Thursday, October 2, 2014

The Second Sunrise: Born Again

In some of the most extreme ultra-endurance races on earth, athletes go beyond the physical. They are challenged beyond comprehension and the distances are often inconceivable. These people no longer doubt physical impossibilities. They have long surpassed the widely accepted normal limits for human endurance.

Into the darkness, their well trained physical body is no longer able to carry them. They tap into mental strength usually reserved for human survival alone. An internal argument plays out in which the athlete converses with their own subconscious, willing the whole of themselves forward to the finish. Exhaustion, dehydration, and sleep-deprivation overcome the determined competitor. Must they continue? That can only be answered inside their mind. 

So the pain and suffering continues, reaching an insurmountable threshold. Darkness is everywhere. Perhaps this truly is impossible. With one last hesitant step, they step forward and stop. The earth moves. A red line appears on the horizon. Time is not still after all. A light appears. It is the second sunrise. 
They are born again.

Be present and find joy in the gift of life. You feel pain because you are alive. You feel joy because you know suffering. We, as athletes, quest for a deeper understanding of what we are truly capable of. Through this development, you learn the truth. You can do anything... and nothing is impossible. 

 Run long and prosper, Jerry

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Trans-Zion: Ultrarunning at it's Best

Zion baby. Zion. If you follow my blog, you're one of the first people to see this video of the run we did last week.

Cheers,
Jerry

Monday, March 31, 2014

24hrs of Palmer Lake

I drove down south of Denver this past weekend to cover the inaugural "24hrs of Palmer Lake" for Trail and Ultra. It was originally just a training run loosely organized by Israel Archuletta, but he decided to make it official with permits and the permission of local authorities. He did a great job having planned to run in his own event while simultaneously keeping track of the entry process and running his own social media posts as well.

The coolest thing for me was watching my 8 year old son, Jalen, jump into this event at the last minute. He decided he was going to go for his first marathon and started jogging and walking laps from 8am on Saturday. By 9pm that night, Jalen was pretty worn down. His main complaint was his feet and how sore they were. He told me his body hurt but he kept telling himself, "Fight to the finish."




I paced him for about 6 more laps and did all the things I would do for an ultrarunner in a long race. He was definitely slowing down and experiencing all the things that happen to veterans of the sport. Jalen reached 20.5 miles and I suggested another break in the camper. I told him it was ok if he wanted to stop because he truly had gone as far he could. He had tears in his eyes and agreed. 

All in all, it was a great weekend of running and covering the race. I put together this race video as well.

Run long and prosper,
Jerry



24hrs of Palmer Lake: Race Video 2014 from Jerry Armstrong on Vimeo.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Adventure Running: 2013 in Photos


2013 was a very memorable year for me. I had some epic moments on the trail. Particularly, running the Grand Canyon 'Rim to Rim to Rim'...a 55 mile 23,000 ft vertical trek.  It was one of the most memorable for me. I left the canyon with vivid memories of running across one of the Seven "Wonders of the World". I also ran the Tahoe Rim 100 and a few other ultras. I volunterred at the Hardrock 100 and enjoyed helping some of the salty all-stars of our sport load their bottles before climbing Handies Peak.  I also started officially working to summit all the 14,000 ft mountains in Colorado. At each summit, I do a headstand and grab a quick picture for the log. With seven summits so far, I have a long way to go. All of this has been an incredible adventure, always giving me something to look forward to each day. Ultrarunning is about adventure and self-improvement. This is what bonds each of us on the long run...An honest passion for life.

The challenge of ultrarunning increases with longer treks over more dangerous terrain. As my technical and physical skill improves, I find myself pushed more mentally and spiritually. I am no longer satisfied with just running miles. I feel a need these days to go higher, farther, and deeper into the outdoors.  I want to find places inaccessible to others. I'm inspired by seeing something rarely seen by others. This often means dangerous routes or advance planning. None of which bothers me.  More and more, I need the support of my trusted training partners and a humble attitude before setting out for the long haul. In the end, this is living. While mountain ultrarunning may be extreme to most people, it is where I feel the most alive.

Looking back, I fondly remember most of the great times in 2013 because I carried a camera more regularly. My interest in photographing our adventures has grown in that time as well. I've started carrying higher quality cameras to include a Canon DSLR T3i and GoPro3.  Mainly through Instagram, I've found a great way to share the adventure of mountain ultrarunning. Here are a few of my favorite moments from 2013...

