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04.07.2015
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Setting the Pace

PST100-2015-2657I was recently asked, “Zach – your crewing article was great, but I am not really wanting to sit on my butt for hours just to pop blisters, make sandwiches and fill water bottles…  what about pacing?”   Well, “fictitious friend”, that is a great question!  However, for the purposes of disclosure, let me start with a disclaimer.  I have never actually paced another runner during an event.  This being said – I have utilized pacers in a wide variety of race distances and terrains during ultras.  I have also not utilized pacers – so I feel confident I can speak with authority on the subject matter.

First and foremost – and I cannot stress this enough – make sure that you are FAST ENOUGH to keep up with your pacer.  I personally have had to leave a pacer behind that could not keep up with me and ended up leaving said pacer alone in the dark in the middle of the night.  While I felt bad for her, I was feeling amazing, and was going to take advantage of that.  Another friend’s pacer decided to quit during his “shift” and did not run again for a year.  To avoid this situation, don’t agree to pace someone that you are likely unable to match speeds (and preferably push).  Also, be careful to assume that just because it’s the late miles of a 100 you will be able to keep up with a normally much faster runner – I have seen some ultrarunners run faster the last 10 than the first 10.

Secondly, don’t whine and complain about how bad YOU feel.  Chances are you have been out there much less time than your runner has, and the goal is to help THEM.  Your pissing and moaning might make them run faster to get away from you, but most likely they will just get very annoyed and take it out on the crew at the next aid station.  Best case scenario, your runner might just put in her earbuds and crank the Metallica – take the hint.

#Zandi - Shay featuring Johnny and the Daves

2014 Honey Badger “Van Clan”

Next order of business; be prepared.  I am talking “Eagle Scout” prepared!  Learn and study the course! Know the distance between aid stations.  Just like Dad driving to the family vacation destination, you can expect to hear “Are we there yet?”  Know your runners goals and push hard to exceed them!  Find out what you can do to help your runner and the crew when you roll into the next aid station.  Don’t forget to remind them to eat and drink, then take a mental note of when and how much.  It is important you do not let them get behind; else you are making things harder on the both of you.

Finally, and this is sometimes overlooked, HAVE FUN!  One of the best things you can do is help your runner keep their mind OFF the pain, the race, and the other hardships.  Crack jokes, sing songs, tell stories.  ENGAGE your runner to help pass the long arduous hours and distract them from the task at hand for a bit.  Some of my best pacer experiences were not because my pacer kept pushing Heed and Hammer Gels, but telling dirty jokes and sharing (and sometimes OVERSHARING) personal stories.  It really makes the low times much more bearable.

I could give you a thousand more tips on how to be an effective pacer, but if you follow the four simple rules above, you will be successful.  If you are interested in being a pacer but have not been asked, PUT YOURSELF OUT THERE!  Post availability on forums or Facebook pages!  It is a great way to see part of a course or race without ponying up the entry fee!  You may also make some great friends.  Last summer, I assembled a team of 4 complete strangers who spent more than 27 hours in the scorching Kansas heat for a guy and his gal that they barely knew – and now they are now my lifelong friends!

Until Next Time…. #BeEpic!

Zach Adams

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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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