Dirty Kanza 200 Race Report

Hey everyone!  Wow I still haven’t come down off the high of this past weekend and the Dirty Kanza 200.  Finishing this preeminent race for the second time was amazing and I’d love to share with you some of my training and nutrition plans along with a report about the race itself.


CP3 lets do thisLet’s start with training for Dirty Kanza.  When it comes to training for lengthy endurance races I like to focus on two things, my ability to endure and my mental strength.  I want to get out and ride long grueling stretches of gravel roads.  Distances between 60-100 miles as often as I can, usually by my lonesome over the most difficult roads I can find.  This year I rode three 100-mile rides near the area of Eskridge, Kansas.

I rode in this area for two reasons.  First, for the miles, but second for the terrain.  The area around Eskridge, Kansas is a little different then some other parts of the Flint Hills.  The climbs are steeper and longer, and the gravel is chunkier.  Plus when you are riding around Eskridge you have to be prepared for anything.  One moment you can be riding down a typical gravel road and the next moment you can be trapped in 5 miles of torturous roads that don’t appear to have any end.  This helped train my legs to keep moving over the long haul, but also train my mind.

I heard a rider once say that mental training was just as important if not more important then the physical.  I strive to work the mind during my rides.  I love riding in the cold… did I say love, ok I despise it.  But this last winter when it was -6 degrees I rode my bike.  An ice storm on the way, ride.  Why?  Because it horrible, its no fun, your uncomfortable from the moment you get on the bike.  It’s raining, lets ride.  The wind is blowing at 30 mph, ride.  In Kansas you never know what you are going to get with the weather, so I’ve learned to take what I get, ride it, get through it and come out stronger both physically and mentally on the other side.


So June 4th 2017 was my 1-year anniversary of using Tailwind Nutrition.  I discovered it while dealing with a gut that felt like a washing machine was tumbling inside of me.  It changed my day, changed my race and got me through Dirty Kanza 200 in 2016.  Since then I’ve really had to experiment with calorie intake and how much Tailwind I needed.  I’ve tried a variety of dosage mixtures, calories per hour, buzz vs. non-caffeinated   After the three centuries I had ridden this year I still wasn’t sure what I was going to do for Dirty Kanza.  I sat down and evaluated the entire Dirty Kanza 200 course, and how long I expected it to take me to get from checkpoint to checkpoint based on elevation climbs, fatigue, and est. wind.  I settled on 200 calories per hour as the ideal amount of calories I needed per hour.  I also decided I wanted some ICE cold water in some bottles while riding, especially in the afternoon hours.  I froze 3 bottles before the race All in all during the race I consumed around 3300 calories of Tailwind.  I’ve included the spreadsheet of my nutrition plan for Dirty Kanza along with a picture of my bottle plan.  This is how you make life easy on your support crew and get in and out of checkpoints fast.

My goal was to do all 200 miles on only Tailwind this year.  Food doesn’t even sound good during races anymore.  I hadn’t done 200 miles yet only using Tailwind so I was nervous, but did not plan for anything else.  This was the REAL test and Tailwind passed with flying colors.  It was so cool visiting with other friends at the end of the day after our race was over that had also used Tailwind.  Each of them sang the praises of how well Tailwind nutrition worked for them.  Lyn Blubaugh even did a Tailwind dance in excitement when I saw her after my finished.  I want to say this because I think it is important, Tailwind didn’t just work for me this year at the Dirty Kanza 200, it worked for so many of my friends who I have shared it with in the past year.

The simplicity of being able to know my calories to a T along with the simplicity of just swapping bottles at the checkpoints and not having to open anything on the bike to get my nutrition was a key to finishing quicker by almost 3 ½ hours this year.  I was in and out of each checkpoints in under 5 minutes because of this.  The crew got the old bottles off, the new bottles on and I was back on the road.  I recovered while riding and never wasted a moment hassling with a wrapper or a sticky gel.  It was fantastic.

The Race

June 22, 2011 – Rode the bike to work for the second day in a row.  My legs are dead.  That Facebook post pops up as a reminder each year.  By the way, my ride to work was less then 2 miles.  I sold that cheep bike after those two rides.  It was horrible.  Who does this?   Why in the world would I want to ride my bike to work those almost 2 sadistic miles??

April 28, 2013 – 20 mile gravel road bike ride today with the Alpers boys.  What a beautiful day. 

What possessed me to ride 20 miles that day on gravel roads I will never know.  I had never ridden on a gravel road and had never rode my bike more that 4 miles, but there was something special about gravel, I just don’t know what.

Fast-forward to June 3, 2017.  I’ve finished the Dirty Kanza 200 once.  It was a struggle.  Today I line up around the middle of the 16 hour pack looking to come in before midnight.  The crowd is electric.  Commercial Street in downtown Emporia is filled with anticipation by both riders and fans.  A group of young local fans is standing on the right side of the road as we roll out looking to slap hands with every rider.  The atmosphere catches first time riders off guard.   Most are in amazement that this many people would start lining the street at 5 AM to cheer on a bunch of people they don’t know.

For the first 50ish miles to Madison the roads aren’t bad, but the race is difficult.  The crowd is thick.  Part of the reason I started at the 16 hour pace even though I thought I would finish between 17-18 was that I wanted to get out with faster riders.  However, as soon as we hit the first bunch of short punchy climbs I realized some folks were riding around the wrong time slot.  Slower riders were making it difficult for those of us who were ready to climb.  A few close calls happened during that time.

