My name is Nick, I am a Wisconsin dad who loves all things fitness, diving, and food! Persistent Resilience is a log of the fun and craziness that is my life. I am passionate about running, I love to see how far I can push myself, and my favorite runs are off-road. Currently I am trying to add to my ultra-marathon experience. If you have any questions about how/why I run or eat the way that I do please do not hesitate to contact me by leaving a comment, via facebook, or by email at Thanks for Visiting

14 July 2015

BIGHORN TRAIL 100 MILE – A lesson in problem solving

“It’s better than descending the canyon, it’s better than descending the canyon!”  This was the phrase that, much to the annoyance of anyone within earshot, I was incessantly repeating, OUT LOUD!  I was blurting this outwith as much anger and passion as I could muster while trying to keep myself from blacking out around mile 99 of the Bighorn 100.  I slowly covering the last mile, 1 very long, hot, exposed mile of a long journey.  I was suffering from heat exhaustion, (verging on heat stroke-I had stopped sweating), sleep deprivation, full body destruction, and severe calorie deficiency.  I refused to allow myself to pass out, thereby needing medical attention and getting DQ’d at mile 99 of my 100 mile race.  The descent of the “canyon” I was using as motivation to keep moving forward had just happened. Mile 88-95 of the Bighorn 100 involves descending a 7 mile, exposed canyon trail which starts at ~7500ft and ends at ~4200ft.  Most of the rocky descent is in excess of 15-20% grade, making it a difficult journey on fresh legs much less legs with 90+ miles on them.  But this was the end of the journey; let’s go back to the beginning.

First I’d like to take an opportunity to thank a few people who made this journey possible.  First, my family who supports me and my fun little hobby, you may not understand or even like it but, you are always my number one fans!  To my sponsor Performance Running Outfitters, you truly provide me with the ability to pursue these ridiculous adventures.  If anyone should ever happen to be in the Southeastern Wisconsin area and need anything related to running or outdoor activity this locally owned business are your experts.  For my running club Lapham Peak Trail Runners and all of the individuals who mentored me, the advice was priceless.  Finally, to Team Red White & Blue, an organization driven to help those who have sacrificed more than could be imagined live happy lives.  Coming from a military family, and being a US Navy veteran myself, I am constantly in awe of sacrifices some made while serving, and if you wish to support them this is a great group, just click on the link.

I arrived in Sheridan, WY after a 15 hour drive.  After check-in I went for a little hike up into the canyon that would be the race start and (after a drive) around the courses high point, at 9800ft.  It was during this hike that I realized I was truly ready to run my first 100 mile trail race.  My training had gone well; I was fit and not injured (thanks to my coach IanTorrence).  I practiced, what I thought was a solid nutrition/hydration strategy.  I had erred on the side of keeping it simple with my gear; I figured a more minimalist approach would leave less chance for malfunction. Most importantly I had committed to a reasonable set of goals that would allow me to focus on my own race.

Goal setting was interesting for a race challenge of this magnitude.  This was my first 100 mile race so everything was uncharted territory.  I must have answered the “goal” question a hundred times in the weeks leading up to the race.  After speaking with my coach and running mentors, I chose a tiered goal that would allow me to mentally accept and adapt to any unique challenges that the course would provide.  Bighorn being one of the more challenging 100 milers (as if 100 miles is ever easy, sheesh!) would provide me with ample opportunity to practice this art.  My goals were as follows:

1.       Finish the race, un-hurt, and still having fun!
2.       Break 30 hours.  (Bighorn has a 34 hour cutoff)
3.       Break 24 hours. (Usually less than 15 people do this at bighorn)
4.       If all of the above have been met push as hard as possible for top 10.

Why there was tiered goals (Photo: Joey Luther)
I was asked a lot if I really thought I could run sub 24 or break into the top 10 in my 1st 100.  I usually answered that I wasn’t really sure but my fitness was good and it would all depend on the course.  (Now there’s a committed answer, right!)

Well race day came (JUN 19), and I found myself calmly riding a shuttle to the race start at 10:45 AM.  Yes that’s right the Bighorn 100 mile actually starts, not at some silly zero dark thirty time but rather, at a casual 11am.  Now this late start also has its drawbacks, by 11am it is already starting to heat up!  This year WY and most of the mountainous west has had an abundance of rain and heat.  This meant it was going to be hot and humid.  The course itself was going to have mud, lots of it!  The conversation in the shuttle and at the start was pretty relaxed, and soon it was time to run.

The Bighorn 100 is an out and back course, it has 3 big climbs and descents, an elevation gain over 17,000ft, and a peak elevation of 8,950ft.  Being that it is an out and back you cover 2 of the climbs in the first half, and 1 on the return.  This means you have to be somewhat conservative with your quads in the beginning of the race as you have 2 really steep, technical descents later in the race.  The race begins with a 7 mile climb straight up a very exposed canyon.  Since the heat was out in full force I took this climb pretty easy.  I watched the lead group fly up the canyon at what seemed like 5k pace.  The leader of this group was a 19 year old runner from OR named Andrew Miller, he would eventually go on to smoke the course in 18:29 and set a new record.  As for the rest of the group running with him, a lot of them would end up dropping out.  Coming to the top of the canyon I stopped to admire an absolute breathtaking view, and then began to run the up and down the bumps which would bring me to the first real downhill of the day.

