My All-Time Favorite Trail Running Shoe: the Original Hoka Clifton (Circa 2014)

My personal favorite trail running shoe of all-time is the Original Hoka One One Clifton (Circa 2014).

My Current Collection of Original Hoka Cliftons

My Current Collection of Original Hoka Cliftons

Over my lifetime, I’ve used a lot of different types, brands and styles of shoes. Some were excellent trail running shoes and were memorable like the Nike Air Terra and Adidas Feet You Wear from the early 1990’s. The Nike Zoom Trail from the mid 2000’s was and is still a favorite (probably my second favorite of all-time). But the Original Hoka Clifton from 2014 is my all-time favorite.

The Original Hoka Clifton is light, comfy, responsive, flexible and protective. It makes running fun. The only downsides are they are fragile (not lasting very long) and their traction is lacking on slippery terrain. Granted they are intended for the road not the trail so their sole is not designed for grip. As a road shoe, I interestingly find them less appealing feeling overly soft and mushy on the roads. Yet somehow the Clifton has a certain magic feel on the trail. Maybe there is a resonance or synergy between the shoe’s softness and soft trail surfaces. The combination just works.

Yes, Hoka has a trail version of the Clifton, the Challenger, but it is heavier and has a dead feeling compared to the Clifton. There are newer versions of the Clifton (2,3,4) that address some of the lack of durability issues of the original Clifton. Unfortunately, each newer version is heavier and takes away some of the magic feeling of the original. Another sorry tale (Saga of the Skechers GoRun) of how a shoe company ruins a great shoe with so called improvements in succeeding versions.

You can still find a few pairs of the original for sale at outlets and resellers, but soon they all will be gone. Until something else comes along, I will be cherishing running in my remaining Cliftons until they all wear out.

Fun Ginger Runner reviews of the Clifton from the original through version 4:

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How to Train and Run the Bridger Ridge Run in 4 Hours

The most popular post on this Blog is a minimalist approach to training for a 3 hour Marathon. In my experience, a 3 hour Marathon is equivalent in effort and training commitment as a 4 hour Ridge Run. The target audience for a post about doing a 4 hour Ridge Run is very small and localized compared to a global audience of those interested in doing a 3 hour Marathon. Nevertheless, there has to be at least a handful of people interested in a running a Four Hour Ridge Run.

Now if your goal for the Ridge Run is different than finishing in 4 hours, don’t worry, you can also scale the following training plan for other goals besides 4 hours. Start by adjusting the typical splits in the table below by the ratio of your goal time divided by 4. For example, if your goal is 8 hours, double all the splits. If your goal is 6 hours, multiply all the splits by 1.5 (6/4). If your goal is 3 hours, multiply all the splits by 0.75.

Prerequisites

Same as for a 3 hour marathon (19 minute 5K capability and history of at least 1 year of 3 hours or more per week of running). Any changes to this would be the addition of a history of at least a year of some of those 3 hours a week of running being done on rocky trails.

Typical Splits Required for a 4 Hour Ridge Run

Below are some suggested splits and elapsed times for different sections of the Ridge Run course. Times are in Hours and Minutes. With the exception of Sacajawea Pass, all the locations correspond to prominent points and aid stations. I’ve included the split to Sacajawea Pass as a check; mainly to make sure you do not start out too fast. It is easy to start fast, but you can pay for it later in the race with premature fatigue. Save yourself for the runnable sections later in the race.

  • Location                    Split      Elapsed     Theme
  • Sacajawea Pass         0:25      0:25           Uphill
  • Sacajawea Summit  0:15       0:40           Uphill
  • Ross Pass                   0:45      1:25            Downhill
  • Bridger Bowl             0:45      2:10            Uphill
  • Baldy                           1:10      3:20            Rolling
  • Finish                         0:40      4:00           Downhill

These are guideline times. If you are a better climber than descender, adjust those sections that are mostly uphill a bit faster and the downhill sections slower. Likewise, if you are better at bombing down the descents, adjust those sections that are mostly downhill a bit faster. Everyone is different with regards to skills and what sections they will find challenging slow or easy and fast.

Durability, Intensity, Specificity

The unique characteristics of the Bridger Ridge Run of rocky steep terrain put extra demands on your abilities as a runner and your body. This shapes the way you must prepare and train if you are to have a successful experience come race day. Building durability and toughness to handle the steep ascents and descents is imperative. So is the specificity of training at race pace on the course itself. High intensity training helps build fitness, speed and strength.

This is a minimal or just enough training plan. It is specifically focused on the goal of a 4 hour Ridge Run. It emphasizes training in the Bridger Mountain Range on the Bridger Ridge Run course. If you live near the course, that works. If you don’t live nearby, then you need to find some suitable terrain that closely matches the rocky steep terrain of the Bridger Range.