Run long and prosper,

Jerry

During the Tahoe Rim 100, I stopped at about mile 60. I asked the runner behind me
to take this photo. It was a difficult race for me when temperatures
 reached record levels. The sun seems to be my enemy in really long runs. Regardless, I finished the following
morning and celebrated with my family at the finish.

I took a detour during a trail run in Estes Park, CO. I eventually found "Bridal Veil Falls" and it did not disappoint.

Walter (left) and David (right) were there for me when I had a panic attack during a climb of Grays/Torreys.

Ryan and I running together in the opening miles of the Elephant Mountain 50k. It was a last minute decision to drive down to Arizona for the race but we needed the sunshine and were hungry to race! Sometimes, you just gotta run in the sun.

Descending the North Rim of the Grand Canyon shortly after sunrise. I have to go back just to make sure this wasn't
 a dream. And I need more cameras. Unbelievable place.

Another photo from the Grand Canyon. This was during the initial 6,000 ft descent.

Grand Canyon..the return trek from the south rim.

A little trip in Bear Canyon saw me face first into a sharp rock. I sliced my arm to the bone and had to drive to my wife's
hospital ER. They tried to clean the cut but despite much irrigation and antibiotics, I still had problems for weeks with
infection. I eventually healed and only have a gnarly scar now.

Standing in the "Key Hole" on Longs Peak at about 13,000 ft. I remember contemplating my increasing comfort at high
altitude. It was near perfect day with blue skies and steady temperatures.

A headstand at 14,000 ft on Red Cloud Peak. A mountain summit has a way of making you feel like a superhero and
completely insignificant at the same time.

Here's to 2014.



Sunday, November 3, 2013

Foam Rolling 101



As runners, we spend a great deal of time doing just that...running.  As a result, we often develop imbalances in different parts of our body and the inflexibility to go with it.  The tremendous strength of our lower body is often accompanied by an equal level of inflexibility and limited range of motion. This can affect stride length as well as the smooth turnover at higher speeds. It also leads to athletes modifying their natural motion to account for the imbalance found elsewhere.  For all these reasons, it's extremely important for all runners to identify these issues and include training activity that helps mitigate the problems that come with them.

It is extremely vital to include stretching and recovery time to account for the repetitive motion of distance running. "Stretching" is a word that undoubtedly comes with images of a runner in the chute doing a quick quad stretch before the marathon. It might conjure memories of doing the "butterfly" stretch in a circle with the team in high school. When I say "stretching", I'm probably not referring to the type we so often think about. I'm not talking about a quick stretch of the calves at a stop light or a quick pull of your ankle toward your backside. With all the hours we spend running, it takes a bit more to maintain flexibility and avoid so many overuse injuries.

There are two types of stretching that I recommend for runners. Those are yoga and foam rolling. I strongly prefer hot method yoga, or "Bikram Yoga" because it has been nothing but top notch for helping me overcome and maintain flexibility for ultrarunning.  A typical hot method yoga class is 90 minutes and, when guided by a trained instructor, the results are almost immediate. If you have the opportunity and means to do regular yoga under a trained instructor, then this is probably the best practice for gaining and maintaining flexibility as well as developing greater balance and focus. All of which translate directly to distance running.

Foam rolling is another form of stretching you should consider. In large part, the benefits from regular foam rolling can help you avoid and mitigate overuse injuries, especially those that come as a result of inflexibility in the lower body. I also like foam rolling for these reasons:

-Inexpensive
-Targets areas of concern
-Takes very little time

High Density Foam Rollers are often black
in color while the softer versions typically
come in lighter colors. The price varies.
They retail from $15-50.  

Foam rollers can be purchased online and in a number of designs. (The long foam roller pictured at the top of the post costs $30 from Workoutz.com) Of course, if you purchase one at a running store, you will probably be paying much more than if you found something at a hardware store. I'm not even going to suggest one brand over another because we're basically talking about a round piece of foam. The density, color, and length is something you have to decide upon. Do know that the harder the roller, the more pain you will probably experience if you are new to this.

So, in my opinion...here are the most important things to know about foam rolling:

1. Do it Slow
The first time you use a foam roller should be the most pain you ever experience with it. Very slowly, roll over the foam and move very, very slow. When you find a painful spot, just stop. Keep your weight on the spot that hurts and don't move. You can wait there in that spot for 2 minutes if necessary. Once you feel that the pain of that specific location has passed somewhat, continue very slowly. Emphasize a very slow roll, like a steam roller moving in its lowest gear.

