Monthly Archives: April 2012

Hope for Heaven, Prepare for Hell

This will probably sound ludicrous to any non-running readers, but, for ultrarunners, covering ungodly distances on foot is often a very spiritual and uplifting undertaking; heavenly some might say. On the other hand, most (all?) ultrarunners  can easily summon memories of the hell they experienced during an ultra, maybe even the same ultra in which they experienced heaven. I go into every ultra adventure hoping for heaven, but preparing for hell.

Besides helping me get ready for Run Josh RunI thought this post would be a useful source of information for anyone preparing for a 24-hour ultra run on a fixed, repeated course. Not the training-type of preparing, but the logistical preparation for the day of the race. If you have any suggestions for information that should be included, please use the comment box at the bottom of the post.

Tomorrow at 10:00 am I will step on the track at the Louis S. Madrid Sports Complex and start to run. Twenty-four hours later I will shuffle to a stop; if I can stick to my plan, I will have completed 118 miles. This isn’t a particularly phenomenal distance in the world of ultra-running; according to Wikipedia, top runners regularly go more than 130 miles—the world record is held by Yiannis Kouros from Greece who ran a mind-blowing 188.59 miles in 1997. I can’t even fall back on the excuse that I am an old guy since the record for my 55-59 age group is 141.667 miles.

But, for me, 118 miles is a formidable goal and I have to be prepared to have any hope of reaching it. The first step is being aware of the potential weather conditions. Temperature, wind-speed, precipitation, and humidity can all impact the decisions I make in regard to clothing, footwear, food (and food storage), hydration, and other gear. The forecast for this race is calling for a very windy, partly cloudy 43° at the start. The finish is also supposed to be 43°, but mostly sunny with only a slight breeze. After the start, the temps will climb close to 50° as the winds slowly ease. Those winds will continue to lighten as the temperature drops below freezing Saturday night and stays in the mid-upper 20s for almost 10 hours straight.

The thing is … I won’t really know what the conditions will be until I’m actually in the race. So, if I haven’t prepared for every likely eventuality, then I’m tempting Mother to demonstrate her capricious Nature.

The clothing is probably the easiest for me to deal with. I have a pair of tights that I wear when it is in the 40s or below and a selection of long and short sleeve shirts that will suit the predicted temperatures, and an Under Armour top that will go on top if it gets colder. I’ll pack a pair of shorts in case it gets warmer than expected. I have two different weight gloves that I’ll use tomorrow, since my hands hurt the most when I get cold. I’ll also bring several pieces of head-gear so I can adjust depending on how hard I am working and how cold it is. I’m packing six pairs of socks so that I can swap ’em every four hours and still have an extra pair in case it rains. All the clothing I’ll use has been “Wyoming wind-tested,” so I know it will hold up to the expected high winds early in the event.

Although I’m bringing extra pairs of shoes, I found out at Leadville a couple of years ago that my feet didn’t care for switching up during an event like this. So I’m hoping my Inov8 Roclites last another 100+ miles.

Personal items that are in my “kit” include: chapstick, foot powder, lotion & eye drops (hours & hours of 25 mph winds can be tough on the eyes and skin), a pair of sunglasses (so I won’t need the eye drops), bodyglide, wash cloths, towels, deodorant, and  toothpaste & toothbrush. (Brushing my teeth in the middle of the night will refresh me and the deodorant will make it more likely that the people crewing the race won’t want to run away when I take a break.) I don’t blister as bad as most ultrarunners, but it does happen, so I’ll have a blister-care kit just in case.

For the times I change socks, I’ll have a firm chair that isn’t too comfortable. Believe me, you don’t want to sit in a comfy chair after 18 hours on your feet … you might not be able to get up. I’ll also have a piece of rug for in front of the chair (so my socks stay clean) and a small cooler to prop my foot on to tie the laces. (It doesn’t take long for my back muscles to get tight, so I don’t want to bend too far.) A blanket will be draped over the chair so, if it is windy and cold, I won’t get chilled when I stop.

For this particular event, instead of a tent, I’m planning on using a large tarp spread over the back of my Subaru Outback wagon and firmly staked down. I’m hoping this will make it easier to get in and out, and the back of the car will be warmer and more wind-resistant than any tent. It will also allow me to use the car’s cigarette lighter to power my computer, the chargers for my Garmin & phone, my iPod and speakers, and any other gizmo that I might bring along. The standard emergency stuff like duct tape, flashlight, utility knife, ibuprofen, first-aid kit, etc. will also be in the car.

Probably the toughest part of preparing for a run like this is the food. You’ll find a range of recommendations on the internet for calorie intake going from 200 – 300 calories per hour. For me, it isn’t quite so hard, because I feel as though my stomach can take just about anything. Anything EXCEPT too much caffeine. A caffeine overdose is what sabotaged my Leadville experience. Lesson learned.

