Tag Archives: epic ultra

5 Ways Ultrarunners Are Exactly Like Newborn Babies

zachWhen you run a one-hundred mile foot race, it is easy to think of yourself as some kind of superhuman.  After all, you are voluntarily covering a distance on foot that a percentage of people very close to zero ever even attempt, much less succeed in accomplishing.  A bloated feeling of strength, power and invincibility is not surprising, considering people in modern times are more entitled brats than hunters and gatherers.  Unfortunately, running for periods of time this long does things to your mind that change your perception of reality – even to the point of hallucinations.  It’s no surprise that our crew, pacers, and others might see us in a totally different light during a hundie.   I would argue that there are way way more similarities between ultrarunners and newborns than there are between ultrarunners and your friendly neighborhood superhero.

1.       Eating:  Every time a crew is finally ready to relax, their hungry ultrarunner is begging for something to eat.  It doesn’t matter if they just hammered down a burger, some fries, and an Ensure – they still want more.  Even more like a newborn, they will fall asleep while eating, only to wake up begging for more.  They will refuse food yet scream about how much they need to eat.

2.       Barfing:  Ultrarunners barf.  A lot.  They barf because they ate too much.  They barf because they have empty stomachs.  They barf because they ran too fast, or got too hot, or got winded, or the air got thin… etc. etc.  Luckily for most crews, they feel it coming, warn you, and don’t barf on your shoulder like an actual newborn.

3.       Sleeping:  Where is the best place to take a nap at 3:48 am after 83 miles?  Just like the newborn that will fall asleep eating, bathing, or being dressed, an ultraunner can (and will) fall sleep anywhere.  Laying on the gravel, sitting at an aid station, laying on a concrete cistern, the back seat of Dave’s car – hell why bother stopping, just stumble along in your sleep.

4.       Pooping:  Another way that 100 mile zombie runners are like newborns is how they poop.  It doesn’t matter if they are wearing a diaper or not.  I have seen runners drop trow and leave steaming piles behind logs, off bridges (that might or might not have been me), directly on the trail itself (don’t be that guy) , and have even heard plenty of horror stories about runners not quite getting their compression shorts off before the “mud flood” comes.   The point – just like a baby, when you gotta go, you gotta go.

5.       Crying:  Especially late in a 100, most ultrarunners will turn in to bawling babes.  About everything.  We cry because we are happy, hungry, hot, cold, tired, sad, and any other reason you can think of.  I am pretty sure it is required that your crew chief carries a Costco size box of Kleenex after mile 80.  Oh… and we DEFINITELY cry when we cross the finish line.  More tears there than the hospital nursery before feeding time.

So there you have it.  Hundred mile runners are very similar basically really tall newborns that wear expensive shoes.  And just like newborns they grow and evolve eventually overcoming the massive challenges and obstacles of life every step along the way.  Just try not to get mad at them if they cry and whine so much that your ears are bleed, puke in your car, or burn your sinuses with the most foul smells on the planet… they really can’t help it.  It’s just part of growing up and getting to the finish line!

Be Epic!

Zach Adams

Honey Badger Race Preview 2014

zachAt some miserably low and painful point of almost every longer ultra – especially a 100 miler – I find myself severely questioning my life choices.  Specifically, the choice to subject myself to the grueling punishment required to run long distances, in less than favorable weather, and on difficult terrain – for a belt buckle that I will never actually wear.  For the first time in my ultrarunning “career”, I am internally examining my strange compulsion before the race has beaten me to a pulp.  Way before.  Like 6 weeks before.  The Honey Badger 100 will begin at 6am on July 12th2014, and I will be at the starting line.

For those of you who don’t know, Honey Badger is not a trail run.  This race will take place on paved county roads west of Wichita Kansas near Cheney Reservoir and cover a good chunk of Kingman County.  The last 5 years on this weekend in July have seen daytime high temps in this area of 103, 92, 101, 98, and 101.  Of course it will be hot in Kansas in July, but it will also be windy.  As a matter of fact, one of the largest wind farms in the state is in the process of being built very near the race venue.  A wind farm converts wind energy into electricity using turbines – this seems to me like a good indication of how windy it will be.  Likely 25-30 mph sustained winds with gusts strong enough to blow over a baby elephant.  Also, it is not quite as flat as you would expect.  According to Map My Run, there will be enough elevation change to make things interesting.   The point of this course preview; it’s gonna suck.  Hard.

