Monday, December 5, 2022

Cuyamaca 100k race report

The last time I was in Cuyamaca was in 2018. I wasn't planning on being here again for 2022 but a calf strain and sciatica issues wiped out my hopes of going back to Miwok to avenge my 2019 DNF. So it was either Cuyamaca or Javelina Jundred for a Western qualifier...and JJ was full sooooo 😏

My training and confidence for this race was buoyed from using and being a Vespa ambassador. I was so successful using it for Waldo 100k last year that I doubled-down on the product and a strict optimized fat metabolism (OFM) running/racing strategy. It's ideal for summer heat training in Arizona and pairs well with the intermittent fasting I started nearly a year ago.

Cuyamaca is one of those races where it is either hot as balls or perfect running weather. Oh boo-hoo, right? Perfect running weather...why would that be a problem? Well, training in the Arizona summer means a very strict regiment of hydration and electrolytes. Altering that strategy on race day is not something I've been able to master yet (at least for this particular race).

Loop 1 (32.3 mi)

Cuyamaca is one of those sultry vixens that lulls you into a false sense of comfort during the first 8 miles. Once you break free of the starting conga line, it's largely smooth sailing on the California single-track as you make your way to Merrigan AS (8.4 mi). You would think I'd learned my lesson in 2018, but of course I took this first section WAY too fast. I felt great, but like I mentioned, this section lulls you in with its net downhill profile only to give you a sucker-punch as you head to Green Valley AS (14.2 mi) and eventually up to Cuyamaca Peak (23.2 mi)

Leaving Merrigan, the single-track gives way to forest service roads as you start the 15 mi trek up to Cuyamaca Peak. Much of this is still runnable but it gradually takes its toll on the legs as you plod your way up to 6,200'.

It was here that the inability to adjust that fueling and hydration strategy began to rear its ugly head. Whether it was a combination of altitude, hydration and/or electrolytes, it was obvious that something was not right. My pace up to Cuyamaca Peak was a slow agonizing crawl. I stopped nearly a dozen times in the last 1/2 mile up to the peak because (a) my heart felt like it would explode and (b) I couldn't tell if I was hungry, nauseous or dehydrated.

Once at the top, I curled up into a ball and tried to take in some solid calories (avocado and bacon) and more electrolytes/water. Turns out this is not what I needed at all. After 45 minutes of drowning is self-pity, I had already conceded that this unforced error was going to cost me the 17-hour cutoff to qualify for Western States. I pulled myself out of the chair knowing what gnarly 5-mile stretch of downhill awaited me on the way to Paso Picacho AS (28.2 mi). Not more than 500' away from the Cuyamaca Peak aid station I pulled over to the side of the road and empty the entire contents of my stomach 🤮 Multiple times. Violently. What felt like liters...

Now most folks see vomiting as the final nail in the coffin when it comes to a race. But if I've learned anything from all these years of ultra-running, it's that a good puke means a fresh start. My body clearly had something it didn't need or like and puking is just its way of clearing it out. I've also learned that even in a 'depleted' state (with the help of Vespa), I'm comfortable running on an empty stomach knowing that my body will leverage my fat as fuel rather than carbs.

I'll admit, heading down to Paso Picacho was still slow but I felt 100x better. The big question looming in my mind was whether I could muster enough energy (and fueling strategy) to finish under the 17-hour cutoff. After an 8 hour and 20 minute 50k back to the start/finish line, Adam would help me gather the necessary gear, fuel, headlamp and water to get me back out there for loop 2. I started loop 2 with a soft whisper in my ear that finishing under 17 was still possible if I could keep things together.

Important note: Leaving for loop 2, I was in 188th position out of 228 runners. Total time 8:20.

Loop 2 (12.8 mi)

This section of the race wastes no time kicking you in the balls. Immediately upon leaving the start/finish, you climb. It's not hands-on-knees climbing but it's enough to get your attention. It's also a great time to regroup mentally - especially when doubt still clings to your mind. It was in this 4-5 mile stretch that I found a fueling strategy that would take me to the finish line.

VFuel has been a solid gel for me to supplement with over the last couple of years. It's dextrose-based and is much easier to digest than other fructose or sucrose-based gels. It also had just the right amount of electrolytes for my pace and the weather that day. I would settle on a Vespa concentrate every 2 hours and a VFuel gel at the top of every hour.

Pro tip! Avoid gel burn out/gagging using this simple trick. Squeeze half the gel into your mouth. Take in a mouthful of water and swish for 5-10 seconds. Gel dissolves and can be swallowed without any issues!

One of the more challenging aspects of this race is the steep downhill sections. The backside of Cuyamaca Peak is the first, and the downhill of loop 2 makes you seriously question how the downhill of loop 3 is going to kick your ass (and your quads)!

Nevertheless, with the exception of the initial climb, I would run nearly all of this loop back to the start/finish line in just over 3 hours and 15 minutes. That whisper of doubt was soon replaced with a steady chant..."you got this"

Important note: Leaving for loop 3, I would improve to 142nd position. Total time 11:41.

