"It never gets easier, you just go faster." - Greg Lemond

Friday, July 26, 2013

New toys out soon

Scouring the web in my free time for new shoes/gear that get me excited is something that I do oh too often.  But, the 5-10 people who actually read my blog get to enjoy the occasional preview on gear-to-come.

Fellraiser  (photo Castlebergoutdoors.uk)
Fellcross 2 (photo wiggle.uk)

Sense 3.  Did I miss the 2?  (photo Wiggle.uk)
S-lab Skin 5L pack with new soft-flask pockets.  I'll be looking hard at this pack.
(photo Castlebergoutdoors.uk)

Sense Ultra Softground
I'd heard rumors!  It does exist.  Also see Adam Campell wearing it in his movie "Silence"
(photo http://exploringthelimits.wordpress.com)

Inov-8 has also redone the color scheme for several of their trail shoes.  Whether there are changes in performance characteristics, its unclear.  I heard in an interview with Joe Grant that the Inov-8 X-Talon 212 was moved from blown EVA to injected EVA and that gave the shoe a little more protective ride.

X-Talon 212 (photo wiggle.uk)
Oroc 280 a shoe I would love to try out (photo wiggle.uk)

Inov-8 X-Talon 190 update (photo wiggle.uk)

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Silver Rush 50 Race Report

How did I end up back here again? I thought as Ryan, Liz, Justin and I drove into Leadville.  Having run the marathon just two weeks ago, this felt strangely familiar.

Yesterday we watched the bike race and got some...  beta... on the trail conditions and what the course was like.  In typical Leadville fashion, a lot of the race took place on old mining roads, which was fine with me, while the aesthetic nature of single track is lost, you do gain wonderful views from the open roads.

Somewhere before the race started, I lost Ryan and Liz and found Ryan and Alaina.  Im just that awkward single guy tagging along with various couples.  After taking care of some early morning business, Ryan (Case) and I shuffled towards the starting line, which coincidentally was at the base of a steep hill.  First one to the top of the hill wins a prize (no, really they do).

In there somewhere

I walked up the hill.  And the masses swept around me.  Then once we hit the single track on top of my hill we started running for real.  Maybe I was running too fast, but something didn't feel right.  I was off my game, physically.  That put me in a bad place mentally almost immediately.  With something like 2 miles in, I was already feeling less enthusiastic than I needed to.  Just keep grinding along, you'll be good bro.

I think part of this feeling was that the first 10 miles is essentially all uphill.  Sometimes the up can be deceiving in that you don't even notice its going up, but your legs feel it.  Add that to the fact that you're running at 10,000 feet above sea level, and its easy to get down.  I kept running trying to find my rhythm.  It wouldn't come.  Where was Hagy and Jenny, my faithful crew who always lift my spirits?  This race felt like Mohican, compacted into one shorter race, with all the ups and downs I experienced there.

I was feeling particularly discourage as the trail just kept going up and up.  Looking back I have to laugh at my thoughts during the first little bit of the race.  I was thinking about dropping.  That would've been terrible, dropping only 10 miles into the race.  Oh, this just isn't your day, blah blah excuses excuses.

Then I heard someone belting out "John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt, his name is my name too".  I immediately knew this was none other than the Ryan Case.  I gladly ran with Ryan for the next 10 miles, finally, being able to talk to someone (and finishing the long uphill) my brain and legs came around and I was in slightly a better place.  Along the way we went through the Printer Boy aid station, where I saw Gary a friend of a friend whom I had just met, but again, it was super motivating to see a smiling face.

My climbing legs were working really well on the ascent to the high point of the course on Ball Mountain.  Run run run hike run hike hike run run run run hike etc.  you get the point.  The combo of a strong power hike and efficient running cadence really helps me cruise these kinds of sections.  In fact I love climbs (10%+) that dictate this sort of effort, rather than 10 mile climbs at 6%.

Smiling still

I was finally starting to feel good, if not a little dehydrated.  The aid stations for this route were approximately 6-7 miles apart, which in the mountains can be 2 hours if you're not moving fast enough.  My little handheld bottle was not cutting it.

Its too bad I didn't notice this earlier and make an effort to drink more fluids at the aid stations.  Because soon the combination of my aggressive fueling strategy and lack of water caught up with me and I was full on nauseated.  I had made it down the pass that went over Ball Mountain (mile 21ish) and was heading towards the turn around point when I was forced to go from a run to a jog, or else I was going to lose my cookies.  I saw the leaders coming back towards me from the turnaround and tried to give some encouragement and not puke on them.