A few miles later there was some mud and water.  As a local I know both of the spots are 100% ride-able.  I rode through them the week before and the week after the race, but when 50 people in front of you dismounted and walk through the mud/water you really don’t have a choice.

The rest of the first leg was calm.  I had the chance to ride with some friends as well as some individuals I knew from social media.  I rolled into the first checkpoint on schedule.  I could have gone a lot faster then the 14.2 mph I was averaging at the time, there was still 158 miles left to this race and I knew what was ahead in leg two.

Leg two was where I got sick last year using my previous nutrition.  It’s a brutal leg.  Leg two is about 54 miles long and has some gnarly climbs.  This year I felt great on leg two.  Part of what made it great was running into a familiar face.  At Land Run 100 in March I had met Lauren, one of the extraordinary single-speed racers from Chicago that helped form the group of 11 single-speed women that were racing in the first single-speed class for women at Dirty Kanza.   What helped so much is that Lauren is a great conversation buddy.  There were times she told me to just go and leave her, but having someone to pass the miles with is a blessing.  We talked about jobs, life, my daughter and just about any thing else that came to mind.  We rode a large portion of mile 60-130 together.  I probably don’t feel as good or ride as well without Lauren being there especially during that second leg.

I rolled into Eureka HOT.  It was a humid day and the sun had found some breaks in the clouds.  I did two things at the checkpoint.  I changed the cycling hat I was wearing to a mesh squishy hat that I picked up from Orange Mud at the All Things Gravel Expo the day before (Thanks, Kevin).  That allowed my head to breath.  I also got some pantyhose… let me explain.  I had my crew stuff ice in the legs of the panty hose, put it hanging over my neck, stuffed the ice filled legs down the front of my jersey and zipped it up.  REFRESHING.

Leg three starts off relaxed, but being the longest leg of the race, those first miles can lull you into a false sense of thinking things are getting better.  The roads turn rough, climbs start to appear and on this day so did rain.  I caught back up with Lauren and we were rolling south when we noticed that there were some scary clouds appearing.  We turned north and shortly after we received some relief from the cold wind in front of the storm and then the lightning started hitting.  BOOM, CRASH, EEK.  The lightning was close and the skies opened.

To be honest, it didn’t bother me (mental training, plus the rain felt great).  However, it did add a concern.  When rain gets on our gravel roads the little rocks fling up and get stuck in rear derailleur’s, and they break.  Around mile 145 I was soft peddling waiting for another rider to finish his climb.  During that soft pedal my chain locked and I was sure I was going to hear a snap.  I back pedaled once, tried a soft pedal forward, stuck.  I tried a little longer backwards pedal then I heard the rock drop.  It knocked around and I was in the clear.  Catastrophe avoided.  I won’t lie that made my gut drop.

Shortly later I was in and out of Madison.  I was sure that unless I had a major breakdown I would roll into Emporia ahead of my midnight goal.

Leg 4 was all about moving forward.  I didn’t push hard these final miles.  I maybe could have and finished 30-40 minutes faster, but when it comes to 200 miles, finishing is my goal.  I enjoyed the conversational company of other riders who were struggling through these miles.  Being a local I became the cue sheet/GPS/tour guide for most of remaining miles.  I assured riders where we were going and of the mileage left until that glorious moment when they would ride down Commercial Street.

Mile 204.  I intentionally tried to put a gap between those in front of and behind me.  Knowing my wife and friends were waiting at the finish was special.  Knowing my daughter was going to be able to see daddy finish this year, priceless.  I wanted to make sure that I had that chance to ride in by myself, hear my name called and enjoy the chute.

Mile 206.  12th avenue and Commercial.  The crowd was huge.  Coming in before midnight is special, getting in around 11 PM was awesome.  There were thousands of people still there.  For three blocks I rode slowly slapping hands with each fan as I crossed 10th street, 9th street and came to the finish line. Goosebumps… tears wanting to come out, all while I had the energy of a 9 year old who was tweaked out on sugar and caffeine.  I felt like I could ride 200 more miles while wanting to collapse at the same time.  I grabbed my wife and hugged her.  I hugged my friends Denisha and Blair who were with Brandi all day helping get me in and out of the checkpoints fast (I spent less that 15 minutes combined in the 3 checkpoints.)

hugs-for-brandi.jpgThen there was Abby, my daughter.  She was tired, fighting sleep, but I lifted her up and hugged her.  I didn’t want to let go.  Then I looked her in the eyes and reminded her that some day her and I were going to cross that line together.  At 7 years old that is all she talks about.  She can hardly ride more that 8 miles at a time right now, but she has her eyes set on 200.  The day it happens these eyes will definitely filled with tears.

I finished in 17 hours 4 minutes and 58 seconds.  Almost 3 ½ hours earlier then last year!!  However, for the next 3 ½ hours I stayed right there.  Never walking more then a block away from that finish line.  I watched fellow riders come through, cheering them all on with every ounce of energy I had left.  I got to see Lauren destroy 206 miles on a single-speed bike finishing just after midnight, HECK YEAH!!!  (I’m still a little jealous of that breakfast club egg patch).  I got to see Jeremy Hutsell the Sexy T-Rex (don’t ask) FINISH, YEAH BUDDY!!! SO HAPPY FOR YOU.  I got to see Shelli Shipps finish, she and I started near each other at the beginning of the day and I hadn’t seen her since.  These are the folks that make Dirty Kanza so awesome.  Grinding 18,19,20 hours on a bike, determined to slay the beast that is the Dirty Kanza 200.  Their success that day brought me the same emotions as when I finished.  Goosebumps, tears, excitement, completely uncontrollable joy.

