June 19, 2015

Make an Ultramarathon Aid Kit (Upcycling Nuun Tubes)

Ask a a dozen ultramarathoners what's in their emergency kit and you'll likely get a dozen different answers, kind of like asking about their preferred hydration strategy. I decided to combine my emergency essentials and my hydration choice in one project, using an upcycled Nuun tube to carry my aid kit for the North Face DC 50k.

Some runners carry nothing on race days with aid stations; others, like Hal Koerner and his 'manity' kit, carry dozens of essentials to get them between crew spots. For my first 50k distance and the 24-mile winter training sessions that preceded it, I decided there were 8 items I needed on hand if the worst case became reality:
  1. Duct tape:  repairs everything from shoes to hydration packs
  2. Leukotape P:  zinc oxide adhesive sports tape; blister and chafing care
  3. Band-Aids:  blister and chafing care
  4. Tums antacids:  prevents stomach issues from low-protein, high-sugar race fuels
  5. Safety pin:  shoe and pack repair, pops blisters
  6. Advil:  just in case, though I do not advise NSAIDs
  7. Petroleum jelly:  chafing prevention and care
  8. Buff:  bandana-like headware with endless options: sun and sweat protection, cooling as ice wrap, chafing prevention (stick in in waistband or under pack strap), even toilet paper (per internet rumors only), etc.
Other people may also add salt tabs, batteries (Garmin or headlamp), scissors or nail clippers, moleskin, alcohol swabs, and a bunch of other niceties, but for 50k and below, I think my kit covers it all. And as I mentioned, everything but the Buff fit nicely in a Nuun tube.

And have I needed it on race day? Absolutely. Noticed some rubbing at the top of my gaiters while warming up for the 50k and immediately applied Leukotape strips to those spots; the tape prevented future issues and held up through the mud. Have also needed the antacids, even taking them as a preventative measure.

Do It Yourself

Interested in upcycling some Nuun tubes? I've included the step-by-step instructions below, along with a tip on where to put the kit if you're an Orange Mud user:

Step 1

Wrap duct tape and Leukotape around the tube. For both types of tape, half their width to fit easier on the tube, around toes, etc. The duct tape length should be enough to wrap up a shoe a couple times in case of catastrophic lace failure. As Leukotape is hard to rip, apply to the tube in overlapping 1-2" strips. Easily and quickly peel off and apply as needed.
Step 2

To free space within the tube, cut off the plastic spiral spring and the cylinder beneath it. Be aware this cylinder contains crystals to keep moisture from impacting Nuun tabs, so cut it off over a trash can to avoid the mess. 
Step 3

Lay out everything you want to include. Use single-use packages when available. For chafing prevention, use a pill bag or similar small zipper bag and put in petroleum jelly, balm, etc.
Step 4

Roll Band-Aids, Advil, safety pin, and Tums into a tube. Slide to the bottom of the empty Nuun tube.
Step 5

Fold or cram the petroleum jelly bag into the space available at the top.
Step 6

And you're ready to cap it. Job well done!
Carrying on race day

The tube fits nicely into one shoulder pocket of the HydraQuiver Vest Pack 2 from Orange Mud, and the Buff is stuffed in the other shoulder pocket.

March 4, 2015

RRCA Certified

Well it doesn't get much more official than this; after attending the RRCA training course weekend, passing the coaching exam, and completing first aid and CPR training, I finally received recognition as a certified RRCA running coach. Just step one of what I hope is a long journey of coaching in an official capacity.

March 2, 2015

Honey Stinger Hive

Just a few months after becoming a brand ambassador and member of Team Nuun, and just a few days after ordering my resupply of Honey Stinger gels and waffles, I was accepted as an athlete member of the Honey Stinger Hive. I'm very proud to have the opportunity to represent an exceptional hydration company in Nuun and a dedicated nutrition company in Honey Stinger.

February 25, 2015


It's like Christmas morning, thank you Team Nuun! I paid for the visor (what have I become, a triathlete?), and they threw in a trucker hat, new Specialized bottle, stickers, tattoos, and single-serve packets of all kinds. I'm especially excited to try the new flavors of Nuun All Day. If anyone in the P&P crew wants to try any of the new flavors, you better hit me up before I drink all the single serves!

