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03.03.2015
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Crewing Basics – Not All Fun and Games!

zachIf you are not a runner yourself but have ever crewed for a runner you probably have no trouble remembering your first time.  It is pretty unforgettable.  You probably felt like a fish out of water.  At the very least, you probably wish you had been told that “cheering someone to the finish and re-filling a water bottle” would likely turn into “rubbing a sore buttcheek, stuffing nasty-ass, bloody socks into your pocket, and cleaning up what looks the remnants of a grizzly bear attack every few hours” – all while potentially being treated “gruffly”.  You probably wish you had a manual.  I gotcha’ back, Jack!

Here are my 5 tips to crewing for an ultra 50 miles or longer.  Enjoy!

  1. Make a plan. Have yourself a little “parlay” with your runner and find out what they want, like, and need.  From food to gear choices, know in advance how they race.  Ask about weaknesses and strengths and help them maximize and mitigate both accordingly.  Don’t go in blind and try to figure it out as you go!  You could end up being more of a hindrance than a helper.
  2. Have as much fun before the race with your runner as possible. When it comes time to get ready to run, shit gets real.  Most ultrarunners I know take it fairly seriously and are pretty intense – as early as the night before.  Ask what you can do to help, but for the most part, allow them to do their own thing.  Make yourself available to help out with whatever asked – but let them run the show.
  3. Move fast, think fast, act Do not make your runner wait on YOU.  Know exactly where their gear is, where their favorite drinks are, and what food choices are readily available at a seconds notice.  Anticipate what they might need and get it ready even if they may not end up needing it.  Make suggestions until something sounds good.  You might have tons of potentially helpful stuff available that your runner more than likely has forgotten about.  Remind her.  Always grab more than you need.  Ask them on the way out what they might need NEXT time.
  4. Be positive! Your runner has likely has been waiting a while to see you and needs a good pick me up.  Yell!  Scream!  Holler!  Smile!  Hug! Be obnoxiously loud to the point that other crews are annoyed by you.  I am speaking from experience when I tell you, this boost is better than any can of Red Bull when you are at a low point.  You can rest later… bust your ass to show your runner how excited and proud you are of them.
  5. Have an ace-in-the hole. Call a loved one at the lowest point.  Break out a surprise gift.  Get homemade cards from the family saying “Stay Strong Daddy!”  Have something ready for that spot where continuing is almost  Piss them off.  Tell them they have worked too hard to quit.  Be creative – what your “ace” is will vary dependant on the runner, but find something!

I am not going to include this as a tip – but I think it is important to mention – cut your runner some slack!  Don’t get all butt-hurt if they snap at you.  Don’t quit on them or stop being positive and supportive because they cussed about the water being too hot or the soup too cold.  They are doing something VERY DIFFICULT and don’t mean to take it out on you.  Be there as a punching bag or a shoulder to cry on if that is what they need.   Ultimately the BEST way to learn how to be a good crewmember  is to get FIRST HAND EXPERIENCE – so get out there and help someone earn that finish!

Until Next Time…. BE EPIC!

Zach Adams

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02.20.2015
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Epic Ultras Partners with Miles to Go Endurance

ryan-1Epic Ultras is extremely pleased to announce our new affiliate partnership with Miles to Go Endurance (MTGE). Founded by Coach Ryan Knapp, Miles to Go Endurance provides individualized endurance training in an online team environment to ultrarunners anywhere in the world. MTGE will serve as our “exclusive” go-to training program/group for any Epic Ultras’ race participants interested in coaching services.  MTGE coaches will be on hand at all 2015 Epic Ultra Events to offer immediate assistance and any last minute guidance our competitors may be looking for, along with answering any questions about how they can help you accomplish your “wildest ultraracing dreams” in the future through personalized coaching programs tailored just for you!

Miles to Go Endurance Founder & Coach, Ryan Knapp, stated the following about our new affiliation;

“Miles to Go Endurance is very excited to partner with Epic Ultras and to add an outstanding list of ultramarathon races to our athletes’ calendars. This partnership is simple in our eyes. Epic Ultras puts on EPIC events. Our job is to prepare each athlete to the best of their ability. We want every athlete who toes the line to feel ready to tackle some of the toughest ultramarathons the midwest has to offer. Many of our athletes have previously participated in Epic Ultra Events and have provided nothing but rave reviews. Epic Ultra Events provide our athletes challenging courses to showcase their months of training and hard work. It’s obvious that Eric Steele and Epic Ultras care about every athlete at their events. As a coach, I couldn’t ask for anything more.”

Through MTGE’s holistic approach to training, Ryan and his coaches have assisted a continually growing number of runners cross the finish line at hundreds of events, from 5k to 100 miles and beyond. Miles to Go Endurance has undoubtedly made a name for itself in the mountain/ultra/trail/sky running community with many of their athletes throwing down incredible performances at some of the biggest events on the running calendar.  Epic Ultras is confident our new affiliate partnership with MTGE will prove mutually beneficial for both of our company’s, but most importantly, be an outstanding opportunity for many runners who are looking for high-quality coaching in our “beloved sport” of ultrarunning.

