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The Running Library: Hal Koerner’s Field Guide to UltraRunning

September 22, 2014

I’ve been waiting for a quiet afternoon to crack open the cover of Hal Koerner’s Field Guide to Ultrarunning: Training for an Ultramarathon From 50K to 100 Miles and Beyond.  Just moments into the book, I was a little disappointed to discover that the Writer’s Note at the beginning abruptly ended mid-sentence, but I chalked this up to a printing error–perhaps just a missing page, though, hmmm, I did notice two “xvi” pages following.  Bummer.  But putting that aside, Hal’s book is a clear and consise read for someone who is contemplating their first ultra–or for anyone thinking about getting more serious on trails.

The encouraging, how-to tone of Hal Koerner’s Field Guide to Ultrarunning, reminds me of Relentless Forward Progress.  It contains training advice, such as dealing with technical issues, gear, hydration, increasing mileage, including topics such as advice for runners who don’t live near trails and dealing with animals (and yikes! snakes) on trails.  Hal offers valuable “Expert Tips” and discussion questions in shaded text boxs, such as tips about recovery drinks and even an answer to the burning question:  Should I shave?  When it comes to running with dogs, on and off leash, Hal hits the main points that make for lively running forum discussion and Facebook posts, and advises: “be sensitive.”  He talks about using pacers and preparing a crew to help you achieve your goals, race “DNF” disappointment and important topics like dealing with injuries, such as when to bag a race because of one.  He dedicates many pages to race day, including preparation and day-of race advice.  In the last Chapter, he gives the lowdown on training workouts, and includes a 50K, 50Miles to 100K, and 100 Miles plan.

For someone who is super excited about getting into ultrarunning, who has little off-pavement experience or has yet to run longer distances, this books seems like an incredibly helpful addition to the ol’ running library.  However, for someone with a bit of trail running or racing under her/his belt, and who is comfortable off-road, Hal Koerner’s Field Guide to Ultrarunning may offer less in the way of fresh ideas–for example, topics like figuring out how to deal with chafing or going to the bathroom outside may be hardly new.

But regardless of whether you’re seasoned or newly minted, run roads or trails, there’s something pretty sweet about reading the advice and wisdom of one of the best ultrarunners (and one known for being the Happiest, too) packed into a book with a glossy and bright enticing cover.

Hal Koerner’s Field Guide to Ultrarunning is a definite plus for a runner’s book collection.

Hal Koerner’s Field Guide to Ultrarunning
Published August 1, 2014
224 Pages
ISBN-13: 978-1937715229

Happy Running!




Is Ultra Running Safe For Kids

September 14, 2014

One of the reasons I enjoy running is because it opens up the possibility of lots of travel.  Travel to new trails. Road trips to new routes.  Adventures to new places.  Excursions to races across the state, country, or globe.

My kids are increasingly making this connection, too.  They love to travel and they love to run.  They want more travel and they want more running.

In my mind, there’s no such thing as too much travel.

But is there too much running when you’re a kid? 

Winter Vinecki, Colby Wentlandt and the kids of the Seven Wild and Free blog do it, but is it safe for children?  By it, I’m talking about Ultra Running–as in L-O-N-G distance running longer than 26.2 miles.

As in lots and lots and lots of miles.

When my athletic 11 year old declared not long ago that she was going to run a trail 25K, which she did, and then start training for an ultramarathon, which she is doing, my mama reflex was to immediately start googling phrases like, “is ultrarunning safe for children,” “long term effects of long distance running on children,” and “should kids run ultras”?  It didn’t take long to realize that there are differing views about the safety and impact of long distance, ultra running on children’s health and development.

Though I lack medical training of any kind, other than a long outdated Wilderness EMT certification and a CPR/First Aid certification, I’ve been exposed to the running and racing scene since I was just a bit older than my daughter’s age. I get why proper training for long distance events is important, for adults anyway. And it stands to reason that good, solid training is also key for children interested in embarking on long distance running adventures.