2. Do it Often
The pain you experience during your first session will diminish with each use as long as you continue to roll on a regular basis. The painful spots will smooth out and you will soon realize that it is hardly painful at all. Keep in mind, this is stretching. Your body weight over the roller is applying a stretch to muscle groups that need to maintain their flexibility. These areas include the lower and upper calves, the quads, the hamstrings, and the IT bands on the side of your quadriceps. Try to roll about 3-4 days a week. I find it useful to keep the roller in the living room and I'll drop to the floor during a commercial with my family and roll one of these areas.

Starting at the ankle, roll the calf area from the socks
to the knees. Stop when you find a painful spot...just
hold and move up only when you feel the pain subside.


A common problem for distance runners is IT band inflexibility.
To stretch this area, start from the knee and very slowly roll to
the side of your hip. Then repeat on the opposite side. Remember
to stop and maintain weight on any areas of discomfort until they subside.
Properly rolling each leg can take 1-2 minutes each, especially when
you first begin including this in your program.

When rolling the quads, start at the knees and roll slowly toward
your hips. Apply the same principles. To increase the intensity, put
all your weight on one leg a time.


You can use the foam roller for other parts of your body as well. Using the same principles of going very slow, you can yield benefit from rolling different areas of your back and arms as well. It may take a couple weeks to yield noticeable benefit from rolling. I can attest to the fact you will get benefit from this especially if you are training heavily. Friends, it might be a bit painful at first. In fact, those IT bands will probably scream at you the first time you try to help them :)

Run long and prosper.

Jerry









Saturday, November 2, 2013

Tips and Tricks: A Preview




Hello Friends!

I'm excited to share I'll be doing a series of short video posts in the near future. I'll be sharing various 'Tips and Tricks' about running, equipment, nutrition, and recovery. I'll work to keep the videos relatively short and to the point. I'll be using a new, higher quality camera for the recordings as well.

I want to make these videos to the benefit of everyone who visits. So, if you have a question about running or the related topics I mentioned, just leave a comment or send an email to CoachEnduranceJer@gmail.com

Topics to be covered:

Training:
Maffetone
Tempo
Yasso 800s Treadmill

Technique:
Uphill/Downhill
Technical
Tempo for Ultra

Equipment:
Advanced Shoe Lacing
Emergency Shoe Modification
Selection for Terrain

Injury:
IT band mitigation
Running-related stretches

Cross Training:
Daily's
Core
Bricks

Run long and prosper.

Jerry



Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Summit Headstand Project

Summit of Redcloud Peak 14,034'
 San Juan range
When I first moved to Colorado in 2008, I knew I was headed into a whole new world of adventure. Honestly, I was somewhat intimidated by the size and scope of the Rocky Mountains. A "mountain" in San Diego was really nothing more than a hill. The highest elevations of my long runs in San Diego before I moved here were near 7,000'. But, when I moved to Colorado, my home was already sitting at about 6,000'. My first run in Colorado was on flat ground at the Boulder Reservoir. I remember running over a steep berm in the first week of the move...my heart pounded with this little incline and I was totally breathless. I knew this was a whole new ballgame.  I gained some acclimatization by the next month but still felt the same when I ran the Silver Rush 50 mile in Leadville above 10,500'. I maintained a healthy respect for this new world and allowed my body and mind to gradually adjust to my new home.

In the last 5 years, I gradually grew more comfortable with the altitude and boundless adventure found in these mountains. I am a better athlete and much more well-rounded when it comes to outdoor activities. Keeping all this in mind, it was only this past year when I started to seek the summits of the 53 "14ers" here in Colorado. The 14ers are those with a total elevation over 14,000' and at least 300' of prominence.

It has been the quest of many to summit all of these "14ers". For some, it may take 20 years. For others, it is possible in just one year. I have no goals about the timeline for my adventures to the summit of every one of these. What I do know is that I will flourish in the experience and be grateful throughout. I will surely not be the same person when I finish this epic undertaking. It is truly the journey I am to enjoy.