This plan consists of just 3 different training sessions that are repeated each week. Always give yourself at least one day off between these challenging workouts. They progress in duration over the course of the 14 week preparation period to race day. Given that the race is the Saturday after the second Friday in the month of August, 14 weeks before that is around the beginning of May. If you are serious in preparing for and training for the Ridge Run plan on starting your tailored Ridge Run training the first week of May.
Besides the 3 targeted sessions presented here, you should stay active every day, but at a low intensity. Doing more hard training each week than what is presented here, may lead to injury by overdoing it and compromising your training and goal.

Durability Training – Long Duration and Downhill Trail Running

Once a week do a steep trail run. Start with 20 minutes up and 10 minutes down. Build up to 1:20 up and 40 down by week 7. Hold that duration till week 12 and cut it in half the next two weeks.

  • Week    Up         Down
  • 1            0:20      0:10
  • 2            0:30      0:15
  • 3            0:40      0:20
  • 4            0:50      0:25
  • 5            1:00      0:30
  • 6            1:10       0:35
  • 7            1:20      0:40
  • 8            1:20      0:40
  • 9            1:20      0:40
  • 10          1:20      0:40
  • 11          1:20      0:40
  • 12          1:20      0:40
  • 13          0:40     0:20
  • 14          0:20     0:10

For those that live in Bozeman, the M to Baldy trail is very convenient and ideal for this training session. A good estimate of your Ridge Run potential is to double your round trip M to Baldy time. So if you can get all the way up to the top and back down Baldy in 2 hours (1:20 up 0:40 down, approx. 4 miles 4000 feet elevation gain), you are on track for a 4 hour Ridge Run. Your average pace going up is 20 minutes per mile. That is 3 miles an hour and may seem slow, but it is a steady power walk considering the average grade is 20%. You end up climbing 1000 feet every 20 minutes. Likewise, descending 4 miles in 40 minutes is 10 minutes per mile. This also may appear rather slow for running downhill, but the technical nature of this trail makes running 10 minutes per mile seem fast and challenging.
Going up and down Baldy once every week, is redundant and boring, but it is a great workout and a terrific gauge of your fitness. I’ve known several people that employed going up and down Baldy multiple days each week as successful Ridge Run training.

Intensity Training – Hill Repeats

Set aside one day a week to do hill repeats. Consistency is helpful so pick a day of the week and a time and stick with it. Choose a steep but runnable hill that takes about 3 minutes to get up. Take 3 minutes recovery by jogging back down to the bottom. Repeat.

Start with 2 the first week and build up to 10 by the 10th week then decrease back to 2 the week of the race. These workouts build strength, power and aerobic capacity. Run them hard at nearly max effort. When you get to the top, you should be gasping for breath, glad you made and looking forward to recovering on the way down.

  • Week    # of Repeats
  • 1           2
  • 2           3
  • 3           4
  • 4           5
  • 5           6
  • 6           7
  • 7           8
  • 8           9
  • 9          10
  • 10        10
  • 11          8
  • 12         6
  • 13         4
  • 14         2

You should be able to find a suitable hill on the trails near Bozeman such as Sypes Canyon, the M or Bridger Bowl. You can also use an incline treadmill. 10% grade at 7.5 mph or 15% grade at 6 mph are some possibilities. Set the incline and pace combination so 3 minutes represents about as long a time as you can last. Recover in between the uphill portions with 3 minutes jogging at 0% grade (4 to 5 mph).

Specificity Intensity – Race Pace on a Section of the Course

This workout consists of running a section of the course at race pace. The goal of this workout is to not just get accustom to running at race pace on the course, but to integrate it into your comfort zone and skill set so it becomes habit and second nature. Given the technical nature of the rocky Ridge Run course, this will also build coordination and skill with your footing. Spending so much time on the course gives you the opportunity to really get to know it so you will have no excuses for going off course.

In most cases, you must combine this workout with some easy running or walking to get to or get back from the section of the course run at race pace. Keep the race pace portion of these workouts under 2 hours and the total time out including the approach and return under 4 hours.

The progression builds to mid-July where you will do the first half of the course (Fairy Lake to Bridger Bowl) and the second half of the course (Bridger Bowl to the M) at race pace. Space these maximal sessions out by at least a week. The progression then backs off so that you do shorter sections of the course as race day nears.

Following are some training session suggestions. Your choices in May and June may be limited by snow. Many of the sessions will require either accessing the course by hiking up to the top of Bridger Bowl or descending from the top of Bridger Bowl to get down off the course. Some require doing an out and back on a section of the course. It is also possible to access the course at Ross Pass.

