Running in the snow is so much fun!

This morning I set my alarm at 4am to run in the snow at Mt Baldy, an hour outside of Los Angeles. I got out of bed quietly without waking the rest of my family. All my running gear was ready on the kitchen table and the night before I had prepared a bag with my breakfast to eat in the car (3 baked eggs + banana + water).

At 4:30am sharp I left our house to drive an hour North East. This way I was able to beat LA traffic and arrive at the mountain by 5:30am, more than an hour before sunrise. Once I arrived at the mountain I realized I left my backpack with water, Gu gels and Salt / Electrolyte pills on our kitchen table at home.

Snow on Mt Baldy

I was bummed for a minute that I wasn’t able to run my planned 18 mile route starting at 4000 feet elevation to the top at 10064 feet. My new plan was to start at 4000 feet and run up until the snow would get pretty un-runnable, then head back. At about 5000 feet the rain turned into snow. Here is a little video from the snow conditions between 6000 and 7000 feet. Running downhill is definitely much easier than going up!


The last mile on the way down the road wasn’t slippery anymore, so I ran as fast as I could. Stoked to run a new downhill PR, 1 mile in 4:37. Can’t wait to go back with a full running pack and a few friends soon.


Running advice from a 2:14 marathoner

This week I had an awesome 2 hour conversation with Roelof Veld, former Dutch marathon champion. He ran a 2:14 marathon in 1978, unbelievably fast. He had some great advice, like “drinking beer is an important part of training“, “running a fast marathon just comes down to starting fast, maintaining your fast pace and then speeding up at the end” and “the most important part of it all is to have a lot of fun doing it“.

Roelof Veld and Floris Gierman talk about Marathon Running

At his peak, Roelof trained 12 times a week, for example Monday – Friday 5miles / 8k in the morning and around 12 miles / 19k at night, then Intervals on Wednesday and a 2 hour run on Saturday. Many of his runs were at a low Heart Rate. There were no Heart Rate monitors in 1978, so he would count his own HR directly after completing a trainings run or interval.

He’d train for 2 fast marathons a year, each had a training cycle of about 4 months to prepare. His peak training weeks were around 124 miles / 200k. There were 3 building weeks, then 1 step back week. For example:
– week 1 = 75 miles / 120 k
– week 2 = 81 miles / 130 k
– week 3 = 87 miles / 140 k
– week 4 = 81 miles / 130 k
– week 5 = 87 miles / 140 k
– week 6 = 93 miles = 150 k

An example of his interval training:
– 20 x 400m @ 70-72 seconds, with 200 meter (1 minute) recovery, or
– 10 x 1000m @3:10 – 2:45 minutes, with 400 meter recovery

Roelof Veld Marathon Running
Sport heros Roelof Veld en Egbert Nijstad. Photographer unknown.

In 1978 Roelof won the Dutch Championship marathon in a time of 2:14:02, this was also a new Dutch record. Currently he is an active consultant for the Dutch Athletics Union, a sports association committed to the development of the sport of running in the Netherlands. It was a pleasure meeting him and an eye opener to hear about his training approach.

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What to do when a snake bites you on a remote trail?

A few years ago I was hiking in Sequoia National Park with my family. Right when we started our hike we saw 2 snakes which made me extra alert to the fact that they were around. I was walking in front with my wife and parents behind me on a single track trail. The trail made a pretty steep left turn against a rock wall that was head high and out of no-where from the left a rattlesnake striked at me from about 2 feet away.


Photo by Jimmy Dean Freeman

I FREAKED OUT and within a split second I jumped to the right, the snake moved quickly from the rock onto the trail. I thought he was going after me, so I got up and fell again, this time almost down the steep side of the trail. Luckily I came out with no injuries but it definitely scared me.

In the past few years of hiking and running trails, I’ve encountered about 10 snakes, including a few poisonous rattlesnakes. I run a lot of trails solo in the middle of nowhere, so I wanted to figure out exactly what to do if a snake bites me on a remote trail?


Photos by me, Floris Gierman

Below is a summary of things I’ve learned about first aid for snake bites after talking to the Snake Bite Poison Line (1-800-222-1222 available 24/7), after doing my own online research and after posting my snake questions on Reddit Running. The best info came from Jordan Benjamin, a herpetologist specialized in venomous snakes. I’m just sharing this info because it might help you one day:

• No first aid is much better than performing bad first aid. Don’t cut at or around the site of the bite, don’t compress the bitten limb with a cord or tight bandage, don’t attempting to extract or neutralize venom using electricity, fire, permanganate, salt, black stones, mouths, mud, leaves, etc.

• All Snake Bite Kits are dangerous and should not be used. This was also confirmed by the Snake Bite Poison Line.

• A lot of snake bite patients injure themselves by panicking directly after a snake bite, by tripping over a rock or tree trunk, or by falling off the side of the trail. Staying calm is important! After a snake bite, walk about 20-30 feet away from the snake.

• Find a safe place to sit down asap. The venom can rapidly diffuse into your system, this can drop your blood pressure too low to pump all the way to your head while standing. Sitting down reduces your chance of fainting within the first few minutes. If you faint, it shouldn’t be more than a few minutes.

• Remove any rings, watches, tight clothing and anything else from the bitten limb, because the swelling will make it a lot bigger soon.

• Take 5 minutes to calm down and plan your evacuation. The only effective treatment for a snake envenomation is the right anti-venom to neutralize it.

• Do not wait for symptoms to appear if bitten. It’s important to get in touch with emergency personnel as soon as possible to get you to a hospital. If you have a cell phone and service, great, call 911 or the Park Ranger. If there is no service, think about the last time you had phone service.

• A sharpie can be a great help for emergency personnel to assess the severity of your snakebite. Circle the location of your snake bite and write down the time next to it. Draw a circle around the border of the swelling and write down the time. Write down all the things you’re experiencing that are not normal, with the time next to it. Examples are: metallic taste in your mouth, changes to sense of smell, sudden loss of vision, double vision, visual disturbances, ringing in the ears, headache, nausea and vomiting, bleeding from anywhere, dizziness, shortness of breath, etc. The most common signs and symptoms are pain and swelling.

