Repost: 90% of Badwater 135 Runners Finish By Jason Koop


badwater 135

90% of Badwater 135 runners finish. Here’s what they can teach you about preparation.

Head Coach of CTS Ultrarunning

By the time this newsletter hits your inbox, runners in the 2020 edition should have been testing themselves along the course of the Badwater 135, which many consider to be ‘the world’s toughest footrace’. Alas, in a very last-minute decision, organizers of the Badwater 135 cancelled this year’s edition, leaving this year’s field wondering what they could have accomplished with their fully formed fitness and heat acclimation strategies.

PHOTO ©ADVENTURECORPS, INC.

I have been fortunate enough to run and crew for the Badwater 135 a total of eight times, as well as prepare numerous runners for the event. All of these experiences have had an impression on me, and I am a better coach because of them. No other group of runners prepare quite as meticulously as the Badwater athletes do. The combination of the searing heat, mind numbing monotony of the road, the complexity of the application process and the exclusivity of getting an entry, the sheer expense of participating, and a relentless culture of improvement that has evolved over the years all combine to create what I observe to be the most prepared ultramarathon field on the planet. And the statistics bear this out. Badwater, despite the notoriously difficult conditions, has a finish rate of 85-90%. As a comparison, the Leadville Trail 100 hovers around a 50% finish rate for any given year, and the coveted Western States 100 has finish rates routinely between 70 and 80%. Make no mistake, the Badwater runners and their crews come fully prepared and bring it on race day.

Badwater is also one of the greatest hot environment sports performance proving grounds imageable. The searing heat will put your heat acclimation strategy to the test. Frequent access to your crew (your crew can leapfrog the runner in a support van) allows the runner to put cooling strategies and nutrition interventions in place without many logistical limitations. Being a crafty lot, Badwater runners have implemented an array of bizarre, sometimes effective and ultimately outlawed strategies in order to gain an advantage. Over the years I have seen everything from the use of refrigerated trucks to pacers on rollerblades with umbrellas (both of these strategies are now prohibited, by the way) to battle the heat. Still, the Badwater runners don’t always use the most efficacious strategies when it comes to heat acclimation and nutritional interventions. They tend to try to combat the challenges the course and environment will throw at them with contrived and combined strategies that at times are ineffective or even counterproductive. You might not ever have the urge to do the Badwater 135, but there are still some lessons we can all learn from the strategies this hearty group of ultrarunners use to battle the course and the heat, what actually works and how things go awry.

Heat Acclimation Strategies

Out of all the unique aspects in preparing for the Badwater 135, acclimating to the heat naturally gets the most attention. With temperatures that can be in excess of 120 degrees, runners rightfully approach this element of preparation with upmost importance. I first attended the Badwater 135 in 2006. When I arrived in Death Valley, I curiously took a straw poll of the participants to understand the heat acclimation strategies they used in training.

PHOTO ©ADVENTURECORPS, INC.

Over the years, either at the race of from afar, I have done the same straw polling and observed what the athletes were doing to prepare. I recently pulled my notes from these experiences and below is a short list of various protocols I’ve found, in no particular order:

  1. Running on a treadmill with a dryer vent blowing on your face. As a bonus, some runners would put portable heating elements round the treadmill for an added effect
  2. Running in the heat with a down jacket, pants and rain jacket
  3. Running on a treadmill in a greenhouse
  4. Running on a treadmill in the sauna. This normally involves cajoling the gym owner into some, shall we say, creative electrical engineering that may or may not pass a fire inspection
  5. If your gym owner was concerned about said electrical engineering, doing jumping jacks and core work in the sauna
  6. Driving around town with the heater turned up, perhaps with a down jacket
  7. Passive sauna exposure
  8. Camping in Death Valley in the weeks leading up to the event
  9. Turning up the heat in the house to > 90 degrees
  10. Some combination of some or all of the above with time frames that range from days to months

Although the complexity and duration of these protocols vary, they all can be catalogued into two broad categories: 1) passive acclimation/acclimatization strategies and 2) active acclimation/acclimatization strategies. Each have basic advantages and tradeoffs.

Passive strategies (strategies where you just sit there and let the environment do its job) allow for heat acclimation to occur with minimal interruption to training. They do not, however, allow you to ‘feel the heat’ while running, and many athletes feel the need to experience training in a hot environment before competing in one, simply to understand the sensation.

Active strategies (strategies that use a combination of exercises and environment) allow for heat acclimation to occur and for the athlete to feel the sensation of running in a hot environment. However, compared to Badwater, where the humidity is low and solar radiation is high, some of the contrived active strategies will be mismatched, particularly the overdressed ones that create a high humidity environment with little solar radiation. Additionally, active acclimation strategies involve some training compromise either by reducing the duration or intensity of the training session to accommodate for the increase in core temperature.

How Heat Acclimation Strategies Actually Work

Fundamentally, heat acclimation strategies work by inducing systemic and cellular responses to help your body cope with the heat. Systemically, your body responds (primarily) by increasing plasma volume and sweat rate in an effort to dissipate heat. Cellularly, your body upregulates heat shock proteins which act as cellular chaperones and managers for proteins that have been damaged by heat stress and other forms of degradation. Both systemic and cellular responses help athletes manage the heat in various ways, ultimately resulting in increased exercise capacity in the heat (and sometimes in temperate environments).

What has started to emerge in the research is that the extent of core temperature increase is critical to the success of the strategy. Heat up your body to a certain temperature and then hold that temperature for a certain amount of time and you get great results. Miss the mark on the temperature or duration and the physiological results are not as good. This critical core temperature, which appears to be in a very narrow range of 38-38.5 °C or 100.4-101.3 °F, is difficult to achieve and athletes will describe it as somewhere between ‘feeling hot’ to ‘too hot, dizzy and lightheaded’.

