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    Training

    Coach Panel: How to Navigate GI Issues on Race Day

    Coach Panel: How to Navigate GI Issues on Race Day

    There are a lot of unknowns in running. Everyone's body is different and when you get out there on race day and see some clear areas to improve upon it is hard to find the right answer.

    We have heard several questions asked more than any others when it comes to running and racing so we have a series of articles addressing them by our favorite knowledgable running coaches.

    The third topic in our series breaks down what can go wrong with stomachs during races or long runs and how to reduce the chance of having issues. 

    Yassine Diboun, Danielle Snyder and Andrew Miller lay out their answers below.

    How do you navigate through GI issues during racing and long adventures?

     

    Danielle Snyder:

    Stomachs are tricky business in the running world! I don’t know many runners who haven’t struggled with some type of indigestion, diarrhea or vomiting while racing.

    My number 1 tip: DON’T PANIC!

    Yes, this is hard to do but anxiety or worrying can make matters worse. You are capable of handling what is thrown at you, so breathe and make a plan!

    1. Assess the situation: Are you under or over hydrating, what is going with your electrolytes? Have you had enough fuel (yes, this can also impact your stomach if you are underfeeding), are you overheating?
    2. Take a break. Oftentimes, if we sit down (out of the sun and/or weather elements), try to eat something slowly, we can allow our stomachs to get back on track.
    3. Always pack for disaster (bring tums/imodium or other stomach aids— such as ginger).
    4. The biggest key is prevention. Practice drinking and eating during training runs, find out what works for you. The sooner you start fueling on these big days, the better your stomach will do.

     

    Yassine Diboun:

    Oftentimes when I am struggling with GI issues while racing I will give myself a little time to sit or lay down. This will give my stomach and digestive system a break from all the jostling caused by running. Even taking some extended hike breaks with focused deep breathing into the diaphragm can help.

    Also, sometimes laying down, getting horizontal, will move things around and allow gas bubbles to dissipate. Eating ginger or drinking ginger ale can help too. The best thing to do is to figure out how to preemptively avoid GI distress while racing!

    I've found that limiting greasy and acidic foods at aid stations, and using gels such as Spring Energy Nutrition (bananas, rice, applesauce, etc.) are easier on my GI tract and thus don't allow me to get too aggravated during endurance events. Carrying ginger chews, Tums, even digestive enzymes, or probiotics can help if you feel that distress coming on.

     

    Andrew Miller:

    Gastrointestinal issues can be one of the most debilitating problems in ultrarunning. Most often this problem is caused when your stomach osmolality is too high. Osmolality is the number or particles in a volume. In our case, this is the number of sugar molecules or electrolytes in your stomach. When your stomach osmolality is too high, your body cannot process the contents of your stomach.

    Your body will either need to pull water from elsewhere in your body, either your bloodstream or your cells, or expel the food in your stomach without processing it. When the latter happens, you will either be puking or heading to the bushes. If you have GI issues, stop eating for 30-60 minutes. Keep drinking plain water to get your stomach osmolality back to a normal level.

    This will allow your body to process what is inside and stop your GI issues. Slowing down during this period will also help. A slower pace puts less stress on the body and will allow the body to divert more water to the stomach.

    Coach Profiles

    Danielle Snyder is an avid ultrarunner who is constantly reminded of the importance of mental training in addition to physical training. She has run countless 100-mile races, set the FKT on the Oregon section of the PCT, and holds the FKT on the Rogue River Trail.

    Danielle has worked with countless professional athletes and Olympians and specializes in helping athletes avoid the pitfalls of negative self-talk, so that they can achieve more balance in all parts of their lives. Using multiple different techniques, Danielle guides her clients along their paths to physical and mental well-being, helping athletes reach their potential. Danielle is a Certified Running Coach and a licensed clinical social worker with extensive additional training. Learn more at Inner Drive Wellness

    Yassine Diboun is a co-owner of Wy'east Wolfpack where he remains highly active coaching athletes of all abilities, including kids, office workers, folks in or seeking recovery from substance addiction. He still likes to get after it on the ultramarathon racing circuit and has enjoyed a long sustainable career. You can learn more about him and the wolfpack at: Wy'east Wolfpack and follow @WyeastWolfpack and @YassineDiboun on Instagram

