Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Brazil 135 Video on Buzzfeed, Part 2

Earlier today, I posted a video of my race at Brazil 135 in January that Henry Goldman at Buzzfeed made using GoPro video footage and timelapse photos I took during the race. Seeing the video on Buzzfeed Yellow on YouTube was really rad, but then this afternoon Henry posted the video on Buzzfeed itself with some awesome commentary, still photos and GIFs.

Even if you've already watched the video, please click on the image below to check it out on Buzzfeed:

p.s. as of right now, the video has 118,000 views!! :)

What It's Like To Run 135 Miles (Brazil 135 race video)

As some of you probably noticed from the photos from Brazil 135, I wore a GoPro camera on my head for chunks of the race.

The headstrap mount was actually pretty comfortable and did a great job both on video mode and timelapse. It didn't do so well at night, but that's to be expected when it's pitch black and the camera doesn't have a flash or light (and I couldn't figure out how to comfortably wear both the camera and a headlamp).

I borrowed the camera from some friends at Buzzfeed and after I got home, they used the footage to put together a short video of the race with some voiceover by yours truly.

The video was published on Buzzfeed Yellow today and it came out friggin' awesome. Please check it out and let me know what you think!

Monday, March 31, 2014

Monthly Summary - March 2014

(photo: Colin)

March was something of a reboot month for me. I got back from Asia at the beginning of the month and wasn't physically or mentally ready to get back into training. And it took me a couple weeks to find my way back into a work, training, eating and sleeping rhythm. But the month ended with a couple good weeks of training and I think I'm ready for the next few months of prep before Badwater.

I didn't race this month or do any spectacularly epic training runs but I did have a ton of fun running with good friends all over LA. I made it to the pool a half dozen times and went to the gym semi-regularly for some basic strength training and to spend time in the sauna. All of that makes for a pretty great month of training - and I'll be happy if April is more of the same.

Here's March:

Swim: 10,500 meters
Cycling (outdoors): 0 miles
Cycling (indoors): 0 (hours)
Run: 231.4 miles
Total Run Elevation Gain: 42,656 feet
Strength Training/Yoga: 6 sessions

Approximate monthly total training time: 52 hours

Weight: 165

Monday, March 24, 2014

Full Steam Ahead

(photo: Colin)

After a few fits and starts, Badwater 135 training is officially "full steam ahead". And that's a really good thing, since the race starts just 17 weeks (119 days) from today!

We got back from our trip to Southeast Asia three weeks ago and I needed nearly all of that time to recover and find the motivation to get back into training. For the first ten days, I was really just going through the motions, dragging my ass out for a run even though it hurt all over and it was pretty much the last thing I wanted to do. Each day since then, I've felt better and better. I've been steadily (and slowly) increasing my mileage, adding a few miles here and there during the week and to my back-to-backs on the weekend. I didn't have much "speed" to begin with but the little bit I do have is taking a while to come back. I need to focus a little more on that in the coming months.

Each of the last three weekends, I've spent a day exploring the San Gabriel mountains around Echo Mountain and Mt. Lowe. We have some pretty incredible places to run around LA and I'm lucky to have good friends to explore it with.

(running out of Idlehour Camp; photo: Colin)

(With Billy, Ethan and Colin, on Mt. Lowe; photo: Billy) 

(With Dave, climbing Steep and Cheap; photo: Colin)

I went on a fun night run with the gang up to Eagle Rock. I'm usually a morning runner and don't do night runs too often, but every time I get out there, I remember just how fun they are.

(with Colin, Billy, Sally and Ethan on Eagle Rock; photo Billy)

And the other day, I took Dan, a friend in town from the East Coast, on a 28 mile tour of the Santa Monicas.

That was a bit of a big jump in mileage, but we didn't push the pace and took a couple nice breaks and it felt great.

For the last few weeks I've been wrestling with whether or not I would try to do some kind of tune-up race between now and Badwater. I finally decided that I won't. I'm going to spend the next four months concentrating solely on training for Badwater (and for Wasatch too... but we'll discuss that at another time). I don't want to spend time tapering or recovering from a race and would rather put my time and money into one or two big training weekends in Lone Pine. I've also been spending time thinking about how to structure these 17 weeks, but I'll leave that for another post.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Back in the Mountains

(photo: Dom)

This morning, after two weeks in Thailand (and seven weeks before that between taper for and recovery from Brazil 135), I made it back to Temescal for my "usual" Tuesday B.O.C. run for the first time in 2014.