This continued for way too long.  I had gone through the turn around and was heading back up the mountain, feeling terribly sick while still trying to get in calories and water.  Since this was an out and back section, I was now seeing a lot of other runners, which actually helped lift my mood a lot.  Despite the sick feeling, the constant interaction with others helped me forget about my stomach and just focus on saying hi to people and running the gradual climbs on the mining roads before the steep climb.  In fact, it wasn't until mile 28ish that I let out a huge belch and felt like I was given an instant energy boost.  I suspect my stomach finally emptied all the fuel I had been forcing down into my intestine where it could be absorbed.  I really cranked through this section taking risks on the downhill and generally enjoying myself.

Some reference points added.  My graphic design/computer skills are out of control these days

I caught two or three more people before reaching the Printer Boy aid station, but noticed that one runner behind me would not be deterred.  What the hell, no one gains ground on me late in races like that!  I ran really hard after Printer Boy, despite the wicked long climb, and then turned around.  This guy was 3 steps behind me.  He said "hi" and we started to chat.  I immediately realized it was Mike Aish, a former Olympian and 2:12 marathoner.  hah.  Of course it is.  No wonder I can't outrun this guy.

We ran together for a good 10-12 miles.  He was super friendly and was giving me encouragement as my stomach had started to sour again.  I don't think I took on any fuel for the last 1:30 of the race, which is just a terrible idea.  But I didn't want to barf, and have lots of other excuses.  Mike and I ran together, and he told me he was just out for fun and had done a 7.5 hour run the day before.  I felt like we were crawling along for this last 10 mile stretch, which is a hard section, because although its slightly downhill, the gradient isnt enough to really carry you, and you have to actually run it, which if you're hammered like I was, its torture.  I couldn't believe how much I was looking forward to anything that had an incline, I felt so much better going up than down.  Somewhere along this way, Mike suggested that I had 4th all wrapped up and he would let me finish ahead of him out of kindness.  No way was I going to let this guy, who was clearly the better runner and just keeping me company, let me finish in front of him.  I was already planning out my "fall" right before the finish line so that he would be forced to beat me.

Finish.  Where are my sandals?

Luckily right around then Mike, the course record holder and last year's winner, told me we had 5k left, to which I replied "well get after it!"  He sprinted away and put 2 minutes on me in a mile.  I realized I was close to the finish, put on my game face and ran the last mile or so to the end.  My feet hurt so fricking bad I couldn't wait to rip off my shoes and get my flip flops on.

Overall I was pleased with my performance, but I am sure I lost at least 5 minutes due to the nausea and another 5 due to being a total and complete wuss on the last 10 mile decent.  Oh well, always nice to have room for improvement right?

Friday, July 12, 2013

Gluten intolerance and neurological illness

Gluten containing grains (wheat, rye, barley) make up a large portion of our daily diet, and these grains have become staple foods in the Western world.  Gluten itself is a protein structure that has been shown to elicit an immune response in some susceptible individuals.  Those who are gluten intolerant can be afflicted with what is known as celiac disease in which an immune response against self-enzymes is elicited upon ingestion of even tiny amounts of gluten (1).

Adapted from (6)

Celiac disease is a systemic immunological disease that is most commonly associated with gut dysfunction and gastointestinal symptoms.  Celiac disease is becoming an increasingly commonly recognized disorder, and it is estimated that approximately .75-1.0% of the general population suffers from some degree of celiac disease (1,2).  While the traditional concept is that celiac disease results in gastrointestinal distress, there appear to be a number of symptoms that occur outside of the gastointesinal system.  However, an interesting symptom commonly found in persons who suffer from gluten intolerance or celiac disease are unexplained neurological symptoms. This is actually not that new of a concept, as early as 1966 doctors have associated celiac disease with neurological illness (3).

The biological foundation for this observation is perhaps best evidenced by the fact that the gastrointestinal system actually has its own nervous system which communicates directly with the central nervous system.  There has since been the hypothesis proposed that states:  "Gluten causes symptoms in both celiac disease and non-celiac gluten intolerance, by its action on the nervous system" (1).

