The Drive to do a 50-Mile Utramarathon

Six weeks ago I had no intention or desire to be an ultramarathoner. Most of the year I lift weights 5 times a week mixed with runs of 3 to 5 miles for cardio. My fitness and training is motivated by a desire to be a better outdoorsman when I head out west every year to hunt elk. To prepare for those trips I switch my focus in the summer months to intense hiking and hill training; often with a heavy pack. Putting miles on a trail in the wild is nothing new to me.

Back in May my friend Steve told me about his upcoming 100-mile utramarathon on the Superior Hiking Trail (northern Minnesota). Since I love the trail and often do backpacking trips on it, I offered to be one of his pacers. It also would serve as a final fitness test for my elk hunt because it was two weeks before I headed out to Montana.

When I joined Steve at mile 85, I didn’t find the man I was used to seeing. Instead, I found an elite athlete, driven by passion and a desire to keep moving forward no matter what pain or nastiness mother nature threw his way. I must admit that I quickly became envious of his feat. I paced him for 18 miles, enduring some mud pits, technical rock gardens, and a couple steep climbs. He persevered through every challenge like a champion. As we threw our headlamps on with 3 miles to go, I did the quick trail math and told him we could finish by 8 pm (totally irrelevant, but seemed like a good goal at the time). It didn’t take much convincing before the pace increased and the goal became a reality.

Then something profound happened.

As we ran through the Lutsen ski resort nearing the finish line, Craig (the other pacer) and I parted ways with Steve so he could finish by himself. For the last 18 miles I heard endless talk about the finish line and how much Steve wanted to get to it. I came within 50 yards of it and the feeling and energy of it was intoxicating. But low and behold, it was not my finish line, and I couldn’t scratch that sudden itch I felt.

When Steve talked to me the next day thanking me for crewing and pacing, he planted a seed in my head about doing an ultra myself. Since life is too short to hold onto that burning desire for a whole winter, I decided a couple days later to sign up for the Surf the Murph 50-mile ultramarathon in Savage, MN. At that point, I had not even run a marathon before.

With 5 weeks to train for the event, I immediately consulted fellow CelebrateMan crewmember Tommy about the ability to transition my elk training into ultramarathon training. Tommy is a former strength and conditioning coach at the University of Minnesota. At that point, I was hiking over 50 miles a week, which quickly changed to running per Steve’s (now Coach Steve) guidance. At the end of two weeks, I was able to do a 20-mile trail run before heading out to Montana for a week of intense hill climbing. Once I got back to town, I knocked out a marathon distance on trails, marking a new personal best and giving me confidence in accomplishing great things. That run was two weeks out from the race, so my training program began to taper in preparation for race day.

The week prior to Surf the Murph was marked with several questions appealing to Steve’s vast ultra knowledge, creating my race day plan, preparing my crew and pacers and resting my body. There was some doubt going through my head that week since running past 26 miles was unknown territory for me. But I had a great deal of confidence in my heart and determination to not fail, which eased the nerves as D-day approached.

The morning of race day began at 3 am so I could keep my normal daily routine of coffee and eggs. Starting out the day with caffeine and nutrition is key. The course was an hour drive from my house and registration began at 5 am, so I was out of the house by 4:15.

With long sleeves on and a headlamp on my head, my forward motion began at 6 am sharp. Surf the Murph course is composed of three 16.7-mile loops of cross country trails that maneuver through forest, fields and wetlands. There are four aid stations with the longest distance between any of them only 4 miles. Each aid station was full of various food, candy, liquids and gels. Oh yeah…and tons of energy from fellow runners who volunteered their day to support us.

My plan was to start out really slow, walking all the rolling hills through the forest in the dark. But due to race day anxiety, I knocked off a minute and a half per mile of my planned pace for the first 5 miles. Even as I passed the first aid station, where I ditched my headlamp, I continued a quick pace as the sun began to rise along the horizon. This ended up hurting me at mile 11 as the long sleeve shirt I had on made me sweat more and collect the sweat on my arms, turning them instantly ice cold.

I realized at that point I needed to slow things down and remove one article of clothing. Since I was only a couple miles from the next aid station, I decided to tie the shirt around my waist. That plan worked well, but masked a bigger issue that was lingering that I was unaware of at the time: my body was dehydrated.