Now I know, this is what is so special about gravel.

Neil Taylor

Challenges Faced by the Endurance Athlete

Why I created Tailwind

Tailwind grew from my own personal experiences as an endurance athlete. I learned the hard way how important nutrition is to performing your best and enjoying the effort. I tried virtually every product on the market, but couldn’t find a solution that was easy to use and solved the nutrition problems common to endurance athletes. That’s what drove me to develop Tailwind Nutrition. Specifically, I wanted to maintain steady energy and feel strong throughout while solving common issues: stomach problems (feeling full/bloated and worse), ease of use (getting fuel and electrolytes from a single drink rather than juggling gels, electrolyte pills, or bars/chews), no cramping, and a taste I could drink all day without getting sick of it.

developingTailwind[1]It took a couple of years of research and experimentation, but it worked, and I’ve been using it ever since as a sole fuel for training and racing, including long grunts like the Leadville 100 and the Colorado Endurance Series (super-long endurance rides). From there, I shared it with friends and fellow racers including cyclists, runners, and triathletes and enjoyed seeing them improve their performance and feel good doing it. The results have been exciting. ­I love hearing from athletes who have struggled with nutrition and are having success with Tailwind. Their enthusiasm convinced me we have something to share and could help many more athletes by launching Tailwind Nutrition.

Make It Simple and Easy To Use

So now that you know why Tailwind came about, here’s how it works. Let’s start with ease of use and simplicity. There are a lot of magical ingredients out there claiming to boost your performance, but my experience and what I hear from other athletes is the basics of what your body needs during exercise often go unmet or only partially met: energy (in an easily digestible form), electrolytes to replace what you lose from sweat, and hydration. All three need to be addressed together to maintain strong performance. Trying to meet these needs with multiple separate products is difficult to get right and generally a pain to manage, especially during a race. Sipping your nutrition has the advantages of being simple to manage, easy on your digestive system, and maintaining a steady intake rate. Keeping it simple can help athletes take in more of what they need and reduce the chances of running into problems from mixing products and placing sudden demands on the digestive system.

Maximize Caloric Uptake

During a moderate intensity workout, we typically burn greater than 500 calories per hour, but it is generally accepted that humans can only absorb 200-300 calories per hour under optimal conditions (we can eat more, just not utilize it). Fat metabolism helps to close some of that gap, but the process is too slow to keep up with sustained effort. Eventually, glycogen stores will be depleted and you’ll run out of fuel (bonking). So a major goal of nutrition is to replace as much of the fuel you’re expending as possible to slow the rate of depletion. The scientific consensus used to be that carbohydrates could be absorbed at a maximum rate of 1g/minute, which limited maximum theoretical calorie intake to roughly 240 calories per hour. However, more recent research has found that combining two different carbohydrate types can achieve absorption rates from the small intestine of up to 1.7g/minute (408 calories per hour).[1] Further, combining sodium with glucose has been found to accelerate absorption of water from the small intestine and to carry glucose and sodium with it.[2][3][4]

It’s not quite that simple since most of us don’t inject food directly into our small intestines, so the theoretical maximums are tempered by taste and the ability to consume the needed carbohydrates, electrolytes, and water under real-world conditions of exercise. However, the salient points remain: a combination of carbohydrate sources maximizes absorption rates, and glucose and sodium in particular maximize water, carbohydrate, and sodium absorption. Tailwind uses dextrose and sucrose as its fuel combined with more sodium than is found in most sports drinks (which we’ll discuss below). Dextrose is d-glucose that comes from corn. It’s a form of glucose that is absorbed easily through the small intestine into the blood stream and can be utilized directly by muscles as fuel without further processing. Sucrose serves to add a degree of sweetness while improving the carbohydrate uptake rate over glucose (dextrose) alone. Together, the fuel in Tailwind is readily absorbed and becomes available quickly to help meet the calorie deficit during exercise.[5]


Solve Stomach Issues

Since Tailwind’s fuel spends very little time in your digestive tract, it’s very unlikely to cause stomach problems. Other drinks and nutrition products include ingredients that require more time and energy to digest, which can lead to digestive problems. Chief among them is protein, which is a very complex molecule that’s difficult to digest and is a leading cause of stomach problems amongst endurance athletes. Protein was once thought to be necessary for endurance events, but more recent studies have found little or no positive effect on endurance.[6] In addition, many drinks contain complex carbohydrates which require more time and digestive energy to break down into usable fuel, delaying the availability of energy (which isn’t desirable when running a calorie deficit). Anecdotally, we’ve run into many athletes who experience slowed digestion to the point of feeling full and unable to intake more fuel, electrolytes, and water when using complex carbohydrate fuels (despite running a calorie deficit and losing fluids and electrolytes through sweat). It’s worth noting here that tolerance for different types of fuel varies greatly. We all know people who can chow cold pepperoni pizza in the middle of an intense effort and have no stomach issues at all. Others find themselves retching on the side of the trail after consuming a single gel. So some athletes have no problem downing protein and complex carbohydrates, while it makes others sick. Our approach with Tailwind is to make it as easily digested as possible, so it will work for those with sensitive stomachs as well as those who usually don’t have problems. In practice to date, Tailwind is proving to effectively avoid stomach problems, even with athletes that typically do experience problems using other products.

