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On Travel, Nutrition, Consistency, and Intelligence

So as not to render this blog obsolete, I figured it was time for a post. Here are a few things on my mind as of lately:

1. Travel

Travel, as I’ve written elsewhere, is one of the most fundamentally enriching and enjoyable things (second only to running, in my book). I’ve been fortunate enough to do a lot of it in the past two months: Indiana, Tennessee, Georgia; Badlands, Glacier National Park, Yosemite National Park; Missoula, Bozeman, Whitefish, Helena, Portland, San Francisco, Sacramento, Los Angeles. All the moving around was made possible after I quit my job at the beginning of July. So instead of living in hot, humid, flat Florida, I’ve been, well, seeing some pretty unbelievable places. If you’re in a situation financially such that you can afford some time off, and you aren’t pleased with your current surroundings and undertakings, I’d say get out and hit the open road. But that’s just me. Here’s what I’ve been able to explore—and just a fraction of what is available to explore—recently (in no particular order):

Minor league baseball in Chattanooga, TN
Arguably the most beautiful place in the U.S.: Glacier National Park
John Muir Trail (JMT) in Yosemite National Park with AK
Enjoying Georgia farm life
Glacier NP 
Closing miles on the JMT
Camping outside of Bozeman, MT
Another shot from Glacier NP
Fog atop the Twin Peaks in San Francisco (SF) 
Forest Park in Portland, OR 
Views atop Mt. Diablo outside of SF 
My buddy, DeNuch, finishing the Headlands 50k 
Closing stretch of the San Francisco Marathon 
Finishing the Headlands 50k in 4th
2. Nutrition

I’ve had two races in the past month, the San Francisco Marathon (19th, 2:46:49) and the Headlands 50k (4th, 4:10:40), both primarily for training purposes in preparation for some higher profile races this fall. Both were organized well, competitive, and boasted uncanny views. The marathon went well enough, given the lack of training beforehand. I think the 50k went about as well as it possibly could have on the day. One big reason for that was my nutrition during the race. It is said that 200-300 calories should be consumed every hour during an ultra to maintain performance and, unfortunately, I don’t think I had ever consumed 200 or more per hour prior to the Headlands 50k; I think I’ve underperformed in ultras due to that fact alone. I forced myself to take down gels every 30 minutes or so this past Saturday and this, I think, accounts for my higher than normal energy levels at the end of the race, evidenced by the fact that I went from 6th place to 4th over the last six miles. Nutrition is very important in an ultra and that fact seems truer to me now than ever. It should be a real focus for everyone running ultras, if it isn’t already. I’ll certainly be focusing on my caloric intake more meticulously going forward.

3. Consistency

I had the opportunity to interview Traci Falbo (new American and world record holder in the 48-hour event) [link to article] and Joe “String Bean” McConaughy (new Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) FKT holder) in the last two weeks [link here when available] for There was one central commonality between the two, that I could tell, which led to their respective successes: consistency. They were both consistent as hell. In the case of Traci, she took very few breaks and ran huge stretches, without breaks, at five miles per hour—not fast, just consistent. Joe averaged four miles per hour on the PCT, which is by no means pokey, but he was up every morning at 5 a.m. and stayed on the trail at least 12 hours every day. Consistency is truly a virtue in ultras. Look at Ian Sharman, for example: he isn’t the fastest up hill, but he’ll maintain that same up hill pace on every climb for 100 miles. (In conversation, he’s said: “My 50k up hill pace is the same as my 100 mile pace.”) My conclusion: maintain a consistent pace—which will be different given the gradient, technicality of terrain, etcetera—from the start of the race until the end. In other words, run smart. Onto the next point…

4. Intelligence

“Run a smart race,” they say. Does that mean conservatively? Finishing strong? Racing to your strength? It very probably means all of the aforementioned and more, but I think one way to explain the phrase, “run a smart race,” is to focus on consistency. Run a consistent pace from the gun until the finish (which, again, doesn’t mean the same exact pace the whole race, regardless of the gradient and terrain; but instead means run the same pace on any given type of terrain/gradient throughout the race.). If you do that, then you won’t go out too fast; you will finish (relatively strong); you won’t run with an elevated heart rate for too long; you won’t run someone else’s race; you won’t start racing for a podium place in the early miles. I focused on running a smart—err, consistent—race at the Headlands 50k and was met with success. Rather than worrying about my place in the field, I focused entirely on what my current fitness would allow me to do. Of course, I may have had some soft moments mentally, and not pushed my body entirely to its physical limits, but I did well to run within myself and run strong throughout. I was power hiking climbs less than two miles into the race and I was power hiking climbs, at the same pace and perhaps faster, in the closing miles; I was running the descents faster in the closing miles than in the beginning. As such, I bounced around: I ran in 7th early; then was in 5th, bounced back to 7th, before finding my way to 6th around mile eight—where I remained for much of the race—then moved into 5th around mile 25, and finally into 4th at mile 26, where I ultimately finished. But I let my current fitness, and current strengths and weaknesses determine my pace throughout the race. It’s likely the first time I’ve done that for an entire race, and it felt right. 

In short: travel lots, fuel well, and race intelligently—rather, be consistent.