Loop 3 (18.2 mi)

There's a cruel pattern that emerges at Cuyamaca (and with most WSER qualifying 100k's). Climb and descend. Climb and descend. Repeat until exhausted. Loop 3 does not break from this norm and once again, you find yourself climbing shortly after leaving the start/finish. Darkness had descended at this stage so the remainder of the climbing was hidden in the blackness of night. I love the unknown of climbing at night for some reason. Aside from a stream of headlamps, you often don't know where or how high you have to go...I naturally feel compelled to run as much as I can. Weird, right?

Turns out, that strange quirk of mine combined with the extremely runnable trails of this loop helped make quick work of the mileage. I felt as strong and agile as I had running that first 8 miles to Merrigan. Yes, my quads were sore but I never stopped moving this entire loop (ahem, except for that 1/4 mile wrong turn I took). I love how supplementing with Vespa (and burning fat) helps alleviate the buildup of lactic acid in the muscles and delay the onset of muscle soreness. Being on your feet for 12+ hours will make anyone tired but with Vespa, I feel powerful and strong when everyone else is clearly already on the struggle-bus.

I would leave the Pedro Fages AS (56 mi) knowing I had over 2 hours to complete 6ish miles to the finish. It was only then did I loosen the reigns a little bit and enjoy the final downhill section. Quads were a bit sore but I never stopped moving. Who would have thought I'd be running up the hills nearly 16 hours into the day and feeling alert, calm and confident about cracking the 17-hour cutoff?

I would surprise my crew as well coming into the finish line much earlier than expected. Adam just happened to show up in time to snag a video of me finishing 😁 

Important note: Finish time 16:15. 103rd position


I'm confident that my electrolyte intake (e.g., too much) is what sabotaged my first loop on the way up to Cuyamaca Peak. The dry California air along with the altitude and oversaturation of electrolytes was the recipe for my yack-attack. I love First Endurance Liquid Shots but they apparently have too many electrolytes for the cooler Cali temperatures.

I'll continue to preach from the mountain top to anyone that will listen - fueling with fat is a game changer. I intermittently fast each day but beyond that I eat and drink what I want. I'm not keto nor do I diet. But when it comes to running/racing, teaching your body to use fat as fuel (with the help of Vespa) unlocks so many benefits, I'm ashamed it's taken me so long to adopt this strategy. I'll hopefully write another blog expanding on these benefits and how I incorporate them into my training.

Race Gear

Pack ➡️ Ultraspire Zygos 5.0
Shoes ➡️ Altra Lone Peak 5

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Waldo 100k Race Report

I had rolled this race over from the previous year given all the pandemic cancellations so while I was excited to get my WSER qualifier for the year, I had to come to grips with a couple things -

  1. I really dislike training through the Arizona summers
  2. I had gotten used to running only a couple days a week (cross-training the other 4-5 days)
  3. I longed for better and more consistent training/race nutrition, hydration and electrolytes
This isn't one of those blogs where you have to read my life story before getting to the race report so I'll skip to the good part and then elaborate on those items above afterwards. Generally, I had concerns about finishing under 16 hours (for the finishers hat) or even under 17 hours for the WSER qualifier. With an anticipated 12,000' in climbing, this would be the most challenging 100k I'd ever done.

All you need to know is that this race went as perfect as possible and I hope to replicate my new training plan and nutrition for all my future races.

Start to Mt. Fuji (13.6 mi)

Weeks prior to the race, we kept getting emails from the RD that there was a possibility the race would be cancelled due to the fires (smoke) in the area. I'm very thankful that the weather cooperated on race day to not only blow out all the smoke, but to drop the temperatures down to a very reasonable 50-60F (cold by Arizona standards).

Like any great mountain ultra, you start straight up the ski slope. Nothing fancy - just you, your headlamp, poles and 100-200 of your closest ultra-friends 😊 Cresting this first climb, we were greeted with a very timid sunrise, chilly temperatures and amazing pine-needle-covered single track pretty much all the way to Mt Fuji.

The climb up to this peak got a bit technical and rocky but nothing more than what we experience every day in Arizona. I could definitely feel the elevation in my legs and chest on the way up. Intermittent cramping in my calves made me very aware that I wasn't hydrating or taking my salt tabs according to plan. Shame! The most disappointing thing about Mt Fuji however was that clouds and mist had overtaken the peak at that time of day so there was no view when I got to the top (boooooo!)

Mt. Fuji to Charlton Lake (32 mi)

I honestly don't remember much between Mt Fuji and Charlton Lake. As the mist dissipated and the sun came up the temperatures didn't change much - which made running so much better!! I just remember thinking to myself that this trail is so runnable despite some of the variations and climbing before you get the Charlton Lake. Additionally, I'll just say that my fueling and hydration were going well at this stage - I was probably carrying more calories than I needed but I'll tell you more about that later.

Charlton Lake was very serene and peaceful. Quite a few hikers and campers out besides the volunteers and race officials. It was a nice place to take a 50k break - I was able to gather my thoughts, more nutrition and enjoy the view of the Twins in the distance (one of the next peaks we'd summit)

Charlton Lake to Maiden Peak (50 mi)

If you haven't looked at the profile for this race, you'd see that it's basically:

  1. Up
  2. Down
Repeat 5 times 😜

Leaving Charlton Lake (A5) was another of those sweet downs where I let gravity, the cool crisp air and my fairly fresh legs propel me into the pine-covered valley of Oregon single-track. The trees are completely covered with that stringy looking moss which makes the views even more majestic and different than the deserts of Arizona.

