Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Black Star Canyon: Trailhead Maps

Directions: take Santiago Canyon Road (S18) to Silverado Canyon Road, turn north, and then make a quick left onto Black Star Canyon Road. The trailhead is where this road deadends at a gate, about 1/2 mile down.

Here are the maps of the trailhead:

Monday, January 28, 2008

Riders on the Storm

It was wet and drizzling a little when we went with Irina for a run at 5:20 this morning. The drizzle turned into a rain, and the rain into a shower. By the end of the first mile it was raining cats and dogs, except that two of us were the only two species that were nuts enough to go out for a run this morning. We were wet to the bones, and people driving to work had a pretty curious and puzzled look on their faces when we were crossing streets in front of them. I do not recall being as wet as I was when we came home. But all in all it was a lot of fun and something we will remember for quite a while :)

Friday, January 25, 2008

20M on Donauinsel

I am going home tomorrow, and as on the last day our meetings finished earlier, I had some quality time for another run in Vienna. This time I crossed Donaukanal, ran through Leopoldstadt and then half-crossed Donau River to Donauinsel Island. Donauinsel is a very narrow and around 18-mile long island on the north-east of Vienna.

I descended on it from the Angerner-Bundestrasse somewhere in the middle and ran all the way to its south-eastern tip of Donauinsel and back.

My run was about 20.5 miles today, which brought my overall mileage for my week-long business trip in Vienna to 65 miles (or 105km). This is the maximum distance I ever covered within a week. A kind of a PR, so to say. However of OC100K goes fine, this PR will not stay longer than 20 days on my PR list :)

Donauinsel is a paradise for an urban runner. Most of the trails there are paved, but there are a few gravel fire roads too. The view from this island is as spectacular as it gets – Donau is embracing it from both sides and you see the river all the time during your run..

One of the gravel trails of Donauinsel:

Six miles ino the run:

Mile 10.5 where I eventually reached the south-eastern tip of the island:

Sunset above Donau:

Thursday, January 24, 2008

You know you are an ultra-runner if... :)

Just had very funny 20 min going through the list of the symptoms of ultra-running addiction, collected by Kevin Sayers.

I can relate to all of them, even although I have not run any distances beyond 40M yet.

Here are the things that resonated with me the most:

7. You don't recognize your friends with their clothes on.
31. Your friends recognize your better dressed in shorts than in long pants.

8. You have more buckles than belts.

12. Your feet look better without toenails.
60. Your pedicure kit includes a pair of pliers.
61. Your number of toes to toenails doesn't match.

17. You develop an unnatural fear of mountain lions.

21. Your ideal way to celebrate your birthday is to run at least your age in miles with some fellow crazies.
22. Your ideal way to have fun is to run as far as you can afford to with some fellow crazies.

24. You run marathons for speed work.

28. People at work think you're in a whole lot better shape than you think you are.
29. You actually are in a whole lot better shape than you think you are.

30. Your weekend runs are limited by how much time you have, not by how far you can run.

34. You think of pavement as a necessary evil that connects trails.

56. As an infant you were dropped on your head.

61. When the races you enter end in a different area code. -and pass through several different Zip codes enroute.

83. Somebody asks about the distance of an upcoming race and you, without thinking, say, "Oh, it's just a 50K."
91. You are embarrassed that you've only done 50K's...

Gratefully and shamelessly copied from Kevin Sayers' UltRunR website:

Monday, January 21, 2008

Running in Vienna (part II)

So I had another wonderful 15-mile run in Vienna today. As I started it a bit later than yesterday – around 4:30pm – I had my headlight and tail blinking light on me. In the evening dusk – especially after 5:30pm – Donaukanal riverside looks like a small out-and-back half-marathon race with a lot of runners going in both directions along both sides of the river.

I noticed that Viennese runners despise headlights for some reason. Even when you are in the city there are a lot of bikers on the same trail that would make me uncomfortable, running with no lights at all. And there are a few poorly-lighted sections too. But when I left the city and was running on its outskirts without any street lights at all, I also met a few people that we running in complete darkness. Either local folks see better in the dark than I do, or they are just enjoying additional adrenaline rush at the sound of each car or bike approaching from behind.