  • Week    Description
  • 1            Hike up to Snow Level on Baldy from M Trailhead, Run Race Pace Back Down
  • 2            Hike up to Snow Level on Baldy from M Trailhead, Run Race Pace Back Down
  • 3            Hike up to Saddle Peak from M Trailhead, Run Race Pace Back Down
  • 4            Run Race Pace from Ross Pass to top of Bridger Bowl
  • 5            Run Race Pace from top of Bridger Bowl to Baldy
  • 6            Run Race Pace from Fairy Lake to Sacajawea Summit
  • 7            Run Race Pace from Foot Hill Trail below Sacajawea to Ross Pass
  • 8            Run Race Pace from Sacajawea Summit to Ross Pass
  • 9            Run Race Pace from Fairy Lake to top of Bridger Bowl
  • 10         Run Race Pace from top of Bridger Bowl to M Trail Head
  • 11          Run Race Pace from Ross Pass to top of Bridger Bowl
  • 12         Run Race Pace from Fairy Lake to the Top of Sacajawea
  • 13         Run Race Pace from base of Baldy to the Finish
  • 14         Run Race Pace down from the top of the M to the Finish

Snow and Course Accessibility in May and June

Depending on the year, there still could be lots of snow in the Bridgers in May. This limits the ability to train on most sections of the course until June or even July. The road to the start at Fairy Lake usually does not open until beginning of July regardless of the snow pack or lack of. Until then, you may be limited to doing the long course specific runs in other places or on the M to Baldy section that tends to melt off the earliest. Until July, you may have to hike, run or bike up a portion of the road to Fairy Lake to access the trail up to Sacajawea.

Fairy Lake Trail Head in June

Fairy Lake Trail Head in June

There is a section of the course between Bridger Bowl and Saddle Peak that tends to hold snow. It is on the west side of the Bridgers above the Bostwick canyons and is a steep side hill. Traversing this section when covered in snow requires caution and will slow you down well below race pace. Most of the rest of the course, even if covered in snow does not pose the same exposure threat requiring as much caution.

Since the race takes place in August, snow is rarely an issue on race day. Occasionally (last time was 2005?) the course will be graced with fresh snow but no old snow pack. So for specificity’s sake, it makes sense to stick to training on portions of the course that are free of snow.

Training Logistics

Since the Ridge Run course is point to point, training on the course will inevitably require organizing a drop off and pick up at specific locations along the course. You can drive right up to the Start at Fairy Lake and also the Finish at the College M. You can drive within an hour or so walk of the top of Bridger Bowl and also Ross Pass. So having a training partner to stage shuttle vehicles with or a willing spouse to drop you off or pick you up is essential to training on all the portions of the course. Otherwise, you will have to retrace your steps which can force you to be out for a longer time than ideal.

There are some informal training groups that organize running at least the first half and second half of the course during the summer. A good resource and networking connection for this is the Bozeman area running club, Wind Drinkers.

If all else fails, leave a comment here and I will give you some individuals to contact. Plan ahead, as I only respond to comments on this blog a couple times a month.

Fueling

If you are highly endurance trained and can run for many hours before your energy fades, then you do not need to worry much about fueling. There are many individuals that have done the Ridge Run under 4 hours without any fuel whatsoever. On the very first Ridge Run (1985), Alex Lowe told me he had no water or fuel at all. He finished 2nd in well under 4 hours. There were aid stations that first year, but none were setup before the fastest runners went by. The winner the first year did have candy pinned to his shirt, but did not share any with Alex.

My first few Ridge Runs were done with little to no thought to fueling. I mainly just drank a bit of water. The first part went fast (I was a much faster runner 25 years ago) but typically around Saddle Peak (between Bridger Bowl and Baldy), I would fade significantly as I ran out of energy. My fastest elapsed times to Ross Pass (1:05) and Bridger Bowl (1:50) date from the early nineties, but I would lose a lot of time after that and typically finish in 4:15. The first time I broke 4 hours was the first time I forced myself to refuel as I drank nearly a half-gallon of Gatorade at the Bridger Bowl aid station. It prevented me from fading in the later portions of the course.

I’m now much slower, but wiser as I have learned to strategically fuel. My most recent time as an old man in his late 50s is about nearly the same that I ran it in as a young man in his mid 30’s. Now, my fueling goal is to consume about 800 calories total during the race. That is about 200 calories per hour. This works for me. It is enough to avoid running out of energy but not enough to cause stomach distress.

Over the years, I have learned to drink between 64 and 96 ounces of water during the race depending upon the weather (heat). This is 16 to 24 ounces an hour. Again, this is typical. Some people can get by on a lot less. Some need a lot more. My preference is to carry a 24 ounce water bottle and refill as needed at aid stations.

Other Resources

There are many older posts on this blog discussing gear such as shoes, clothing and packs. Start by looking here. Unfortunately, many of my favorite pieces of gear are no longer sold. There are items currently sold that are similar.

 

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Skechers GOTrail Review (2016 Version)

Most recently, I have been running in the Skechers GOTrail. It is the version that came out in early 2016.

Skechers GOTrail

Skechers GOTrail

Pure speculation, but it appears Skechers will not be offering it in 2017. (Note: There is a rumor of a GOTrail 2 coming in mid 2017.) As of early 2017, the 2016 version is still available in some stores and at discounted closeout prices. I’m bringing this up because it would make a good shoe for the Ridge Run. It offers just enough protection and grip for rocky trail running, without giving up comfort and flexibility.