You hit the Rd. 4920 aid station (A6) at about 37 miles and it's THE last aid station you can have a drop bag during the race. This was a bit concerning given my unique nutrition strategy for this race. I was relying only on what I brought in my drop bags so the thought of carrying enough for the next 26ish miles was a little overwhelming (and heavy!) I probably took a little too long at this aid station but the last thing I wanted was to be shit-out-of-luck later in the race lacking the right nutrition or clothing for what I suspected would be a daylight/dusk finish.

One of the race veteran's at this aid station was also commenting on how hot this next section up to Maiden Peak would be given how exposed it was. He recommended taking extra water. Now, I know that we all have relative perceptions of what 'exposed' means but coming from the desert where your only shade is a lone saguaro on the side of the trail, this section was FAR from exposed and not hot at all. Perhaps a bit more sparse but none-the-less covered in pine trees and plenty of shade to protect you from any sun (the 5 or 6 times it popped out that day).

I regretted taking all my food and extra water up Maiden Peak because honestly, it's a bitch. Like, hands-on-knees-stop-to-rest-every-10-feet kinda bitch. Because the last thing you want to be doing 50+ miles into an ultra is climb a peak averaging 18%-20% grade. Brutal.

All things considered, I made it to the top of Maiden Peak and it was glorious...

Maiden Peak to Finish

So you might wonder, how was I feeling at this point. Honestly, I was feeling better than ever. My shoulders and neck were aching due to the weight of my vest but my legs, head and heart were all full and ready for the downhill stretch to the finish line. I've honestly never felt so good this late in a race and it showed.

I was running just about everything in this section. I took a few walk breaks to help stretch my shoulders, neck and back but my legs were strong. My energy levels and spirits were high knowing (anticipating) a daylight finish was definitely possible.

Downhill running is not always great however and leaving Maiden Peak I was instantly reminded that steep quad-busting sections are never fun after 50+ miles 😖 Despite this 2 mi stretch of vertical chaos, the remainder of this section is just as glorious as the first...pine-needle covered single track trail etched with rays from the setting sun. I had my headlamp but wouldn't actually need it. I was propelled by a consistent energy source I've never known, mental clarity and the shear joy of knowing I would finish under 16 hours.

In past races, crossing the finish line was always a relief. This race, I was proud and elated with not only what I had accomplished but how I had accomplished it. I had tested both a training and nutrition strategy at this race and the results were better than I could have ever expected.

Official finish time: 15:11:16

Race results in case you're into those sorts of things:

  • 51st out of 90 finishers
  • 10th (of 20) in 40-49 AG (men's)
  • 13th (of 27) in 40-49 AG (all)

Training and Nutrition Strategy

I won't yammer on about this - look for another blog post with more detail but essentially I flipped my training and nutrition on its head in preparation for this race. Huh? What does that even mean?


Instead of a 3 week build to 1 week rest, I did back-to-back long runs every weekend and slowly built distance without a true "rest" week. I supplemented Monday through Friday with cycling (largely endurance climbing), rowing and boxing.

Training/Racing Nutrition

I started using Vespa, dextrose-based chews and gels along with fatty real food like olives, bacon and guacamole. Even natural sugar (fruit) seemed to confuse my GI while using Vespa. I'm able to consume far fewer calories and burn fat throughout the entire race. The gels, real food and chews help supplement occasionally but using fat for fuel appears to be a game-changer for me (let's face it, I drink beer and therefore have a lot of fat!)

There are numerous other benefits you get from training with fat but I'll save that for another post.


During training, I take the following supplements and vitamins:

Relive my race below and stay safe out there!

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Stress Fractured

"How long have you had the pain?" my podiatrist says.

"I recall a dull pain starting about August", I say. "More annoying than anything."

"Did it get worse? What's your level of pain today?" he continues to pry.

"It's honestly never gotten better, which is why I decided to come in. The most pain coincided with the race I did back in October, and has gradually subsided. But it's still there."

"OK, well let's look at the x-rays and see if there's anything we can see", he pauses.

Grabbing his computer, he pulls up the digital scans of my x-rays.

"Well look at that", he says. "You've got a small stress fracture."

Well shit. I had given away my walking boot long ago thinking that I was smarter and indestructible. Clearly, that was not the case.

The silver lining is that the stress fracture is healing already - meaning, yes it's fractured but with a little more rest, it will heal up no problem. So what does that mean? 4-6 weeks of no running and the walking boot for extended periods of activity (which really isn't all that often given I sit on my ass all day for work) :-)

Even so, it blows. Really takes the wind out of your sails...I was starting to get back into my HIIT workouts and ramping up the miles again. Womp womp womp. I'll just sit here now, sulk and drink myself to sleep every night.

In the meantime, I've been hiking and trying to get out a couple times a week. It's not much but it's enough to feel active again.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Cuyamaca 100k Race Report

I knew back in February when I couldn't run Black Cayon 100k that I would need to find a substitute race for my 2018 WSER qualifier. I also knew it would probably be a late Summer/early Fall race too which meant doing the thing I loath the most...training during the Arizona Summer.