Through this lens, we can look at the aforementioned strategies from our (perhaps ill-fated) Badwater runners. Strategies that are capable of producing a core temperature of 38-38.5 °C will be markedly more effective than those that do not. Additionally, active acclimation strategies (strategies that involve running/cycling in the heat or overdressed) will most likely be hampered by compromising exercise intensity, as a high core temperature will limit the duration or intensity of running (how long can you run while being ‘dizzy and lightheaded’?).

heat acclimation strategies

The Best of Both Worlds

Many athletes now choose to use an ‘active-passive’ protocol, where they go out and do a normal run and then immediately jump into a sauna or hot water immersion bath. The initial run begins the process of increasing core temperate and the heat exposure from the bath or sauna finishes it off to achieve the critical temperature of 38-38.5 °C. In this way, training is not compromised and the sauna/hot water immersion bath session duration is reduced. If you really feel like you need to ‘feel the heat’ to experience the sensation of running in a particular environment, contrive the environment to try to match the temperature, solar intensity and humidity of your event as much as possible, and do so for the minimum number of sessions to do the trick. For the Badwater runners, a treadmill with a dryer vent blasting in your face a few times is a better option than running around in a down jacket for a month.

Hallucinations

whitney portal badwater 135

THE VIEW OF RACERS RUNNING INTO THE EVENING, FROM WHITNEY PORTAL.

Ultrarunning has been known to produce good hallucinations.  Sleep deprivation combined with physical exhaustion, bonking, and blurred vision is a ripe recipe for the mind to conjure up memories of distant past and teleport them into a fuzzy present.  And Badwater hallucinations are the best, by far. While your trail ultrarunning compatriots will brag about stories of a stick that turned into a snake, a tree stump that looked like a bear or a rock that talked, the Badwater hallucinations take this altered reality to a whole other dimension. The runners at Badwater encounter a cast of characters ranging from the Michelin Man to old 49er miners. Even the infamous white line painted on the road gets in on the action by transforming into various beings of and out of this world. Hallucinations come complete with incomprehensible background stories (the Michelin Man is there to run for President), unintelligible plot lines (I was helping the 49er change a tire), and bizarre interactions that border between a Star Wars movie and a DMT trip.

There is zero training for this. So, I have no help for you here other than to say if you really want an out of this world experience, just go run Badwater.

Too Much Aid Can Be a Bad Thing

One of the differentiating features of the Badwater 135 compared to other ultramarathons is that you have copious access to your crew and supplies. Food, water, pacers, your medical kit and the all-important performance enhancing ice, are never more than several minutes away. And, this level of assistance can be intensive. I once paced an athlete from Furnace Creek to Stovepipe wells, just a 24.6-mile section of the race, and blew through over 60 liters (15.8 gallons) of ice water in the process of drinking and dousing. And while it might seem like a luxury to have your every ultrarunning need fulfilled at a moment’s notice, at times it can be a bad thing.  Runners can take on too much fluid and too many calories, particularly in the beginning of the race, simply because they are there. And later they lean on their crews to bail them out of a situation when they could simply just put their head down and run.

Remember that when you are training, you are doing the vast majority of it by yourself. Almost any racing situation involves many times more support than you would receive during any training session. And Badwater is an extreme example of this. While ultrarunners should learn to leverage their crews, pacers and other support personnel, they should not rely on them to get the job done. You don’t need pacers or crew to get the job done (in most ultras). Do they help, yes. But, running is ultimately the responsibility of the runner.

Badwater will be back

Like many of the races that couldn’t happen this year, Badwater will ultimately be back. I look forward to returning in some capacity, as an athlete, coach or crew. I simultaneously learn and get a chuckle out of many of the strategies athletes use to prepare for the event. I love hearing stories of how many layers of clothing athletes put on for a simple training run and how Kermit the Frog ran alongside athletes in the middle of the night during the race. Soon enough, we will get to experience or hear about all of these again. Until then, we can learn for the next time.

References-

Gibson, Oliver R et al. “Heat alleviation strategies for athletic performance: A review and practitioner guidelines.” Temperature (Austin, Tex.) vol. 7,1 3-36. 12 Oct. 2019, doi:10.1080/23328940.2019.1666624

Ultra Training Program For 100Km Race (2020)


In June 2012, I posted a Training Plan for Ultra Distances which I copied from the book of Bryon Powell, “Relentless Forward Progress: A Guide To Running Ultramarathon. In July 2012, I posted another training program for ultra distances but the link on the Internet is no longer available. The training programs that I posted in this blog had been observed to have one of the posts that have been visited more often by my readers and visitors.

Today, I am posting a training program which, I think, I bought from the Internet and I am glad to share it with you. This Training Program for 100K is from Luke Humprey Running of Hansons Running Project. This is applicable to Road & Trail Running distances/events.

This training program has a duration of 18 weeks and it is very easy to follow and understand. It has more speed and intensity as compared to the training plans I posted 8 years ago. It is more detailed on the description of each workout. It is assumed that you are already an average competitive runner if you want to follow this training plan.

Good luck and Enjoy The Process!

How To Qualify For The Boston Marathon (Chapter 2)


Chapter 2: Consistency & Coaching Services 

Training Plans On The Internet & Professional Coaching Services

From the age of 45 years old to 64 years old, the range of Qualifying Time for Men’s is from 3:20 hours to 3:50 hours. And for the Women’s in the same range of age, it is 3:50 hours to 4:20 hours. Those qualifying times are very hard to attain if you are not consistent in your training. So, what should you do? You have two options: Download a Training Plan in the Internet or simply follow the suggested Training Plans at the back of every Running Book published and available in the market (that is one option). And the other option is subscribe to a Professional Coaching Service where you could apply with a considerable amount of monthly fee or a fee for the whole package deal of the Training Plan. In the number of years that I have been a runner, I have tried both and at the present I am under the supervision and coaching service of the CTS.

Let us talk first with the FIRST Option of getting a Training Plan in the Internet or in the back pages of Running Books. You can do that and most likely, you will not pay for anything or if you download those training plans with a fee, it is still very cheap and affordable. However, you should be consistent in following your training plan. Nobody will monitor you except yourself. As long as you follow the scheduled workouts and you attain your desired pace or speed to a certain distance, there is no problem. Most of these training plans consider your weekly mileage as the barometer of your weekly performance. You will realize that your training program will ask you to do more of your mileage to become faster. These training plans will not consider or measure your body condition after every workout and you have only your Strava or any Training Platform where you can download the data from your GPS Watch and see the basic distance, time of duration of your run, pace/speed. elevation, and your heart rate. Your watch might recommend also the number of recovery hours every workout but most of the time, such data is not always accurate.