Check out this review:

 

History of the GOTrail

The original Skechers GOTrail (2012-2013) was a very comfortable shoe for walking around in, but it did not work that well as a trail running shoe. It was replaced with the GOBionic Trail (2014) that turned out to be a great “minimalish” trail shoe being comfortable, flexible, grippy, and light weight. For me, the GOBionic Trail did not quite have enough protection to use on the Ridge Run.

Skechers discontinued the GOBionic line quite some time ago. Skechers has a tradition of introducing new models yearly and discontinuing the old. Or if they keep a model around and change it calling it a new version, it changes so much it might as well be a different model as it loses all the characteristics of the old model. The original GORun worked well for me. The new ones I dislike. My few pairs of original GORuns are getting pretty worn out, but I still love running in them.

Original Skechers GORun Getting Worn

Original Skechers GORun Getting Worn

Hopefully Skechers will do another production run of the 2016 GOTrail or something like it. They currently offer a GOTrail Ultra that is similar to the GOTrail, but the Ultra is a bit squishy and unstable as it has a much thicker softer midsole. It is also noticeably heavier.

Here is a picture of a rumored GOTrail 2 coming in mid 2017:

Skechers GOTrail 2

Skechers GOTrail 2

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Microdosing Training to Enhance Adaption to Training

Can you improve fitness by injecting frequent small doses of activity into your training regime?

I am going to steal the term “microdosing” from the drug culture and apply it to training.

Microdosing training is the concept of improving fitness gradually by employing small but frequent bouts of activity that do not tear the body down enough to require large amounts of rest and recovery. Yet the microdosed training sessions provide just enough exercise stimulus to produce adaption and gains in fitness.

The term microdosing (Micro Dosing) is more typically associated with the unethical (usually illegal) practice of taking small amounts of drugs to improve performance.

Examples being:

The concept of microdosing training or utilizing the minimum effective dose of exercise to obtain a desired training result without causing adverse side effects is not new, but the concept is rarely utilized in practice. This Blog’s most popular post is a minimum effective dose approach to training for a 3 hour marathon. To my knowledge,  no one has used the term “microdosing” when applied to training.

Seek Adaption to Training over Recovery from Training

The goal of training is to condition the body to perform better in subsequent training sessions and future competitions. Unfortunately, sometimes we overdo a training session and end up so sore and broken down that we require an extended period of time to recover and just get back to where we were before the hard training session.

A common meme parroted by athletes, even professionals that ought to know better, is: “there is no such thing as over training just under recovery.”

The thoughts behind this misguided phrase are twofold. First: to motivate to train harder. Second: to emphasize the importance of rest and recovery. The reality is you can overdue training to the point that you can’t train anymore and are forced to take some extended time off and recover. In fact, it is possible to overdue just a single training session to the point of muscle breakdown (even Rhabdomyolysis) resulting in a severe case of DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness)

The concept of needing to “Rest and Recover” implies in itself that you are broken and have overdone it. Recovery also implies getting back to where you were. It does not imply adaption and progress. Getting sore from a training session and being forced to take time off to recover is counterproductive.

By overdoing training sessions, it is possible to get trapped in a cycle of repeated breakdowns and forced recovery. The result is that you do not adapt and make much progress.

Break the Cycle of “Breakdown and Recovery”

Instead seek Adaptation and Incremental Improvement

To escape the rut of breakdown and recovery, avoid training to the point where you end up with soreness (DOMS). Seek to end training sessions energized; feeling like you could do a little bit more. Avoid DOMS. Avoid getting sore. Also space training sessions often enough, that your body does not detrain and loose fitness in the down time between training sessions.

Conditioning the Quadriceps Muscles – a Useful Example of Using Microdosed Training

Just how does one employ microdosing of training to maximize adaption and minimize delays due to needed recovery?

Training the quads for the steep downhill rigors of the Ridge Run is an illustrative example of how to employ microdosing to maximize adaptation without setbacks from soreness.

Every year as I start training and preparing for the Ridge Run, I face the task of conditioning my quads to make them impervious to soreness from all the downhill running on the Ridge Run course. Trail runners sometimes affectionately refer to this process as “seasoning” the quads.

Downhill running put the quadriceps into eccentric loading. Unless properly conditioned, training sessions that incorporate eccentric loading will lead to soreness (DOMS) forcing one to take days off to recover before further training can commence.

There is lots of opinion on how often to add downhill running session to your training to keep your quads conditioned and immune to soreness. Some say as little as one downhill session every two weeks is all it takes. In my experience, I need at least two and better three steep downhill running/hiking sessions per week! If I take more than two days in a row off from downhill training, I will end up getting sore from the next downhill session – putting me back in the breakdown/recovery trap.

In my opinion, doing downhill sessions with two days break in between (every 3 days) would be the minimum. This does not fit well into a weekly schedule, so I personally have adopted a three session a week routine of doing at least some downhill running every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Frequent short training sessions that leave you energized are better for adaption than occasional long sessions that leave you sore and broken.