For complete information about Miles To Go Endurance, along with a FREE initial consultation to determine if MTGE can help you achieve (and surpass) your ultrarunning goals, please click their logo below now:

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02.05.2015
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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

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12.05.2014
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Ultra Burnout

What is runner burnout?

Simply put, I think of burnout as the point at which the hobby of running, once much loved, becomes nothing more than work. You aren’t running as much as you used to and when you do they suck and aren’t much fun. It may even get to the point that you are only running out of a sense of obligation or habit. One may experience a general lack in motivation to go faster or farther, where once a sense of excitement and accomplishment was the predominant driving force. When you get to the point that you can think of a thousand things you would rather be doing aside from running, you are more than likely burned out. Chances are if you have been running ultras for a significant amount of time, you probably have been or will be burned out on running at some point. Maybe it will come after a long stretch of huge training miles and a very busy race schedule. It may come when you have been burning hours you could be sleeping to keep up on training because “life has gotten in the way”. Whatever the cause, the point is, it happens to the best of us.

What can I do about it?

My first case of burnout came after nearly an entire year of training and racing with the ultimate goal of finishing my first 100 mile ultra. Tons and tons of miles, some hard run races, and an annual mileage total nearly doubling my previous highest had me very well prepared for the October 100 miler I had picked out. It also had me set up for a case of burnout. The strenuous year and accomplishment of my goal left me with quite a running hangover. I was kind of lost without the goal that I had been working for and when I did run it was not much fun – even after the aches and pains of the 100 went away.

After a couple months of this I decided to see what I could do to pull myself out of the funk. Here are a few things that I think contributed to pulling me from the brink of nearly quitting running ultras and propelled me into an even better year than the one that had been amazing, while simultaneously kicking me in the teeth.

  1. Reflect on why you started running. Was it to get healthy, compete in a race, run with a group, or scratch something off your bucket list? Taking a look at your original motivation might just help you put your current situation in perspective and help you find the passion once again. Isn’t a bit of silent meditation and reflection something you normally do while running anyway?

2.  Re-evaluate your goals. Do you want to PR some specific race or distance? Do you want to tackle a course of distance that has previously been unattainable? Do you want to lose some weight and get stronger? Whatever your goal is, tailoring your running specifically to the accomplishment of these new priorities may help get you back on track. It could be the new motivation you need to make those workouts feel more exhilarating than a day working in the widget factory for minimum wage.

3.  Sign up for a race that scares you. By taking on a challenge of epic proportions, you might scare yourself into working harder than you would if you were just kind of seeing what comes up. In my experience, having a particular goals race that you know will kick you square in the nuts if you don’t get ready for it is a strong motivator to lay off the pizza and beer and go grab some hill repeats instead.

4.  Just go run. One of the things I do when I am just not “feeling it” is to just go. Set a schedule for 14 days and follow it without question. It takes you back to when you first started running and didn’t know what you were doing – you just followed the almighty schedule. No motivation required. The schedule says 4, you run 4. No motivation needed. If you are supposed to go run 16 you go run 16, without excuses. I think this works because it makes running a normal part of your routine again. Rather than trying to talk yourself into going out for a run, you do it because the schedule says so. When the scheduled days are done, you just keep with it because it has become routine and feels weird not to. Either way, you are still moving and running continues to be that important part of your life that you might have begun to take for granted.

5.  Find some running buddies. Find some new people to run with. Joining a new group of runners might be very helpful in breathing some new life into your love of running. A new group means new people to talk to and share race “war stories” with. It might inspire people to tackle some of the challenges you have already taken on, or vice versa. Sharing the experience with new people may help you gain a fresh perspective on running and help you win the game of hide and seek with your own love of running.

6.  Run somewhere new. A change of venue could be just what the coach ordered. I know I personally have a tendency to run the same routes over and over and over and over… My 5 mile route has been a staple for close to as many years, and when I need 10 or 15, I just do more loops. If you look closely you can see the groove in the road created by about 200 pairs of running shoes. If you had the nose of a dog, you could probably smell me on it. The point is, running past the same tree, farmhouse, and water tower can get just as old as a morning rush hour commute. Mix it up! Drive to a different town or trail. Go get on the treadmill of a new gym. Just changing your scenery may help you regain the elusive “fun factor”. This is one instance where I am telling you to go find out if the grass really is greener on the other side!

7.  Rest. Don’t overlook the importance of taking some time off from time to time. When was the last time you didn’t run for a full two week span? Do something different. Swim laps or ride a bike. You won’t lose your massive ultarunning base if you take a couple weeks off. I have a feeling a recharging of your metal batteries is going to help you way more than not running for two weeks will – especially if you replace the activity with something else physically demanding like pickup basketball at the YMCA or an adult soccer rec league.