After years in the military and athletics, how could I possibly be so ignorant about my own hydration? When I relieved myself at the mile 13 aid station, my urine was dark and minimal; signs of an urgent need to start consuming water. I made the decision to finish out the first lap with fast pace hiking so I could keep sucking down water every 5 minutes. With my fast start, I still managed to finish my first lap 10 minutes ahead of the plan.

Then the lap of hell began!

The first 5 miles of the loop is very hilly, with some short, steep climbs that really slow a runner down. On lap 2, these hills triggered severe cramping in my quads and I was trying hard to get my hydration back. These miles quickly became agonizing, putting doubts in my head about my ability to finish due to dehydration or time disqualification (race cutoff time is 14 hours). My pace increased to about 20 min/miles, which was about 6 minutes higher than the plan.

As I emerged out of the woods and into the horse camp aid station at 22 miles, I found a welcomed site. Two of my crewmembers Bob and Nancy were there ready to cheer me on. Unexpectedly, Nancy was in running attire and without missing a beat, volunteered to pace me for the next 8 miles. This meant everything to me! Nancy’s cheeriness and positive energy quickly wore off on me. The negative thoughts going through my head at the beginning of the lap quickly dissipated and were replaced with a can-do attitude. Plus, having someone to talk to made the time pass by a lot faster.

surfmurph7

(Here I am coming into the mile 30 aid station with Nancy finishing her pacing duties)

By the time Nancy and I arrived at the aid station 30 miles in (all new territory for me) my whole crew was there: my wife Kirsten and son Colton, in-laws Jim and Ginny, niece Kelsey and two certified badass ultramarathoners Nick and Coach Steve. Nick offered up his pacing services and joined me on the trail back to the Start/Finish Line Aid Station 4 miles away. At that point I was starting to worry about my time since I was struggling with all the hydration and cramping issues, but Nick kept ensuring me I was well on pace to finishing the race in the time limit.

surfmurph4

(My crew [from left to right]: Bob, Jim, Ginny, wife Kirsten, Kelsey and my son Colton)

surfmurph5

(Even Colton realized the need to stay hydrated)

Pacers serve many functions for runners, but probably the most important role is for them to do what ultramarathoners call “trail math”. When someone has been running for 8 hours, math is an incredibly challenging thing to do. Pacers give you the details of the pace needed and the motivation to achieve it. Nick was great at that and I trusted his judgment.

We rolled into the Start/Finish Line Aid Station at about 8 hours (nearly an hour behind schedule). I knew ahead of time as long as I left that aid station to begin the 3rd loop, I was going to finish the race. I think Steve knew this and he was determined to get me back on the trail. Steve, or as I should call him “Mr. Resourceful”, found a couple wooden poles, wrapped tape on top of them, thus creating some makeshift trekking poles for me. These were a godsend in the hills.

Nick kept pacing me through the next 5 mile section, motivating me along the way and talking to me so my mind couldn’t process the pain my body was experiencing. He made the most grueling section of the trail seem like candy, and we were able to bring down our time so I could get back on schedule.

surfmurph3

(Giving the thumbs up as I got ready to knock out the last 4 miles of the race)

At mile 38, Nick handed off pacing duties to Steve and I was never again going to walk on a downhill. Steve’s motivation and knowledge was instrumental in my ability to knock off mile-by-mile on tired legs and worn out body. He frequently reminded me to drink water, take a salt pill and fuel up with sports beans and gels. He smiled and cheered every time the terrain offered a slight decline because it offered us the ability to run it. I found this irritating for the first couple miles, and instinctual and fun towards the end.

At mile 40 we ended up on the trail with another runner named Dave, a retired Air Force guy. Steve had met him earlier on the trail and found out he wasn’t able to finish this race last year due to being bit by a dog on the trail. Dave and I instantly fed off each other’s energy as we both got second winds at different times. Steve took Dave under his wings so-to-speak, and we came into the final aid station at mile 46 with two hours left in the race.