View of Tongue River Canyon from top (Photo: Andy Wellman)
I was running with a group of about 20-30 people, a little back from the leaders, many whom had run this or other similar 100’s at a very comfortable pace.  This early in the race my only priority was to manage the heat, keep eating, and to try not to make any silly mistakes.  I was working hard to stay cool by wearing a bandana filled with ice, keeping ice in my hat and water bottles, wearing a cotton t-shirt which I kept soaking wet, and soaking myself with water from the mountain runoff every chance I could.  It seemed all the 100 mile veterans were doing the same.  Then one by one all of us started to have stomach issues.  I realized something was not right with my stomach when my adductors and quads all cramped climbing up a pretty easy hill around mile 11.  I stopped to stretch everything out, and realized that although my stomach was allowing me to eat it was not absorbing anything I was putting in it. My muscles were not getting any glycogen and they cramped.  The only thing I could do at this point was slow down, keep eating, and manage the pain.  It was really frustrating watching the group I had been effortlessly running with, although now smaller, run away from me.  But that only lasted for a brief second as my mind was busy trying to solve my current problem. (Scratch goal #4)

I managed to run off and on dealing with the cramps for the next 10ish miles before coming to a mountain creek that would allow me to fully submerge myself.  I did, for several minutes.  I am not sure whether I finally cooled my core enough to turn my stomach back on or it just gave up and started to work, but suddenly my cramps were gone and I had a ton of energy.  Luckily for me this energy and abating of cramps happened right before the first huge descent into the mile 30 aid station.  I happily ran down this insanely steep (think 2200ft in less than 3 miles) trail into the Footbridge aid station.  I was greeted by what looked to be a combat field hospital.  There were runners in all states of destruction.  I am pretty sure I moved up 75 spots by just moving in and out of Footbridge Aid in a few minutes.  Upon leaving this station you begin climbing all the way up to the turn.  That’s right, almost a 20 mile continuous climb.  Unfortunately for the runners, the previous weeks had been so hot that all of the snowpack up high had melted creating a swampy muddy mess for a majority of this climb. I was able to run/hike most of this climb, when I wasn’t loosing shoes in ankle to knee deep mud.  It was somewhere in between 35-40 miles that my next problem appeared, BLISTERS. 

Bighorn Canyon, Jaws Aid is far away in the middle (Photo: Andy Wellman)
Let me back up a bit, I have never had a blister, EVER, on my feet.  I ran my first 50 miler without socks and did not get blisters.  So when at mile 35ish I began to feel this weird sensation on the bottom of my feet could only guess that the mud and water was finally taking a toll.  Well I was right because around mile 40ish two huge blisters one on the ball of each foot exploded.  (Scratch Goal #3) This was a whole new level of pain that took my breath away.  Unfortunately for me, I land on the balls of my feet when I run, so I had two options.  I could change my running gait, possibly causing some other injury to appear, or I could grit my teeth, keep running, and accept the pain.  I chose the latter.  I made decent time to the turn-around point (Jaws Aid Station), and even though my feet were trashed, I was in pretty good spirits.  I had been eating well (Gels, broth, and PB&J quesadillas) and had great energy.  I quickly changed shirts, grabbed my headlamp, and ran back into the night.

Being above tree line, at high altitude, in the middle of the night, during a new moon (no moon) makes it appear as if you can reach out and touch the stars.  The night sky was beyond impressive.  Other than being asked what my goals were for the race, I am pretty sure the next question I answered most was how I was going to run all day, night, and some of the next day without sleeping.  Well with such inspiring star filled skies at night and mountain/canyon filled vistas during the day my mind was so overwhelmed with beauty it forgot to even recognize fatigue.  I moved (hiked/jogged) pretty well down the technical, muddy descent back to footbridge aid (mile 66) arriving about the time the sun came up.  It was here that I decided to assess my feet.  I removed my mud soaked shoes and socks and cleaned my feet.  The damage had been done, all I could do was cover them in Vaseline, put on clean shoes and socks, and move out.  (Lucky me they stayed dry and clean all of 30 seconds!) That same insane downhill I ran to get into Footbridge back around mile 30, I would now be climbing out.  There were several times over the next 3 miles where I was scrambling on all 4’s to keep going up.

By the time I reached mile 70 a combination of the food I had been eating plus the sun rising allowed my running legs to find another gear.  I only had two smaller climbs plus the final huge descent left, so at this point if my body wanted to run hard then that’s what I was going to let it do.  I moved really well for the next 12 miles, making the obscene climb up to the final big aid station at mile 82.  Here I made my second big mistake of the race (1st was the feet), I sat in a chair! Persuaded by a great medical volunteer, that she might be able to help with my feet, I SAT.  I should have known they were beyond help at this point, but the promise sounded so good.  While sitting in the chair I realized I was going hypotensive (my blood pressure was dropping), I began to shake, and was quickly losing all the valuable energy that had propelled me that last 12 miles so effortlessly.  I got up and out of that station as quickly as I could but it took me almost all 5 miles back to the top of the canyon to pull myself back together. 

So as they say what goes up must come down!  Well this race started with a 7 mile climb up a steep, exposed, technical canyon and now with 88 miles in my legs and destroyed feet I was going down that same route.  I ran down as hard as I could before I would have to slow myself to keep from blacking out due to the pain in my feet.  It took a supreme effort of concentration through the fatigue to stay upright in this mess.  (Plus some gum from the aid station volunteer so I wouldn’t crack my teeth while gritting them!)  I managed to make it to the bottom of the canyon to the final 5 miles of flat, completely exposed, sun baked road during the hottest part of the day! (Lucky me!)  That brings me back to how this report started, with me trying mightily to not be disqualified at mile 99 of a 100 mile race for passing out and receiving medical attention.  I somehow managed to pull myself together enough to jog that last mile through the finishing arch, (100 miles in 29:45:26) where I immediately fell to the ground.

“I am done!” That was my first thought as I lay on the ground, on my back, with tears streaking down my face.  I am not sure why I was crying (although tearing up may describe it better).  I am pretty sure at that point my body was going to do one of two things vomit or cry, and I guess it chose the latter.  I say my body chose because my mind had finally shut off and I had zero control over my body.  Amazing, thirty seconds earlier I was running and now I couldn’t even move.  Well I eventually got it together enough to enjoy a post-race soak in the creek, dinner, hanging out re-hashing the race with all the other finishers, and a few hours of sleep.

