2006 ULTRA RUNNING ADVENTURES

   
 
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GEAR AND NUTRITION REVIEW
 
SEPTEMBER 23, 2006
 
 
"I don't judge success by what I once did, but by what I keep doing."
 
- Johnny Kelly (the elder), who ran the Boston Marathon 61 times,
the last at age 85, finishing 58 times and winning twice.
 

 

I found the quote above in our local running club newsletter this week (Footsteps, edited by Tim Lawhorn for the Star City Striders). The quote was in an article written by Rick Watson about an inspiring gentleman in our club named Dan Wright, who was recently diagnosed with the debilitating disease ALS, better known as Lou Gehrig's Disease. Dan's positive attitude reminded Rick of Johnny Kelly's positive spin on his diminishing ability to run.

Dan always wanted to run the Boston Marathon and now will never have that opportunity. (He did finish at least two other marathons during his long running career.) Despite significant muscle loss and weakness, Dan continues to serve the club and our community by volunteering a considerable amount of time and knowledge about running and ALS. He refuses to sit around or feel sorry for himself. One of his biggest projects now is to raise awareness and money for local ALS patients.

Almost everyone in the United States who has run, or aspired to run, a marathon has heard of the legendary Johnny Kelly the Elder (so called because his namesake was also successful at Boston). Kelly gave the response above when someone asked him in his later years about his slowing times and difficulty finishing the distance.

I think his answer is priceless. I plan to use it as my own personal mantra from now on.

OOPS! HERE'S OUR GEAR & NUTRITION REVIEW

Almost forgot our gear and nutrition review. Creeping senility, I guess.

Here's my first addendum after what I called my "final" entry. I said in the last entry that I might have forgotten something important, so no one should be surprised I'm not really done yet! 

I went into a lot more detail in last year's AT journal about the gear I used and my nutritional/hydration plan. (See Preps #9 and 10, Day 66, and Posts #1 and 2.) In this year's introduction, I said I'd be using mostly the same gear and nutritional products because they worked so well for me last year. I still agree with that assessment.

SHOES:

A few weeks before setting out on the Appalachian Trail in 2005, I requested a discount on Montrail shoes for my journey. Jim and I had been wearing their trail shoes exclusively for several years. We were more than surprised when the company agreed to give both Jim and me a good discount on as many shoes as we wanted to buy! We'd never been "sponsored" before, and the deal saved us hundreds of dollars on shoes.

Montrail, thanks to Krissy Moehl, generously continued to sponsor us this year. Krissy was their shoe rep (and liaison with trail runners) until July 1, when she chose to move on after Columbia Sportswear bought out Montrail. Hopefully, the fella who replaced her will appreciate the publicity our website has given the company enough to keep up on as "clients" after this year, too.

And hopefully Columbia will continue to make great Montrail shoes! Runners always worry that their favorite running shoe models will either be "improved" beyond recognition or phased out entirely from one year to the next. Jim and I (and a lot of other customers) really love certain models in Montrail's line. We've been wearing the Vitesse, for example, since about 1997 or 1998, virtually unheard-of in the running shoe biz. That model hasn't changed much and despite periodic rumors to the contrary, is still being produced.

Jim has worn the comfy Vitesse most of this year but also uses Highlines part of the time. They have a more rugged outsole (same as the Hardrocks that I wore a lot on the AT) for a better grip in muddy or snowy conditions. The Highlines also drain better if there is much water to ford; they have more mesh in the forefoot area than the Vitesse.

Those are the two models I use on trails, too, but in reverse order: I never really knew what to expect on the Colorado Trail or on our other training runs in the Rocky Mountains (creeks? snow? mud?), so I wore my Highlines on many more runs than the Vitesse. They did just fine. I love them!

And because the CT and other trails in the Rockies that we ran had significantly fewer rocks than the AT, I haven't even had to toss any of the Highlines I wore out there (I alternated three pairs). I should get my normal mileage on each of them, which is about 500-600 miles. Last summer I had to discard them sooner because the rocks beat them up. The rocks beat ME up, too!

Now that we're back home, I'm using the Vitesse as often as the Highlines. I use the lightweight Montrail Masai, which are no longer made, on the few miles I run on the road, track, and treadmill.

SHOE INSERTS & ANKLE SUPPORTS:

Two items I must wear in my shoes are some type of insert/orthotic that is more supportive than what comes in any running shoe, and ankle supports. This year I changed the inserts, but not the supports.