    Career Highlights: *4-time Western States 100 finisher (once in the top 10) *3-time HURT 100 finisher (once in the top 3) *Top 100 finisher of the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc (UTMB) *Top 25 finisher at Hardrock 100 *Top 5 finishes at Bighorn 100, Cascade Crest 100, Pinhoti 100, & San Diego 100


    Andrew Miller lives in Oregon where enjoys running and volunteering on the local trails. Andrew has won 16 ultramarathons, including the 2016 Western States 100, and works as a running coach at Andrew Miller Coaching. *Represented Team USA at the IAU World Trail Running Championships in Annecy, France (silver medal)

    The Best GPS Apps for Trail Runners

    The Best GPS Apps for Trail Runners

    By Mack Robertson


    As smart phones have improved, so too have GPS mapping apps. At this point, I feel that there’s really no excuse to not be using one of these apps. They provide a crucial safety net for trail runners- allowing you to safely explore new areas. In this article, we'll take an in-depth look at three prominent GPS mapping apps - Gaia GPS, ON X Backcountry, and Strava. While these three certainly aren’t the only options available in this space, they are some of the most popular and best-loved at this time. We'll evaluate their advantages and disadvantages, pricing plans, features, and user-friendliness. The most important feature on any of these apps is the ability to view maps offline. As trail runners, we often explore areas without reliable cell reception. While many of these apps offer a free or “lite” version, the offline map feature seems to be universally reserved for paid subscribers.

    I should also mention that while most of these types of maps allow you to record your runs within the app, we will not be reviewing this functionality. For best results when recording your runs, we recommend a GPS watch as the accuracy will be much higher.

    Gaia GPS

    In the past, Gaia GPS was the clear leader of GPS apps for trail runners. However, in recent years, it has stagnated- offering little in ways of new features or improvements. Here's a more comprehensive exploration of its merits and drawbacks:

    Pricing Plans:
    Gaia GPS Premium: Priced at $39.99 per year, it includes a huge number of map layers, all available offline.

    Pros: Gaia GPS boasts several strengths, including an incredibly extensive map selection that encompasses topographic, satellite imagery, and specialized maps that include smoke, cell reception and weather forecasts as well as historical maps. You can download maps of an entire area for offline use. I, for example, have downloaded a basic map layer for the entire states of Oregon and Washington. There have been numerous occasions where I was unexpectedly turned around without cell reception and can’t imagine not having those maps available.

    You can blend multiple map layers together to get a fuller picture of the area you are heading into. For example, some trails and water sources are not always listed on every map. Being able to overlay multiple maps gives you some more perspective. Moreover, it provides offline map functionality, an essential feature for remote trail running. The app allows users to create detailed tracks and waypoints, making it a valuable tool for seasoned trail runners.

    Cons: My biggest complaint with Gaia is that it hasn’t innovated. Five years ago it was the best thing available, in my opinion. In those past five years, I can’t name a single feature that has improved. In fact, the user interface seems quite a bit clunkier and glitchier than it had been in the past. You can’t build routes when you are offline. Or at least, not very accurate ones. When building a route with reception, you can draw points and the route will “snap” to the nearest trail giving you somewhat accurate distance measurements. When you’re offline you can only draw straight lines. This is fairly insignificant, but if you’ve ever been in that situation where you really want to know how many more miles you have until the finish or your next water source, it can be annoying that you can’t measure that out on the fly without reception.

    ON X Backcountry

    I’d heard of ON X Backcountry a few times earlier this year. In order to write this article I decided to download the app and test out its features with a free seven day trial. Immediately upon opening the app it felt like I had just traveled ten years into the future when compared to Gaia’s interface. There’s several things that stand out to me that make this app seem so cool. Here's a closer look:

    Pricing Plans:
    Premium Membership: Priced at $29.99 per year
    Elite Membership: Priced at $99.99 per year, this plan offers complete data on private land ownership. For most, the Premium membership would be plenty.

