Sometimes a race just doesn’t go as planned. That’s the harsh reality of training for and racing an ultramarathon.

And it’s what you do with those failures and setbacks that make or break you as a runner.

In today’s episode I share a clip from a recent interview with Rock Creek Runner Community Member Karen Clarke on her setback at the 2016 Leadville 100, and what she turned that disappointment into strength.

Listen to the episode here:

Click here to download the file.

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Support for Today’s Episode

The brand new tumblers. Cheers to Adventure: http://rockcreekrunner.com/tumbler

 

I sometimes wonder why I even bother running.

Last Saturday night, after returning to bed from changing a dirty diaper around 1:00 AM, I picked up my phone — an unfortunate habit since the Eliza arrived. The next hour took me down a rabbit-hole of news regarding the refugee and travel ban, and I quickly became overwhelmed with thoughts of what, if anything, I do really matters.

My work, goals, and hobbies all center around running. And what’s the point? 

After all, every minute, every mile on the trail means I’m not spending time with my family, helping others, or doing something more productive for our collective futures.

It’s something I’ve recently felt a lot of guilt over.

But then, as I set down my phone and began to fade into sleep, I remembered running through the golden, crisp leaves last fall.

A photo posted by Doug H (@rockcreekrunner) on

And the determination I’ve felt throughout the final miles of races, when my body screamed to stop.

A photo posted by Doug H (@rockcreekrunner) on

And the stillness of the many summer sunrises.

A photo posted by Doug H (@rockcreekrunner) on

And the joy I felt playing outside with friends.

A photo posted by Doug H (@rockcreekrunner) on

And the blinding glow from stunning winter snows.

A photo posted by Doug H (@rockcreekrunner) on

I hear runners justify their runs because it makes them better people when they’re not running. I’ve done that many times myself.

But the truth is, I run for me first. I run because I love it. Because it gives me peace, happiness, and escape, and because it challenges me in a way that I find thrilling.

Are there more productive things to do? Probably. But when I’m out there on the dirt, it’s running that brings me joy.

And that’s the point.

If it makes me a better husband, father, or human being in return, awesome. I’ll certainly take it. And I’ll always make time for other important activities.

But — as much as I’d like to say otherwise — when my pre-dawn alarm wakes me up to run, it’s only me that I’m getting out of bed for.

And as selfish as it may sound all typed out, that’s all I need.

Photos in this post were taken as part of my year of daily Instagram shots, an attempt at capturing and sharing a precious moment each day of 2016. Learn more here.

 http://www.rockcreekrunner.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=12584&action=edit

A photo posted by Doug H (@rockcreekrunner) on

A photo posted by Doug H (@rockcreekrunner) on

A photo posted by Doug H (@rockcreekrunner) on

A photo posted by Doug H (@rockcreekrunner) on

A photo posted by Doug H (@rockcreekrunner) on

A photo posted by Doug H (@rockcreekrunner) on

And that’s a wrap! The Great Birth Week of Giveaways has come to and end, with 35 winners and hundreds of dollars in prizes.

Thank you for participating, and thanks for helping to celebrate my birthday! That’s me and the fam on top of Mt. Pisgah yesterday afternoon (on a birthday hike).

Now for the important part …

Did you win?

Here’s the complete list of winners:

Friday’s winners:

1. Altra Lone Peaks: Holly M.

2. Discover Your Ultramarathon: Mike W.

3. Rock Creek Runner stickers:

  • Christine D.
  • Phil
  • Quentin L.
  • Elizabeth M.
  • Tom L.

Thursday’s Winners

1. Janji Longsleeve: Carrie M.

2. Rock Creek Runner hat: Magnus T.

3. Rock Creek Runner stickers:

  • Frank D.
  • Clinton L.
  • Loree
  • Paul L.
  • Meredith Z.