• Update this info every 15 or 30 minutes as the swelling moves up the limb and your symptoms develop.

• Make contact via cell phone. If this is not possible, walk slowly to get help. Drink some water and take some calories if you have any. Some snake bite victims walk several miles after serious snake bites to their legs. They make it out fine because they made it out to medical care. This is much better than waiting for help if you can’t reach anyone. Don’t let the fear of “raising your heart rate and increasing the speed of venom circulation” prevent you from moving to get to care. Be very cautious about driving yourself to a hospital, since some bites have serious side effects that could suddenly limit your ability to drive.


Photo by Eric Compton

Preventing a snake bite is obviously better than dealing with a snake bite. Here are a few ways to reduce the risks of snake bites while trail running:

• Be aware that there could be snakes where you’re running.

• Watch where you’re placing your feet, be extra aware on rocky, sunny areas, pockets of leaves and logs across the trail. If you’re off trail, the odds go up because there are more rocks and cracks and less people to scare the snakes away. Watch out when running through tall grass and weeds.

• Step on a rock or log, not over it. This way you can spot a snake that may be sheltering under it and take action quickly.

• Watch out when sitting down on a rock or tree stump, you might be sitting on a snake.

• Don’t try to chase the snake off the trail, this is why most people get bit by snakes.

• Don’t run with headphones on trails, or have at least 1 earbud out.

• Snakes tend to be near water, especially if it’s in a dry environment. If you’re near a spring or river, keep an extra eye out.

• Since snakes are cold-blooded, they’d like to come out when it’s warm and sun themselves on rocky areas or trails. They like to be on the edge of a sunny patch. If you come across a sunny patch, your encounter chances increase.

• Most venomous snakes in the US rest during the day. The chances of running into one are higher in the mornings and early evenings, when their activity might be a bit higher.

• In the spring, after snakes have hibernated together, the frequency of sightings goes up. In the fall, when they retreat to a hiding place to spend the cold winter months, they are on the go, so higher chances to encounter a snake. Most snake bites occur between April and October.


Photo by Chris Gilbertson

Things to bring on your trail runs that help with a snake bite:
• Phone
• Sharpie

Getting bitten by a snake can be deadly, especially if you’re on your own on a remote trail. The following story is a good explanation of how a snake bite would feel: I Should Be Dead. Each year, about 8,000 venomous snake bites occur in the US and about 5 of those people die. You’ve got a good chance of survival if you seek medical attention immediately.

To summarize: try to stay calm, sit down, remove anything tight, document your situation, contact help

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My first 100 mile run attempt, from Long Beach to San Diego

Last Saturday, June 21, 2014, was my first 100-mile run attempt, from Long Beach to San Diego. This was a solo run, without any crew, pacers or aid stations. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life, with a lot of ups and downs. Last week I wrote a post about How I Trained for My First 100 Mile Run, so I’ll skip that part. Below is a recap of my first 100-mile experience. My Strava run details can be found here.

Ultra Running 100 miles

I started my run at 2AM in Downtown Long Beach. My plan was to run all the way south, mostly by the coast, to reach San Diego. Cities in between would include Huntington Beach, Newport Beach, Corona Del Mar, Crystal Cove, Laguna Beach, Dana Point, San Clemente, Camp Pendelton, Oceanside, Carlsbad, Encinitas, Solona Beach and Del Mar.

I brought along a Go Pro camera, so you’ll get to experience first hand what happened on this adventure. Here is a 9 minute recap video, sorry its pretty long, but I couldn’t leave out more clips without painting a good overall picture of this adventure.

Music by my friend Piers Baron.

RUN DETAILS
Below is a detailed breakdown of the distance and progress at each city along the way. A mile by mile breakdown can be found on my Strava.

10 miles / 16k in 1 hour 21 min – Huntington Beach
15 miles / 24k in 2 hours – Huntington Beach Pier
20 mile / 32k in 2 hours 46 min – Newport Beach
26.2 miles / 42k in 3 hours 40 min – Crystal Cove ** HR higher than I expected
30 miles / 48k in 4 hours 14 min – Laguna Beach
35 miles / 56k in 5 hours – Monarch Beach ** Feels like I’m just getting started
40 miles / 64k in 5 hours 43 min – Dana Point
43.5 miles / 70k in 6 hours 18 min – San Clemente
48 miles / 77k in 7 hours – San Onofre ** Feeling Rough
50 miles / 80k in 7 hours 17 min – San Onofre ** Half way point!
55 miles / 88.5k – Camp Pendelton ** Able to run 5 good miles
61 miles / 98k – Camp Pendelton ** I underestimated this
62.6 miles / 101k in 9 hours 23 min – Camp Pendelton ** Lowest I’ve ever been in running
68 miles / 109k in 10 hours 37 min – Oceanside ** last few miles rough, walking running
71 miles / 114k in 11 hours 22 min – Carlsbad ** Happy!
79 miles / 127k in 13 hours 5 min – Encinitas ** Playing game with myself
85.6 miles / 138k in 14 hours 44 min – Del Mar ** I’m running again!
90 miles / 145k in 16 hours – University of San Diego ** Made it to San Diego!
98.7 miles / 159k in 17 hours 33 min – San Diego ** Ouch ouch a curb, nearly there!
100 miles / 161k in 17 hours 47 min – San Diego Finish ** That was a long one!
Detailed mile by mile breakdown with Heart Rate data on my Strava

3 LESSONS LEARNED

Lesson 1: Pace Yourself, slow down!
Running 100 miles is a long way. During my Long Beach Marathon and Avalon 50 mile race, I held back at the beginning and slightly regretted afterwards that I didn’t start faster. For this 100 mile run, I projected to run 8:15 min / mile at the beginning and finish with 9:45 min / mile + some walk breaks + water stops. I ran the first 50 miles too fast, in only 7 hours 17 minutes. I was overconfident and thought I could keep that pace up, but my legs were pretty beat with 50 miles to go. Then mile 50 – 100 took me 10 hours 30 minutes, more than 3 hours slower than the first half. Don’t start too fast, if you try to shave off 1 minute early on in an Ultra marathon, it might cost you 5 minutes later in your run. My friend Jimmy warned me about this in advance and I had to experience this for myself.

