Monday, September 27, 2010

Running Cadences

My iPod is full of Marine Corp running cadences. They are great inspiration. Have a listen...

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Cactus Rose Shopping List

The thing about Cactus Rose is that it's aid stations are not manned. The set-up is a self-serve format; you bring your own stuff. This forces the runner to plan out ahead of time their own food needs and supplements - not that runners shouldn't do that anyway. I have compiled a list of things I will need for Cactus Rose 100. Here is my shopping list, broken up into three distinct sections: Gear/Miscellaneous Needs, Nutrition/Fueling, and Medical Care. Note that these are things I have to buy. This is not a list of things that I already have that I am planning on taking. In short, this is not an exhaustive list of things that I will be taking to the race. Also, I will probably be adding to this list as I think of more supplies and needs.


Two small, but sturdy and strong flashlights for the trails
Batteries (for the flashlight)
AAA batteries for my headlamp
1 stick of BodyGlide
Duct tape
Black Sharpie Marker
Lightweight long pants, preferably white (will buy in SA)
5 medium-sized duffel bags to leave at the aid stations
5 ice chests to leave at each aid station (maybe)


Vanilla Bean GU Gels (100)
Heed Powder (will buy in SA)
5 loafs of bread
2 jars of peanut butter
2 jars of jelly
A large bag of M&M candies
4 Cans of Progresso Soup
A large bag of Pretzels
Trail mix (no chocolate in the mix)
Spoons to eat
Can opener
Tostitos Tortilla Chips


Bandaids (waterproof)
Ankle tape
Little scissors
A needle to puncture blisters
A lighter to sterilize the needle
Tape (for feet -- will buy in SA)
Powder for feet

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Skin Deep: The Importance of Sunscreen and Sunblock for the Ultrarunner

My legs get extremely dark if I don't use sunscreen. A lot of times, I forget to put it on, so I have quite the tan right now. I need to get better at remembering to use the stuff. A lot of runners may overlook the importance of skincare, but I think it is a critical topic. Healthy amounts of sun exposure are important for vitamin D synthesis, but the sun can do a lot of damage to the skin, if proper caution is not exercised!

I've seen some runners who do not adequately take care of themselves with sunscreen. You can tell they don't take care of themselves because they look aged, much older than they rightfully should. It is quite sad, actually. Yes, we ultrarunners are a hardcore lot; we are freaks of nature, not unaccustomed to roughing it out through some pretty extreme conditions. But, that doesn't mean we shouldn't take care of our bodies. Notwithstanding the fact that it just doesn't look all that sexy, poor skincare is bad for our health. It goes without saying, our health is of primary concern.

What happens when we don't protect our skin? There are a lot of factors to consider when assessing the issue: altitude, skin tone, age, skin type, time of day, seasonal variations, etc. But, the basic principle remains the same: frequent and prolonged sun exposure carries with it certain risks. From a purely cosmetic perspective, a lifetime of damage due to sun exposure is to blame for increased laxity (sagging), rhytids (wrinkles), and poor skin texture, among other things. It makes the skin look older. There is also an increased risk for skin cancer.

What can we do to avoid these things? Simple. Use some kind of skin protection when out in the sun to protect against ultraviolet radiation (UV radiation). UV radiation is broken up into two categories: UVA and UVB, depending on wavelength. UVB radiation, which has a shorter wavelength, is primarily responsible for sunburn, whereas UVA radiation, which has a longer wavelength, is primarily responsible for long-term skin damage.

There are two basic kinds of protection: sunscreen and sunblock. Did you know there is a difference? Well, there is. Sunblock is stronger than sunscreen. It blocks out a majority of UVA/UVB radiation and breaks down at a slower rate.

Sunscreen, on the other hand, breaks down faster when exposed to sunlight and does not block out as much of the sun's radiation. Many sunscreen products do not block UVA radiation. "Broad spectrum" sunscreen products are more effective at blocking UVA radiation, but beware: even some products that are labeled "broad spectrum" may provide very little protection against UVA. But, they do effectively block UVB.

Here's how it works. There are two kinds of active ingredients in any sunscreen: inorganic particles and organic compounds. Inorganic particles, like titanium dioxide or zinc oxide, provide a physical barrier that reflects UV rays that would otherwise be directly hitting your skin. These particles are invisible, thanks to nanotechnology. Otherwise, we would have to wear a product that made us look like we were dipped in white paint! While those inorganic particles are at work, organic components of the sunscreen product absorb the UV radiation and release that energy as heat.