Proper neurological function is required for general health and well being; there has been a good amount of investigation into the relationship between gluten sensitivity and neurological function.  Proper digestive activity, including gut motility and gall-bladder function rely on proper nervous system activity.  Thus, the gastrointestinal symptoms reported in celiacs could largely be related to nervous system dysfunction (1,3).   In a report investigating the occurrence of neurological disease in celiacs and non-celiacs it was found that 51.4% of those with celiac suffered some sort of neurological dysfunction, while only 19.9% of those without celiac presented with neurological illness (1).  Other studies paint a slightly less dire picture, with between 10-25% of patients with confirmed celiac presenting with neurological illness of some sort, however the neurological dysfunction that is associated with celiac disease still presents a  large economic and social burden (2).  Similarly, there is a high prevalence (46%) of headache/migraines found in patients with celiac disease compared to those without celiac (29%) (1,4,5).  Taken together, these data suggest that those with celiac are over two-times more likely to have neurological dysfunction, of some sort.

In studies conducted at the Mayo clinic, patients with childhood onset celiac disease suffered from ataxia, peripheral neuropathy and seizures at an abnormally high rate (1).  Dementia has been associated with adult-onset celiac disease, such that dementia began soon after the onset of celiac symptoms, although this appears to be a rather rare phenomenon.  Furthermore, in patients in which celiac disease is associated with neurological dysfunction, cognitive impairment is commonly reported as well as amnesia (1).  The onset of cognitive impairment is also especially found to begin soon after the onset of celiac disease-like symptoms (1).

Adapted from (6)

One of the more interesting concepts regarding gluten sensitivity and gluten tolerance is the differentiation between celiac disease and gluten sensitivity.  I have more or less lumped these two terms together there, which I believe is a practical consideration as our diagnostic methods for these different conditions are constantly evolving and have yet to been unified.  For example, Hoffenberg et al. reported on a large cohort of children who were screened for evidence of celiac disease and found that 724 presented with high anti-gliadin levels (a diagnostic measure of celiac) (4).  However, upon histological examination of these children, 4.3% were define celiac (94% improvement with gluten free diet), 6.6 % were possible celiacs (with 75% improvement on a gluten free diet) and 89.1% were not-celiacs, despite the fact that 53% of these children reported improvement of symptoms with a gluten free diet (1,4).

Interestingly and importantly, neurological symptoms (tiredness, lethargy, irritability, sleep disturbance) were commonly reported in all three of these groups with 71% of the confirmed celiacs, 65% of the possible celiacs, and 51% of the non-celiacs reporting these symptoms (1).

While the association between celiac disease and neurological dysfunction appears to be fairly strong, without understanding of potential mechanisms, I remain unconvinced.  However, there does appear to be a fairly strong mechanistic basis for these observations.  Celiac is an immunological disorder, in which B cell produce auto-antibodies against transglutaminase or gliadin, the enzymes required to digest and absorp gluten or a portion of wheat, respectively (6).  Thus, the current belief is that gluten sensitivity results in auto-antibody production, which in turn damages nerve cells and results in inflammation.  Evidence for this hypothesis consists of the fact that 64% of celiacs who presented with neurological disease also had anti-ganglioside (a nerve cell) antibodies (5,6), in their circulation.  These antibodies have been shown to bind to a number of critical nerve sites that result in immune mediated damage to the nerve.  

Furthermore, studies mapping blood flow in the brains of patients who are gluten intolerant who are on a gluten free diet and those who are not have found that there is significant differences in the perfusion of various areas of the brain between the two groups (7).  While the direct cause of this is unclear, this could be related to inflammation and immunoreactivity, or direct toxicity from gluten.

While alterations in growth and body composition may be expected in persons suffering from gastointestinal illness such as celiac, the concept that this is accompanied by neurological illness as well has significant implications and is possibly less appreciated.  Those with celiac may also suffer from a wide spectrum of neurologic an psychiatric symptoms, including neuropathy, ataxia, migraines, epilepsy, lethargy, irritability, and depression (4,5). 

A search of the literature suggests that gluten can cause neurological harm through a combination of cross reacting antibodies, as well as further immunological damage, or toxicity (6),7. 

Works Cited

1)  Ford RP. The gluten syndrome: a neurological disease. Med Hypotheses 2009;73(3):438–40.

2)  Currie S, Hadjivassiliou M, Clar MJ, et al.  Should we be ‘nervous’ about coeliac disease? Brain abnormalities in patients with coeliac disease referred for neurological opinion.  J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry 2012;83:1216–1221 

3)  Cooke W, Smith W. Neurological disorders associated with adult coeliac disease. Brain 1966;89:683–722.