Garmin watch Ultra Running

Lesson 2: Sugar and Caffeine will bring you back alive!
Taking in enough gels, food, water and electrolyte / salt pills is absolutely crucial. In this ultra run preparation, metabolic efficiency was an important part of my training. I’m able to burn body fat very well for energy, however sugar is still a very important fuel source as well. After 50 miles I got sloppy with my Gu Gel intake every 30 minutes and instantly noticed my performance go downhill, energy levels decrease, Heart Rate increase etc. I hit my lowest points at mile 62.7 / 101k and mile 82 / 132k when my glucose levels were depleted. As soon as I drank a Coke, it was if a curtain was lifted. Within 5 minutes I had energy again, my legs felt better and I could continue running again. I had never experienced this before. Next time I’d drink a Coke much earlier on.

Bonking in ultra marathon

A coke will work like magic

Lesson 3: You can achieve the unachievable
A few years ago when I ran my first marathon, I thought I was going to die at mile 20. I never thought it would be possible to run further than a full marathon, 26.2 miles. One day in 2013, after several months of training, I ran 28 miles, another day 35 miles and eventually 50 miles. When I decided to run my first 100 miler, it was a big jump up from 50 miles, however I’ve become less scared to aim beyond what I’m capable of.

The ‘unknown’ makes a lot of people feel uncomfortable and scared. Ask yourself, what am I really afraid of? When you hear your answer out loud, it is often because of uncertainty, and in most cases you don’t have to be afraid of this unknown. Aim beyond what you’re capable of and ignore where your abilities end, amazing things will happen!

Finishing my first 100 mile run

UP NEXT
Running such a massive distance was a great experience and I’m glad I did it. Thank you for the motivation and inspiration Jimmy Dean Freeman, Kate Martini FreemanCoyote friends and Trail Runner Nation crew. It’s been 5 days since my run and my body is still very sore, but it’s starting to feel better. My energy levels will stay low for a few weeks. The impact on your body and energy levels is heavy with a long recovery period.

I enjoy running fast on both road and trails. I don’t have any desire at this point to run another 100 miler, however I could see myself run another 50 miler one day because I can run a much faster pace than a 100 mile run. My next race will be the Boston Marathon in April 2015, I’d like to run it in 2 hours 45 minutes.

In July I’m moving to Holland with my wife and daughter until early November. We’ll hang out with family and run our online businesses Aika Collective and Love vs Design from there.

I’ve started writing an e-book about Running Faster with Less Effort. Also, I’ll be posting several other running articles on this blog in the next few months.

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How I trained for my first 100 mile run

When I’m Old and Dying, I plan to look back on my life and say ‘wow, that was an adventure,’ not ‘wow, I sure felt safe’ – Tom Preston

Tomorrow, Saturday, June 21st 2014, I’m attempting to run my first 105 miles / 169 kilometers run. I’ll start at my house in Long Beach at 2am and run down south for 105 miles to San Diego train station. The last train back leaves at 9pm, so 19 hours is my last cut off to run 4 marathons back to back. I’ll be running this solo without any aid stations, crew or pacer.

Running Map

Why run 100+ miles?! Because I want to do the things that my mind initially tells me are unachievable. I want to make this vision of running 100+ miles in one day a reality. I’ve been lucky enough to surround myself with an amazing group of Ultra Runners in Los Angeles called The Coyotes. This group has opened my eyes that it is possible to run 100 miles with the right preparation and training, both physically and mentally. I don’t know how my body and mind will react after 8 hours, 12 hours and 16+ hours of running, so I prepared the best I could.

Mt Baldy
Running and hiking up Mt Baldy, the views are of epic proportion!

How I trained

When I decided to run my first 100 miler, I wanted to find out why 20-50% of runners DNF (do not finish) in many of the tough ultras. This info would come in handy for my 10 week training plan. The main reasons are:
– injury, such as twisted ankle, pulled muscle, blisters
– sickness, such as stomach issues, nausea, vomiting, heat stroke
– refusal to go on, no more energy or don’t want to run anymore
– time cutoffs

Blisters from runningA few blisters after running fast miles down Mt Wilson with old shoes and a terrible technique. Learned my lessons and I haven’t had any blisters since.

For my preparation and training I talked to a few Ultra Running friends for advice, thank you very much Jimmy Dean Freeman, David Villalobos, Michael Chamoun and Damien Gomez! I focused on 4 different areas: running high weekly mileage, metabolic efficiency, heat acclimation through sauna and preparing mentally.

RUNNING HIGHER WEEKLY MILAGE

Early April I made the decision that I wanted to run my first 100 miler in June. I picked June 21st because it would give me 2 months of solid higher mileage training, on top of an aerobic base I maintained from training for my Marathon in October 2013 and 50 miler in January 2014.

Time is often a limiting factor for me, since work and family life are priorities over running for me. I found a great way to combine family time and running time by taking my daughter on morning runs by the beach, typically 9 miles a day, 3 to 4 times a week. On the weekends I’d go out for long Back to Back runs to experience running on tired legs. For example one weekend on Saturday morning I’d run an aerobic Marathon in 3 hours 7 min at HR 149, then on Sunday I’d run up Mt Baldy 17 miles with 6k ft climb in 3 hours 39 min.