You'd think that the worst thing about summer training would be the heat, but you'd be wrong. Surprisingly, when I thought about this (yes, this is the stupid shit you think about on long runs), there is a pretty good list of heat-induced hell you have to train through.
  • Run quantity: 100k training means you're running at least 5 days a week, if not more.
  • Early days: When you label your 2:30 am alarm as "WTF?" or "OMG it's early!"
  • Sweaty clothes: Morning, noon or night runs mean you're sweating your ass off in the desert.
  • Laundry: More runs, more clothes, more stink means more laundry.
  • Hydration: Weekend long runs routinely required a cooler full of ice, water, sodas and beer.
So needless to say, I have never been happier to be done with training. A week prior to the race, we could see that the temperatures on race day would be significantly cooler. This was a blessing for sure but it represented a small hitch - all the heat training, clothing and gear we thought we'd need got tossed out the window given that the high temp would be 65 with lows in the mid-40's. It's not often you get perfect race days like this but it was a far cry from our summer of hellish heat.

Lining up for a race has never been so glorious. It was 48F and shorts, arm sleeves, a buff and t-shirt was all I'd need to kick off my day of running. I started with a bottle as well - which was strange given I'd trained the last 4 months with a pack. Jump ahead to mile 13 - it makes sense now that my arm was sore from carrying that bottle for 3+ hours :-)

Dan and I ran together for quite a while - the cool temps and adrenaline of dusting off those taper-legs propelled me easily into the first aid station where Greg was waiting to take care of us and grab all the clothing we were shedding as the temp climbed to a paltry 55F. Somewhere between the first and second aid station, Dan would leave me behind. I thought he stopped and peed for the 5th time :-) and expected him to pop out behind me somewhere but I lost sight of him going uphill and never saw him again until after we both tagged Cuyamaca peak. The first 15 miles of the course is a great combination of single-track trail and service roads. You can tell that that service roads have been recently graded and I was very thankful for that! Between Merrigan and Green Valley aid stations, you have to decide whether you're going to run or hike...it's not steep but it is that gradual gentle grade that makes you earn every bit of the uphill.

A funny thing happened on the way up Cuyamaca peak. Tight neck and shoulders, constricted lungs, heavy chest and my stomach in knots I just did back-to-back training runs in Flagstaff at 9,000+ feet, why am I getting altitude sickness at 6,000 feet?! There isn't much you can do about it either except slow down, drink water and keep going. So I did. The feeling would subside somewhere near the peak (~6,500 feet) where I managed to down some food, soda and about half a dozen Otter Pops. That half mile up to the peak is about a 16-18% grade...I thought it was horrible going up but it's even worse coming back down!

I had talked to a couple locals during the race who mentioned that coming down Cuyamaca Peak was probably the most technical (and difficult) part of the race. They weren't wrong. Large sections of boulders mixed with loose rocks and trenched out trail made for a pretty steep and cautious descent  down into Paso Picacho aid station. Half way down, I stopped to help a fella that had wiped out during his descent - he would be fine and continue on to finish. Little did I know that the encounter would foreshadow my own epic wipe out a few miles from the aid station. The irony is that I managed to navigate the hardest and most technical section of the downhill only to twist my ankle on the easiest section of trail I've ever seen. I managed to find the one rock on the trail...

As I crumpled to the ground yelling and grabbing my ankle (the same ankle I'd semi-sprained months ago), all I could think about was having to drop from this perfect race day and losing my Western States qualifier. I lay in the dirt for a while contemplating my next move when a couple other guys came down the trail and stopped to help. They helped me get off the ground and offered me some trekking poles or to stay with me until the next aid station (2 miles away). I graciously declined - mostly so I could wallow in my self-pity and stew about what I would do next. Thankfully, this part of the trail connects to the Paso Picacho campground which means the 'trail' turns into a well-groomed gravel section leading into the camp and aid station. Still tender and noticeably swelling, I attempted to run/walk for the last mile both testing it and attempting to build some confidence that despite the injury, I could make it 34 more miles.

Arriving at Paso Picacho, Greg could tell that something was wrong. Covered in dirt still, he asked what happened and proceeded to immediately clean me off. Clearly despondent and struggling with my next steps, he never even offered up the notion of quitting or ending my race.

Ultra-running tip #126: NEVER let your immediate family crew you for an ultra-marathon.

They care too much about you and hate seeing you in pain. Experienced ultra-runners and/or coaches know enough to never even mention stopping or quitting unless there's a bone sticking out. As I continued to wallow, Greg was handing me food, refilling my pack and stuffing nutrition into my pockets clearly with the expectation that I was continuing on. It should be noted that some guy at the Paso aid station was making pickle sandwiches - a dill pickle cut in half lengthwise with ham, bacon and cheese in the middle. Literally a pickle sandwich - THE most amazing thing I've ever had in my life.