Wednesday’s Winners

1. Lumo Run Sensor: Maria O.

2. Rock Creek Runner hat: Thomas B.

3. Rock Creek Runner stickers:

  • Stacy G.
  • Joe P.
  • Chad D.
  • Arden H.
  • Hillary

Tuesday’s Winners

1. Night Runner Shoe Lights: Cooper J.

2. Next Level Runner: Karen A.

3. Rock Creek Runner stickers:

  • Dawn
  • Laurie A.
  • Paco
  • Fredrick
  • Billy D.

Monday’s Winners

1. rabbit Running shorts: Kristina P.

2. Rock Creek Runner hat: Nathan P.

3. Rock Creek Runner stickers:

  • Candy
  • Megan S.
  • Jason S.
  • Mariah D.
  • Erin B.

We have arrived to the fifth and final day of the Great 2017 Birth Week of Giveaways!

So far we’ve given away several really great items (to 28 winners), but I have to admit that this might be the best day yet. If you’ve somehow missed all the other announcements, this will explain what I’m talking about:

Friday’s Giveaway (The last day!)

Here’s what we’re giving away today:

1. Altra Lone Peaks 3.0 (one winner)

The Lone Peaks by Altra are my very favorite trail shoe right now. They have great traction and are built to last. I’m giving away one pair in the color of your choosing!

Learn more about the Lone Peaks here: Men’s | Women’s

2. Discover Your Ultramarathon eBook System

The Discover Your Ultramarathon is my eBook system with training plans, audio interviews, and a 129-page guide to get you through your first 50K or 50 mile ultra.

Learn all about it here.

3. Rock Creek Runner stickers (5 new winners every day)

Five winners will receive a few Rock Creek Runner stickers to slap on the back of their car, water bottle, or anywhere they want to show trail running pride.

Thursday’s Winners

And now for the moment you’ve been waiting for! Here are the winner’s from yesterday’s giveaway:

1. Janji Longsleeve: Carrie M.

2. Rock Creek Runner hat: Magnus T.

3. Rock Creek Runner stickers:

  • Frank D.
  • Clinton L.
  • Loree
  • Paul L.
  • Meredith Z.

Note to All Winners: Look for an email from me later this morning with the subject line “Rock Creek Runner Giveaway Winner.” That’s when I’ll ask for product/shipping information.

And remember, everyone is automatically re-entered into the giveaway each day. No need to complete the form again. You are eligible for more than one prize.

Photo credit.

It’s day four of the Great 2017 Birth Week of Giveaways! Not sure what I’m talking about? Get the details here:

Thursday’s Giveaway

Here’s what we’re giving away today:

1. Janji Longsleeve (one winner)

Have you heard of the running apparel company Janji? They donate 10% of all sales to help fund clean water projects across the globe, and they’ve designed some of my favorite running tops over the past few years. We’re giving away one long sleeve running shirt of your choosing, in either a men’s or women’s cut.

Learn more about the Janji longsleeves here: Men’s | Women’s

2. Rock Creek Runner hat of your choosing (one winner)

One winner will get to choose between the three new Rock Creek Runner hats.

Click here to learn more about the hats.

3. Rock Creek Runner stickers (5 new winners every day)

Five winners will receive a few Rock Creek Runner stickers to slap on the back of their car, water bottle, or anywhere they want to show trail running pride.

Tuesday’s Winners

And now for the moment you’ve been waiting for! Here are the winner’s from yesterday’s giveaway:

1. Lumo Run Sensor: Maria O.

2. Rock Creek Runner hat: Thomas B.

3. Rock Creek Runner stickers:

  • Stacy G.
  • Joe P.
  • Chad D.
  • Arden H.
  • Hillary

Note to All Winners: Look for an email from me later this morning with the subject line “Rock Creek Runner Giveaway Winner.” That’s when I’ll ask for product/shipping information.

And remember, everyone is automatically re-entered into the giveaway each day. No need to complete the form again. You are eligible for more than one prize.

