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Imagine an ultra with no cutoffs, no sweep vehicle, and no DNFs! This is what you get with fixed-time ultras. According to runningintheusa.com, there are 190 fixed-time races in the United States in 2015, so they are out there, and they are worth a look for those unfamiliar with them. This article might serve as an introduction to this type of race for some of you; others already familiar will, I hope, still find some good information here.
I’ve fielded lots of questions in person about this, and of my 90 or so ultras, 44 of them have been fixed-time races from three hours to six days. I managed to set an American record for 48 hours, at the race Three Days at the Fair in Augusta, New Jersey, in 2011, with 257.34 miles, and I nabbed a couple of 24-hour national championships at the NorthCoast 24-Hour Endurance Run in Cleveland in 2009 and 2011. So as a runner who has been said to “specialize in mind-numbing loops”, I suppose I’m something close to an expert. So I’ll start with the basics. You’ll note that I’ll use the word “usually” a lot, to comment on what is most common, while acknowledging that there are always exceptions.
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Our guest blogger is Tia Pettygrue, a USATF & RRCA certified running coach. She works with our friends at Florida Road Races. These races along Florida’s west coast were created to promote a healthy lifestyle and showcase their coastal communities.
Let’s face it, much of the US has been sweltering recently. Most people would probably rather jump in a pool than run in this kind of weather. But here are some tips to make the most of running in the heat.
- Know that it will not last. If you’re training during the heat of summer, you’re probably training for a fall race. So chances are, your race may be in the fall when temps will be milder.
- Don’t expect to run your goal pace. Running in temperatures over 80 degrees (especially in humid areas) can have a 12-20% impact on your pace. So don’t beat yourself up if you struggle to run your goal pace. If you normally run a 10:00 pace and the weather is 85 degrees, your adjusted pace would be around 10:23. So if you’re doing a race and you don’t hit that PR, don’t be too hard on yourself.
- Dress accordingly. Wear a hat or visor and make sure you put a Sports Sunscreen on before you head out. Wear light colored clothing. I’m jealous of the guys like my husband who can go shirtless when they run.
- Remember your hydration. Even for a quick 3-mile run, I will wear my hydration belt. I’ll fill my bottles full of ice and then pour water in them. This way, the water stays cooler longer. And, if you’re running at least 45 minutes, add some electrolytes to the water. You need more than ever to hydrate every 15-20 minutes. If you’re running longer than an hour, make sure you have a place on your route to refill if needed. Where I run there is a park every 1 ½ miles with water fountains and restrooms. So look for routes that offer these type of options. Most parks with walking or running trails will have water along the way.
- Don’t feel guilty about taking walk breaks. It’s hot out there and that sun can zap your energy, so if you need to take a break during your run, take it to refresh and re-energize. Better to take a break than to overheat. Sometimes I’ll incorporate a walk break to take pictures of the beautiful scenery or a sunrise.
- Become an early bird or a night owl. Find a friend or a group and plan a pre-dawn run or or a run after the sun goes down. Where I live in Florida, it’s very humid even at 5am, but at least the sun beating down. Use caution if running alone – it’s always better if you can have a buddy with you.
- Heat running will make you stronger. I used to take the summers off from running because of the heat. Then one year, I did a summer marathon up north so I had no choice but to train in the heat. I found I felt more accomplished after each run because it was so hard. When I did the race, it was 45 degrees, and I easily hit my goal pace. So consider heat running a challenge that you can conquer. Stay safe out there!
Death Valley National Park, Calif – Crossing the finish line in 42 hours, 30 minutes after running the 135 miles across blazing hot Death Valley was not a record setting time for veteran ultrarunner Marshall Ulrich. A Colorado native, Ulrich is the record four-time winner of the iconic Badwater ultramarathon that starts at the Badwater basin, the lowest elevation in North America at 282 feet below sea level, and officially ends at the 8,360-foot Whitney Portal trailhead on the mountain. At the 2015 AdventureCORPS Nutrimatix BADWATER® 135 race, Ulrich set another record by completing an unrivaled 20th Badwater 135 races. He ran his first Badwater Ultramarathon race in 1990.
“The desert is never forgiving, but always welcoming to me. There’s a peace in disconnecting from the everyday, electronic world and instead being connected to the earth, your support crew, and the Badwater family,” Ulrich said. “That’s what has brought me back for so many years.”