So the food items that I plan on having? The important stuff like M&Ms, Cheddar Combos, pizza, Lay’s potato chips are a given. I’ll also have orange slices, grapes, my wife’s homemade banana-butterscotch muffins, rice w/gravy, pretzels, Gu Roctane (pomegranate-blueberry), FRS chews (also pomegranate-blueberry), and a vanilla-flavored protein powder for making shakes. The organizers will have soup and a variety of other foods, of which I will avail myself as needed. Last year, they had homemade Belgian waffles. On a gastronomic scale, I plan on really enjoying this run.

The fluids I plan on using are water, Propel (raspberry-lemonade), and Powerade (fruit punch). I’ll have coolers so that my food & liquids don’t freeze during the long stretch of sub-freezing temps. Because it won’t be getting very warm, I’m not really worried about keeping anything cold.

That’s about it. Running an ultra event is a very individual experience. What works for one person may not work for another. And it is smart to try out all the different gear and food that you might use during a training run. Everything you can do to be prepared in terms of equipment and logistics will go a long way toward getting you to the finish line.

In the end, though, you will still run up against the unexpected when you tackle an ultra. It is the iron determination to overcome every obstacle and get to the finish that is the strongest asset.

Oh, I almost forgot! I am running this event to raise money for a great charity—Engineers Without Borders—and I would love to have your help reaching my fundraising goal. If you’d like to contribute, click here –> Active Giving


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Dining room dancing to Kat Parsons

This is a semi-regular guest post from my five month old grandson,  C, for whom I am now the full-time nanny. The initial is not an indication that C is average—he’s far from average in this humble grandpa’s opinion; how he manages those tiny little fingers at the keyboard is unbelievable. The “C” is just a way to grant him a little anonymity. When he runs for President in forty years, I don’t want his opponents to use these infant ramblings against him. :-)


Despite what Granddad thinks, I am a mostly normal five-month-old; I’m pretty close to the fiftieth percentile in weight, height … almost everything. I do think I talk a lot more than most infants, but Granddad doesn’t know many of my words. So I’ve had to revert to caveman coughs and grunts to get my point across some of the time. I’ve taught him that, when I start in with the loud barking coughs, I’m getting bored or frustrated and on the verge of a scream or two. I don’t have to do that too often, because he does pay pretty close attention to me. He better, after all, it’s his job.

Mommy works upstairs, which is cool, since that means I get to see her a few times a day, mostly at feeding time. But sometimes she’s on an important call or has an online presentation to do. When that happens, Granddad has to find ways to distract me from the fact that the dining room is temporarily closed.

His latest trick  is dining room dancing. We’ve only done it a few times, but it is pretty fun. Granddad is a klutz when it comes to dancing, but he’s managed not to drop me yet. He spins and dips and slides, and I’m pretty sure he thinks he looks suave. I heard him saying something about some Fred guy named after a stair, but Granddad can’t hold a candle to the kitchen dancing that Grandmom and Mommy do … still, I love him for trying.

Yesterday, he pulled up his iTunes and downloaded the new Counting Crows album.  The Counting Crows are his favorite group (proof he’s an old guy) and I’m not sure what he was expecting, but it put me right to sleep. Then today he loaded a new EP album called Talk to Me from an Indie artist named Kat Parsons. It was awesome! Seriously, it was way better than all my favorite nursery songs … put together! I think Granddad was worried it wouldn’t be as good as her first album, No Will Power, which he thought was fantastic, but I could tell he loved this one, too.

We danced around and around, and I was rocking! When we finished dancing through all the songs, we sat in front of the computer and listened to them again. They’re all amazing, but I think Fall For It” was the best of all. I couldn’t help but jabber away at the screen telling Kat how fantabulous she is. Granddad, of course, didn’t understand, but I bet Kat did.

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Take that, Peyton Manning!

Palmer and Peyton Manning 10/29/2006

Peyton Manning is bringing his star power and charitable works to the Rocky Mountains. Hey, Peyton, how about a challenge run for Engineers Without Borders? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have to admit to being a bit upset by all the fuss being made over Peyton Manning’s move to Denver. When I moved west almost two years ago, there wasn’t near as much ruckus raised … and I came from Maryland, which is a heck of a lot farther than Indiana. It took us three trips to drive all our junk out here and there weren’t any TV cameras waiting for us at the end of any of them.

The thing I don’t get is why football players are put on such high pedestals. Yeah, they get a lot of money to play a game, but I don’t see why they are considered to be such great athletes. Oh, right … it’s because most of them could probably break my skinny 5′ 8″, 150 lb body in half.

But you know what? I’m 55 years old and I’m already nearing the average life expectancy of an NFL player (58). I’m also imitating Joe Namath (one of the guys who has beaten the life expectancy odds) while I GUARANTEE that I could run any one those great athletes currently on an NFL roster INTO THE GROUND! I’m not saying that I could’ve done it when I was in my prime. (Ha! As if I ever had a prime!) I’m saying that, even with arthritic ankles, Achilles tendonitis and two decades more under my belt than most of them, that I could do it today.