Provide Enough Electrolytes

Maintaining electrolyte balance is important for performing your best and to avoid problems ranging from cramping to hyponatremia and even death when sodium levels drop too low. Fortunately, our bodies strictly regulate sodium levels in the bloodstream, but exercise can quickly throw levels out of whack. Dehydration lowers the water concentration in blood, increasing the relative sodium concentration, which can negatively affect performance. Conversely, drinking water without sodium can dilute sodium content in blood and lead to hyponatremia and serious consequences. Tailwind’s approach is to mimic the composition of sweat with the aim of replacing the electrolytes lost through sweating. The primary components of sweat (besides water) are sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium in that order, plus trace elements that are synthesized from diet. Tailwind contains sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium in the proportions they are found in sweat. The concentration of minerals found in sweat varies greatly by person, by intensity of exercise, and even by day. Fortunately, our bodies are fairly flexible in dealing with these variations as long as intake supports the needs. In practice, we have found that the levels of electrolytes in Tailwind work well for most people to prevent the negative effects of electrolyte imbalance. Surprisingly, many drinks do not include anywhere near enough electrolytes or include minerals other than those found in sweat. Electrolyte pills are also marketed as a separate supplement, but typically the drink marketing does not make it clear that supplements are required, which is confusing. Figuring out how many pills to take and remembering when to take them is daunting, and again Tailwind’s approach is to keep it simple and include adequate electrolytes in the base drink mix.

Make It Taste Great – All Day

Taste is equally important, since no nutrition plan works if you can’t follow it for the duration of your workout. Strong and sweet flavors tend to be less palatable the longer the workout is, which leads many athletes to abandon their nutrition partway through a day and just gut it out (definitely not optimal). Tailwind has mild flavors (mandarin orange, lemon, and berry) and a low sweetness, leaning more towards savory than the sweet and sticky usually found with sports drinks. A strong and sweet flavor might taste better initially, but Tailwind’s flavor really appeals as the hours go on, and is mild enough to drink all day without producing a gag reflex. Taste is highly personal, and we have run into athletes who don’t like Tailwind because they prefer a sweet drink or because they don’t like a savory flavor or the presence of salt. It’s not going to be for everyone, but the majority of athletes who’ve tried it appreciate the subtlety of the flavor, especially for long workouts.

All you need, all day. Really.

Putting it all together, Tailwind addresses the major nutritional needs of endurance athletes: feeling strong with steady energy and electrolytes, preventing stomach problems and cramping, being simple to manage and easy to use, and having a flavor that tastes good all day. Tailwind mixes up crystal clear because it contains only natural ingredients and organic flavors (nothing artificial and no neon colors). It also dissolves on contact with water and rinses quickly, so it’s great in hydration packs. The proof though is in the pudding, and we’re seeing Tailwind users reach and exceed their personal goals while feeling great, which makes us feel great too!

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Jeff Vierling, Co-Founder

[1]Jeukendrup, Michael Gleeson. Sport Nutrition: An Introduction to Energy Production and Performance, 2004.

[2] Gisolfi, CV et al: Effect of sodium concentration in a carbohydrate-electrolyte solution on intestinal absorption. Med Sci Sports Exerc, 27:1414, 1995.

[3]Murray R. The effects of consuming carbohydrate-electrolyte beverages on gastric emptying and fluid absorption during and following exercise. Sports Medicine (Auckland, N.Z.) [1987, 4(5):322-51].

[4] Murray, Bob. Preventing Dehydration: Sports Drinks or Water. http://www.gssiweb.com/article_detail.aspx?articleid=701&level=2&topic=5

[5]Shi, X., et al.: Effects of carbohydrate type and concentration and solution osmolality on water absorption. Med.Sci. Sports Exerc., 27:1607.1995.

[6]Friel, Joe. (2011, September). Should you use carbohydrate protein sports drinks. http://www.joefrielsblog.com/2011/09/should-you-use-carbohydrate-protein-sports-drinks.html

Knock on Wood Race Recap

Upstate Ultras Race Director, Matthew Hammersmith recently hosted the 4th annual Knock on Wood race series the weekend of May 12th through the 14th, in Greenville, SC.  Distances included an 8k, a 50k, a 24 hour and a 100 mile endurance run.  All races were starting on Saturday May 13th except for the 100 miler, which was starting at 8pm on Friday May 12th.  Since I was taking part in the 100 mile endurance run, I made the 8 hour drive up to South Carolina on Thursday May 11th and spent the night at a nearby hotel.  Since the race would not be starting until 8pm the next day, I was able to get up when I wanted, have a nice breakfast and take my time doing some things before heading on out.  Just before noon on Friday, I made my way over to the venue which was at the Lake Conestee Nature Park at the main pavilion near the baseball fields.  As soon as I got there I met Matt and a few other people who were already setting up their tents and canopies since it would be our home for the next 2 days.  The first person that I actually met was George Rainey.  George noticed my Florida license plate as I was backing into my parking spot and asked me right away where in Florida I was from.  George let me know he was from Pensacola and was part of FUR, like myself, which stands for Florida Ultra Runners (if you didn’t know).  George, an older guy with a funny sense of humor, is quite the character.  I saw him setting up his tent when I got out of the car and offered to help him set it up if he would help me set up mine, which he did.  Since we were just going to spend the rest of the day relaxing by our tents, we took a ride to Publix to get some lunch, ice for my cooler and a few other things for the race.  For the remainder of the day we relaxed and helped other people set up their tents, shelters and canopies before taking a late nap before it would be time to get ready for the run.