February 15, 2015

Long Run, No Excuses

I don't always run 17 miles in -14° wind chill, but when I do, my water bottles freeze and I have to stick my gels inside my balaclava to unfreeze. Stay thirsty, my friends!

Side note, before it freezes at mile 15, Nuun watermelon tastes delicious in slush form. 


January 24, 2015

First Tracks on the Trail

In a winter that seems to only bring snow and ice on days I need a long run, I managed to get in first tracks on the rail trail today. It was a blast to have the trail almost to myself. At one point a fox wandered back and forth across the trail for a while, always managing to stay ahead of me and keep an eye on my progress. Came up on a few other foxes in other spots, and managed to stop and commune with a doe for a while.

Running through a winter wonderland on days like this certainly makes it worth the extra layers and extra effort.

January 10, 2015

Coaching Certification

After years of giving out free BS running advice, I figured it was time for that to be certified bull. So I attended the two-day coaching certification course at the Road Runners Club of America headquarters building near Washington DC. It was a fantastic two days. A lot of people just assume running is simple, as I always have, and we all know generally what to do. But this course covered a lot of the 'why' and 'how' questions; why and how does the body respond to certain external forces? How do our aerobic and anaerobic systems respond to different inputs? Why is the two-hour threshold so critical in training?

As it was linked with the RRCA's annual meeting, the course was taught by all four of the usual RRCA coach trainers. So our class was the benefit of a lot of varying experiences and anecdotes from folks with medical backgrounds, college coaching backgrounds, and athlete backgrounds.

I've always tried to use my knowledge and experience to help others, and this is just another step in being able to give back to the running community.

December 28, 2014

Austrian Hill Repeats

Trying to stay in shape on your last day of a ski vacation with no skiing?

Let me offer a suggestion: Austrian hill repeats (x10) while dragging 30 pounds of sled and toddler.

December 26, 2014


On the 12th day of Christmas (vacation), my true love sent to me...SNOW!

December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas!

To the entire Pavement and Peaks crew and readers, merry Christmas from an unseasonably-warm and snow-free Austria!

December 21, 2014

Slopes and Powder?

Ski boots? Should've packed trail shoes.

Though we've been enjoying touring in warmer weather through Germany, we were really hoping to find snow when we gained elevation in Austria. We arrived this afternoon at St. Johann to find nothing but green pastures. In decades of skiing, this is the first time we've seen grass on these slopes.

December 17, 2014

Proud to Represent Nuun

It was certainly an early Christmas present this week to be named a brand ambassador for Nuun and be selected for their competitive Team Nuun for 2015. I've always been a strong believer in the product, especially since it provides optimal hydration with no fillers, unnecessary chemicals, or sugary syrups found in competing products. It's simple, it's easy, and most importantly, it works. I've used it for years running, cycling, skiing, and backpacking. I even use it to give water a little boost during days at work and on long business flights.

I'm very excited to begin this partnership, look forward to promoting their products, and can't wait to see what they have in store for the future.

December 14, 2014

Good Morning from Garmisch

Woke up to a beautiful view of the Alpspitze this morning. It's day one of three weeks touring through Germany and Austria, hitting our usual spots of Garmisch, St. Johann in Tirol, Munich, and revisiting Vienna.

December 3, 2014

Running Across the World

It's not every day you get to run through the American Southwest and German cities in under an hour, but that's what my workout looked like today. I didn't pack my rain gear this week, so I ended up in a Rochester Marriott on the treadmill for a quick 10k.

The TRUE Fitness treadmill had a virtual run option, a trend creeping into more fitness equipment lately. Although this option wasn't based on Google Maps or famous road races, it was through famous trails and scenic areas in California, Chicago, and the Southwest in States, and overseas locations in Germany and Italy.

