When it comes to running nutrition, I’m slow to try anything new. If it works, it works… and I typically stick to what works.

But there’s a lot going on in the endurance nutrition world. New and old companies are re-inventing (and redefining) what that nutrition looks like.

So when I was sent samples of Muir Energy, a new company with a unique approach, I thought it was worth a shot.

How do they compare to the leaders in the space like GU Energy, CLIF, and (my go-to) Huma? Let’s find out.

Ed Note: While the gels were supplied for free to review, the opinions below are completely those of Rock Creek Runner. Muir Energy had no influence over this post and did not pay for its publication.

The Muir Energy Philosophy

Energy gel companies spend years formulating ingredients to find what they believe to be the ideal endurance product. The result — for most companies — is a long list of ingredients you’d never find on their own.

Ian McNally, the founder of Muir Energy, wanted something different. As he puts it, “something that tasted really good and was made with real organic ingredients – derived from nature, not in a lab.”

The result really is something unique.

Each gel contains only 4-6 ingredients (about 1/4th of a product like GU), and each of those ingredients will be familiar — fruits, salt, black molasses, nut butter, or cacao, for example. Plus they’re all 100% organic, vegan, paleo, gluten-free, and non-GMO.

Using just a handful of natural plant-based ingredients to create an effective energy gel?

Sounds right up my ally. But the real question is, how does it stack up, and how will it impact my training and racing?

Let’s find out.

First Impressions

I’ll get to taste in a minute, but let’s start with my initial thoughts after opening the box.

Size

When it comes to size, my first thought was big. They’re taller than most gel packets, which seemed like it would be a problem. Compared side-by-side to others, however, they’re a lot thinner. Muir has opted for a tall skinny package over a short, compact package.

Which is better? It would depend on your setup, but after stuffing several in the pocket of a handheld, the smaller gels fit a little better.

(I feel like this section is primed for a ‘package’ joke, but I’ll resist the urge.)

Packaging

The packaging itself is pretty standard, with a wide-mouth rip-top. I did notice it’s the only gel I had that’s sealed at the bottom, limiting it’s ability to expand. Maybe that would help with the height.

The one flaw I experienced was that the packaging is stiffer when compared to other brands, making it difficult to roll the bottom up to clear out the gel inside. One of my biggest pet-peeves is when residual gel squirts into your pocket, so it’s important for me to completely clear a packet before stuffing it away.

Price

Muir Energy is an expensive gel. There’s just no way to put it any other way. At $2.50 per gel, they fall in line with premium brands or lines like HUMA and GU Roctane, a full dollar more than your standard gels.

Personally, I’m okay with that. They’re aiming for a premium product and charging premium prices. But it could get rather expensive if you’re fueling a 100-miler and throwing back a few dozen in a single race.

What’s Inside

It’s not until you tear into a Muir Energy gel that you really see the difference.

The first thing you immediately notice is that the consistency is unlike any gel I’ve tasted. It’s thick — more like a paste than a traditional gel. You can see what I mean in the image above.

If fact, they even package most flavors as both a gel and a spread, so you could smear it on a piece of toast or mix it into a bowl of oatmeal before your run.

I’m not going to lie, this caught me off guard at first. It wasn’t the gel consistency I learned to stomach while training for my first marathon many years ago, and I wasn’t sure how I felt about that. But the more I tried the different varieties, the more I grew to love that texture. It actually feels like you’re eating real food rather than a lab creation.

Something to keep in mind, however, is that I would not recommend eating one without water. They’re so thick that they require water to wash it down, or you’ll be tonguing your teeth until the next aid station.

Slow Burning vs. Fast Burning

Another unique aspect of Muir Energy is the two types of gels the offer:

Slow burning and fast burning.

What they’ve done is create a set of gels with quick burning ingredients, and another set with ingredients that take longer to metabolize and produce more sustained energy. Comparing the nutrition facts between the two, the big differences I see are that slow burning gels contain:

  1. More protein, and
  2. More calories from fat.

In my opinion it’s pretty brilliant, and actually doesn’t feel like a gimmick. Runners need gels for a variety of activities, and having the choice between the two could come in handy.

But does it work?

All signs point to yes.

For the past several weeks I’ve tested Muir Energy gels on a variety of runs, including early sunrise runs where I only had a gel before hitting the trail, long runs where I fueled with multiple gels, and evening runs when I need a quick snack.

For best results, I’ve landed on spreading the slow burning on a piece of toast about an hour before a long run, and relying on fast burning gels mid-run to give me the mid-run boost I’m looking for.

But I’m just one guy with unscientific opinions. So let’s look at the numbers.

Energy Gel Comparison Chart

To help make comparisons as easy as possible, I’ve put together what I’m calling, “The Great Rock Creek Runner Energy Gel Comparison Chart.” I pulled the top brands from the recent RCR Pack poll and added them to the chart below.

Important Note

Due to variety between flavors, some of these numbers are not exact. For each brand I looked at several different flavors and pulled the most common number, or an average if they varied greatly between flavors. If a certain metric (calories, for example) is really important to you, always check the specific flavor before purchasing.

I selected the metrics that I believe to be the most useful, but note that caffeine is missing. For many brands, certain flavors are caffeinated while others aren’t, so it seemed more relevant to leave it off completely.

Links to REI and Amazon are affiliate links, so any purchase helps support RCR at no charge to you. Thank you.

BrandPrice (per gel)CaloriesSodiumPotassiumCarbs.ProteinFiber
Muir Energy (Fast)$2.50120100mg250mg25g1g1g
Muir Energy (Slow)$2.50150 (60 from fat)100mg300mg20g5g1g
Accel Gel$1.50100115mgN/A20g5g0g
CLIF Shot$1.5010090mg50mg24g0g0g
GU Energy$1.50100100mg40mg22g0g0g
GU Roctane$2.50100150mg55mg21g0g0g
Hammer Gel$1.509035mg35mg20g1g0g
Honey Stinger$1.5010050mg85mg27g0g0g
Huma Gel$2.25100110mg50mg22g1g2g
Huma Plus$2.50100250mg65mg23g1g1g
PowerGel$1.20110200mg20mg27g0g0g
Vega Sport$2.0010060mg400mg22g0.5g2g
VFuel$1.6510010mg15mg23g0g0g

How They Taste

Now for the part you’ve been waiting for… how do they taste?

