Rocket Man…

Charles Corfield
The biggest buckle ever was Charles' award.

I’ve got some of this Mendocino Rocket Fuel, that’s supposed to be really… ~ Viv Savage

Several weeks ago, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Charles Corfield – LT100 3rd place finisher, Everest summiter, and all-around great guy. Charles took the time out of his busy schedule (I get the impression that he runs at 4 in the morning every day) to meet with me to discuss some ultra tips and tricks, his experience running and his famous Rocket Fuel mix.

Charles placed third at the 2007 Leadville Trail 100 race after being talked into running it by some friends. He had no real intention of running the LT100 and so just jumped into the fray and treated it like running two consecutive 50s. Apparently that worked pretty well as he finished without a crew or pacers in 19 hours 42 minutes. Solid effort.

During the course of our conversation, I learned a lot about how to approach racing, training, hydration and nutrition and discovered that Charles really thinks things through, does extensive research and, perhaps most importantly, experiments to find out what works. He is practical as well, often offering simple solutions to common problems vs. recommending expensive or cumbersome alternatives. He asks questions and then thoughtfully presents solutions. For example, when he inquired about my ’07 LT100 attempt and what, in my opinion, went wrong, I mentioned that blisters were an early issue that then escalated to other, larger problems. His solution: Superglue a sock into my shoes to work as a gaiter and superglue the tongue to the upper to keep dirt and grit out. Not particularly elegant but cost-effective, light, and efficient.

One item I really wanted to discuss was his hydration and nutrition regimen. Charles is very scientific about his nutrition needs and calculates exactly what he will need during any given race (or training event) to be sure that he is able to consume the right amount of fuel during the event. This keeps him from getting bogged down by too many calories or bonking from too few. Charles relies primarily (in fact, exclusively, I believe) on a mixture of amylopectin (Waxy Maize) and maltodextrin which has found the name “Rocket Fuel”. I started experimenting with the mix in January this year to see if the solution worked for me and I have found, thus far, for it to be a great supplement to, if not replacement for, my “normal” on-trail nutrition. Here is the formula for 3000kCals (~750g of solids):

  • 340g amylopectin
  • 340g maltodextrin
  • 25g protein (Charles uses whey. Being a vegan, I use soy.)
  • non-sugar flavoring to taste (cocoa, Kool-Aid, vanilla, almond, etc.)
  • some electrolytes (I take care of this with nuun) and antacids (ground up)
  • ~3 cups of water (to the thickness desired)

During my initial experiments, I was mixing about 3 Tablespoons in a bottle of water. Though this worked well, it was not concentrated enough to work as a stand-alone fuel source. I checked with Charles and he indicated that he mixes his to produce a fairly thick, gel-like consistency that then can be delivered via a fuel bottle vs. in a more “drinkable” form. I subsequently tried this as well and it definitely is the way to go.

During the Moab Red Hot 50K, I used Rocket Fuel from the start. I did make the mistake of mixing it a bit too thickly and this, coupled with very low temperatures, made the fuel a bit tough to work with during the race. I should have added water on the go, but in my hydration depleted state didn’t think of that. So really, had I been smarter about it, I know that the mix would have worked even better for me than it already did.

On top of all of this great information, one piece of advice Charles had for me was to listen to what your body is telling you. If you are craving salt, you probably are low on electrolytes. If you are feeling bloated and too “full” you probably have eaten too much too quickly (there are studies that show that we can only process 240-280 cal/hour). Just listen to what your body is telling you and you should do well.

~stubert.