My custom orthotics self-destructed during the AT trek last summer and I decided to try over-the-counter (OTC) inserts from an outdoor store the last month because it would have been too difficult and expensive to get more custom ones made (my originals had been re-covered several times already, and my feet had also changed). My insurance company wouldn't pay for new ones and I didn't want to pay $400 myself.

My little experiment got me through the end of the AT, but I knew I'd need some better arch support and cushioning once I started gearing up for 2006. I consulted Krissy about the inserts made by Montrail, and decided to try them. They work for me and I'm still using them; I'm on my second and third pairs now. Each pair has lasted me at least 1,000 miles before losing their cushioning.

The Montrail Enduro-Soles are "custom" in the sense that they mold to your feet (you warm them up in an oven and wear them around in your shoes for a few minutes). They retail for about $30. If running shoe or outdoor stores in your area don't carry them but do carry any of the Montrail shoes, ask them to order the inserts in your size.

If I know the trail I'll be running is rocky, I sometimes also wear a thin, flexible green Spenco insole under the Enduro-Soles for more cushioning. I couldn't find any of these Spenco insoles locally and had to order them on-line the last time. They are only about 1/4" thick and totally flexible - they have no support, just offer more protection from rocks.

Because of toe surgery in 2004, I have to wear a soft felt pad behind my metatarsal joints in one foot to relieve the pressure on the "met heads" when I walk or run. I've been using Hapad metatarsal pads with great success. They adhere to the top of the Enduro-Soles. Hardest part is getting them placed just so when I put a new one on. They are inexpensive and come in many shapes and thicknesses to solve various foot problems.

I'm a total fan of the ankle supports I use, also pretty much a requirement for any trail running I do since I ruptured the peroneus brevis and longus tendons in one ankle five years ago. Since surgery, I've used ASO ankle supports on BOTH ankles to prevent even the slightest ankle strain. They are very comfortable and last me about 2,500 miles per pair. ASO supports have laces and velcro straps to keep the ankles from rolling. Here are two photos of them:

   

If you need to take them off for some reason during a run, they can be inconvenient if you're tired, in a hurry, or have on gaiters to keep dirt out of your shoes, but they are worth the extra time to me. I used to trash my ankles all the time. I don't worry about that any more.

ASO supports cost about $40 each, less if your insurance covers them with a doctor's prescription. If you can't find them locally at a doctor's office or medical supply store, do an internet search for "ASO+braces" and compare prices and shipping costs.

SOCKS:

I continue to love and wear my "toe socks" for all long runs. Injinji "tetratsoks" have individual toes to prevent blisters between the toes. They work for me! I'm still using the five pairs I got before the AT trek, and they look like they'll last a lot longer. I use thin, inexpensive Coolmax ankle socks on top of the toe socks, pretty necessary to prevent fast wear in the expensive Injinjis, shown on my left foot in the photo below:

On shorter runs I like to wear various types of Smartwool socks that I've gotten free at races, and some Thorlos I've had for years. I'm wearing one type of Smartwool socks on my right foot in the photo above.

Everyone has different sock preferences, but I don't think you can go wrong with any of these companies. They have a variety of designs and fibers, and they all have good warranties.

OTHER CLOTHING:

This year I continued to wear the same running clothes I already had. The only new thing I got in the spring was a pair of REI "Sahara" zip-off pants that I really love. I have two other brands of convertible pants, but these are the ones I always reach for first. I occasionally used them on the Colorado Trail , but usually wore running shorts in temps over 50 F. because my legs are more free in them and it's easier to pee in running shorts!

In the Rockies we always carried our Marmot Precip jackets and pants in our packs in case of rain, sleet, hail, snow, or cold, windy weather on top of the mountains. They keep rain off pretty well, but get really clammy inside from sweat. I usually forget to open the arm vents. That would help prevent the wetness inside. In the photo below at the beginning of my AT run we're both wearing our "Marmies." Jim also has on the Precip pants:

I also carried a fleece hat, wool headband, and one or two pairs of gloves on most of my CT runs (higher elevations or colder, longer days), as well as various emergency supplies that I used on the AT in New England and the Smokies (waterproof matches, flashlight, whistle, water purification tablets, etc.).

TECHNOLOGY:

I used our compact Nikon Coolpix 4100 (four-megapixel) digital camera again all summer and it continues to work great. I wish it would self-destruct, however, so I could justify getting a six-megapixel camera with more zoom capability than 3X. But those still cost too much for us to just go out any buy as long as the Coolpix works. Jim also used our older, larger Olympus Camedia three-megapixel camera occasionally, too. I like the Coolpix because it's small and ergonomic, easy to carry and use while I'm "on the run."