I'm feeling fat and achy and totally out of shape so I suffered a little on my way up and suffered mightily on the way down, but watching the sunrise while running in the mountains with friends is always going to be a glorious way to start my day.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Monthly Summary - February 2014

Sunrise, Angkor Wat

As expected, February was split into two very different halves. During the first half of the month, I started slowly getting back into training and running. And I mean really slowly. I was busy at work, busy planning our trip, struggling to motivate to get up in the morning and train and consciously trying not to jump back into things too quickly. I did a few easy road runs around the neighborhood, ran the Sullivan Canyon/Ridge loop with Lukas a couple of times and at the end of the first two weeks of the month, ran up and down the Mt. Wilson trail with Billy, Dave and Mike.

The second half of the month has been our trip to Thailand and Cambodia. We started the trip in Bangkok, then went to a resort on Phuket and finished the trip with a visit to Siem Reap, Cambodia. We worked in a perfect mix of culture and history and relaxing time at the beach and saw some incredible parts of the world. In addition to the Angkor Wat sunrise above, here are a few of my other favorite pictures (many more to be posted on Facebook soon).

Riding bikes in around our resort in Phuket, headed towards the beach and... 

this amazing sunset

Elizabeth and I at Angkor Wat for sunrise

The Bayon Temple at Angkor Thom, probably my favorite temple of the trip

We ate a ton of great food, mostly vegan, even. Breakfasts at the hotels were amazing - tons of fresh fruit and breads and juices and salads. There was also always fresh fruit around, including some that I'd never had, like my new favorite, mangosteen. This was one of my favorite fruit plates I made as an afternoon snack in Phuket, with star fruit, mango, pear, apple and rose apple:

Lunches and dinners were a mix of local food (curries, stir fries, soups) and some Western/International food, like Italian food a couple times. At the night market in Siem Reap, I couldn't resist breaking the plant-based diet and indulging in a little street food:

Clockwise from the top: small frogs, huge tarantulas, crickets, snakes and some kind of small eggs.

I couldn't resist trying the crickets, which were stir fried and covered in spices. They were just a quick, tasty crunch. But I wasn't brave enough to try anything else from the cart.

As you can hopefully tell just from these few pictures, it was a great trip!

I also did a little running during the trip, but really just a little (40 miles in 2 weeks); hopefully that little bit was enough that when I get back into training in March, my body won't be too too shocked.

Here's February:

Swim: 5,850 meters
Cycling (outdoors): 0 miles
Cycling (indoors):  0 (hours)
Run: 104.7 miles
Total Run Elevation Gain: 14,027 feet
Strength Training/Yoga: 3 sessions

Approximate monthly total training time: 21.75 hours

Weight: 168!

This was my lightest month of training in as long as I can remember. And I'm finishing the month heavier than I've been in as long as I can remember. But as a trade for the trip we had, both are so well worth it and I'm now fired up to get started again (and to shed some of those pounds!). That's good because as it turns to March, it's time to get back to business and start preparing for a solid spring and summer of training. Badwater is just 20 weeks away!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

And Just Like That... (2014 racing plans update)

It was just 12 days ago that I wrote about how my post-Brazil 2014 race calendar was completely blank and my race schedule was a "work in progress". Well that all changed in a flash and I'm now registered for two of the hardest races I've ever attempted.

First, I "won" the Wasatch 100 lottery. I figured it was a huge long-shot, but the stars lined up for me, so in September I'll run 100 miles through the Wasatch mountains in Utah. It's supposed to be a pretty sick race and it's been high on my list for a few years.  The race has almost 27,000 feet of cumulative elevation gain (the most of any race I've done). It tops out a little over 10,000 feet, but, like AC and Bear, it doesn't spend a lot of time that high.

On the other hand, it looks like most of the race is between 7,500 and 9,500 feet, so I'll definitely need to spend some time training at elevation this summer. The course looks beautiful and there are a few other southern Californians on the entrants list so it should be a great time.

Then, yesterday evening, I got the following news:

Hello Josh
Congratulations! We are pleased to inform you that you have been accepted to compete in the 2014 Badwater 135 Ultramarathon, presented by AdventureCORPS, Inc. You are part of a select group who will participate in what is recognized across the globe as “the world’s toughest footrace.”
After having a good race at Brazil 135, I hoped that I'd get into Badwater, but it's a selective process and I really was on pins-and-needles all day yesterday until I actually got the good news over email. To be clear, this years "Badwater" race is different than in the past and doesn't even actually go to Badwater Basin. In December, the officials who oversee Death Valley National Park announced a moratorium on any athletics events in the park until at least this fall while they do a "safety review". There was no specific event or injury or accident that precipitated this decision - other than the fact that a new Park Superintendent was appointed. In fact, in the 29 years of the official race, I don't think there's ever been a serious event that would merit this moratorium. It's too bad that they made such a harsh decision, instead of, for example, allowing events to continue happening (even with greater scrutiny and oversight) while they did their safety review. Here's a good article from the LA Times about the Park's decision.