In years past, I have gotten trapped in the Breakdown Recovery trap by overdoing the first downhill running sessions of the season. After going up and down the M trail, my quads would be sore for days after the workout. The soreness would prevent me from doing any training for a few days as I recovered. After the soreness went away, I would do another session but the same thing would happen.  I would get sore again and be forced to take time off to recover.

After years of trial and error, I have learned that I need to start with shorter sessions and avoid blowing out my quads and the getting sore part of training. My first couple steep sessions of the season are just hiking up to the top of the M and back down. I think that is about 800 feet of elevation gain over about ¾ mile. As the weeks go by, I will increase the duration of workouts. A common workout is to go up the M trail to a point above the trailhead reached in 40 minutes and then run back down to the bottom in 20 minutes for a total workout time of one hour. Eventually, I will be able to go up from the M trailhead to the top of Mount Baldy (4000 feet elevation gain over 4 miles) a couple times a week without getting sore.

Microdosing also Means doing Little Bits of Activity Every Day – Even on Rest and Recovery Days

Think: Active Recovery.

Do not erase your workout gains with passive rest.

Avoid being totally sedentary on your recovery days.

Being sedentary is the scourge of adaptation to training. You can erase the potential gains of a training session by sitting around all day on your rest days. Instead, make sure you get up and actively move several times throughout the day. If you have a desk job, get up every hour and walk for a few minutes. Better yet, do some jumping jacks, burpees, skip rope or run in place for a few minutes. Activity keeps reinforcing the signal to your body to adapt to physical stress and training. Sitting around for a day or more quickly turns off the adaptation process.

For more ideas on the theory of injecting frequent small doses of activity into your training plans and rest days, check this podcast out.

Bottom Line

  • End your workouts before you damage your muscles resulting in post training soreness (DOMS) needing extended rest and recovery.
  • Keep Moving. Inject frequent bouts of activity into your day; even on recovery days.
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Running with Heart Disease – More…

Following are some more thoughts, both practical and philosophical, regarding managing heart problems in preparation for the 2016 Ridge Run. Heart issues are not that uncommon in the Montana running community. There are many friends and acquaintances of mine with heart disease of some form or another. Most are following or have followed the Standard of Care of prescription drugs, surgery and implantable devices. With the intention of presenting some alternative ideas, I wrote the previous post and will continue filling in some details with this one. Hope this helps someone.

Topical Magnesium

The cornerstone of cardiac nutritional support is Magnesium. Besides eating foods high in Magnesium and taking Magnesium supplements, absorbing Magnesium through the skin is another way to get Magnesium into the body.

Most people are familiar with Epson Salt (Magnesium Sulfate) baths. Adding Epson Salts to a bath and doing a soak is heralded as a great way to treat sore joints and muscles. It is a great way to get Magnesium into the body without going through the alimentary canal. Epson Salt crystals also make a great body scrub. Instead of soap, I use Epson Salt for washing. It is a bit abrasive, but is a great exfoliator and has the added side effect of preventing body odor.

Another topical option is Magnesium Lotion which is a Magnesium Brine of Magnesium Chloride. Some mineral springs and saline seas are high in Magnesium Chloride. Not everyone has access to a mineral springs soak, instead apply a Magnesium Lotion or Oil. Try different products. Some products dry out the skin and cause burning and itching. Experiment with some different brands and find what works for you.

The Wisdom or Folly of Doing the Ridge Run with Compromised Health

Does it make sense to do the Ridge Run when one is faced with serious health issues like heart disease? 2016 would be my 20th Ridge Run. I thought I might as well do at least one more and make it an even 20. If I didn’t do it, looking back at this year, I would probably wish that I had.

Later in life, most of our regrets are associated with missed opportunities and not doing things, not so much regretting some of the stupid things we actually did. Although I had some trepidation, I wanted to get in my 20th Ridge Run. 2016 may be my last.

None of us get through life unscathed. Life is a school of experience – a participation sport. You do not get points for sitting on the sidelines avoiding risk. I’m at peace with the notion of death. It is a natural drive of life to preserve life, but it must not come at the expense of living life. Experience wears out the physical form, but builds our spiritual body. It is more important to grow the soul than preserve the physical body. It is just natural human nature to seek comfort avoiding risk, struggle, pain and discomfort. Yet our characters grow when we counteract the gravitation towards comfort and ease.

My experiences have convinced me that our consciousness (or soul or spirit) survives this life, but our bodies don’t. It does not make sense to me that we are just biological robots, an accident of chemistry, and all that we are ceases to exist upon physical death. It makes no sense logically, scientifically or spiritually. My scientific education has NOT convinced me that the academic scientific materialistic model of life can explain everything.

Training Plan for an Off the Couch PR

Jokingly, my goal for 2016 was to set an off the couch PR. It would not be exactly off the couch as I did some training, just not much and hardly any running. Foot troubles are what prevent me from running or hiking much so I biked at bit. Between September and April, I only did a few short runs. Not enough to gain any fitness. Really, not enough to even preserve any running fitness. During the winter months, I downhill skied a couple times a week and come spring I tried to bike an hour or so a couple times a week to acquire some semblance of training.