Westridge morning run

My monthly miles in the last 18 months:
January 2013 – 40 miles / 5 hours
February 2013 – 12 miles / 2 hours
March 2013 – 39 miles / 5 hours
April 2013 – 42 miles / 5 hours
May 2013 – 160 miles / 22 hours
June 2013 – 185 miles / 29 hours
July 2013 – 184 miles / 28 hours
August 2013 – 228 miles / 32 hours
September 2013 – 297 miles / 45 hours
October 2013 – 102 miles / 14 hours
November 2013 – 123 miles / 19 hours
December 2013 – 187 miles / 26 hours
January 2014 – 123 miles / 17 hours
February 2014 – 92 miles / 13 hours
March 2014 – 123 miles / 20 hours
April 2014 – 284 miles / 41 hours
May 2014 – 300 miles / 39 hours
June 2014 – 100 miles / 12 hours

Total 18 months – 2603 miles / 368 hours
More details about my runs can be found on my Strava.

METABOLIC EFFICIENCY

I estimate to burn about 14400 calories on this 105 mile run. (17 to 18 hours x 800 calories an hour). Your body can only handle a limited calorie intake and your stored body fat will have to fill in the gap, eliminating the need to overcompensate with calories. Everyone uses fat and sugar as a energy source to burn calories. In top athletes, up to 80% of energy can come from fat burning during training. If you want optimal endurance performance, you need to burn a high percentage of body fat and a low percentage of sugar. Stored body fat is the best energy source on long endurance runs.

Inspired by Dr. Phil Maffetone, I wanted to get my metabolism as efficient as possible, to get most of my energy from stored body fat to avoid bonking / running out of energy during this 17-18 hour run. The 2 main ways to improve metabolic efficiency are modifying your diet and aerobic HR training.

Eating & Drinking

I’ve cut out most processed sugars, processed foods, coffee and alcohol (with a few In N Out Burger exceptions). I usually eat 5 meals a day, breakfast, early lunch, 2 veggie shakes and dinner. I eat a pretty balanced combination of unprocessed carbohydrates, fats, proteins, fiber, vitamins and minerals. This way my body doesn’t crave sugars for energy fuel. This diet in combination with proper Aerobic HR training significantly improved my metabolic efficiency.

Weekly shopping
My grocery shopping for the week.

Veggie Shakes
Blending veggies with water or Almond milk makes it easy to eat a lot of veggies and it tastes good as well!

Aerobic Heart Rate Monitor

I’ve been training with a HR monitor for 12 months now, and most of my runs are at or below my maximum aerobic HR of 149. Over time, at this heart rate my body learned to use most energy from body fat, instead of from sugars. In the weekends I often run 3 to 5 hours (25- 35 miles) and still feel very energized when I finish. Even after completing a 50 mile ‘training run’ at HR 149 in 6 hours 42 minutes in May, I felt totally fine and knew I could run much further. My max aerobic pace has continued to improve as well, on my last 5 mile MAF test it was 6:44, 6:46, 6:48, 6:53 and 6:57 at 149 bpm.

HEAT ACCLIMATION THROUGH SAUNA

Since this long run is in the summer (June 21st), the temperatures could be anywhere from 60°F to 100+°F (15C° to 37+ C°). Since in May we already experienced 100+°F in Long Beach, so I wanted to acclimate my body to the potential heat.

I found a detailed article about benefits of the sauna for endurance sportsHeat acclimation through sauna use can promote physiological adaptations that result in increased endurance, easier acquisition of muscle mass, and a general increased capacity for stress tolerance. Acclimating your body to heat by using a sauna (“hyperthermic conditioning”) has been shown to enhance endurance by:
– Increasing nutrient delivery to muscles thereby reducing the depletion of glycogen stores.
– Reducing heart rate and reducing core temperature during workload.

In May, I joined the gym to use their dry sauna 3 times a week, first for 15 minutes, eventually after a few weeks for 40 minutes on the hottest setting. I monitored my Heart Rate on a long sauna session:
0 minutes – 48 bpm
5 minutes – 72 bpm
10 minutes – 81 bpm
15 minutes – 90 bpm
20 minutes – 102 bpm
25 minutes – 109 bpm
30 minutes – 114 bpm
35 minutes – 116 bpm
40 minutes – 120 bpm

I was amazed to see my HR at 120 bpm while sitting still. When your body is heat stressed it significantly impacts your HR. After 4 weeks of solid sauna training, I went to the desert to run some soft sand hills in 103 °F / 39 C°. It was crazy to run for an hour in this heat and it felt like it was only 80 °F / 26 C°, this heat acclimation through sauna really helps!

PREPARING MENTALLY

On these very long runs, the mind plays a very important part to continue running or throw in the towel. I’ve never run 105 miles, its very far and a lot of things could go wrong. However I do feel confident going into this run that I’ll finish. I know there will be tough spots that feel uncomfortable and painful so I’ll have to find a way to work through it.

There is going to be a strong 10mph / 16k SW head wind for most of my run and it will be about 80 °F / 26 C° between noon and 5pm, I was initially stressing about the wind, but there is not much I can do about it. “When something doesn’t go how you want it to go, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude. Don’t complain!” – Maya Angelou

Running 5 miles is easy, so I’ve told myself to just run 21 short runs of 5 miles, that way the distance sounds way less scary 🙂 When things get very tough and dark, I sometimes start laughing or singing and it makes everything so much better! At the end of the day, having fun doing what you’re doing is one of the most important parts.

MY GEAR

Running Gear

My only drop bag is at Mile 68, a Surf Shop in Oceanside. I only want to eat and drink what I’ve trained with, so I’ll be carrying a lot of Gu gels and a variety of energy bars with me.  Around mile 40, 60 and 80 I’ll call ahead to a Mexican restaurant to prepare a bean / veggie / guacamole burrito to go.  The running route will be a combination of beach paths and side walks, so there should be enough water fill ups around.

I’m excited about this adventure and have no clue how its going to go, that’s the scary part but it will be an epic journey. ** EDIT: See a detailed recap of my first 100 mile run attempt here.

