julie koepke

Hard Earned Heat Training Tips

Hard-earned heat training tips

Guest Blogger: Julie Koepke

Almost four years ago, I loaded up my car in Minnesota and drove about as far south down I-35 as I possibly could, down to San Antonio.  One big reason I moved from MN is that I can't stand cold weather; I'd much rather run in heat, and since moving, I've enjoyed running the Capt'n Karls 60k night series every summer, and even managed to get through the Habanero Hundred 100 mile race last summer (race report here).

Ever since my first run here, on a 100-degree day, I've picked up a lot of ideas about running in heat -- mostly from doing things very, very wrong and learning from my mistakes.  As we head into the summer, a few folks have been asking me for tips on surviving Habanero Hundred or other hot races, so I figured I'd share what I've learned.

Caution: I'm not a doctor, or even that smart.  Everything I write here is simply picked up from my experiences racing in Texas summer heat. Hopefully some of this will be helpful to others, but don't blame me if it doesn't work for you!

 Here's what I've learned works for me to successfully run in heat:

  • Ice, ice, and more ice!
    • During summer races, I take a few moments at aid stations to request a scoop of ice down my shirt.  Then, as I continue running, I steal some cubes from my bra to put in my hat and mouth, or rub on my face.  On a 96-degree night during a 60k, this feels amazing!
    • I'm also excited to try my new insulated water bottle from Nathan.  It's supposed to keep ice and liquids cooler 20% longer than other insulated bottles.  Ice-cold water tastes so good during a hot race!
  • Apparel designed for heat:
    • Ice bandana -- I use one from zombierunner, which is designed specifically to hold ice close to your neck.  It's the best!
    • Cooling towel -- you know, the ones where you get it wet and it's supposed to stay cold and wet for a long time?  I don't use one of these anymore.  I made a huge mistake at a Capt'n Karls race one year; I had this great idea of cutting a head-sized hole in one of these and wearing it for the race.  I thought it would keep me cool while I ran.  It ended up being the worst -- I felt like I was running with a hot, heavy poncho, and I was stuck with it until the end of the loop.  I think I threw it away after that disaster.
    • My friend Rich also has a hat with a zipper pocket on top to store ice in your hat, which he purchased from zombierunner.com.  I haven't tried this, mostly because I think I look weird enough with my awkward running form, and wearing a zippered hat would only strengthen the impression.  But this is trail running, not a photo shoot, right?
    • Cooling arm sleeves -- I use Columbia brand sleeves.  They seem to work well.  In the film This is Your Day, Rob Krar is shown stuffing ice cubes in his cooling arm sleeves while slaying the Western States course.  I haven't tried this technique yet, but I look forward to trying it out this summer.
    • Of course, wearing a hat and sunscreen is helpful too.  Reapply the sunscreen often!  At Habanero, I was so dazed that I forgot to put my hat and sunscreen on for the first daylight loop of Day 2, and I fried a little bit.  Thank goodness for Rob, the race director, who gave me his own hat!  So it's probably a good idea to make a "cheat sheet" for yourself for a long race like that, with a reminder of what to take with you for certain loops.
  • Training
    • Since I am training for hot races, I try to make it a point to train in the heat.  Instead of only running in the morning when it's cooler, I'll go for runs at lunch time, in the afternoon, or in the evening, when the temperature drops a bit, but the humidity kicks up. 
    • I also enjoy hot yoga, and I hope this helps with acclimating to the heat.  I sure sweat a lot, anyway.
  • Salt and electrolytes
    • I know a lot of runners swear by s-caps and e-caps, but I never take these.  If I'm feeling like I want salt, then I eat something salty at an aid station.  It's advice I got from Liza Howard, and she's never steered me wrong yet.  
    • Ever since Habanero, when Rob and Rachel tried to bring me back to life with Pedialyte, I've kept a bottle in my Victory Sportdesign bag at all times.  During hot races, I take a gulp whenever I reach my drop bag.  There's nothing scientific about how I use it, it just makes me feel better.  However, I've recently started using Tailwind again, which has electrolytes, so I feel less dependent on Pedialyte now.
  • Chafing prevention
    • When it's humid, chafing can be really bad.  (Again, read my Habanero report!)  I used to use Vasoline as a preventative method, but for my last half a dozen ultras, I've used Trail Toes tape instead.  I apply it anywhere I usually have chafing, and it sticks really well for the entire race -- even up to 100 miles.
    • I also keep a small jar of Trail Toes cream in the pocket of my hydration vest, just in case of emergency.
    • My year-round anti-blister tip is to wear two pairs of thin socks.  My friend Edward gave me that tip a few years ago, and I haven't had a blister since.
  • Hydration
    • One thing I think I did really well at Habanero was my fluid intake.  I used the Liza Howard/Tim Noakes rule of simply "drinking to thirst."  I kept looking at my fingers to see if they were swelling up, which might be a sign of hyponatremia.  Every loop, when I weighed in with medical as required, my weight was right on the dot, the same.  To me, and the medical staff, this indicated I wasn't getting dehydrated or retaining too much water.  I always think of Liza's tip: if plain water sounds good to you, then you are thirsty, and you should drink more.  If plain water doesn't sound good, you don't need it; don't force your body to drink it.

Well, I think those are the only hot tips I've learned in these four years.  I'm sure I will continually be adding to this list, as we all learn something from every race and every long training run.  Thanks for reading!  May your post-run beverages be icy, and your body chafe-less!  Hope to see you this August at the Habanero Hundred!