After my 10 day Southwest trip with my father in 2012, I had to select the Southwest option first. I immediately recognized the first trail as it took off from the parking lot at the base of Angel's Landing and ascended into Zion NP. The next segment took me along more red rock to Zion's Emerald Pools. The next two segments were also instantly recognizable, with the first being through the Buckskin Gulch slot canyon in the Vermillion Cliffs National Monument area, one of my favorite hikes in the Southwest. I stayed in the same park with the next segment heading through Coyote Buttes and near the Wave sandstone formation. The final segments of the region were two runs along the Las Vegas strip.

After I wrapped up with the sand, I decided to head over to Germany; very timely since I'll be there in the snow in a couple weeks. The run started through a gorgeous green forest in the Thuringian Forest, continuing into the Berchtesgaden area with a mountainous climb of the Wimbachklamm and city running in the spa town of Bad Reichenhal. The trek then took me to Munich for a run along the water and through the city's walking street to Marienplatz and the Englischer Garten. Marienplatz was especially exciting since it's an annual visit for me. It was fun to run past my favorite fest halls, restaurants, and end at the Glockenspiel. The experience ended with a quick trip through Nuremberg. It was a new experience to run through Germany without snow on the ground, although I did get hungry running past my favorite restaurants....not to mention getting thirsty seeing all the Erdinger beer umbrellas.

In summary, it was nothing like actually running the trails of the Southwest or the cities of Germany, but it was a lot better than staring at a wall. So for making my treadmill run less painful and making the hour go by faster, I have to give the TRUE Fitness treadmill high praise to get in hotel mileage. Only downside was only having six regions at about three miles each; it would be better with Google Maps integration or expanded route downloads since the limited options may lose their novelty and get old after a few times through.

Virtual run selection screen

Southwest US region

Angel's Landing trail (Zion)

Buckskin Gulch slot canyon

Germany region

Thuringian Forest

Munich nearing Marienplatz

Munich walking street

Aldstadt in Nuremberg

November 27, 2014

Always Thankful

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! So thankful this year for my health, my family, and all the blessings of another year. And as always, I'm thankful to have the health and fortune to be able to run power lines and play in the snow on a beautiful November morning. Skipped the stress of racing this year and traded turkey trot for turkey trail.

November 13, 2014

"Race" Report: Chicago O'Hare

Just RAN the Chicago O'Hare 0.5-miler in 6:40 with dress shoes, sport coat, briefcase, and roller bag! Edge of terminal F to edge of terminal C to catch my flight.

And a special thank you to my inbound flight sitting for an hour and 34 minutes to deplane, making today's speed work necessary. We couldn't find an available gate in all of Chicago?

The system automatically rebooked me and texted me a new itinerary. Ha! They didn't count on me training all summer for this race! Made my flight, no rebooking necessary. 

October 26, 2014

Race Report: Marine Corps Marathon 2014

I came into my fourth Marine Corps Marathon with a few hundred extra miles of training this year and the goal of dropping another couple minutes off last year's PR. Unfortunately I also came in a bit off my mental game due to a few questionable taper runs; however, I was determined to power through any obstacles on race day, especially with the inspiration of the Marines and my toddler on course watching her first marathon.

The Expo

The expo at the DC Armory was actually a bit smoother than the past few years. Packets and bibs moved inside, removing the need for two separate security lines; although that one security line still stretched out of the building even on Friday morning. The expo vendors and sponsors were consistent with prior years, but that didn't stop me from picking up some more swag at the Brooks store. I also managed to restock my Nuun watermelon supply! I snagged another entire box, with free water bottle, before heading into the dark days of winter. I also picked up a bandana for my mutt from Dogs of War and sifted through the usual sales racks.

The Course

I won't spend much time on the course since I've covered in the past few MCMs. It was similar to the 2013 course, cutting through Rosslyn, crossing Key Bridge, along Rock Creek and Potomac Parkway to mile 9. Then past the Kennedy Center, Theodore Roosevelt Bridge, and Lincoln Memorial before hitting the winds of Hains Point. Views of the Jefferson Memorial, National Mall, and the US Capitol building rounded out the first 20 miles. The final push was over the 14th Street Bridge, through Crystal City, past the Pentagon, and up the final hill to the Marine Corps War Memorial.