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LEGAL DISCLAIMER:

Consult a doctor before doing anything described in this post or on this blog. The material on this blog is for informational purposes only. As each individual situation is unique, you should use proper discretion, in consultation with a health care practitioner, before undertaking the protocols, diet, exercises, techniques, training methods, or otherwise described herein. The author and publisher expressly disclaim responsibility for any adverse effects that may result from the use or application of the information contained herein.


How I trained to run my first 50-mile race

Yesterday I ran my first 50-mile race and placed 3rd overall out of 401 participants. I had very limited time to train but put a lot of thought into the preparation. It was a rough one with several high points and a few very low points. I took the wrong turn at mile 17 and ran 1.7 miles extra. I ended up at the finish line at 51.7 miles in 7 hours and 26 minutes.

Below are a few notes about my race training, race strategy and actual race.

Race Training
In October, I ran the Long Beach marathon and trained pretty well for this so my weekly milage was a good base for this 10 week Ultra training. Initially I planned on running several 80-100 mile weeks in the mountains, which required a lot of time. There were also several other things going on in my life that required time and attention, like raising a 9 month old baby, running our own business Love vs Design during the Holiday season and launching a new photography print business Aika Collective. I made the decision to train and run smarter, not harder. It became my goal to find which minimal efforts were required to run a strong race and place top 5.

Weekly mileage
I analyzed different top ultra runners to see how many miles they run a week. Some guys train 100-200 miles a week, while others have won Ultra races training less than 40 miles a week. I read one study that there hasn’t been any evidence that training more than 70 miles per week is beneficial, it could even set you back due to higher injury chances.

Here is what I ended up running:
• 10/28 – 11/3 = 24 miles, 2900 ft elevation
• 11/04 – 11/10 = 23 miles, 1700 ft elevation
• 11/11 – 11/17 = 40 miles, 3600 ft elevation
• 11/18 – 11/24 = 42 miles, 4700 ft elevation
• 11/25 – 12/01 = 7 miles, 0 ft elevation
• 12/2 – 12/08 = 45 miles, 4300 ft elevation
• 12/9 – 12/15 = 64 miles, 5000 ft elevation
• 12/16 – 12/22 = 24 miles, 1800 ft elevation
• 12/23 – 12/29 = 49 miles, 400 ft elevation
• 12/30 – 01/05 = 20 miles, 700 ft elevation

Blood Lactate Test
This May I started using a Heart Rate monitor on all my runs. For several months I trained mostly aerobic at 180 minus my age = 31 = 149 beats per minute. I wanted to take my HR training a step further, so I met up with Gareth Thomas, a High Performance Coach at Sport Science Facility Trio for a Blood Lactate test. He had me run on a treadmill for an hour, slowly increasing the speed (and my HR) and poking my fingers for blood samples every 10 minutes. With these test results he created optimal training zones and specific workouts for training based on heart rate and speed.

Instead of only running aerobic (at or just below 149 HR), I focused my training on:
HR 135 – 149 (Aerobic) = 50% of my runs
HR 150 – 158 (Lactate Threshold) 25% of my runs
HR 159 + (AC, SST, V02 Max) 25% of my runs

Race Weight
The Avalon race has about 6500 feet elevation gain. Knowing this, I wanted to weigh as little as possible, because every pound of unnecessary body fat slows you down significantly. For my October marathon I was 142 pounds with about 9% body fat, this is something I wanted for Avalon as well. I continued to avoid eating processed carbs and processed sugars. Instead I’d consume lots of beans, lentils, veggies, fish, chicken, nuts, almond milk, coco nut milk, green tea and a lot of water. Besides losing weight, it also ensures my body metabolism burns fat instead of glycogen.

Practice Race
4 weeks prior to the race, I ran my longest training run ever in the mountains, 35 mile / 4800 feet elevation total, pretending it was my Avalon 50 mile race. I wanted to see if I could maintain a HR of 155 – 159 for 5 hours and only take gue gels, salt pills and water. This run felt great and gave me the confidence that my body could keep this up for 2 more hours.

Mindset
After my 35 mile training run, my body felt like it was in good shape, however I still had to mentally prepare for the unknown, mile 35 – 50. I reached out to several experienced and fast Ultra Runners like Jimmy & Kate Freeman, Dominic Grossman, Guillaume Calmettes, Billy Yang, Jack Rosenfeld, David Villalobos, George Gleason, Cameron Reilly, Derick Gallegos, etc. I asked 2 questions and received several great answers:

When things get tough for you in a race with several hours to go, what are your strategies to push through discomfort, pain and mental fatigue?

• Accept in advance that there will be tough spots that you feel uncomfortable and in pain. In the times of the low, remember it will only get better, stay strong and you will work through it.

• During the tough moments, you have to divert your mind to fixing the problems at hand. Try some more calories or salt or water, create small goals like “just run a ¼ mile good”.

• Run from “aid station to aid station” ie. digest the race into small chunks at a time so as to not get overwhelmed by the enormity of the distance you still have left to cover.

• Focus on your running form, take small steps, make sure your chest is open, breath out hard.

Is there anything you do differently now for a 50 mile race, vs your first Ultra?

• Focus on just doing the best with what you have on race day in you. No day is perfect, but your resolve to challenges can be. So, don’t get obsessed with a goal, but rather with good problem solving and a good attitude.

• Run your own race. At the beginning you feel great. Ask yourself from time to time, is this a reasonable pace.

• Focus a lot of attention on nutrition. Don’t eat when you feel you need it, take it like consistent.

• If you haven’t tried some aid station food in training runs, don’t touch it.

• Take 20 grams of protein every 3 hours.

Nutrition
Lack of consistent nutrition was a big mistake that most Ultra Runners run into. During the race I’d burn about 1000 calories per hour so at least 7000 – 7500 calories. Your body can only handle a limited calorie intake and your body fat stores will have to fill in the gab, eliminating the need to overcompensate with calories.

