Author Archives: Saulius

A run in the Tetons.

Breathing in, breathing out. One foot forward striking the hard ground. The other foot follows quickly as I pick my path watching for rocks that lay strewn along the way.

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It’s a warm afternoon and I feel the suns heat upon my head and shoulders. Sweat trickles down stinging my eyes. I wipe it away and take a drink from my bladder pack which rests upon my sweaty back.  My footfalls continue as the trail flows beneath me as I follow it twisting through the mountain landscape. I look left then right. Jagged peaks, grey and immense tower above as I progress deeper into their midst.

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I pause to take in these mammoth granite giants. Feeling their power they fill my inner being, replenishing my emotional state. I look around at my immediate surroundings and breathe in deeply. The smell of plants and flowers enter my nostrils triggering more feelings of joy. This is why I come. This is why I don’t mind the hard effort and pain. For the physical pain is short lived but what I gain from a run in nature such as this lasts for days, even weeks. Some of the memories and feelings of pure joy last a lifetime. I look ahead and the trail becons me forward. I oblige with anticipation of what’s lies ahead. I turn and push my foot forward digging into the trail. Breathing in, breathing out I continue on. I feel so alive.

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Dealing with breaks in your training.

As I myself have been struggling of late to keep a regular training cycle going for my running this article gives some great tips in dealing with getting back at it after unplanned breaks.

Training for a distance race takes months of commitment. So it’s not surprising that there are times where you miss a run…or multiple weeks of runs. We often expect injuries to derail our training, but most of the time we take a short break because of other life commitments. Busy schedules often call for runners to readjust…

via How To Start Running Again After A Short Break In Training — Competitor.com

Time to talk about mental health — Marathon Marcus

Marathon Marcus posts about two recent high profile suicides.  It’s important to keep the conversation going as I feel depression, suicide and mental health issues need more attention and acceptance as the serious health issue it is.

After his friend former Soundgarden and Audioslave frontman Chris Cornell died two months ago from a suspected suicide, Linkin Park frontman Chester Bennington wrote a letter of thanks to his friend hoping he would find peace in “the next life.” Bennington wrote. “Your talent was pure and unrivaled…Your voice was joy and pain, anger and […]

via Time to talk about mental health — Marathon Marcus

To just finish and have fun. A Gorge Waterfalls 100k 2017 race report.

It’s often been said that ultra marathons are a lot like life. It has its ups and downs, both physically and emotionally. Spectacular moments and also times when you want to fall to your knees and just cry. The unexpected can and will happen. How you respond to this adversity will effect you in so many ways going forward. FullSizeRender 8 The challenges and rewards of taking on an ultra are many. As a person who faces ongoing mental health challenges, one reason I took up running ultras was to remind myself difficult obstacles can be surmounted and that I am capable of more than I realize. This reinforces belief in myself from day to day.

My latest race, the Gorge Waterfalls 100k dished out plenty of challenges and rewards. The race began at 6:00 am after race director James  Varner filled us in on some wrinkles Mother Nature provided to this years race.  Because of the rough winter there were still some sections of snow on the course. One snowy spot in particular created a dicey situation. On a steep downward section of trail the snow was still deep and packed. Running down would be dangerous because one could easily slip and tumble down to the water and rocks below, not to mention twisting and injuring an ankle or foot.

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The snow bank before the steps were added.

So kudos to Rainshadow Running for taking the time to actually shovel out steps in the snow bank. We were urged not to run but to walk down as the snow would not hold up to such pounding from some 300 racers. I needed no urging to go slow when I came to the snow bank in the still dark morning. Also, there were more downed trees then usual so we would have numerous opportunities to test our scrambling and limbo skills.

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Just one of the many downed trees we’d have to negotiate.

Lastly, due to one particular mud slide the trail was impassible and we would have to rope climb around that section. All would add to the fun of the long day, right!?

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Readying at the start

Having run this race in 2015 I had an idea of what to expect. Last time I took the first hill climb of some 1,500 feet in 2.5 miles too fast and I vowed to go slower. Well, I did take it at a somewhat easier effort, but I should have gone even slower. Maybe it was my running poles which I was racing with for the first time that gave me more confidence, but more likely it was the emotional high of running my first ultra race in almost a year that overwhelmed any practical thinking at this point. On the descent of this first hill I continued to run harder than I should have. I love taking downhills. Usually running them with the attitude of the harder and the faster the better. So once I did reach the top of the first climb I let loose and didn’t worry about pacing.