We quickly downed liquids, refilled our water, got some calories in us, and got right back on the trail to accomplish something great. The next 4 miles went by quick. Pain and discomfort were sidelined to thoughts of finish lines and the thrill of accomplishment. As we rounded our final turn, in the dark with headlamps on, Dave and I could see the finish line and smell the warm fire pit where my family and crew were huddled waiting for our arrival. We came through the finish line to familiar cheers and accolades from fellow runners. At that point we had accomplished something great and it was worth every bit of the pain and agony our body went through during the day.

surfmurph1

surfmurph2

(Here are my badass pacers/fellow ultramarathoners. Nick is on the left and Steve is on the right)

As I reflect on this great achievement, I have a difficult time answering what drives me to do such crazy things. Six weeks ago, running an ultramarathon wasn’t even a thought in my head. Now I’m in an elite group of people who have run further than most people can comprehend. And I must admit, the allure of doing 50 miles more is floating around in my thoughts. Perhaps a 100-mile ultra is in the cards for next year.

 

Jake Duesenberg

 

Elk Hunting Workouts in the Final Weeks

File Aug 24, 9 11 13 AM

A month ago I wasn’t out of shape. In fact, I was in the gym 5 days a week lifting weights and usually added a couple jogs in there as well. But when I finally decided I was going to go out west and hunt elk with my bow, I realized my normal ritual wasn’t going to successfully get me into “elk shape”. To be a good hunter in the mountains, an individual needs to be able to strap a heavy pack to his back and go up and down steep climbs over 1,000 feet in elevation all day long.

So how does a guy from Minnesota get into elk shape? Let me share what I’ve been doing in preparation for my early September archery hunt.

First off, lifting weights is still an important part of the overall fitness plan. But instead of concentrating on getting stronger on any particular lift, I’ve opted to increase reps by lowering weights. In mountain hunting, muscle endurance is huge. On top of increasing reps, I also do not neglect a major muscle group. Every muscle can be an important part of bushwacking, packing out meat, pulling back a bow, etc.

After I’m done lifting weights, no matter how tired or exhausted I am, I head over to the stair climbers and get a minimum 10 minutes extra workout. I start out with a medium pace and try increasing it as I go. The body needs to be accustomed to the activity of going uphill. The elliptical machine is not going to achieve this, so don’t waste your time on one.

Two-a-days sound like a thing from the past, but they aren’t when you are investing in a western elk hunt. The legs need to get used to trails and hills. That’s why at least three times a week, I get a second workout in that focuses on cardiovascular health. Instead of running on pavement, I started running on trails more often to get my body used to uneven surfaces. Typical runs are about 4-5 miles. I do about 15 miles a week. It’s not uncommon for a hunter to hike 10 miles a day chasing elk. And if he’s trying to get ahead of a moving heard, running might be part of that adventure.

The other cardio workout I do is hill training with a heavy pack. My advice is to find the biggest hill in your area and go up and down it with the pack on. These workouts are usually between 1 to 2 hours in duration. I keep the pace fast and take no breaks. My goal is to make things as painful as possible now, so they are easier during the actual hunt…and less sweaty/stinky.

Throughout your training, goal-setting is an important tool to get better results. The particular hill climbing route that I do took me an hour and five minutes the first time I tried it. My immediate goal was to get this under an hour. This past weekend, when my schedule was more flexible, I set a goal of doing the climb 3 additional times. Goal-setting like this is invaluable when it comes to getting in tip-top shape.

Every hunter starts from a different fitness level, so be prepared to slowly work yourself into the heavy schedule if you have been sitting on the couch all year long. For those in great shape, the process of transitioning to more focused mountain training events should be relatively fluid, but still require a little extra care during the process.

Build the intensity as you go along and plan for the greatest intensity to be two weeks before the trip. This will get your body accustomed to the torture it’s about to endure, but with a week of light training to heal. I think of this like MMA fighters approach fight week. They don’t train hard the final week because they would enter the Octagon with nothing left to give. Same concept applies to the mountains.

Final week should be full of activity, but at less intensity and with adequate rest time so the muscles aren’t overworked. If you have pain in the joints at this point, resting is probably the best medicine. The worst thing that can happen is the hunter starts his journey with an injury.