So by now you are probably asking yourself, “So why in seven bloody hells are you running this?”  Well, because it IS hard.  Duh.  If it was easy, everyone would do it.  Well, that and because Honey Badgers are pretty freaking badass and I want a buckle with one on it.  Also, there’s a little race called The Badwater Ultramarathon – maybe you have heard of it?  “The World’s Hardest Footrace”, it spans 135 miles across Death Valley from the Badwater Basin to Mt. Whitney’s Portal – in July.  Yes, I know the course has changed… don’t miss my point.  My point is that after reading what Marshall Ulrich, Dean Karnazes, Scott Jurek, and RD Eric Steele have written about their experiences at Badwater, I want to do it someday.  Additionally, it is hard as hell to get into, and costs a shitload of money, so you better make sure you got a big dose of “what it takes” before you head to Death Valley.  This brings me to Honey Badger.  It occurred to me sometime last summer that before I travel all the way to California to go swim in some bad water, I will schedule a death match with a Honey Badger in my own back yard!

I have been training pretty well in 2014 and have raced in the Winter Rock 25K, Prairie Spirit 100 Mile, Free State 40 Mile, FlatRock 101K, and 3Daysto100K (just the 50K).  My mileage base is solid, now I just need to get acclimated to the heat which has been difficult since we have had a very mild spring so far. I will also have the advantage of having a super badass crew lined up – and my ultra sweet badass running girlfriend Candi who will also be racing.  We plan on crossing the finish line together just like we did at FlatRock 101k.  Since historically I throw all my super detailed plans out the window I am keeping this one simple.  The plan is to run until the sun gets high and temps get around 90, then hunker down and survive until the sun goes down.  Hopefully our hydration and fueling will be going well and we can tick off some serious mileage before the sun comes up.  That’s it. Oh, and finish under the 36 hour time limit.

So there is still time… if you think you have what it takes, hell, why not sign up???  If you are even ENTERTAINING the idea of Badwater in the future, it seems like a no-brainer.  If that’s not enough, keep in mind it is an Epic Ultras event – So you KNOW it will inevitably BE EPIC!

Zach Adams

FlatRock 101K – Beastmode Required

zachFlatRock. This course has been deceiving trail runners for almost 20 years. After all, it’s KANSAS. KANSAS is flat. How bad can it be? Go ahead, underestimate this trail – then go home and cry yourself to sleep. Nineteen Septembers in a row, runners have come to the Elk River Hiking Trail to tackle the FlatRock 50K trail ultra. This is the oldest ultra in the state, and it is pretty easy to make the argument that it is the BEST. It is as brutal as it is beautiful, as rugged as it is relaxing, as treacherous as it is tantalizing. An incredible, highly technical trail full of short steep climbs, roots and rocks that seemingly TRY to trip you, and buzzards circling overhead – FlatRock is hard – and strangely addictive. The “Hall of Pain” consists of runners who have run it 10 or more times in a row. So, what would make more sense than running this 50K? Why not running it TWICE? Thus, the FlatRock 101K was born.

Last April, after weeks of rain, about 40 brave souls set out to crack the rock. One hundred and one kilometers in 24 hours should be a walk in the park (or hike in the woods) in Kansas right? The addition of sticky, ankle deep mud, water crossings and incessant rain turned the course into Satan’s Slip n’ Slide. Trail conditions were more horrendous than normal. The runners simultaneously loved and loathed it. The final finisher came across minutes before the cutoff tired, covered in mud, but not broken. The raucous Epic Ultras finish line brought a welcomed end to runner’s suffering and, as always, made each feel like a champion. If you want to read all about my experience at the FlatRock 101K last year, check out the blog archived at http://epicultras.com/fr101kreport/. Also, there is a sweet video of FlatRock at http://flatrock101.com/.

If you are one of the lucky ones who managed to get into the FlatRock 50K before it sold out, and you showed up and braved the weather for WinterRock, you are only 101 kilometers worth of steps away from earning the FlatRock Triple Crown Award. This prestigious Golden Goblet is only given to those brave (or crazy) enough to sign up and finish the WinterRock 25 or 12K in January, the FlatRock 101K in April, and the FlatRock 50K in September.

If you think you are some kind of trail ultrarunner badass, you need to bring all you got to the 2nd annual FlatRock 101K on April 26th 2014 and put your theory to the test. If you want to see what you are really made of and push yourself to your absolute physical ultrarunning limits, you need to be there. If you are ready to become a true Midwest trail ultarunner, get registered now. FlatRock might just chew you up, spit you out, step on your face, and THEN send you home crying to your mama. IF you are too scared, that is understandable. I heard there are a few good half marathons that day…maybe you should check into those.