Several sites recommend that 240-280 calories per hour is sufficient for the average size endurance athlete. Taking in more calories can cause stomach issues and works counter productive.

My nutrition strategy was to take 1 gue and 1 salt pill every 25 minutes, drink 20-25 ounce of water and take eat part of a protein bar every 2 hours.

Race Day – Saturday January 11, 2014
My alarm went off at 3:45 am and I ate my standard breakfast of 3 eggs, 1 banana and a glass of coconut water. At the start line I met up with some Coyotes before heading to the front of the line for the 5am start.

Last years winner Fabrice Hardel took off with 6 minute mile pace and I decided to run my own race, especially after Jimmy’s warning for the first 4 miles with 1500 feet of climbing. As soon as my HR would hit 162 I’d walk for 10-15 seconds until my HR dropped to 156. About 20 people passed me before we reached mile 4. Over the next 9 miles I passed 10 runners with a pace of about 7:30.

Mile 13 – 19 is a steep and long downhill, I ran mile 14 in 5:45 and mile 15 in 6:10 faster than I should be going, passing 5 more guys. At mile 17 there was an inter-section with arrows pointing both ways, so I was unclear which direction to go, left was looking to go downhill, right was looking to go uphill. With no one in sight and no time to lose, I took the left turn.

I came from the left side in this photo and took the left turn.

After about half a mile this fire-road turned into a climb, but I should be going downhill??!!, maybe its just a short climb before descending further?!? I decided to run around the corner, now nearly a mile out and realized I had taken the wrong turn.

Initially there was a lot of anger going through my mind, why were the course directions so unclear, why didn’t I pay more attention, now I have to run 52miles instead of 50!! When you’re feeling like shit, remember it will get better!

Last week I bought a book called A Complaint Free World. It’s about how you can avoid complaining by changing your thought process to become more positive. This book came in handy for the rest of the race to try to keep my thoughts positive and leave this mistake behind, even though it was tough. While I ran back towards the intersection I laughed out loud while realizing I just lost 15 minutes, oh well, time to catch up on many more guys now.

Mile 19 – 27 was more climbing and down hills while passing some guys for the 2nd time now. Mile 27 is the Isthmus turn around point, so by counting the guys ahead of me, I realized I was in 5th place, better than expected. Around mile 31 I saw 3rd and 4th place guys ahead of me. At Little Harbor Aid Station mile 33.5 I only took 20 seconds to fill my water bag and passed them both.

Mile 35 – 46 was a long gradual climb that was runnable most of the way. I felt surprisingly strong, taking my gue and salt pill every 25 minute and drinking 24 ounce water per hour.

The last 3 miles was a steep downhill on a technical asphalt course. This was painful on my entire body but I was nearing the finish line. I hit the 50 mile mark on my watch at 7 hours 12 minutes and laughed about the extra miles I had to run. Ended up at the finish at 51.7 miles in 7 hours 26 minutes. I was beyond stoked to see my wife, my kid and Coyote friends at the finish line.

Ice bath in the ocean!

Next up
The last few months have been pretty nuts with lots of different projects going on. I’m going to take a recovery break from running and focus more time on my family and 2 start-ups. In Q4 2014 I want to run a 1/2 marathon in 1:18 and get in shape to run Boston marathon 2015. Right now I’m excited to eat as much as I can to get some lost calories back into my body.

Learn much more about RUNNING FASTER WITH LESS EFFORT! Many exciting articles in the works, be the first to hear about new posts, giveaways and exclusive content.  

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Aika Collective – Photography Print Shop

3 months ago my friend Eugene and I came up with a new business idea and today we’re excited to launch it! Aika Collective is an online photo gallery featuring the work of 15 top skateboard photographers, like Swift, Burnett, Skin and Acosta. Our site sells high quality prints of iconic and epic photos of more than 100 Pro riders. Many of these images have been used for magazine covers, articles and ad campaigns, perfect to use for wall art.

Check out all the photos at http://aikacollective.com/

AIKA COLLECTIVE IN THE PRESS

The launch of our new business Aika Collective has been going really well. Customers have been buying photo prints from all over the world, from the US and Canada, all the way to the UK, SPain, Dubai, Singapore, Australia and Brazil. Below are a few of the articles that came out this first week about the Aika Collective launch.

Websites

Instagram

+ many Insta posts we missed
+ a bunch of stuff on Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr

If you haven’t already, check out the Aika Collective website!

 


How I trained to run a sub 3 hour marathon

A few years ago I ran my first marathon in 4:11:08 (9:34 / mile pace). On Sunday I ran my second marathon in 2:55:05 (6:40 / mile pace) more than 76 minutes faster. This post is a summary of a few things I’ve learned to become a faster runner from May 2013 to October 2013.

Long Beach Marathon Start Number

NUTRITION BEFORE MAY 2013
Nutrition is really the foundation for performance and recovery. Until May 2013 I had never paid much attention to what I ate or drank. On an average day I’d eat 8 slices of bread, pasta, pizza, rice, potatoes, hamburgers and little bit of veggies. I would also drink coffee, milk, orange juice and beer. My energy levels during the day were all over the place, so I’d drink coffee to get energy and often had some beers at night. I felt tired, fatigue, had low energy and frequent headaches.

NUTRITION AFTER MAY 2013
In May I decided to eat a lot healthier, inspired by Dr Phil Maffetone, Rich Roll and Tim Ferriss. I cut out all refined carbohydrates, no more bread, pasta, pizza, chips. etc. After this I also cut out milk, coffee, alcohol, soda, fruit juices, most fruits, sweets, potatoes and rice.

The reason for me to do this was to change my body metabolism to burn fat instead of glycogen. When you eat refined carbs, your body produces a hormone called insulin, which slows down fat burning. As soon as you get rid of refined carbs, it takes your body 2 meals before it shifts into a high fat burning metabolism. My energy levels increased, I slept much better and didn’t have fatigue headaches anymore, so this happens very quickly.

