Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Western States Synchroblog #2

Alright, so I was a little vague last time we synchroblog'd, if you will, and left a few of you asking, "Why in the world were we subject to so many vulgar pictures."   This blog has not been the most intellectual tool, and it's probably not starting now,  but in the interest of all the folks that made the lottery, or are contemplating entering the lottery someday, or those that have to put up with the aforementioned afflicted  Western States 100 selection committee, we salute you.  Perhaps what I should be saying is, we care enough to answer those questions we had to experience,  the literal growing pains that only stupidity and maybe impossible will allow us to shed light on what it takes to make it through 100 miles.   The best part is, it comes in 4 part harmony;  Meghan, Craig, Andy and myself do it better than The Police.  

BK asks: "How do you take care of your feet in a 100 mile race? Tape, powder, lube, socks, blister care or not, water crossings (sock/shoe changes or not). Toe paint?"

If you are going to defer on a question, it may seem incongruous to gather advice from a man whose feet look like this, but then again incongruous may be what what your looking for.

Fellow Ashlander Bob Holtel (pictured above) turned me on to Fixing Your Feet, by John Vonhof, in the summer of 2008 when my chances of defending at Western States seemed better than me single-handedly putting out the fires on the course that canceled the event.  Now,  I did not set those fires that ravaged half of California, but I did take note of pages 260-265.  If you decide to peruse through the rest of the book you will undoubtedly come away with what takes to open your own specialty running shoe store, and so much so the better.  Seriously though, taking care of your feet involves a few simple principles; removing moisture and reducing friction.   Even if you're Rob Cain and walking the hills means you "ran" Western States in 24 hours and still you end up wearing women's shoes, with inserts, and injinji socks, bodyglide, and baby powder to aviod blisters but to no avail, please follow these simple steps.

1. Keep the feet dry.  Either with baby powder, or spray on benzoin, or some new aerosol bodyglide. If that doesn't work, then slather them up with a hydrophobic lubricant.  2. Wear a technical sock (not cotton) that is articulated with the correct sizing.  Remember, less material is better if you aren't trying to fill in a gaping vacuum in the shoe.  More material will bunch, absorb more moisture taking less time to wick, lose form and cause friction.  3. Wear the proper size shoe.  So often the main problem with blisters is not enough room for foot expansion.  The arch has to flex and elongate with every footfall and the forefoot needs room to splay and absorb shock.  If this movement is hindered, most likely there is material rubbing somewhere, ergo friction and blisters.  

I've tried in the past to change shoes during a hundred, now I primarily concentrate on getting my feet numb first.   That always works better.

Joe Lee asks: "I’m currently training for WS100 2010. I’m kind of weird about the whole pacers and crew thing because I prefer to run alone and I don’t have much use for a crew. I kind of want WS to be virgin territory for my first attempt at it so I’m not planing on training there. I guess my question is: How much time am I going to sacrifice by taking this meathead approach? Is it easy to get lost on this course?"

I have almost exclusively relied on a crew and pacer/s for my 100 mile endeavors.  When I haven't, it has been brought to my attention that a specific course demanded it.   The one time I decided to forgo  assistance and it came back to haunt me was the 2004 Angeles Crest 100 miler. I can still hear Al Valverde at Idlewild, " You're here alone, no pacer, crew?"  What transpired over the next few hours was much more painstaking than the 8 hour car shuttle across Los Angeles the day before. During the final 20 miles I ended up going through 4 flashlights and two teams of competing runners and pacers. I had to follow the light and footsteps of two other runners until I couldn't manage on the terrain.  Eventually I crossed the finish line, with a mail in rebate Duracell flashlight that weighed over 5 pounds, but I learned that some things are a little easier with the help of your friends.  Course knowledge is invaluable, if you don't think so then just look at my times at Western States from 2001 to 2007.  Running 100 miles is about breaking down the distance into manageable parts, if you can relive or "see" those parts then so much so the better.  It's also easy to imagine that 1 minute in excess at each aid station adds up to 20 minutes at the finish line (20 aid stations x 1 minute too long.)   Crews add virility to a struggling runner and confidence to a fleeting one.  My best times have been produced solely so that I might be able to see my main motivator in the next few miles.


I might add that he real pressure is more on the pacer at a 100 than the runner. They aren't supposed to be incoherent, dehydrated, overheated, glassy-eyed, swollen, sleep deprived zombies.   As the saying goes, if you don't see anyone in front of you or behind you, look beside you and that's where you'll find you're friends.     

GG to PHS Runner asks: "Do you think that riding a bicycle, in addition to downhill/heat training would be beneficial? I was thinking about doing a 100mi mountain bike race a few weeks after WS, and that the dual training might be beneficial. Of course, I don't want to break my ribs or a pinky or something like that, where it might hinder my running. But then again, I can a bike without falling down repeatedly- I mean, who can't ride a bike without falling, know what I mean?  Any suggestions you have, would be appreciated."

Firstly and lastly, I am a runner.  I don't bike because just like the question states, it's too dangerous.  Did John Elway ski in the off season just because he lived in Colorado, of course not.  I would suppose it's because he's just not that good at it, and when you can't make $10,000 per minute at something you already can, then you're just not that good at it.

Now I can understand that the Leadville 100 has become more notorious as a bike race ever since some Mellow Johnny decided 7 Tours wasn't enough. And I get that they even acknowledge those crazy folks that decide to ride and run 100 miles on a course over 10,000 feet in elevation less than a week apart as some of the toughest folks on the planet, but if a guy ( who isn't on EPO ) can break the course record finishing on a tire like this, it can't be that hard and more importantly that beneficial to running over the same distance.  I'm just say'n. 

If you have some better questions that the four of us could even come close to answering, please comment on this blog so that we know someone is keeping us honest.  We may just come up with something.


AJW said...

Love the post, Cougar man! Now we finally know the truth about those 2008 fires:)

Scott Dunlap said...

That's awesome about the 5 lb flashlight. I would never be without a crew after that either. ;-)


Meghan said...

I suppose when you finish in the daylight, you can count on your crew being fresh and 'rah-rah', but for someone who finishes in the 0-dark-30s, everyone around me is incoherent, dehydrated, overheated, glassy-eyed, swollen, sleep deprived zombies.

I guess I need to run faster.

Femininely blistered said...

Nice picture of Carly. Thanks for keeping the picture of Bob's feet unfocused--too gross to show unfiltered. This is a PG blog.

Where does one find articulate socks? Technical or not, none of mine have said nary a word to me.

After reading your post I must conclude walking gives you blisters.

Speedgoat Karl said...

Blisters? what are those? I think after running the AT the brain in my feet forgot what those were. Block out the pain and blisters don't exist. :-)

Love the commentary. Keep it rolling!

Rogue Valley Runners said...

@meghan - true. at least you crew and pacer weren't missing at highway 49 because they were drinking beer and eating pizza.

@femininely - those would be articulated socks, but I could see how after a few bottles of wine anything might get a little more articulate.

@karl- you are so zen, man.

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