This course is amazing.  If you have not been on the Elk River Hiking Trail near Independence you have missed a very beautiful slice of life.  I shit you not, this place is actually, beyond amazing.  Please, look at my favorite set of pictures taken on the trail.   This gallery was the catalyst that rescued me from road runner monotony.    Here are the pics from this year’s 50K event.  Amazing.  This trail is gorgeous.  I have run the 50K twice and had the pleasure of leaving plenty of DNA on the jagged, unforgiving rocks.  In fact, in a few more years I plan on being knighted into the Flatrock Hall of Pain.  If you don’t know about the Hall of Pain GO HERE NOW.  

I recently had the pleasure of spending some time (about 15 hours) doing some trail maintenance and helping mark the trail with some high reflective tape blazes for the upcoming 101K event.  About 3 of these hours were after it got dark.  BEFORE you take your epic-ass out to try and “crack the rock,” or as I now think of it, “The Widowmaker,” I IMPLORE you to read and heed the following advice.

1.  LIGHT IT UP!  Take a bright headlamp, a handheld light, a backup hand held light, and spare batteries.  If you have no light you are DONE.  Seriously.  Bring light.  Good, bright, reliable, long lasting lights – and bring a spare.

2.  24 hours sounds like a long cutoff for a 101K.  Don’t underestimate the toll this course will take on your body (look at the course profile) or how much slower you will move at night.  It literally becomes a game of find the next blue blaze and try not to fall.  Averaging 2-3 miles an hour in the dark will be tough (for most people) regardless how your legs feel.  That said, it could easily take every bit of 12-14 hours to do that last 50K depending on where you are when it gets dark.  Depth, distance, and speed perception is an entirely different animal out there after the sun goes down.

3.  BRING A PACER – I would highly suggest you find someone to pace you the last 25K if not the entire second 50K, if for no other reason than to you keep on the trail.  If you have ever run a highly technical trail you know the mental toll that it takes on you to outlay that much concentration for that long.   After 30-50 punishing miles, you will need a battle buddy to keep your mind right, keep you upright, and keep you pointed in the right direction.  It really becomes a slow game of “Where is the next blue blaze?”.  Call in all your favors, buy them their favorite beers, or blackmail them – but get somebody out there.  You will probably regret it if you don’t.

That said, I am super excited for this race.  The high degree of badassery that it will take to finish this course TRULY qualifies a finisher to earn the title of EPIC ULTRARUNNER!  I have NO DOUBT that RD, Eric Steele, will once again come through with an outstanding event that we will be talking about for the rest of our lives.  Like he says, we co-create these events together.  I definitely plan on co-creating the shit out of this one!  Although I do hope the weather doesn’t try and one-up the Inaugural Prairie Spirit…

Assuming you have the required brass balls or titanium ovaries there is still time and space to register .  IF you are a seriously demented ”MANIAC” and need to get that double up in truly EPIC fashion, you could run the Flatrock 101K on Saturday then drive down to the  OKC Marathon on Sunday.

 

FlatRock 50K: Legend of “The Hand”

zachLegend has it that at the very first FlatRock 50k, a road marathon runner, who had underestimated the trail, collapsed on a large limestone bluff overlooking  Elk City Lake with only a few miles until the finish.  As the physically exhausted, mentally overwhelmed, and emotionally broken runner lay gasping and sobbing by the trail, a hoard of hungry buzzards descended upon him.  Although his flesh was being torn and devoured, he squealed with glee to be carried off the trail that had chewed him up and swallowed him, only to regurgitate him back onto the jagged rocks. Workers at the finish line that fall day back in 1995 tell tales of seeing a dark cloud of feathers flying above and listening to a mix of screams, agony and the relieved hysterical laughter of a madman!  Legend has it that a single severed arm fell from the pack of buzzards as they carried off their meal catching on the finish line pop-up, dangling and swinging for all finishers to see as they came across finish line.  The arm became a reminder to never underestimate this trail and swings on the finish line every year offering “high fives” to those strong-willed enough to have persevered and conquered “The Rock!”.

Ok, actually I made that shit up.  All of it but the hand hanging at the finish.  The hand is there – every year – hanging at the finish, welcoming runners across the finish with a high five or a handshake.  It is one of the many things that I love about the FlatRock 50K.  The Hand, the Honorary Knights of “The Coveted Hall of Pain” and the knighting ceremony, retired numbers on cloth bibs with lifetime free entry to ice the cake, the clock in the rocks, and the trike in the tree are ALL things that totally set this race apart. Eric Steele, the undisputed “King of Flatrock” – complete with his cape, crown, and wielding a broadsword – performs the knighting ceremony for a runner with 10 consecutive FlatRock 50k finishes…. it is all so unique and awesome.  I can’t wait to see what happens with the Triple Crown recipients! I wouldn’t be surprised by much at this point, but I am sure it will be amazing.  Only a few days until my 3rd FlatRock 50k (I also did the 101K read about it here) and I couldn’t be more excited.  This truly is a world class event, I’ll see you all there!