If you are training on your own, you have to consider visiting the Jack Daniels’ VDOT Running Calculator. All you have to do is to input your Boston Marathon Qualifying Time and it will calculate your Race Pace for the Marathon; your Training Pace for each type of running workout, and Equivalent Pace/Speed for each Distance from 1,500 meters to Marathon Distance. If you can attain your Target Goal Time in 4-6 months, then you are very good and very consistent in your training. But remember, these training plans should be supplemented with better hydration, nutrition, strength training, recovery periods, and flexibility exercises. On this site, you can ask for a custom plan depending on the number of weeks you select as the duration of your training. An example is: You pay $100 for a Training Plan for 24 weeks based from your target goal time.

Ultrarunning Book By Jason Koop

When I applied for Professional Coaching Service with CTS, the book, “Training Essentials For Ultrarunning: How To Train Smarter, Race Faster, and Maximize Your Ultramarathon Performance” by Jason Koop was just published and available in the market in May 2016. I immediately bought the book and personally contacted Jason Koop through Direct Message on Facebook and asked him if I can qualify to apply for their Coaching Service even if I am about to reach the age of 65 years old. He replied positively and the next days and weeks, I was asked to answer some questionnaire about my running, set up my Premium Training Peaks, and I had my first telephone conversation with my designated Coach. So, in the middle of June 2016, I started my training geared towards a “smarter and faster” ultrarunner. If you happened to read the book of Jason Koop, you would find out how scientific is their approach to make you a long-lasting ultrarunner. And for the past 4 years that I have been a “CTS athlete”, they have valued to maintain my healthy condition as a runner so that I can enjoy running as long as I live.

For the first 6 months as a CTS Athlete, I subscribed to their Premium Plan with One Month Free with a monthly subscription of $300. You can click on their site if you want to know more of their Coaching Services. For the past 3 years, I downgraded to their Select level where I am paying a subscription of $185 per month with a yearly contract. But before last year, I was paying then $175 per month. I am not telling or suggesting you to apply also for a Professional Coaching Service as most of these more popular and credible (not “fly-by-night”) ones have the number of athletes  to attend to, are filled-up already. You are very lucky if you will be accepted as one of their CTS athletes but you may never know. You can try. I must accept that those first 4 months that I have trained with CTS, I became stronger ultrarunner but my “gut problem” due to heat was always my weakness. Slowly, I have progressed through the years with the help of my Coach on this problem. I can say that CTS accidentally helped me to qualify for the Boston Marathon.

Carmichael Training System (CTS): Train Right

What is the difference between CTS and this Training Plans in the Internet? There are so many differences. First, CTS measures your training output by the time (number of hours) you put in to your weekly training schedule. Those Training Plans in the Internet measure your output by the number of miles/kilometers you run for the week. CTS monitors my daily workout through the Premium Training Peaks and I have once in two weeks telephone conversation for 30 minutes with my Coach. My Coach had never been changed since the time I started to be enrolled with their service. You could just imagine the relationship I have developed with my Coach for the past four years.

In the coming days, I will mention in my posts the details of my training workouts leading to the 2017 Revel Canyon City Marathon Race.

Thank you for reading.

How To Qualify For The Boston Marathon (Prologue)


It was an accident or spur of the moment when I decided to register for the 2017 Revel Canyon City Marathon Race after I DNF at the 2017 Javelina Jundred 100-Mile Endurance. I was mentally and physically devastated when I was driving from Mesa/Phoenix, Arizona to Los Angeles, California on October 29, 2017 after the event. It was supposed to be my first 100-mile race with the CTS Coaching Service which I started to enroll in the middle of June 2017. I was too confident that after 4 months of training under my CTS Coach, I would be able to finish the Javelina Jundred. However, at Mile 38, I started to have a “stomach problem” and that I had to “throw-up” my ingested food and the fluids that I have taken few meters after I left the last Aid Station. It took me 34 minutes to finish Mile 38 and walked all the way to the end of the 2nd loop at the elapsed time of 10:42+ hours. I rested in my tent for almost 16 minutes to recover and find out if I can still take in some fluids and food. However, my body took a lot of beating due to the heat of the day. I decided to DNF with the elapsed time of 10:56+ hours at 42 miles with another one hour of buffer time to rest some more. But on hindsight, while I was thinking on my way back to Los Angeles, I should have slept and spent the whole one hour for my body to recover and just in time for the heat of the day to cool off as it was already early in the evening.

Training Peak’s Data On My Javelina Jundred Run

Reviewing my data on Training Peaks during the said event, I had 4 Peak Performances and an Average Pace of 14-15 minutes per mile which I consider to be above average from my past performance considering that it was too hot that time. My recurring problem with my gut due to the heat  really zapped my body physically and mentally. As a consolation, I would think also that the elapsed period (4 months) that I was with CTS Coaching Service was not enough for me to moulded as an ultrarunner at the age of 65 years old. I talked to my Coach and I told him what really happened and he gave me advises and suggestions on how to manage my nutrition problem. He suggested for me to take some rest the following week and do some easy runs for my recovery.

The day after I arrived in Los Angeles, I don’t know what came into my mind when I tried to browse for any race to be held within the Los Angeles area in the coming days and weeks. Surprisingly, I came across the Revel Canyon City Marathon Race which is to be held on November 4, 2017,  six days after I DNF at the Javelina Jundred, and I registered with the aim to finish the race. I immediately called and informed my friend, Rowell Ramos, to monitor me during the race and if he has the time, meet me at the Finish Line. Qualifying for the Boston Marathon was never in my mind to be my goal when I registered in this race. I just wanted to run and finish a race!

My Peak Performances In The 2017 Javelina Jundred 100 & My Best Performance In An Trail Ultra Race

And the rest is history. I have to photo grab the data which I retrieved from Training Peaks where you can see the Ten (10) Peak Performances that I did in the said Marathon Race which are self-explanatory.

Will I ever go back to Phoenix, Arizona, USA to finish this race? Why not?

Unfortunately, the Revel Canyon City Marathon Race that I joined was the last edition of the said race. It is now being held in Big Bear, California. This year, I am registered to join this year’s edition with the hope that the Covid19 restrictions will be lifted soon.