I saved this for last because while it feels important at first, taste is much less important than effectiveness. I can force down just about anything if it helps me perform better. Plus, this is completely subjective. To know for sure, you’ll have to try them yourself.

But my opinion?

They taste great.

They’re fruity, or nutty, or chocolaty. They go down easy and feel almost like a treat.

(Yesterday, while photographing for this post, I found myself cleaning the Muir Energy off the plate with my finger. Something I most certainly didn’t do for the other gels…).

As long as I have something to wash it down, I could eat these all day.

Why I’ll Continue Using Muir Energy Gels

I pay a lot of attention to what I put in my body while not running, but tend to ignore those standards when it comes to mid-run nutrition. Now I don’t have to.

Muir Energy uses real, simple ingredients, and still packs the energy punch I look for in endurance nutrition. I will definitely continue to incorporate these gels into my fueling strategy — mixing them in with the other gels I’ve come to rely on, real foods, and liquids, and I believe they’ll sit well in my stomach for hours on the trail.

If you’re looking for a more natural energy gel, Muir Energy is definitely worth a taste.

 

I have no time to run.

Or at least that’s the excuse I tried to pull on my wife the other day. In today’s episode I share her response, and what a never-ending busy schedule means for us runners.

Plus, results from the RCR Pack survey.

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.

 

 

Let me guess, you’re a,

  • Male,
  • From the United States,
  • In your 30s,
  • Who’s been running for the past 4-7 years,
  • Roughly 25% on trail, and
  • Are currently focusing on half or full marathon training.

Am I right? No?

Well, chances are you at least fall into a few of those categories.

Last week I sent out a survey to the the Rock Creek Runner Pack, and asked a few simple questions. The goal was to get to know you as a runner a little better, and to take a wide-angle look at the Pack’s fueling, training, and gear preferences.

With over 500 submissions, the results are in. And they’re are a few interesting takeaways. Let’s take a look, shall we?

Ed Note: Huge thanks to those Pack members who shared photos for this post. In order, Vince, Mallory, Ian, Laura, Jeff, Andrew, Gina, Bruno, Paul, Jeff, and Melissa. Thanks guys!

General Biographical Information

The vast majority of you are from the United States, but there were 28 countries represented, which is awesome. The trail and ultra-running community is vast, and people from around the globe are coming together for love of the challenge and adventure. Think about that.

Gender was pretty evenly split, with a few percentage points going towards the males. This actually came as a surprise to me, since I get the most responses to posts and questions from women.

About 35% of respondents were between the ages of 31 and 40, and I was excited to see that 41-50 was not far behind with 29%. Just over 20% of you are over the age of 50.

Alright, now that we know the type of people we’re looking at, let’s dive into your running.

Running History and Preferences

How long have you been running?

Of those surveyed, nearly 75% have been running for at least four years. Not bad, everyone — let’s keep that streak going!

What percentage of your mileage is run on trails?

This one took me by surprise, considering this is a trail running focused blog, but the more I thought about it the more it makes sense. The trail and ultra running communities are growing by the day, but that doesn’t mean that each new trail runner has access to or is interested in running all their miles on the dirt. Whether it’s 10% or 80%, I’m just glad you’re taking advantage of the trail.

On average, how many miles to you run per week?

This one is important to note because it influences many of the nutrition and hydration preferences below. Over 50% of runners surveyed run less than 25 miles each week, which means they have different fueling and gear needs than runners logging more then 25 miles per week.

What is your primary running focus?

The graph didn’t really work with this one, so let me paint a simple picture:

  • Roughly 50% of those polled are primarily focused on half or full marathon training.
  • Next came 50Ks with over 30%.
  • Followed by running just for fun with 27%.
  • Most everyone else focusing on 50 miles or more.

That seems about as I would have expected, and is probably a descent representation of people who are generally interested in trail running.

Shoes and Gear

Now for the good stuff. What are people actually using?

I wanted to ask these questions because I’m just one guy. I have my opinions and preferences and I’m happy to share them, but my views are mine alone.

Here we have over 500 runners chiming in with their own opinions, and collectively we can take that information and either apply it to what we’re doing now, or keep it in mind when trying on our next pair of shoes or loading up on fuel.

How many pairs of running shoes do you rotate through at any given time?

Good. Always rotate through at least two pairs of running shoes. I have four that I’m using at any given time.

What’s your go-to trail shoe company?

Altra is the big winner here, with Brooks in second and Salomon in third.

If you’re curious about all the other small answers, many of them came from the “other” option. You’ll see that throughout the graphs below.

What’s your go-to road shoe company?

Interestingly, Brooks and Altra swap here, with Hoka One One and Saucony still going strong. Other big winners are Asics, New Balance, and Nike.

Salomon drops off almost entirely, not a surprise considering they don’t offer much in the way of road specific shoes.

 

What type of GPS watch do you wear?

Whoa! People love their Garmins.

Nutrition and Hydration

Hydration: How do you carry your water? (Most often)

When I started training for my first marathon 8 years ago, hydration belts were the thing. Belt technology has improved a lot since then, but packs are clearly the preference. Just look around at a trail race these days and nearly everyone has something on their backs or in their hands, and not around their waist.

What’s your go-to brand for hydration needs?

Nathan takes the lead here, with Ultimate Direction, CamelBak, and Salomon coming up next. All of these companies are known more for their packs than handhelds or belts.

Nathan has a sweet new line of packs, which you can check out here.

What’s your energy drink of choice?

Out of those surveyed who do regularly drink energy drink, Tailwind dominated the space. Not surprising, considering Tailwind seems to be the only powder people are talking about in the trail and ultra community these days.

Side note: Tailwind has excellent customer service.

How do you like to fuel your runs?

I was caught off-guard with how many people responded they only fuel with real food. I know there are many people who take that approach during long runs and races, but I think this is more of a reflection of the weekly mileage and goals of those surveyed. My guess is that of those who run more than 25 miles per week, a larger chunk is moving into the energy gel camp.

What’s your favorite energy fuel company?

CLIF and Gu, two companies that have been in the energy fuel space the longest (PowerBar/Gel probably taking the win), still represent a massive portion of the market. Honey Stinger and Huma also have a good showing here.

Interestingly, Tailwind ties with Gu in second. I see more and more runners switch away from energy gels and towards high-calories sports drink like Tailwind for mid-run fuel. For some, the drink is easier to stomach and digest than an energy gel — something to test for yourself if you haven’t already.