Knowing how important it is to train on the course, I planned on doing 2 long runs on the course in preparation. As is turned out, I ended up adding a third long training run of the course.

In late June, I did the second half of the course from Bridger Bowl to the M.

In early July I did the first half of the course from Fairy Lake to Bridger Bowl.

My split was so slow on the Ross Pass to Bridger Bowl section; I felt I needed to do that section again to redeem myself. In mid July, I added a third long day going from Ross Pass to Bridger Bowl as fast as I could after having first hiked to Ross Pass from Bridger Bowl.

My other on course training consisted of at least once a week hiking from the M up about half ways towards Baldy and back down. The purpose of this was to condition my quads to the eccentric loading that occurs from going down a steep hill. In my experience, if I do not subject my legs to consistent downhill hiking or running I will get very sore quads when I do. I went up for about 50 minutes and then back down. Minimizing the time on my feet to well under 2 hours during these sessions, kept my foot pain from flaring up too much.

The other training I engaged in focused on building strength without beating up my feet. The corner stone of this training was a general fitness circuit of good old fashion callisthenic type of exercises once or twice a week:

Pull Ups, Push Ups, Side Planks, Leg Lifts and Single Leg Body Weight Quarter Squats, Burpees.

I would do 5 sets of 5.

Race Day

Race day went well for me. Compared to 2015, I was slower on runable sections such as the foot hill trail before Ross Pass. The strength training and hiking paid off as I was a bit faster on the steep uphill hike sections. As it turned out, my overall time for 2016 ended up just a tad faster than 2015. Given that last year, I trained with significant more running, I was surprised. But last year was slow as I took a hard fall and had been experiencing inconsistent performance abilities depending upon whether or not my heart felt like beating correctly or not. Last year I had one good race, the Prickly Pear up in Helena. All the rest, compromised cardiac output limited my performance.

Miraculous Nature of Life

Life is a mysterious concept. It is a paradox of fragility and robustness; never ceasing to amaze. In a few short months, I went from sensing I could die at any moment (the impending sense of doom in stage IV cardiac failure) to completing my 20th Ridge Run slightly faster than the year before. Never under estimate oneself.

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Running with (through, despite) Heart Disease

Eight years ago (2008-9), I experienced three separate incidents of Cardiac Arrest. Not to be confused with a Heart Attack.

Cardiac Arrest is when the heart stops pumping blood.

Heart Attack is from a blockage to the blood flow that feeds the heart (if severe enough, a Heart Attack can lead to Cardiac Arrest).

Oddly, it was body weight compression on the left side of my chest that caused my heart to stop beating. I did not figure out that this was the trigger until the third time it happened. Now I know and no longer even sleep on my left side anymore.

The first time it happened, was while doing some plumbing work and being all scrunched up on the floor with my left arm under my chest. The second time happened when squeezing through a fence; again compressing my left arm into my left side of my chest. The third time it happened was while showing off doing a Half Flag Maneuver on a vertical pole at a play ground. Similar but not exactly like the picture below.

Flag Position that Triggered Cardiac Arrest

Flag Position that Triggered Cardiac Arrest

It was like flipping a switch or pressing a nerve. The third time there was no question what the trigger was. Before blacking out, I had long enough to experience that elation of solving the difficult puzzle of what caused these incidents and then berate myself for my stupidity.

You would think that when your heart stops you have a few minutes to sort things out before the lights go out – kind of like holding your breath till you pass out from lack of oxygen. But no. Once the heart stops beating, blood immediately stops circulating. No oxygen is brought to the cells and no waste products are removed. Unconsciousness comes very quickly as the body just seizes up. Within seconds my extremities were cramping/contracting and my vision was disappearing from the outside in (tunnel vision). Blackout grabs you pretty darn quick; within seconds not minutes.

If the heart doesn’t get quickly defibrillated and restarted, death follows soon after.

Profound Final Thoughts – No

When faced with the immediate prospect of death, I did not have any profound final thoughts like the flash of my entire life before my eyes. My thoughts were more geared toward the practical concerning the immediate situation. The first time it happened was just utter confusion and questioning what was happening. The second time I wondered if and when someone would find my body way out here by this fence. And as I already said, the third episode left me elated at identifying the trigger but feeling stupid for putting myself through this again.

Progressive Heart Problems

My heart abnormalities go back many years before I cardiac arrested. My first symptoms I noticed back in the early 1990’s. They consisted of arrhythmias such as skipped beats, ectopic beats, and bradycardia. It caused concern, so I went to a doctor and had an EKG. The doc said I was in good shape and these type of heart rhythm abnormalities were not serious and are common with people that are in good cardio vascular shape. Perhaps, but looking back, that was probably bad advice. Fast forward 15 years to 2008 and I nearly die thrice.