After getting up from my nap, I took a walk over to where the Fleet Feet Sports of South Carolina had their tents set up.  My friend Heather Hart, a fellow InkNBurn Ambassador, was there with her husband Geoff and a bunch of friends that they run with in the Myrtle Beach area.  I had reached out to Heather earlier in the year to ask her if the venue and course was worth me driving the 8 hours to get there.  She replied to me pretty quickly to say that it definitely was and so that is when I decided to register and let her know I’d see her there.  When she saw me walking up, she recognized me right away since we had actually never met in person. The power of social media, right?  Anyway, she introduced me to Geoff and all of her friends and they instantly treated me like one of their own.  I got the feeling that they liked me since every time I saw them on the course or passed by their tents, they would shout my name, cheer for me and even shout, “We love you Joe!”  This made me laugh and smile each time I heard them say it.  Halfway through the run I started shouting back “I love you guys too!”  They got a kick out of that.  The tight knit ultra community is so cool to be a part of and I love being a part of it.  Some friends once told me at my first 100 that you should be able to leave each race with 1 new friend, but this one I left with more than a handful.  How cool is that!  After talking for a bit, it was time to head back to my tent to get ready for the run.

After getting ready for the run around 7pm, I mentally prepared myself for the task that would be at hand, making 20 loops of this 5 mile technical trail course to complete my 3rd 100 mile endurance run.  Since trail runs always end up being slower than road runs, I figured 30 to 32 hours would be a good target to complete the race in.  That would mean that I would finish between 2am and 4am Sunday morning, allowing myself to sleep in my tent or car for a while before making the trip home to Florida.

After a quick pre-race briefing by Matt and watching the drone take some video of the area, the Star Spangled Banner was played and a few minutes later we were off on our journey.

At this race I was going to stick to my plan from the very beginning and not let anyone else dictate what I was doing.  It’s hard when you first start a run and everybody busts out like there’s no tomorrow and you want to try to keep up, but you need to ignore that.  A 100 mile endurance run is no joke and like I always say, slow and steady wins the race.  Well, maybe not wins the race, but completes the distance.  This time around I planned to do a FB live video after every 10 miles (2 loops) to let everyone know where I was and how I was doing.

Shortly into the first loop, the rain that had been holding off for the entire day finally made its appearance and continued for almost the entire time it took me to complete the first two loops.  It wasn’t a torrential downpour like they had been calling for, but at times it was a steady rain and even though we had canopy from the trees, we still got wet.  Being that it was nighttime and we were already wearing our headlamps, you really had to watch your footing on the technical parts since the course got a bit slippery, which slowed everybody down.  I finished the first 10 miles in about 2 hours and 20 minutes.  Tailwind Nutrition, which was the official fuel for the runs this weekend, was being consumed at a steady rate, approximately every 7 to 8 minutes, totaling about 20 to 24 ounces every hour.  This early on in the race I don’t concern myself with taking in any other type of calories other than my Tailwind.  I did fill my first two bottles with their Tropical Buzz flavor, which is caffeinated, to jumpstart the run.  I also took an S-Cap after each loop.  These things saved my run at Daytona in December and now never run an ultra without them.

image5Before heading on out for loops 3 and 4, I decided it would be a good idea to change out of my wet shirt and into a dry one, including a pullover and a new hat, since the rain had made the air a bit cool and damp. After refilling my 2 handhelds with Tailwind, I was off.  Once again, with the rain from earlier making the course wet and muddy, I had to take my time and watch my step, especially on the first part of the course where you are maneuvering around rocks and roots while going up and down inclines and making your way through switchbacks.  Every now and then I had to steady myself by slowing down or grabbing a tree.  Slowly but surely I made my way around the course 2 more times and by the time I hit 20 miles it was just after 1am putting me at a pace of about 4 miles per hour.

When I was finally done with 6 loops and 30 miles in, it was around 4am.  That meant I had been running for about 8 hours already and I was a little tired, but feeling good.  I was making my Tailwind a bit stronger to get the extra calories and eating some pretzels.  It was still dark at this time and so I was still being cautious on the trail.  It takes a toll on your legs, but nothing I knew I couldn’t do.  I was really looking forward to the next 2 loops since it would mean daylight!

When 8 loops were finally complete and I was 40 miles in, it was light out again and I was able to see what I was running on.  It was now about 7:40am and I had been out on the course for almost 12 hours.  I was getting a bit tired from being in the dark for such a long time, but the daybreak gave me a second wind and I was ready to continue.  A funny moment that I have to share is that during my 7th loop, I closed my eyes while taking a walk break and missed the turn onto the trail.  I knew pretty much right away though since the surroundings didn’t look familiar and I backtracked about 25 yards.  I thought that was pretty funny.  It was also great to finally get the headlamp off my head.

Before I knew it, 10 loops were complete, I was 50 miles in and I was halfway to finishing this run.  It was shortly before 11am at this time and I was feeling great!  Before heading on out for loops 9 and 10, I changed out of my wet shirt, put on another (InkNBurn of course), threw on a pullover and this time added my Headsweats KONA visor since it was still a bit overcast and the sun wouldn’t bother my head too much.  I was eating and drinking likje I was supposed to.  I did have a banana, pretzels and even a few potatoes after finishing loop 10.  I also started taking a few sips of Coke after each loop to get some extra carbs in me.  It’s just something that has stuck with me for each of my 100’s.

image4It was around 2:15pm when I finally finished my 12th loop and 60 miles.  I was only 2 miles away from the 100k mark and was still keeping up with my facebook live video poats to let everyone know how I was doing.  I was getting a bit tired but really enjoying myself.  The course is beautiful.  Shortly before finishing up my 12th loop, we had to be rerouted due to someone having a heart attack on the course and the emergency vehicles being there.  It was a scary moment and I took a few minutes to stop and say a prayer that he would be ok.  Moments like this put life in perspective and it really hits home.  Luckily, Matthew, the RD, was prepared and did everything he had to before the EMT’s arrived and took over.  I’m not going to mention his name, but I did reach out to him personally after finding out who it was and just let him know that we were all thinking of him and are so happy he is ok.  He is now a friend of mine on Facebook and I look forward to hopefully seeing him again one day at another race.