Anyways, my excessive trail lighting made a lot of heads turn, as I was passing by. I guess people were trying to figure whether it was a slow bike or a fast Christmas tree :)

I was not running extremely fast – my average pace today was about 9:10 min/mile. Still I felt good passing by all the other runners all the time. So when another runner passed me by around mile 6 into my run, my inner child took over and – even knowing that I have quite a few miles still ahead of me – I got competitive and sprinted to catch him. In a little while I did catch him and rushed further to make sure he stays behind and I do not see him again. Still I could see his shadow stretching from behind for quite a while. Something did not feel right though - I checked my pace again – it was 6:40. Whom was I kidding? I know I cannot survive at this pace long enough… After a quick but very heated discussion with the inner child, I suggested the inner child would better go to hell this time, slowed down and let that guy go ahead unchallenged.

Still this is exactly the thing that spoiled a lot of my races. I feel good early on into a race and when I see faster runners I cannot help picking up my pace, and have to pay for my “super-performance” later during the second half of the race when I tend to run out of gas.

Here is one of the bridges crossing Donaukanal:
Another bridge with lions on it:
A breathtaking view of Donau lit by the moonlight:
Both of these pictures were taken on the outskirts of Vienna, probably 3 miles from the city:
City lights from the suburb:
Vienna at night:

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Running in Vienna

I ran in Vienna today, which turned to be a lot less freezing than I had anticipated – the temperature went up to around 50F during the day.

I ran through the historical downtown and then on the bike path that goes by the side of the Donau River. I bet it was the same bike path Lambert had told me about:
I ended up running 13 miles today.

But here is the fun part. I flew in around noon and as I had some time to spare I decided to find some nearby supermarket and get a pack of Gatorade or – if I am unlucky – water. I spent over an hour in the downtown and did not find any supermarkets, even small ones – only restaurants, boutiques and souvenir shops. Either locals do not eat at all, or always eat out. In any case they did all to hide the supermarkets from those annoying tourists constantly hunting for Gatorade.

I returned to my hotel empty-handed and ask concierge for directions. His reaction was: “Are you nuts? It is Sunday for Christ’s sake! Everything is closed!” There were a couple of hidden supermarkets nearby, but the only open one was located on the other side of the city at the Western railway station.

When we lived in Switzerland it was exactly the same – supermarkets were closed on Sundays and all the holidays And on top of it they were also closed after 6:30PM on weekdays. And we were used to it back then. It is just when you live to US you start taking some things for granted – like Ralphs open 24/7 or Albertson open past midnight – and cannot imagine that it can be otherwise :)

Vienna at night:

Friday, January 18, 2008

Vitamin T: definitely a friend :)

Following Steph's comment on my post about Vitamin I (Ibuprofen), I did a quick research on Tylenol to figure whether it can be used during the races. And the answer is... unless you get addicted and start overdosing, you totally can you use it during the races.

Tylenol does not belong to the family of Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) such as Advil, Motrin, Aleve, ibuprofen, naproxen, etc. Tylenol is an acetaminophen, and it was shown to be safe.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Alternative Training Techniques

(by Kevin Sayers and Tom Midlam)

Get a job at the local meat packer. Show up two hours early for your shift in only shorts and singlet. Enter the freezer and run laps among the sides of beef. We tried working at a brewery carrying beer kegs on our backs and running up and down the stairs. Sadly we found ourselves drinking more than running. Since protein is a more important food source in ultras, the meat packing job is better suited to our needs than the brewery.

Get a job at the local steel mill. Show up two hours early and fire up the furnace. Run alongside it until your skin becomes red and irritated. Let blisters form and turn to tough scar-tissue for protection against the blazing sun during an ultra. Try to avoid using electrolyte replacement. Replenishment will only help aid in your effort and the purpose of training is to make you hard and tough, not to wimp out with fluid and salt replacement. On the other hand, using an over-abundance of replacements will also train your body to become a chemical synthesizing machine so when you do things differently on race day than you did in training, you can handle it.

After much trial and error, we have found that jumping out of trees really helps to toughen up those weak tendons and ligaments in the ankles and knees that runners so often neglect. To do this correctly, find a sturdy tree, then climb to approximately 20 feet and jump out. Most people will want to stick their landing with both feet. Those that require additional canyon falling training can incorporate a parachute roll upon impact by tucking the arms in and rolling off to one side. Seek out sharp rocks to roll over in order to get used to that. However, sticking the landing with locked knees is best as it also readies the spine for severe jarring encountered on trail ultras. With a little practice, you'll find taller trees and even jump out blindfolded. Now the most technical course will be a piece of cake for you.