The higher the SPF (sun protection factor) of the sunscreen, the more effective it will be in protecting your skin from the sun. However, a word of warning about SPF. SPF only measures the effectiveness of a product's ability to block UVB radiation. Again, UVB radiation is the kind that causes sunburn, redness, and pain. It does not measure a product's effectiveness in blocking UVA radiation, the kind that causes invisible, long-term damage to skin.

Sunscreen should be reapplied periodically, depending on the SPF level of the product. Please note that it is unrealistic for a sunscreen product to claim that it offers "all day protection." It doesn't. Bottom line: know your product and err on the side of caution by reapplying often.

I leave you now with the lyrics to a song, written by Baz Luhrmann, entitled, "Everybody's Free (To Wear Sunscreen)":

If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be
it. The long term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists...

Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth; Oh! Never mind! You will not understand the power and beauty of your youth until they have faded. But trust me, in 20 years you’ll look back at photos of yourself and recall in a way you can’t grasp now how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked...

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Food Journal - A week of eating

I recorded everything I put in my stomach for a week. Here are the results:

Tuesday, Sept. 7, 2010


Zola Acai with Pineapple Juice (1.5 servings) - 150 cals total, 27 g carbs, 1 g protein, 1.5 g fat
2 blocks of Almond Good Health Cheese Alternative (16 servings) - 800 cals total, 3 g carbs, 7 g protein, 1 g fat
Guiltless Gourmet All Natural Chili Lime Tortilla Chips (7 servings) - 840 cals total, 22 g carbs, 2 g protein, 3 g fat


2 cups of cooked lentils seasoned with Herbamare Herb Seasoning Salt, served over a bed of salad greens (2 servings) - 460 calories total, 40 g carbs, 18 g protein, 1 g fat


Pretzels -
2 cups of air popped popcorn

Daily Totals (Net Grams)

2250 calories total, 323 g carbs, 164 g protein, 41.25 g fat


Jogged 1 mile (warm-up)
Hill repeats (30x total) alternating walk/run, walk up 2x and run up 1x, then run up 2x and walk up 1x
Walked 1 mile (cool down)

Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2010


Dried apples (6 servings) - 90 cals total, 0 g fat, 4 g carbs, 0 g protein
Dried mangos (2 servings) - 240 cals total ???
1 tablespoon of 100% raw honey - 60 cals total, 0 g fat, 17 g carbs, 0 g protein


2 5-ounce bowls of Barbecue Sausage and Beans Soup (2 servings) - 340 cals total, 29 g carbs, 5 g protein, 4 g fat (2 g saturated fat)
Salad greens with 1/4 cup of black olives, 1/4 cup green olives, 1/4 cup green peas, red onions, 1/2 cup of diced turkey - estimate of 500 calories ???
1 plain baked potato (1 serving) - 200 cals total, 46 g carbs, 5 g protein


Dried apples (6 servings) - 90 cals total, 0 g fat, 4 g carbs, 0 g protein
Dried mangos (2 servings) - 240 cals total ???

Midnight Snack

2 Wasa light rye crispbreads - 60 cals total, 0 g fat, 14 g carbs, 2 g protein
1 banana - 120 cals total, 0 g fat, 31 g carbs, 1 g protein
1 Bartlett pear - 100 cals total, 1 g fat, 25 g carbs, 1 g protein

Daily Totals (Net Grams)

2040 cals total, 5 g fat (not including the olives in the lunch salad and the turkey) (2 g saturated fat), 239 g carbs (not including the salad or the dried mangos), 19 g protein (not including the salad or mangos)


10 miles, with 33 hill repeats up and down (set of 3) after every mile.

Thursday, Sept. 9, 2010


1 Bartlett pear - 100 cals total, 1 g fat, 25 g carbs, 1 g protein
7 Wasa light rye crispbreads (3.5 servings) - 210 cals total, 0 g fat, 14 g carbs, 2 g protein
1 whole avocado - 227 cals, 21 g fat (3 g saturated fat), 12 g carbs, 3 g protein
1 cub sweet butter leaves -
2 tablespoons green roasted salsa


1 whole avocado - 227 cals, 21 g fat (3 g saturated fat), 12 g carbs, 3 g protein
3 Wasa light rye crispbreads - 90 cals total, 0 g fat, 14 g carbs, 2 g protein
1 banana - 120 cals total, 0 g fat, 31 g carbs, 1 g protein


Green salad with diced tomatos and cucumbers - 150 cals total, ???
2 wheat dinner rolls - 400 cals total, ???
1 glass of red wine (Shiraz) - 100 cals total, ???