Nowadays my meals consist of: veggies like spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots etc, salads, tuna, salmon, bacon, chicken, beef, burrito bowls, guacamole, avocados, egg whites, beans, lentils, bananas, nuts, chia seeds, almond milk, coco nut milk, green tea and a lot of water.

Do yourself a favor and take 1-hour to listen to this great Trail Runner Nation Podcast about fat burning and nutrition.

TRAINING
In May 2013 I joined a running coaching and training program in LA called The Coyotes, by Jimmy Dean Freeman and Kate Martini Freeman, both very talented ultra runners. It motivated me a lot to run with a fun group of people and learn from everyone’s experiences. Finding others to run with makes it so much easier to get up at 5am and put your running shoes on. Twice a week I’d run with the Coyotes, then 2 to 3 times a week I’d run with local friends or alone in Long Beach. Here are the miles I ran in the last 5 months: May 160 miles, June 185 miles, July 184 miles, August 228 miles, Sept 297 miles, Oct taper 40 miles. A total of about 1100 miles in 5 months. See more specific run details on my Strava Account. The Nike Run Viking Contest (win a trip to Iceland ) helped push me to run many miles in September.

Running in Canada

HEART RATE MONITOR TRAINING
Want Speed? Slow Down! was another inspiring article for me during my marathon training. I always thought I had to train at a faster pace to become a faster runner. This article mentions the importance of developing the aerobic base first, before attempting hard work. You get faster without the wear, tear and injury using a heart rate monitor as biofeedback device.

In May I purchased a HR Monitor and Garmin 310 XT watch and started training at my maximum aerobic heart rate of 150. To find your max aerobic HR click here. In May I realized to run at this 150 HR, I had to slow down a lot to 8:30 min / miles on the road, and often a pace of 10 to 11 min / miles on trails with hills. It felt much slower than I was used to but I wanted to build a solid aerobic base. In July, after 2 months of running slower, I ran 7:30 min / mile at 150HR. In August, this pace dropped to 7:00 / mile and early October before I ran my marathon this was 6:40 / mile.

The use of a heart rate monitor takes the guess work out of training and helped increase my aerobic speed significantly. In May, June, July and August I only did 1 anaerobic speed work out per week. In September I did 2 anaerobic speed work outs a week.

It was good to know early October going into this marathon that I would be running borderline aerobic, just slightly anaerobic. So I could mostly burn my unlimited supply of body fat vs burning stored glycogen with higher potential of bonking.

Here is an amazing Trail Runner Nation podcast about HR Monitor training that changed my approach to running a lot.

ACCELERATE RECOVERY TIME
Things that helped accelerate my recovery time, relieved muscle pain and soreness, improved muscle strength and increased endurance:

Drinking a lot of water during and directly after long runs

Eating within 30 minutes after finishing a run

Salt and electrolyte pills on 16-20 mile runs during hot summer months

* Ice baths as soon as possible after long runs. Ice baths suppress inflammation and help to flush harmful metabolic debris out of your muscles.

Epsom salt baths to relax your muscles and decrease inflammation

muscle roller to get knots out, to improve circulation and prep muscles for stretching

* Sleeping 7-8 hours a night since most recovery happens in the 7th and 8th hour of sleep. This was the hardest part and didn’t happen much since our daughter was born in March.

THE MARATHON DAY
My trainers Jimmy and Kate told me there are going to be things on race day that are out of your control, and not to let this mess with your head. I felt well prepared going into the race.

My Heart Rate monitor broke the moment I turned it on at the start line and the race was 25 minutes delayed because the course wasn’t ready. I guess those were the things Jimmy and Kate were talking about.

My race plan was simple, run 6:40 min / miles until mile 20, then meet my running buddy and pacer Damien and keep this pace or adjust it if needed. Take a gel every 25 minutes and a salt & electrolyte pill every 50 minutes. The gun went off and after half a mile I looked at my watch and saw 6:28 pace, it felt like I was doing 9:00 due to race excitement. I slowed down and it was pretty easy to keep a consistent pace of 6:38-6:40 until I met my pacer at mile 20. This reason this felt easy was that my heart rate was very low. Even though my HR monitor didn’t work, I estimate it to be 150 to 158.

Long Beach Marathon mile 25

I was stoked to see my pacer at mile 20 and started talking for a bit, he told me to shut up and run to save my energy, good call. At mile 22 I took a gel and salt pill and the pill got stuck in my throat, I coughed and nearly barfed while maintaining a 6:40 pace. At mile 24 my quads started to feel heavier and I made the decision to slow the pace down slightly to avoid possible cramping (and losing 5 minutes in the last 2 miles). I only lost 7 seconds in mile 24 and 11 seconds in mile 25, see detailed Strava breakdown below:

Strava Floris Gierman

At mile 25 another Coyote running buddy Jack totally surprised us and he ran with Damien and I to the finish line at a 6:31 pace. It was an epic feeling running fast with the 3 of us and finishing at an official time of 2:55:05, only 5 seconds off from my projected finish time. Happy to see my wifey and kid around the finish line.

Long Beach Marathon

Long Beach Marathon 2013 medal

Ice bath after running to speed up recovery

I took a 20 minute ice bath after the run and my legs felt totally fine. Next on my horizon is the Avalon 50 mile race on January 11th, 2014. My training plan for the next 3 months will include more trail and hill runs at aerobic pace.
** updated – see my Avalon 50 mile race report here.

Learn much more about RUNNING FASTER WITH LESS EFFORT! Many exciting articles in the works, be the first to hear about new posts, giveaways and exclusive content.  

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Volcom’s Give Jeans a Chance Photo Shoot

Give Jeans a Chance is a denim donation program for the homeless around the world. The concept is to put donation bins in stores, schools and local communities where people drop off their old jeans. All jeans collected are donated to local homeless shelters.