No rain lately? No access to trails? No problem! Filling a bathtub with cooked oatmeal will simulate the sticky and slick characteristics of mud, depending on the how long you leave the oatmeal on the stove. Old fashioned oats have proven to be the most mud-like when mixed with extra water. Instant, flavored oats can be used in a pinch. Fill the tub up all the way, then run in place while singing, ...I gotta be me... Cream of wheat simulates quicksand common to many ultras in the south. Think of the advantage you'll gain over the competition unfamiliar with the extremes of quicksand.

Running at night can be monotonous and tricky. A head lamp is mesmerizing if the user is not accustomed to it. By putting your headlamp on, then stepping into a closet and staring at a wall for 4-5 hours, you are simulating the 3 AM death march in most 100 milers. If a hand held flashlight is your light source of choice, then run in place holding the flashlight at waist level focused on the wall and you will quickly see that, basically, you're out there on that trail, or at least your mind will tell you that.

Adding to the oatmeal/bathtub idea, a slight variation is to turn on the shower, thus simulating stormy conditions. Also, go to Home Depot and pick up an industrial-strength fan to create a 50 mph wind. Using cold or hot water will help approximate either winter or summer showers (tip to the tuff: do not wear Goretex). We have taken to using cold water and ice cubes, running in shorts without shoes, to make us extra tuff for our Barkley or Hardrock encounters. Boiling water and loin cloth help with Badwater conditions. Sometimes we break coke bottles and stir the shards of glass in with the oatmeal. Your ultra-prepared feet will thank you during the next race. Blisters will be just a happy memory from now on.

Practice eating small amounts of tree bark to aid digestion. Also, eat poison ivy leaves whenever possible. This will acclimate your entire digestive system to what you will encounter in the woods of many ultras. Don't get hung up on which glucose polymer BCAA carbohydrate protein electrolyte fructose drink gel mix to use. We recommend Car-boom gel, Fig Newton's, and a double-dosage of Ex-lax during your walking breaks. As ultrarunners do best on an empty stomach, the sudden infusion of apple, carbohydrate and laxative will speed the digestive and intestinal process. You will never throw up during an ultra again, and you'll know how to react when hit with gastro- intestinal distress.

On your next trail run, steal and kill a baby cougar (please no animal rights activist comments - this is ultra training and nothing is as important). Strap the little guy to your back and soon you will experience the exhilarating feeling of being stalked. Luckily, you'll be prepared! This is the point at which either fartleks, pickups or intervals can be used to deter a deadly confrontation. Wearing a mask backwards is also an excellent idea. But don't get a mask that shows an animal that's superior to the cougar; that's not training! Get one with a picture of a timid-looking gazelle or bunny rabbit. Then get ready to bolt. Bonus tip: If you're lucky enough to have a vulture swoop down to grab the kitten off your back, grab the bird and bite its head off. Honing these skills harkens back to the days of the truly tuff distance runners and will help establish your legacy on multi-day runs.

Nothing is more worrisome to an ultra runner than a babbling brook. But take heart, flowing water can be your friend. Before you take to the trails, visit your local scuba shop. Purchase a wet suit, flippers, goggles, and a bathing cap. In your next ultra, think how envious your competitors will be when you whip out your water gear at the appropriate moment. If packed correctly this will all fit in a survival pack.

Toss a few rocks in your running shoes. Run several hours, then place thumb tacks into your shins to experience the soreness of shin splints. If that's too difficult for you, have a buddy or spouse insert them. If you've got a really tuff ultra in the near future, you must plan and train for any contingency. This isn't for everyone, but you can cut off part of any toe (big toe not an option due to balancing requirements). Do not apply any pressure or attempt to stop the bleeding. Relish the experience of low blood volume and know that no other competitor will be as ready as you.

Unless you actually live at altitude in the Rocky Mountain area, everyone has the potential for having problems at altitude. We tried sealing up our houses and decreasing the oxygen content by pumping out oxygen. This greatly upset our wives after imploding all the windows. As a compromise, we've taken to climbing tall book cabinets and perching there for long periods of time. This has nothing to do with altitude acclimation but it sounds really X-treme.