When someone asks me why I race ultramarathons, my response (in this order) is:

  1. For the finishers medal or buckle,
  2. To build up my ultrasignup.com results, and
  3. So I can slap a “50” sticker on the back of my car.

Yeah right.

We run ultramarathons to do something epic. For the adventure, lessons throughout training, and to prove to ourselves that we are capable of.

The medal might be cool — and it’s certainly something to be proud of — but that alone isn’t going to get you through months of training and hours of pain.

Am I right?

So this year, instead of packing my schedule with only organized races, I’m also focusing on other adventures — self-supported long runs that don’t require an entry fee and don’t give you a tee-shirt.

But they’re just as epic.

Today I talk about why I’m moving some races off my calendar this year and instead focusing on epic adventures. And of course, I share my tips for how to plan your own.

Listen to the episode here:

Click here to download the file.

Or subscribe and download on:

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Support for Today’s Episode

This episode of Trail Talk was brought to you by Discover Your Ultramarathon, the eBook system with training plans, audio interviews, and a 129-page guide to get you through your first 50K or 50 mile ultra.

Pick yours up now at rockcreekrunner.com/ultramarathon.

And by the new Rock Creek Runner hats. Check out the three wicked cool styles at rockcreekrunner.com/hats

It’s day three of the Great 2017 Birth Week of Giveaways!  Not sure what I’m talking about? Get the details here:

Wednesday’s Giveaway

Here’s what we’re giving away today:

1. Lumo Run by Lumo BodyTech (one winner)

 

The Lumo Run is a sensor you clip to the back of your shorts, which gives you real-time running form feedback. It’s a great way to see exactly what you’re doing and how you can improve. If you missed it, I reviewed the Lumo Run a few weeks ago:

Learn more about the Lumo Run here.

2. Rock Creek Runner hat of your choosing (one winner)

One winner will get to choose between the three new Rock Creek Runner hats.

Click here to learn more about the hats.

3. Rock Creek Runner stickers (5 new winners every day)

Five winners will receive a few Rock Creek Runner stickers to slap on the back of their car, water bottle, or anywhere they want to show trail running pride.

Wednesday’s Winners

And now for the moment you’ve been waiting for! Here are the winner’s from yesterday’s giveaway:

1. Night Runner Shoe Lights: Cooper J.

2. Next Level Runner: Karen A.

3. Rock Creek Runner stickers:

  • Dawn
  • Laurie A.
  • Paco
  • Fredrick
  • Billy D.

Note to All Winners: Look for an email from me later this morning with the subject line “Rock Creek Runner Giveaway Winner.” That’s when I’ll ask for product/shipping information.

And remember, everyone is automatically re-entered into the giveaway each day. No need to complete the form again. You are eligible for more than one prize.

And we’re back with day two of the Great 2017 Birth Week of Giveaways! If you missed yesterday’s announcement, read all about it here, or watch the video here:

And as always …

Tuesday’s Giveaway

Now for the good stuff! Here’s what we’re giving away today:

1. Night Runner 270 Shoe Lights (one winner)

In these dark days of winter, some sort of light is an essential piece of gear for most runners. Night Runner’s shoe lights are a unique way to light up the road or trail. Just clip them onto your shoes and go.

Learn more about the Night Runner 270 Shoe Lights here.

2. Next Level Runner Year-Long Membership (one winner)

Ready to take your running to the next level? I’m giving away a one year membership to the Rock Creek Runner’s flagship Next Level Runner program. Join members from all over the world as we set monthly goals and focus on one specific area of our training at a time.

Learn more about Next Level Runner here.

3. Rock Creek Runner stickers (5 new winners every day)

Five winners will receive a few Rock Creek Runner stickers to slap on the back of their car, water bottle, or anywhere they want to show trail running pride.

Yesterday’s Winners

And now for the moment you’ve been waiting for! Here are the winner’s from yesterday’s giveaway:

1. rabbit Running shorts: Kristina P.