It's a little over 3 miles from this aid station to the start/finish where the first 50k loop ends. I resolved to take this 5k to see how the ankle would respond and then decide what to do next. Of course, not even 50 steps out of the aid station, I tried trotting down a short incline and landed on a rock that forced me to the ground again in pain. Swearing out loud, it was clear that my foot placement and speed would be impacted by my ankle but I continued on trying to make the best of it. I would finish the first loop in 7.5 hours.

Greg welcomed me back and again didn't let me get too down on myself or think about how much this next 50k would suck on a jacked-up ankle. I was still very much concerned about time and making the 17-hour cutoff given the amount of climbing and the potentially crippling cool temps that would appear after the sun went down.
Ultra-running tip #212: Never think about the cumulative distance you have left. Run aid station to aid station and you'll stay mentally strong.
I didn't get the chance to quit at this point with Greg continuously pushing my gear, nutrition, soda and food at me. Just get to the next aid station and see how it feels, he would say. So, off I went for loop 2 and another 12 miles.

I discovered several things during this loop:
  1. My right leg (and knee) would take the brunt of the compensation for my (left) ankle.
  2. I would get a second wind and anything flat or up, I was running at a comfortable 11-13 min/mi.
  3. Anything down was excruciating and slow (~15 min/mi)
  4. It was becoming more difficult to find nutrition that sounded good (besides Coke)
It's not a very memorable loop other than the climb immediately after you leave the aid station. I would experience those altitude symptoms again but honestly, I could have just been tired. I'd return back the start/finish line again about 5:30 pm.

It this stage of the race, there was no turning back. You don't come this far in a race just to quit - even if you feel like it. So I changed into some dry clothes, grabbed my gear for the night, ate some food and took off with Greg for the final 18 miles. I was very much aware of the time at this point. I had taken about 30 minutes at the aid station meaning I had 6.5 hours to make it around this loop if I was going to get my qualifying time (17 hours was 11:30 pm). Doubt crept in realizing that the dark, cold temps and fickle state of my GI would likely cause some overall 'drag' in my pace.

As the dark settled on us, it was clear that keeping my headlamp on my head was not the right thing to do. These trails were dusty and largely monochromatic - meaning, they reflect light back so brightly that you're unable to see any surface features. Which is the worst possible scenario for someone nursing a bum ankle and trying to beat the clock. After a couple ankle turns, slips and bouts of swearing like a sailor, I decided to take my headlamp off and carry in down by my waist. Now that I could see shadows, we started moving forward at a reasonable pace with less swearing.

Cup-o-soup and Fox News. What a combination!
The climb up to Sunrise (aka, the Trump aid station) was not a hard climb but it was relentless and largely on the ridge line. The wind had picked up significantly and was pushing us along as we got to the aid station where a bunch of hot food was waiting for us. Nothing in my pack sounded good so I tried eating as much of the aid station food as I could. Noodles, chicken stew, pancakes and bacon sounded great but all I really wanted was soda and broth. We didn't stay long here knowing that time continued to work against us and there was a good stretch to the Pedro Flages aid station. Plus, they had Fox News blasting in the background :-)

The stretch between Sunrise and Pedro Flages was fairly easy to run - no large climbs or rocks but that wind! There were a couple times the gusts pushed us sideways nearly off the trail! Greg joked that if he were a couple pounds lighter, he'd have blown off the side of the mountain. LOL. The course eventually turns south into the finish which meant we were running head-first into it...talk about suck! The course gradually descends out of the wind but as I mentioned, the downhill was excruciating because of my knee. I would endure knowing that we were closing in on 5k to the finish. We were moving well still even though it was clear we were going to make the 17-hour qualifying time. I just wanted to be done.

With Greg's Dance Party Mix blaring above the wind, we would pass about half a dozen folks on the way into the finish. I sat down after  crossing the finish line after 16 hours and 9 minutes on my feet.

All things considered, I'm happy with the finish and qualifying time. It eats at me a little knowing that I could have done better if my ankle hadn't gone south but in the end, I'm grateful for the ability to do these things with the support of my family.

A big fist-bump to Dan for his awesome first 100k finish and for training with me through all the shitty Arizona heat. He got my ass out the door more days than I can count. Many thanks to Greg for his steadfast crewing, pacing and friendship.

So now we wait until December - another Western States lottery entry to add to my tickets. Hopefully my next race report is from Squaw Valley.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

My Juice Cleanse Adventure (Part II)

In this second part of my blog, I wanted to give everyone some unbridled insight to some of the things (1) I knew would happen and (2) some of things I didn't realize out happen as a result of my 3-day juice cleanse.

Some are probably 'like, duh' moments and others will probably be 'hmmm, that's interesting...' moments. Others may just gross you out.

Lastly, I'll talk a bit more about where I'm mentally and physically now that it's been about a week after the detox.

What I Expected

Here's the short list of things I experienced during the 3 days I took the juice cleanse/detox:
  1. Low energy levels (days 1 and 2)
  2. Being grumpy (days 1 and 2)
  3. Being hungry most of the time
  4. Hard time concentrating
  5. High water consumption
  6. Peeing a LOT
  7. Little to no activity/exercising
  8. "How come you're not eating dinner daddy?"