Fast or Slow, Beginner or Expert — We Welcome All Runners

My main goal for Rock Creek Runner is to make it — and trail and ultra running — accessible to anyone, regardless of skill, running history, age, or location.

I love seeing both the variety and trends in these responses. It’s a good reminder that we’re all in this together, and that we can learn from the experience and preferences from those across the internet.

Keep running. Keep chasing those goals and embracing adventure. The rest of the Pack is here to cheer you along.

See you on the trails.

 

Here at Rock Creek Runner, 2017 has been all about building community — and the Rock Creek Runner Pack has grown bigger and stronger by the day.

We’re supporting each other in programs like Next Level Runner, sharing our stories on the podcast, and meeting up at races across the States (world, some day soon?).

And today, I want to get to know you — yes you — a little better. I talk a lot about myself and my preferences on the site, but I’m only only voice.

The Pack is many.

So I put together a short survey (seriously, it will only take about a minute to complete) asking questions about your gear and nutrition preferences, and the type of running you like most.

Why? Because I believe there’s a lot we can learn from each other. That, and I think it’s going to be awesome to crowdsource preferences and see what real runners are actually using.

Will you tell us a little about yourself (it’s anonymous, if you don’t want to share your info)? I’ll share the results next week.

 

Have you ever found yourself in a deep running funk?

Not the kind where you skip a speed workout for an easy run, but the kind where day after day, week after week, you can’t get yourself out the door.

These unmotivated, discouraging, pitiful funks can happen to anyone, and I’ve spent that past few months fighting back the downward spiral.

In today’s episode of Real Talk with Doug Hay, aka Trail Talk, I share why I’ve only run a handful of miles the past several weeks, and what I plan to do about it moving forward.

It may be just what you need to hear to break out of your current (or future) running funk.

Listen to the episode here:

Click here to download the file.

Or subscribe and download on:

PodcastiTunesButton copystitcher

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 Next Level Runner program, a monthly membership site devoted to taking your training to the next level. Learn more: rockcreekrunner.com/next-level.

 

 

It’s getting hot out there. (And no, I’m not going to ask you to take off all your clothes.)

Summertime mountain trail runs mean breaking through unavoidable spider webs, poison ivy, and overwhelming heat.
They also mean beautiful sunrises, lush green leaves, and epic cool-off sessions in the creek.

A post shared by Doug H (@rockcreekrunner) on

Summer is one of my favorite times to run. The long days bring long miles and warm temps. Today, we’re going to focus on those temps.

Or more specifically, one of the best ways to carry water to combat the heat (and dehydration).

The big three water carrying options we runners have are (1) hydration packs, (2) hydration belts, or (3) handheld bottles. Each has their own set of advantages and disadvantages.

Packs, for example are great for carrying not just water, but extra gear, nutrition, maps, and anything else you might need or want on a big run. Plus they keep your hands free.

But a pack is often overkill for your average run or race, when all you really need is a little water.

Enter the handheld — my preferred hydration tool for most runs.

When to Use a Handheld

The handheld bottle is a water bottle with a connecting strap to secure it to your hand. They’re small, simple, and keep water at the ready.

Handhelds are most practical when you want to carry fluids, but don’t need the carrying capacity of a hydration belt or pack — think shorter runs, routes that pass by a water source, and races with regular aid stations.

Plus there’s the added bonus of feeling less weighed down than the alternatives.

The Big Complaint

But … you have to carry it. In your hands.

And who likes running with something in their hands?

If it’s new to you, carrying a bottle can sound miserable, and honestly, there’s little I can say that will convince you otherwise. Except that it gets easier. During your first few runs with a handheld it may tire out your arm, but with a little time that will subside and you’ll hardly notice it’s there.

What to Consider When Selecting Your Bottle

Handhelds come in all shapes and sizes, and it’s up to you to decide which will best fit your needs. Consider these:

1. Size of Bottle

The first, and most obvious place to start when selecting a handheld is to determine how much water you wish to carry. Handheld bottles range in size from a small 10 oz. — like the Nathan QuickShot — to the large 21 oz. CamelBak Grip Chill.

If your needs are limited to an hour long jaunt around the neighborhood, the smaller bottle might work. For most race or long run situations, I turn to at least 18 ounces.

2. Comfort

How does the bottle feel in your hand?

Different companies have tried different bottle shapes. Amphipod, for example, relies on a more rectangular shape; UltrAspire, a traditionally shaped bottle with a unique top; Salomon, the soft flask (more on that later).

On top of bottle shape, companies use different strapping methods, and one may work better for your  hand than another.

3. Storage

Most, but not all, handhelds are designed with a pocket or two on the strap. They’re usually rather small — big enough for a gel or two — but some have larger carrying capacities designed for multiple gels or even your phone.

More storage means more weight, so I recommend sticking to a bottle with just enough storage for what you need.

4. Ease of Use

How easy is it to open and refill? Are you able to switch hands while running? If you need to pop a squat mid-race, can you easily become hands free?

These are all important (some more than others …) factors to consider when selecting your bottle.

5. Soft vs. Hard (aka Slosh vs. Squish)

Companies are trending away from traditional harder bottles to what they call a soft flask, or a soft bottle that shrinks in size as you drink. We’ve seen it in packs, and now we’re seeing it in handhelds. Personally, I’m a huge fan of the soft flask for most situations:

  • They prevent water from sloshing.
  • They get smaller, so you can easily pack them away when empty.
  • They’re lighter.

But, they definitely have their disadvantages:

  • Without the structure, they often have trouble staying in a carrier.
  • When held, it feels like this squishy Jello blob in your hand.
  • They’re harder to clean.

I’m all for a soft flask handheld, but it has to meet my other expectations in a bottle.

A Look at Some of the Top Brands and Bottles

The Major Handheld Players

Any number of companies are producing their own handhelds, but in my opinion there are five that stand out as leading the charge:

Each has their own set of strengths, like bottle design (Amphipod), minimalist straps (Ultimate Direction), soft flask holders (Salomon), variety (Nathan), and comfort (UltrAspire). Personally I’m not brand loyal when it comes to bottles, so I have a variety of options to fit my needs for each run.

Now, let’s take a look at a few of the newer bottles on the market from these brands.

Note: HUGE shout out to my favorite running store, Black Mountain Vertical Runner, for hooking me up with these bottles. If you’re ever in Western North Carolina, this is the place to get your trail running gear.