    Pros: One of the biggest improvements that ON X Backcountry makes upon Gaia’s maps is the ability to view the maps in 3D. This is such a cool feature and gives you an immersive view of the area. I’m also impressed with the level of detail when you zoom into the map. I tend to prefer using the satellite map overlay and it’s incredible how good the map quality is. If you’ve ever played around on Google Earth, it’s akin to that. Just like Gaia, you can download maps for offline use. It allows you three different levels of detail: Low, Medium and High. It also has map layers for wildfires and air quality. The navigation within the app is very intuitive and fairly seamless. Uploading a GPX file is easy as well.

    Cons: Just like Gaia, you cannot build accurate routes when in offline mode, even with maps downloaded. It also has far less maps to choose from compared to Gaia.

    Strava

    Strava, primarily a social fitness app, has made some surprising investments to their mapping in the last few years. So much so that I’m beginning to consider it a real potential competitor to apps like Gaia. It distinguishes itself with its 3D maps and aggregated trail use data. Here's a closer look:

    Pricing Plans:
    Strava Premium: Priced at $11.99 per month or $79.99 per year

    Pros: Strava's 3D maps offer an immersive experience, allowing users to visualize their routes in a unique way. The social aspect of this app actually provides an unexpected advantage over the other mapping apps- heat maps. A heat map is aggregated, anonymous data of trail users that shows the popularity of an area or trail. I find that this feature provides unique and valuable insights when planning a route. For example, if the trail has little to no use on the heatmap, I can expect it to be a potentially unmaintained, overgrown or even an abandoned trail. I’ve also found it useful to discover new trails that I had no idea existed. Strava’s ability to suggest a route is also a cool feature when exploring a new area. You can select the distance, surface and terrain and it will give you a handful of suggested routes that you can then download. Just like Gaia and ON X, it offers the option to download routes for offline use.

    Cons: Strava's offline map functionality is relatively limited compared to Gaia GPS and ON X Backcountry. For example, while you can download a route for offline use, you can’t actually download whole areas (that I’m aware of). This alone would make it hard for me personally to use this as my primary mapping app. It also has the frustrating hassle of having to be on the desktop version of the website in order to upload a GPX file into Strava. The other maps you can do right in the app from your phone. The subscription fees, while not exorbitant, are certainly more than you would be paying for Gaia and ON X Backcountry combined. However, I think this is warranted as Strava is really more than just a mapping app. While I probably won’t be using this app as my primary GPS Mapping app, I’m very excited to see what future improvements they make to it. It has a lot of potential to be the best option available within the next few years.

    For my money, ON X Backcountry seems to be the clear winner of the apps I looked at. So much so that since researching this article, I have canceled my Gaia subscription and instead subscribed to ON X Backcountry. In 2021, Gaia was purchased by Outside and since then it just really hasn’t kept up with the market. I think Strava truly has the potential to be the ultimate mapping device for trail runners, but as of now, it is missing a couple of crucial features.

    How to Train Better for a Race at Altitude

    How to Train Better for a Race at Altitude

    There are a lot of unknowns in running. Everyone's body is different and when you get out there on race day and see some clear areas to improve upon it is hard to find the right answer.

    We have heard several questions asked more than any others when it comes to running and racing so we have a series of articles addressing them by our favorite knowledgable running coaches.

    The second topic in our series gives you tips that you can put into practice to have a better race at altitude.

    Yassine Diboun, Danielle Snyder and Andrew Miller lay out their answers below.

     

    How you train better for a race at altitude:

     

    Danielle Snyder:

    For us low-landers ( I am originally from Rochester, NY— estimated altitude 500ft), there is no sugarcoating the challenge when going to race at altitude. In an ideal world, you would be able to train on the course and be at altitude multiple weeks before the race. However, for most of us, this is not realistic or reasonable. There are also other tools such as altitude tents and rooms which can enhance our tolerance to altitude but also not an option for many. So for those of you that fall into the category of doing the best with what you got, here are my go-to tips:

    • This may seem counterintuitive but travel to the race as close to the race as possible if you can’t go out far in advance. This will help your body not start the acclimation process and you could feel less effective by the altitude.
    • Become familiar with what typical altitude responses and normalize that you will not feel 100%. For example, shortness of breath, headache and stomach issues are common responses in altitude. This is a sign you should scale back your intensity. The goal in altitude is not to fight it but accept these are a part of being up high.
    • Stay hydrated before the trip and make sure to stay up on your hydration during your adventure.
    • You will move slower, plan accordingly.
    • It is important to pay attention as some symptoms can become serious. HACE (High altitude cerebral Oedema) is an acute reaction that often presents with severe headache, vomiting, confusion and lack of coordination. If this is happening to you, stop immediately, get to lower altitude if possible and call for help.
      • One way to be aware is to monitor your oxygen levels in real time (some watches have this as an option).
      • At the end of the day, no race or adventure is worth your life. Altitude can be looked at similar to weather conditions, we must respect the unknowns in order to adapt.

    Yassine Diboun:

    My best suggestion to prepare someone to train for altitude is to get as fit as possible and then go there at least 2 weeks before the event. When you get super conditioned for endurance events you increase your VO2 Max and Lactate Threshold. By really maximizing your potential in those areas you are setting yourself up for advantages where there is less oxygen.

    I realize that this is not always realistic for many folks in terms of time away from home. Another theory is to get as physically fit as possible and to arrive just a day or two before your race or adventure, before your system goes into acclimation mode. I tried sleeping in an altitude tent at home for months before Hardrock 100 and I felt that the benefits that I may have gained from the tent might have been offset in poor sleep, which led to poor recovery from workouts.

    Working out at altitude (in an altitude room or in the mountains) can also normalize that type of stress for your body so it is more recognizable when you do get up there. I'd say the best suggestion would be to try to get there as early as possible if you can make it happen!

    Andrew Miller:

    Racing at altitude can be difficult for runners living at sea level. When runners live at altitude for an extended period of time, their red blood cell count increases which helps combat the lack of oxygen at high elevation. Sea level runners do not get this same adaptation which makes running at altitude feel very difficult. For runners living at sea level, the best way to prepare for a race at high altitude is sauna training.

    Sauna training will increase blood plasma volume. This is not the same as increasing red blood cell count, but increased blood plasma will increase oxygen transportation which will aid performance at high elevation. To achieve an increased blood plasma, do 2-4 sauna sessions per week for 4-6 weeks leading into your race. Increase the duration of each sauna session over the course of your training. Aim to reach 30-45 minutes in the sauna.

     

     

    Coach Profiles

    Danielle Snyder is an avid ultrarunner who is constantly reminded of the importance of mental training in addition to physical training. She has run countless 100-mile races, set the FKT on the Oregon section of the PCT, and holds the FKT on the Rogue River Trail.

    Danielle has worked with countless professional athletes and Olympians and specializes in helping athletes avoid the pitfalls of negative self-talk, so that they can achieve more balance in all parts of their lives. Using multiple different techniques, Danielle guides her clients along their paths to physical and mental well-being, helping athletes reach their potential. Danielle is a Certified Running Coach and a licensed clinical social worker with extensive additional training. Learn more at Inner Drive Wellness.

    Yassine Diboun is a co-owner of Wy'east Wolfpack where he remains highly active coaching athletes of all abilities, including kids, office workers, folks in or seeking recovery from substance addiction. He still likes to get after it on the ultramarathon racing circuit and has enjoyed a long sustainable career. You can learn more about him and the wolfpack at: Wy'east Wolfpack and follow @WyeastWolfpack and @YassineDiboun on Instagram

    Career Highlights: *4-time Western States 100 finisher (once in the top 10) *3-time HURT 100 finisher (once in the top 3) *Top 100 finisher of the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc (UTMB) *Top 25 finisher at Hardrock 100 *Top 5 finishes at Bighorn 100, Cascade Crest 100, Pinhoti 100, & San Diego 100


    Andrew Miller lives in Oregon where enjoys running and volunteering on the local trails. Andrew has won 16 ultramarathons, including the 2016 Western States 100, and works as a running coach at Andrew Miller Coaching. *Represented Team USA at the IAU World Trail Running Championships in Annecy, France (silver medal)

    Our Coach Panel: The Number One Method to Become a More Efficient Power Hiker

    Our Coach Panel: The Number One Method to Become a More Efficient Power Hiker

    There are a lot of unknowns in running. Everyone's body is different and when you get out there on race day and see some clear areas to improve upon it is hard to find the right answer.