Midnight Snack

4 avocados seasoned with lite salt and red chili flakes - 908 cals total, 21 g fat (3 g saturated fat), 12 g carbs, 3 g protein
12 Wasa light rye crispbreads - 360 cals total, 0 g fat, 14 g carbs, 2 g protein
2 tablespoons green roasted salsa


Run/walked 5 miles at noon
Run walked 5 miles at night

Friday, Sept. 10, 2010

Bad Day!


2 Pears


(Clarissa's B-Day Party)
Spaghetti w/ 3 meatballs from Orlando's Restaurant
Chips and Queso
4 glasses of blush wine


1 bag of Turkey Jerky
4 string cheese sticks
24 oz. 100% Apple Cider


Run/walk 5 miles

Saturday, Sept. 11, 2010


8 oz. 100% Apple Cider

Workout Food

Vanilla Bean GU Gel


2 avocado roll sushi
Edamame appetizer
2 bowls of steamed white rice (3 cups, maybe 4)


4 turkey slices
1 avocado
16 oz. orange juice


Ran all day at Buffalo Springs Lake

Sunday, Sept. 12, 2010


3 slices of turkey


Vegetable Biryani (vegetables and rice, not healthy because cooked with butter)
2 falt wheat breads (not healthy because greasy)
1/4 slice of naan
Cilantro chutney
1/2 of a bowl of Tomato soup
Iced tea

Midnight Snack

Bowl of salad greens
4 slices of turkey
1 avocado
Leftover rice
1/2 flat wheatbread


Ran 10 miles
Ran 10 miles
20 miles total for the day

Monday, Sept. 13, 2010


2 pears
1 and 1/2 bananas


4 slices of turkey
3 cups of cooked lentils
Powerade Zero


4 slices of turkey
8 oz of apple juice
5 slices of reduced fat swiss cheese
Dried mangoes
A handful of pecan halves


2 sandwiches (4 100% whole wheat bread slices, 3 slices of turkey, a handful of salad greens, 3 slices of reduced fat swiss cheese, 1 tablespoon green roasted salsa)


Ran 6 miles

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


Salad (salad greens, red bell peppers, handful of almonds, handful of sunflower seeds, black olives, liquid aminos)
1 plain baked potato
1/2 of an avocado
Dried mangoes


Handful of pecans
1 slice of turkey
1 slice of reduced fat swiss cheese
8 oz 100% apple cider


2 sandwiches (4 slices of wheat bread, 4 slices of reduced fat swiss cheese, 5 slices of turkey)
8 oz 100% apple cider


1 sandwich (2 slices of wheat bread, 1 slice of turkey, 1 slice of reduced fat swiss cheese)
8 oz 100% apple cider
Handful of pecans


Ran 20 miles before school

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


1 1/2 bananas
Dried mangoes


2 sandwiches (4 slices of bread, 4 slices of reduced fat swiss cheese, 2 slices of turkey)
Handful of almonds
8 oz of Odwalla Protein Monster Chocolate Milk
16 oz 100% apple cider


Baked potato (plain)


Run/walk 3 miles

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Buffalo Spings Lake - Hill Training for Cactus Rose 100

The real hills of Lubbock are at Buffalo Springs Lake, about five miles outside the city limit. Lubbock is pretty much a pancake, but if you drive out to the lake, you will find that the earth suddenly and unexpectedly dips down to form a beautiful canyon. They have fishing, boating, dirt bike riding, hiking, swimming, etc. I went for the hills.

My friend Alec Pourteau told me about this place, and Lisa Smith-Batchen urged me to get my butt out there to do some real hill training for Cactus Rose. She has trained on these hills before, having spent some time in Lubbock. She said the hills were big. Boy, she wasn't kidding!

I found that most of the hills were formed by the trail traversing the the edge of the canyon, that part where the earth dips down. The wonderful thing was that the trails were nice and rocky, similar to the terrain in Bandera. It is good training. I managed to take my camera with me on one of the loops and I snapped some photos of the trails. Here they are:

You start down in the canyon, by the lake. In order to get up to the trails at the rim of the canyon, you have to hike back up one of these steep trail heads. They are somewhat treacherous, with loose, rocky footing. But, I realized that if you hesitate with your footing too much, you are more likely to slip. The best way to get up these things, I think, is to bound up them as fast as you can. Stay light on the feet! Getting back down is the tricky part. I had to get on my ass on some parts and scoot down little by little. It's that steep.

Once you are on the rim of the canyon, the real fun begins. For here are the trails!

The trails are very scenic, too! Lots of interesting sights. From cool rock formations... broken bridges... beautiful flora...

Some flora is downright dangerous!