Oh, and in case you are wondering how the hand actually DID come about, I plan on finding out!  So stay tuned.  Until next time,  BE EPIC

Zach

Mind Games

zachWhen you are in the total ass-kicking miles of an ultra, what mental tactics do you use to keep moving?  How do you will yourself through the dark times?  What keeps you from convincing yourself that it is not worth all the pain?  If physical training is the key to running a successful ultra, then mental toughness is the hand that guides the key into the lock and turns it.  If you lack the required strength of mind, there will eventually come a time when bodily endurance and your Greek god physique is not enough to allow you to escape the darkness and emerge into the light of the finish line – where you can bask in your glorious achievement.

What do you do to pass the hard miles?  Of course music or audio books are a popular alternative seen at basically every race 5K and up. Here are a few suggestions taken from my own personal arsenal – the key is finding what works for you.  As an ultrarunner, experienced or aspiring, you should have plenty of opportunities to put it to the test.

Repeat a mantra.  I have had times where I was repeating a chant such as, “Next step. Next Step…” for what seems like forever to keep myself moving.  Once, after almost barfing my guts up on an aid station worker, I gobbled a few Tums and kept telling myself, “I WILL feel better” until I actually did.  I believe this is basically hypnotizing yourself and moving your focus off the pain until the pain subsides – or you finish (which sometimes does come first).

Fantasize!  Use the power of your mind and take yourself somewhere else.  If the “now” freaking sucks, get the hell out!  Fantasize about something so interesting and engaging that it becomes more real than the giant blister on the ball of your foot that just ruptured.  Use your imagination and paint a mental picture of your perfect vacation, winning the lottery, or maybe being stranded in Antarctica.  Think about every detail and then details about details.  It doesn’t matter what you think about… just think about something.  This will pass the time, and once again divert your focus away from your current struggles.

Make a new friend.  Talk to the other runners.  Chances are that unless you are a world-class elite speedster, you will be moving at speeds that will easily allow you the ability to continue speaking.  Use this humanly ability to your advantage.  Ask other runners questions, tell stories, shoot the shit…  This might not work in some ultras (I have been solo for HOURS before), but if and when the opportunity is there – use it.  It is a great way to pass the time and get past a rough point in a race.  I have made some great friends in my time running ultras, and most of them I met WHILE on the trail.

Focus on smaller, more manageable distances.  When the thought of another 20 miles just seems too much, break your run into chunks.  Focus on running to the next aid station, mile section, or electric pole- hell, even just the next step.  These smaller incremental victories will add up and eventually you will be crossing the finish.

Finally, one thing I do when I really struggle is to completely disassociate my mind with my body.  Having a techie background, I think of it as putting my brain in “standby mode”.  I focus on thinking of nothing.  My complete attention goes to listening to my own breathing, my vision on a blurred fixed point about 4 meters in front of me, reducing my body to a biological machine processing oxygen and sending blood to where it is most needed.  There have been times when hours have passed and I realized I had literally thought of nothing.  On a technical course I may try to get myself so hyper focused on my next footfall that it becomes the only reality – figuring out where my next foot should land, noting else.

The key is never letting negative thoughts invade your mind.  If they do, a runner needs ways to immediately cast them out.  You can literally talk yourself into DNF’ing a race that your body was fully capable of completing.  Excuses at the time that seem perfectly reasonable will make you want to punch yourself in the face for quitting the following week.  Don’t let all the time you spend training your body go to waste because you haven’t conditioned your mind.

Until next time…

BE EPIC!