(Last fall the ATC put out a call for photos from the Trail to use in its 2008 wall calendars, but submissions had to be SEVEN megapixels or larger! I was so disappointed that I couldn't send in even ONE of the 3,000+ photos we took along the AT because they were all taken with our three and four megapixel cameras. So I guess even a six MP camera wouldn't be adequate for that purpose. Maybe I should dream bigger!)

We got a new Garmin GPSMAP 60 CS unit from REI just before our trip and it also worked well for us. Jim needed an excuse to buy one of these gadgets anyway, and it was quite useful on the sparsely-marked Colorado Trail. I credit its use with preventing me from getting lost this summer. I was concerned that I might have trouble learning to use it, but I did OK with the few functions I used (primarily elevation, distance, and following the waypoints on a map I could zoom in and out).

Jim learned pretty quickly that the mapping software that came with the GPS didn't work right with the Colorado Trail CD-ROM waypoints, so he purchased  some different software from Garmin (MapSource United States Topo) that worked well. He had to load the waypoints and map separately into the GPS, however.

Runners and hikers routinely complain that their GPS units lose their satellite signals under heavy tree cover. I didn't find that to be as much of a problem in the Rockies as at home in Virginia. I'm convinced the leaves are thicker at home! Although much of the CT and other trails we ran were shaded, the leaves of the predominant trees (aspens, mostly) and the needles of the various firs and pines just aren't as dense and don't block satellite reception as much. Our GPS beeps to let us know when it has lost the signal(s). I didn't have to reset it very often.

I also used the written directions in the Colorado Trail Guidebook, Seventh Edition (2006), the official guidebook of the Colorado Trail Foundation. I tore out the appropriate pages each day and carried those in a plastic zippered bag so it wouldn't get wet. The directions are mostly accurate, but the distances our truck odometer and GPS unit measured for trail head access and on the trail itself were often at odds. So were elevations. Not sure if it was them or us!

The new guidebook is great. I have only one suggestion for the next edition: please write the directions for trail users going NORTHBOUND, too! Even though I did the segments out of order, I usually went SOBO because it was easier than re-writing all of the directions! (Trailhead logistics were actually less important to us.) The chore was more nerve-racking because many of the CT turns aren't marked, so if I wrote the directions down incorrectly, it could have been a big problem (less so with a GPS, however.).

I appreciate the Appalachian Trail directions for both NOBO and SOBO hikers even more now. I'm guessing the NOBO directions aren't in the Colorado Trail book because it would make it about 40% longer. The CT Foundation is on much more of a shoestring budget than is the AT Conservancy.

We also purchased a poster-sized map of the CT from the CT Foundation and hung it up in the camper. It looks like the elongated map on the left-hand side of each of the 2006 journal pages. I've also added a large page to this journal that will show the segments clearly so you can get a better idea of where each is located. This is a small version of it:

We carried our cell phone on all our runs this summer. Even in remote wilderness areas, we usually had a strong signal (four or five bars) on ridges and other high places but often had no or poor signals lower down. It would have been nice to be able to let Jim know when I was getting close to the rendezvous point each day, but we couldn't always connect.

Even though I have a simple Polar heart rate monitor, I never used it on training runs after we left for our trip (I used it last winter and spring). The only watch I used on the CT and other training runs and races this summer was my simple Timex sports watch. I wasn't very concerned with my running/walking pace and didn't even use the chrono feature.

PACK AND HYDRATION SYSTEM:

I continued to wear my Camelbak H.A.W.G. hydration pack (shown below) on all long runs this summer. I bought it before the AT trek and it's still in excellent shape (except for the outside netting on the back that got torn sliding down rocks in New Hampshire!). It holds a lot of stuff, sometimes TOO much! I never did weigh it (nor did I on the AT run), but I'm sure that with 100 oz. of water each morning and the other items I carried most days, it was over 15 pounds a lot of days.

I had problems with two Camelbak 100-oz. bladders this year, including a brand new tougher-textured, warranted-for-life one I had to purchase in June in Billings, Montana, after another one got a hole in it. I noticed the new one leaked about two weeks before we came home. I always had at least two back-up bladders, plus Jim's. One was 100 oz., one 70 oz.  I wanted two 100-oz. bladders available to me at all times. I didn't want to have just one and then be SOL if it also developed a leak and there were no stores close by where I could get another one. Stuff happens, after all.

I contacted Camelbak about the newest problem about ten days ago and received instructions for returning the damaged bladder. I wasn't sure if they would replace the first one, but I stuck it in with the newer one anyway, the tear circled with a pen. I think it's the one that came with the pack, but I didn't want to spend the time hunting the receipt. 