Adventure Corps quickly designed a new course that starts in Lone Pine and runs out-and-backs. First it goes out of Lone Pine and for 23 miles you climb up to Horseshoe Meadows (6,000 feet of gain), then it's a quad-crusher down that same road back to Lone Pine. Next, you head out towards Death Valley, but at Keeler (mile 59), you turn off and climb up to the Cerro Gordo ghost town and mines. Once you get there (mile 67), you turn around head back to Keeler but instead of heading right back to Lone Pine, you continue out towards Death Valley to Darwin where you turn around at mile 92 and finish the race just like the original course - back through Lone Pine and up to the traditional finish line at the Mt. Whitney Portal.

For a few weeks after the announcement, I struggled with whether or not I would apply. For years, I'd been imaging the moment when I lined up at Badwater Basin for the daytime run through the desert, and this would not be that race. But in the end, after finishing Brazil and talking to people and giving it a lot of thought, I decided that even though I was disappointed not to be able to run the traditional course, it was still a super bad-ass race and would still be an incredible experience.

Now I'm really excited that I applied and got in. Yesterday afternoon and evening were busy times on Facebook seeing a bunch of friends (especially new ones from Brazil like Brad, Amy, Grant and Andy) also get accepted and getting tons of encouraging messages from friends from all over.

Colin pointed out last night that, assuming all goes as planned, I'll race at least 370 miles in the first 9 months of the year. That's a ton for me. Goal number one is to continue taking my post-Brazil recovery and re-entry back into running slowly and carefully. Last week I ran 29 miles (all on flat roads except one trail run with some climbing); this week, I'll hopefully run a bit more than that. And except for some still-healing skin on my feet and deep soreness in my hips and hamstrings, I feel good. I've got plenty of time and there's no reason to take any chances with pushing too much too soon.

I've nailed down my two "A" races for the rest of the year, now I'll decide if I'm going to add anything else to the calendar. Friends are throwing around a lot of really cool ideas - races, adventure training and new trails to explore. Thankfully, I don't think any of that needs to be figured out "now".

Well, I've certainly got my work cut out for me! It's gonna be a fun spring and summer!

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

What Worked for Me at Brazil 135

One final post about Brazil 135 and the trip down to Brazil for the race. This race was a totally new experience for me - traveling to a different country to race, having crew access pretty much constantly throughout the race, and the longest race I'd ever done. And I tried a bunch of new things during the race. To be clear, they weren't new on raceday, they were just new for me while racing. I'd tested everything out on long runs while training for the race. But, still, in a race environment and using them for a distance over four times longer than my longest training run meant that there would be some unknown. This blog is a report about what I wore, ate and used during the race and how it went.

Here's what worked well during the race:

  • Tailwind Nutrition. Ever since my blow-up at San Diego 100, I've been using Tailwind as my primary fuel for long runs. It worked great during training and it worked just as well during the race. I never got sick of drinking it and I was able to suck down calories consistently through the 32+ hours of the race. I was also able to eat pretty much anything else I wanted throughout the race, which I think it partly due to the fact that Tailwind was keeping me going and not upsetting my stomach. For most of day 1, I used the Naked/Unflavored version and a little bit of Mandarin Orange. On day 2, when I started to get a little tired, I switched to the new Raspberry Buzz caffeinated version (one scoop of Raspberry Buzz and one scoop of Naked per bottle) and it kept me awake and alert through to the finish.
  • Salomon S-Lab Shorts. I started the race in my usual Exo S-Lab Short Tight and sometime before sunrise I changed into the Exo S-Lab Twin Skin Short. Both shorts worked great - no chafing and neither got too heavy with all my sweating. They have big pockets around the waistband.
  • Nathan QuickDraw Plus handheld bottle. I had one of these bottles in my hand for entire friggin' race. The race took me 32:49 and I bet there wasn't more than 30 minutes where a bottle wasn't strapped to my right hand. I even crossed the finish line with it on my hand (see photo). Thankfully this strap is comfortable and I never really got sick of it. I reviewed this bottle back in July and one of my issues was the valve, which wouldn't seal tightly. My bottles from Badwater still have this issue, but I bought a new one before Brazil and it's totally fine. So maybe those other ones were defects or maybe something's been tweaked in the design. Either way, it worked great.
  • Hoka Bondi B (sorta). I switched into the Hokas at around mile 55. My feet were feeling pretty good to that point but it seemed like a good point to change shoes. I had planned to change out of the Hokas at some point, but never wanted to. The cushioning felt great and my legs never got too tired. Also, the soles of my feet did great. This pair of Hokas fit my feet well under normal circumstances, but by the time I put them on in Brazil and especially by the end of the race, my feet had swelled up a ton. A half-size bigger might have helped, but who can afford to buy an extra pair of Hokas just for the end of a 135 mile race?  I did end up with tons of blisters and I'm not sure if that was due to the Hokas, the Injinji socks (see below), the heat and humidity or just the distance. Also, maybe a half-size up would have resulted in more blisters... So, the shoe worked but not "perfectly". And I'm sorta, back to the drawing board regarding shoes for long races...
  • Vespa. Even though I've used Vespa before and took some during Run Rabbit Run, I used it much more regularly during Brazil than ever before. I took one packet before the start and took another one every 3-5 hours during the race. I felt great each time after I took the Vespa. I don't follow their recommended diet and I won't say that Vespa made all the difference, but I'll continue to use it at races. 
  • 2Toms Sportshield Roll-On. I had actually never used this before the race. So that was a little risky, but I also knew that if I started to chafe, Aaron and Natan weren't far away. But I never had any issues. I used this stuff on my crotch, nipples, armpits and feet. I reapplied it a few times throughout the race. I think it works at least as well as Bodyglide and since it's a roll-on, it doesn't get soft and mushy in the heat like Bodyglide can.
  • Trader Joe's Mushroom Rice Noodle Soup Bowl. I brought this down with me. It was easy to make - just add hot water and some packets of spice and oil and it's ready to eat. It has a ton of sodium, so I probably wouldn't eat it very often in "regular" life, but that hooked me up huge during the race. I'd definitely bring these to future races where hot water is available.
  • Brazilian fig-newton style cookies. These things were the bomb. They're crunchy, a little chewy and were one solid food I was able to eat the entire time. Yum. 
And here's what didn't work:
  • Injinji socks. This one makes me a little sad. A few weeks before the race, I got a couple pairs of Injinjis and used them on a bunch of runs with all of my different shoes. I'd always been a little skeptical of the toe socks so I was surprised at how comfortable they were and how much I liked them. I used lightweight mini-crew version of them for runs up to 25 miles in training and never had any issues. But during the race, my feet got covered in blisters - on the balls of my feet, around my heels and between my toes. Trust me when I say you should thank me for not including those photos on my blog (or on Facebook). Before Brazil, I almost always raced in Drymax socks and never got blisters like I did at Brazil. I went with the Injinjis here because my swollen feet wouldn't have comfortably fit into my Hokas with the thicker Drymax. I have to blame the Injinjis at least a little bit, but like I said above, I'm sure the Hokas and the conditions and the distance all contributed. I'll definitely continue wearing the socks for training runs and runs up to 25 miles, but I don't see myself wearing Injinjis for this long of a race again, at least not the lightweight ones.
  • Mental toughness. Sure it takes plenty of mental toughness just to keep moving for 33 hours. And I'm not discounting that one bit. But I feel like I came up a little short at various points during the race and especially towards the end when the blisters started to bother me. I was tired and my feet hurt for sure, but I think I could have blocked more of that pain and walked a little less. After all, I was able to run pretty much every step of the last 3 miles (except that one short big hill), so why wasn't I running more the miles before that?
  • Maintaining a plant-based/vegan diet.  There is no doubt in my mind that it could have been done, but I made the decision before the trip that (1) the trip was going to be stressful enough and I needed to eat so worrying over food would be about the least healthy thing I could do and (2) I did not want to be "that" guy who made meals or social events more difficult. For example, a few nights before the race, we met some new Brazilian friends at a restaurant and it happened to be a pizza place where they had already ordered pizzas. I sucked it up and ate the dairy. I'm sure I could have ordered some pasta or cheeseless pizza but I was hungry and didn't want to deal with the stress and potential hassle of explaining my diet, having someone translate with the waiter and then waiting for my food. Also, on the Monday after the race, Ari invited us to his bakery and restaurant for lunch. It was a real Brazilian barbeque. I could have skipped the meat, but my choices then would have been some rice, onions, lettuce and beets; that's not what I needed to be eating and frankly the meat sounded good. During the race itself, I was almost completely plant-based, except a few bites of some beef jerky. It probably wasn't the smartest decision to make big dietary exceptions right before and after the race, but I'll just be happy that it worked out. Since I've been back, I'm back to my now-normal plant-based diet ways.