Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Running Your First Ultra

Running your First Ultra Distance Race
by Coach Jennifer Kimble

You’re intrigued.  You’ve run a few marathons, and have friends that have run ultras.
“I could never do that!” you say, but deep down you wonder…….do I have it in me?

The sport of trail running is becoming more and more popular in our busy, concrete world.  We long to get out and play and find solace in nature.  And while some ultras are done on paved paths, most can be found on single track trails through thick forests, mountainous regions, beaches or deserts.  

Ultra running has its challenges for sure, but with that comes exciting opportunities.  
You learn to relax. Gone are the mile markers and obsessing spit times of the marathon.  Every course brings it’s own test, and each day is a new PR dictated by terrain, weather and your body’s decision to cooperate.  Breathtaking courses and the social aspect of these races allow you to enjoy the time you spend outdoors.  

To begin training for an ultra, it is recommended that you have a few marathons under your belt, a current long run of at least 20 miles, and are running 40-60 miles per week.  
Training for an ultra is not that different from training for a marathon.   One change is that you extend your long run, and many ultra runners do back to back weekend long runs to learn to run on tired legs.  For a 50K, you will want to do one or more runs of at least 5 hours; and for a 50-100 mile race you should do one or more runs of 6-10 hours of duration.  The good news is that these runs will be done at an easy pace, with regular walk breaks as fast walking is a skill that can be trained for (and will be used!) during your race.  
These long runs teach you to become self-sufficient, and give you a hint of some of the trials you will face on race day.  Ultra races require more calories, so honing in on nutrition and  hydration during these long runs is essential.  Follow the rule of specificity by making your training look like the race. Train not just for the distance, but also the terrain.

Self sufficiency is a prerequisite for ultra running.  It is your personal responsibility to take care of your nutrition, navigation, hydration and safety.  The aid stations will be farther apart than they are in a marathon, sometimes up to 4 hours!  If you are doing a 100 mile race, I strongly recommend a pacer for the later miles.

Determination and mental fortitude is crucial! The question in an ultra becomes not “if”, but “when”. When you hit that wall, what will you do?  Take in calories? Electrolytes? Rest? What do you need to fix the situation?  Train your brain. It's a mental sport.

Running your first ultra is a life changing experience.  You CAN do it, but it will take hard work, determination and a willing, humble spirit.  

As Seth Godin said, “If it scares you, it might be a good thing to try.”  

Saturday, October 4, 2014


"Life is either a great adventure 
or nothing."  
Helen Keller

I am dying a slow death in this city.
Suffocating in pollution and politics.  Trapped in traffic and tragedy. Confined in sense and suburbia.
The stronghold of my wanderlust is so tenacious that sometimes I feel like an addict jonesing for the next hit.
It's one of those days.  My gypsy soul ran by me tonight, spanked me on the ass. and begged me to go play with her.
And here I am- left longing for her beauty.

She promised the reflection of white capped mountain peaks on glassy waters, and air so fresh I could see my breath.  She teased me with the taste of cool rivers that wash away tears when splashed on a dusty face. We fantasized about aspen forests, our necks straining to catch a glimpse of the golden treetops through rays of twilight.
Scampering through fields of wildflowers, her long hair flowing behind her,  a sunset from the heavens shimmered rays of tired heaviness and tranquility.
Satisfied and full we fell into restful slumber, my ancestors calling to me with their siren song....
"It's all here.  We're just waiting for you."

Awaking to the choke hold of reality and pining for the next ticket out.....
Dreaming will never be enough.  And so I set my intention.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Thank you consequence

" I can turn it on
Be a good machine

I can hold the weight of worlds
If that's what you need
Be your everything....but I'm only human.

Christina Perri

I got the email and I knew I had fucked up.  She used words like "I'm disappointed" and "you said you would..." 
I said I would, and I didn't.  I honestly forgot- but that doesn't matter. I disappointed someone. I made a mistake, and those sinking feelings squeezed my gut and my heart.  
My first reaction was to be defensive and to come up with excuses for my inadvertence, but I had nothing.  She was right.  I was wrong, and I had to just admit it. 