These materials were honestly stolen from Kevin's UltRunR website:

Monday, January 14, 2008

Vitamin I: friend or foe?

I found a couple of good articles about use of Ibuprofen during endurance events. If you know already you'd better refrain from taking it to stay out of trouble, you can skip the rest of this post :)

Can I take Ibuprofen while I’m running?

1) If you have pain so significant that you can’t run without pain relievers, then you have a problem that needs to be treated by a physician and 2) talk to your doctor before taking any pain medications.

To answer the question directly, no you should NOT take Ibuprofen or other NSAID pain relievers while running. There are two reasons for this: one has to do with stomach problems and the other has to do with the kidneys.

Stomach issues can be serious, ranging from stomach upset to bleeding. You should always take pain relievers with food. During a long run or a race, the combined lack of food that you’ll likely be eating and the stress on your gastrointenstinal tract will make these problems even more serious.

In terms of kidney problems, NSAID drugs are processed out of the system by your kidneys. Your kidneys are already working overtime during a long run or race and when you are dehydrated they are under even more stress. Adding these drugs to the load on your kidneys can cause kidney damage.

Based on what we know from research, the use of Ibuprofen can impair health and performance if taken in larger doses and if in combination with dehydration due to altered renal function. Endurance training and competition is highly dependent on your body’s ability to move fluids through the kidneys. The restriction of this fluid movement can cause numerous adverse effects including dehydration, hyponatremia and kidney failure. All of which do not bode well for a PR. For races and hard training sessions, the risks seem to outweigh the questionable benefits.

Therefore, the use of NSAIDs should be reserved for post-exercise and taken in moderation. A proper warm-up and good fueling practices may do more for you to prevent muscle soreness and inflammation than popping a few Ibuprofen.


*) "NSAID" stands for "Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs"

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Orange Curtain dress rehearsal at Aliso Creek

My long training run this Sunday became my 3rd ultra after Mt-Disappointment and Ridgecrest. It was a self-supported 40-miler at Aliso Creek Bikeway with 7 fully-stocked aid stations :-)

I parked at our “usual” place of El Toro and Marguerite on Aliso Creek Bikeway and was running multiple out-and-back 10K’s – pretty much Orange-Curtain style. The course is pretty flat with a very modest elevation gain/loss. Although there is a dirt trail by the side of the paved road it is too rocky and felt even worse than the paved surface.

ERA II – Interview with iMichelle – Interview with Scott Jurek – Interview with iMichelle again :) – Louis Gerstner's elephantsPhantom of the Opera

Distance: 40 miles / 64.4 km
Net time: 6:58:49
Average pace: 10:28 min/mile
Rest time: 24:18 (Gatorade refills, bathroom breaks, etc.)
Overall time: 7:23:11

This is my distance PR so far: my longest races were all 50K, and the longest training run did not exceed 27 miles.

This was a great dress rehearsal before my Orange Curtain 100K in February. It was not an easy run, but it feels like unless something unexpected happens before or during OC100K, I should be able to do it under 13-hour cut-off time.

My aid station:
This is what I looked like after these 40 miles:
My Garmin's readings:

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Aliso Creek Bikeway

Thanks to Greg, I found today a perfect place to run at when it is wet and raining. Yup, we also have this “problem” sometimes here is Sothern California, where in general it never rains :)

Aliso Creek Bikeway starts at the Cook's Corner and goes all the way to Awma Rd and Also/Wood Canyon in Laguna Niguel.

One of the best places to park is a small parking lot right off El Toro and Marguerite, at the Saddleback Church. I was supposed to meet Greg there this morning but did not find the parking lot at first and missed him. So I ran following his footprints and met him after he turned back.

Greg ended up running all the way from this parking lot to the roundabout at the gate of Aliso/Wood, which is 23 miles out and back. I did not run this far and ended up doing only 18 miles today.

The course is spectacular, as most of it goes along a side of a small river with a lot of trees and vegetation growing around it. In most of the cases you have an option of either running on a paved road (mostly asphalt) or a dirt trail running right by it.

The course is pretty flat with almost no ups and downs, except that when you run from Lake Forest to Laguna Niguel most of it is a slight downhill, which means you are running uphill on your way.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

A perfect headband: SWEAT-BLOCK

I found a perfect headband and dumped all other types of headbands and bandannas I was wearing while running.