Mistakes were made…

But there is suffering in life, and there are defeats. No one can avoid them. But it’s better to lose some of the battles in the struggles for your dreams than to be defeated without ever knowing what you’re fighting for. ~ Paulo Coelho

Fri 12 Feb: 00:29, 3.4 miles, Moab street run
Sat 13 Feb: 7:07, 32.5 miles, Moab Red Hot 50K

Jammed out to Moab Friday morning. Aside from spending what felt like a large portion of the drive on the phone, it went quickly and was fairly uneventful. Crazy roads around Copper were really the only distraction and I rolled into town with plenty of time to get checked into my hotel (La Quinta, which was perfect), go for a quick run (on which I felt awesome) and gather my race packet and some grub. For a tourist destination, Moab is seriously devoid of vegetarian fare so I ended up at La Hacienda. Nothing special here but it was food, I suppose, which was what I needed. Headed back to the hotel to get prepped for the race and relax and hit the sack around 9:30.

I did employ a few new techniques to try to keep myself fresh during- and post-drive that seemed to work. First, I wore compression stockings, which I got when I had knee surgery a few years ago. They seem to help and I recommend picking up a pair to help keep one’s legs feeling fresh – especially when traveling. I also stopped frequently (about every 1.5 hours) along the way to walk around and stretch. This seems like a major pain (and honestly, it is) but I do feel that it is the way to go to save your legs from getting too mucked up during longer drives. Once I arrived at the hotel, I stretched, flushed my legs by grabbing around my ankles and pulling upwards toward my thighs and resting near a wall with my legs up at about an 80° angle for a bit. Post-run, I also soaked in an ice bath for 10 minutes then followed that with a hot soak. Seemed to work.

I got up early on race day to get all my stuff together, stretch and compose myself before the event. Carpooled out to the start with a past work colleague Michele Delman. She and her husband, Reid, run a series of adventure races throughout the year. It was good to be able to catch up with Michele and have someone to hang with prior to the start.

The race…

It was chilly at the start so I warmed up in my puffy jacket and tights then stripped down to shorts, a long-sleeved shirt, vest, visor and gloves for the start. Did a few quick surges to get the blood flowing then, with little ceremony, someone gave a whistle and we were off!

The course heads generally south, paralleling the highway, and climbs steadily from the start. Moab has seen some snow this year and the first few miles of the course were on snowpacked dirt roads. I started out fairly quickly as I didn’t want to get caught up in the mess of people walking the first hill and felt pretty well on the first climb. Then I settled into a steady pace as the course moved on to frozen dirt and intermittent snow as it wound its way toward the first aid station.

I arrived at Aid 1 (~6 miles) way ahead of schedule and actually felt it to be a bit sooner than expected. I refueled, got more water, ditched my vest and kept moving up along the course to the big loop the 50K runners were to accomplish. The second 7 miles of the course were pretty brutal due to deep breakable crust conditions and unpackable sugar snow underneath. This portion of the course saw me lose any gains I had made during the first 6 miles and really made my abs angry. Beautiful terrain, I am sure, when dry, this portion of the course climbed steadily to a section that ran along a cliff band then dropped back down to Aid 2. I rolled into the second station still in decent shape time-wise (still a few minutes ahead of my projected “medium” finish pace) but starting to feel the effects of some wicked conditions.

Shortly after Aid 2 (~13 miles), I slipped on some black ice and almost ate it. This aggravated my already grumpy abs and made for a relatively unhappy return to Aid 3 (shared station with Aid 1). This section was mostly snowpacked and muddy and rolled generally downhill through open fields with amazing views of the La Sals and unique red sandstone monuments of the Moab valley. Definitely spectacular views when I was able to look up long enough to enjoy them.

Quickly, I made it to Aid 3 (~17 miles), gathered some fuel and headed out. I was still on pace for a decent finish at this point but during the next section things started to fall apart. This section of the course wound back down the course in reverse for a mile or so then turned south. Conditions were fairly mixed with lots of mud, snow and some slick rock to keep things interesting. I was starting to realize the effects of a couple of mistakes that compounded one another during this section and that would plague me for the remainder of the day. First, I was grossly over-optimistic about my ability to traverse this type of terrain in an efficient manner and so under-estimated the time it would take me to move from station to station. This left me in a bit of a lurch with hydration and I suffered horribly. Second, I was hoping to test-drive some different nutrition techniques during this race but the cold temps early on and my mixing the fuel too-thickly, made getting the right amount of calories down a real challenge. This also tapped into my water supply and I fought nausea most of the day.

