Open Mic Friday: Meet Stuart at Quadrathon
Most runners ease into the mileage and distances they run. Today's guest went from 0 to 100 mile races (nearly) in about two years. We recognize that not everyone is interested or capable of running 50 - 100 mile races, let alone the training to prepare. But there's something intriguing and curious about ultra runners, so we're delighted to introduce you to Stuart or SLB Plus whose blog is known as Quadrathon
Before you provide us your running background, you have some late-breaking news to share.
Yes, I got an email from the Angeles Crest 100 Race Director last Tuesday (9/1) announcing the race had been canceled! As you may have seen on the news there is a massive fire in the Angeles National Forest; currently 160,000 acres have burned. Putting aside the air quality issue, from looking at the maps the fire has impacted the last 30 miles of the course. This is only the second time in over 20 years that the race has been cancelled the first was in 2002 also due to a fire. After some suggestions and research I am now heading to Oregon to run the 100 in the Hood, the race is based in the Mt. Hood National Forest and runs along sections of the Pacific Crest Trail. Timing-wise it’s great as it’s just the weekend after AC100 was scheduled and I am really excited to be running on the PCT.
What was your first reaction when you learned about the race?
To be honest I initially felt numb; for personal reasons including the 3 months of training and being away from my family that I had invested and for broader reasons; the damage to the forest, the long term impact and the cost. As the reporting of the fire has unfolded my reaction has turned to anger; Authorities are now looking for suspects as they consider the fire to be a result of arson, additionally two firefighters were killed so the is a pending charge of homicide.
I get asked this a lot and I have yet to really come up with an answer that satisfies the question. Part of it is to see just how far I can go; the body is an amazing thing and we really only scratch the surface of our capabilities. Part of it is that Ultra races are typically on the trails so I get to see some amazing scenery and I get to cover it faster than if I was hiking and to be honest doing something that starts with ‘Ultra’ always sounded pretty cool to me!
Besides the endurance, what else is challenging about a 50 mile race?
Hydration and fueling can be an issue, remembering to eat and sometimes forcing your self to can be hard; I set my watch to beep during every hour to remind me. The elements can be a real issue, I have raced in the mid 80s and recently I’ve been training in temperatures exceeding 100f which can really take its toll, I have to carry a lot of fluid and that adds to the weight and for long training runs I plan where to stash supplies on the route, usually where there is a road crossing. I seem to have a lot more gear compared to road racing; I have a race vest with a bladder and one without a bladder, handheld bottles in two sizes and although not always needed trail shoes are advisable, as well as my trusty gaiters. Conversely my DNF last year at Twin Peaks 50m was the result of being caught in an ice storm without the right wet weather gear; it was in my drop bag! Drop bags can be an oasis in the storm (literally) and usually contain some ‘favorite’ things; bars, drinks etc as well as essentials – dry warm clothes, waterproofs, extra shoes etc.
That’s a really hard question to answer. I’ve been lucky not have had any major issues physically; in 8 ultra-marathon starts I have only had 1 small blister, I did have some GI issues at the last one but I muddled through them for 15 miles and it got better. As with any long race you know you’re going to have highs and lows, just remembering that makes things go easier, and you know that you’ll always get a boost of support from at next aid station, (AS Volunteers are the best). As long as you are moving forward you’re still in the game; I had some rubber bracelets made up that I have given to friends that completed their first Ultra inscribed on one side with “Relentless Forward Motion” and on the other with “TTP-TPR” which stands for Tough Times Pass – Tough People Remain, so I try to remember that when I am at a low point. My DNF still haunts me.
For those who aren’t familiar with your blog or training schedule, what does a typical week of training look like when you’re preparing for a 50 mile race? For a 100 mile race?
For my 50 mile races I have in the past broken my training out into three phases; base, speed and taper.
Base; 8 weeks:
Three runs a week Mon, Wed, Fri
Two road bike rides a week Tues and Thurs
Long rides alternating with long runs at the weekend
Long trail runs max out at around 31 miles (usually a 50k race) and then I back-to-back that with another run the next day of 10-15 miles. Back to back runs are a staple for Ultra runners (much like a ‘brick’ is for a triathelete),
Bike mileage maxes out at about 100 miles for a long ride and 30 miles for each midweek ride
Speed: 6 weeks
For the speed segment Wednesday’s and Friday’s runs become a tempo run and a set of intervals; I use the workouts and pace charts from the Run Faster Run Less book which is based on the FIRST program
My long rides are replaced with long runs so I am running long each weekend, with a back to back run on the next day
Taper; 2 weeks
I try to just wind down, although sometimes it falls off a cliff! I need to be more disciplined with my taper!
For my 100 miler I extended the base phase by two weeks, removed the speed work and have a three week taper. My longest training weeks were just under 80 miles running and 160 miles cycling; not in the same week though! Specific ultra training plans are few and far between so I end up basing it upon my previous training plans. With hindsight this was too long in duration for me, my body and mind start to break down around the 3 month mark of hard training, so this time I am having to really focus to have a good taper.