The course looks deceptively flat, although the bridge miles from 20-22 are very lonely and mentally challenging. Not to mention the winds this year were up to 25mph gusts and that section offers no relief.

Race Day

It was unseasonably warm as the sun rose on marathon morning. I dropped my bag at the Pacers Running tent and walked through charity village. I then made my way on the long walk past Arlington Cemetery and to the starting line. The pageantry of the Marine Corps was in full display as usual, several parachute groups, two Ospreys flew over, the howitzer marking the start of the race. Targeting a 3:13 finish, I stood in the mass of people at the front of the pack and tucked between the 3:05 and 3:15 pace groups.

The first 5k was up the only real inclines of the race, and in what's become an unfortunate trend for me this year, I started out a bit fast. I cleared the first 5k and 10k timing mats at 7:08 pace, well ahead of my 7:22 plan, but I didn't feel like it was an unsustainable effort so I focused on consistent energy and tried to pull back just a bit. The Rock Creek Parkway miles were on wide roads with plenty of space to avoid runner traffic, and I picked my way through the pack to find some open road. I came up to the memorials at miles 10-11 looking for my support crew; my wife, mother, mother-in-law, and toddler were all supposed to be waiting. Unfortunately they were delayed, as is life with a little one, and I spent a couple miles searching in vain. I cruised down Hains Point to the halfway mark in 1:33:42; the 7:08 pace far closer to a BQ than the PR I was targeting.

I forced myself to ease of the pace a bit in the next few miles, including two miles around the Tidal Basin where I managed to catch my support crew and cheering daughter at miles 15 and 17. I still didn't feel like I was laboring too hard as I ran past the Capitol and the large crowds along the National Mall. It was about this time that the winds started to howl through the building, and as I passed my support crew at mile 20, that howl became a gust. Miles 20-22 over the Bridge and into Crystal City was a long stretch of concrete with nothing to protect runners from the 15-25mph winds roaring down the river and battering us from the side. I could tell my pace was slipping a bit, and I was losing time from fighting the wind. Any hope for respite in the buildings of Crystal City was quickly forgotten.

Miles 22-25 featured wind tunnels between buildings, at one point blowing so hard I thought I may not be moving. I watched my pace slip a bit more, still very confident I would beat my goal time but obviously in a large positive split. The final mile featured more wind and a side cramp that struck for a few minutes, but I pushed through as best I could and crossed the line in 3:11:33, shattering my target time and dropping five minutes over my 2013 finish, wind and all.

After a tough few weeks of poor tapering runs and a slight injury the week prior, I was extremely pleased with the race. I didn't follow my race plan, I went out too fast, but I relied on my training to push through and maintain focus at the end. Maybe I should have a bit more confidence and ignore those taper demons.

PR! Now THAT was a two-banana run!

The Results

13.1 mi: 1:33:42  |  7:08

Final:   3:11:33  |  7:18 /mile 

October 19, 2014

Another Round, Please!

The last of the watermelon! I'm down to my last tube before the flavor is retired for the season.

October 10, 2014

Snapshots: Point Defiance Park

If you have to get a 9-mile taper run in on vacation, this is the way to do it. Gorgeous morning in the Pacific Northwest at Point Defiance Park in Tacoma, WA. I usually don't take my phone on runs, but I had to put it in the pack today to capture the views as I ran on a point overlooking the Gig Harbor and Tacoma Narrows bridge.

I hit Five Mile Road on Point Defiance early in the morning; the road is closed to traffic in the early mornings to allow cyclists and runner free reign of the park. And since it was a weekday, I only shared my mileage with the fog, trees, and a few deer enjoying their breakfast. I ran a couple loops, the fog hanging low in the forest of tall trees reaching skyward. It was almost surreal at times to be running in this place. As the morning wore on, breaks in the fog provided panoramic views of the water and brief glimpses of the bridge.

It was a relaxing and rejuvenating way to knock out a taper run. It's an amazing running landscape, and that's just the roadway. There were also miles of trail to discover. I capped off the day with a refreshing beer sampler at the Narrows Brewing Company.