Posted by: jawsome | February 2, 2011

On death marches and how to survive running below zero

On Saturday I headed out for a 21ish mile run from Blue Sky to Devil’s Backbone and back. Unfortunately, I think a better term than run would be “trudge”, “death march”, or “slog”. It was so bad that I saw Nick both before my run AND after (I think he did two completely separate runs in the time it took me to do one).

I tried out eating a PB sandwich beforehand, as that seems to be a common aid station snack and I wanted to see how my body responded. In short: not well. I started to feel sloshy around mile 9 and it just went downhill from there. It was unseasonably warm (~60) during the run, and I was sweating pretty well at first…then all of a sudden stopped. I haven’t been taking any electrolytes recently because it’s been so dang cold, but for this run I think that was a lapse in judgement. I stopped sweating and peeing, despite drinking the entire contents of my camelbak on the 11 miles to Devil’s backbone. Probably not a good sign. To add insult to injury, I developed the world’s worst side stitch (courtesy, no doubt, to the sloshy belly). In a word, it sucked. But, I did the whole thing and finished out my 21 miles in record slow time (5 hours). Ugh. Well, it may not have been great running training, but at least I was out there on my feet and maybe I got some mental toughness training in.

I was so worked from that run that I cancelled the Sunday run and lazed around the house in a stupor. Lame.

Monday Matt and I went to the gym and I got to do some weighted squats and deadlifts. These went really well, and I think I’m ready to start adding more weight, but some of the arm work killed me and I am still sore two days later. It’s the good kind of sore though, the kind that will enable me one day to complete more than one actual pushup and possibly even a pull-up! (I really am weak in the arms – apparently carrying a handheld water bottle doesn’t really count as lifting).

Last night was hovering around 12 below, and while some of the more die-hard FCTR runners may have been out there, I retained my sanity and ran indoors. I developed a new “fartlek-like” workout to keep me from losing my marbles on the treadmill. Instead of doing set tempo runs (Bo-o-o-oring) I listened to my iPod and changed my pace according to the music that was playing (making sure to stay between 6.5 and 7.5 mph regardless). This worked really well, as I could hammer it during the hard rock, and then calm down to some Radiohead or Sigur Ros. At least it worked well until the Christmas music came on. Oh well, proof of concept anyway. 6 miles done.

I also signed up for the 50k at Bighorn in June. Looks like an awesome course, and several FCTR members are signed up as well. I also plan on signing up for the sageburner 50k in May, but registration isn’t open yet… 

In other news, I have finally lost the lingering 4lbs of baggage (read:fat) I’ve been carrying around and am now just working on continued toning. Phew!



  1. nice job on finishing that run! i’ve been there and it SUCKS, but you’re right, you got time on your feet and some mental toughness practice : ) figuring out fueling and hydration for this type of running is hard, too, and kind of takes some trial and error i think. but better to have a death march now than race day with a much longer distance to march! i really want to do more strength training and lifting as i know how beneficial it would be, but it’s hard to find the time. congrats on the weight loss!

    we totally seem like we could be distance running buddies! especially with our trail running and ultra goals : ) if only we didn’t live several states apart… (although i see we were both in sb for a while, if only we had made the connection sooner!)

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