This is the 3rd year GJAC is running and more than 1000 stores, schools and local communities are a part of this program. For the overall campaign photo, we wanted to give the viewer an up-close look of the jeans being handed from person to person in the streets.

Loaded with a backpack full of jeans, my friend Freddy Medina and I drove to Skid Row in downtown LA to shoot photos. You don’t want to walk around with your camera hanging out, so I hid it under my hoody.

On a sidewalk we found a girl in her late twenties, rough looking, she lives ‘temporarily’ on Skid Row, we found her in a back alley, solo sitting on the ground. Drugs, alcohol, and life on the streets had taken its toll on her. She didn’t show any emotions when she received the jeans, her eyes looked all foggy. She was ok with me taking some photos of her.

Some areas were way too sketchy to take my camera out so we walked around for a while until we found the next person to shoot in the right spot.

After walking around for a while, we ran into Mark, a 35 years old guy covered in tattoos, he was homeless and sat in a wheel chair. He lives mostly in Skid Row and didn’t mind us taking a photo of him. We gave him a pair of jeans in his size and he was stoked on it.

Below are the 2 different campaign photos that came out of the shoot, for both MEN and WOMEN. These images have been used for the Volcom ads in a bunch of magazines, and for the GJAC campaign flyers, posters, window displays, videos, etc. For more info, check out the Give Jeans a Chance website.

Here is the 2011 GJAC campaign video:


Storm Chasing – North or South?

2011 has been one of the most active Tornado Seasons ever recorded in US history. The 2011 Tornado Super Outbreak occurred from April 25 to 28, 2011 with a total of 334 confirmed tornadoes, an estimated 344 people were killed as a result of the outbreak and the total damages exceeded $10 billion.

Last year we filmed and photographed several tornadoes, and was excited to go back to Tornado Alley from May 6 to 12, 2011. Our goals were always are to position us ahead of the severe thunderstorms to document the storms, to warn local authorities whenever needed, and to help storm victims as first on the spot.

This was a 6-day storm chase with only a two-man team, my friend Jeremy Dawson and I. The Storm chasing vehicle with metal armor needed a lot of work so the first day we hung out at the auto repair shops, the oil change place and Walmart parking lot until 4AM.

The next day we drove 650 miles north from Oklahoma to Valentine, Nebraska. At 3AM I got pulled over by a cop car driving 80 miles an hour, without insurance papers or car registration. After an hour of storm chase talk with the cop lady, we finally continued our journey.

The next morning it looked like the storm had more chance to develop 4 hours south of us, than up in our current location of Valentine. We drove 220 miles back south and positioned ourselves until the storm would develop. Around 4PM we noticed a cumulonimbus cloud started to develop, this is a towering vertical cloud that is very tall, dense and often involves thunderstorms. These clouds can further develop into a super cell, a severe thunderstorm with special features.

Right at that point 4 hours north of us severe thunderstorm started to develop in our previous location of Valentine. This storm looked a lot more promising than the storm we were hoping to develop down south, so we decided to speed 4 hours up north again, pedal to the metal. It was so frustrating seeing a Tornado Watch being issued for the dryline at our initial location in northern Nebraska. 2 tornadoes touched down before we were able to make it over in time. By the time we arrived in Valentine the sun was setting, and the storm had moved 80 miles north with 25 mph.

These supercells usually produce large amounts of hail, heavy rainfall, strong winds, and substantial downbursts. To get ahead of the NE moving storm, we had to punch the core of the super cell. As we approached the cell, the lightning intensified to several times per second, it’s a crazy light show to see.

Jeremy found a shortcut on the map, so I had to drive our heavy chase vehicle onto a small dirt road, straight into the lightning hell of the core. I drove as fast as I could, about 40-50 miles an hour, however the dirt roads turned into mud baths and the visibility was extremely low.

The cloud-to-ground lightning was hitting to our left and right within close distance, the flash was super intense and the thunders extremely loud.

A leader of a bolt of lightning can travel at speeds of 140,000 mph, contain 100,000,000 volts of electricity and reach temperatures of 54,000 °F.

The area around Winner consists of grass hills, without any trees, so our massive metal vehicle with 8 foot tall radio and satellite antennas would be an easy target for a cloud-to-ground lightning.

Normally when a bolt of lightning strikes a car, the outer surface and frame of the car will carry the electricity. It often discharges through one of the tires leaving the inside occupants unharmed. Our storm-chasing vehicle however, has a ton of extra metal racks for the radars, radios, satellites, tools, etc so the risk of a lightning strike going directly through the inside of our vehicle would be a lot higher, which wouldn’t be good.

We tuned the radio to a static noise channel. Each time a lightning strike was a few seconds away from hitting, the static sound would go up in tone. Jeremy instructed me that if the static radio sounds becomes a really high sound, I’d have to let go of the wheel and pedal because there was a decent chance of getting hit by lightning.
The adrenalin was definitely flowing in our vehicle once the static sound went up to the highest level, I quickly let go of the wheel and gas pedal, and the lightning hit very close by. This ended up happening 3 times in a row before we were able to get ahead of the storm.

By the time we got ahead of the super cell, it was nearly midnight and the storm wasn’t capable of producing any tornadoes so we called it a night.

With storm chasing you need to make constant decisions about which storm to go after, how fast and which direction the is storm moving, and what the target area is. Often there are 2 or 3 storms with similar potential and you just have to make the decision and go for it.

The first few weeks of May were remarkably quiet with only a few confirmed isolated tornadoes. Unfortunately we didn’t get to see any tornadoes on this trip, we were 30-50 miles out when several small tornadoes were on the ground.

 


About a week after I left Tornado Alley, a major tornado outbreak took place from May 21 – 27, 2011, which caused 180 tornadoes. Time for me to get back in the study books to learn more about severe weather, and to pass my spotter network exam.

Below are a photo and video from our previous Storm Chase. You can read more about it here