There are two things that you would think with this story. Is the CTS Coaching Service where I have enrolled and subscribed was the main reason why I was able to qualify for the Boston Marathon? Or Was it the Downhill Elevation of the Revel Marathon Course contributed to my faster time for an Old Runner with the age of 65? Neither of the two were the main reasons why I started my journey to the Boston Marathon. It is the “Man In The Arena”!

Thank you for reading!

Running Kit Of Thomas Combisen @ The 2020 HK4TUC


Running Kit Of Thomas Combisen @ 2020 HK4TUC

The running kit of Thomas in last year’s (2019) HK4TUC did not change in this year’s edition except for his Hydration Vest and Shoes. Even for his nutrition and hydration, they had been the same but there are some things that we need to add.

Thomas decided not to use the Salomon S-Lab Sense 5-Liter Hydration Vest that he used in last year’s HK4TUC because it was already loose for him and wanted to use the one he always used in his trail and road ultras in the past which is the Mountain Hardwear Fuel 3-Liter Hydration Vest/Pack. If I remember right, I bought the same Hydration Vest three years ago at the Columbia Store in SM Megamall and it is still with me except that the zippers in the pockets are stuck and non-operational already. As I googled this item while writing this post, this particular model is no longer in the market and the brand had already stopped making them.

As compared to the Hydration Vests and Packs that the other runners used in this event, Thomas hydration pack/vest was very small in capacity but I was surprised that it was able to accommodate the Salomon Waterproof Jacket, his food, cellphone, a Windbreaker Jacket, Hydration bottles, handy water filtration unit, Headlights, and other miscellaneous things that Thomas needed in every trail leg. It is surprising to see the big back pocket with zipper could expand to accommodate everything. Since the hydration pack/vest has two mid-rib belts which are not stretchable, Thomas can tighten them to be always snugged on his body. Thomas did not use those Race Belts with pockets which is very popular among trail runners nowadays.

Thomas With His Mountain Hardwear Fuel 3-Liter Hydration Vest/Pack (Photo By Photo Guava)

Thomas shirts during the event are our PAU Shirts By Bluprint (Imported Brand) but the Logo is printed locally. He used 3 PAU shirts (white, dark gray, & black) during the event and a shirt from Kalenji/Decathlon. He did not change his NIKE Running Shorts with PAU Logo Patch and RP Flag Patch throughout the event but he always change his underwear with the Decathlon’s Kalenji’s Under Shorts every time he starts a new trail leg. Throughout the event, he was consistently using the Injinji Socks and changed them every time he starts a new trail leg.

The day before the event, Rowell Campos brought us to Cam2Sports Store in Mongkok to buy a new pair of running shoes for Thomas. He was looking for an ALTRA Lone Peak 3.0 which he intends to use for the event. Thomas was lucky to find the remaining one pair of ALTRA Lone Peak 3.0 shoes  available in the store which was ON SALE at 50% discount. This is the shoes that Thomas used for the 2 Trail Legs of the event (MacLehose & Wilson Trails). It was only in the Hong Kong and Lantau Trails that he used his old ALTRA Lone Peak 3.0 shoes. It was at the Hong Kong and Lantau Trails that Thomas started using his Compressport Compression Calf Sleeves. He did not use any shoe gaiters along the course.

Thomas With His New ALTRA Lone Peak 3.0 Shoes, Kalenji Shirt, & Salomon Jacket

As for his headlamp, Thomas was using a LedLenser Headlamp and another extra one which I could guess to be a regular Black Diamond Headlamp. He used his headlamp at the MacLehose, Wilson, and Hong Kong Trails. In his Lantau Trail, I gave him my Lupine Headlamp which he wore from the start until he reached the lighted portion of Mui Wo Road, near the Finish Line. The rechargeable battery was drained when Thomas gave it back to me. He could have used its High Beam which is 700 Lumens throughout his run/hike along the Lantau Trail. Thomas did not have any negative feedback on the use of his headlamps during those nights that he was on the trails.

Water Dispenser Near Public Comfort Rooms/Country Park

As for his hydration needs, Thomas did not have any problem where to replenish his hydration needs, in terms of water or sports/cola drinks. He used his portable filtration unit in places where he can get water in streams in the mountains and in Public Comfort Rooms/Toilets’ faucets. He uses also his Octopus Card to get or buy what he wanted in those Vending Machines available in the vicinity of the Comfort Rooms in each Country Park Facility that he passes. There are also Free Source of Drinking Water which he observed as new additional structure within the vicinity of each Comfort Rooms/Toilets along the trail. And there are commercial establishments in the villages along the trail that Thomas can stop and order some hot food. Thomas can also stop to buy or order some solid foods in commercial establishments in the MTR Stations. There is always a 7-11 Store or Convenience Store in these MTR Stations. It is necessary that a runner in this race has some some Cash and Octopus Card with him during the event.

Picture I Took With Thomas & Photo Guava Before The Start Of Lantau Trail

His food in his pack consisted of “Tikoy” (Rice Cake) from Bicol which we personally ordered for him, “Rice Cakes” (Chinese) from the 7-11 Store, Sky Flakes, Snickers, Yakult, Springs Gels, and Apples. All of these were packed inside the Hydration Pack of Thomas!

Thomas had been alternately using a Visor Cap (during day time) and a Running Cap (during nighttime) to cover his head. However, I have never seen him use any Buff/Neck Gaiter in all his runs in the past and in this event, to include last year’s HK4TUC. 

Before he started the Lantau Trail, I gave him my GIRO Cycling Gloves which I know will give him warmth for his palms/fingers during the night and as he approaches the freezing winds of the Lantau Peak and Sunset Peak.

After the event, Thomas and I discussed the things that we should improve on and the things we should learn from his experience this year. He told me that he slowed down significantly at the Hong Kong Trail due drowsiness that brought him “hallucination” moments and the cold/freezing winds during the night. The strong, cold and freezing winds at the Lantau Trail had also slowed him down that he had to stop and take a nap, only to be awaken that he was already lying on the floor in one of the Pagodas/Rest Huts along the trail.

After a thorough discussion, I recommended him some solutions for his problems and we will use them in next year’s Thomas participation in the 10th edition of the HK4TUC.