The next morning was the awards ceremony where it seemed I was not the only one with feet that felt like smashed hamburger.  I left WY a little more tired and beat up then when I arrived but elated with the fact that I had finished this adventure.  This race tested me and my problem solving abilities like no other.  I told people at the finish that this was the second hardest mental and physical challenge I had ever completed.  Amazingly finishers of multiple 100 milers all said they agreed that this race was a whole new level.  Over 440 people started the race and barely 190 finished.  That’s almost a 60% DNF rate.  The Bighorn 100 mile course had claimed many victims but I was not one of them.  There are things I will do different in my next race, and things that will stay the same. (I will write about that coming up.)  Overall though this was a spectacular race, the beauty of this course is beyond words, hopefully some of the pictures do it justice.  I can’t thank the race organization and volunteers enough, you are all first class!  As for me I am taking a few weeks off, then focusing on some strength training (Got to look good for the beach, yeah right!), and then shifting my fall focus to some cross country (think 5k-8k) trail races I have always wanted to do.
Enjoy the race photos and gear list below!!
Shoes: Hoka One One Challenger ATR (Performance Running Outfitters: PRO)
Shorts: Pearl Izzumi 3/4 Ultra Tight (PRO)
Jersey: Performance Running (PRO)
Socks: Smartwool: PHd Outdoor mid crew (PRO)
Hat: Team Red White and Blue
Nutrition: GU (regular & Roctane) & S-Caps (PRO)
Bottles: Amphipod 20oz & 12oz (PRO)
Race Photo's
Pre-Race Napping (11am start time)

Single Track up Tongue River Canyon with Needle in background (Photo: Andy Wellman)
Tongue River Canyon Trail (Photo: Bighorn100)
Trail Outbound (Photo: Bighorn100)
Final 1 mile of road (Photo: Bighorn100)

100 Miles Complete!!
Thanks for reading; I hope you enjoyed the write up.
See you outside!!

30 June 2015

7 Minute Decision guide to choosing and preparing for your 1st 100 mile trail ultra

My 7 Minute Decision guide to choosing and preparing for your 1st 100 mile trail ultra - How I chose to run the Bighorn Trail 100 Mile!

Deciding to complete or compete in a race of any distance can be a very taxing process, and much like life the more outlandish the race the more complicated the decision process becomes.  I am writing this as a mini-guide to how I chose my 1st 100 mile trail race (Bighorn Trail 100 Mile) in hopes that it simplifies things for you.  I figure you need about 1 minute per step, there are 7 of them. As always this is my warped thought process so utilize the steps that make sense and disregard the rest.

Step 1: Decide to run 100 miles.
For me this process was easy, I wanted to run 100 miles.  Why you ask, why not!  Word of advice disregard all commentary that ends in (xxxx’nt), such as “I wouldn’t do that, you shouldn’t do that, and you can’t do that.”  The preceding statements are all crap and designed to deter you from achieving something meaningful!

Step 2: Choose a race.
For this I say choose something that scares you, A LOT, so it motivates you to train and finish the race. One example of how a race could scare you would be, “I chose this race in Europe and it cost a ton of money to get here, if I come home with a DNF (Did Not Finish) my significant other will kill me in my sleep” ie… you will finish the race. Or in my case choose a race that is at altitude and has an elevation gain profile so big, I couldn’t specifically prepare for it, that’s scary! (ie.. Bighorn Trail 100 Mile)
This is the elevation profile of the Bighorn 100 from JoeyLuther

Step 3: Start running.
This means you need to be healthy enough to consistently train (run).  No weird aches or pains or anything broken.  I don’t care what Karl says, a hundred miles is that far!  To ensure I not only started running but kept running injury free I decided to get some assistance from a coach, which leads to #4.

My Coach Ian Torrence
Step 4: Get a coach!!!
If this is your first hundred or the first one you want to race, I would highly suggest getting a coach.  My advice in choosing a coach is, “Get one who is not afraid to argue with you!”  What I mean by this is your coach first needs to be able to understand what your goals are and if they are realistic.  Second, they need to be able to argue with you when you are acting crazy.  You know you have found “your coach”, when you can have a heated argument/discussion 1 second, then be laughing with them the next.  Really, it’s no different than a significant other.  Also if your coach scares you a bit that is good as well.  Here is an example of the 14 days prior to my 9 day taper for Bighorn.  I was more frightened for these than the race!


Step 5: Figure out your stomach.
This boils down to practice your race day nutrition/hydration during your long hard runs.  Rule number one, if it makes you soil your shorts or vomit uncontrollably DO NOT utilize this strategy or product during your race.  Rule number two if you feel like a rock star and are killing your training run, determine how to replicate this nutrition/hydration strategy during your race.

Step 6: Choose appropriate gear. (But not too much!)
This step can be as complicated or simple as you choose.  My vote is to keep it as simple as possible.  Look at the weather forecast, aid station distances, race time splits if available, course map, and elevation profile.  All of these will help you determine what you may need for the race.  Much like your nutrition, whatever you plan on using should be practiced beforehand.  A good example is, if it makes you bleed or pass out, probably not the best choice.  If you barely notice it’s there, use it again.
My Basic 100 Mile Gear

Step 7: Determine if you need an entourage. (ie.. Crew & Pacer)
This is a personal choice.  For me I feel a pacer would be a distraction, I would be more worried about them and not focusing on me.  As far as a crew, although I’ve never had one, I feel it would be awesome! (Any future volunteers.)

Step 8: Show up and race smart!

Congrats you’ve made it now have fun!