I rolled into Aid 4 (~21 miles) well behind schedule, queasy, and starting to lose the hydration battle. I should have stayed at Aid 4 a bit longer to suck down more fluids but, feeling a bit delirious, didn’t make the connection between how I was feeling and poor hydration. I left Aid 4 with a full bottle and hopes of getting moving again to make good time to Aid 5 (~28 miles).

Normally, I would be able to cover 7 miles in no time but given my condition, this was not the case. I walked. A lot. Not only was this disheartening but it also probably doubled the amount of time it took me to get to the final aid station. I ran out of water very early and just walked. It was embarrassing, frankly, but I didn’t have many options. I would walk for a bit. Stop. Try to keep from throwing up whatever liquids I did happen to have in my system. Walk some more. Pathetic. I bummed a little water from a cameraman who was shooting the race and then he informed me that the 5th aid station  had been moved even farther down the course because they were unable to make it to the prescribed spot (should have been ~mile 28 but moved to ~30). Ugh. I finally hooked up with some very friendly mountain bikers who gave me a full bottle that then enabled me to move a bit faster and finally make it to the final station.

I stopped for a bit to get some liquids down, which enabled me to suck down some more fuel and then tackle the final 2.5 miles of the course. I seriously considered just dropping out but my spirits were buoyed by the short distance left to travel and the desire to just finish. I walked out of Aid 5 and just tried to keep a steady pace along the final 2.5 miles. After about a half mile, I decided to try running 50 paces and walking 50 paces. This seemed to work pretty well and quickly the run portion was extended to 60, 70, 100 to 50 walking then I was running again and feeling MUCH better. I ran the final 1.5 miles or so and finished in 7:07. Pretty poor showing but that’s racing, I suppose. I think I was 36th in my age group and was about 50 minutes off my slow-target pace. Oh well.

Apparently the conditions didn’t put too much of a damper on the front-runners’ efforts as Karl Meltzer won again in 4:19 or something. Way to go Karl!  Anita Ortiz stomped the women’s field in 4:44. I am pretty sure I ran next to her briefly at the start. Sweet!

Post-race, I grabbed a little food, hung out with Reid for a bit then headed back to the start to collect my car. The road was so crappy at this point that the van dropped us off about a mile from the cars and so I walked and jogged back to the Subaru (thanks, Rach!) and then headed back to the finish to collect my drop bag items which I had forgotten to pick up. Michele finished just before I arrived so it was great to talk with her about her day. Similar experience to mine. I then headed back to Moab to grab a shower at Poison Spider bike shop (even though they were very close to closing time, the young guy working there let me sneak in a quick shower), grabbed some snacks at the grocery store, and headed back home.

The drive home was a bit sketchy with poor road conditions starting around Glenwood Springs and one really wacky moment where a car was half-way in the ditch and half-way in the left-hand lane with its lights out as I was passing another car! The driver was using a flashlight to signal people so, after passing the wreck, I called the Highway Patrol to report it. Hopefully that turned out okay.

I got home around 11:15 making it a long day. Honestly, I didn’t feel particularly wrecked after the event nor am I very sore or messed up today. This leads me to believe that most of my problems were hydration/nutrition-based and not due to a lack of fitness per se. That is the theory on which I am going, at least. I do know that I under-estimated the difficulty of the course and over-estimated my ability to move across such varied terrain efficiently. All in all, it was a good experience.

~stubert.

Taper…

Patience, Grasshopper. ~ Master Po

Tues 9 Feb: 00:40, 4.2 miles, Treadmill surges
Wed 10 Feb: 00:39, 4.8 miles, Boulder Creek Path progressive tempo

First of all, my birthday rocked. Went skiing at Eldora in the morning (very briefly) then headed down the hill with Rach to see the Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. Really enjoyed that film. We then jammed back home, stopping to pick up food at Kathmandu in Nederland. Then some serious kickin’ it was thrown down. All in all, a great way to spend my birthday.