This is a short pause for a serious question or two. Why do we glorify a sport that pretty much assures that those who participate are cutting decades off their lives? Are they paid so much because we know what they’re doing is going to result in an earlier death?

Okay, back to it. On April 28, I’m doing the Run Josh Run event in Laramie, Wyoming—24 hours of running. My game plan is to make it 118 miles in that span of time, but I’ll be more than happy with an even 100. It is the off season for NFL players and I’m challenging them to join me for a few hundred laps around the track. I know they are all scared stiff of a 55-year-old leaving them broken and moaning on the infield, but it’s for charity!

Come on, Peyton! Since you are a newbie to the rarefied air of the Rocky Mountains, I’ll even give you a 20-mile handicap.

If you can’t make it, how about chipping in a few thou for a great cause? Engineers Without Borders helps poor communities around the world develop clean sources of drinking water, improve sanitation and many other critical engineering-related needs. These projects are vital for stabilizing the social and economic frameworks of the countries involved. The global economy benefits when third-world communities become self-sufficient. Put some of those NFL big bucks to good use.

Even if you aren’t an NFL star, you can make a big difference. Please click here to lend a hand!

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The Morning Stretch #14 – Kaleidoscope writing

Different pictures formed from the same jumble of crystals in a kaleidoscope. Some writers manage the same with words. (Pic courtesy of Wikipedia)

There are some writers—Neal Stephenson comes to mind—who treat words as if they were various colored crystals in the lens of a kaleidoscope; they throw them together, jumble them up, and bizarre, often beautiful, patterns emerge. You have to wonder—applying that word’s double meaning of  awe and confusion—whether the message you have divined from the mystical pattern is one the author intended. Sometimes you doubt any true meaning is contained in the ornamental arrangement on the page, even as you stand in awe of the artistry.

While I believe a writer, in most cases, should use the simplest combination of words to achieve his desired outcome, I can’t deny the pleasure I sometimes derive from complexity. But if a sentence is constructed to maximize its lyricism, as opposed to its meaning, the writer risks confusing and losing the reader. If that’s the goal, you should write poetry. (No offense to poets intended :-).)

So, why take the risk? For one, I’d consider being called an artist whose canvas rests between the covers of a book as high praise indeed.

Today’s exercise … craft a lyrical sentence whose meaning is secondary to its beauty.


Plowed free by the tip of a pen, rough stones write the history of my run on the moldy carpet; hard testaments of a conquered trail soon swept out the cabin door and returned to the mountain from whence they came.


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A Cupcake Day

This is a semi-regular guest post from the point of view of my grandson,  C, for whom I am now the full-time nanny. The initial is not an indication that C is average—he’s far from average in this humble grandpa’s opinion. It’s just a way to grant him a little anonymity. When he runs for President in forty years, I don’t want his opponents using these infant ramblings against him. 🙂

∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞

Dream Cakes cupcakes ... Wow!

We (Mommy, Grandmom, Granddad and me) are in Santa Fe. Mommy had important work stuff to do and Granddad’s along since he’s my nanny and Mommy doesn’t think I’m old enough to watch out for myself in the hotel room all day. And she couldn’t leave me at home because she didn’t want to be away from me for five whole days, especially since I’m nursing still. I put up with formula on occasion, but there’s nothing like Momma’s milk … it’s the best! Five whole days without it and I think we’d both be getting cranky.

So, here we are in this historic old hotel in Santa Fe. You know what I found out? Historic means “itsy bitsy little rooms.” Geez, my nursery’s bigger than the room the four of us are packed into! But they do have a lot of neat old stuff, and pictures, and a big front porch with real tall windows so I can watch all the people sitting and talking or walking by on the sidewalk.

I like watching people a lot. Now that I’ve figured out how to tell Mommy and Daddy and Grandmom and Granddad from everybody else, it’s not scary at all. Anyway, Santa Fe has been an adventure, that’s for sure. Our first day here, it was sunny and warm and the next it was snowing! Granddad’s been walking (or running) me around in the jog stroller a lot and we’ve seen some cool things; the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi, the Santa Fe plaza, a couple of parks, an art gallery with colorful pictures and bronze statues and other stuff … and even a cool toy store where he bought me a goofy orange aardvark or anteater, or, I don’t know weird animal with a long nose.

My granddad has to be one of the craziest nanny’s in the world. All those awesome things we’ve seen and you know how many pictures he’s taken? One! And guess what it was … cupcakes! They were pretty and all, but come on … cupcakes? All that running must be making his brain tired or something.

I’ve been doing a good job keeping him in shape but I guess he didn’t think it’s enough. This morning he got up real early and went for a long run. He was gone over two hours! A little later he took me out for a walk. We were gone an hour and I could tell he was starting to drag, so I’ve been taking it pretty easy on him all day.

Guess what! I’m officially five months old! And what do I get for being such a sweet little baby on my five-month birthday? They bought the most scrumptious looking cupcakes in the world to celebrate and didn’t let me have a single bite!

Better watch your back tomorrow, Granddad!

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