4) Hoffenberg EJ, Emery LM, Barriga KJ, et al.  Clinical features of children with screening identified evidence of celiac disease.  Pedatrics 2004; May;113(5):1254-9. 

5)  Bushara KO.  Neurologic Presentation of Celiac Disease.  Gastroenterology 2005;128:S92–S97
6) Green PHR, Alaedin A, Sander HW, et al.  Mechanisms underlying celiac disease and its neurological manifestations.  Cell. Mol. Life Sci. 2005; 62

7)  Addolorato G, Di Giuda D, De Rossi G, et al. Regional cerebral hypoperfusion in patients with celiac disease. Am J Med 2004;116:312–7.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013


The month of June has shaped up to be a pretty good month of running for me.  Managed to run very consistently throughout and have lots of long long outings, even if the mileage isn't extraordinary.

June 3rd-9th:  Total of 98 miles, time on feet: 19:42, with 20,446 vertical gain.  Highlight of this week was climbing Grays and Torreys (Sufferfest for me) despite the fact that there was still quite a bit of snow cover.

Worth the view

June 10th-16th:  Total of 95 miles, time on feet: 21:18, with 19,907 vertical gain.  Ran up to South Arapaho peak one day in Indian Peaks Wilderness, pretty neat area.  Highlight of the week was a double crossing of Hope Pass with a group training for Leadville.

Hope pass x2 (boobies?)

Stole this from Ryan's instagram account

June 17th-23rd:  Total of 84.5 miles, time on feet:  20:30, and 18,602 feet vertical gain.  Supposed to be a "step-back" week, but between travelling to Oregon for a job interview, and 3 long runs, I'm not sure I achieved what I was supposed to, although I did feel exceptional on Sunday for a quadbag (Flagstaff, Green, Bear, and South Boulder mountains) with Ryan Case.  Definitely did not feel well recovered after this week.  Highlight of the week was a long run from Echo lake, up to Mount Evans and back down, with lots of wildlife.


June 24th-June 30th:  Total of 66.5 miles, time on feet: 10:15, 12,278 feet vertical gain.  "Taper" week for the Leadville Trail Marathon (report here).  Hard to cut back on running when having so much friggin fun...

Totals for June:  364 miles, 78 hours, 79,760 vertical feet gained.  Definitely a new high in the time on feet and vertical gain department, even if its at the sacrifice of running a few less miles.  I think a very solid June last year was about 15,000 feet of vertical gain, so I think that puts things in perspective a little more.  Not sure why I'm running so much, but it seemed to pay dividends at the Leadville Marathon.  Now for the Silver Rush 50 mile!  We will see what happens, I'll try to run a more conservative race than I did at the marathon in hopes of feeling good and keeping my wits about me for 8+ hours above 10,000 feet.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Leadville Trail Marathon Race Report

I'm a little nervous.  Its been awhile since I've run a race.  Like 6 months.  I haven't raced since Yankee Springs in January.  Now I'm standing on the starting line for the Leadville Trail Marathon, advertised to have 6,300 feet of gain over the 26 mile out and back course that is run entirely at over 10,000 feet above sea level.

Since I've been in Colorado I've had the opportunity to run with a bunch of great people, and most of them also signed up for the marathon.  We camped out in Leadville the night prior to the race after hanging around the cool little mountain town all day.

Then some guy fires off a shotgun and the stampede begins.  I'm a little amazed how hard everyone is running from the get-go.  Its faster than I'm used to.  And all uphill, errr maybe up mountain is more appropriate?  Soon I'm gasping for air.
A wee bit more climbing than I'm used to

I get a glimpse of the trail ahead.  More switch backs and more climbing.  Hmmm.  I'll slow down a touch I think.  I'm still gasping for air.  Damnit.

The first aid station is at about 4 miles into the race.  If you can't tell by looking at the elevation profile, its quite a climb up to that point.  I got some water and a gel and was on my way.  I think at this point I had settled into 25-30th place and was just trying to keep moving at a reasonable pace.  I typically try to move through aid stations as quickly as possible, and I continued this.  After cresting the Ball Mountain aid station and running quickly down the old mining roads, I started feeling a little better.  A combination of some downhill and scaling back the pace a little bit seemed to be paying dividends.  I occasionally looked around, and was greeted with gorgeous views of mountains and bright blue sky.

