Got shells in my shoes

I ran the Dances with Dirt 50K (32 miler) in September at the Pinckney State Recreation Area.

It’s a fairly brutal race.  There’s not much climbing, but it tempts you to run fast, which can take its toll later on.

It goes through Hell, Michigan, too.

It also goes off trail. The trail markers are hung on trees and it’s up to the runners to pick their route through the woods.

This year something rather common happened – someone vandalized the course markings, moving them and leading the runners into a dead end gully. Our group spread out, climbing hills in search of the legitimate markings.

The run course also took us off trail and into some rivers. After finishing the race I found shards of broken freshwater clams shells in my shoes (ouch) and a couple complete shells embedded on the bottom of my shoes.

I clearly hadn’t recovered from running 100 miles at Leadville a month earlier, but I didn’t feel too bad. I bruised both heels after aggressively running downhill which came back to haunt me as the miles piled up.

I also tried a couple new products in anticipation of maybe using them at Leadville next year.

First, I used some Dirty Girl Gaiters. The goal was to keep sticks and stones out of my shoes. They didn’t work. The Velcro attachments didn’t stick on the shoes. I’ll try them again and see if I can’t improve that Velcro attachment. They just might not work at crazy races like this.

Second, instead of my Nathan running pack, I used a handheld water bottle from Amphipod.  The aid stations aren’t too far apart so a single water bottle works well. I also was able to keep some gels stashed in the pocket. I’d need to use two of these at Leadville and I’m not sure where I’d carry my emergency clothing. But as the weather at Leadville seems to be getting warmer, I’d rather stay cooler by not wearing a pack.



The Night before Leadville

Leadville, Colorado – At 4am tomorrow morning, they’ll fire a shotgun at the corner of Main Street and Sixth to start the 30th Leadville Trail 100 mile run. Despite the early start, I look forward to being in that group.

It’s been ten years since I first ran this event. With a finishing time of 24 and half hours, it remains my fastest time after 5 more tries.

That may change this year as I’ve run about 200 more miles in training for this event. I also did some run training in the Appalachians earlier this year. I’ve noticed an improvement, too. I ran/hiked about 45 miles over 4 days around Frisco, Colorado and never felt too tired.

On the negative side, I’m 10 years older and about 3 pounds heavier. My weight could have been a bigger liability had I not lost about 24 pounds of winter blubber during the past 5 months. Weight is such a major factor at Leadville. Running with an extra 10 pounds of fat is like carrying a gallon jug of milk. Besides the added work, it’s tougher on your body. This is magnified in Leadville as the trail is often going up and or down.

One other negative? The race course is longer. They’ve added about 2.3 miles.

As for my race strategy, I am not doing much differently this year.

I have chewable vitamin C tablets with me. Last year I craved orange juice, which seemed to improve my upset stomach. These little orange tablets may help.

I’m using gel packets instead of gel bottles just because the aid stations have them. For solid food I have some Fig Newtons and Shok Bloks. I’m going to try avoid other solid food until later in the race in hopes that it helps my stomach. My  stomach totally cooperated 10 years ago.

Overall, I am hoping to run more segments where I’ve walked in the past. I hope to stride up the mountains a little quicker too. We’ll see.

You never know what’s going to happen over 100 miles.


Leadville Trail 100: Run #6

Sometimes I think I write these race reports just so I can remember what I did.

Anyway, I forgot to write about last year’s Leadville Trail 100 mile run. Here’s what I recall.

For one, I had a support crew. My girlfriend Lori came out for her first Leadville race and helped me through the course. I had hoped to introduce her to Jenn from IMBA who was crewing for her boyfriend but didn’t get the opportunity before the race. When I ran through an aid station about two-thirds into the race, they were next to each other chatting. Jenn, this is Lori. Lori, Jenn.

I did have stomach issues again before eventually vomiting about 60 miles into the run. Even drinking water was making me nauseous. So, right before the aid station I took four strong gulps of water. Bam! Everything came out and I started on Stomach 2.0. The ugly side of ultras.

Still, my new and improved stomach still wasn’t 100%. I craved orange juice.

With about 6 miles to go and the sun beginning to rise for the second time during the race, I ran past a mellow dude sitting at a bonfire. He said, “Run between the cans.” There were two columns of aluminum cans on both sides of the trail — AND ONE WAS AN ORANGINA! I stopped in my tracks and asked the camper if he had more Oranginas. He did. I offered to wait while he went to retrieve one from the cooler, but he insisted I keep running to the finish. He’d catch up with a cool, bubbly citrus beverage in hand.

He never did.

After running 90-some miles, you wouldn’t believe how easy it is to fixate on such an event. No, I’m pretty sure it wasn’t a hallucination.

At the finish line, Lori was kind enough to run to the store and buy some OJ.

And fortunately she was at the finish. I ran the last 12 miles faster than ever before. So fast that Lori would have still be sleeping at the hotel when I got to the end. Realizing this, I waved down a car with about 4 miles to go. I asked if they could call Lori and let her know I was well ahead of schedule.