2. Rock Creek Runner hat: Nathan P.

3. Rock Creek Runner stickers:

  • Candy
  • Megan S.
  • Jason S.
  • Mariah D.
  • Erin B.

Note to All Winners: Look for an email from me later this morning with the subject line “Rock Creek Runner Giveaway Winner.” That’s when I’ll ask for product/shipping information.

And remember, everyone is automatically re-entered into the giveaway each day. No need to complete the form again. You are eligible for more than one prize.

It’s my birth week, and to celebrate a new year of life, I’ve decided to host an entire week’s worth of giveaways (with nearly three dozen winners).

I’m calling it, The Great 2017 Birth Week of Giveaways, and it’s going to be epic. Here’s the deal:

How it works:

  • Everyday this week (January 23rd – 27th) at 8:00AM Eastern, I’ll announce on the blog that day’s giveaway.
  • At the same time, I’ll share yesterday’s winner.
  • The final giveaway closes and the last announcement will be made on Friday at 8:00PM Eastern.
  • Enter just once and you’ll be eligible for all the remaining giveaways.
  • You can win more than one prize, so each day you start fresh.
  • Some (but not all) prizes are limited to US residents only. Sorry :/

So what are we giving away? Well it’s a secret for now, but …

We’re giving away products from:

Monday’s Giveaway:

1. rabbit Running shorts of your choosing (one winner)

rabbit Running designs some of my very favorite running apparel, and one lucky winner will win a pair of their kick ass running shorts.

Choose between several designs and men’s and women’s cuts.

Learn more about what makes rabbit Running different here, and check out the shorts here: Men’s | Women’s

2. Rock Creek Runner hat of your choosing (one winner)

One winner will get to choose between the three new Rock Creek Runner hats.

Click here to learn more about the hats.

3. Rock Creek Runner stickers (5 winners)

Five winners will receive a few Rock Creek Runner stickers to slap on the back of their car, water bottle, or anywhere they want to show trail running pride.

The more you run, the better runner you’ll become.

If I had to declare one truth to running, that would probably be it. (As I’ve discussed before, everyone does have a limit where running more is no longer productive, but most of us never come close to that limit).

So to properly train for a long distance ultramarathon, high mileage weeks become a focus. But committing to that much time on the trail is not always the best option …

A few weeks ago I registered for the UROC 100K in May, and with a click of a button, UROC became my focus race for the winter and spring.

Only this winter and spring will to look a lot different than years’ past.

Less than a month ago my wife and I had our first child. She’s beautiful, playful, and growing every day, but for such a small person she sure takes up a lot of time. And for the first time in awhile I’m having to prioritize how I spend each hour of the day.

Like most of you, I work full time and enjoy hobbies outside of running. I’m in a band, play disk golf, and freak’n love hanging out with my wife.

But because training has always been a top priority, I’m willing to sacrifice here or there to find time to train.

A newborn, however, changes things. And thus, I’m changing the way I train.

Why ‘No Time’ is No Excuse

This year I could’ve gotten away with declaring I didn’t have enough time for much training, and I’m sure most people wouldn’t blink an eye, but here’s the thing:

Everyone has time to train for an ultramarathon.

The “not enough time” excuse holds no weight in my book. If you want it bad enough, you’ll find the time.

When I hear someone say that don’t have enough time, what they’re really saying is that they aren’t prepared to make the time. Maybe they are super busy — work, school, family — but if training is really a priority, they’ll take time from something else in order to run.

Lack of time is nothing more than another excuse.

What you can blame, however, is the fact that you’re not willing to sacrifice something else in order to run. Maybe that’s sleep, studies, music, or work. Or maybe, like in my case, it’s time with your family.

If that’s the case for you, own it. So what do you do when time is limited by other obligations, but training is still a priority?

My plan is to evaluate and adjust my training to become more efficient.