Shortly before 6pm I completed mile 70, 14 loops and was truckin’ on.  Obviously I was getting tired at this point, but there was no stopping me.  I was feeling good and continuing to do everything I was supposed to to get me through these next 30 miles.  At some point it had gotten a bit sunny again and so I changed into my I Love Ultra Running hat.

Before heading on out for loop 15, I knew it would be getting dark again soon and had to put my headlamp back on.  I was hoping I would get at least one more loop in the light before needing to turn it on but I couldn’t take the chance and not bring it.  By the time I was finished with my 16th loop and 80 miles were complete, it was about 9:30pm and I was getting tired.  At that point, even though I had only been on the course for about 25.5 hours, I had been up for about 37 hours since the race had started at night and I had been up since 6am Friday morning.  This is definitely something to keep in mind when running a 100 mile endurance run that starts in the evening.

The next 2 loops that got me to 90 miles were just all mental at that point.  I was tired and ready to get this done.  The only thing was that I was now maneuvering over the roots and rocks again in the dark and more tired than the night before.  I found myself holding onto trees to keep my balance even more so than previously in the run.  There was even one point where I hit a small stump with the toe of my shoe and literally thought I was going to face plant.  It was one of those moments where my arms were swinging to try to keep me upright but my body was falling forward at such a pace that all I could think was, “Oh crap, I hope I don’t hit anything hard.”  Luckily for me my legs caught up to my body and I was able to get control and keep from falling.  Talk about a scary moment!

Loop 19, miles 90 to 95, had to be the weirdest loop of the entire run.  I was very tired at that point and by myself, like I had been for most of the run.  My headlamp was making everything seem as if I was looking through a haze.  This is where I really hallucinated for the first time ever.  I was walking a part of the road when something to the left of me caught my eye.  When I turned to look at what it was, I saw the trees just floating and bouncing up and down.  It startled me to such a degree that I yanked the charging cable off of my Garmin that I was charging on the go at that time.  It was at that point that I really thought about lying down on the road and closing my eyes, but I knew I couldn’t do that.  I got my bearings under control and trudged on.  A short while later, while on another section of road, I started seeing these 2 red lights just bouncing in the air way up in front of me that looked like alien eyes.  Not that I would know what alien eyes look like, but this is what I instantly thought of.  Because I never wear my glasses on a run and am near sighted, the 2 lights turned into 4 and it looked like 2 aliens were just bouncing up and down in mid air.  I had to keep telling myself that I was seeing things, but I could tell that I was getting closer and they didn’t disappear.  Sure enough, when I got even closer, I realized it was my friend George and his friend and I was seeing the light from their headlamps as they were walking.  This was a big relief for me to catch up to people since there were only a few of us still on the course at that time.  I finished loop 19 with them and was happy to be back at the tent with only 1 loop to go.

image2At this time, I had only one lap left and I was going to run it with George just to have some company even though they had about 8 loops to go at that point.  Before heading on out though, I decided that it was finally time to eat my Chick Fil A sandwich that was in my cooler.  The local Chick Fil A gave away chicken sandwiches in the morning, but at that time I was not ready to eat it.  Luckily, I had my cooler with me filled with ice and so I stored it for a later time when I really needed it and now was that time.  I needed some brain food to get me back on track for the last loop.  Talk about getting a bolt of energy.  After finishing the sandwich, I felt like it was hours earlier and I had all of this energy to burn.  Even though I was supposed to be running this last loop with George and his friend, they were still not ready when I was, so I decided to just take off on my own, especially since I was ready to run again.  I ran for 75% of that final loop and when I crossed the timing mat for the 20th time, I had just completed my 3rd 100 mile endurance run with a time of 33 hours, 59 minutes and 20 seconds and I was so happy.

This 100 was definitely the toughest of the 3 that I’ve done so far and was so happy that it was finally complete.

Like always, I want to thank Tailwind Nutrition for being the best fuel that works for me.  I used it more than I ever have in any of my 100’s so far.  I used the caffeinated Tropical Buzz for the first 2 loops to jumpstart my run, switched to my Naked Unflavored for the next 75 miles, modifying it as necessary to add more calories in the later miles and then even switched back to Tropical Buzz for the last 15 miles to give me that jolt from being up for so long and being so tired.  I am proud to be a Tailwind Trailblazer for them and hope that I can remain one for a long time.  If you are looking for a fuel that works, please try Tailwind Nutrition, you will not be disappointed.  I also want to thank INKnBURN for being the only tech shirts I wear.  The shirt might have been covered up at certain times by a jacket or pullover, but the base layer was always INB.  At the times that the shirt was not covered up, I was constantly being complimented for the awesome shirt I was wearing and I did wear 3 different styles.  INB’s Dry Ice technology makes their shirts, in my opinion, one of the best on the market.  Headsweats trucker hats always makes its presence known while I am running and this time was no exception.  I even sported a visor for the very first time in any run,  the KONA, and I loved it.  My I Love Ultra Running trucker hats even made appearances in this run including the new Keys reflective hat.  I love representing my PUR / I Love Ultra Running family any time that I can and I sure did that up in SC that weekend.  A number of people asked where I had gotten these awesome hats and so of course I let them know.  I also let it be known that I was a part of the iRun4Ultra family that I also love being a part of.  Even though I am not an ambassador for them, I always like to thank AltraRunning for their awesome running shoes and Balega International for the incredible socks they produce.  I wear nothing but these two brands when I run and coupled together at this run, they kept my feet dry and blister free.  For this run I chose my Altra Lone Peaks and my Balega Blister Resist.  My C3Fit calf compression sleeves also made an appearance for a short while and like everything else, worked out perfect for that weekend.  My run would also not be what it was without all of the support from all of my friends near and far on all social media outlets.  The likes and loves and comments I received while doing my live posts meant so much to me.  Each time they gave me that drive to get the next 2 loops completed.  And last, but certainly not least, I would not be the man and runner I am today if it were not for my wife Kasi, who said to me seven and a half years ago, when I said to her that I wanted to train for and run a marathon, that I should because she knew I could do it.  I haven’t stopped running since that day and have taken my running to distances I never would have believed I could do.  She knows and understands the passion I have for this sport of ultra running and she is my biggest supporter and fan.  Thanks for being who you are honey.  I love you!