Journal Of “Team Thomas” @ 2020 HK4TUC (Second Day)


Journal Of “Team Thomas” @ 2020 HK4TUC (Second Day)

Thomas started the 2nd Leg of the event at Wilson Trail at 16:25 Hours, which was 1:25 AM of January 26, 2020, Sunday Morning. Ahead of him was a 78-kilometer distance during a cold and rainy night. Thomas was feeling cold at the start but having eaten a lot of food and keeping himself on the move, he will surely regain his pace and tempo during the run. After Thomas left, we immediately fixed our things, packed the used clothes/attire of Thomas and threw the trash at the Trash Bins at the Starting Area. We immediately took the Taxi which was waiting for us to bring us back to the place where we are staying. As we arrived in our place, we immediately checked the Racemap Application to find out if Thomas was on the right track. We were glad that Thomas was on the right track and we immediately rested for the day at 3:00 AM on the second day. Last year, after 1-2 kilometers from the Starting point, Thomas got lost and we had a sleepless on the first night at that time when more additional “lost moments” had to be corrected.

I woke up at 8:00 AM on the second day and immediately checked on the tracker of Thomas and he was doing fine without any “lost moments” as compared to his experience last year. Our monitoring team advised Thomas to call us once he reaches the MTR Station at Lam Tin and once he crosses the Quarry Bay and reaches the MTR Station at Tai Koo on the Hongkong Island side. From these calls, we would be able to estimate the time we would meet Thomas at the Finish Line of the Wilson Trail Leg. But with the lagging time as depicted by Thomas tracker, we decided to give an ample buffer time to wait at the said place before Thomas arrives.

We arrived at the end of the Wilson Trail Leg at the Tai Tam Country Park in Stanley Gap Road at 5:00 PM with the hope that Thomas would be arriving in 30-45 minutes. In a few seconds, we witnessed the arrival of the 4th Runner Abimanyu from Singapore and since Thomas was ranked as the 8th or 9th runner as seen on the tracker, we prepared ourselves to wait for some more time in the said place.

Thomas Along The Wilson Trail (Photo From Facebook)
Thomas Along The Wilson Trail (Photo From Facebook)

The cold wind from the sea was blowing on our faces as we waited for Thomas but our Team was entertained by two Pinay runners who are working in Hongkong with their stories about the race and what they have prepared in terms of food for Thomas and to the rest of the Pinoy Runners. They even mentioned to me that Christian Villoria from Pangasinan, also a worker in Hongkong, is waiting at the Bus Station at Shek O Road for more food and drinks for the Pinoy Runners. We had a lot conversations with Tha Na and Josephine and they entertained us while waiting for Thomas. I decided later to hike the 1,000+ steps or the last 600 meters of the trail and tried to wait for the arrival of Thomas. Instead, the #5 Runner Chiang from South Korea came out from the vegetated portion of the trail and he was running at an easy pace going downhill. I greeted and congratulated and told him that he is only 500 meters to the end of the trail.

Thomas After Crossing Victoria Bay (Photo By Lloyd Belcher)

After almost 3 hours of waiting, the #9 Runner Karen from Hongkong, the leading Lady Runner of the event, arrived at the Finish Line and we knew that in a few minutes, Thomas will be arriving next. Finally, Thomas arrived at the Finish Line of the Wilson Trail Leg at exactly 8:00 PM of Sunday, January 26, 2020 with a time of 18:30 Hours to finish the whole Wilson Trail.

Thomas Finishing The Wilson Trail

At 8:10 PM, we left immediately the end of Wilson Trail to the Shek O Road for Thomas to start the Hongkong Trail Third Leg. It took us a 22-minute ride on a Taxi to the Bus Stop at Shek O Road which is officially the Starting Area of the Hongkong Trail. Upon arrival, Thomas checked-in with Andre Blumberg and we set-up for the “pit stop” for Thomas. Thomas ate his dinner with the food we cooked for him and the food brought by Christian Villoria. Christian was there to meet us once we alighted from our Taxi ride. The NHK Japanese TV Network guys were also there to meet us with their Video Camera and Lights. They even interviewed Thomas while he was eating his dinner and focused their video camera on the food prepared for him. They were interested to see Fried Tuyo (fried salted sardines), Pork Adobo, and Sinigang Salmon Head (Sour Soup with Salmon Head) as Thomas food for dinner.

Thomas At The “Pit Stop”
Thomas With Christian Viloria

After eating, refilling his hydration vest with water and food, and changing his socks and attire, Thomas was ready to start the Hongkong Trail which has a distance of 50 kilometers. Before he left the starting point, Tomokazu “Tomo” Ihara, a sub-60 Finisher in last year’s HK4TUC and also a classmate of Thomas in last year’s event, advised Thomas that he is in the halfway (in terms of time elapsed) of the event and he needs to complete the remaining 120 kilometers in less than 24 hours to be able to be declared as a Finisher of the Event. Tomo said that it will be an easy task for Thomas to take the 7:00 AM Ferry trip to Lantau Island and be able to finish the Lantau Trail before the 60-hour cut-off time. Tomo was surprised to see how Thomas improved on his performance this time as compared to last year. In a conversation with Tomo, I told him about Thomas “lost moments” on the beaches of MacLehose Trail, lots of intersections at the Wilson Trail & mistake of going to the MacLehose Trail, and delays for looking the right MRT Platforms at the Lam Tin and Tai Koo Stations. 

Thomas left the Shek O Road at 9:05 PM of Sunday, January 26, 2020 and we expect him to finish the Hongkong Trail in 8 hours or at 5:00 AM of Monday January 27, 2020.

Thomas At The Start Of The Hongkong Trail

To be continued.

My Playground’s Trail Loop


My Playground’s Trail Loop

After I arrived from the United States to join the 123rd Boston Marathon this year, I immediately created a dirt, single track trail inside my Playground Lot which has a total area of about One Hectare. With the help of an assistant to cut/clear the path from weeds, roots, and protruding stones and rocks; and an engineer’s distance measuring cycle which I asked my friend, Rowell Ramos, to buy from Amazon, I was able to measure a distance of 400 meters for one loop. It is not as perfect as an Oval Track in shape but it suits the purpose of a single track trail path.

