our little farm town.  Is there a multi-terrain run you can add to your weekly routine?  Look for parks, golf courses, side roads, empty farm/jeep roads.  Have fun exploring!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

What You Really Need to Trail Run in Iowa for the Summer

I have read the lists, you have read the lists...those magazine articles that declare what you need in order to be able to get started trail running.  Some of the things on the list are pretty self-evident, but others...you only need if you live in more mountainous areas and intend on being out there for several hours with perhaps the possibility of running into harsh weather.

Most of us have jobs and families, so going on long runs in extreme conditions is fairly rare.  While long runs can be several hours, the typical trail run for a lot of newbies and more experienced trail runners tends to be in the sub-2 hour category.  The trails here in Iowa are much different than in the North East where I started trail running, and the mountainous states where I have only been able to do a few runs while on vacation. That said...here's some thoughts on what you really need for a trail run in Iowa.

Shoes:  A lot of Iowa trails seem to be near rivers, lakes, and other bodies of water.  If it is dry out and hasn't rained recently, you likely can get away with your road shoes.  If the trail is hilly, (yes, we have those in Iowa, some actually fairly steep), and/or wet, then trail shoes will definitely help.  Right now I am rotating through 5 pairs of shoes, 2 pairs of Brooks Adrenaline road shoes, 2 pairs of Montrail Fairhavens, and 1 pair of Salomon 3D Pro Ultra Sense.  Most of the trails I run on around Iowa I could run in the Adrenalines, but if it gets rainy, then the other shoes are much more helpful.  The Salomons at times can actually be a bit overkill, just like the Adrenalines are not quite enough if the mud is slick as snot like up at Zumbro this year in MN.  P.S. Inside those shoes...use any socks you want, but Injinji toe socks rock!

A Willingness to Try New Food:  Bugs are protein.  Right now if you go out in the woods, you will likely swallow a gnat, mosquito, or some other type of annoying, flying bug.  You can try to hack it out, but if it gets caught in your pipes, it takes a lot of work...and you'll have to decide if attempting to puke it out is worth it or if you should just swallow it and down a water enhanced chaser.  

Other food items to bring with you, or leave at your car-aid station:  bananas, water, sports drink/gel of choice, salt tabs.  Right now I typically use VFuel gels, Nuun sports tablets, Gin-gins, Stretch Island Fruit leathers, bananas, Hammer Nutrition Endurolytes and water.  The food items are all small enough to put a variety of them (except for the banana!) in a small waist pack or the pocket on your handheld or in your shorts.  

BUT: If your run is an hour or less, you really don't need to take anything with you at all.  If its's hot, you could take a smaller hand-held (10oz or less) and maybe a Gin-gin or two.  (Ginger is great for nausea and the little bit of sugar in them is a boost too.)

Bug Spray and/or Sun Screen:  So...I hate putting either one of these things on my body.  Bug spray I try to limit to my ankles and shoes if possible.  Sun screen you really only need if the trails are not shaded.  Also, if you go earlier in the day or later in the day, avoiding the hottest times, you will less likely need sun screen. Even on very exposed runs in the sun, I only usually wear sun screen if I am running in between 10am - 4pm. A cap or visor can also help to shield your face from some of the exposure. 

Lightweight/Light colored clothes:  Just as in most of our Summer lifestyle, the lighter colored and lighter weight the clothing is, the more likely it will be comfortable as you trail run.

Hours vs. Miles:  As others have noted, focus less on how many miles you get in and more so on time spent on your feet.  On average most say that your trail splits will be about 1 minute slower than on the roads.  That may be true if the trail is fairly flat, not too technical or twisty.  However, there are times when the trails are so technical, so hilly, or so twisty, that you will be many minutes per mile slower.  For example, on one long trail run recently, I ran a little over 16 miles in 4 hours, and that was with the last couple of miles on the roads!  The trails where I was running were very steep.  I also had to do a bit of trail finding that included running one stretch through stinging nettle for several minutes.  Then, a week later, I went on a 4 1/2 hour run around our town, doing multiple loops on several different surfaces: pavement, trail, grass, and gravel and ran 24 miles while dealing with a case of vertigo.  So, where you run affects how fast you run more than you think.  Trails are typically slower than roads.

That's really it.  If you already run or exercise in some other form, you likely have most of what you need to start trail running.  

Now, go out and have some fun!  






Friday, June 6, 2014

Vertigo and Running, Part 2

Well, despite vertigo, this morning, I ran 24 miles in just over 4.5 hours.  I had planned a 5 hour run for today, but realized that running around town locally might put me at too many miles so close to the race in 15 days, so I decided I would pull the plug at 24 miles.  I didn't worry too much about pace because I also needed time on my feet.  Home was my aid station which worked out very well.  (I even got to snag pancakes a couple of times that my wife made for everyone for breakfast.)

So, despite worries over vertigo, God blessed my run and it all worked out well.  Maybe my case was mild, who knows.  The chiropractic adjustment yesterday I am sure helped too.  If you need a good chiropractor, you should find one who uses the Gonstead method.  Incredible how our chiropractor has helped us over the years.  Blake Wayson at Wayson Family Chiropractic.

And, after a nap this afternoon, it seems the vertigo is gone.  Awesome!  Romans 5:3-5.  Physical struggles that we come upon are never easy, but if trust God and meet them head on, we can face them.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Vertigo and Running

Vertigo.  My Oxford Desk Dictionary and Thesaurus defines it this way, "condition with a sensation of whirling and a tendency to lose balance; dizziness; giddiness."

Great.  Just over 2 weeks from the 6 hour Dizzy Goat, I am already dizzy.  Or is it giddy?  Well, not sure about the giddy part, though I do partially feel like I have been on Benadryl for the last several days.  Any time I lay down or lean back, when my head comes up, I feel like I am aboard a ship and my head is swaying with the waves.

I am suppose to do a 5 hour training run tomorrow and I am so exhausted, I just want to go to bed.  Vertigo makes you feel really tired on top of the weird swaying sensations I have been feeling.  Yet, I must have a fairly mild case as I have been able to keep working, running, and even go to the movies.  

Yesterday was National Running Day, and I refused to back down despite the vertigo.  So, after having written a whole sermon on the parable of the wedding banquet in Matthew 22:1-14, I went out to run for an hour.  It's interesting, whatever version of vertigo I have, it doesn't seem to affect my running other than that I am tired.  But yesterday, after having run into a headwind in the first half of the run, I think I negative split the run, ending the final mile with an 8:22.

I'll take it.  But tomorrow?  Hmm....I don't know.  Instead, I need to have faith in God and trust Him.  Matthew 6:34, "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own."

Thoughts?  Comments?  Ever had vertigo? 

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