If you are looking to run an awesome 100 in the South Carolina area in May, Knock On Wood is the perfect venue for all the right reasons.

For me, it’s now on to the next adventure!!

Run Hard, Run Strong and #stayvertical my friends

Joe Rainone


Running with Diabetes

2014 remains unquestionably the year I realized that I could achieve anything when I set my mind to it. As an athlete with type 1 diabetes, I already knew this, but that year I took a monumental ultrarunning-leap into the unfathomable distance of 200 miles all at once: the inaugural Tahoe 200.

This race would (and did) strip me to my rawest self. The race required various skills and tactics–endurance, mental toughness, clothing, a stellar crew around me, sleep schedules, diabetes management and so forth. I also needed to figure out how to fuel myself, so that I would make it around the beautiful and breathtaking course. I knew nothing more than I’d be running for one day and one night. With a 100-hour time limit, I knew this was about to get interesting!

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In the months building up to the race, I frequently listened to the Trail Runner Nation podcast, which Tailwind Nutrition was sponsoring. Episode after episode, the hosts would put quirky spins on talking about this new product, which was created after a disastrous nutrition story at the Leadville Trail 100. Leadville was my first 100, so anything related to the race draws my attention.

The company claimed its product had “all you needed, all day” nutrition. After receiving a sample pack complete with the reassuring guarantee that I would get a refund if I didn’t believe it worked for me, I quickly found out what all the fuss was about. The hype was and is real; I enjoyed the taste and felt great throughout my runs.

As you can imagine, training for 200 miles is not your typical race, nor training plan. I hiked and ran relentlessly and tied that in with multiple training races of 50K, 50M and even 100 miles as preparation. You read that correctly; I ran a 100-mile race for training! And each and every time that I put Tailwind to the task, it worked. By race day, I had tried all the flavors and berry and mandarin orange became my go-to favorites. Not only was I hydrating, but also with 200 calories per serving, I was taking in ample carbohydrates, sodium, magnesium, etc. A mix of everything you see spread out at aid stations in one liquid form.

Needless to say, my drink of choice for my successful completion at Tahoe 200 in 78 hours was Tailwind, and I am forever grateful to have found them. I love the feeling that I can trust their products to help me achieve my lofty goals.

Since then, I’ve been lucky enough to be a Tailwind Trailblazer ambassador to share my love to a wider audience. I continue to use original and new flavors (tropical is amazing!) as I have taken on other big ultra races in recent years such as Angeles Crest, UTMB, and Javelina Jundred. This year is super exciting because I’m returning to Western States and will compete in my first stage race in the Nepalese Himalayan Mountains. While I continue to show everyone that diabetes does not slow me down, I’m also showing that Tailwind speeds me up!

By Trailblazer, Stephen England

Cyclist Racing Fueling Strategy

Most people think of electrolytes as preventing cramps, but that’s an oversimplification of their role in the body (and of cramping). Electrolytes are salts and minerals used by the body to carry on normal functions. Sodium, in particular, is essential to life and tightly regulated by the body. Drinking too much plain water can dilute sodium in blood to dangerous levels (hyponatremia), and conversely, under hydrating concentrates sodium levels by reducing the water content in blood.

Electrolytes are lost through sweat. When electrolyte levels are out of whack, normal body function is compromised, including one’s ability to keep turning the pedals. The goal then of electrolyte nutrition is to maintain electrolyte balance through adequate hydration and by replacing sweat loss. The presence of sodium in water accelerates the absorption of both from the small intestine, so combining electrolytes with water is the most efficient way to replace both. The composition of sweat varies from person to person (and even day to day), but on average contains sodium at 900mg/L, potassium at 200mg/L, calcium at 15mg/L, and magnesium at 13mg/L, with additional trace elements. Keep these concentration guidelines in mind when evaluating the electrolyte content of drinks and fuels.

Cyclists tend to under hydrate, particularly on hot, dry, or windy days when sweat evaporates more quickly. Dehydration is dangerous, as is over hydrating with water alone, which can lead to hyponatremia and even death. Beyond serious consequences, adequate hydration is critical to processing fuel and maintaining electrolyte balance. Under hydrating limits the absorption rate of carbohydrates (energy) and electrolytes, so drinking enough water is the basis of good nutrition. How much fluid is enough? This varies from person to person, by temperature, and with exercise intensity, but 24 oz (one large water bottle) per hour is a good starting point, and more if it’s hot.