I've been so lucky to work with really great managers who have taught me that we all make mistakes, but it is our REACTION to the problem that makes the difference.  When we are being confronted, sometimes by very irritated people, we can sit back, choose empathy, ask for forgiveness and try to make it right.  

So I admitted my wrong.  I let her know how I would do things differently next time.  I fixed the problem and did extra work at no charge.  
How she will react is her choice, but I feel better knowing that I was able to put on my big girl panties and admit my mistake.

We can live in love, or we can live in fear.  
I choose love.   

Tuesday, September 16, 2014


"Here she comes now sayin Mony Mony
Shoot 'em down, turn around, come on Mony...."

Billy Idol

One of the hardest parts of the triathlon is nailing the transitions.

When I first jump into the brown, cloudy water, it sucks my breath away- leaving me hyperventilating and panicked.  I find myself dog paddling at the back of the pack until I can finally relax and settle into my breath and stroke.  And then I'm fine.  I could swim all day.

Awkwardly clipping in on the bike, the course is rough and shaky.  My legs burn as I begin the climb.
I can't open my gel pack and I drop my water bottle.  I fear that the whole ride will be a disaster, but the road opens and smooths as I pedal to the beat of Billy Idol's "Mony Mony" dancing in my brain.  Sitting back on the saddle I soften, and then I'm fine.  I could ride all day.

I dismount my bike and my legs are jello.  My ass hurts from the bumpy  road and it's getting hot.
Clumsily, I change my shoes and put on my visor.  I take off.  No wait, my shoelaces aren't tight enough.  I stop and fix them.  I take off.  No wait.  I forgot my sunglasses.  Dammit- I can't go back for them now.  I take off.  Well, more like I run little baby steps on legs that weigh two tons.  I'm passed as I walk up the hill, yet smart enough to catch my breath and take a gel.  The first mile is quite a liar, feeling like mile 25 of a hard marathon; but by mile 2 I feel at home in the rhythmic breath of the run.  My legs grow strong and my confidence grows.  I begin to pass people, and then I'm fine.  I could run all day.

Transitions are tough.  We fear uncertainly and become anxious with change.   That's when I call out the motto- "Keep calm, and carry on."  Keeping transitions as smooth  as possible can make all the difference in your finishing time.
Transitions in life are scary too.  That new job, relationship, baby, a move.......sometimes we feel like we are drowning, or that the road is kicking our ass.
 I've learned from my races that by staying calm and confident, we loosen into our daily flow, and then we really are fine.  Each and every day.

Friday, August 29, 2014

The 5 W's (and one WTH) of Ultrarunning

"We will always ask ourselves the same questions."
Paulo Coelho

In any ultra race it will come.  That juncture in the road when you start to question your sanity.
"Who do I think I am? 
 What the hell was I thinking?
Where am I?  
When will this be over?  
Why am I doing this?   
How will I ever finish?"  
You can't fight it, it's inevitable.  But I find that it does help if you come up with the answers to the W questions (and that one WTH) before you even hit the starting line...... and way before that WTH moment punches you in the gut, knocks you to the ground and calls you a baby.  

You.  Only you.  You are the only one who can finish this race.  Not your pacers, not your crew, not your coach or your trainer.  You.  You're the hero in this story.

You were thinking this was a good asked to be here, so you're going to train.    Hard.  Almost every day.  You're going to figure out what you need to keep moving whether its nutrition, hydration, slowing down your pace.  You learn the tricks of the trade BEFORE race day so when that moment hits, you're prepared with the ammunition to fight back.

When you feel like it, and when you don't.  On summer days that suck the life out of you, and in the cool splendor of fall.  Wearing 3 layers of clothing or 4 layers of sweat.  When your legs are heavy and tired. When your friends are going to happy hour.  When the stars are out and the rest of the world is sleeping. Whether you feel like nothing could stop you, or you can bearly crawl, you train.  You run.

Because its fun.  Because you can.  So you can fight the demons.  So you can prove your worth to yourself. For adventure.  For freedom.  WHATEVER it is, determine your why.  It's the most important answer for you to memorize.  Write it on your hand.   It's the answer that gets you out of the aid stations.

How do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time.
Stay in this moment and bring what it gives you.  Remember that it doesn't always get worse.  And when you want to quit....don't.