Things I Did Not Expect

Some of these things surprised me given you're barely eating for 3 days. They may surprise you too!
  1. Headaches
  2. A good night's sleep
  3. Actually enjoying the taste of the juices
  4. The big pile of plastic bottles
  5. 2 hours between juices passes quickly
  6. No diarrhea (c'mon, everyone poops!)
  7. I missed chewing
  8. I brushed my teeth every 2-4 hours
  9. Nice not worrying about meal prep each day

After The Detox

As I mentioned in the previous post, it took 2 full days post-detox to feel a normal sense of eating come back to my schedule. I was snacking on fruit, some bars, veggies and salad throughout these days but never really felt like pounding a cheeseburger or preparing a full meal. I tried to kick back some pizza and a beer but (1) I got indigestion really bad and (2) was drunk after a couple sips.

I stayed close to the toilet in the days following the detox too. It's almost like my stomach and colon forgot what they were supposed to do with real food. It has taken a good week to get back on my 'normal' schedule.

My lack-of-caffeine-and-sugar-headaches continued a bit into days 5 and 6 but dissipated early in the day. By the 7th day, I had no more headaches and no more cravings for my morning coffee.

I'm still allowing myself some sugar (e.g., candy) here and there but the funny part is that I'll take 2 pieces and yet only eat 1. It seems I'm more satiated with less (sugar) now after the cleanse.

The same goes for food. Having fewer calories for 3 days definitely tells the body that 'hey, you can survive on less'. The weird part is that it crosses over psychologically and I've honestly been able to eat less and still be satisfied after my meals. You might think my energy levels would be lower too both without caffeine and fewer calories but to the contrary, having lost 10 pounds it seems the tax on my body and mind is less than before I started.

Lunch today. 500 calories...and I was stuffed!

I definitely feel more obligated to eat well and more mindful of what I'm consuming these days. While I've stated before that my primary reason for doing this was simply to feel better, keeping the weight off is also a post-detox motivator...I mean, who wouldn't right?

Closing Thoughts

In general, I think the cleanse did exactly what I wanted - it made me realize that food is fuel and that your body will react according to what you put in it. Treat it poorly and it takes longer for the body to heal. Treat it well and your energy, self-image and weight will be rewarded.

Physically I feel great now that my schedule is back to normal. I had a great run yesterday and my cross-training has never been better.

My food yesterday. Not starving!

I know that some people might look at this as a quick and easy way to lose weight but in reality it requires a lifestyle change. Now, it wasn't a huge stretch for me to get back to this place but I don't want to give anyone the idea that a single detox will change your life. As I said, I had strayed for a while and just needed to get back on course.

There are 1, 2, 3-day and 7-day options if you're just beginning or a seasoned veteran. Whatever you do and where ever you get your juices from, make sure you feel comfortable with the program and sticking with it for the duration. I'd also recommend a program that incorporates nut milks for protein - especially if it's your first time.

I'm not sure a juice cleanse is for everyone either. You should consult your doctor if you're unsure...and don't do it just because I did. You may have a completely different experience and totally hate it. Have your own reasons and incorporate it into your lifestyle change, rather than just a quick fix.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

My Juice Cleanse Adventure (Part I)

I had been spiraling for a while.

Training was done. All races complete. Warmer temps had arrived.

My mind said, "It's ok to eat like you're running everyday". But the body fires back and says, "Cool, I'm gonna store all this shit for later!"

15 pounds heavier (since April 5) and hating myself every time I ate or had a beer, I decided to turn the bus around and do a couple things - (1) start tracking my food and (2) do a juice cleanse.

To be clear, this isn't about vanity or being a certain weight. I'm the best father, husband and friend when I feel good about myself. I want to enjoy pizza and beer while staying moderately active. This requires discipline, good choices and balance...all the things I'd lost perspective on over the last 30 days.

Tracking Food

I've used MyFitnessPal in the past to track food. Yes, it's a pain in the ass if you're making complicated meals throughout the day but for most of us who try to eat healthy, it requires nothing more than scanning a bar code.

MyFitnessPal figures out your caloric goals based on weight, height and activity level. Mine is 2130. Now you might say that sounds like a lot but it's really not when you think about it. That's about 700 calories for lunch, breakfast and dinner...making no mention of snacks (I'm a snacker), beer or deserts!

Why I like tracking food:
  1. You're forced to look at serving size.

    There is a problem in the US with portion sizes. We assume a plate full of food that isn't the size of our head isn't a good deal. What you think is a serving size is likely grossly exaggerated!
  2. You get a cross-section of all the nutrients you're consuming - fats, protein, carbs, sugar, salt etc.

    There is a healthy ratio of how much nutrients we should be consuming and if you're like me, one (or multiple) categories are typically high on a daily basis.
My pre-cleanse food log (note red numbers at the bottom...not good!)

Juice Cleanse

I've never done a juice cleanse before but in the reading I've done and the folks I've talked to, it's touted as a great way to reset the digestive system, cleanse the stomach, liver, kidneys and intestines...not to mention lose a few pounds in the process.

As I researched local places to buy the juice cleanse, there were definitely some things that stood out for me. See my little chart below to see what I mean.