All in the above steps took me about 5 minutes to work though mentally and looked something like this:
1.       I am going to run 100 miles,
2.       Bighorn Trail 100 Mile scares me and I can drive there for free!
3.       I feel good to start running, even if it is -50 degrees out! (Wisconsin winter)
4.       Ian Torrence, with McMillan Coaching only made me cry a little ;)
5.       Try and Try again, eventually I will have something convenient and stomach friendly!
6.       Keep it simple! (Not quite Anton simple though)
7.       I am driving to the race for free and dirtbagging it, not really sure who would like to do that as well ;)
8.       I am at the start line for the Bighorn 100 and I feel both scared and ready!
Actually getting them done took a bit longer and was all part of the wonderful journey to The Bighorn 100!

Stay tuned for the Race Report!! 

06 May 2015


2015 Ice Age Preview

The 2014 edition of the Ice Age Trail 50 mile was a race that some said would never happen. Combine moderate temperatures, extremely fast like-minded competitors, and a dry course and you get the fastest single day in Ice Age history! The relatively cool air temperatures at the start which rose along with the humidity through the day challenged the hundreds who took part in the Ice Age 50 Mile. One word described the men’s race, speed, and Max King ended up being the fastest resetting the course record (5:41:07) in the process! The women’s race was a little more spread out with Kaci Lickteig taking the win and the course record (6:41:39)!

The 2015 edition of the Ice Age Trail 50 miler has undergone some changes.  First, the sponsor changed from Montrail to Salomon.  Second, the race will no longer be offering automatic Western States 100 entries.  What has not changed is the fact that this is a storied race, on a deceivingly difficult course, with a very fast field.  The Ice Age Trail 50 has always drawn those newer to ultras, those with incredible road speed, and the wily veterans.  This year will be no different.  Following is a short breakdown of those who may contend for the top spots on Saturday!


Joshua Brimhall (AdiUltra/Nathan Sport)
Josh definitely fits into the veteran category.  With more than 60 ultra finishes you will rarely see a finish lower than 5th; in fact most of Josh’s finishes are 1st or 2nd.  Most recently Josh took fourth at the Zane Grey 50 miler, a race most would describe as the hardest 50 miler in the States.  Josh has also won a 50k in 3:34.  The last time he raced Ice Age (2013) he fell a little shy of his goal of a win with a 6:25.  Expect Josh to come ready to race, and looking for some payback from this course.

Zachary Ornelas (Skechers)
There seems to be one thing in common with all “Skechers” sponsored athletes (Meb Keflezighi, Kara Goucher…) they are all ridiculously fast.  Well Zach is no different.  Zach just obliterated the competition at the US 50k Road Championships at the Coumsett 50k with an otherworldly time of 2:52:17!!  That’s right; only 6 North American’s have run a faster 50k.  Zach, a teacher from Michigan, is new to ultras.  He gave ultras a go in 2014, while also running his first Marathon, a 2:20! (Yes he still plans to go for an Olympic Trials Qualifier) Expect Zach to come ready to chase down Max King’s CR and anyone else who gets in front of him!

Zach Bitter (Altra)
Another Zach, one who is not new to Ultras or Ice Age is Zach Bitter.  This will be Zach’s 4th Ice Age 50.  He has a 1st, 3rd, and 6th.  As impressive as Zach’s Ice Age stats are, it is the rest of his resume that sets him apart from most other runners.  The 100 Mile American Record (11:47), the 12 Hour world record (101.66 miles), the 200k American Track Record (16:23:33), and the 6th fastest 50 mile time ever (5:12:36) to name a few.  To top those off he also represented the USA at the 2014 world 100k Championships in Qatar finishing in 6th (6:48). Recently Zach attempted to better his own 100 mile American record and go after world record, only to succumb to some severe quad issues.  In the past when a race has not gone according to plan for Zach he has shown the ability to channel all of the frustration into his next event.  With Zach’s intimate course knowledge expect him to come ready to hammer this course!

Chris Rubesch
Chris has finished 27 ultras, garnering 26 top 10’s, 7 wins, and a few course records.  He has raced Ice Age twice now with an 11th and 10th place finish.  Chris has a 100 mile PR of 16:40, and really knows how to push through the suffering.  Look for him to push hard with the front.

Stuart Kolb
Stuart is a Wisconsin native with 14 Ice Age 50 Mile finishes.  13 of those have been top 10’s!  Stuart has a 50 mile PR of 6:10 and an Ice Age 50 mile PR of 6:32.  With his experience and course knowledge look for him to run right behind the front pack waiting to pick off any who struggle!


Jessica Garcia
Jessica is a Wisconsin native who races to win.  Jessica has finished 9 ultras in her career with 7 of those being top 3 finishes.  She ran Ice Age in 2014 placing 6th in 8:14.  She recently took 3rd at the Chicago Lakefront 50K.  Expect Jessica to bring her speed and toughness to this race.

Annie Weiss
Annie, a registered dietician, burst onto the trail ultra scene in 2011.  Crossing over from a road racing background she quickly won her first two ultras (50k’s) and took second in her first 50 miler.  Then injury struck.  Annie started her comeback in 2014 and is now being coached by Tommy “Rivers” Puzey and comeback she has!  So far in 2015 Annie has taken 5th at the uber competitive Black Canyon 100K, and a 3rd at the Chippewa 50k.  Look for Annie to continue that comeback.  OH as an aside the last time Annie raced an Ice Age Trail event it was the 50k and she won.

Serena Wilcox
Serena ran her first ultra in 2008, so she knows a thing or two about racing.  She also happens to know something about winning while suffering.  She won the 2011 Vermont 100, and last year took 12th at the Western States 100.  She has a 50 mile PR of 7:35 so she also knows how to run really fast.  Serena is slated to run Western States again this year.  She has already run a 50k and 50 mile as tune ups.  Watch for Serena to run her own race, and if she’s in position take it out for the win.

Also for your reading pleasure, here is the link to the "This Week In Running: May 4th 2015" article including the Ice Age Trail preview information.  Please check back in to the site on Monday May 11th for a recap of the action for the race!

07 September 2014

2014 Ultra Race Of Champions (UROC) 100k – Not just a check in the box…….
Here I am, standing as far back as possible from the starting arch at the 2014 UROC 100K.  Even though it is pitch black out I have not turned on my headlamp, there is enough light from those around me.  Even though there are almost 200 people around me, all I hear is silence.  Even though it is 35 degrees (F) out I don’t feel cold.  In fact I don’t seem to feel, hear, or see anything!  It is as if I am in a dream, a dream which began as a nightmare on a hospital bed in February.

2 days post op, I think that's my knee
I had knee surgery in late February to repair several genetic issues in my right knee.  As the anesthesiologist finished and I began to drift off, my last thought was of me quickly descending a mountain, and then my legs seemed to no longer work properly.  I fell, or more precisely crashed, then nothing!  I realized before surgery that I may not be able to qualify for the Western States 100 Lottery this year.  Later after some research I learned that UROC, 6 months away, was a qualifier and it seemed that I might be able to recover from surgery in time to race.  Thus began my time running up and down Copper Mountain in Colorado.

[First let me take a second to do something most race reports do at the end and thank a few people.  The reason I am doing this first, is even though running by itself is an individual sport, without the love and support of others a runner would never succeed.  First I want to thank my family.  To my wife, you are not a runner and may not understand ultras, but your support is awesome.  To my two girls, thank you for inspiring me with your ability to find joy in everything.  For Trae and Jessica at Performance Running Outfitters, though I am the “weirdo” ultra guy on the team, your enthusiasm and support for my racing dreams never ceases to amaze me.  To Peter Defty of VESPA thank you for the sage nutritional advice, I truly value your counsel and support.  To Liza Howard of Team Red White and Blue, thank you from the bottom of my heart for first allowing me to represent Team RWB and second for all that you do to aid my fellow brothers and sisters in the military, they are the true heroes!  Finally to Adam McRoberts, Logan Polfuss, Ashley Erba, & Heather Moore my hosts in CO, your generosity and friendship will never be forgotten! ]

Copper Mountain Colorado a beautiful mountain, a skier’s mountain, as it is very steep and very technical.  Well it is no less steep or technical if you plan to run up and down it six times.  UROC is an exceptionally beautiful course put on by Bad to the Bone racing.  B2B did an amazing job and I would highly recommend this or any other race they direct.  Francesca, Gill, Shannon, Mike, and all the others were nothing but amazing both before and during the event.  The 100k course had us running the same roughly 50k’ish loop twice.  Knowing what’s coming the second time around doesn’t make it any easier ;).  This course had over 11,000ft of vertical gain, according to my watch, and the same amount of descent totaling over 22k of vertical change in 100k (62 miles).  The race starts at an elevation of 9800ft and goes up to the summit at 12,441ft, we then spent the rest of the day going up and down between 10,000 and 12,000ft.  Trust me there was not much oxygen.

Elevation Profile of 100k
As Francesca counted down from 10 to start the race, I suddenly could hear again, I could feel, I could see, and I was scared, really scared.  I had been telling everyone the only reason I was doing UROC was to “check the box” for the Western States 100 lottery (A sub 15 hour finish would allow me to enter the 2015 lottery).  This was a lie, well sort of.  I did want to be able to enter the lottery, but more importantly I wanted to, desperately needed to, feel like a trail runner again.  I had a lot of questions and no answers at the start of this race.  Would I even be able to run, as I had only run for 5 weeks 3 times a week prior to the race?  Would my knee hold up to the long assents and descents, as I had only been running flat trails in my runs?  Would I be able to finish, as my longest single run had been 2.5 hours?  Would I be able to breathe and how would I handle being at altitude all day, since I was coming from sea level?  Most importantly would I be able to let go of racing, expectations, and my fears to be able to enjoy my time in the mountains?

The race started pretty easy, with us running first along a golf course path, then a trail along the base of the mountain.  These early miles seemed to flow by pretty quickly and I noticed that my knee/legs seemed to be holding up.  I was able to focus on the beauty of the course, and the amazing sunrise.  Normally I would be talking to anyone and everyone nearby during these easy first miles, but today I went into my own head pretty early.  I was really nervous and decided I needed to focus.  About mile 7ish I met Matthew Young (See his awesome race video here), a West Virginia runner.  We jogged together sharing where we were from (sea level), and what our current fitness level was (mine = surgery and no running, his=severe head cold).  We both made unspoken promises to each other that, as Matt put it, the brotherhood of flatlanders would prevail in the mountains of Colorado.

Soon enough the “flat” running was done and it was time (1 of 6) to head up.  I hit the aid station and got into a great hiking rhythm.  I rolled through the mile 9 aid in about 100th place.  As the course wound up to the summit of Copper Mountain at 12,441ft I began to feel great and I started to pass people, quite a few actually.  As I was passing people I was talking to them and most of them were from places at altitude, this gave me a huge boost of confidence.  This carried over all the way up the summit.  About 900ft and 1.5 miles from the summit was the “Fat Marmot” aid station, manned by non-other than Geoff Roes.  The final approach to the summit was a lot of icy scree.

Skyline from Copper Mountain Summit 12,441ft
Coming down the scree, for my first sustained decent of the day, I decided I felt good enough to really push it (test the knee).  I came to CO wanting to feel like a runner and sometime during that decent off the scree, I began to feel the run, feel the trail, become one with the mountain, and I started to fly down the hill.  Descending has always been a strength, and I guess not even knee surgery could change that.  Up and down we went, first the summit, then Union Saddle, then up the back side of Copper Mountain, and back to the start.  Time to do it all again!

The miles started to pile up and I entered the mile 38 aid station ready to refuel and push back up to the summit for round 2.  Unfortunately I entered the aid station at the exact wrong time.  They were fresh out of everything, even water.  The truck that had all of their resupply had to take someone off the mountain (Altitude issues) and there would be a delay.  All they had was some energy drink.  I do not, and have never done well with any energy drink.  I decided the stack of saltines and Nutella I grabbed with both hands plus the 12oz of water I had in the bottle stuck in my shorts would have to get me back up to Geoff at the summit.  Well I almost made it; with about a half mile to go I went completely dry.  What ensued was a pretty massive dehydrated bonking mess.  I stumbled into Geoff’s aid station, massively dehydrated, low on calories and energy, and having small back pains (in the kidney area).  I was concerned as I was really dehydrated and had not relieved myself in a long time. 
Geoff Roes, dispensing advice and food
(Photo: Matt Young)
I leaned against, first Geoff, then the table.  Geoff worked on getting me hydrated and fueled (lots of water and broth), while I surveyed this pristine mountain environment.  It was here that I came to realize why I truly run these races, what drives me to find my limits.  Here, standing next to Geoff, I began to ramble on about why I was running this race, TRUELY running this race, and what I wanted to do in the future.  Geoff listened and then uttered one small sentence that would carry me through the rest of the day and night.  What I told Geoff I will detail later, but what he said was simply this; “That was the most coherent thought process I have heard all day at this altitude, there is no way you are not going to finish this race.”  Well when Geoff Roes tells you that you are going to finish a race, you have no other option!
Well Round two of UROC went well.  I hiked a lot and managed to stay strong the rest of the day and night.  My pace never really slowed much, which was encouraging.  Also the altitude, although I had dizzy feelings and a slightly elevated heart rate, never really adversely affected me.  My stomach was strong all day and night.  I was able to run whenever I wanted which was a huge confidence boost.  One major benefits of maintaining a solid pace, hiking, and running downhill strong was that I was not passed all day.  I managed to move from about 100th at mile 8 to 40th by the end of the race.  That’s right I went to Colorado, to altitude, to a 100K race up and down a mountain, from WI, with zero specific training, more questions than answers, and I found myself and my answers.

Here was my answer, what Geoff and I talked about near that summit.  I realized that this race, which I thought was a box checker, was so much more.  For the past three years I have focused on Western States 100 as my ultimate goal for a 100 race.  Not that there is anything wrong with this, Western is awesome, the race and environment are incredible and someday I will run that course whether it’s as a pacer or for myself.  What I realized climbing up to that summit for the second time was that I had wanted “in” to States because everyone else did too, not because I did.  What truly motivates me is to push my limits, in the mountains, in places I haven’t been.  I BELONG in the mountains.  I told Geoff that I wanted to take my family to races like UROC, to immerse them in the remote beauty of these courses.  I listed off some of the races that truly inspired me.  Right there with Geoff offering me a hug, (Yes I’m sure I smelled awesome ;) I decided I didn’t care about the States qualifier; I was going to enjoy the hell out of the rest of UROC. 

Just for fun I made it to mile 57 in 15 hours, that’s right had I wanted to run harder, which my body could have handled, I would have made it.  I didn’t care.  Speaking with Geoff my plan going forward is this.  Number one, I need to rebuild all of my lost aerobic capacity from so much time off.  My aerobic pace last year was comfortably 6:45.  I want to lower that to 6:15-6:30.  I plan on taking a long time to do this.  Then I plan to add in a lot of hills both ups and downs in separate weeks.  At the last minute I will add in speed in the form of fartlek and progressive long runs.  Then I plan on taking this training, picking a 100 mile course that motivates me, and exploding all over it.  I am not going to hold back, I AM going to find my limits, and if I don’t finish, it still will be a success!  It will still be a success because I will be able to look my daughters in the eye and know that I have shown them there are no limits to your dreams and achievements if you want it.  Others may say, in my case, you should focus on a race that fits your strengths or those that you can replicate in your training area.  I say screw that, I am going to train for and race what I want, when I want, if I fail it will be video worthy, and if I succeed hopefully it motivates my girls!  This was where Geoff told me to keep moving.

Here is my race placement, as well as all of the gear and nutrition info, and some awesome photos from CO.  As always this gear came from Performance Running Outfitters.  I can never tell people enough just how much PRO means to the local Milwaukee area running community.  The work they do is incredible and without them the running scene would not be the same.  If you have the opportunity please support your local running store rather than buying online!

MB – PRO Race Singlet
North Face No Hands Arm Warmers
Craft head band
Under Armour ColdGear® Infrared Storm Extreme Run Glove
Pearl Izumi Ultra 3/4 Tights
Dry Max Trail Running Socks
Altra Paradigm shoes
Amphipod 12oz Hand Held x2
Petzel Headlamp
Garmin Fenix2 GPS watch

VESPA – 1 Ultra concentrate 3 hours before race
1 JR 45 min before start
1 JR every 2-2.5 hours
Coke mixed with water during the race
Crackers with Nutella
Snack size snickers


40 Nicholas Wied 16:37:45 M  35 Wauwatosa WI
Out of 140 starters
As always find your own inspiration!

Copper Mountain, CO

Skyline from Union Saddle

Skyline from Union Saddle

Skyline From Copper Summit

Skyline From Copper Summit
Guess they thought I lost weight,
I got this to hold up my pants

10 April 2014

RACE… RECEOVER… RACE… an experiment in ultra-stacking! Step 3 - Recovery

My idea of recovery!
Previously I covered how I approached my training (here) and nutrition (here) for two ultras I planned to race close together; (Mad City 50k & Ice Age 50 mile) there was three weeks between the races.  To be able to consistently train for the first race and fully recover for the second, I was going to need to dial in my daily training, nutrition, and recovery.

This article is going to focus on what I utilized to consistently recover between workouts and, most important, between the two races.  Obviously training and nutrition directly affect recovery hence the reason those articles were written first.  The more consistent your training is the stronger and more durable you become, thereby shortening the recovery needed between hard efforts.  Eating a clean diet daily and strategically fueling during and post activities also speeds recovery.  The following areas are where I focused my recovery energy: rest, active recovery, muscle manipulation, supplements, and listening to your body.

**(As a disclaimer, I am not sponsored by any of the products I discuss in this article, they are just the ones I use, or have found work best for me.)


First I am going to define what I mean by rest.  For me this is defined as one of two activities; sleep and non-training days. 

Sleep, in my opinion, is the most underrated recovery tool available.  There is a reason you see the best runners in the world (East Africans) appearing to be the laziest.  They run their workouts and then spend all non-training time horizontal or eating, PERIOD.  Now I am not a professional athlete, I have a 60+ hour a week job, two kids, house, and other responsibilities.  So the Kenyan method doesn’t quite apply.  What I did do however was to prioritize sleep. I went to bed early, as I had to get up early (3:30-4:30am some days).  That’s it!  I tried to sleep at least 8-10 hours a night.  It didn’t always happen and I didn’t let that stress me out.  But when it did, consistently, I felt much better in training especially on back to back long or hard days. 

Non-training days are days with nothing I would consider training.  Examples would be; bike riding with my family, hanging out with my family, laying on the beach with my family, or generally doing whatever my family wants to do.  There’s a theme right?!  For me I take every Sunday as a non-training day, yes EVERY SUNDAY!  Training hard is not only physically wearing but mentally as well.  For me being able to spend the entire day just focusing on my family is incredible recharging.  Some would argue that by not training 7 days a week I might miss out on some fitness gains.  I believe however that any minimal gains I miss out on are fully made up for by the huge mental recharge I gain.  This allows me to regroup both physically and mentally for the next week of focused training.

Active Recovery

Sticking with the rest theme I will cover active recovery.  For me active recovery means any activity that enhances my ability deliver quality in my hard workouts, without further fatiguing me mentally or physically for those efforts.  My favorite form of active recovery is swimming.  I love swimming.  First, when you swim (if you don’t have a waterproof MP3) it’s silent.  Talk about great mental recovery, 30-50 minutes in the pool is my equivalent of meditation.  Second, the water is cold, not as cold as an ice bath, but the anti-inflammatory benefits are similar.  Third, you are horizontal in the water and that combined with the kicking motion is great for clearing your legs of damage.  Some other active recovery tools I use are the elliptical, bike, and walking/hiking.  Yes I said walking!  Much like sleeping, walking is truly underrated as a recovery tool.

Muscle Manipulation

I chose this title to represent the following methods I utilized to aid my muscles in recovering more efficiently; massage, foam/stick rolling, the dry sauna, active stretching, ice bath, and compression socks.  These are pretty self-explanatory, so I will just briefly describe how, when, and why I utilize each of these.

Massage is pretty easy to explain but hard to acquire.  The most complicated part of massage is; first finding a great massage therapist and second being able to afford that individual.  I happened to luck out on finding not only a great therapist but also got a great 3 session package deal (Same price as 1.5)!  The tricky part of a deep sports massage is that it causes just as much damage as hard work out, so you have to be cautious when you schedule them.  I had my first one in the middle of my hardest training block; the reason for this was I wanted to see how my body reacted to the massage without jeopardizing my race.  The second was timed 7-8 days prior to my first race.  The reason for this is that I run my last hard work out 10 days prior to a race, so therefore my muscles need the work and it gives me enough time to recover from the damage of the massage.  The third massage was timed similar (7-8 days) prior to my second race.  I believe if you can afford to get the work done it will really help with both mental and physical recovery.

Foam/stick rolling is basically a self-inflicted torture session.  For most of us weekly massage sessions are not an option, enter the foam roller.  I use my foam roller every night before bed.  I roll out every muscle from my hips to ankles.  First this helps speed the recovery process.  Second it quickly pinpoints tight or damaged muscles, I value this because it allows me to avoid an overuse injury.  I most often utilize my stick roller prior to hard workouts and races as a warm up tool.  I find this is a good way to loosen up tighter muscles and increase blood flow prior to intense activity.
Trigger Point Grid Roller
Sprinter Stick


The dry sauna may not be the easiest for people as they usually need a gym membership to gain access to one.  I love the dry sauna for several reasons.  First it is relaxing; by easing the tension in muscles you can get a deeper stretch which leads to greater flexibility.  Second it increases blood flow, this speeds the removal of waste products from damaged muscles.  Third, it is a body stressor which helps with both heat, and in my experience altitude, acclimation.  By no means is it similar to living or training at altitude but it does help.  As an athlete who is inspired by mountains but lives at sea-level this is something I plan to research further, and write about later.  I spend 50% of my time in the dry sauna on my back with my legs elevated against the wall.  This is so relaxing I have actually fallen asleep, much to the dismay of the gym staff, who thought I had collapsed!  The other 50% I stretch.  I try to utilize the dry sauna at least 3-4 times a week.

Stretch Out Strap
Active stretching is something I do both prior to and after workouts.  I also stretch every evening after I am done rolling my muscles.  Prior to my workouts I do a series of dynamic stretches involving hip, glute, quad, hamstring, and calf activation.  I believe that this aids in warming my muscles up and allowing them to fire properly.  This makes getting into a workout feel easier and more fluid.  Here are several resources I have pulled from for different dynamic activities. (Dathan Ritzenhein Dynamic Warmup, Coach Jay Johnson lunge Matrix & Coach Jay Johnson 8 week strength progression) 
Post workout I stretch most of my major muscle groups with the aid of a “stretch out strap”.  You can also roll up a medium size towel or t-shirt to facilitate the stretching.  By utilizing the strap I am able to get a more controlled and deeper stretch.  Again I do this type of stretching post workout and in the evening after I have rolled out my muscles.  This stretching routine allows me to maintain greater flexibility and correct imbalances in my body.
Compression socks are a tool I utilize on evenings when I have back to back long or hard efforts coming.  For example; when I have back to back long runs scheduled I will sleep with my legs elevated and wear compression socks.  I believe this aids in recover and helps with a reduction in soreness.  This has a two-fold benefit.  First since my muscles have recovered a little bit I am able to do a more quality second hard/long workout.  Second because I am a little less sore when I begin the second workout I am able to maintain better form which reduces my chance of injury.  I do not utilize these socks during runs because they annoy me, and that just becomes a training hindrance.  I also do not wear them every night.  I am a big believer that your muscles need to actually adapt to the stress you are placing on them.  There are times for me when a little extra soreness is a good thing; it means my workouts are doing their job.

Ice baths are a tool I only utilize post-race.  Ice baths are an amazing recovery tool.  That being said some of the inflammatory reaction that ice baths inhibit or reduce I want to happen.  The reason for this is that some of your great training gains are made when working already fatigued muscles.  Similar to compression socks there are times I want sore muscles, and I want my body and mind to adapt to those situations.  As I said before swimming in the pool will provide a similar benefit as the water is usually cooler.


I am not a huge proponent of taking supplements in place of real nutrition. I prefer to get everything my body needs from clean whole sources of food.  That being said the extremes I to which I push take a heavy toll.  Even though I do not race a ton, focus on rest, and take ample off-time in between races and at the end of the season, I still smash my body and immune system pretty hard.  Here is a list of the supplements I take, as well as the why, and how often/much.

Fish Oil – I take a fish oil supplement that is 1 gram of pure EPA harvested from deep water Pacific fish.  There are two main components to fish oil EPA and DHA.  EPA has been shown to have the greatest anti-inflammatory affect, as well as greater health benefits.  This is the reason my choice is a pure EPA source.  I take 2 capsules (2 grams) on a daily basis during normal base training or activity.  When I start to reach peak training volume or pre and post-race I will up that to 3 grams a day.  I have found that this amount aids in recovery and helps with the inflammation process.  Not only do my muscles feel better quicker but my blood tests show a reduced amount inflammation.  As a side note I also eat fish at least 2-3 times a week.

Capra Flex
CAPRAFLEX – Sticking with the anti-inflamatory theme, I will also take CapraFlex during hard training cycles, pre, and post-race.  CapraFlex is a blend of natural ingredients (Collagen, Goats Milk, Ginger, Bromelain, Amylase, protease, turmeric, and others) which aids in reducing inflammation, protecting and enhancing joints, and speeds muscle recovery.  The standard serving is 9 caplets (3x3 times a day) which is the dosage I will stick to during a heavy training cycle.  Pre and post-race I vary that a bit and load dose the supplement.  I will start at least 7 days out, from a race, taking 12 capsules a day (4x3 times).  The morning of a race I will take 6 capsules, then immediately after the race I will take 6 more, and I follow this with 6 before bed.  I will then do another week of 4x3 times a day.  Again this is only a supplement I take during heavy training, racing, or if I were to sprain or pull something to aid in recovery.
Multi-Vitamin – I know the jury is out on whether this is a needed supplement if you eat a balanced and clean diet, but I would rather error on the side of caution.  There are times I really put my body through hell and this just gives me piece of mind that my bases are covered.  Worse case is that I expel the unneeded vitamins and minerals and end up with expensive urine.

Magnesium – When I began to run longer it wasn’t long before I started to get cramps in very weird parts of my body.  These areas were not at all involved in running such as; my cheek, eyelid, or forearm.  After speaking with several of my friends who are endurance athletes themselves as well as registered dietitians I was told to try supplement with Magnesium.  This is something that most endurance athletes are deficient in and can be a cause of muscle issues.  I tried and low and behold the systemic cramping ceased.  I take 2 Magnesium Chloride pills a day, every day, regardless of training or racing.

Vitamin D3 – I live in Wisconsin (maybe 100 days of sun a year), not Colorado (300+ days of sun a year).  Because the sun disappears for long portions of time my body’s ability to naturally produce Vitamin D is hampered.  Also nutritional sources will not adequately supply my daily needs.  A vitamin D deficiency is a serious health risk, for both your heart and your muscles.  (Imagine that, your heart is a muscle) I take 2 x 1000mg Vit D3 pills a day.  My multi-vitamin also contains some Vit D so I am close to 3000mg.  I do this anytime I am void of sun exposure.  During the summer months where I am running shirtless for long periods I will drop that to 1 pill a day.


I know I should have placed this first, as it is the #1 way you can recover effectively to maintain consistent training and productive races.  But just as most runners/endurance athletes will admit, (or fail to admit) this is a very difficult task to master.  It is made even more difficult if the race you are running or training for is a new distance or terrain.  Take me for instance; I went from racing 5 miles on the road to 50 miles on the trail. (Hey they both have a 5 in them right!)  I had zero idea how to train for a 50 mile race and it was really hard for me to listen to my body and not train when it needed a rest.  I had silly thoughts of not finishing the race, being last, or it just hurting really bad.  Well guess what they are ultras they all hurt, A LOT, at some point.  The sign of a confident, mature runner is one who can show up to a group run and a few minutes in completely bag it, return to the car, and have the food and beer ready for their friends.  This is an ideal I strive towards.  I have gotten better at listening to my body, I am no longer afraid to miss or change workouts depending on how I am feeling.  I still struggle with bailing on friends as I get very few opportunities to train with people, but everyone has to have something to works towards right?

I hope you found this article, as well as the previous two, informative.  I by no means have all, or even a few, of the answers to the questions related to optimal raining, nutrition, and recovery.  But as I learn more I found that my greatest asset was my lack of fear of change, and my willingness to experiment.  Hey, you never know what will work unless you try!  I have failed, a lot, and will continue to do so.  But I believe my greatest insights and training gains have come from some of my biggest failures.  Please feel free to comment below on any methods you have used to bolster your training, nutrition, or enhance you recovery. 

Like always go find your trail and enjoy it!