    We have heard several questions asked more than any others when it comes to running and racing so we have a series of articles addressing them by our favorite knowledgable running coaches.

    The first topic is how to become better at climbing hills and power hiking. Hills are definitely a challenge for those just getting into trail running as well as the experienced ultra runners. We put it to our trusted coaches to get their expert advice on power hiking and hill work.

    Yassine Diboun, Danielle Snyder and Andrew Miller lay out their answers below.

    What is your number one method to become a more efficient power hiker?

    Danielle Snyder:

    Power hiking is an essential skill for runners and often misunderstood as a weakness. It is a great tool and often underutilized as a way to manage energy. Here are some of my tips in order to best utilize this skill.

    Start sooner! If you think you will need to power hike at all during the race, start early. When you choose to hike rather than being forced to hike, you feel more in control and can manage the longevity of your energy stores. Hiking is a great tool to use after eating as it also help with digestive issues.

    Hike with purpose. This is not a leisure walk in the park: this is an intentionally fully body movement that can often match other’s running speed uphill when done right.

    Especially up hills, set small manageable goals— pick a visual spot and hike to it. Hit your goal spot and choose another spot. For example, you hike intentionally powerful to a big rock, get there, ‘celebrate’ and then find another visual cue and make your way forward.

    Poles are a wonderful way to help correct form and make sure you are not hunching over. When we start to hunch, we stop being able to breathe as deeply and ‘waste’ energy not taking deep breaths.

    Yassine Diboun:

    There are many ways to become a more efficient power hiker and they all involve consistency. If I had to choose the number one method it would be hiking w/ poles and weight on your back. For my build-up to Hardrock 100 I hiked while wearing a 25-lb weight-vest at Evolution Healthcare and Fitness altitude room in Portland, OR. This allowed me to use a "stair mill" and simultaneously acclimate to higher altitude. Even on days that I didn't have access to Evolution I would put extra weight on me, such as a weight vest or hydration pack loaded w/ ankle weights and other gear.

    I like to use stairs as much as possible because there is less torque on the lower legs and achilles tendons. Sometimes I will hike up trails too, and using my Leki poles help me have a couple more points of contact to thrust me up the mountain. I do a lot of cross training in the form of bodyweight exercises and weight lifting to strengthen my quads, hip flexors, calves, anterior tibialis, and hamstrings which are the primary muscles used in power hiking.

    As I said in the first sentence, consistency and specificity is the name of the game; anything you do a lot of you will become more efficient at! In the past I would try to run all the hills, and then I would find that in my ultras I would be doing so much hiking.

    For this past training block for Hardrock I intentionally focused on refining my power hiking and, even though I could run some of the hills, I chose to hike with intention to develop that gait and the necessary muscles needed to efficiently cover some ground.

    Andrew Miller: 

    To become a more efficient power-hiker, the most important step you can take is to practice consistently.  This may sound very basic, but most runners never hike during training unless the hill is so steep they can’t run.

    In trail races, especially ultras, runners often hike upwards of ¼ of the event.  If you haven’t practiced hiking in training, then you haven’t trained for ¼ of the event. That’s pretty significant! To improve your hiking efficiency, practice at least one time per week. If you have a sustained uphill where you can hike for 30-60 minutes, this is a great option! 

    If you do not have a sustained uphill, hiking hill repeats works well too.  When selecting your hill, pick a hill that is a similar grade to the average grade you will be hiking on race day.  It’s tempting to pick the steepest hill possible, but you will get more out of your hiking practice if you match your training to race day. After 4-6 weeks, you will see significant improvement in your hiking speed.

    Coach Profiles

    Danielle Snyder is an avid ultrarunner who is constantly reminded of the importance of mental training in addition to physical training. She has run countless 100-mile races, set the FKT on the Oregon section of the PCT, and holds the FKT on the Rogue River Trail.