Amphipod Jett-Lite Thermal

This bottle has been my go-to handheld for a number of years. The bottle shape fits well in my hand, and the pocket is large enough to store four gels and a car key, and I can stuff it in the front of my SJ Ultra Vest if I’m also wearing a pack.

My favorite feature of the Jett-Lite, however, is the removable sleeve. Having that layer of isolation is clutch throughout the winter, as there’s nothing worse than a cold bottle strapped to cold hands. During the summer I just pull it off.

More pros: A large mouth for quick and easy filling at aid stations, and the shape works well for tucking in a waist strap when you want to go hands free up a hill.

My only real complaint is that the strap that attaches to the bottom of the bottle doesn’t always stay secure. I fix that by taping it down.

Loaded with 4 gels.

The specs:

  • Liquid Capacity — 20 oz.
  • Comfort — Bottle shape makes for easy grip, but the strap gets a bit hot during the summer.
  • Storage — 4+ gels … about as much as you’d ever want to carry in a handheld.
  • Easy of Use — Large mouth and simple auto seal nipple eliminate any fuss.
  • Soft vs. Hard — Hard
  • Price — $25.95

Where to Buy:

Nathan ExoShot

The ExoShot by Nathan is one of the leading examples of a company trying out the soft flask handheld with some — but not total — success.

The soft bottle fits snugly in your hand, and virtually eliminates the sloshing you get from a hard bottle. And between the bottle itself and the unique way the strap runs between your thumb and pointer finger, it almost feels like an extension of your hand — which is great.

Storage is just enough for a few gels, and because it’s soft, you can easily stash it in your short’s waist strap or a pack.

But … there are a few major faults with the design. The snug compression which keeps the bottle in place prevents you from actually filling it to capacity without removing the bottle first. Not a big deal if you’re at your kitchen sink, but it’s not practical in a race setting. The lid is also difficult to secure, especially on the move.

Nathan, these are easy fixes, make it happen.

The specs:

  • Liquid Capacity — 12 oz.
  • Comfort — Very comfortable in the hand. Rides great.
  • Storage — 2-3 gels.
  • Easy of Use — Compression from the sleeve make it very difficult to fill, and the cap is hard to attach properly.
  • Soft vs. Hard — Soft
  • Price — $35.00

Where to Buy:

UltrAspire Iso Versa

I just recently got my hands on the Iso Versa (thanks Vertical Runner!), and I already think it will become my new race bottle. I love the unique top shape, and the way it locks in your hand. Similar to the Nathan bottle above, the strap wraps around your wrist and weaves in between your pointer finger and thumb.

One thing of note, there are no storage pockets. In a race situation, that’s no big deal since I store gels and other nutrition in my shorts, but it could be a problem for a longer run when I need the extra carrying capacity.

This handheld is light, large, and simple to use and fill.

The specs:

  • Liquid Capacity — 20 oz.
  • Comfort — Very comfortable on the hand.
  • Storage — None
  • Easy of Use — Large mouth and standard nipple make for very easy use.
  • Soft vs. Hard — Hard
  • Price — $24.95

Where to Buy:

What’s Your Favorite Bottle?

With the summer heat already weighing down the trail, there’s no better time to pull out a handheld.

Share your favorite bottle in the comments below.

No two ultramarathon experiences are the same. Our bodies, minds, stomachs, chaffing spots, and schedules all handle the stress of training and racing differently.

Which is why — in addition to sharing my own experience — I like to facilitate or participate in round-ups of advice from several different runners. There’s value in laying advice out — side by side — so you can pull form several people at the same time.

A few weeks ago I was asked by NordicTrack to contribute to one such article about making the leap to your first ultramarathon. The article features myself and seven other ultrarunners and bloggers, covering topics from what to expect during training, to mindset, to racing myths.

The advice and experience here is so good, they’ve allowed me to share it here with you.

Here we go …

The Most Difficult Aspects of Your First Ultramarathon

So you want to run an ultra. Are you ready?

Running an ultramarathon demands a lot more than just strength. In this first section, we discuss the mental and nutritional challenges of ultra running.

MENTAL FRAME OF MIND

It’s been said that ultrarunning is 10% physical and 90% mental. That may be off by a percentage or two — my tests aren’t conclusive just yet 😉 — running that far undoubtedly requires a certain metal frame.

“The physical side of training for an ultramarathon can be tough, but the mental side is what gets you across the finish line. Not just on race day, but also throughout training. The day in and day out of building up to your first ultra can leave you questioning why, or if  you can even do this.”

“I find that the most challenging part of an ultra is the mental aspect, which applies to newbies and veterans, alike. It’s important to show up to the start line feeling positive, confident and determined to finish. I’ve found that starting a race with negativity and self doubt is like going out with 40 lb weights strapped to your back.

In fact, my worst races are always the ones that I am the most stressed about. I’ve found myself toeing the start line with negative thoughts or even comparing myself to other runners and find myself feeling weighed down. And when I start out negative, when things get tough (and they always do), it’s harder to pull yourself back out again.”

 

“Rousseau once said ‘patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet.’ If you are considering moving from marathons to ultra marathons, training your mind and developing a strong sense of patience may well be your greatest challenge. To me, the term mental training is really a euphemism for teaching yourself to embrace a mindset. When I switched from marathons to running ultras I had to teach myself how to think differently. To abandon the mental shackles that controlled my perceptions and expectations about running and being a runner.”

OVERCOMING THE MENTAL ROADBLOCKS

There’s not a “one size fits all” technique to mastering your mental state during training or race day. In fact, experimentation and trying different methods is key …

“I recommend runners take it one day at a time, focusing only on that day’s scheduled run. Check that one off the list and move to the next. The same theory applies on race day. Instead of looking at all the miles ahead, focus on just getting through the next mile, or the next ten minutes. Then the ten minutes after that”

 

“How do you prepare mentally for an ultra marathon? First step – don’t obsess over pace, especially those coming from a marathon background. You need to throw away the GPS because, as Rousseau said, patience is bitter.  Your ego will be threatened to learn that your mile pace, especially during 100 mile distances, will often not be much faster than a brisk walk.