Company Ingredients Listed Chain Day Options (3-day) Cost
Nekter Yes Yes 1, 2, 3 or 5-day $119.85
Raw Organic Juice AZ No No 3 or 5-day $109.00
Nourish 123 Yes No 1, 3 or 7-day $200.00

I called each place asking additional questions about the cleanse program and ultimately went with Nourish123 even though there were more expensive. The others (1) did not use organic fruits and vegetables, (2) did not know the ingredients of their juices, and (3) were fairly annoyed with my extensive questions.

Only Nourish123 spent about an hour with me on the phone to discuss not just the product but the underlying reason(s) I was looking to do a cleanse. I liked that the owners are holistic nutritionists and were happy to share both their insight and wisdom with me.

Juicing Intro

There are 8 drinks a day for 3 days. 6 are juices and 2 are nut milks. One every 2 hours. That means starting at 6 am and ending at 8 pm. You're encouraged to drink as much water as possible too. You're discouraged from chewing gum as it triggers the hunger centers of the brain (and belly!)

The line up for the day

Day 1

Not happy or a fan...
Feeling pretty invincible, I went for a run to start this day. Just 5 miles but coming home in a caloric deficit was probably not the smartest thing to do.

Either way, I'm ready.

10 am: I'm starving.
2 pm: Mmmm, that one was pretty good.
6 pm: I've got a headache.
9 pm: Going to bed early

Day 2

One of my favs
I purposefully did not plan a workout or run knowing that my energy levels would be lower. And I was right. Considered skipping work. When will this headache go away?

8 am: I miss coffee.
12 pm: I'd really like something to chew on.
4 pm: Don't look at me - I'm hangry!
6 pm: Still have a headache.
9 pm: Please don't dream about food.

Day 3

The headache subsides and I wake up with what feel like normal energy levels and a reasonable disposition (according to my wife and kids). I'm already thinking about tomorrow and what food I'm going to inhale for lunch...thai, teriyaki, maybe a burger? lol

It's what's for dinner.

8 am: Didn't even think about coffee.
12 pm: Half way there. I got this.
4 pm: Blech, that's the one I don't like.
6 pm: "Dad, can we go get fro-yo?"
10 pm: Went to bed at normal time.

Last 'juice'!

Day 4 and 5

This is where it gets interesting. My big plans of eating everything in site was definitely not what my body wanted to do. In fact, nothing at all sounded or tasted good!

I was nibbling Day 4, trying to find small things to munch on - soups, noodles, fruit and bread were the only thing that sounded good at all. I did manage to put down a piece of pizza that night but man did I pay for it the next day :-(

Day 5 consumption has been slightly better but I still don't have my full appetite back. But maybe that's the point of the cleanse...

Day 6 and 7

I have my appetite back but in the back of my mind I always wonder, "Am I really hungry?" or "How hungry am I?" I've become satisfied with less food and haven't had a ton of cravings or the strong desire to eat certain things.

Just in time for Memorial Day weekend, I felt back to normal. Healthier, down almost 10 pounds and ready to have a few beers with friends.

Part II Preview

You probably have more questions about the actual process, how I felt, what I was thinking and how the adjustment back to 'real' food went...well fear not, I wrote a second blog to give you the gory details!

Stay tuned!

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Black Canyon 100k race report

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness...
~Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities
There is inherently a level of stupidity that accompanies an ultra-marathon regardless of the distance. Combine that with atypical Arizona weather conditions - rain, wind and cold temperatures - and 2 types of people showed up for the Black Canyon 100k this year:
  1. This sucks. I hate running. I quit.
  2. Play in the mud? Cool! Sounds awesome!
This historically hot and dry race got flipped on its head as a storm front moved through central Arizona over the weekend dumping almost 1.5" of rain and dropping evening temperatures into the mid-30's.

The Dicken's quote is significant for me because despite the conditions and change to the course, this was perhaps my best worst race ever...

Start to Antelope Mesa (mile 7.3)

Adrenaline combined with race-day excitement makes the first couple miles of the race whiz by as you're running through the streets of Mayer. Once we turned onto the Forest Service road however, I had serious doubts in my head that this race was going to happen.

...and this was when it was in good shape!
Photo: SweetM Images
Think about the deepest, stickiest mud you can possibly imagine - the kind where your shoes sinks in 3-4 inches, creates enough suction and causes your heel to pop out of your shoe. After about 50 feet of this (a) running is not longer an option, (b) the cumulative mud-pack on the bottom of your shoes has made you 6" taller and (c) your groin is strained from all the lateral slipping.

It's a good thing you eventually hop onto the AZT - which was in MUCH better shape...I wasn't about to spend the entire day slogging through a mud-bog.

Antelope Mesa to Hidden Treasure (mile 12.5)

I don't remember anything super-good or bad about this section. The AZT was in pretty good shape and the wind started to die down but other than that, my focus was settling into a solid pace.

This would be the first time I'd see my crew as well. Apparently, I already looked defeated...while I don't remember acting like I was going to drop, GG says he deliberately rushed me through the aid station just to be sure :-)

Yes, it's still raining.

Hidden Treasure to Bumble Bee (mile 19.2)

Aside from the mileage and consistent hammering your knees take from the downhill portion of this course, I don't remember having any issues through this 20 miles.