Medical Industry is Sanctioned Organized Crime

So back to the doctors I go. This time, (2009) for extensive testing and a stress EKG. That is a whole story unto itself. The minute you step into a hospital it is like writing a blank check. The medical industry is like organized crime – a trifecta of cooperative veiled corruption between government, insurance and care providers. You cannot shop around and get competitive price quotes. I could get a price quote if I wanted to partake in medical tourism and go to Costa Rica or India or Mexico. The going rate for going to Costa Rica or India for what I wanted was about $1500 and that includes airfare and lodging! At the time, Mexico was about half that, but I have already been there and have no desire to see that pit again. If I could get the same tests done locally for under $1500, I would stick around and avoid the inconvenience of international travel.

It was impossible to get a written quote or estimate, but I did get a verbal estimate of $330.00 so that sounded good. So I choose the local option. After a lengthy and exhaustive testing process and getting really sick afterwards, probably from some nasty bug floating around the hospital, I really didn’t learn anything and no explanation was given for why pressure on the left side of my chest would trigger cardiac arrest. And more importantly no advice what to do, other than take some drugs and get a defibrillator implanted.

And as it turned out, that quote for $330 dollars was for only one bill. Eventually, I received a total of five separate bills. Each around $330 dollars for a total cost over $1600. Seems every department at the hospital gets to bill you – lab, materials, administration, tech, doctor… And the minimum bill must be around $300. Did they focus or market test that amount or something? It is Criminal.

Self Treatment

The reason I am writing this post is to detail some of the things I did to self treat my heart disease. Time is our most valuable resource. So taking the time to write this is my way of giving something of value to whoever may stumble upon this. If it only helps one person to improve their health, it is worth it. The most popular posts on this Blog happen to be ones that are only tangentially related to the Bridger Ridge Run such as:

https://bridgerridgerun.wordpress.com/2015/03/30/how-to-run-a-3-hour-marathon-a-just-enough-training-approach/

https://bridgerridgerun.wordpress.com/2011/10/28/plantar-fasciitis-prevention-treatment-and-healing-techniques/

https://bridgerridgerun.wordpress.com/2015/03/31/how-to-calibrate-or-check-accuracy-of-a-treadmill/

Back in the early 1990’s after my first concern about heart troubles and upon not getting any helpful direction from my doctor, I did a bit of research and became interested in Chelation Therapy. It is a series of IV treatments approved for treating lead poisoning, but has the side effect of improving vascular and heart health. At the time, the only option was seeing a Doctor up in White Sulphur Springs who has long since retired. It is a low risk treatment with little or no negative side effects so it is a good first line choice for treating heart disease. Just do not expect any insurance company to cover this treatment option.

After my experience with Cardiac Arrest in 2008 I again utilized a series of Chelation Therapy as a treatment option. This time from a local Doctor in Bozeman who has also since retired. In addition to Chelation Therapy, I experimented with mineral supplements. It became apparent, that as long as I was consistent with supplementing with Magnesium my heart arrhythmias were held in check.

Managing Heart Arrhythmias with Magnesium

From 2008 until this year, I consistently supplemented with Magnesium Citrate and or Magnesium Glycinate. For me, 600mgs per day keep the Arrhythmias away. A rule of thumb is 500mg or a half of gram of Magnesium per 100 lbs of body weight per day.

Until this spring, I thought I was managing my heart problems. After my three episodes of cardiac arrest and flirting with death back in 2008 I experienced no symptoms as long as I took my Magnesium. But this Spring, things took a sudden turn for the worse. I spiraled into Class IV Cardiac Failure on the popular NYHA (New York Heart Associate) scale of functional classes.

Keep on Running or Suffer the Consequences

Maybe Bob Hayes is right:

When I stop running, that will be the end of me

In the fall of 2015, I quit running. Feet problems such as bone spurs, made it just too painful to enjoy running anymore.

Bone Spurs, Left Foot Worse

Multiple Painful Bone Spurs

After 6 months of no running I started experiencing angina (chest pain) and more sensitivity to pressure on the left side of my chest. My symptoms progressed through the 4 stages from no symptoms even under exertion to the Class IV level of heart failure of symptoms at rest accompanied with an “Impending Sense of Doom”.

There are many causes of heart disease. Congenital, trauma, infection, stress, metabolic… Specialists told me that my heart problems are electrical or neurological. Perhaps it was triggered by damage from repeated trauma. Over the years I’ve had more blows to the chest resulting in broken ribs than I care to remember. In addition, a decade of competitive freestyle skiing back in my youth long before helmets were common resulted in numerous incidents of head trauma and concussions. Unfortunately, I also suffer from many of the symptoms associated with neurological damage now labeled as CTE Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy.

4 Months Going from Stage IV Cardiac Failure to finishing my 20th Bridger Ridge Run

An EKG in April 2016 was so scary that the tech performing it was a bit panicked and not sure exactly what to do with me. “Left Ventricle Dysfunction. Advanced Heart Disease immediate threat to life.” Perhaps that Impending Sense of Doom was not without merit!What to do now.