The Balance of Time and Efficiency: Applying the 80/20 Rule to Running

You’ve probably heard of the Pareto principle (also known as the 80/20 rule). It’s widely cited and over applied, but don’t get hung up on the actual numbers and the spirit can be extremely helpful.

Basically the 80/20 rule says that for most events, 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. According to the theory, you could say:

  • 80% of a company’s sales come from 20% of their clients.
  • 80% of crimes are committed by 20% of criminals.
  • 80% of your work can be one through 20% of the tasks.

And 80% of your training improvements come from 20% of your effort.

In other words, to save time and energy, focus on the 20% of workouts that give you 80% of the results.

Now let me be very clear, I’m not suggesting that if you cut your mileage back to just 20% you’ll see great results. Far from it.

I’m suggesting — and plan to try out while training for UROC — that if I cut the fat and focus on the roughly 20% of runs and workouts that give me the most bang for my buck, I’ll still have a decent training cycle.

How I’m Training for an Ultramarathon on Limited Time

The question then becomes how to decide what to cut and what’s worth keeping.

This is all one big experiment — which I hope to learn from and improve upon — but after a bit of planning, I decided to start by looking at the following things:

  1. The goal race. Because I’m training for UROC (and not a 10K, for example), endurance is a main priority. The race also consists of 8,600 feet of elevation gain with a few significant climbs, so in addition to endurance, I want to focus on vertical gain.
  2. My race goals. I feel no pressure when it comes to performance, but I do want to get through this race feeling strong and happy, which means putting in the work, staying positive, and preparing mentally.
  3. My life objectives. The whole reason to cut training back is to spend more time with my family. There are ways to incorporate family into how I train, so I’ll get more bang for my time if I prioritize a joint run or hike than I would a more focused run on my own.

With that in mind, I’m adjusting my training in the following ways:

1. Fewer Miles

The most obvious thing to cut are the less productive miles — the runs that aren’t specifically focused on speed, recovery, or endurance.

Instead of training on 50-60 miles per week, I plan to keep it around 35-45 aside from a few key long run weeks (more on that later), and some of those miles will be behind a stroller.

Benefit: Save time through running fewer miles.

2. Targeted Workouts

To get away with fewer miles, I’ll make the miles I do run more productive by assigning a clear focus to each run with targeted workouts for speed, hills, endurance, or recovery.

Less going out for a casual run, more running with intention.

Benefit: Uses increased productivity to make up for lack of time running.

3. More Hiking

The stronger I can power-hike up a mountain, the stronger I’ll be on the major climbs at UROC. More than that, hiking builds leg strength and power, and it’s something I can do with Katie by my side and my daughter Eliza on my back.

I plan to replace some runs with longer hiking sessions, carrying everything I need to get myself and an infant through the mountains.

Benefit: Increased leg strength, improved hiking skills, time with family.

4. Better All-Around Fitness Through Micro-Workouts

One habit I’ve never kept is using down time for micro-strength workouts. Think 10 minutes of core work while watching TV, or a 5 minute squat session before I jump in the shower. Throughout the day these short sessions add up, and contribute to my overall fitness and strength.

Benefit: Using time otherwise unavailable for a run to build strength.

5. Key Long Runs

When training for goal races in the past, 3-4 hour long runs were a given just about every weekend. I want to avoid that this year.

Instead I’ve scheduled weekly long runs in the two hour range, with several key, much longer runs on select weekends, including races, adventures, and strategically placed outings of 4-10 hours.

I wouldn’t recommend this lack of progression to new runners or anyone tackling a distance for the first time, but I believe I can fall back on my experience and the general base fitness I’m building on throughout the week to keep me healthy.

Matching Your Training to Your Lifestyle

The line between too much and too little is thin.

Fall on one side and you show up under prepared. Fall on the other side and you burn out or push aside other important aspects of life.

What I hope to do through this approach is strike a balance in a sustainable way. To continue challenging myself while at the same time respecting my limits.

I’ll keep you posted on how it goes …