This is my approach to getting into elk shape. Feel free to share your techniques on this site or on our Facebook page.
JD

Incorporating Hunting Equipment in Exercises

TommyStrength

There are many things a hunter needs to do to be successful in the field which involves “muscle memory” (I explained what that means in Podcast Episode 2, give it a listen) as well as hard work. There are things you can do with your hunting equipment to get ready for the rut so you are prepared before it hits.

When you’re sitting in the stand and its cold and a deer starts to cross your shooting lane lifting and holding that 30.06 to your shoulder while you look through the scope to see if it’s a 10 point buck or just a big doe can seem daunting. Then once you’ve determined it is that 10 point buck you’ve been patterning for the last 10 months you have to hold it to your shoulder for longer trying to line up your shot. That action takes quite a bit of isometric strength. In order to be prepared to hold your hunting rifle to your shoulder for a long period of time knock out some front raises with your rifle. These are quick and easy to do.

Step 1, make sure your rifle is unloaded, does not have live ammunition in its magazine and the weapon is on safe.

Step 2, stand with your feet shoulder width apart holding the weapon with your arms straight in front of you.

Step 3, raise the weapon with your arms straight high enough to block your view in front of you. This should be just beyond parallel with the ground.

Step 4, every 3rd rep hold the weapon with arms extended in front of you for a 5 count. Then bring the weapon back down to the starting position with your arms staying extended.

Complete 3 to 4 sets of this doing 12 reps in each set. Once your rifle becomes too light for you, upgrade to your hunting pack or something around the house a little heavier than your rifle.

 

Dragging the deer out is always a chore, especially if you hunt in a wooded area where you can’t get an ATV or truck to. Game carts are nice and help a lot but in rugged terrain they become difficult to use. I use a JetSled to drag deer out, it slides over uneven terrain well enough and you don’t have to worry about compromising the hide of the animal.

To prepare to drag out your 12 point buck grab your JetSled, fill it with weights, books or kids and drag it around the backyard. If you can get to a hill that is mostly grassy that works great too. I have an old harness from a weight sled I have in the Tommy Miller Home Gym that I attach to the rope on my sled. This helps so the rope doesn’t dig into your midsection while dragging. If you don’t have an old weight sled laying around your home gym you can pick one up for pretty cheap. Another option is to find an old tire or two and tie a rope around it and drag that around the backyard. Drag your sled the length of your backyard, turn around and drag it back. Start with 2-3 laps and work your way up to 6-12. Yes, your neighbors may look at you funny but when you have them over for that venison meatloaf you harvested they will understand.

Like we talked about during Episode 2 of the podcast the best way to start is by walking and working up from there. Once you’re comfortable walking a mile throw a pack on your back with a few books in it and work up again to that mile. Then incorporate the front raises and sled drags into your hunting prep workouts!

Keep checking back to Celebrateman.com for more workout tips and tricks. If you have any questions or thoughts on working out for the hunting season check out our forum and drop us a note!

TM

Importance of the Monday Workout

File Aug 17, 9 16 51 AM

You’re a man and you spent the weekend doing man stuff. Gear is all over the floor, leaving the house a complete disaster. Your eating and drinking habits went out the window. And you probably didn’t get that run in on Saturday like you planned. Sound familiar?

We all let ourselves go over the weekend every once in awhile. However, it’s important that the chaos of the weekend does not creep into your week of productivity.

I don’t care how beat up or tired you are, don’t miss that Monday workout. Even if the head is throbbing from a hangover…get in the gym! The body needs the positive energy that physical activity creates. And the mind needs to be reacquainted with discipline and drive.

Were you eating greasy fast food all weekend? Don’t let that invade your workweek diet. Get some healthy greens, lean protein and fruits back into your meals. You’re not doing yourself any favors for the hunting season by eating junk food 7 days a week. Take your diet seriously.

Here are some tips to help guide you during the workweek:

  1. Cook your protein on Sunday night so you have meat for lunch throughout the week.
  2. Purchase a bag of broccoli or mixed veggies and add them to your lunches. If you can’t stomach the taste of veggies, then dip them in ranch sauce. It’s better that you get the vitamins and nutrients than worrying about a couple extra calories from dressing.
  3. If you are not feeling good on Monday, make your workout easier and take longer breaks between reps. We can always get better workouts later in the week. It’s more important that you get in the gym on Monday, than skipping a workout and getting out-of-routine.
  4. Clean up all your gear and put it back where it belongs. A cleaner house equals a happier wife. A happier wife equals a happier life. We all hate cleaning up, but when you have excellent podcasts like CelebrateMan to listen to, the chore doesn’t seem as bad.