Since then, I’ve been running along this loop on a regular basis . I always change the direction of my run every time I finish One Mile, which is equivalent to 4 loops. Sometimes, I would change the direction of run after Two Miles or sometimes, I consider the elapsed time like changing the direction after running for 30 minutes. You can say that running in a loop is boring but I make sure to make some speed drills or “strides” in some of the sections. However, hearing my music playlist solves everything in terms of maintaining my pace, rhythm, and trying to be more focused on my leg speed/turn-over on the trail. 

Ground Distance Measurement With My Dog Anton

The loop is not completely a flat one. It has some minimal ascents and descents which are short in distance but I could play or vary my pace and speed depending on what type of workout that I would do for the day. During my easy runs, I would register an average speed of 3.5-3.8 miles per hour with an initial one or two loops of hiking as my warm-up. During my tempo runs, I would try to reach my average speed from 3.8-4.2 miles per hour after doing some drills and stretching exercises. Lately, I would combine easy running on the first half of my workout and then do a tempo run on the last half. If my workout calls for a two-hour run, I would run the first hour with an easy average speed of 3.5 miles per hour and then the last hour with a tempo average speed of 4.2 miles per hour. My last one mile (4 loops) would be my cool-down jog.

With this Playground Loop, I could do my runs anytime of the day. I could also run half-naked if the weather is hot or if I do my runs in the middle of the day. Most sections of the loop are covered with fruit trees (mangoes), coconuts, and ornamental plants  and I don’t worry about the heat of the sun as I have a shade throughout the course. I also run during nighttime to test my headlamps if they are still working and  trying to improve my pace and speed during night running. Most of all, I pre-position two water stations along the loop and take in some of my nutrition and hydration depending on the time or distance I have covered. I have been experimenting which one is more effective; taking in my food and hydration by the number of minutes or by the distance I have covered. Lately, I have concentrated my nutrition and hydration frequency by the number of miles I have covered. The alarm from my Garmin GPS Watch once I cover one mile, warns me to take in a bite of my food (rice cake, fruit, power bars, or biscuits) followed with 1/4 water from my 20 oz water bottle. And this practice is repeated every mile along the course. I have observed that I have maintained my speed through this method. However, in the end, I would still be lighter in weight by 2-3 pounds once I step into the weighing scale after my workout. Hopefully, I would be able to solve this situation in my future runs.

Hydration Vest & Belt Filled With Frozen Water
Another Hydration Vest Used To Fill My Frozen Water

After months of running in this loop, I have observed that my Garmin GPS Watch would register a longer distance from what I have measured through the engineer’s distance cycle meter. I think the vegetation and the trees that cover the trail would impede the accurate reading of the GPS satellites with my Watch. The GPS distance would be longer by 30-50 meters depending on the time of the day and the prevailing weather. The GPS distance is longer in the later afternoon, evening, and when it is cloudy. Sometimes, my Strava distance would be shorter than what is registered in my Garmin GPS Watch.

Sample Of My Strava Data In My Playground Loop

When I prepared for an ultra trail event like the Cortina 48K Trail Race in Italy this summer, almost all my running workouts were done on this loop without my trekking poles but I would carry 20 pounds of frozen water in my hydration bottles with my hydration vest. Whether I would hike or jog during day or night, I would be slogging it out along this loop up to three hours or more. I could only count with my fingers on how many times did I peak and “double-traverse” Mt Roosevelt (highest mountain in my neighborhood) by slowly hiking up on the ascents and “power hiking” on the descents with 20 pounds of water and food in my vest and belt at the middle of the day. Combined with these hikes in the mountain and runs along my Playground Loop, I was able to finish the said race even though I was the last runner to arrive within the prescribed cut-off time of twelve hours.

The Joy Of Running Alone

Since I have been training alone in my runs, I feel safe and secured within the confines of my Playground Loop anytime of the day. I can do whatever I want. I could make a video of my runs. I could dance after my runs. I could shout. I could sing with my Playlist. I could think clearly while running. I could wear any running outfit that I like. And simply enjoy running alone in my Playground. At this time, my Playground Loop is still not ready to receive some visitors, even if they are my running friends. I will keep this place as sacred and private.

Heat Illness and Endurance Athletes: The Science of Staying Safe When It Gets Hot


Being a CTS athlete, I regularly receive in my e-mail articles written by CTS Coaches of articles related to the Sports of Ultrarunning and other Endurance Sports. The following article is very timely for those athletes and runners who will joining ultra marathon events in the months of July up to the later part of October in the United States as most of these events happen during extreme heat temperatures.Personally, this had been my problem through the years on why I failed to finish 100-mile trail races in California, Utah and Nevada in the past years. However, with my Support Crew and Pacing experience in last month’s Badwater 135-Mile Ultramarathon, I was able to solve my problem on my hydration and heat prevention. Through the help of my CTS Coach John Fitzgerald, I was able to correct my electrolyte imbalance whenever I run in an environment that is too hot during my training in my Playground in the Philippines. For the past three months, I had been weighing my body before and after my runs in order to determine my body sweat loss within a period of time of running. As a result, I would determine how much liters of water and electrolytes I would carry depending on how many hours I would be out for my run, whether in the early morning or late in the afternoon.

As I continue to write and post my 2018 Badwater 135-Mile Ultramarathon, I will mention something on the later part of my blog on how I was able to manage the extreme heat during the time that I paced Tess Leono for almost 32 miles (50 kilometers) under the heat of the sun.

Without much further ado, I am now reposting this article and I hope that those who are planning to do ultramarathon races in hot environment will learn a lot and be able to apply the preventive measures stated in this article. Let this be a reference to all ultra runners out there.

Heat Illness and Endurance Athletes: The Science of Staying Safe When It Gets Hot

By Corrine Malcolm
CTS Coach and Exercise Physiologist

Human beings are inherently inefficient. Only a fraction of the work athletes do ends up propelling them down the road, up the mountain or through the water. The rest just of that work generates heat, which has to go somewhere. Normally, the body is reasonably good at dissipating heat, until the environment is also hot and/or humid. Heat illnesses develop when you can’t adequately dissipate heat to the environment, and involves an incredibly complex relationship between your thermal physiology (all that heat you are producing), environmental heat strain, and your clothing (2). Many experienced endurance athletes are well versed in hydration and cooling strategies, but as a community it is crucial for all athletes to understand the signs and symptoms of heat illness, how to prevent it, and how to help athletes suffering from it.