Abnormal EKG April 2016

Abnormal EKG April 2016

Compare to a typical idealized healthy EKG in the picture below.

Sample EKG Normal

Illustration of Normal EKG

The standard of care for heart failure or heart disease is to treat the symptoms with surgery, drugs and use of implanted devices such as pace makers and defibrillators. Or heart transplant as a last resort. Why can’t a damaged heart heal? Your body can heal when it gets a cut, or bruise or broken bone. Why can’t a damaged heart heal? If you provide the right nutrients, it seems logical the body will repair and heal. It is worth a try.

When researching doctors that had success reversing heart failure, the cardiologist Dr Sinatra and his success treating heart disease with nutrition attracted me.

The Awesome Foursome, Magnesium, coQ10, Carnitine, Ribose

Dr Sinatra recommends four nutrients he calls the awesome foursome. It is worth a try and inexpensive compared to the standard of care of traditional medicine. So I gave it a go. Quality food is your best source of nutrition. The best food sources of these four nutrients are organ meats like liver and heart. So I started eating organ meats at least once a week.

Beef Heart

Beef Heart

It is simpler to take supplements and is more controllable so I also supplemented. I was already taking Magnesium and added coQ10, Carnatine and Ribose on a consistent daily basis.

In addition to 600 mg of Magnesium, I added 5 grams of Ribose, 1 gram of Carnatine and 200 mg of coQ10 to my morning nutrients. Within weeks my heart failure symptoms started subsiding. My EKG showed less dysfunction. Below is a vastly improved EKG from August after the Bridge Ridge Run.

EKG August 2016

EKG August 2016

In April, I had real doubts I would do my 20th Ridge Run this summer. I signed up with fear and trepidation. Minimal training and consistent treatment of my heart disease with nutrition resulting in setting what I called my “Off the Couch” PR. My goal was run 4:30 and break my previous off the couch PR set in 2006 and 2007 when I could not train and had to do the Ridge Run in a rigid splint. After doing a 4:15 in the 2016 Ridge Run, I was relieved and satisfied and in awe of the miraculous healing potential of the human body.

More to come…

 

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Quick Thoughts about the Bridger Ridge Run Course Record

The possibility of Jim Walmsley doing the Ridge Run this year inspires the question:

Can Jim break the course record?

Jim is arguably the most talented runner the Ridge Run has seen since 2012 when Mike Wolfe set the course record and Dan Kraft was a close second also under the old record.

Are Course Records for Trail Runs Meaningful?

With variable weather and trail conditions is it even meaningful to keep track of a course record for a trail run over the years? Conditions from one day to another can change significantly making one day fast and another day slow. Variability certainly diminishes the true meaning of course records. But humans like benchmarks and enjoy measuring themselves against standards, so records of performance, even for trail runs, are popular.

In the case of the Ridge Run, the course itself has changed significantly over the years. 2012 (the record year) just happens to be the very last year where the Start location was the same as the original Start location in use since 1985. Beginning in 2013 the Start moved lower down the mountain to accommodate an expansion of the Fairy Lake Campground. This move lengthened the course by 3 minutes for the fastest runners (double that for the slowest) making breaking the course record just that much more difficult.

Is the Course Getting Faster as it gets Worn in or Slower as it gets Longer?

Since its inception in 1985, the Ridge Run course has gone through some significant changes. Overall, it is now about a mile longer than the original. Most of the lengthening taking place between the Start and where the course reconnects with the Foothill Trail after Sacajawea. These changes were from adding switch backs to the route and blocking the shorter faster direct routes. In my estimate, it is now takes about 10 minutes longer (for the fastest runners) to get from the Starting line to the Foothill Trail junction than it did in the early 1990’s. The portion of the course just after Ross Pass also has been ‘switch backified’ adding a few minutes to race times.

From Bridger Bowl to the top of Baldy the course is largely unchanged, but is much more pronounced and visible making route finding less of a problem compared to the race’s early years. You could say this change makes this section faster. Perhaps, but I would suggest that the fastest successful runners did not slow down because of route finding. There were even years from the mid 1990’s to the early 2000’s were the course was marked with orange paint so often that you could always see where the route went.

With each passing year, as the course gets traveled more, it has gotten very worn in. This changes the footing. In some areas, the footing is smoother and faster. But in other areas, footing has gotten worse and slower with wear. In places, it is now extremely slippery with loose dirt and gravel. Wear also exposes fixed rocks underneath. Each year as surrounding dirt gets worn away embedded rocks get more pronounced and trip prone.

Are the Runners getting Faster?

The popularity of trail running and the increasing body of knowledge about training, fueling and racing has resulted in many more talented and faster trail runners than there were in the early days of the Ridge Run. The course has significantly changed and slowed over the years, but the fastest runners keep getting faster. Some day, the Ridge Run course record will be broken. Will it be this year? In another week we will find out. I would enjoy seeing Jim show up and go for it.

 

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