For no specific reason, I decided that I needed to document my summits in a unique way. I thought about yoga postures or handwritten signs.  I thought about wearing a costume or carrying some sort of character or stuffed animal. It was then I thought about how I used to do headstands in my parents living room as a child and see how long I could remain upside down. My mom and dad always laughed and cheered me on while I tried to remain on my head. That memory is what gave me the idea to do the headstands on the summits. I later learned that summit headstands were not an original idea. I even found a photo of a hiker taken on the summit of a 14er over 80 years ago...he was doing a headstand. The quote in the book from this hiker was, "I wanted my feet higher on the mountain than anybody else." I was not disappointed that my idea wasn't original...in fact, I felt a connection to this hiker so long ago. I knew his mentality and I knew exactly what he was thinking when he poised on his head on that summit. It's quite possible he gets a chuckle every time I throw my legs up in the air.


I imagine that many people would look at a photo of someone on a mountain summit and try to determine what they are experiencing...are they tired? Are they cold? Was it worth it? But, when someone looks at a summit photo and sees someone doing a headstand, it brings a smile to their face.  I think it is because those questions are immediately answered...it is always worth it!

I think it's important to point out that mountain summits can very well be a metaphor for goals in life.  You may not have 14,000' mountains in your backyard. You do, however, have the opportunity to create adventure in your life and document the epic journey.  Go climb your mountain and have fun along the way.

Run long and prosper...

Jerry

Torreys Peak 14,267'


Rank  Peak Elevation Range (www.14ers.com)  
1Mt. Elbert 14,433’Sawatch  
2Mt. Massive 14,421’Sawatch  
3Mt. Harvard 14,420’Sawatch  
4Blanca Peak 14,345’Sangre de Cristo 
5La Plata Peak 14,336’Sawatch  
6Uncompahgre Peak 14,309’San Juan  
7Crestone Peak 14,294’Sangre de Cristo  
8Mt. Lincoln 14,286’Mosquito  
9Grays Peak 14,270’Front  
10Mt. Antero 14,269’Sawatch  
11Torreys Peak 14,267’Front  
12Castle Peak 14,265’Elk 
13Quandary Peak 14,265’Tenmile  
14Mt. Evans 14,264’Front  
15Longs Peak 14,255’Front  
16Mt. Wilson 14,246’San Juan   *Mt. Cameron 14,238’Mosquito  
17Mt. Shavano 14,229’Sawatch  
18Mt. Belford 14,197’Sawatch  
19Crestone Needle 14,197’Sangre de Cristo  
20Mt. Princeton 14,197’Sawatch  
21Mt. Yale 14,196’Sawatch  
22Mt. Bross 14,172’Mosquito  
23Kit Carson Peak 14,165’Sangre de Cristo   *El Diente Peak 14,159’San Juan  
24Maroon Peak 14,156’Elk 
 25Tabeguache Peak 14,155’Sawatch  
26Mt. Oxford 14,153’Sawatch  
27Mt. Sneffels 14,150’San Juan  
28Mt. Democrat 14,148’Mosquito 
 29Capitol Peak 14,130’Elk  
30Pikes Peak 14,110’Front  
31Snowmass Mountain 14,092’Elk  
32Mt. Eolus 14,083’San Juan  
33Windom Peak 14,082’San Juan  
34Challenger Point 14,081’Sangre de Cristo  
35Mt. Columbia 14,073’Sawatch  
36Missouri Mountain 14,067’Sawatch  
37Humboldt Peak 14,064’Sangre de Cristo  
38Mt. Bierstadt 14,060’Front   *Conundrum Peak 14,060’Elk  
39Sunlight Peak 14,059’San Juan  
40Handies Peak 14,048’San Juan  
41Culebra Peak 14,047’Sangre de Cristo  
42Ellingwood Point 14,042’Sangre de Cristo  
43Mt. Lindsey 14,042’Sangre de Cristo   *North Eolus 14,039’San Juan  
44Little Bear Peak 14,037’Sangre de Cristo  
45Mt. Sherman 14,036’Mosquito 
 46Redcloud Peak 14,034’San Juan  
47Pyramid Peak 14,018’Elk  
48Wilson Peak 14,017’San Juan  
49Wetterhorn Peak 14,015’San Juan  
50San Luis Peak 14,014’San Juan   *North Maroon Peak 14,014’Elk  
51Mt. of the Holy Cross 14,005’Sawatch  
52Huron Peak 14,003’Sawatch  
53Sunshine Peak 14,001’San Juan