Heat illness doesn’t care how much you know about hydration and cooling. Despite all the right preparations, even experts and experienced athletes can end up with heat illness when things go wrong during training or competition.

There are two main types of heat illness: classic and exertional. Classic heat illness is directly related to the environment and how the environment is effecting one’s ability to dissipate heat. These factors include high temperature and humidity, strong direct sun exposure, and still air. Exertional heat illness on the other hand is primarily caused by your own heat production, which is why exertional heat illness can occur in all types of weather (3). It should be noted that the treatment and identification does not change between classic and exertional heat illness, but illustrates the fact athletes should be aware of the signs of heat illness even in cooler and less humid environments.

heat index

UNDERSTANDING YOUR ENVIRONMENTAL RISK BEFORE A RUN, RIDE, OR RACE CAN BE CRITICAL FOR SUCCESS AND YOUR HEALTH (4).

Body’s Response to Heat Exposure

Although 98.6 F (37 C) is generally accepted norm for human body temperature, it is normal for core temperature to fluctuate within a small range of 97-99 F (36.1-37.2 C). When your body increases much above or below this “set” temperature you can experience hyperthermia or hypothermia as your body tries valiantly to bring your body back to homeostasis. When you get too hot your one of the best way your body can cool itself down is to shift more blood flow to the capillaries that lie immediately underneath your skin. What this allows your body to offload some of the heat into the environment and in turn send cooled blood back deep into your body. The second way your body combats the likely rise in core body temperature is by increasing your sweat rate. This allows you to utilize evaporative cooling, which cools the body by creating a temperature gradient as sweat (or other water) evaporates from your skin surface into the air. The neat thing about the increase in your sweat rate per hour during the heat is that your sweat becomes more dilute than usual which makes it even easier for your sweat to evaporate from your skin into the air.

Additionally, there are three environmental mechanisms that can both prevent your core body temperature from increasing and also increase your core body temperature. Those mechanisms are radiation, convection, and conduction. All three rely on temperature gradients where the heat goes from the warmer environment to the cooler environment. In an ideal world that means your body is the hot environment and you are able to dissipate heat into the surrounding environment (5). While you exercise and race your body relies on these thermoregulatory adjustments because during exercise you produce 15-20 times more heat than you do at rest. Without these crucial adjustments, either physiological, environmental, or behavioral changes, your core body temperature will rise 1.8 F (1C) for every 5 minutes of exercise (3).

Levels of Heat Illness

Heat-related illnesses start out mildly uncomfortable and progress all the way to life threatening. The conditions are, from least serious to most serious: heat edema, heat rash, heat syncope, heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke (3,4).

Heat Edema and Heat Rash

Heat edema and heat rash are both the mildest forms of heat illness you might experience. Heat edema can occur as your body tries to dissipate heat by vasodilation and a shift of blood flow to your skin. This most commonly happens in the lower extremities as fluid creates inflammation in your feet and ankles. Heat rash (also called prickly heat or miliaria rubra) is a pinpoint red rash that forms on the skin that was covered by clothing. This generally happens in areas that have a higher concentration of heat glands, like your trunk and groin, and is caused by the increase in sweat saturating the clothing and your skin surface clogging sweat ducts.

Heat Syncope

Heat syncope, or fainting caused by heat, may happen during heat exposure because blood is being shunted to your skin and extremities. Rapid changes in body position (commonly sitting to standing, or bending over and standing back up) can lead to a temporary change in blood pressure that causes a person to faint. Most athletes recover quickly once laid flat, which allows blood flow to normalize. That being said, falling due to a rapid loss of consciousness could lead to a concussion, and an athlete who faints due to heat should be evaluated before being allowed to continue training or competing.

Heat Cramps

Heat cramps or muscle spasms have been notoriously linked with dehydration and electrolyte imbalances over the year. However, we now know exercise associated muscle cramps are more commonly associated with a wider range of variables such as fatigue and muscular imbalances. Although harmful to performance, exercise associated muscle cramps are generally harmless to your health and most commonly occur on one side of your body (i.e. your left quad or your right calf). If you are experiencing bilateral, or both sides, cramping or full body cramping, this is often linked to a more serious condition such as extreme dehydration or hyponatremia (depleted electrolytes from excessive water consumption) and should be immediately addressed by your physician or the medical team at your event.

Heat Exhaustion

As we move up the scale in severity we come to heat exhaustion. Heat exhaustion should be taken seriously and treated quickly, as it can advance to more serious and potentially life-threatening conditions like heat stroke. Heat exhaustion generally presents with fatigue, dizziness, heavy sweating, nausea, vomiting, headache, fainting, weakness, and cold clammy skin. A person with exhaustion typically still has normal cognitive and neurological function. They should be able to answer questions about their condition, where they are, who they are, etc.

Heat Stroke

Heat stroke is characterized by a core body temperature greater than 104 F and altered central nervous system function, including irritability, confusion, combativeness, or even worse, loss of consciousness. Hot and dry skin is a sign of heat stroke, but it is important to realize a person can be sweating and still have heat stroke. Altered central nervous system function is the hallmark difference between heat exhaustion and heat stroke, but when in doubt, treat the situation as if the athlete has heat stroke. Athletes showing signs of heat stroke need to be treated by medical professionals as soon as possible. It should be stressed that heat stroke is incredibly serious and can lead to death if not treated quickly.

heat illness criteria

THE CONTINUUM OF HEAT ILLNESS (3).

Risk factors for developing heat illness

The most recent estimate is that heat related illnesses cause 695 deaths per year in the United States, but they are the 3rd highest cause of death amongst athletes. There are two main categories of risk factors: environmental (external) factors and physiological (internal) factors.

Environmental factors include how hard you are working, clothing choices, insufficient shade during activity, lack of access to water, ambient air temperature, and humidity. Internal factors include age (people under the age of 15 or over the age of 65 are more susceptible to heat illness), recent alcohol consumption, acute or chronic dehydration, history of heat-related illness, medication or supplement interactions, recent illness that included a fever, recent head injury, sunburn, skin conditions (eczema or psoriasis), or insufficient heat acclimation (3).