In the field of 68 men and 29 women consisting of extreme sports athletes, adventure racers, ultrarunners, mountaineers, and triathletes who had to compete with their sports credentials and accomplishments just to be invited to the race, Ulrich (64) was a notably competitive applicant. In 2012 Ulrich finished the first-ever circumnavigation on foot of Death Valley National Park, about 425 miles in one of the hottest, driest places on earth, during the most blistering month in U.S. history. He ranked that expedition as tougher than ascending Mount Everest, but not as challenging as his record-setting transcontinental run of more than 3,000 miles from San Francisco to New York City in 52 days, which was the subject of his memoir, Running on Empty. He’s also completed a fully unaided solo crossing and a 586-mile “quad” run across Death Valley. All told, he’s crossed Death Valley on foot, in July or August, a total of 27 times.
At the 2015 Badwater Ultramarathon, where the average age of the racers was 46 among the 38 newcomers and 59 veterans from around the world, Ulrich placed a solid 63rd of the 97 starters. Eighteen athletes did not finish (DNF) the race. “For various reasons the race went back to an evening, or PM, start which is the way the race run from 1990 to 1995. While some people thought it would be easier, that wasn’t the case. Higher temperatures at the start, as well as sleep deprivation, especially for those of us that had to run through two nights, really took a toll on a lot of participants,” Ulrich theorized.
In addition, the AM start records (22:51 for men and 26:16 for women) did not fall, as many predicted. Ulrich’s 1992 male PM start record of 26:18 did finally fall – to 27 year old Pete Kostelnick who finished in 23:27. Nikki Wynd won the 2015 women’s division with a time of 27:23. The 79 runners that did finish the official 135 miles within the 48-hour cutoff earned the coveted Badwater 135 belt buckle. There is no prize purse for the “The World’s Toughest Foot Race.”
But, Ulrich’s race did not stop at the Portals. For every one of his 20 crossings, Ulrich has completed the 11-mile climb to Mt Whitney’s 14,505-foot summit that is the classic crossing from the lowest to highest points in the continental U.S. This year was no exception. After finishing the Badwater 135, Ulrich obtained the necessary Forest Service wilderness permits and summited Mt Whitney in a total time of 65 hours from his 8 PM race start on July 28th. His record for the 146 miles from the Badwater basin to the summit of Mt Whitney of 33:54, set in 1991, still stands after 24 years.
“For me it’s a matter of honoring the people that came before me. I guess I’m just old fashioned that way,” Ulrich explained. “Sadly, only about four people continued to the top,” Ulrich said, “as most runners either don’t know the history or don’t understand the original intent of those that established the lowest to highest route.”
*Photos courtesy of Teresa Reed-Barnette.
About Marshall Ulrich
Marshall Ulrich (b. July 4, 1951) is an elite extreme endurance athlete, as well as an accomplished speaker, author, trainer, and guide. Called the “Endurance King” by Outside magazine, he’s finished over 127 ultra marathons averaging over 125 miles each; climbed to the top of the highest mountain on every continent, including Mount Everest; and completed 12 expedition-length adventure races. At the age of 57, Marshall clocked the third-fastest run across America, about which he wrote his book, “Running on Empty.” A record four-time winner of the Badwater Ultramarathon, Marshall has crossed Death Valley on foot, in July, a record 26 times, including a self-contained, unaided solo, a “quad” of nearly 600 miles, and the first-ever self-supported circumnavigation of Death Valley National Park.
In Run the World series, RunGo’s team of run-loving employees will take you on a tour of their favourite runs around the world. Each run will feature a different region, with tons of photos to get you motivated and a link to RunGo’s route, so you can follow the run with voice navigation. Whether it’s road or trail, it will be something to add to your running bucket list.
Episode 4: Mount Baker / North Cascades Copper Ridge Loop, just outside Bellingham
Distance: 52 kilometers! (That’s 32 miles.)
Elevation Change: Lots. 2,776m of gain. (That’s 9,107 feet.)
RunGo Route to Follow: Copper Ridge Loop 52k
Running Club to Go With: Cascade Mountain Runners
Why You’ll Love it
After driving down the beautiful forest roads away from Bellingham, this run is the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Have you ever run through the Mount Baker Wilderness area and the North Cascades National Park? They are enchanted places. You’ll go down lush, open valleys dotted in paintbrush, along the beautiful Chilliwack River right near the Canada/US border, and then the “run” (sometimes a hike) takes you on a total different spin, taking you way up rocky ridges, past cascading waterfalls, alpine lakes, and into the deepest greens and browns you’ve ever seen. What’s more, you even get to cross the Chilliwack River in style, via cable car!