Second step, understand that your pace and energy levels will vary wildly depending on the terrain, altitude, vertical gain, descent, heat, daylight, distance covered, and nutrition/hydration. You have to be prepared to roll with this, and don’t try to control it. The mindset that you control your pace and use a GPS to monitor it is like thinking you can fly a rocket to the moon with a compass. Think of it this way – when you’re running 100 miles, especially in the mountains, you are entering the stratosphere. What worked at ground level won’t help you up there.

Rather than monitoring your pace, focus inward, on maintaining a steady energy output. This is critical in training because to do this well you need to teach your mind patience and your body how to move efficiently for long periods. Finally, when running ultra’s there will inevitably be highs and lows. Understanding and believing that both will pass is part of the mental training you have to practice. If you can embrace these concepts, you will indeed taste the fruit, and it will be sweeter than ever.”

Your frame of mind during an ultra can make or break your performance. Remaining positive and confident throughout the race is important. Also, taking the race a mile at a time, and not getting caught up in pacing, will help lessen your suffering and ultimately get you across the finish line.

DIET AND NUTRITION

If there’s one area where more well trained ultrarunners blog it, it’s with nutrition. How you fuel your race could be the difference between crossing the finish line and ending the day early.

The problem is, nailing nutrition is no cake walk.

“As I often discuss with coaching clients, physical fitness, diet, and mindset are the pillars of ultramarathon preparation.  I grew up around ultrarunning and came from a strong background of adventure racing, mountain biking, and collegiate running; the mindset and physical training came a little bit more naturally for me (which isn’t to say they weren’t hard then or aren’t still tough now). However, diet has been my challenge and evolution over the years. I went from a college kid who shoved down dorm food to a 20-something who ate whatever was cheapest to, now, a mid-30’s athlete, coach, and family guy who’s highly focused on nutrition.”

“The hardest part was to figure out the proper nutrition. Even so, you can practice food and fluids intake during training but it is very different in a race situation. There is for sure a time needed for working out the details – learning what works for you and what doesn’t. This becomes even more crucial if you work up to real long distances like the 100 miles or longer.”

 

“Nutrition is by far the hardest. I have a sensitive stomach and finding food that I can eat during a run is extremely hard.I tried things like peanut and nut butters, which just get stuck in your throat and you can’t swallow. I can’t eat anything greasy the day before a long run like pizza. I have found food items such as a plain bagel and black coffee an hour or so before work best for breakfast but that won’t hold you over very long. Fig Bars work well for me to digest slowly without being harsh on my stomach. Pickle juice – it’s amazing to prevent cramps. I learned the hard way to use it in very small doses

My favorite gels are Huma Chia Energy Gels. I can take these for hours and hours during a run and they won’t mess with my stomach at all. However, I wouldn’t suggest this, even though they are really tasty (kind of like your favorite jam) it does still get old after a while and your body needs protein as well on those extra long runs.

Some people however, can eat pizza, drink coke and be totally fine during a run! That is so amazing to me!”

 

“Second to the mental aspect, nutrition has always been the most challenging aspect of my training and racing. While I believe that nutrition matters for most races, in an ultra, I feel as though it’s almost more important than the training itself.”

 

NUTRITIONAL ADVICE

Diet and nutrition is another aspect of ultrarunning that requires experimenting through trial and error to find what works best for your body. There are some basic guidelines, though, that can assist you with figuring out the right balance to nourishing your body during an ultramarathon.

“I follow an “optimized fat metabolism” nutrition style that teaches the body to burn fat as a primary fuel source at relatively high effort levels. This diet has become a key factor in my ultra preparation and general health – and an exercise metabolism test showed that it’s working. I took over 50% of my fuel from fat when maxed out on a treadmill, never reaching the so-called “crossover point”.”

 

“I learned the hard way, and on more than one occasion, that eating early and often isn’t just a fun thing to say. In an ultra, you truly need to eat early and eat often to make sure you’re fueling the body properly from start to finish. You’re running a deficit all day and it can be easy to forget just how much energy you actually need to get your body to perform the way you’re asking it to.”

“It is all about trial and error and finding what works best for your body, every ultra runner is going to tell you something different when it comes to what they eat during runs but they will all say the same thing in the end about testing food out on your long runs. Good luck! Get creative!”

There is incredible science and biology happening within your body during an ultramarathon. In order to be able to accomplish such a feat, especially if you’re in a 100 miles race, the body requires specific attention to nutrition that is unique to you. Just as these experts have said, keep these takeaways in mind: it’s important to learn now what your body needs, eat early and often on race day, and remember that it will take time to discover the right nutrition plan for you.

TRAINING

Then of course, there’s training …

“The most difficult and challenging area of preparing for my first and early stages of ultra running was the physical training aspect.

TRAINING: It’s a daunting task when you are inspired and motivated to tackle an ultra for the first time but have ZERO clue on how to prepare.  While many assume that you “just need to run lots” this is simply not the case.  Too much running can easily lead to overuse injuries, compromised long term health health and the inability to run with any kind of speed or power.  For example, “just running lots” will not necessarily make you good at hill climbing, fast and efficient on the flats or be able to conserve energy and run effortlessly down hills.  When I was preparing for my first ultra race, it appeared like training smart was one big puzzle.  Knowing how to increase mileage safely, how to incorporate speed training into things and how to become better on hills was at first a mystery.  Pair that with availability to train, life commitments, work and actually having quality workouts was something that I had to address right away upon entering the sport if I was too have any kind of longevity.  And recovery….how much do you need?”

“What I discovered in learning how to train was that there was a lot of one size fits all (ie – cookie cutter) training programs out there which made me question how and why should everyone train the same when all runners are starting at different fitness levels, with different goals and with different strengths and weaknesses.  It seemed like a sure way to get injured super fast. I also realized quickly that there were not actually a whole lot of coaches who understood the sport of ultrarunning as it was so new and therefore, there were not a lot of people coaching it with great expertise.  However, I knew that I wanted a coach to guide me for the following reasons:

  • Master Plan – someone who could see the end goal and work backwards in how to actually get me ready.
  • Someone to tell me when to push and when to recover
  • To have a daily plan to follow so that I knew what to do for training each day of the week. No more guessing.
  • Guidance on how to train smart and make the most out of time allowance

So with those reasons, I did hire a great coach and mentor to guide me in pursuit of my ultra running goals.  While I didn’t lack motivation, I actually needed someone to tell me to rest and relax, the other important side to training!

