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

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!

25 November 2013

RACE… RECEOVER… RACE… an experiment in ultra-stacking! Step 2 - Nutrition

Last week I covered how I approached my training for two ultras (here) I planned to race rather 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, and race nutrition. 

I am not a nutrition expert, though I do have a science and medical background.  I have experimented enough with myself to know what works for me.  I sought extra advice from Peter Defty (VESPA) and Ben Greenfield (Ben GreenfieldFitness).  Both Peter and Ben advocate a high fat ketogenic or OFM (Optimized Fat Metabolism) diet.  I guess I’m a little more moderate, I like fruits, Vodka, hard cider, and dark chocolate too much to be in ketosis as deep as they are.   That said, I did refine my diet, which was already grain free/gluten free, to lower my carb count a little more and add in more variety when it came to protein sources.  I changed the timing of the intake of carbohydrates to coincide with post session insulin sensitivity.   I also started to do all of my training either completely fasted from the night before or with just some green tea and coconut oil. 

I often get asked what my diet is.  I hate this question as I do not have a “DIET”, unless you consider eating real, whole, and unprocessed foods a diet.  The descriptive term which most matches my eating habits is probably no sugar/no grains.  Now as I said earlier I am not a monk and will eat things like dark chocolate or drink alcohol, yes these are sugars.  I also will eat quinoa on a rare occasion.  That being said my diet is pretty clean due to the fact that I mostly eat meat, veggies, fruits, cheese, and the occasional starch (rice/sweet potatoes).  I do not eat processed foods or grains therefore my diet is absent of fake sugars, chemicals, gluten, and GMO products.  A sample of how I eat during the day is listed below.  There are days that will differ from this but this is usually how I eat 6 days a week.

BREAKFAST (Post Exercise – usually running)
3 eggs – scrambled in olive oil
½ serving meat (usually leftover from previous night)
½ - 1 Cup shredded cheese
½ banana
1 Cup of blueberries or strawberries
Green Tea

LUNCH (post exercise – usually weights or stretch)
Smoothie (12oz Coconut Milk, ½ Cup of beets, 2 TBSP of Flax, 1 TSBP Cinnamon, & 1 scoop whey protein)
½ Avocado

Beef Jerky or Cheese

1 Serving Meat (fish, lamb, game meat, chicken)
Salad (veggies, greens)
Cheese (sliced or shredded)
Olive Oil

I feel this diet gives me the optimal balance of fats, protein, and carbohydrates.  Eating simply, as I call it, allows me to maintain a lean body mass, as well as enjoy the foods that I really like.  I choose to eat for long term health not just short term performance.  A major change that I made was when I consume simple carbohydrates (fruits).  After soliciting advice from Peter I switched to eating fruit only post exercise.  First, I did this because my muscles insulin receptors would be sensitized thereby allowing for quick absorption of the carbs into my muscles, versus their being stored as fat.  Second it would aid in muscle recovery.

I separate these two where most people treat them as the same.  The reason most treat them the same is the old adage of “Never try anything new on race day”, therefore they practice how they plan to race.  Thankfully genetics has blessed me with an iron stomach during extreme efforts.  What this means for me is that I can more specifically train my body and mind during training and not be overly concerned during the race.  During the race I usually keep nutrition as simple as possible.  Below I will describe how I plan and execute my nutrition strategy for training and racing.  I will also give the why behind it.

The way I fuel training sessions is listed below, after the description I will delve into the why behind each.

#1 (Easy & Tempo Runs)
Coconut Water

#2 (Long or Workout Runs)
Coconut Water
VESPA JR (long run only)
Green Tea w Coconut oil (bulletproof tea)
Electrolytes (Salt)

First, by completing my sessions fasted (no additional carbs to spike insulin) I train my body to utilize fats during all levels of exercise intensity.  Second, because I would not be spiking my insulin levels during the session I will not cause as much oxidative stress and therefore, I will recover quicker allowing me to go harder sooner.  This is where VESPA really comes into play.  VESPA is an amino acid supplement which acts as a key.  This key unlocks fat metabolism earlier allowing you to burn fat more efficiently as your fuel source.  (For more information regarding the exact science behind VESPA please view these articles (1) (2).)  Third, I was training my mind to handle hard efforts with little external glycogen.  The benefit of this strategy was apparent during Mad City when I had to take in fewer calories to sustain a higher intensity. I only took in about 400 calories total, about 100g of carbs for 3.5 hours.  When you compare this to the 50K I did 6 months earlier where I consumed 1400 calories total, about 300g Carbs for 4.5 hours and you can see the benefit of the training nutrition plan.

As I stated my race and training nutrition strategies differ.  I do not restrict glycogen (carbs) during races.  Rather I fully embrace their use in moderation.  I follow what some would call a “sugar drip” strategy during racing.  The human digestive system can absorb about 20oz of liquid per hour.  This doesn’t mean that you can’t consume more than that, just that your body won’t absorb it.  (You spend a lot of time in the woods.)  Keeping this in mind any calories you consume need to be accompanied by liquid to be absorbed.  This is the reason I keep my nutrition plan simple.  First it allows my body to get exactly what it needs to perform, and second I can adjust it if things change.  Here is a look at my nutrition before and during races.

(2-3 hours pre-race)
2-4 Packets of nut butter (Depends on Race Distance)
Coconut Water
VESPA Concentrate
Green Tea with coconut oil

(40 min pre-race)
Coconut water / water w electrolytes

(roughly each hour)
1 20oz Bottle water
Flask w honey, maple syrup, gels, or glucose powder diluted w coconut water
(I sometimes skip the flask and place the mix in the bottle) - EASY
1 salt tab (I use Succeed tabs, or Salt Stick)

(every 1:40-2:00 ish)

(Last 1/3 of the race)
I will switch over to coke in my 20oz bottle and just drink as needed.  I feel the caffeine helps me focus and maintain my effort towards the end of the race.

I will grab the odd potato chip or orange slice at an aid station just for a change of texture or flavor.

As you can see I keep my race nutrition simple.  The main benefit of this is that I do not have to think about it during the race.  A perfect example was Ice Age this year.  I planned on running on gels and plain water in my bottle.  The aid stations however were light on gels.  This really threw a wrench into some nutrition plans.  I simply switched over to filling my bottle with ginger ale, till the final 13 miles when I switched to coke.  I stuck with my timely utilization of VESPA and salt and had zero energy or GI issues the entire race.  Going forward I plan to continue this strategy, and possibly simplify it further by switching to a glucose powder.  I can easily carry the powder and empty it into my bottles at aid stations, thereby relying only on myself during the race.

I hope you enjoyed this look at how I tailor my nutrition for optimal health, racing, recovery, and eating pleasure!  If you have any questions regarding my diet, specific meals, VESPA and my use of it, or meal planning please do hesitate to comment on this post or to contact me.  Stay tuned for next week’s post regarding the supplements and methods I utilized for recovery to handle this challenge.
As always enjoy finding your own trail!

18 November 2013

RACE… RECEOVER… RACE… an experiment in ultra-stacking! Step 1 - Training

I have been meaning to write this article for some time, better now than never right?  Late in 2012 when I was planning out my race schedule for 2013 I needed a challenge.  Apparently ultras by themselves are not challenging enough right?  I wanted to push my limits, so I was either going to race my first 100 miler or two ultras within a few weekends.  My decision was made for me in the first week of December when I didn’t get into Western States via the lottery, so racing two shorter ultras in succession it was.  Now, Mike Wardian I am not, so the two that I chose (Mad City 50K) & (Ice Age 50 mile) were 3 weeks apart.  I am still relatively new to running long distances in training and racing so I wasn’t really sure how to go about training for two ultras so close together, or how I would recover in between. 

I sought out advice from some of the more experienced, and prolific front runners, in my trail group (The Lapham PeakTrail Runners).  Their first response went something like this; “So what!  You are racing a 50K before a 50 miler, I did that last weekend!”  Helpful right!  I kept at it though and eventually received the following advice.  “A 50k is not really any longer than a Marathon, and you have an ok base.  Do some advanced marathon training for the 50K, recover right, and the speed work from the marathon training will get you through the 50 miler.”  Now that made sense.  This recovery they spoke of, that was going to be my real issue.  I figured my ability to recover would be affected by 3 very distinct but related topics; specific and consistent training, nutrition (pre, during, & post race), and body damage mitigation.  In this three part series I will describe the training, nutrition, and recovery techniques I utilized to complete this task.


Specific and consistent training is the backbone of all endurance sports.  You may be able to complete an event but not compete during the event if your training is interrupted or not specific to the race course you are attacking.  This posed an issue for me as Mad City is a fast, flat, & looped 50K course, whereas Ice Age 50 is a hilly trail race.  I knew I would end up sacrificing something as I couldn’t train for all the variables in both races.  I learned this would be my ability to quickly ascend the hills at Ice Age.  The leg speed I gained from the fast training would help on any flat or downhill sections, but I was going to have to power hike most of the significant climbs at Ice Age.  I followed a pretty standard marathon training bloc; the only change I made was in regards to the long runs.  I doubled up on Friday and Saturday and they were also sub-race pace or fast finish (Progression) runs.  The schedule looked like this.


Mon – Tempo (8-10miles),
TUE & THUR (Easy 6-10 Miles),
Wed – Workout (Hills, Fartlek, Track)
Fri- Sub Race Pace Mid-Range Run (9-15 Miles)
Sat – Long Progression run, final ¼ of distance was at race pace (13-25 miles)
Sun - OFF

I steadily built my Friday sub-race pace run and Saturday long run distance.  As far as the individual training blocks I did break up 12 weeks into three distinct groups.  The first group consisted of my Wednesday workouts being hill intervals.  The Second group consisted of fartlek runs on Wednesday.  Finally the last group I completed before my taper was track intervals.  This plan completely prepared me for Mad City.  I was able to hold a sub 7 minute pace for 30 of the 31 miles. (Yes I had one bad mile, 29, where a cramped hamstring caused me to walk a bit.) 

For this challenge I needed a double taper. Tapering is a very individual aspect of training.  I do better with a 10 day taper.  This means that I shift my last long run to Wednesday the week before a key race.  For Mad City that meant the week before the race I completed a 12 mile tempo run on Wednesday and a 6 mile tempo on Saturday.  I did three shorter fartlek sessions during the taper week, to hold the speed in my legs but show up race day completely rested and hungry to race.  I finished the Mad City 50K in 3:50 which was good for 7th overall and 1st age group. 

Post Mad City, I took 1 week off of running.  I just biked and swam.  I then repeated my taper for Mad City.  The only difference was that all of my runs 2 weeks before Ice Age were completed on hilly trails.  My Wednesday (10 Days Before Race) run was a 21 mile hilly trail tempo run.  I also replicated the fartlek sessions the week of the race.  I raced Ice Age conservatively, starting off slow (11-12 min pace) but finished the race running the last 13 miles of 50 at 7:50 pace.  Finishing only 15 minutes slower than my fastest 50 miler.


I peaked with my longest run being 26 miles in 3 hours, and my longest week near 80 miles.  I really feel this training got me ready for the 50K which allowed me to race without causing excessive damage to my body.  The largest component to mitigating this damage was my nutrition during training, racing, and recovery phases.  I will cover my nutrition in next week’s post. 

If I had to replicate this training block for these two races again one major change I would make would be to combine the track and hill sessions in the final 8 weeks.  I chose to do the hill sessions first for 4 weeks, then the track work for the next 4.  The benefit of this was that I had awesome leg turnover for the fast 50K.  Unfortunately I had zero ability to climb fast in the hilly 50 miler.  Going forward I will be utilizing more of a hybrid workout where I will do fartleks or track work first followed by hill intervals.  I believe the benefit from this work will be a refinement of leg speed as well as allowing me to run fast uphill with extremely fatigued legs.

I hope you enjoyed this look at how I trained and tapered for two races so close together.  If you have any questions regarding the exact workouts I was doing please do not hesitate to comment on this post or to contact me.  Stay tuned for next week’s post regarding how I nutritionally handled this challenge.

As always enjoy finding your own trail in life!

20 October 2013

Enter My Racing Mind: My North Face Endurance Challenge (Madison) 50K Report

Courtesy of
I have the same conversation weekly.  It usually takes place while in some non-trail running social setting.  Casual banter with others who run usually leads to questions of what races I have run, places I like to train, or distances covered.  My response, that I run ultras and specifically trail ultras, always elicits the same reaction; disbelief, curiosity, awe, and fear.  Several responses are; “You ran how far?”, “That’s INSANE!”, “I don’t even like to drive that far!”.  My favorite two though are “How much do you run to train for that?” and “What the HELL do you think about for that long on the trail?”  Well I will answer both of these in the context of my last race, The North Face Endurance Challenge (Madison) 50K.

First, “How much do I run to train for ultras?”!  I will cover this in a future post detailing my training for this season as well as nutrition and recovery!  There 1st question answered.  I know procrastination right!

Second, “What the Hell do you think of for that long on the trail?”!  I am going to use my most recent race to answer this.  TNF Madison is a really easy ultra to wrap your brain around, as you can break it into distinct sections.  The first 7 miles are road and hilly ski trails, the next 5 are hilly and sand filled horse trails, followed by 9 miles of fast Ice Age Trail running, and the final 10 miles on the sandy horse trails. Now here is a breakdown of how I mentally handled the race and its challenges.  For a similar take, during a much longer effort,  on race reporting check out Adam Condit’s (3rd place) Podcast “TNF 50MileAudio Recap

I arrived at the race about an hour early, which gave me time to warm my legs up a bit and head to the first aid station to watch the lead 50 Mile racers as they came through.  The first two through, Tyler Sigl and Brian Condon, were moving insanely quick for a dark mile 7 with 43 to go.  No worries for these two though, Tyler would go on to finish 1st in 5:38 setting a new course record, with Brian right behind in 2nd with a 5:55.  Anyways back to my race, I got to the start line so let the fun begin, welcome to my mind! (It will be in italics and underlined!)

Wow this is cold, good thing I brought this crappy old long sleeve shirt to stay warm!  Time for some VESPAWait what did that guy just say?  As I was lining up a guy, looking like he stepped directly out of Trail Running Magazine, was laughing at the individual in front of him, wearing only Hokas, shorts, a head band, a torn up long sleeve shirt, and no bottle, stating “This joker should be farther to the back!”.  Well that guy was me, and my bottle was tucked into my shorts so I could keep my hands warm.   Oh yeah buddy, we’ll see what good all that compression and anchor(Hydration Pack)are doing you out at mile 25!  Is that Dean Karnazes, huh why is he talking about Francis Scott Key?   A history lesson??  Whatever,  I guess he did write a book!   5, 4, 3, 2, 1, GO!

Alright we are running, man this road sucks I am so glad it is only 1.5 miles till the trail and that 1st hill.  Man I just went from guy #20 to guy #120 look at these fools running at 5k pace.  Hmmm, Maybe I should be running faster, nope, I feel like crap!  Man I need to get off of this road.  Look there’s ANTON!  No wait it's just some guy with long hair, beard, and full ANTON kit, funny!  Wow when will this road end, oh wait there’s the trail and that first hill, time for some power hiking!  I dropped down a gear as this first hill is pretty lengthy and steep enough that hiking it at mile 2 is preferable.  Holy shit, what the fuck!  Why are these people running this hill at 5 min pace, am I really moving that slow, man I feel like crap, come on legs loosen the hell up!  I glanced down at my watch for the 1st of only 3 times the whole race to learn that I was in fact “hiking” this hill at 9 min pace, so no I wasn’t moving slow they were just going way too fast for mile 3.  Screw these hosers!  I’ll catch them later, WHAT is going on with my MOTHA F’N LEGS!!! My grandpa could move up this hill faster than me!  Oh well screw it, look at this awesome trail!  Maybe if I think more happy thoughts my legs will loosen up.  Man maybe I should have warmed up a bit more.  Wait here’s the down hill. 
starting to pass people downhill
This was the thought process that would accompany me for pretty much the first 7 miles.  Early on, about mile 4, I met up with Andrew Hollatz from Madison.  He was running his first ultra, and had a few questions regarding the course and how it raced.  The conversation was flowing smoothly and he and I were running similar paces, though he was pushing the climbs while I would catch him on the descents.  We ran through the mile 7 aid station in 30 something place, not bad for crappy tight legs that refused to climb.

Let the 5 mile loop on the Horse Trail begin.  Man these legs are finally starting to work, I must be getting old it now takes me 5+ miles to warm up.  Hmmm I’m getting hungry must be time for some honey.  Man I LOVE running on trails!  For this race I simplified my nutrition plan to consist of a flask filled with honey that was diluted with coconut water.  I planned to use this, VESPA, and the odd orange or potato chip at an aid station until mile 22 AS then switch over to coke in my water bottle for the remainder of the race. Man that honey was good, and so easy.  Who says never try anything new on race day, this was a great idea.  Well, maybe I should have tried it in a long run.  Ahhh who cares, I have a stomach of steel I could eat dirt if I had to.  Wow these hills are coming easier, and the downs are really starting to heat up!  BLAMO buddy, yeah that’s right, you there, guy who was making fun of me at the start line, why are you running 10 min pace down this hill!  SWEET the final long hill into the aid station before we hit the Ice Age Trail, my legs feel awesome, it’s time to pick it up!  Man this hill is insane awesome I frickin love running down hills!  For the second time during the race I glanced down at my watch to see that I was holding 4 min pace down this hill.  I blasted through this aid station to learn Andrew and I were now in 20 something place.  Now it was time to run fast.

Dropping sub 5 min mile
The Ice Age Trail section of this race runs really fast, similar to a fire road.  There are a few hills but they are rollers and you can really fly through the open meadows with the cool AM temps.  I was able to move through this section and maintain 6:50-7 min pace pretty easy.  Hell yeah, I am killing this trail.  Hey, I know this guy he went screaming by me on that first hill, why is he walking, this is flat?  Oh man I feel awesome.  Wait it’s starting to get hot I might have to loose this jersey soon.  MAN AM I HUNGRY, where did that come from.  Hmmmm, crap this honey is almost gone.  How long have I been running, ahhh that’s why it time for more VESPA!  Whew!  Now I feel better, I hope  the honey will last, I only have a bit more to go till aid.  Where is this damn aid station? Oh here we go, I am starting the horse trail.  MAN, I hate this sand where the hell does it all come from! 

I found the sand but still having a blast
As the 9 mile fast Ice Age Trail ends you are introduced to the horse trails by a long climb that seems like 2 hills but is really just 1 long one with a false top.  Andrew and I were still running together at this point, but my season of racing was catching up with me.  My body and mind were tired.  I would be hiking all the rest of the ups, and running the downs and sandy flats as fast as possible.  Andrew told me he was feeling strong, I encouraged him to go smash it and catch as many as he could!  HE did!  Andrew ended up finishing 3rd 6 minutes ahead of me!  Man, this stupid sand, this is why I said I would never run this race again!  Where is this mile 22 AS?  Why is it so hot?  Man I feel like crap, I am so tired I just want to sit down!  That tree looks pretty comfortable!  Oh there’s someone, crap I should try to pass.  AHHHHH why do my legs hurt so much, passing was not a good idea.  CRAMP!!!! FUCK!!!  Where are my S Caps.  Man those taste like shit when you chew them!  Sweet no more cramp, works every time!  Through experience I have found that when I start to develop a cramp if I chew salt pills or drink a super salty liquid, pickle juice, my cramps will abate within a few seconds.  No real science to back this one up, just my personal experience. 

As I ran through the mile 22 Aid I learned I was now in 12th place, and I was feeling pretty good and ready to finish my last race of the season!  There is the 22 mile AS, man I can’t wait for that coke!  Man I am so hot this jersey is coming off now!  WHAT, PEPSI, who the hell drinks fucking PEPSI!!!!  Fine who cares its sugar and caffeine, it can’t taste any worse than chewing these damn S Caps!  Alright I feel so much better without out that jersey.  Man if only this carbonated Pepsi in this stupid bottle would stop spraying all over my like some jungle shower!  Sweet there is the lead women, I am not going to be chicked today!  Man I am moving ok through this sand.  It is time for some tunes.  That’s right bitches I am rocking Aerosmith and now you all get to enjoy my lovely voice as I run down this trail.  Man I love running.  WOW, it is getting hot again, crap I can’t pour this stupid Pepsi over my head.  Is that a water faucet, it is ahhhh, sweet relief!!  At mile 24ish there is a water faucet a few feet off of the trail, and it makes for a great cool off station. 

Man a Pepsi Shower, REALLY!
Just a few more miles of sand and then you come upon the final hill that leads back out to the road and the finish.  It was running down this final hill that I checked my watch, for the third time, to learn that I was running another 4 min mile!   Man I CAN NOT WAIT FOR THIS SAND to END!!!!!.  I hate sand!!! Man this music is awesome, I hope this mp3 player doesn’t die.  Arrrgghhh!!  When will this sand end!  Oh wait I am coming up on that final hill.  Holy sweet mother of GOD I only have 2 miles left!!  ARRGGGHHH, I will run this hill, I will run this hill, I… I am running this hill.  There’s the top time to let it rip!!!  Kamikaze!!!!  Is that Dean K running at me, look out Dean I am going too fast to stop.  Right on, that’s another 4:30ish mile!! Holy smoke this feels awesome!  Wait what’s that cop doing down there at the bottom.  WHAT, wait here WHAT!!! I don’t have time to wait I want to be done with this race. 

The final 2 miles on the road to the finish, unfortunately you can hear and see the finish but it always seems to be just too far away.  I just have one final stumble through a ditch to the finish arch, and the announcer trying his hardest to pronounce my city’s name, Wauwatosa, then giving up and just saying Milwaukee.  Yes, I can see the finish!  Yes I can hear the finish!  Man I must be crushing this pace right now!  I was only running 6:55 pace but it felt more like 5 min effort!  I can see the finish!  I can see the, WHAT THE…. when does this damn thing end.  Screw you cramps I am just going to keep running!  Where is the damn…ooooffff…who the hell puts a ditch right before the finish!  Finally, the END!  Smile nice for the camera, make it seem easy!  What the heck is the MC saying, ha ha he can’t pronounce Wauwatosa!  Oh man am I glad to be done.  I NEVER DOING THIS AGAIN!  Well we’ll see how I feel tomorrow ;)! 

A Welcome Finish
I was pretty pleased with my race, my pacing, and my nutrition.  I started off slow and got faster.  I was never passed the entire race and worked my way up the field from somewhere around 40th to 7th overall and a 1st place in my age group!  As for not trying something new on race day, the diluted honey worked great.  The rest of my nutrition plan consisted of VESPA, salt, water, and Pepsi.  Keep it simple, right!  I want to thank my family who always support me no matter how crazy my next adventure is.  I also want to thank my sponsors VESPA and Performance Running Outfitters, your support and advice allow me to pursue and conquer great challenges.  I had a great racing season and cannot wait to start planning for next year. 

I hope you enjoyed the report, I know it was different, but I hope it gave you a feel for how my mental state changes throughout a race, and how important it is to keep a good mental outlook when things are starting to go wrong.  For those of you still racing this year, let it rip!  For the rest of us, sit back have a drink, and enjoy the rest!

4:20:41  (7th Oveall)  (1st Age Group)

Hoka One One Bondi 2 - iRunFar
TNF “Better than Naked” Shorts - PRO
Drymax Trail Socks - PRO
PRO Sugoi Race Singlet - PRO
Ultimate Direction Hand Bottle - PRO
Nike Head Band - PRO

Pre Race
2 hours before
2 Justins Chocolate Hazelnut packets
1 Green Tea with coconut oil
1 VESPA Ultra Concentrate
1 Multi Vitamin, 2 Fish Oil, 1 Vit D, 1 Magnesium,
6 Capra Flex

45 min before

6oz honey diluted with coconut water
2 UD bottles of pepsi
S caps

Post Race
1 Guinness
1 recovery smoothie
1 hard cider
1 Large meal followed by several more large meals