This somewhat fast pace out of the gate wouldn’t necessarily have doomed me for the latter stages of the race if I would have handled my caloric intake better. Just days before the race I decided to run with a bottle for the first 13 miles until the second aid station where I would pick up my hydration vest. Packed in the vest I carry various energy bars and gels. Well, I forgot to bring some of those with me so I had to rely on just my water mixed with Tailwind along with the first aid station for calories. To further compound my situation when I did reach the first aid station instead of taking a few extra minutes to take in some much needed calories and even grab something to take with me for the next 7 miles I hurriedly ate just a bit, said a quick hello to a friend manning the aid station and took off again. I believe these first 13 miles put me into a quick calorie deficit which I’d not be able to overcome.

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Upon reaching the second aid station a fellow running friend Drew Dinan who graciously offered to crew me, was there to hand me my race vest and offer words of encouragement. I’ve never had someone crew me in a race before so it was a learning experience. I very much appreciated his help but I had feelings of guilt. Knowing what a long day it would be for him hanging out just waiting for me, moving from one location to the next. At least that’s how it played in my head. Next time I will certainly try harder not to worry about anyone crewing me as it defeats some of the purpose of their being out there. Drew is also a darn good ultra runner so he knew what he was getting into by offering his assistance, so I should have focused on that when feelings of guilt arose. However that is one of my personal challenges I face on a daily basis in dealing with generalized anxiety disorder.  I worry too much about what others think. Knowing that I shouldn’t worry about something doesn’t mean I can stop myself from doing it. Just one of the “little” challenges such a mental health problem creates. To his credit throughout the day each time I saw Drew he always offered words of encouragement, a laugh or two and even reminded me of what really mattered. I was out on a fabulous trail doing what I really loved, trail running.

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Before I left the aid station I dropped to the ground to try and stretch out my right hip and glute. It was an issued I had been dealing with the last couple months and it now reared its painful head once again.  It would literally be a pain in my ass until midway through the race.

As the miles continued to mount I gradually eased up on my running intensity and tried to take in the scenery.

FullSizeRender 9I even stopped on occasion to take a photo or two and sent out short texts to my wife and family who were following me and wanted to know how far along I was. At one point I think around mile 25 I saw on a long straight stretch of trail a runner approaching. I immediately knew it was Jim Wamsley. As he got closer I noticed how fluid and fast he was moving. As he got right next to me I shouted to him to bring it on home. It seemed he needed no encouragement as he looked like he was racing in a 50k race not 100k. Having such an encounter, just the two of us on a stretch of trail, both running in the same race, one being one of the best ultra runners today and the other a mid pack runner is one of the things that makes trail running special. As I later stepped aside for more front runners to run by many of them countered my words of encouragement with their own. Some thanked me for my getting out of their way and one guy even let out a loud primeval scream as he came down a switch back towards me and several other runners. Yelling “You guys look awesome!” or something to that effect. Needless to say moments like that give average runners like myself a nice emotional boost.

The trail continued to offer plenty of sweet trail to run on along with muddy shoe sucking sections and occasional snow packs to gingerly walk over as well as rocks. Lots and lots of rocks underfoot. I almost forgot how the embedded rocks in the trail over time will tenderize the soles of my feet and by races end they were a bit sore for sure.

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By the time I reached mile 31, the halfway point and turn around I was feeling good except for the nausea I was feeling.  I had encountered this once before in a race and knew what it meant. My body was craving food but it was hard to put anything down because I felt like I’d just throw it back up. I forced down as much as I could and indeed after awhile as I’d started running again I regained some energy and the nausea dissipated. But it was short lived. My body seemed to use up any calories I took in very quickly and I’d be back at the nausea stage again. I was to repeat this process the entire second half of the race.

Some 48 miles in I came to Elowah Falls. It’s a spectacular waterfall among many amazing ones in the Columbia River Gorge. I stopped at several spots to take in the view and also on the foot bridge to feel the spray from the splashing water.

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Elowah Falls

As I continued down the trail I noticed a trail marker pointing up off the trail and up the steep hillside. Slowing to look I just thought “Well that can’t be right. Someone messed with the course markings. ” and kept going. Well I came to an abrupt stop. The trail in front of me was washed out.

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View of the wash out from other side of approach.

I thought about trying to cross anyway but one look down the steep hundred foot drop finally nudged my memory from the prerace talk. There was to be a rope at one location to get by an obstacle. Hmmm. I walked back and taking a closer look at the last arrow marker I now saw several pink ribbons leading up the hillside and then I saw the muddy rope which now blended in to the hillside. Another runner came up to me and I said I guess we go up.

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@glenn Tachiyama and @ross comer going up rope section to bypass the trail washout at Elowah Falls

As I packed away my poles he grabbed the rope and went up. I soon followed. It looked worse then it was and I soon had found my way back onto the trail and off the brief detour.