Read more of Julie's blog posts at http://runningasprayer.blogspot.com/ 

Training Through An Injury

Training through an Injury

From Team Trot Runner and Gust Blogger Julie Koepke

Recently, I’ve been struggling with knee pain.  It began during a 100-mile race in October 2014, escalated to the point where I took an entire month off of running in March 2015, and then crept back again in October 2015.  I was able to run through it until I did a 50-miler in November; after that, the pain was so bad that sometimes I’d go for a run and only be able to make it a half a mile.  This was especially frustrating, as I had made the Bandera 100k USATF National Championships a goal race, and was really hoping to PR and get a top-10 place in the Championships.  Fortunately, I was able to do things – other than running, for the most part – during the month or so leading up to Bandera, which led me to reaching these goals after all.

Note that just as every person is different, so too I think every injury is different.  What works well for one person won’t necessarily work well for another.  Furthermore, what works well for one person with one injury might not work well for that same person the next time they’re faced with an injury.  However, I think there is value in sharing what has worked well for someone.  I know that I enjoy trying out various methods – especially when I’m desperate; and what injured runner doesn’t feel desperate at times?  Then I keep the things that I liked and discard the things that didn’t work well.  I hope my tips can be helpful in a similar way. 

Here are 3 things I did that I found helpful:

1.       Cross training

Not running is hard, and I admit that I’m not good at it.  Here is a screenshot of a few weeks of my training plan.  Notice how I should have been resting from running, but continued to stupidly aggravate the injury for weeks.

The following week, I wrote: “New plan: no running for a week.”   What a concept!  Stop doing the thing that hurts.  I continued doing cross-training activities that did not cause me knee pain, including hiking on the treadmill at maximum incline, hiking with a weight vest, swimming, strength training at the gym, yoga, and bicycling.  I also walked stairs on two separate days during this time.  On both days I did 90 flights; the second time, I wore a 20-pound weight vest.  I returned to running gradually, only when it no longer hurt at all to run, and beginning with barefoot running on a beach.  Since my goal race was January 9, this didn’t leave a lot of time for any runs at all, but at least I felt confident that I was in good shape aerobically and that I was strong from my cross-training.

2.       Reading an inspirational and useful book

During this time, I read Matt Fitzgerald’s book, How Bad Do You Want It?  In it, Fitzgerald shares the stories of certain elite athletes (runners, triathletes, and cyclists) who have cultivated mental toughness and “coping mechanisms” that have led to their successes in their sport, and suggests how the reader can be his or her own personal sports psychologist, trying out these tactics himself or herself.  Fitzgerald writes that no athlete can ever truly give 100% effort; we always hold something back.  The key is to try to push as close to that wall as possible.  He says that how far the wall is depends upon your physical ability, but how close you’re able to approach that wall depends upon mental toughness. According to Fitzgerald, an athlete coming back from injury might actually be able to perform just as well as an athlete in top physical condition if the injured athlete has greater mental toughness, and so is able to push further towards the limit.  I definitely reminded myself of this at various points throughout my race at Bandera. 

Some of the specific coping mechanisms Fitzgerald discusses felt especially powerful for me, especially the idea of “bracing yourself.”  Leading up to Bandera, I consciously “braced myself,” telling myself, “This is going to be hard.  There is going to be a lot of pain and suffering, because you are undertrained.  The knee pain will probably come back during the race.”  Fitzgerald says this strategy is effective because it lowers the perceived effort during the race.  Since I was already expecting pain, when it happened during the race, I was able to tell myself, “That’s no big deal, I knew that would happen.  I can push through it.”  I have to say, too, what really helped lower my perceived effort during this race was getting to run so much of it with my TROT teammate Matt, listening to music, and feeling gratitude – there were my effective coping mechanisms.

To me, there is benefit during a time of frustrating injury to reading any book that may inspire me to persevere through challenges. (Chrissy Wellington’s book, A Life Without Limits, and Haley Scott DeMaria’s book, What Though the Odds, are other go-to’s for me).

3.       Journaling

Last June, I started a routine of journaling before every race.  I found that this helped me sort out all my different emotions – of which I have many before a race – and eased my nervous tension, simply through identifying and acknowledging how I felt.  The night before Bandera, I did the same thing.  Here is an excerpt from my entry.  (Sorry that the writing is so messy – I was lying on my side in bed as I wrote it, not at all thinking that I might later decide to post it here for the world to see.)

The first emotion that came to mind was nervousness.  And I was right to be nervous: my body felt sore pretty early on, probably due to my lack of consistent running over the last few months.  My left knee hurt from about mile 10 on.  And running in general felt harder than it should.  But somehow having already processed this nervousness in my journaling made me calm during the race when these problems cropped up.  When something somewhat troubling happened, I’d think to myself, yep, that’s happening, but it’s okay – I expected that.  (I’m not showing the other part of my entry, where I wrote that I felt excited about the chocolate muffin I bought for my pre-race breakfast.  But it’s there.  J)

I tried other things, too, during this time, some of which were helpful, and some of which were not.  But these were the top 3 things I can look back on as directly leading me to achieving my race goals, despite not getting the amount and quality of training I would have hoped for.  I’d love to hear what has worked for you, too: what additional tips would you share?

Read more of Julie’s blogs at http://runningasprayer.blogspot.com/