In fact, my involvement in ultra running over 12 years ago and having a coach is one of the main reasons that I pursued a career in the endurance coaching realm.  I was inspired to guide others through this training journey and to share my experiences.  To this day I remain committed to always staying on top of the latest in endurance research and how to work effectively with a wide scope of my athletes in my coaching practice.”

 

Ultra Running Myths, Debunked

There’s definitely some stigma surrounding the world of ultrarunning, and paired with that are a set of incorrect expectations and beliefs.

But what is really true?

ULTRARUNNERS

Like any community, ultrarunning has it’s stereotypes — the weirdos, superhumans, and bearded sufferers. Then there’s the assumption that you can’t have a job, support a family, or do anything else while training.

“I think one of the most common misconceptions about ultrarunning is that it’s only for the superhuman types. Sure, you have to have mental strength and you have to train but it isn’t an impossible feat. At the end of the day, running for a long distance on trails is a pretty basic activity. You put one foot in front of the other, stay tuned in to your effort, make sure to eat and drink, and most likely you’ll be just fine.”

 

“I would say that the most common misconception is that you have to be a little crazy to be an ultramarathoner. I have met some of the most down to Earth, sane people that I have ever met through ultra running. It really helps to put a lot of life’s problems into perspective. I jokingly say that I stopped going to church because I found running. But that’s not it at all. I feel so at peace when I am out there on the trails, in God’s country. I have let all of life’s troubles wash away; it’s my therapy session. Once those wash away I feel that I am able to appreciate the world and all of its wonders. It brings me such joy to be free in nature. It has nothing to do with distance for me, but with wanting to be out there in the beauty of the world. Signing up for races is more of a way to bond with other runners, to all have similar goals, to cheer each other on through our accomplishments and have fun while doing it. But we all know that the trails are where are our hearts are. It’s not crazy to be out in the places where we feel the most at peace.”

 

“One of the most common misconceptions about ultra-running is that it is an outlandish sport that irrational people do to satisfy some absurd obsession. This couldn’t be further from the truth. I’ve gotten to know a lot of ultra runners over the years. What I’ve learned about them is similar to what I’ve learned about myself. As I’ve said before, we are just normal people. We are the electrician who crawls into your attic when you need wiring in your home. We are the parent who drives their child to water polo practice every day. We are men and women who report to an office everyday. More than anything, though, we are people who want something more in life. Something real, not just material. Something we have to dig deep within ourselves to obtain, and the deeper we dig, the more satisfied we are.”

“A lot of folks still think that Ultra Running is for “slow old people”; even so, that was a little true for the sport years ago but not anymore. There are plenty of young guys in their mid twenties moving up from road racing to Ultras and Trail Ultras. We are talking guys that can run 62-64 minute Half marathons and 2:14-2:18 Marathons. Also, a lot of people think all you need to do is run long and slow, not true. I train a lot like a marathon runner, just with long runs being longer and closer to race day, my training is more specific to the upcoming course (flat versus mountain, i.e.).”

To recap, ultra running is not just for the “crazy”, “old”, or “superhumans”. In fact, it’s a way for all runners- of various ages, personalities, fitness levels, and stages of life- to enjoy the world around them and find the peace and satisfaction needed from living stressful, busy lives.

TRAINING

Everyone has their own image of what training for an ultramarathon looks like, but the realities don’t usually match up to the expectations. Things such as the time required to devote and the mileage needed to run each week can be much different than what people assume.

“When road marathoners start considering a trail ultramarathon, they often think that ultra training looks a lot different than what they did for the marathon, and that it will take up a lot more time. In reality, they’re very similar.

Sure, you’ll want to increase time spent on the trail, and replace some of the speed work with extra mileage, but I’m a firm believer that if you can run a marathon, you have the strength and skills to run a 50K ultramarathon.

And you can do it while having a job, taking care of kids, and juggling everything else life throws your way.”

 

“New ultra runners and people considering the sport often assume that adequate preparation requires an incredible volume of running in time and mileage.  “I can’t do it because I’m too busy,” they tell themselves.  That’s not true. You CAN do it, and you might be surprised that you don’t need to go for 40-mile long runs in order to be an ultrarunner.

I train for 100-milers with 65-75 miles per week of running, and I always take one day fully off.  Granted, these are hard miles at altitude with plenty of quality, but I’m not spending my entire life running and I still have time for work and family.  Many of my clients have experienced success in long ultras on less training than that.  Key to your preparation is intentional, structured training, and you might consider reading books and articles and/or working with a coach.  Also, keep in mind that what’s right in training for your running buddy might not be right for you, so don’t shy away from doing your own thing when needed.”

 

“I hear one thing over and over from non ultra runners (many of whom are established or elite marathoners). “You must have to run a lot of MILES to be able to run a race that far!”

As a coach, I make it clear to my clients that it doesn’t take 100+ mile weeks, long runs of 30, 40, 50+ miles, or regular “back to back” weekend long runs to be ready to run an ultra. That goes for 100+ mile races too! Many of my clients have been fit and ready to complete (and complete it well) their first ultra from 50k up to 100 miles on just 30-35 miles / week with long runs that rarely crack 18-20 miles. Much less than most road marathoners. That’s not to say that ultra runners are lazy! If you factor in the time on feet and vertical gain into the training notes then it’s easy to see why “less MILES” is actually OK. As in any sport, specifically those with high impact like running, rest if especially important to benefit from the training. Don’t get caught up in the number of MILES you run, rather think about the type of miles you’ll be running during your goal race(s). Tailor your training to mimic that. Chances are your total MILES will decrease but your fun while training and time on your feet will likely increase!”

RACE DAY

No matter how perfectly you train, shit’s gonna happen. That’s just a fact.

There will inevitably be surprises, hiccups, and unforeseen experiences along the way. However, first time ultra runners, and even spectators of the sport, tend to make assumptions about various aspects of the race. In fact, a commonly believed myth involves how runners run the race.

“Everyone thinks that runners “run” the entire way and this couldn’t be more far from the truth.  In fact, Id say that 99% of the field walks in almost every ultra out there at some point. Yes, even the elites walk!