Will it be easy?  No
Worth it?  Absolutely

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Creating balance

"I can't believe that we would like in our graves 
wondering if we had spent our living days well
I can't believe that we would like in our graves 
wondering what we might have been."
Dave Matthews 

In case you weren't aware....I'm a little competitive.
Sometimes I am my only competition, but I always strive to be better, stronger, faster, more efficient
(insert adjective here).
As a self renounced adrenaline junkie, pushing my limits and getting out of my comfort zone completely turns me on, but it does not bode well for creating balance in my life.

The dishes are piled up in my sink, I haven't washed my hair in two days or called my parents in weeks, yet I've done 4 workouts in the past 48 hours, came in top salesperson at work yesterday and I'm caught up on client schedules and communication.  You know.... priorities.

My friend Mike used to joke that "anything worth doing is worth doing to the extreme right?"   Our addiction to running, work, people,  WHATEVER (insert noun here) is just not healthy. But how do we find balance as athletes/workhorses/approval seekers?

I try to think of it this way.  If I knew I was dying at the end of the week, would those extra miles or the fact that you put in 55 hours at work this week really matter?
And if you knew that was the case, what changes would you make?

For me that means spending more time with family and friends.
Playing outside.
Going to bed without setting the alarm.
Eating food that is so amazing you close your eyes to savor each bite.
Snuggling under a cozy blanket and letting him pick the movie.
Good wine and intelligent conversation on the porch.
Happy tears
Writing your stories.
And doing all of this without feeling one ounce of guilt or regret.

Thomas Merton said  "Happiness is not a matter of intensity, but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony."
I don't know about you....but I think I'm leaning a little to far to the left.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Everything is possible for those who believe

"'If you can'?" said Jesus. 
"Everything is possible for one who believes."
Mark 9:23

I know running. 
Ask me about  VO2 Max, lactate threshold, mid-foot strike and the latest Garmin.  Verbiage like tempo runs, EVA, refueling, and foam rolling have become an essential part of my every day vocabulary.   I can even tell you which shorts will make your ass look fast. 

But more than that runners...I know what makes you tick.   
Be it adrenaline pulsing through your veins or zen-like peace 
Belonging as part of the group, or thriving in solidarity 
Finding yourself or losing your mind
Being more.  Needing less.
Pushing the limits or surrendering in ease
Winning the race or coming in Dead Fucking Last.......
I've been there.  I know why you run. 

So when I made the choice to become a running coach, I had ultimate faith that I was doing what I was gifted to do.  What I was SUPPOSED to be doing.  Within 3 weeks clients started coming and I was easily meeting store goals. The work was both effortless and purposeful.  I loved listening to each persons story, and became refueled by the positive energy of my team.  For the first time in a LONG time I did not dread going to work and I actually enjoyed my days.  
And then I got my first paycheck.
And had my second ever panic attack.  
And I was paralyzed by fear. 

I pulled out my "faith rock."  

The "faith rock" was gifted to me by Paula Billman during my Tejas 300 attempt.  I was completely skeptical that I would be able to finish Rocky Raccoon 100 with the way my legs felt that day, and I was having a similar panic attack to the one previously mentioned.  My divorce finalized the week before the race and I didn't know how I was going to make it, or if I even cared anymore.  Paula curled the rock into my palm- and told me to have faith.  

Brene Brown says that "Faith is a place of mystery, where we find the courage to believe in what we cannot see, and the strength to let go of our fear of uncertainty."   
I have experienced this "fear of uncertainty" many times in my life, mostly recently fighting cutoffs at Western States.   But during that race I kept hearing a voice in my head saying "Just keep doing what you're doing, and you'll be okay."
After receiving my paycheck, the first thing I did was to email a friend expressing my doubt. I told him my fear that I had made the wrong decision.  But before he could even answer me,  I messaged him back saying "Fuck it. I'm not going to worry about it.  I'm going to keep doing what I'm doing and it will be okay.  Even if I'm barely making cutoffs, I'm still in the race." 

Faith.  I don't know how its going to happen, but it's going to happen.  
Because I know running and I love runners. 
Everything is possible for one who believes.