Unlike most races where you get water or Gatorade, Ultra Aid Stations tend to be self serve buffets, I have to confess that I often start hit the Coke or Sprite about half way through a race; around mile 25-30 at least; I think it’s the carbonation that cleans my palette, 4-5 hours of gel etc kills your tastebuds! It’s not unusual to see boiled potatoes that you dip into a bowl of salt, M&Ms, trail mix, pretzels and whole variety of fare! I have my favorites which inc PB&Nutella sandwiches and I have also had success with Ensure and Fig Newmans, tempting as it is though the usual maxim of don’t try it on race day always applies, I’ve seen plenty of people over indulge and pay the price further up the trail!
What’s your average pace (range) for a 50 mile race?
Not fast is the best way describe it; looking back at some of my race splits I have 7 minute miles and 20 minute miles in the same race. My 50 mile PR average pace is something around a 13:30, I tend to think of things in terms of speed when racing so 5mph is good, 6mph is great and 3mph is a bad day, Due to the terrain and the amount of uphill walking pacing is almost an impossible metric to use unless you’re constantly running the same course.
Any quirky running traits?
Not really quirky but I nearly always carry a camera with me, I try to document each run photographically if I can, the scenery is so good it would almost be a crime not to
Other than first the 100 mile finish and one day running the WSER100 I am hoping to run a relay next year and I would like to do a multi day stage race like the Trans-Rockies Run or Marathon des Sables
What gets you excited about running?
I like to run in the morning early so once the initial shock wears off I know it’s going to set me up for the day, things always look better after a run.
What’s your secret to running success?
I am a positive thinker and I try to not let the distances freak me out, once you get beyond 20 miles it’s just a case of running one mile at a time.
Oh good question and a hard one to answer. I have to say that any race that is organized by the Pacific Crest Trail Runners, (www.pctr.com). They are really well organized and the courses are challenging and fun without the pressure of a ‘race’. They usually have various distances ranging from an 10k upwards; so it’s a great introduction to trail running and Sarah the RD has a hug for every finisher! Favorite distance? Right now the 50k; I had a really good couple of races earlier in the year and I am starting to feel I can actually ‘race’ at this distance. In the two years I have shaved an hour off my 50k PR.
Greatest running accomplishment?
Finishing my first 50 miler, I really had no idea what to expect and I discovered that it was so much longer than a 50k; I am expecting the same revelation later this month also when I step up to the 100 mile mark
Current running goals? Right now I am pretty focused; a sub 11 hour 50 miler and/or complete a 100 mile race – all roads lead to a Western States 100 qualification, and then it’s up to the lottery. Off the trails I am kicking around the idea of trying for a sub 3:00 marathon next year.
Non- running and non-blogging interests?
Just hanging out with my family is great, my wife and I have two boisterous boys so there’s not a lot of room for other interests. By day I work in IT as a Project Manager so I like technology and I am always looking to improve my professional capabilities through training and courses etc.
Who are some of your virtual running friends you would like to meet up and run with?
Oh there are so many, there are people; from the Nike+ forums; which was my first foray into the run.net community, to the folks who read my blog and whose blogs I read and fellow podcasters. Most recently with Twitter that group just increased and keeps growing. There are seriously so many it would be unfair to list them. I have been fortunate enough to meet a few online friends and I’ll be meeting some more who have generously agreed to crew/pace me at 100 in the Hood
Where does the name Quadrathon come from?
It’s originally the name of a challenge on the Nike+ website that was started nearly three years ago. It consists of a mile, a 5k, a 10k and the most miles run in a month with points awarded and an monthly winner announced in the forums.. I took over running the challenge two years ago and it’s probably the oldest one still running since Nike+ went live. Originally the Quadrathon blog was based on those challenges but over time it became my own and the focus shifted from my running to trail running to ultra running. Although once based on the four Nike+ challenges it’s now about the challenge of finding the balance between another four things; family, work life and ultra-running
Most embarrassing running moment?
Up until a couple of weeks ago that would have been a tricky question, but having fallen over a man hole cover and face planted I now have an answer! It was more painful to look at than it actually hurt. Falling over on a main road and getting a ride home from a kind driver who stopped – well I just felt embarrassed by the whole event!
If money could buy you a running dream, what would it be?
I would actually like to start a running mentor group to try and help combat the increasing obesity pandemic. Beyond the great circle of friends I have, both online and offline and the sense of achievement from racing etc it is fundamentally at its most basic element something I do that keeps me healthy and that’s something I would like to share.
Favorite running shirt?
I have a couple of turn-tos, a fellow blogger (Robin from Gotta Run Gotta Ride) sent me a “Run in Greeenville, South Carolina” shirt made by Brooks I’ve never been to SC so it always makes my smile and the shirt model is “London”, which is my home town, I have a Nike shirt with “Miler” written across it – I like the irony of that one! From a practical standpoint I love my Hammer Nutrition shirt; it’s like wearing silk.
Best running advice you’ve ever been given?
Never make any decision about your next race when running uphill or downhill or while in the car!
Best running advice you’d like to share?
Training will get you most places, maybe not as fast as you want but certainly to the finish line. There are lots of great quotes by people far more eloquent about the subject than I but realistically if you make the investment you’ll reap the reward, basically distilled down it’s; Train Hard – Race Easy!
Oh you’ll only ever forget the Bodyglide and Suncream once!
Thank you, Stuart!
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