But, the best part of the Buffalo Springs Lake experience is this monster hill I found. I turned my head and was like, hello! I had to go up it!

At the top! Victory!

So if you are ever in the area, head on over to Buffalo Springs Lake! It is so worth it. I, for one, plan on doing a lot more training runs there!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Beautiful Skies

Beautiful skies make me glad to be a runner. Runners get to spend a lot of time outdoors. We get to witness the most spectacular scenes of beauty displayed in the heavens. Weather you run in the daytime or at night, you can view the spectacle of a beautiful sky. That view can inspire you like nothing else. Today, I had the good fortune of seeing a wonderful drama, enacted right before my eyes in the heavens. The sky was burning a savage color red and orange. I was running, and it made me stop. I managed to get two pictures of the sky, but the pictures in no way do justice to actually being there. Next time you are on a run, just look up for inspiration.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Hill training in Lubbock for Cactus Rose 100

So, nothing beats a good hill workout. The only way to adequately prepare for the Cactus Rose 100, I am told, is to do hill repeats. You have to train your legs (your quads in particular) for running up and downhill.

Well, that is a challenge for someone living in Lubbock, TX, which is a pretty flat place. I found a hill on campus. It's not much of a hill, but I hope it will do for my weekday runs. I run up and down it, repeatedly.

Here are some pictures of my little hill.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Some of my favorite health foods

People tend to think of health foods as bland and flavorless, but that's not always the case. Here are some specialty items that I think are really tasty:

These yeast flakes are so great! You have to try them. They have a nutty, cheesy flavor that goes so well on popcorn. I remember the first time I tried them. I went to a small, art-house theater in Austin, and bought a bag of air-popped popcorn. There on the counter, they had the usual butter and salt condiments. But, I was watching what I ate, so those items were ruled out for me. But, I was instantly attracted to the yeast flakes, not least because the label had the word "nutritional" on it. I'm glad I tried them. I fell in love. And, it turns out, they are pretty healthy.

Bragg Liquid Aminos is perfect for salads! It is like soy sauce, but better! It makes a terrific broth. Trust me, it is delicious. All it is, really, is vegetable protein from soybeans.

Herbamare is a flavorful alternative to table salt. It is basically just sea salt with some herbs mixed in: celery leaves, leek, chive, rosemary, basil, thyme, parsley, etc. I think it works really well on vegetables. It somehow manages to enhance the flavor of the vegetables in a way that ordinary table salt cannot.

Weird. Almond imitation cheese. It has no cholesterol, saturated fat, or preservatives. It's mostly just crushed almonds. That is the base for this cheese imitation product. But does it taste good? Well, I love cheese. Nothing can hold a candle to real cheese, in my opinion. But, it's best to not think of this product as an imitation. Rather, think of it as something separate, something that stands on its own. It has a really mild nutty, creamy flavor. It's quite good, actually. But, if you think of it as a cheese alternative, which it is, you may be disappointed.

What are your favorite health foods?

Monday, September 6, 2010

The magic of the all-night training run

Tonight I pulled an all-nighter. This one was fun! I saw three shooting stars. And they showed up at just the right time, too: just as I was questioning why I was out there in the first place, instead of at home asleep. The shooting stars made me feel like I was just where I was supposed to be. There is something very peaceful about these night runs. You are out there by yourself. That can be a wonderful thing, but it can also be a scary thing. On the one hand, it is wonderful to have some alone time, time to clear your head of the clutter of everyday reality. On the other hand, it can be a scary thing being out there alone. It can be depressing. You have to be comfortable with yourself. You have to be strong and brave. In a certain sense, you end up having to face yourself during these long runs. Your weaknesses are exposed. All secrets are revealed, as clear as the stars twinkling above your head. Try a night run. They are exhilarating.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Running for a Cause: Lisa Smith-Batchen's Journey Across America (Part 1)

The foot was definitely broken. The doctor looked at it from every angle, applying slight pressure with his fingers at various points. She winced. "Does that hurt?" A no-brainer. The pain was radiant, brilliant and clear. Damned potholes. She had been talking casually with a group of people who were running with her in Plano, Texas, when her right foot suddenly rolled over. It was a really small pothole, too. But, it was enough to cause a break in the bone. They told her to stop running, but she couldn't entertain the thought. She just couldn't. She had come too far. And people were counting on her. The kids were counting on her. To stop would be to let them down, and she just couldn't do that. So they iced the foot and slapped an ankle brace on. That was over a month ago. 1,350 miles later, she was still running.

The good doctor's brow furrowed in concern. He looked truly doubtful. "I don't know, Lisa," he said. The foot was throbbing. "I just don't know." Here she was, on the night before her last run, and the orthopedist was giving her the bad news: she might not make it. But, Lisa wouldn't accept that.