At first I bought one by HALO at Long Beach marathon expo in October: ($12)

I tried to get some more of those at OC marathon expo yesterday and discovered another company that sells exactly the same product under their own brand name - EVAKI: ($10)

Both brands also sell bandannas and tieback headbands based on the same technology but I prefer pullover headband version of it.

“Our headbands are manufactured with Visa Endurance fabric. Embedded with silver ions, this microfiber polyester helps eliminate bacteria caused by moisture to allow for maximum odor control for the life of the headband. The fabric is lightweight and breathable and keeps sweat away from the body which is exactly how you want it.

Utilizing a patented technology called SWEAT-BLOCK our headbands feature a water-tight seal that forces sweat to the sides of the face and away from the eyes. The non-slip surface keeps the band in place.”
Bottom line:
- Unlike any other headbands and caps, these headbands do actually divert sweat from your face
- They fit more comfortably, can be worn under a helmet when cycling, and will never crawl down onto your eyes
- They do not stink for some reason (even if you wear it during several long runs without washing), and they dry up quickly

Friday, January 04, 2008

My 2008 Calendar

Finally I rounded up my race schedule for 2008. Thanks to SoCal Ultraseries race menu, the planning process got pretty painless and straightforward :)

Orange Curtain 100k
This is going to be my very first 3-digit race – although it is “just” a 100k and not a real 100M. This distance is twice longer than anything I ever did before. On the other hand it is a race on a pretty flat course. Basically it is a 10 times out-and-back along a channel in Cerritos – 10 times 10k race. The cut off time for it is 13h but I hope to do it in 11h – did not I do High Desert 50k in 5:27? – and High Desert did have some moderate elevation gain… Another good thing about Orange Curtain is that there will be several other OCTR runners doing 100k this year – Eric, Kim, Kirk, Natalie – and I expect to have a lot of fun there – not just a bunch of new blisters :)

Leona Divide 50M
My first trail 50 miler… I heard it is a pretty mild course with 9000ft of elevation gain spread over multiple ups and downs (as opposed to some blood-sucking 5-mile-long uphills some oter races have) and a runner-friendly terrain.

Saddleback Memorial Half Marathon
Looking at the other races on my list you could ask what this one is doing in here. It is a road race, and just a half marathon, which is a way shorter than many of our training runs. But I have an emotional attachment to this particular event. It became the first running event in my life back in 2006. Plus my daughter Sophia was born in Saddleback hospital in 2005, and our windows were looking at the event’s starting line :)

Holcomb Valley 33M
This 50K race takes place at the Big Bear area. Not sure about the elevation profile of the course but you cannot expect to be flat in those mountains. The lowest point of the course is 6750ft at the Big Bear lake; the highest is 8212ft. One thing I can say for sure – the course should be extremely spectacular!

Mt. Disappointment 50M
This is going to be a killer race – my most challenging event for the whole 2008. But this time I will come a way more prepared than last year as I know the course now and will be specifically training for this race doing a lot of hill work.

Bulldog 50k Ultra (questionable…)
As much as I want to do Bulldog, I am not sure I will be able to do it just two weeks after Mt. Disappointment 50 miler. Although the recovery time is not as long as it used to be for me in the past and I feel less crippled after my races, I still doubt it is any reasonable to do these two races almost back to back.

Noble Canyon 50k
Just as Greg asked before he did it in 2007, am I noble enough to do it? And taking into consideration 10,317ft of overall elevation gain, is it going to be a trail race or a trail hike for me?

Twin Peaks 50k (postponed) (questionable…)
The race was initially scheduled for February 2, 2008 and got postponed after half of its trails got burned during Santiago wildfire. Jess is trying to get a new permit for it and at this point it is not clear whether this race can happen in 2008 at all.

High Desert 50k
Although it is always freezing in Ridgecrest in December – around 30F at the start line – I could hardly say no to it. The course is spectacular, the race is fun to run, there are too few races in December, and I want to beat my last year 5:27 time there!

Besides that I hope I will have a chance to pace one of my buddies from our running club at one of the following races:

Angeles Crest 100
Angeles Crest is one of those heroic races I always wanted to get a glimpse of. As it is one of the most difficult 100 milers in US it is unlikely I will undertake anything like it before 2010 or 2011.

San Diego 100
San Diego might become my first 100 miler in 2009. So it would be cool to get a preview of it.