The rain started to subside a bit but not enough to ditch the rain coat. The awesome part of this race is that the AZT is extremely friendly to runners and of course net downhill. It's also the part that can trash your quads because it's way too easy to fly down the course.

I made a point this year to keep my pace in check no matter what (I didn't pick a pace, I just settled into one that felt like I could run all day).

Due to the course change, I did spend quite a bit of time considering what I would need to take for the next 20 miles. Bumble Bee is the last place you see your crew for the next 5-6 hours.

Bumble Bee ONB (mile 42.2)

Fast-forward a bit. I've left Bumble Bee and arrive at Gloriana Mine to find multiple trail friends hanging out and cheering everyone on. It's always a great feeling to have folks around propping you up and yelling words of encouragement.

Should I go on? Absolutely!
Photo: TA Mora

Leaving Gloriana Mine, you head off on what looks like a very reasonable section of trail only to see a big-ass climb in front of you...specks of people making their way up and over to the turn-around point (Soap Creek). It was a climb but nothing too horrible.

Sweet mother of Mary, the rain has stopped. Is it getting warm?!

Descending into Black Canyon City, it's very easy to go crazy on the descent. But I didn't. I kept my relaxed pace and let gravity do most of the work.

What seemed like forever, I finally got to the turn around point and nearly stripped down to nothing because it was so warm compared to the start. I was dreading the climb back up the mountain but ended up chatting with a new Dirtbag friend from Phoenix...turns out we have a few friends in common - such a small world. The time passed quickly and before long, we'd crested and were heading back down into Gloriana Mine.

Still, no rain.

Lots of people stopped at Gloriana to change their socks and shoes. It made me wonder if I'd made a mistake only having nutrition waiting for me. I didn't really have any feet issues at the time and was honestly debating on whether to change them when I got back to Bumble Bee. My Peregrine + Injinji combo were solid up to that point even with the moisture and mud so I figured why change what's working?

Turns out, changing shoes at Bumble Bee was the best thing EVER. In fact, I changed everything to ensure I started the final stretch as dry as I could.

And then the rain started again.

Bumble Bee to Antelope Mesa (mile 54.1)

After my extensive wardrobe change, RM would pick me up to begin pacing. An uneventful stretch would put us into Hidden Treasure just as darkness set in...earlier than normal because of the cloud cover. The weather of course was poised to get nasty.

Somewhere around mile 50 the Stinger chews weren't happening. I can only surmise that I was eating too much and over-hydrating. Cause I spewed. Hard. A couple lurches and my stomach emptied...and instantly I felt better! Carry on! :-)

The rain was now near horizontal and escalated to real drops that made runners, crew and aid stations just miserable. Now add the 20 mph winds and colder temperatures and we knew by the time we reached Antelope Mesa, the last 7 miles were going to be a doozy.

Antelope Mesa to Finish (61.4)

This aid station was a complete mess. Barely big enough for the tables and volunteers, runners and crew were doing their best to cram under the flapping tent wings in hopes of staying warm.

Though the trek out of the valley to the final aid station was slow and steady, I had not allowed my core temperature to drop - always moving and still bundled up. I did have a problem with my hands however - they were cold and soaked from the rain...biting even more in the sharp winds.

GG stepped into pace the last 7 miles and also offered up his completely water-proof gloves. Definitely clutch!

Off we went into what I already knew was going to be the messiest, slowest and wettest part of the run given what we'd slogged through earlier that day. Man, it did not disappoint.

No path was dry. No line was solid. You'd slip. You'd slide. You couldn't tell the mud from the rocks. The only thing you could do was run straight through the massive puddles clinging to what little balance and foot strength you had left...praying you didn't fall on your face.

"That's not mud chuck-o"

The only saving grace or running through cold water is that it helps with swollen feet!

Before long we found ourselves on solid ground and within site of the city lights fighting the wind gusts and rain pelting the right side of our faces. We both swore it was sleet but I'm guessing it was just a cold rain with a little sting in it.

I've never been so happy to run roads than I was those last couple miles back to the high school! You know it's a tough stretch when you pass 3 different solo runners bundled up in their silver/gold emergency blankets.

I would run into the track with little to no fanfare - RM taking some video and a lonely volunteer at the finish line attempting to take my picture. Happy to be done I thanked them, grabbed by pint and buckle and continued to run towards the high school gym were my warm clothes and food were waiting.

Not a single blister...thanks Injinji!

Closing Thoughts

The best worst race ever: I paced myself completely from the start and ran 75% of the course. Despite the elements, I fueled and hydrated well, kept moving and never got mental about the distance or trail conditions. I finished 30 minutes slower than last year's 'normal' conditions...perhaps faster had I not stopped to change clothes 5 times :-)

Cross-training = strength: last year, my knees and quads took a pounding on the course. This year, after hours and hours of strength training, I felt stronger than ever over the entire day. Tired, but never weak from the elevation loss/gain.

Be prepared: I freely admit that even with as many layers of clothes and rain coats I brought with me, I was not fully prepared for the resulting cold and rain. Had it not been for my crew, a waterproof rain coat and gloves my race would have likely ended in a DNF. Never take the Arizona elements for granted.