Tuesday I was back at it and hit the gym after meetings in Denver to do a quick, easy run with some surges. Felt fantastic, frankly and spun easy 10s with a few surges thrown in for good measure. Then I did a couple circuits in the weight room and called it a night.

Today I had more meetings in Denver and then a client hike/meeting in Boulder. Hiking Sanitas and talking shop were both great. Still a bit snowpacked and icy in spots but nothing too horrendous. I then got in a quick run along the Boulder Creek Path at dusk. Glute/hamstring was a bit tight throughout and I have a very poor ability to monitor my efforts but overall it was a great run. Yeah, I went a bit too fast but I had fun, dammit.

Tomorrow will be race prep day then I hit the road Friday morning to head to Moab for the race. Looking forward to it for sure. Just need to work on my throttle control.

~stubert.

January goodness…

February 2, 2010 Run
Feb 2 run. Looks like a seal throwing up or something

And this time, no tears! ~ Tobias Fünke

2 Feb: 6.8 miles, 1:02, North Boulder surges

I put in some solid training in the last couple weeks of January for sure. Logged two more long runs (24.25 and 26.4 miles, 4.5 hours each) and stayed consistent with the rest of the program. For the month, I ended up with 195.3 logged miles – a strong effort all around.

The knee has still been giving me a little grief but seems to be responding positively to increased daily exercises as well as a lifting regimen as prescribed by Duncan Callahan. Duncan won Leadville in 2008 in somewhat brutal conditions and is a fellow Gunnisonite. I am working up to his full schedule as it is a bit more than I can handle right now but after lifting on Friday, I performed really well this past Sunday. Logged negative splits in the 26.4 miles and finished strongly. Virtually no knee pain to boot!

Today I ran on the trails north of Boulder (Eagle Trail system) and did some surges. Finished with 6.8 miles in 1:02 and felt strong throughout. The surges were a little clunky but the rest of the run I ran well and was motivated. I’ll have another week of “normal” training then will taper just a bit for the Moab Red Hot 50K+ on the 13th. Looking forward to running in the desert with a full pack of fellow ultra freaks.

~stubert.

True words…

Nothin’ to do, nowhere to go. ~ The Ramones

When one stretches the fabric of the possible, it tends to help to narrow one’s focus as the big picture can become overwhelming. In ultra running, this is often spoken of as “relentless forward motion” or even focusing on each individual step. Where making thousands of steps seems impossible, focus on just moving to that next ridge/tree/fencepost or even just taking one more step can provide results.

Greg Joder, an amazing wildlife photographer, avid sea kayaker and fervent environmentalist sent me a link to Katie Spotz’ post about how to approach endurance challenges as she paddles – solo – across the Atlantic.

During some of my first endurance challenges I wasted too much energy questioning whether or not I could complete the challenge I set out for myself. The truth is that you never know until you try, and the worst thing you can do is not try. I learned to redefine failure, not as a failure to complete the feat, but a true failure as to not try. Fear of failure was one of the most difficult “mental walls” I faced.

Break it down. You don’t row across an ocean in a day so it’s important for me to break it down into daily, sometimes hourly, goals and focus on that one step ahead. If I lose sight of that one step, I can become overwhelmed by the magnitude of the challenge.

Know all things will pass. No matter how tired, hot, seasick, bored, lonely, etc. I get, it will pass. For some of my more grueling one-day challenges, like my ultra marathon (100k run), I can expect to go through all sorts of highs and lows all in a matter of hours.

Do not make it personal. Here on the ocean weather will do what it wants, equipment will break, things will not go according to “plan”. But it has nothing to do with me. So often I can think and feel that things are happening “for”, “against”, “to” me. Things are just happening and I can choose to accept it or put up the fight.

Understand the real challenge is me. The only thing that holds me back is me and it’s not about what happens but how I chose to react.

I couldn’t have said it better myself. Read more about her adventure.

~stubert.