As the race progressed I had some emotional ups and downs as my body continued to complain in so many ways it’s lack of nutrition. But I tried the make the best of it. Taking in the scenery and on occasion taking another photo or two. I had to dig deep for motivation to keep going. It was in these late stages of the race I reminded myself why I did this. Running races was both a motivator to me and a reward. When I started running several years ago I did it mainly because I had found that excercise helped me combat my anxiety and depression. Over time running became one of my cornerstones in maintaining my mental health. I chose running because it was my favorite form of exercise.   Even though I got much enjoyment out of it I often found myself lacking motivation.  When my mental health took a downward spiral I just couldn’t do it regularly. But I soon found that signing up for races helped motivate me to get out and run regularly week in and week out. Because I knew if I didn’t I would pay dearly come race day. And once race day was here I always have three goals in mind. First and foremost is to just finish the event and have fun. Second goal would be a time I feel is a fast finish for me but doable. Third goal was if all the planets aligned and I was having a great day to go for an even faster finish time that would put me near the top 20% of finishers and near the top of my age group. Well today was a day goals two and three would not be attainable so I focused on just beating the cut offs and thus finishing in under 17 hours to qualify my entry into the Western States Lottery. I finished in 16 hours and 8 minutes and was very pleased to have done so. It was a hard earned finish, with many unexpected twists and turns but in the end I got it done and managed to even have a little fun along the way.

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A New Year with some new and old goals.

It’s been a while since my last post and a lot has transpired since then. Several racing goals where accomplished in 2016 while others fell to the wayside as I had to take a couple months off from running due to an injury. Life had its ups and downs as it does for us all. I continue to battle depression and anxiety with mostly positive results of late. Instead of going into more detail on the months that have passed since my last post I am going to write a bit about the future.

Going into 2017 I’ve set some lofty goals for myself by signing up for the following races. In April I will be running the Gorge Wateralls 100k. This was my first 100k race two years ago and although I did complete the race I hobbled several of the last miles to the finish. I feel I have unfinished business with this course. In May I will be running the Smith Rock Ascent 50k in my own backyard of Central Oregon. I look forward to racing another challenging 50k race with numerous local runners from my hometown of Bend. In July I hope to be racing in the Mt. Hood 50 mile race. Currently I am on the wait list to get. This will be my first time running this course near the iconic Mt. Hood. Lastly I hope to complete my first hundred mile race Pine to Palm in September. I had signed up for the race last year but a severe case of shin splints derailed those plans.  I am stoked for what lies ahead.

As those of you who may have read some of my previous posts I am an individual who lives with some mental health problems. I suffer from anxiety, depression and suicidal ideations. This is an ongoing struggle with many up and down days, weeks and months. I found excercise and especially running has been very beneficial in combatting its negative effects. When I began running I didn’t find many sources available to assist me in my particular situation. As I’ve come forward in the past two years to start openly sharing my experiences I’ve found there are more and more runners and people in general who suffer similarly. In response I am going to create a website aimed at being a source of information and inspiration to others. I hope to also make it a place where others can share their experiences too. I’ll post more information once I get it online. The name of the site will be RAADS standing for Run Against Anxiety Depression and Suicide. Stay tuned for that and happy trails to you all.

Persevering

As I get ready to head out to Eugene Oregon for my first race of the season many things come to mind. All the hours of training I’ve put in, the ups and downs of the last few months and why I even do this to begin with.  We wall face challenges in not just running but in life.  I think these two articles sum up eloquently the courage of never giving up, to persevere against the odds and coming out the other side.

By Laura Kantor

Sixteen months ago, a friend helped me realize how self-defeating thoughts and behaviors were affecting every area of my life, including my running and racing goals. Running took a back seat last year while I did difficult work with my therapist to improve the rest of my life. Way Too Cool was the first race where it was apparent how far I have come and how much my mindset has improved.

 

Resurfacing
April 29, 2016
Written by Andy Jones

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Resurfacing April 29, 2016 Written by Andy Jones After 48 years of life I have come to realize that there are few pleasures greater than getting something back after you’ve lost it. Losing can be so sorrowful, so depressing, so definitive, that having the chance to get something back, having that golden opportunity to find again that which you’ve missed so much, can be at once rewarding and humbling. And, it can help us to be reborn.

Some things I’ve learned along the way

Recently a friend who is going to be running in her first 100k race the Gorge Waterfalls 100k, asked me for some race day advice.  I also ran this same event last year as my first 100k race and I learned a lot from the experience.  I gladly shared some of my insights as I wished to help her as best I could.  This spurred the idea that I should share with others as well.  I’ve learned so much from fellow runners since I ventured into ultra running and I don’t think I would have made it this far on my own without their generosity.  Certainly not without a lot more pain, angst and slower progress.   This is by no means a comprehensive list, but a few important things that have been key in improving my race day performance.