    Danielle has worked with countless professional athletes and Olympians and specializes in helping athletes avoid the pitfalls of negative self-talk, so that they can achieve more balance in all parts of their lives. Using multiple different techniques, Danielle guides her clients along their paths to physical and mental well-being, helping athletes reach their potential. Danielle is a Certified Running Coach and a licensed clinical social worker with extensive additional training. Learn more at Inner Drive Wellness

    Yassine Diboun is a co-owner of Wy'east Wolfpack where he remains highly active coaching athletes of all abilities, including kids, office workers, folks in or seeking recovery from substance addiction. He still likes to get after it on the ultramarathon racing circuit and has enjoyed a long sustainable career. You can learn more about him and the wolfpack at: Wy'east Wolfpack and follow @WyeastWolfpack and @YassineDiboun on Instagram

    Career Highlights: *4-time Western States 100 finisher (once in the top 10) *3-time HURT 100 finisher (once in the top 3) *Top 100 finisher of the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc (UTMB) *Top 25 finisher at Hardrock 100 *Top 5 finishes at Bighorn 100, Cascade Crest 100, Pinhoti 100, & San Diego 100


    Andrew Miller lives in Oregon where enjoys running and volunteering on the local trails. Andrew has won 16 ultramarathons, including the 2016 Western States 100, and works as a running coach at Andrew Miller Coaching. *Represented Team USA at the IAU World Trail Running Championships in Annecy, France (silver medal)

    Five Strategies for Improving Performance with Mindfulness

    By Ian Ramsey

     

    Mindfulness is a tool to help you feel better, perform better and live better. It will make you happier, stronger and fitter. Here are some methods and tips to help you control your own state and have more agency in your life.

     

    1. Box Breathing: Taking a moment to breathe in an intentional way can down regulate the nervous system and help with calm and focus. One breath practice that is easy is box breathing, where you breathe in for a beat, hold for a beat, breathe out for a beat, pause for a beat, and repeat. As you get more comfortable with the practice, you can lengthen the breaths and the holds.  You can do this while driving, while sitting in a meeting or waiting in line at a store. The App “Breathe to Perform” is a great way to support this practice.
    2. Mindfulness practice: Here’s a basic, useful mindfulness practice that I’ve been doing for years: Try closing your eyes and silently counting your breaths up to ten. On the first in-breath, count "one" and on the out-breath count "two" and then on the next in-breath, "three,"  and so on until you get to ten and then start over. If you lose count or focus (and you probably will), don't worry about it and just gently and persistently keep returning to the counting. The point is not to be perfect, but to make the effort.
    3. When you’re practicing mindfulness or box breathing, take deep belly breaths that use your full diaphragm.  Sit with a good comfortable posture that helps you to fully breathe.
    4. Don't worry if you're doing it right.  Don't let perfect be the enemy of good: doing anything is better than nothing. Don't worry if your legs are crossed, or if you're sitting in a chair. Don't worry if your mind if wandering too much or if you need to scratch your ear. By making the effort, you've already succeeded.
    5. Try to start and end the day with just a few minutes of mindfulness. Starting the day with this helps set patterns of focus for the day, and doing it before bed allows the nervous system to relax and lets the unconscious mind start to integrate with the conscious mind. All of these things help with sleep.

    Resources:

    Apps:

    Breathe to Perform (Breathwork)

    Headspace (Mindfulness)

    Insight Timer (Mindfulness)

     

    Physiology First-Anti-Anxiety Nonprofit that Ian is involved in. Physiology First provides cutting edge anxiety mitigation tools to students around the world. www.Physiologyfirst.org

    Ian’s Website: ianramsey.net

    Ian’s Email: ianramsey@nya.org (Reach out if you have questions)

    An article by Physiology First founder David Bidler about using breathwork to enhance running performance: https://trailrunnermag.com/training/breathe-to-perform.html

     

    Books:

    Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind-Shunryu Suzuki

    Power Speed Endurance-Brian Mackenzie

    The Oxygen Advantage-Patrick McKeown