But what I consistently find is that arguments against young ultra running only vaguely talk about injury and burnout, rather than citing hard evidence of damage or risk to children posed by long distances.


Maybe there simply aren’t enough studies yet about the impact of major mileage on children’s development, but there are studies and research showing that youth sports are riddled with risk. I know this all to well from watching my son play lacrosse and from watching my competitive gymnast sisters navigate the gymnastics world.  I can’t help wonder how letting kids who have a burning passion for running go run and rack up crazy mileage could be more riskier than the alternatives:  known dangers of popular youth sports or health consequences of inactivity, like diabetes and obesity. I can’t help but wonder if the biggest danger of kids running ultras is a problem of perception. That ultra running is different and lies outside the comfort zone of popular youth sports, and different means scary.

I can understand that letting a kid run wild outside for hours without supervision might be dangerous and/or potentially put a child in harm’s way in today’s society, but assuming a parent or other mature person runs with the child, I’m not yet sure that there’s concrete data or enough of it to write off ultra running.

It seems like the positives far outweigh the negatives.

Until I see evidence to the contrary, I’m going to continue getting my kids on their feet, running, walking or hiking whenever possible, having fun with them on the trails and outside in nature, and supporting their self-initiated running goals, including my daughter’s long distance running goals.

I have no plans to discourage my kids’ interest in running–and I have no plans to discourage their love of travel.  As long as they want to run, I’ll keep registering them for races and keep my eyes and ears on travel deals and fabulous destinations.

What’s your view about ultra running children?  I would love to hear what you think.  Contribute to the discussion below.




What I wish I had known: 21 Reach the Beach Ragnar Relay Newbie Tips

September 14, 2014

This past weekend a group of awesome friends and I completed the New Balance Reach the Beach Ragnar Relay from Cannon Mountain to Hampton Beach, NH. We competed as a five person freestyle ultra team and finished the 207 mile race in 34 hours. It was an exciting, pavement pounding experience, even for our group of loyal trail runners.

If you’re thinking about grabbing a few, or several, of your besties and signing up for Reach the Beach, here are a few newbie tips for you (thank you to my team for helping me compile this list): Reach the Beach Ragnar

21 Newbie Reach the Beach Ragnar Relay Tips:

1.  Pack pens.  If you show up at the registration desk without your signed waivers, you’ll get little sympathy at the registration desk. Sign ’em in advance, racers!  You’ll also find pens useful for scribbling your teammates’ names down next to their assigned relay legs in the detailed Ragnar Race Guide–and later crossing those names and replacing them with teammates who want to run MORE legs because they want to amass more mileage.

2. Pack the Foam Roller. Because rolling at transition areas mid-race hurts so good.

3.  Ditch the sleeping bag, maybe.  If you’re on a small team (think one vehicle), you probably won’t have much time for sleeping, especially if you’re switching runners at every transition area and they aren’t “running through,” so ditch the bag and pack light. See number four below.

4.  Sleep is for the weak.  Well, kind of.  Again, if you’re running on a team smaller than the popular size of 12, don’t expect to get much sleep. Larger teams have much more downtime, so it may be feasible to actually sleep.  My team was able to sneak in micronaps, at best. So, if you’re hoping to sleep lots, put together a big team (or a team with runners who are willing to run through multiple legs) or make sure you have a team of super fast runners so you can get home and back to your own bed fast.

5.  Be flexible.  Your teammates will appreciate you more and you’ll have a better overall experience if you’re flexible, accommodating and willing to roll with it all–whether in the form of flexibility to rotate assigned legs, swapping drivers, or figuring out where to eat.

6.  Like your teammates.  Sure, you can put together a random team of people who are excited about doing a lengthy relay race and love to run and have a great Ragnar experience.  However, that approach may work great for larger teams, but if you’re a small team, you’ll probably want to make sure you at least like each other well enough to tolerate each other and the range of emotions that pop up over 24+ hours.