So, that said, if people train the walk/run and become very efficient at power walking (or as I call it, power walking with purpose) chances are good that they have the capability to complete an ultra!  All of my athletes who are training for an ultra spend a great deal of time learning how to be efficient at power walking.  This includes training the hip flexors in that range, how to intake calories while walking fast and how to really move uphills with power and speed, all while walking.  The longer the race, the more power walking that happens.  In fact, in many cases it is much easier and faster to walk then it is to run. I challenge many of my athletes to test this theory. I ask them to power walk up a hill beside someone who is running and to notice if they are maintaining the same pace while determining who is expending more energy.  In addition, it is important for ultrarunners to become good at transitioning back and forth between run/walking and to not get lulled into just walking when they could in fact be running.

So, when someone says that they ran 100 miles, chances are pretty good that they actually mean that they walk/ran 100 miles!”

What To Know Before Running Your First Ultra

Regardless of the amount of articles you read, or the amount of runner friends you interview, you may still have questions and experience surprises on race day. Here’s what you can expect:

“My first ultra was awesome, until it wasn’t… the first 50k was smooth, effortless, and exhilarating running 30+ minutes ahead of 2nd place. The kicker? I was running a 50 miler! I had gone out wayyy too fast, been carrying wayyy too much water, and I should have researched the course a LOT more.

I went off course around mile 37 and did an extra 5 miles. Not only did it frustrate me that I lost the huge lead, it also made me wish I knew the course better. Around mile (for me) 42 my hips were killing me. I rarely trained with a pack or even a handheld for that matter but on race day I wanted to “make sure” I had enough fluids. The added weight from my 100 oz H2O bladder threw my gait off and after 4-5 hours of running I was paying for it.

To top it all off, the pace I was going was far from sustainable. It would have been great for 50k but the additional 30k (where the race begins for most in a 50 miler) turned into a struggle. I went from being on-pace for a sub 8 hour 50 mile debut on a mountainous course to walking / limping / dragging my aching body across the finish line (55 miles later) in around 11 hours.

So what did my experience in that first ultra teach my now more experienced self?

“When I ran my first ultra, I literally knew nothing about them. I was in my early 20’s, had completed a handful of marathons and paced a friend running his first 50 miler and thought, that was fun, I should try that. Two months later, I had signed up for my first 50 miler.

I approached the start line with casual ease, wearing a cotton tank top and shorts, carrying a handheld water bottle and wearing a hat that I had worn during training runs. I didn’t have special trail shoes, a watch, or even a drop bag. It was just me, myself and the trails. And honestly, I had a pretty great race. I was even decently fast.

That said, I did experience a pretty epic bonk around mile 42. It was purely a nutrition problem as I hadn’t eaten much at the start and likely wasn’t eating much during the actual event. I wish I had known just how important nutrition is when it comes to racing and wish I had been more prepared when it came to taking in calories and drinking water.”

 

“I wish I had known how hard it can be physically and mentally for a long time. You know if you ran a 10k let’s say you start to hurt with 2 miles left, so you are talking 10-15 minutes of suffering left? Even if you are only running 10 minute pace that is 20 minutes of mental and physical struggle.

In an ultra, you could be at mile 70 in a 100 miler and it is getting dark and you have 30 miles left to go in the dark woods, which equates to many hours of suffering. You can’t prepare for that, you just have to experience it.”

 

“I wish I had known just how important a strong crew team was. I had a last minute crew thrown together, wrong coordinates were handed out, missed crew stations happened, I ran out of water, it was a rough go of it.  I wanted to quit the race. I had started walking, sat down for a long while, and had basically given up until a young lady, also named Katie, found me on the course. She gave me water and food and helped me get to the next aid station. Once we reached the aid station I stopped my watch, sat down, called my mom and told her I quit and to come and get me. As soon as I hung up, everyone at the aid station started cheering me on, saying I could do it, and that I should at least go to the next aid station. I called my mom back, told her to met me at the next aid station. Started my watch back up I ended up running with Katie the last 18 miles. I thought that time spent at the aid station, letting them convince me to continue on took forever, it turns out it was just over 1 minute according to my watch and official time. I never realized before how something as simple as a little encouragement can go such a long way and that having the proper support can be a huge game changer.”

MAKING THE LEAP TO AN ULTRAMARATHON

If you’re wanting to make the leap into the ultra distance world, don’t be overwhelmed. Hopefully, after reading this article and hearing what ultra running professionals have to say about the sport, you feel more prepared to run your very first ultramarathon. Even though each racing experience will be unique- for every runner and for every race- the wisdom from someone who has succeeded can better equip you with what to expect and plan for. Ultra running is just like any other endeavour – you need to take the time to learn, plan, and prepare. But if these bloggers can make the leap and succeed, you can too!

THE ULTRA BLOGGERS

NordicTrack is grateful to the bloggers that participated in this project and shared their knowledge on ultrarunning! Visit their websites to read more about their experience and adventures as ultrarunners!

It has been a little over five months since my daughter was born, leading to a pretty drastic shift in my training.

For the past few years I’ve benefited from a flexible schedule. I had the freedom to run at just about anytime of the day. But with the new kid (and new responsibilities), training took a back seat.

So I made a plan, and in January I wrote a post outlining how I’d train for a 100K ultramarathon with a newborn, where I shared five strategies to get the most out of my more restricted training schedule. Read the post here.

The strategies could help — I thought — not just someone with a newborn, but anyone with a particularly busy or limited schedule (due to kids, work, travel, etc.).

So, did my plan work?

In today’s episode of Trail Talk, I evaluate the past five months of training and share what worked, what didn’t, an unexpected surprise benefit, and my plan for moving forward.

Listen to the episode here:

Click here to download the file.

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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.

 

Some ultramarathons results in epic tails — overflowing with non-stop highs and lows — like the kind you’ll find in bestselling novels.

Others result in a more humble, disjointed collection of short adventures and mishaps, connected only by the trail and runner who lives it.

My 2017 UROC 100K experience was the latter, so instead of a long race report loaded with lessons or life-altering epiphanies, I take a more simplistic approach to this race report: a collection of short stories from the day.

Draw morals as you please.

11.2 Miles is a Long Way

I pride myself as being comfortable running in the mountains. I love technical descents and can seamlessly transition between a run and a power hike (I’m currently working on more run, less hike). But when doing research on the course — which as you know, I do plenty of — I didn’t anticipate how difficult this course would be.

Actually, I don’t think the organizers did either, considering the website easily low-balled the total elevation gain by a good 4,000 feet.