"I don't know if your foot is going to last. So, when you see the finish, you just run like hell," he told her. "You give it all you have." Her journey was almost complete. Tomorrow would be her last day running.

Now, the wind whipped all around her. Lisa stood in the afternoon breeze. The sky was overcast. Not much farther. Just a few more miles to go. Just a few. Family and friends had come from all over to see her finish running 2,500 miles through America. That's 50 miles in each of the 50 states in 62 days. No other person on earth had ever accomplished such a feat. Lisa would be the first.

It seemed all of Driggs, Idaho, her hometown, had shown up for the event. It was a circus. People were cheering her name. Cameras flashed every which way. Onlookers honked their car horns. The local fire department had shown up, and they blasted their truck's siren. Even the weather wanted in on the party: the winds were absolutely torrential. Claps of thunder swelled in the threatening sky. "Look, Lisa," said Sister Mary Beth in an awed whisper, "God is bringing us home with a bang." Her good friend had always supported her and given her strength when she needed it most. Sr. Mary Beth's kind eyes brimmed with warmth and compassion. An accomplished athlete herself, the media dubbed Sr. Mary Beth Lloyd as "the Running Nun," but to Lisa Smith-Batchen, she was, and always would be simply "godmother." Lisa put on her shoe and stood up.

She started running. The pain was agonizing. The crowds emboldened her. But, there was something else that kept her going, something apart from the people and the cheering, something only she could hear - a voice, clear as crystal and serene as the sunset. A little voice that seemed to drown out all the noise of the wind and thunder. It told her everything was going to be okay and to keep moving. It made her feel so peaceful, so strong, like anything was possible. Anything. She had heard this voice before in her life, and each time she heard it, it filled her with such grace. It fueled her onward, through difficult times. It did so now. Each step came a little easier. It felt like she was walking on air, like the very wind was picking her up and lifting her to town and to the finish. Lisa was overwhelmed with emotion. Tears poured down her cheeks. Never in her life had she felt more loved than at this moment, right here and now.

Her husband and children were waiting for her at the finish. She could see her two little girls, Annabella and Gabriella, holding up the yellow ribbon finish line. She yearned to hold her daughters in her arms, to kiss and embrace her husband. She could see her family in the distance. Run like hell. Suddenly, the sun broke through the overcast sky and illuminated the scene. The brightness was exquisite. It brought Lisa's mind back to recollections of the long journey that brought her to this very point. As her community chanted her name, impelling her to the finish, Lisa's memory raced back in time...

Two months earlier, she was in a park in Morristown, New Jersey, about to embark on a long journey across the America. Her shoes were laced, and she was ready to start running.

This article is part of a series that will be published on a monthly basis. Click here for Part 2 of Lisa's story and here for Part 3.

Friday, September 3, 2010

In Mourning Over My Stolen and Really, Really Expensive Watch : A Rant

Well, it happened. My $400 running watch was stolen. By a lawyer, no less. Actually, an aspiring lawyer. I was at the law school and I put my Garmin Forerunner 405 in the side pocket of my backpack. I left my backpack in the forum area of the law school and I went to get a drink of water. I was gone for, literally, less than a minute. Someone had to have seen my put my watch down, because when I got back, it was gone. I looked all around and I accosted people, asking if they had seen my beloved watch. Nothing. I was devastated (still am). Oh, dear reader, how I wish I could explain to you that sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. You know how it feels I'm sure. That dawning realization. That dread. You remember it. You remember how it felt.

I find myself repeating the same thing over and over again in my head: shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit,shit,shitshitshitshitshitititishit.

I find my only solace in that old saying... To you, dear thief: what goes around comes around.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

And the money starts to roll in...

Well, today I started collecting money for the Melissa Villapando Memorial Scholarship! I am taking pledges and I placed a donation jar in the cafeteria of the law school for people who want to throw in some money. I have also been handing out letters to all the students explaining my run. Additionally, I have been going around to all the professors' offices (since they are the ones with the money!) and soliciting donations from them. The response has been quite positive. People seem to be intrigued at the idea of running 100 miles. Professor Watts, my Constitutional Law professor asked me if I was crazy. He made sure to pledge money to my cause! Tomorrow I will hand out more letters and I will hit up more professors. If things continue as they are, i should reach my goal of $500 by the time I run Cactus Rose. $500 is one scholarship. That will be such a blessing for a family out there who want to send their child to a good Catholic high school, but who find the tuition a little too much to bear. This money will help them afford the education they deserve.