Zach

2013 Flatrock 101K – “Go Time!” or “Wanna be Friends?”

DSC_9349_s_jpgSo the Inaugural Flatrock 101K Trail Race is this Saturday. Registration is closed and there are 39 total badasses ready to go all in.  We are prepared to step up to the line, stare directly into the eyes of a nearly invincible force, and charge fearlessly into battle. Will everyone finish? Probably not. Will it hurt? Absolutely.  Everyone that even attempts to slay this dragon is a badass. So long as they give it everything they have, they have already won. Overcoming the fear of failure and pain and just TRYING something that you know might be outside your physical limits is a victory, and is what separates true EPIC ultrarunners.  This is a field of amazing people that I am super proud to be a part of – regardless of individual outcomes.  The tenacity and spirit of these people who are determined to live and experience life in a way that most people wouldn’t even dream of  truly inspires and impresses me beyond words.  And if you didn’t sign up because you were too scared to try, I say, “Bahahahahaaa!!!!!  Suck it up WUSS.”

buckle
…SOON…

That said, I want to get to know you all.  I want to hear your stories.  I want you to talk while we are running in a group.  I want you to come find me and talk to me.  Ask me about the blog… ask me anything you like.  I love making new friends and want to get to know anyone and everyone who has a passion for ultrarunning.   One of the best parts of these ultrarunning experiences is the interaction with like-minded people who can truly understand why you do what you do!  Don’t pass on the opportunity!  Come to the pre-race pasta feed and lets make it the social event of the year.

Once I cross the finish (assuming I am not dead or DFL), I will be sitting at the finish line with a cooler of cold beer and everyone is welcome to join me cheering on every last finisher in this unadulterated show of supreme badassery.  Join me.  Oh…and good luck to all of you 39 psycho bastards about to do a double-battle with “The Rock!”

Be EPIC!  — Zach

Zach Adams

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Gut Check

DSC_9349_s_jpgGut check.  These are the two simple words I sometimes repeat over and over to myself when I am struggling during a run.  When I am tired, sore,  miserable, and would rather quit than continue,  I set my eyes to the next landmark…hill, pole, post, bridge, mile marker, or whatever else I can see (or hallucinate  and I tell myself that’s all I need to worry about.  Gut check.  Gut Check.  GUT CHECK!  GUT CHECK!! If I take a walk break and start to think that I can’t run anymore, I internally hiss the words.  Gut check.  Then I take a few faster steps and start to jog again.  It is my own special way to kick my ass back into gear or just keep on chugging.

Call it whatever you want.  Call it perseverance, persistence, mental toughness, intestinal fortitude, inner badassery, epicness, or just plain stubbornness.  The will to keep going when most people would just lay down and die.  Ultrarunners have a higher level of this attribute than most normal people, whether it is a natural personality trait or an acquired skill.  This state of mind does ebb and flow however; sometimes an ultrarunner will need to employ some techniques to help them remember their inner tough girl or guy.  Here are a few techniques I have used to help get me across the finish.

1.  Recite Your Mantra – The recitation of a mantra can really help get you though some tough times.  Like I said, I like to repeat, “Gut Check” over and over – sometimes out loud – when I am struggling.  I have also been known to repeat “The only distance that matters is the distance I cover in the next step.”  My military memories usually bring out,  “Left, Right, Left, Right, Left, Right, KILL”.  A mantra gives you a cadence and can almost put you in a trance, taking you away from the immediate pain and discomfort.  Before you know it, the food or gel has kicked in and you start feeling better.

2. Always Talk to Strangers – Yes, I know your mama told you not to.  I am telling you to throw that shit out the window.  For me one of the best ways to pass time on a long ultra is to take the time to talk to other ultrarunners.  Most do so more than willingly – even if they may be too shy to initiate the conversation.  We all know how shy ultrarunners can be…yes that’s sarcasm.  The truth is, most of them are just WAITING to tell you about other runs they have done, PRs, or their entire life story.  If someone does not feel like talking, chances are they will either tell you, not respond, or speed away.  I have made some awesome friendships that started just by chatting on the trail.  Miles will melt behind you.

3.  Visualize – If there is no one around to talk to, your mantra has gone stale, you can’t stand to listen to one more Pantera jam, and you are struggling with some pain I have the answer.  I know this sounds weird, but it works for me more often than not.  I visualize my body as some sort of biological factory and dispatch commandos, medics, and engineers to take care of the pain and repair the injury that which is inflicting it.  Yes this is pretend…it is a scenario in my imagination.  I once ‘saw’ the pain as black ooze dripping off the tattered machinery which was working my knee joint as it was being dismantled by slug-looking creatures.  The elite commandos I deployed killed the baddies while the engineers cleaned and repaired the machines.  By the time I thought the scenario through in my mind, my knee felt better.  Don’t call me nuts until you try it.  What else do you have to do during your umpteenth consecutive hour of running?

All ultras require some serious gut-checking.  Looking at the weather forecast for Praire Spirit 100  it is clear that this “beginner level” trail may require even a little more perseverance than you had in mind.  Gut check time.

What techniques do you do to occupy your mind and keep your body moving during an ultra?  I would love to hear them.

See you all at Prairie Spirit!  As always, BE EPIC.

Zach