7.  Protect your nipples!  Boyz and girls, need I say more?

8.  Have no expectations.  If you don’t like road racing to begin with, don’t expect you’ll fall in love with road racing along the way. If you love trail racing, don’t expect that you’ll naturally love road racing. Don’t expect you’ll find wonderful, warm, compassionate volunteers at every stage or at every hour.  You might find crotchety ones at 5:30 a.m, but then again, you might also meet the sweetest, kindest ones in the middle of the night directing van traffic in a parking lot.  Don’t expect to be annoyed by all road racers or their habits like constant spitting (is that just for show, anyway?).  They might surprise you with their praise or appreciation, maybe even in the form of gifting you a plastic coin. Don’t expect to find comforts at the finish line.  You might find a huge table of food, massages and beverages, or you might not.

9.  Prepare for Port-a-Potty Lines.  No public urination means waiting in lines, sometimes l-o-n-g lines.  No ifs, ands, or buts. BYOTP (toilet paper), just in case.

10. Bring food and snacks.  Stock your vehicle with a cooler and goodies.  While big teams with two vans may have time for stops, dining out and Starbucks, small Ultra teams may not.  Bring lots of your favorite race snacks and drinks, like water and hydration beverages, and keep your fingers crossed that you’ll find a place along the route to grab real food at some point.

11.  Drink.  Stay hydrated.  As tempting as chugging beer may be, drink lots of water and then more of it.  Pack lots of water, especially since you won’t find stocked, free aid stations like in other races.

12.  Bring cash.  If you want food or drink on the course at transition areas, you’ll need cash.  You can buy food such as a yummy breakfast at the fire department’s big annual fundraiser breakfast.

13.  Don’t Bring Any Food You Ever Want to Eat Again.  Love, love, love Beef Jerkey?  Well, you might want to leave it at home this race.  Unless you know your body extremely well under relay race circumstances mixed with sleep deprivation, don’t be surprised if you find your stomach feeling a little squirrely at some point during the race.  The last thing you might want is to develop an aversion to your favorite food.

14. Don’t Let Your Friends Quit When They Realize the Whole Thing Sucks.  If or when you or your teammates start thinking about quitting because the race blows at the moment, hold on ’cause this too shall pass.  Everything is temporary and this race is too.  It’s only a matter of hours until you’ll have a finishers medal (hopefully the right one) proudly strung around your neck.

15. Try Not To Get Caught Up in Who Passes You.  When the 91 year old grandmother or guy who sounds like he is breathing so hard that he might not make it another step, blows past you on a “very hard” leg and says, “keep it up, you’re almost there, hang in there,” take it in stride.  They are offering you support and encouragement. They’ve been there before, too. It’s not a judgment about you or your abilities.

16.  Santa’s Got Your Number.  And as my teammate witnessed first hand, he’s a surly bastard when he doesn’t get respect.  You’ll get coal–or worse, a penalty against your team–when you don’t listen to Santa’s safety rules.

17.  Take Out Your Earbuds.  At least one of them, not just so you can stay safe on the roads, but so you can hear all the kind things runners will say to you along the way.  You may even meet some really nice new road runner buddies.

18.  Drive Safely.  If it’s your turn to drive at night, drive slowly and exercise lots of caution around runners.  Sleep deprivation and driving don’t mix well.

19.  Decorate Your Vehicle.  Get in the team race spirit and get creative. Buy window glass markers. Buy battery operated LED Lights. Make magnets with your team name that you can put on your vehicle (and on other vans–as this is part of the Reach the Beach fun)!

20.  Add Up Your Pennies.  There’s a lot of expense that goes into the race, from race registration fee to the cost of printing magnets to plaster on team vehicles.  At the end of the day, make sure you really want to do the Ragnar race. Otherwise, consider using the money the race will cost toward an incredible weekend hotel suite and beer with your favorite friends.

21.  Start Planning Your Next Event ASAP.  Once the race is done, get planning your next race as soon as your friends will let you! Once your legs are recovered, you’ll be excited at the prospect of your next adventure on your calendar!

What’s your Newbie Ragnar tip? Share it in a comment below.