You will surely notice that some of these things work better for you than others, much as everything else in ultrarunning.  Ultrarunning is a sport of trial and error and what works for one may not for another. Just like fueling during a race or finding the best shoes, there is no “perfect” way to pull yourself out of a funk. I suppose if all else fails, you can just quit. While you might regret it later, I certainly don’t mind less competition in a given race. Hell, it might even help me get into one of those big lottery selection races some day!

Until Next Time…. BE EPIC!

Zach Adamszach

EpicUltras.com Blogger

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11.24.2014
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The Stereotypical Ultrarunner

zachIn the five or so years I have been running ultras, I have seen quite a few changes.  The first, and most noticeable, is the massive increase in popularity.  In 2010, ultras (in the Midwest anyway) were somewhat few and far between.  A runner might have to travel 6 hours or more to find a race at all, and there were very few options through the course of the year, even ifyou were willing to travel.  In 2014, one must pick and choose based on courses, buckles, distances, course support, and a zillion other factors. It seems as though there are new races popping up all over the place every weekend!  The massive rise in popularity has increased both participation and public exposure – in both traditional media and social media.  Between my runner friends, runner pages, and groups, my Twitter and Facebook feeds read like an AD/HD version of about 12 issues worth of UltraRunning Magazine.

This increased exposure has increased to the point that now even ‘non-runners’ are at least cognizant with the concept of ultrarunning.  Guys like Dean Karnazes, Scott Jurek, Christopher McDougal, and others have made ultrarunning seem less of a fringe sport for total psychopathic sadomasochists and maybe even somewhat mainstream. Maybe…  Along with this newfound recognition, I have noticed a trend among non-runners beginning to group all ultrarunners into one homogenous group tagged “ultrarunner” – a new stereotype of sorts.  How awesome is that guys!?  We got our own stereotype!  By definition, a stereotype is an oversimplification of the group as a whole, and in a lot of cases, the shoe fits.  But there are a few traits that I feel like are commonly attributed to ALL ultrarunners that I really feel are more often mostly inaccurate.

1.)  All ultrarunners are a bunch of hippies who just bum around and only work the bare minimum to survive. FALSE!  There are a certain number of these ultrarunners living a lifestyle recently coined as “dirbag” who are out there truly living the ultra dream, but they are not the majority.  Nurses, cops, small business owners, stay at home moms, CEO’s, and teachers are professionals you will find at almost every ultra.  Most of the ultrarunners I know have full time jobs, families, and as many or more responsibilities as any non-runner.

2.)   All ultrarunners are health freaks who measure and count every free-range, organic thing they eat and drink. Most are vegans who hang out at whole food stores and plan their next barefoot run across America.  NOPE!  Most of us eat what we like, because we like it, and in whatever quantity we choose.  Fast food is NOT the devil and we don’t mind sucking down the occasional triple cheeseburger and washing it down with a giant butterscotch milkshake.  Yeah, there are a many health conscious ultrarunners out there because better nutrition does make better runners.  However, most of us will never step on a podium and are MORE THAN SATISFIED just to stumble across a finish line – just before cutoffs- to collect our buckle and vanity sticker.

3.)  All ultrarunners suck down tons of craft beers the night before and immediately after every ultra. NADA!  We will drink just about any kind of beer, wine, liquor and sometimes don’t even wait until we have finished the race.  And believe it or not, there are many ultrarunners who don’t drink at all, although I am personally not sure why.

4.)  All ultrarunners hate themselves and are just punishing themselves somehow. INCORRECT!  The pain of running ultras is a beautiful contrast to the Western hemisphere’s push toward achieving absolute comfort in all things.  Feeling the pain lets you know how great you have it in your everyday life.  It is not a punishment…it is a reward!  We aren’t doing it because we hate ourselves, we are doing it because we LOVE ourselves enough to get out of our comfort zones and live life – in spite of the pain.  To push past limits defined by others and sometimes even limits we place on ourselves.

5.)  All ultrarunners are obsessed with running and it is all they do. NOT TRUE.  Ultrarunners by nature have a very wide range of experiences.  Chances are that is what led them to the sport.  Driven by the desire to take on new and exciting challenges can lead to many different activities.  From my experience, ultrarunners excel in a wide variety of activities that take significant commitment – from writing, music, art, and theatre to auto body repair, hunting, gardening and motorcycle riding.  Not stunted by a fear of the unknown, ultrarunners are well prepared to tackle ANY challenge.  Hell I am in a group that meets bi-weekly to play old school, roll the 20 sided die roll playing game Dungeons and Dragons. (My character is a pretty badass level 2 Half-Elf Rogue).  But yeah, we do run a lot – it is pretty necessary when running distances over 26.2 miles.

After all the time and miles I have spent on the trails with ultrarunners, I would argue that the ONLY thing that we ALL truly have in common as the group labeled “Ultrarunners” is the desire to take on the physical challenge of running an ultra as a way to living a highly fulfilled life.  There are similarities among us but just like the case of the “perfect” running shoe, there truly is no one-size-fits-all personality of an ultrarunner.

Be Epic!

Zach Adams

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