Finally, cyclists need fuel to avoid running out of energy within a few hours. The liver stores glycogen and meters out glucose to power muscles during exercise until stores run low and the body shuts off non-essential consumption (like pedaling). You’ve probably experienced this as bonking. Moderate and higher intensity workouts burn 500+ calories per hour, so you might be tempted to try to replace these calories. Another common mistake is to think in terms of distance (take a gel every 10 miles) instead of time. In general, you want to consume 200- 250 calories per hour.

Everyone’s digestive system is different, and there’s more to the nutrition story than space permits, but the fundamentals of nutrition during exercise are becoming clearer as exercise science advances: adequate hydration is key to maintaining electrolyte balance and absorbing fuels; replace the electrolytes

you’re sweating out; and choose a fuel you can consume at a regular rate (200- 250 calories per hour) throughout exercise that maximizes calorie absorption and minimizes demands on the digestive tract.

Screen Shot 2017-06-01 at 12.15.45 PMOn race courses, Tailwind is typically provided at a 200 calories/24oz of water solution. What this means is that if you fill up a 24oz water bottle with Tailwind, you’ll get 200 calories in that bottle. In addition, you will also have the following amounts of electrolytes:

  • 606mg sodium
  • 176mg potassium
  • 52mg calcium
  • 28mg magnesium

If you don’t want that many calories in the bottle, just dilute the Tailwind by adding more water. If, for example, you want a 100 calorie bottle, just fill 1⁄2 water 1⁄2 Tailwind. Also, be aware that Tailwind does contain more sodium than your average sports drink as it’s designed to mimic what you sweat out (most drinks contain only about 15% of what you need necessitating the need to supplement with sodium/electrolyte pills).

If you want to start training with Tailwind, just visit one of the many stores that carry it: http://www.tailwindnutrition.com/shop/.

The Role of Nutrition in Riding at High Altitude

One aspect that gives a lot of cyclists pause about riding certain races, like the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic, is the high altitude. And with good reason! When Jeff and I first moved to Durango from Seattle we found ourselves huffing and puffing up a local trail, Haflin Creek despite the fact we had been doing some hardcore riding for the previous 3 months.

What’s going on? Simply put, at altitude we are suffering from hypoxia—when the working tissues of the body are deprived of adequate oxygen supply. Physiologically speaking, oxygen delivery to the muscles goes down which impacts your aerobic capacity. In a widely referenced 1982 study, Squires and Buskirk found a predictable reduction in VO2 max of approximately 8% for every 1,000 meters (3,280’) above 700 meters (~2,300’). Durango sits at 6500 feet, and you’ll reach 10,640’ at Coal Bank and nearly 11,000’ at Molas Pass. So compared with sea level, the athlete’s VO2max could decrease about 20% at the top of one of these climbs. That’s huge!

What can you do? Surprisingly, nutrition can play role in helping you combat some of the impacts of high altitude as it relates to hydration, oxygen, and nausea. Your body will undergo some physiological changes and eating the right foods can prepare your body for this transition.

It is imperative that you stay on top of your hydration. Hydration is almost always thrown off while traveling so remember to drink whether you are traveling by plane or car so that you arrive well hydrated when you get to Durango. At higher altitude, your breathing is shallower and more frequent; this increased ventilation along with dry air leads to greater fluid losses through the respiratory system. And, because sweat evaporates quickly, you can be led to believe that you are not losing much fluid and will be less inclined to drink. During the Iron Horse, make sure that you are taking in 20-24oz of water/hour.

Riding at altitude is hard! Though lung capacity remains the same at altitude, the shortage of oxygen and lower atmospheric pressure makes it impossible to get the same amount of oxygen to the muscles in each breath compared to being at sea level. Fortunately, there are some steps that you can take.

To help your body to deliver oxygen to your screaming muscles, eat a diet rich in iron which will actually help you manufacture hemoglobin (the oxygen-binding portion of red blood cells) to help transport oxygen to working muscles. Supplementing with iron 2 weeks prior to the race may be something you want to consider.

You can also take beet juice or powder which has two effects: 1) nitrates help to dilate your arteries which enables oxygen to get to your muscles faster; and 2) beets help increase the amount of oxygen taken up as well. Be sure to try this in training ahead of time before using it at the Iron Horse. Studies have shown that taking beets juice/powder in the 1-3 hour before a race is effective.

Digestive issues
Your GI system gets compromised at altitude. Period. There is anecdotal evidence that anti-motion sickness tablets can help as well as ginger so you can certainly test these out during training. Also, research shows that your body undergoes a change in metabolism where it becomes easier to digest carbs than fats. So at your pre-race dinner, go for the pasta and avoid the fried chicken!

During the ride, there are several approaches you can take to minimize GI distress:

  • Don’t overload the gut with too many calories (aim for 200-300 calories/hour)
  • Stay hydrated: target 20-24oz of water/hour. Most GI problems stem from the fact that you get dehydrated. This is a common occurrence with gels where riders forget to drink enough to process the calories from gels
  • Avoid drinks/foods high in protein. Although protein is important for recovery and as part of your overall diet, there is a high correlation with GI distress
  • Don’t go too hard. At altitude where your GI system is already compromised working too hard can just stress it more. Instead, strive to maintain a nice achievable paceTailwind Nutrition was formulated with a singular focus on addressing GI issues and is be provided on many course at a 200 calorie/24oz water concentration. If you want to start training with Tailwind, just visit one of the many stores that carry it: http://www.tailwindnutrition.com/shop/

    Happy riding!