“What’s her number?”

Ah… Thanks to speed dial, I don’t even know that on a normal day. Thankfully I remembered it was written on my race wrist band as an emergency contact. They told me to keep running and it would be taken care of. Unlike Orangina-man, it was.

I had my second fastest finish at 26 hours and 32 minutes. That was good for 116th overall out of the 351 that finished. There are typically around 1,000 registered racers.

Why was I faster? I’d run more training miles than ever before and weighed less than in previous years. I think that latter was key.

I also used three pair of shoes. I started with a pair Montrail Rockridge, swapped to my regular road shoes at the Fish Hatchery outbound, then to a second pair of Rockridges at the next aid station. I made the same changes on the return. This worked. It felt great running in some light road shoes.

The other update is I used a Black Diamond Spot headlamp. I was very pleased with its dimming feature which helped the batteries last all race long. I also put cellophane tape on the lens to diffuse the LED spot. I plan on using this again in conjunction with my Surefire flashlight.


Leadville MTB 100 and Detroit Chicken Race photos

I finally got around to uploading photos from two very different races held earlier this year.

The first photo gallery is the Leadville Trail 100 mountain bike race. As support crew, I was able to snap photos of Michigan racers, including Team Mongo.

The second photo gallery is from Detroit’s first ever chicken races.

And this photo was taken in my car immediately after finishing this year’s  Leadville Trail 100 run. I put these bags of ice on my quads (which helps reduce inflammation) before napping for a few hours. After waking up, I hobbled a couple blocks over to the awards banquet. Next year I should get a room in Leadville so I can take a full-fledged ice bath.


Leadville Trail 100 run: #5

Photo by Dave Finamore

Yeah, it’s old news. I ran the Leadville Trail 100 in August and finished. I’m now halfway to my goal of 10 finishes and a super grande Leadville belt buckle.

So what happened during the race? The conditions were perfect. Everything seemed to be going great until about mile 25. My stomach digestion was starting to slow.

My stomach got worse as the race progressed. My belly was full of toxic brew of Gu and Endurolytes (a brand of salt tablets.)

I had a decent but uninspired 3000′ climb up Mt. Hope Pass. My new Montrail Rockridges worked great on the descent. They hooked up and protected my feet from the rocky trail surface.

But my stomach just got worse. My weight at the halfway mark was the same as the day before, but I felt bloated.

My return climb up Mt. Hope was painful, but that’s par for the course. There’s a lot of human carnage on this climb and I wasn’t the worst.

On the flip side, I had my best descent ever coming down off the mountain. For the first time, I wasn’t passed — not bad for a flatlander.

At the 60-mile aid station I saw Kevin and a very pregnant Shelby Bauman. They cheered me on and more.

I continued to run into the dusk. If it weren’t for my stomach, I would have felt pretty darn good. All those extra training miles were paying off.

At the mile 75 aid station a runner named Dave was asking runners if they needed a pacer. I asked him what his expectations were. If he wanted someone who was on top of their game, I wasn’t the one to pace. Dave said my pace would be fine. He carried my pack and helped carry on a discussion which made the trail go by faster.

He was available for pacing because his runner had dropped out. She’d suffered severe hip pain on top of Mt. Hope Pass and couldn’t even step. Her Mt. Hope pacer literally carried her down off the mountain — an unbelievable feat!

My stomach just got worse. And midway up the Powerline climb I mentioned to Dave that I had thrown up in nearly 28 years. Then I threw up. I immediately felt great and started hiking up the hill, getting all chit-chatty all of a sudden.

I basically didn’t eat for a few hours. Then with just a half marathon to go, I did started nibbling on solids. I was mostly power hiking so the lack of calories wasn’t a big deal.

The sun came up for the second time during the race and I slowly made my way back in to Leadville. On the final stretch, the owner of Lifetime Fitness pulled up next to me in his big black SUV and asked how it felt to finish. It felt good.

Surprisingly enough, I finished with my second fastest time ever: 27 hours and 55 minutes.

Nothing spectacular but it counts.

What I did right

  • The Montrail Rockridge shoes were a great choice. Having zero blisters in 100 mile run is amazing. I only had one minor trip and fall.
  • Wearing compression socks may have helped keep my legs fresher despite the high-dork factor.
  • The replacement water bladder in my Nathan water pack didn’t leak. It’s a very convenient pack for these types of event, especially when running unsupported.
  • I lost weight leading up to the race.
  • Having Dave pace me for the last 25 miles. It’s so much easier to slack when it’s just you. Thank you, Dave!

What I did wrong

Apparently Endurolytes salt tablets are made to complement other electrolyte beverages, but I was taking in water. Endurolytes also are relatively low in sodium and contain a bunch of other stuff. I believe it was that other stuff which accumulated in my stomach. I plan on switching to other salt tablets next time and may even use an energy drink instead of water.


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