Not for the faint of heart! This route is already 53km, and with lots of brush in the way of the trail, and lots of elevation, it may be one of your longest ultra runs to date! But the more time out running, the better, right?! In all seriousness, there is no cell phone reception so you’ll want a buddy, because it’s a remote loop with no escape route, which is also what makes this route so beautiful. Honestly, most people do this route as a 4 day hike, so it’s an ambitious trail run in one go. Expect a long day with fewer kilometers / hour than normal because of the brush along the trail. Other things to note are that it will probably rain, and the brush will probably cut your legs at some point, so you may opt for cropped pants for this run. Oh yeah, and there are two icy cold stream crossings to keep you cool, when we ran the route they were up to our knees. Thankfully they are side by side and sort of a welcome feeling for tired feet! Yes, lots of cautions. But well worth it!
For more on the Copper Ridge Loop, check out the Copper Ridge Loop on the Washington Trails Association website, or go for a beer with the local Bellingham-based Cascade Mountain Runners to get all the details before or after you head out!
On July 11, I volunteered at the Beaverhead Endurance 100K & 55K Runs in Salmon, Idaho. As most of you know – whether it’s through running or volunteering at an ultra event or in reading about it in M&B – any part of an ultra race can be a transformational experience. At this year’s 55K, running friends – Kristine Goodman and Nellie Pryor – exemplified what toughness is all about. I’m including Kristine’s race report here because her and Nellie’s experiences can be an inspiration for everyone out there who may dream of someday doing an ultra. Here is Kristine’s account of the Beaverhead 55K.
Ah – Beaverhead – This course is unforgettable, breathtaking, and full of surprises!
Last year this race nearly killed me, physically and spiritually. My friend Nellie and I rolled into the last aid station well after dark. I was angry and bonking and wanted to quit. I had suffered from IT band issues for miles and the descent was proving to be brutal. I called my husband and told him I was quitting to his reply of “You only have 5 miles – everyone is waiting for you.” So I finished the race at 2 am, defeated. Then, of course, I signed up again – determined I could finish stronger.
This year I was more prepared with having been on the course before. I knew my head could be my biggest friend and having a pre-race pep talk by Travis Macy, the author of Ultra Mindset, solidified that knowledge. It was a surprise and a treat to listen to him talk! I started the day with a detailed plan – a new strategy for me. I knew how long I had between each aid station to finish before 10:30 pm – a stretch goal of taking almost 3 hours off my previous time. I also had learned that my recurring injuries rear their ugly heads when I am dehydrated so I really focused on drinking a lot of water and eating every 45 minutes. Those 3 strategies, combined with better weather held big promises for reaching my goal.
The day started at Lemhi pass with lots of friends. We were bused up to the start at 8358 feet. After bathroom breaks and getting race numbers, we all took turns taking pictures of each other at the start then patiently waited to begin.
At 7 am the race started. Immediately, the trail ascends a very steep hill climb for about a half mile. It’s here that the different paces spread out. I quickly found myself where I should be and was able to relax and enjoy the climb. For the next 18 miles – the course follows the Continental Divide Trail. For about 16 miles of that it is mostly nice, rolling single and double track through the trees. Simply amazing! We made good time and put lots of time in the bank for the skree field later in the race.
I was feeling pretty good through most of this part, and we were keeping on pace. I started to get tired around mile 10 so I ate some sport beans. I suddenly was craving candy like crazy!! I don’t usually eat a lot of sugar so this was very odd for me. I decided to go with it, and it seemed to work. At the 2nd aid station they had Swedish fish and Mike and Ike’s. Along with my regular nut butter and potato chips, the super sugary candy fueled my entire run. I’ve learned over the few ultras I have completed that while it is not smart to try something brand new on race day, I do better when I eat what I crave as this is probably an indication for something I’m lacking.
It is also here that the trail starts to change, and we began to see a lot more rock. We stopped to check out the views a few more times, but we had a big goal this year – so lots less time for pictures.
Eventually, we made it into the Gold Stone aid station. The volunteers were so welcoming. They filled us up, and we were on our way – 2 hours earlier than we had been at that aid station the year before. It was amazing to be that far in a race and not here one word uttered from a volunteer about a cutoff!
Finally, we headed out to the toughest 6 miles of the course. These 6 miles are what make this race different from every other race I’ve participated in. We climbed to the top of that point and then quickly began navigating a 3-plus mile skree field topping out at 10,047 feet.
At this point we had several people starting to pass us from the 100k (I’ve never considered myself fast). Each of them commented on how tough the skree field was, and no one was running. The skree field follows the Continental Divide – one side is Montana, and one side is Idaho. It’s absolutely breathtaking while at the same time terrifying and excruciatingly slow.
Soon, we came to the section where we started to descend, and we saw a trail again. It was a fantastic sight, although this year, I was a little saddened to leave those brutal 3 miles.
Continue reading » Beaverhead Endurance Runs – 55K