JD

3 Things to Do in the Gym to Become a Better Hunter

TommyStrength

It’s early November and the first day of deer rifle season. You have been waiting for this weekend all year long, 51 weekends have come and gone since your last deer hunt and you have been playing last year through your mind that entire time. Last year you shot a small 6 point buck and it dropped 50 yards away from your blind making it easy for you to gut it and drag it out. Over the past year you know you have let yourself go a bit getting into that baby rut, putting on some sympathy weight with your pregnant wife and not going to the gym as much as you know you should have because life got pretty stressful with a new born baby. Unfortunately, you have failed to make the connection between your physical health and your ability to hunt.

At 10:00 AM on the dot a beautiful 8 pointer walks up the game trail toward your blind making a quartering turn at 70 yards. You pull your rifle up to your shoulder, take aim, exhale and squeeze the trigger. The bullet flies true and makes the tuft of hair right behind the shoulder jump as it enters the buck and exits the other side. The buck runs…he takes off like a bat out of hell running into thick brush and down a hill. You’re so excited you didn’t even realize him running down the hill has made quite a hard workout for you later.

This is a familiar scenario for most hunters, everything leading up to and including the tracking of the animal is the fun part. Dragging the animal out is hard. Now you are faced with an up-hill drag for about a quarter of a mile to your truck. That’s a pretty daunting task for most if not all hunters. The following are three things you can do now in the gym to make this task seem not so scary.

Work Capacity Training

Work Capacity is as simple as it sounds. Your body’s ability to “do work” or preform a hard task for an extended period of time. This is vital for all athletes and hunters alike. Increasing your work capacity will make that uphill drag of a 160lb buck a lot easier. There are many ways to increase your work capacity. The easiest is to just work. For example I conducted work capacity training last night unloading a 17 ft moving truck by myself, yes it was hard and not a whole lot of fun but I do enjoy hard work. Long walks with a heavy pack are another good way to increase your work capacity, so is walking or jogging while pushing a stroller. Dragging sleds designed for asphalt are getting pretty cheap, you can pick one up for $50-$100, load it up with a few 45lb plates and walk for 100 ft or so, repeat this for 4-6 times and you’ll be ready for that uphill drag. As you can see pretty much any long hard work will make your body’s work capacity increase.

Belly breathing

If you have ever gutted an animal you have seen a diaphragm. Your diaphragm is a wall of muscle between your lungs and stomach attached to your rib cage. This helps you breathe, as this muscle expands and contracts it allows your lungs to open up and receive more air. While breathing try to push your stomach out as you inhale and bring your stomach in while you exhale. This is how your body was designed to work, because of “society’s view on belly fat” people try to puff up their chest to breath in and try not to show a fat gut. Belly breathing is the exact opposite to that, although you may look a little fat, you will be able to calm down quicker. This is important for when you are out of breath and have to take a shot, or you need to rest for a second before you continue to drag that deer to your truck.

Intervals

Interval training is short bouts of intense exercise paired with longer bouts of rest. You can do this with anything from body weight squats to sprints to jumping jacks. Do the exercise for 30-60 seconds then rest for 60-120 seconds. Your rest time should be roughly twice as long as your exercise time. The purpose for interval training for hunters is to teach your body to calm your heart rate fast, this will be easier with belly breathing. This will help when you run down the hill to retrieve your deer and he jumps up and continues to run. You’ll have to finish him off with another shot, but if your heart rate is at 170+ beats per minute, there is a good chance you will miss. Teaching your body to calm your heart rate will also help with recovery after you have drug the deer all the way back to your truck and now you have to load it into the back. Taking a second to calm down and relax will allow you to produce more force to lift that deer into your truck.

These are just a few things you can add to your workouts now to help make sure you are ready to go once the season starts! Visit this website frequently to see more fitness tips for the modern day hunter. #CelebrateMan

TM