Treatment of Heat Illness

As with many medical emergencies, time is an extremely important factor in treatment of heat-related illnesses. The goal is to get core body temperature down to an acceptable level (below 38C or 100.4 F) as quickly as possible. It’s important to note that although fevers generally present at similar temperatures to what we call hyperthermia (temperatures above 100.9 F) the underlying mechanism is different. In general, our thermal max is a narrow range from 106.8 -107.6 F. Sustained core temperature at this level for anywhere from 45 minutes to 8 hours can be lethal, and one of the factors for predicting the outcome for a person with heat stroke is how long they are hyperthermic. Body temperature of 106.8 – 107.6 F may seem awfully high, but when you are exerting yourself in hot conditions, it is not uncommon for body temperature to reach 102-103 F for short periods of time. Adverse conditions, either internal or external, can cause core body temperature to stay elevated or rise to higher, more dangerous, levels.

The key takeaway from research institutes, such as the Korey Stringer Institute, that focus on heat-related illnesses is to cool the athlete down as quickly as possible to protect the athlete’s brain and vital organs. To do that, the critical first step is to recognize you or another athlete is in trouble. This step is often missed, which allows heat illness to progress to dangerous levels. Get out of direct sunlight and into a shaded, cooler environment. Finally, use whatever you have to cool off. This can include dousing with cold water from a hose or shower, wrapping in cold towels, applying ice packs or immersion in an ice bath, and having them ingest cold fluids. Athletes experiencing heat stroke need medical care immediately, with the goal of lowering body temperature to below 104 F within 30 minutes.

Preventing Heat Illness

The best ways for athletes to avoid heat-related illness are to heat acclimatize before training hard or racing in a hot environment, monitor and manage your hydration needs, and utilize cooling techniques to help manage your core body temperature. Doing these three things well will reduce the physiological strain of training and racing in the heat and optimize performance.

Heat Acclimation

The most important of these three is heat acclimatization because it not only improves thermal comfort, or your psychological tolerance to the heat, but also it improves your physiological thermal tolerance, which is your body’s ability to tolerate heat exposure for an extended period of time. The physiological benefits of heat acclimatization include increased skin blood flow and increased sweat rate, both of which help to dissipate heat quickly and efficiently. During heat acclimation you also have an increase in your blood plasma volume, which allows you to better sustain your blood pressure and work capacity (1). These adaptations take roughly 7-14 days to fully manifest. Because of this, it is important to monitor your level of exertion as your body makes these adaptations. During this time you will naturally have a change in threshold pace, power output, and both maximal and submaximal heart rate. Don’t force it.

Hydration

Dehydration is one of the key precursors to developing a heat-related illness. Although dehydration generally occurs from an inadequate intake of fluids, it can be made worse by an excessive amount of fluid loss through sweating, putting you in a state of hypohydration (Howe et al). Regardless of whether you’re putting too little in the tank or losing to much from sweating, from an athletic standpoint it has been shown that your heart rate will rise 3-5 beats/min for every 1% of bodyweight loss due to dehydration (Coris et al). When dehydration occurs your blood plasma volume shrinks, which not only effects your heart’s ability to do its job, but also decreases blood flow to the skin and sweat rate. As a result, performance declines and the chances of developing heat illness increase.

What this means is that you should monitor not only your during-activity hydration but also your pre-exercise and post-exercise hydration when temperatures begin to rise. It is recommended that you start your exercise or race euhydrated, which just means starting at a normal level of hydration and not getting to the start line dehydrated or hyperhydrated. Adjusting your day-to-day hydration status takes some time, and guzzling fluid isn’t helpful. Rather, try the WUT method and make appropriate adjustments to daily fluid intake.

When it comes to hydration during exercise the idea is to minimize losses in total body water mass. During strenuous exercise in the heat, sweat rates can reach 1.5 liters per hour, and sometimes higher. General recommendations are to consume 16 – 24 ounces of fluid an hour, but endurance athletes in hot environments often need to consume 2-3 times that much. You can figure out your approximate sweat rate by weighing yourself pre- and post-workout. When it comes to post race or activity hydration the old staple was to try and replace 150% of body mass losses during the first hour of your exercise stopping (6). For many athletes this simply wasn’t practical and caused some GI discomfort, and because of this the most realistic guideline is to try and replace 100-120% of body mass lost in the first hour after you stop exercising (1) and continue consuming fluids in the hours after that. CTS has long recommended athletes aim to consume 150% of fluid losses within 4 hours after exercise.

Cooling Practices

The final components to avoiding heat-related illnesses are the little things you can do to work with your environment and not set yourself up for failure. You can choose to wear light colored and loose fitting clothes. Additionally, you can utilize two different methods of managing heat exposure by either continuous cooling methods or pre-cooling techniques. Continuous cooling methods utilize both external and internal cooling methods. Some external cooling methods include the application of iced/cooled down clothing, towels, water immersion or dousing, or packing ice onto athlete via ice bandanas, ice socks, or into clothing and hydration vests. Internal cooling methods generally rely on the ingestion of cold fluids or ice slurries to try to maintain a lower core body temperature. When it comes to endurance activity in particular, pre-cooling methods have been shown to be effective in both improving performance and delaying the inevitable rise in the core body temperature. What this means is that an athlete getting ready to compete in a warm environment can benefit from starting their event with a lower core body temperature. This can be accomplished by ingesting cold ice slurries, or now the use of a commercial ice vest (or more simply cold iced down towels around your trunk and shoulders) during your warmup. It’s been shown that these crucial minutes of cooling down before you hit the start line or the start button on your watch can prolong your body’s ability to maintain a lower core body temperature (1).

When it comes to exercising and racing in the heat, prepare yourself for the demands of the environment, manage your fluids, and utilize physical methods of cooling yourself off. Taking a moment to cool off now might slow you down temporarily but cannot only save your race or workout in the long run, but also your life.

wet bulb temperature

ASSESS YOUR RISK BEFORE YOU GO. (1)

Waiting For My Runner @ Mesquite Dunes In Death Valley Park