Survival mode

Coming through the aid station at the bottom of Mosquito pass, I really started feeling better.  Which is strange as you are still running at 10,000 feet above sea level.  I had passed a few more people, including some fellow retching and making awful noises in the bushes.  The climb up Mosquito starts off actually fairly gradual, and after a good amount of downhill to reach this point, I decided to run as much as I could.  

Since the race was an out and back, and the turn around point is at the top of this climb, the trail became rather crowded, as we had rejoined with the half marathoners who were both going up and going down the pass, depending on how far along they were.  Luckily we are on mining roads, and very rarely was there not enough room to maneuver around people.  It was kind of nice to have so much mental stimulation during the climb, which could be quite brutal.  I ran, then hiked, then ran, then hiked, alternating on shallow and steep grades and using my breathing as a guide as to when to settle into a pow-hike.  I actually really enjoyed this section as I felt I had a good grinding gear.

I passed several more marathoners, and had the pleasure of seeing the leaders come blitzing down the pass.  Then a marathoner passed me; he was running the whole damn climb, I couldn't help but admire his consistent climbing cadence.  

At the top of the pass I quickly filled my bottle (2:18), stepped on the timing mat, and when I was told that I was somewhere around 11th or 12th place, I decided to let it all go on the descent from Mosquito and see what happened from there.  

I'm a fairly good downhill runner, especially when I'm in the mood to take some chances.  I took some chances. This was evident as I passed 3-4 other marathoners on the descent.  Including the guy who had climbed so well up to the top of the pass.    Actually I still don't know how I didn't trip or fly off the edge of the mountain on this descent, but thankfully it all worked out.  The descent seemed to shake something loose in my GI track, and I was eagerly anticipating a port-a-potty stop at the aid station at the bottom of Mosquito.  Unfortunately I saw two children who were cheering on family go running into the bathrooms right as I ran up.  Crap (pun intended), I'm not waiting around for that.  I started to run up the deusche grade mining road to the top of Ball mountain and after a while my need for a reststop reseeded.  This is lucky as there is nothing but shrubbery and rocks above treeline.    

At this point, I've run enough races to know that the return trip was going to be interesting.  I'd been running at threshold for almost 3 hours, something I don't practice often.  

I kept eating and must have been feeling ok, because I kept reeling people in.  I would jog with them for a brief moment, chat and recover, then take off to catch the next person.

I kept up that routine for the rest of the race, except as I got towards the finish I tried to make my passes rather emphatic, especially on the downhills.  Trying to take care of myself until the very end of the race, I took an S!cap at about mile 21, as I noticed I was very satly, but had not yet started cramping.  

Speaking of downhill, for me, the last downhill was a sufferfest.  It was technical as there was plenty of loose rocks and washed out ruts on the mining road, slightly rolling, and lasted 3-4 miles.  I was putting everything I had into the first couple miles, but as I couldn't see anyone in the distance I let up on the pace for a tad and almost tripped over some rocks.  OK, lets finish this out strong I decided.  So I hammered my legs into oblivion running downhill at sub 6:30 pace.  I ignored my screaming feet as I had reached that point where you don't care about pain and just want it to be over.  

As I crossed the finish line, I was told I had finished 6th overall (500ish starters?) in a time of 4:05.  I was very pleased, I had been thinking anything under 4:30 would be very good, and hadn't dreamed of running 4:05 in a race with 6,000 feet of gain.  I didn't care as much about the overall placing as running a time that I was satisfied with.

Our whole group finished strong, and had a big grin (grimace?) on their face when they finished.  It was a great social environment with all the finishers being extremely friendly and congratulatory.  The race gave out coffee mugs as the finishers award, which I like (I think some ppl were disappointed and wanted a medal)  We hung around for the rest of the day and I rehydrated with Michelob Ultra (blech). 


Liz and I both collecting our gold mining pans as age-group awards
 (we're the goofballs still in our running shorts)

Final thoughts:  While the trail race is a little expensive, it was well worth the $.  There were tons of goodies, plenty of food and beer, and a super enthusiastic environment.  While I don't usually like races with 1,000s of people, I do see the allure of larger events which really have a great environment.

Gear:  Scott T2 Kinabalu, The North Face Better than Naked shorts, Ultraspire Quantum belt, Ultimate Direction 20oz quickdraw water bottle.  
Food:  I don't remember?  Like 10 gels, and two bottles of sports drink?  No solid food.