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Racing in the S.O.B. 50 miler in 2015.

Run your own race.  When starting out in a race it’s easy to get caught up in all the excitement. Adrenaline is flowing, everyone is rested and happy and it’s oh so easy to push harder than you should.  If you are not paying attention you won’t even realize you are clipping along way faster than you should be. Know what your race pace is and stick to it. Following someone else’s pace or simply running too hard up that first hill climb will eventually catch up to you towards the latter stages of the race.

Be consistent in your training.  Putting in consistent mileage, time on your feet, week in and week out helps prepare your body for the pounding it will take on race day.

Listen to your body.  If something starts niggling at you don’t be overly stubborn and just keep pushing through it. This can lead to injury.  Better to ease back on training a bit before something becomes a major issue.  Be sensible in your training.  Don’t get obsessed with reaching a specific mileage every week but instead be flexible as sometimes you get sick, get a minor injury or are just plain tired and on the verge of over training so know when to take an extra rest day.  Better to miss a work out or two so you avoid injury and come back to your next run well rested and refreshed.  And don’t forget to get enough sleep.  You are pushing your body and it needs plenty of time to recuperate and it can’t do it properly without enough rest.

Practice using your equipment prior to race day.  The first few hours of my first 100k race was in total darkness. The trails were single track, tight and rocky with sections with sheer drops down steep slopes. My headlamp of choice was lacking in a major way. It was great for rummaging around in a tent, but did hardly anything to light up the trail before me.  I was extremely happy to see the sun come out later that morning.

Same goes for fueling needs.  Know what you’ll be using and have it thoroughly tried out before the race.   Also know what may be available at the aid stations, but realize that supplies run out and other things happen so not everything will be there as advertised.  Don’t try eating or drinking something new during the race. You just don’t know if it will cause you stomach issues later down the trail.

Train on similar terrain as you’ll experience in the race.  If it’s a hilly course, verify the amount of elevation gain and loss and prepare for it.  Will it likely be a warm day or cool?  High humidity or relatively dry? Expect the worst and hope for the best in what mother nature will throw at you.  Better to have that extra layer of clothing or rain gear and not use it than to be stuck out in cold, windy, wet conditions and suddenly find yourself extremely uncomfortable or even hypothermic.

Seek advice from those who’ve been there. Don’t ignore the old coot in your local running group who looks like he could be your dad or even grandpa. He may very well have decades of experience and sage advice to offer. At one time he might have been able to run circles around you before time slowed him down.

Stay inspired. Set personal goals, daily, weekly and yearly to help motivate yourself.  Have multiple goals set prior to a race.  My first goal is always to just finish and have fun.  My second goal is a finishing time that I think my training prior to the race makes realistically attainable.  Lastly, if I’m really “on” during the race then I shoot for the last goal which may be a PR for that race or distance, or finishing in the top 20% or top three in my age bracket, etc.  By having multiple goals and being flexible with them during the race will help you keep moving when things get rough.  When in such a rough spot you will have to acknowledge that a PR is just not happening today, but you will realize you can still enjoy yourself out there and finish with a sense of accomplishment.

Use social media to your benefit. Strava, Facebook and others can help you connect with other runners, find new trails, see how others train and get involved with running groups.

Read, read and read some more. The library, magazines, online blogs podcasts and websites can all be a wealth of information.  Just be sure the source is a credible one.  In my town one local shoe store carries books you can check out like a library.  They have books available that my library may not and if I really love the book I can purchase it from them.  Also, if your local library doesn’t carry a book you are interested in ask them to obtain it on loan from another branch.  You might even be surprised that they may be willing to purchase it to add to their collection.  I will list specific books, publications, web sites and podcast that I’ve found helpful in another post.  For now try reaching out and exploring on your own.

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Taking in the beauty of the surroundings while on a training run.

Lastly, have a life outside of running.  I believe it’s helpful and healthy to have other interests.  Sometimes these can be complementary to your running.  I myself have enjoyed photographing the natural landscape for years before running came along.  I currently don’t pursue it as I used to, but I am not hesitant to spend some time photographing even if it means stopping during a long training run to pull out the camera and taking a few snaps of the scenery in front of me that I find so inspiring  I also believe we need to be mindful that we don’t become so obsessed with running that these other parts of our lives begin to suffer such as your job and especially your family and friends.  They often help us make running and attending races possible.  They may have endured countless hours of hearing about our latest training runs, injuries, races, new gear we’d love to have etc. So be sure to give back plenty of love and friendship as well.  They deserve it.

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My son helping finish. My family supports and inspires me!

Hopefully some of you found some of this useful and feel free to leave your own comments with further suggestions.  Until next time, happy trails!

 

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