The first 6.8 miles to Aid Station 1 consist of paved or gravel road, and the miles go by equally smooth for us runners. After grabbing a quick bottle refill, we make a sharp turn onto an 11.2 mile stretch of insanely beautiful singletrack and drop over 1,800 feet to the next aid station. From there it’s a quick turn around and back up those same 11.2 miles from which we came.

As I make that turn, swapping race stories with another runner, only having one aid station for the next 22 miles doesn’t phase me.

“It’s early on in the race,” I think to myself.

“You’re tough. You like mountains. 11.2 miles is easy peasy,” I proudly proclaim in my head.

Well hot damn is 11.2 miles is a long way, especially on this tough trail.

I emerge back at Aid Station 1 (now Aid Station 3) a full five and a half hours later with bottles (and spirits) drained. And that’s when it hits me:

Reading a map is much easier than running a race.

Ring, Ring! Anyone There?

Somewhere around mile nine, I split from a runner (hey Terry!) I’ve spent the last hour chatting with, and start off on my own.

I like running alone. For the most part that’s how I train, and I often long for that inside-my-own-head focus I only find during a long run.

Six and a half hours later, though, I’m still running alone, and my daughter’s favorite song gets stuck playing through my head on repeat.

Ring, ring, ring, ring, ring … banana phone.

Ring, ring, ring, ring, ring … banana phoooooooooone.

It’s hard to say if she actually likes the song — at five months she reacts basically the same to all music — but for some reason we keep playing it. And in this moment, as the few lines I can remember of Bananaphone replay in my head for the 67th time, all I can think about is her.

I wonder how she did on the car ride to the race that morning, and how her mother slept after I said goodbye around 4:00 AM. I wonder if she has extra diaper cream I can use on my thighs (I was starting to chafe), and if she’s enjoying the cool mountain morning.

And that’s when it hits me:

Running alone for hours on end is magical … only when you have someone to return home to after.

Every Crew Needs a Mathematician

When it comes to crews and pacers, I’m one lucky dude. Race after race I’ve been fortune enough to rely on a passionate, supportive, and determined bunch to get me across the finish line — often the largest and most vocal at the race.

But I never realized I was missing my brother-in-law, Mike, until UROC.

Mike is a high school math teacher, runner, and all around smart guy. He likes numbers, and isn’t afraid to share it.

Earlier in the day, when it became clear I had no shot at my original goal of 13 hours, I told him I’d be disappointed if I didn’t come in under 15 hours. Fifteen hours means I’ll receive a special black belt buckle that somehow feels way cooler than the over 15 hour buckle.

Unbeknownst to me, he takes that comment to heart.

I pick Mike up at mile 53 to pace me to the finish with just two hours and forty three minutes to cover 10.2 miles and a 1,800 foot climb. Might not sound like much on fresh legs, but it feels like a massive feat in the moment.

He has it calculated out to the minute.

“We can do this. I’ve worked it all out. Do you want to know what you need to do, or should I just keep that to myself?” he asks.

“Break it into sections,” I respond.

“Great, so we need to make it to the climb in … ”

Mike knows mile for mile where we need to be, and it’s just the get-up and go I need to keep moving with intention. We wade across creeks, blast up one steep mountain, and pick off multiple runners along the way. I grunt. I moan. I gnaw on expired citrus CLIF Blocks.

He monitors the clock, silently processing numbers in his head.

And that’s when it hits me:

Math is hard at mile 54. Always have a mathematician on hand.

That Section with like 20 Creek Crossings

Sometime around the 38th mile, as I slowly climb my way up to Bald Mountain for the first time, I’m stopped by a 50K runner about to finish her race. She’s a reader and sounds excited to say hi. I’ve never stopped mid-run before to chat with a stranger, but what the hell, at this point I’m happy to have any distraction (or person other than myself to talk to), and love to hear from readers. We introduce ourselves.

“This course is legit!” As the words come from my mouth, something feels off, but it seems like an appropriate thing to say.

“Yeah, especially those creek crossings!” She responds.

“Creek crossings?”

“That section with like 20 creek crossings!”

I have no idea what she was talking about, and in what I can only imagine is a simultaneous epiphany, we both realize we’ve been running for nearly eight hours but on two totally different courses.

Duh.

The 100K joins with the 50K course around the halfway point, meaning I’m just starting the route she’s a few miles from finishing. Without acknowledging my stupidity, I congratulate her and continue on in the opposite direction.

Not three minutes later, it dawns on me I should have asked the important and totally relevant question of which section had all those creek crossings. But alas, it’s too late, and for the next several hours I keep anticipating that maybe this would be the section.

It wasn’t that one, so it must be this section, right?

Or this one?

Hmm …

Maybe she was exaggerating, delirious, or got lost and there is no section with countless creek crossings?

Turns out the section comes right after I pick up Mike at mile 54, and no shit, there are like twenty, ragging, knee deep creek crossings, with muddy scrambles up the bank and unsure footing.

It’s rugged, wild, and generally badass (and side note, an x-factor in Mike’s careful calculations. Luckily, he padded the numbers anticipating any unforeseen x-factors. Mathematicians win again!).

And that’s when it hits me:

When someone who knows the course offers advice, ask questions.

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That Time I Stole My Wife’s First Mother’s Day

The day after race day is Mother’s Day — a special day to honor the love and sacrifice selfishly given each day by mothers around the world. Or more specifically, a day to celebrate our mothers and the mothers of our children.

The day after race day is my wife’s first Mother’s Day … and she spends it in the car next to a man with swollen feet and a baby who wants to be anywhere but in that car. Unintentionally, I stole my wife’s first Mother’s Day and made the whole weekend about me.

But she never once complains, or even mentions it.

As I lay sprawled out in the back next to the car seat while she drives us home, I realize I did her wrong.

And that’s when it hits me:

Running is one of the most important parts of my life, but it comes nowhere close to the importance of my family.

Can you imagine visiting all 59 US national parks in the span of just over a year?

Now how about running a full marathon in each one of them?

When I first heard about Bill Sycalik’s Running the Parks project, where he will run 59 marathons in 59 national parks, I knew he was the kind of guy I’d want to talk to.

Bill set off last June to run in each national park in the United States. Eleven months later and he’s already checked off 41 marathons.

In today’s episode of Trail Talk, Bill shares the motivation behind his project, how to logistically plan such a massive trip, and what all that running has taught him about gear, locating trails, safety, and rapid recovery.

Follow Bill here:

Listen to the episode here:

Click here to download the file.

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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.