In only one week I received two brand new 100-oz. bladders to replace the ones I mailed back! That is exceptional service. It's the second or third time we've had to return leaking hydration bladders to Camelbak, but we like the design and as long as the company stands behind its products, we'll continue to buy them.

I use only water in my Camelbak for sanitation reasons. It's a pain to thoroughly clean energy drinks out of the tubes and bladders! And with my system of using a highly concentrated energy drink, it wouldn't work in the bladder anyway. So I carry the energy drink concentrate (or even at regular strength) in a separate UD 20-oz. or 28-oz. bottle. We've been using these bottles for many years; despite all the various freebies we get at races, it's the standard white or gray UD bottles to which we turn on every run. When I need to carry the bottle in my hand, I use an old UD hand-carrier that's about to fall apart. I keep stitching it up, because I don't like their newer versions.

NUTRITION SYSTEM:

Because I described my nutritional system so thoroughly in the AT journal (see links near the beginning of this entry), I will write a shorter summary here.

Bottom line: this system works well for me on long training runs and races and I will probably continue using it as long as I can run or hike.

We are grateful to Hammer Nutrition for continuing to offer us a substantial discount on their products this year. As with Montrail, before the AT run last year I asked Hammer for a discount because I knew we'd be using their products exclusively and it would cost a lot. I didn't have to ask again before this trip; they just kept on letting us order at the discounted prices. Thank you, Hammer Nutrition!!

And thank you, readers, who have ordered their products. First-time buyers can get a 15% discount on their products by using the link above or on the left of each page of our journals, and we get a discount on our next order based on your total purchase (25% of your total). It's a win-win for both of us.

Everyone can do this, by the way. After you've ordered, you get a customer number and can let friends know about the first-order discount. If they use your customer number on their first order, you get that discount worth 25% of their order on your next order. This isn't just for "sponsored athletes."

End of advertisement. Now back to my summary:

We used the following Hammer Nutrition products again this year:

  • Hammer Gel for all our training runs and races. It's a tasty, quick source of energy with no simple sugars and easily portable in either little foil packets or 5-oz. flasks. We always buy the large bottles, shown above left (more cost effective) and put the gel into the flasks shown in front (less messy on the run than the foil packets, and less likely to drop it on the trail). It comes in about ten flavors, two of which are caffeinated.

  • Heed energy drink for runs between about two to five hours. Heed contains complex carbohydrates and electrolytes. It comes in two flavors.  Jim and I both mix the powder in water at regular strength.

  • Perpetuem energy drink, shown in the middle, for long runs over four or five hours. I absolutely love this stuff, and used it almost every day on the trail this summer and last. It contains protein and fat, as well as complex carbs, literally "for the long run." It also contains enough electrolytes that I don't have to use many electrolyte caps to supplement it. Combined with slugs of Hammer Gel every 20-30 minutes, it was enough to sustain me on all my long runs without needing any solid food. I mix "Perp" up in a concentrated solution (4-6 times normal strength) and wash it down with water from my hydration bladder. Jim prefers to use it at regular strength (2-2 scoops per 20 oz. water bottle).

  • Sustained Energy, another energy drink with protein, fat, and carbs for really long endurance activities, is used the same way as Perpetuem. I add gel to it for flavor (raspberry is good!). It doesn't contain as much sodium as Perpetuem, so you may need to supplement SE with more electrolytes. We prefer Perp, but some friends of ours use SE exclusively.

  • Endurolytes electrolyte capsules, shown to the right in photo above.

  • Hammer Bar energy bars. These are delicious, but we don't use energy bars real often. We prefer the liquids and gels. Hammer Bars are made of  organic ingredients and come in two flavors, chocolate chip and almond raisin. They are moist and digest quickly.

  • Recoverite recovery drink, good to use after every long run or race to help reduce post-exercise muscle soreness and optimize muscle recovery. I can definitely tell a difference the next day(s) when I use it.

None of these products contain simple sugars, and the company recommends against using them with any products or foods that contain simple sugars. They say it really messes up the absorption rate and causes stomach distress. Hammer products are made to work together, however - like using the gels and bars with any of the energy drinks.

Hammer Nutrition has many more products than these, including whey and soy protein powders and numerous supplements. I've only listed the products we've used and can vouch for in our own training.

AM I DONE NOW??

OK, I wonder what else I'll discover I've left out that I think is important enough to include in another entry . . . oh, yeah, a LARGE MAP of the course that shows the segments clearly!

Farewell once more,

Sue
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, Cody, and Tater

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2006 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil