Friday, April 30, 2010

More Barefoot Running

After suffering last summer running completely barefoot on sharp gravel, I decided to order a pair of Five Fingers KSO and try them out.  I'm pleased to report that they are the greatest thing since sliced bread.  Running in these things gives almost all the benefits of running completely barefoot without much of the pain.

I tried them out on the Turnagain Arm Trail a week or so ago before all the snow had melted.  I found out quickly that they are not waterproof at all and running over snow and ice turned my toes numb in about a half mile.

Overall they worked great though and I've used them quite a few times since then.   The Turnagain Arm Trail has a lot of roots and ankle twisting terrain so take it slow if you run here barefoot until your calves and ankles become stronger. 

There are several models of Five Fingers and I went with the KSO which stands for Keep Stuff Out.  Not exactly an original name but they do work fairly well keeping stuff out.  I put a link below for the most popular model of Five Fingers but if you're in Alaska and you're running trails or doing some peak running you should consider the KSO.

If you do order some Five Fingers don't get them from Amazon.  For some reason, probably because of the barefoot running popularity explosion they really jacked up the price.  REI still has them for a reasonable price.

Vibram FiveFingers Classic Multisport Shoes - Men's

Thursday, April 22, 2010

1982 - The First Race

Here are a few pictures straight out of the "Way Back Machine".  I'm pretty sure these are from the very first Wilderness Classic race.  The route was Hope to Homer, the year was 1982 and the I believe the person in the photos is George Ripley - the original race organizer.  

 George, jogging down the Homer Spit toward the finish line and ending in style. 


Monday, April 19, 2010

The Best Training Technique Ever - Visualization

If you've seriously participated in any sport for a little while, you've surely come across visualization techniques.  Even though visualization is becoming more common, most people still don't utilize it's full potential.

Visualization has been around for a long time.  People all over the world have successfully used it for thousands of years in everything from martial arts to business to medicine.  The power of the mind is extraordinary and you can also tap into it for any type of distance running or adventure racing.  Any veteran of the Wilderness Classic can tell you that the most important thing to finishing the Classic intact is mental strength.  You can and should use visualization to not only survive the Classic but excel at it.  You can also apply these techniques to anything else in life.

This post is just scratching the surface of visualization.  There are numerous books about the subject but many people still think it's only for Olympians or professional athletes.  It's more simple and more effective than you might think.  For more reading, take a look at Think and Grow Rich which, despite the title, is very applicable to sports visualization and was one of the original books about visualization.  You can also do a basic Google  search and you'll find more than enough books to keep you busy.

Here are the basics:  the power of the mind resides in focus and you can increase your concentration through regular practice.  (Slightly off the topic - fish oil and other supplements that are high in antioxidants like gingko biloba will also help.)  Since your mind has control over your physical body, your body will respond to visual images in your brain. The goal is to convince your physical body, through visual imagery, that it is capable of doing something. 

Start by maintaining a positive mindset about your racing and training.  Take some time and figure out exactly what your goal is. This could be anything from a specific race finishing time to a specific mental state after a hard 20 mile training run.  Write down your goal. When writing your goal, be specific and use the words "I will . . ." instead of "I want to . . . ".  Here's an example:  "I will run the Wilderness Classic in 3 days, 15 hours and 12 minutes". 

Memorize your goal word for word.  Read and recite it in the morning when you wake up and in the evening before you drift off to sleep.  If possible, say the words out loud. See yourself completing your goal.  Think about how it feels to have already accomplished your task.  Take your time and feel every aspect of your accomplishment.  Put some emotion into it.  Be proud of yourself and revel in the wonderful feeling of completing a goal. Convince yourself of it.

Play a video in your brain of yourself completing your goal.  Play this video over and over, particularly when you start the day and also just before you go to sleep.  Keep visualizing every day until it's time for your race and you will have the confidence you need to complete it.  Come back to it again and again and don't be discouraged if you don't meet your goal exactly or if you have doubts.  Simply refocus and bring your mind back to visualizing your completed goal. 

If you're new to visualization, all this may seem silly but this is what successful professional athletes do all the time.  Try it out.  You'll like it. Your confidence will grow and you'll be more successful in life. 

Thursday, April 15, 2010


Just a quick update to let you know that I haven't forgotten about my readers.  I'm writing another training post that I'll be posting soon about a great training technique and I also have some more pictures of one of the original Wilderness Classic races, so check back soon.  

In the meantime if you want to watch some hiking and climbing entertainment, I posted a video slideshow trailer of the Western Chugach Alpine Guide. 

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Another Year. Some training tips.

By now, you should have received your Alaska Mountain Wilderness Classic race application in your email inbox.  If you aren't on the Classic email list and want an application, email me and I'll forward your email address to the race organizer.

The race is the same course as last year and by all accounts, the Gerstle River to McKinley Village route is living up to all the expectations that a good Wilderness Classic must meet.  It's too long, too dangerous and just plain too brutal for most people. 

Here are some random thoughts about training for the race:  

If you plan to do the race this year, you should already be logging some serious mileage.  Hopefully, you won't just be starting your training now - ideally you should have been putting in long days all winter long.  The Classic is the type of race that needs a lifestyle of fitness.  By this I mean that you need to make endurance a part of your life.  Most people who do this race like to go on all day hikes, climbs or bike trips and for them a two or three hour run is considered short. 

Long, slow workouts will train your body to burn fat which is a necessary physical adaptation for endurance.  A workout needs to be at least thirty minutes long before your body starts burning fat and you should go slowly enough so that you can easily carry on a conversation.  If you're training by yourself (which I recommend) you can gauge proper speed by breathing through your nose.  If you can breathe through your nose without getting out of breath for a couple minutes at a time, then you're going slow enough. 

The key is to always keep moving.  Learn to get into your pack without stopping, eat while you're moving and resist the urge to sit down.  The only time you're traveling backwards is when you're stopped. Aim for at least twelve hours of movement and try to do several eighteen hour days.  If you beat your body up now, you'll be much stronger during the race when an eighteen hour day is mandatory.  Even if you train hard now, fifty miles into the race, you will wish you would have trained harder and longer.

Similar to training for an ultramarathon, you should peak in your training about a month before the race to give your body as much chance to recover and strengthen as possible.  Don't be a couch potato the last month but do taper off and don't push your body too much.  Don't injure yourself or destroy your muscles by overdoing it.  When the race arrives, you should feel like a caged tiger - your body should ache to get out on the trail.

Proper sleep and diet are extremely important in the final few weeks before the race.  Eat whole foods and pay attention to what your body wants.  Think about your meals before you eat them and what is appetizing to you.  Think about how bloated and slow you feel after a greasy burger and opt for the steamed vegetables,  rice and skinless chicken instead.  If your body craves fat, add some olive oil, coconut oil or nuts to a salad.  These oils are high in Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids and have myriad other benefits also.  Coconut oil is brimming with antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral properties.  Olive oil has lots of antioxidants and is an anti-inflammatory also.  Reducing inflammation is key in distance training. 

I'll sign off for now but I'll continue with some more training and nutrition tips in another post soon.  Based on Google Analytics analysis of this blog a lot of people tune in here to read the training and nutrition tips so if you have a specific training or nutrition topic relating to the race you would like me to cover, shoot me an email and let me know.  Happy training!