In the August Newsletter we discussed the importance and purpose of Zone 1 workouts. In today’s article we will discuss how including Heart Rate Zone 2 in your training will lead to improved performance.

The purpose of including Heart Rate Zone 2 workouts is to increase one’s aerobic base. A high aerobic base is obtained by training at a Heart Rate intensity of 60-75% of your Maximum Heart Rate. When an athlete trains in Zone 2, the primary energy resource used to fuel the athlete’s effort is fat. When fat is the primary energy source being utilized, the athlete can spare muscle glycogen to be used later in the race. An athlete with a high aerobic base has increased the size and number of mitochondria, capillary density, and enzyme functions that allows intramuscular fat mobilization to metabolize efficiently, for energy production. And a well developed Zone 2 will train the body to use more fat during high intensity paces.

What does all this mean? Simply put, the more fat that is being contributed to fuel the athlete the greater the oxygen carrying and utilizing capacity, allowing an athlete to run longer and faster without falling off their pace. The best way to increase the aerobic base is by running 50-60% of one’s weekly mileage in Zone 2. To determine if you are in Zone 2, use the “talk test.” If you can carry on an easy conversation with your running partner, then you are likely in Zone 2.

Training Recommendation: Spend time in Zone 2 when you’re building a base (volume and miles) and on easy/recovery days between hard/interval workout sessions. Base work is often performed during the early season. Building an aerobic base into your training plan is especially important when you are stepping up to the next race distance. Zone 2 is a race pace for 50-100 mile races.

Cindy Stonesmith CMT ACSM/HFS
Owner and Endurance Running Coach

Back in the June Newsletter article we discussed how to obtain personalized heart rate zones by performing a 10k time trial. Now we’ll discuss each Heart Rate Zone and how it relates to training and performance. In today’s article we’ll be discussing Heart Rate Zone 1.

Heart Rate Zone 1 (Zone 1 <120 bpm) is an active recovery workout. Workouts in this heart rate zone range from daily functional activities, like walking the dog or mowing the grass, to an easy walk/jog workout, sometimes referred to as "wogging." The distinction between resting recovery and active recovery is worth noting. In active recovery your heart rate must be raised above resting for a continuous 20-30min. Zone 1 workouts are used to enhance and quicken recovery from a hard effort workout. By elevating your heart rate to above resting, these workouts can improve the body's circulatory characteristics in the muscles. Improving circulation will rid muscle cells of waste product build up that was produced by high intense or long effort workouts as well as replenish muscle glycogen levels. Zone 1, also provides your body the opportunity to heal and repair muscle damage, which can lessen the effect of DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness). In addition, this type of workout can refresh you mentally and prepare you for the next high intensity workout. Training Recommendations: Spend time in Zone 1 during warm-up and cool-down or when you need recovery from a hard race or workout effort. This is also a great time to focus on running form and drills. Zone 1 is not a race pace! Contact: Cindy Stonesmith CMT ACSM/HFS Owner and Endurance Running Coach

RATS – Part 1

It is Sunday night – June 24, 2012. In 40 minutes we will take flight for Jacksonville, Florida; home. During our upcoming flight we will celebrate our 2-month anniversary of being married. And that is what is really important.

I expected to be here, with the one I love, flying home from the greatest race there is. With a battered body and blistered feet, I did not expect that she would be my wife. But that, dear reader, is *not” what this story is about. This story is about a group of people I call my friends, a place of beauty and magic, and a race that brings them together to create something so special that is brings tears to my eyes, while I’m there, every time I leave, and even now when I remember good times and bad.


How we came to be here: Training, adventures, injury, shortcomings, and yes, a wedding following by moving two houses into one. All fairly well chronicled on this blog, starting back in January

Day R-3

We met Leslie H. in the Denver airport. Now I have known Leslie for 14 years but I had never met her in person. You see, back before blogs, Facebook, even Myspace, there was social networking via newsgroups and listservs…
Leslie, Joel, Kurt, Pressler, and I all showed up for RATS this year having been previously  acquainted on the Tri-DRS Listserv.

Leslie was kind enough to let us ride to Moab with her and spend a night at her (and her husband, Drew’s) lovely home in the mountains of Pine, CO.

Day R-1
Porcupine Rim

We went out on Sunday to preview the biggest challenge of the final stage – a little trail along a cliff in the Slickrock canyon. There was a rule…if someone said, “porcupine rim,” someone else would have to throw in the word, “JOB!” Because that is the kind of classy friends I have…

We ran (gaggled) out onto the trail and sat around and told stories for 30-minutes, then ran back – a gold hour. With some of my favorite people. That was followed by showers, more packing, then gear check. We had all of our required gear, got our numbers, etc. Then we headed out to dinner at an Italian restaurant. Others had the same idea and we ended up sharing our Last Supper with about a dozen of our fellow competitors. After dinner we hustled back to the host hotel for the pre-race meeting.
All that taken care of, we were left to our own devices until 1000 MDT

Day 1 (19ish miles)

We left Moab in a tour bus at 1100 and made a modern approximation of the reverse journey that we would undertake.

We arrived in Fruita just before 1300 and the race got underway 45 minutes later.

Gemini Adventures and Kokopelli himself did not design a course that would ease the traveler into their new environment and circumstances…oh, no. The temperature at the start was above 100F and the course became brutal quickly.

The rock strewn path made for tricky footing, and in the end we barely made the cutoff. The terrain was some of the most rugged we would face all week, and was a bit more than Judi was prepared for…but we made it. A highlight was climbing down and into Salt Creek, the cold water felt good in the 105F heat.

When we finished it was past 2000 hrs MDT which gave us but a few hours to rest up for…

Day 2 (40ish miles)

I knew that this was the day; long, hot with a relatively tight cutoff.  We made excellent progress for the first 3 hours, at just over 12 miles and still felt pretty fresh. The air temp, however, reached 105F by 1030 and things went south quickly…

Judi really struggled on the day’s biggest climb.  She told me that she was going to drop at the Aid station about 2 miles later. I was pretty upset for her and for feeling that I got her in over her head. Judi being Judi took it in stride and was at peace with her decision immediately.

At this point I started doing math. I realized that anyone behind us (there were 4 or 5) had basically zero chance of making the cutoff and we were kinda on the edge ourselves. I decided to run on ahead to the aid station to eat and get ready for the rest of the stage and I would proceed alone when Judi got there. As I jogged down to the aid station I stopped to pee…it was brownish…not good. But…30 minutes later I was off and confident that I could finish the stage easily… just 22 more miles. And they clicked off quickly… at first… but I found that if I ran my heart rate skyrocketed – no problem I can walk this mother.

By the time I got to the mile 30 aid station I was dizzy, disoriented, and cramping. I tried to will my legs to continue but alas I failed and had to pull the plug at mile 31. I found out an hour later that I’d lost 20 pounds during the stage…

The rest of the night I was worthless, I couldn’t eat, tried to drink, felt nauseous and cramped every time I moved.

I did not take my weakness or my DNF too well, I even tried to get us a ride to Moab, just go do something else, but it was to no avail.


An endurance athlete might know best – the debilitating blister. Here are a few
tips on how to prevent the little monsters from happening to you:

Top 5 Preventatives for Blisters

1. Lubrication

Interestingly enough, it has been found that rubbing on moist skin produces more
friction than that of rubbing on very wet or very dry skin. Lubricants like Vaseline
or BodyGlide can help reduce friction by keeping skin-to-skin or skin-to-shoe areas
wet and slick. Note: Powders and antiperspirants work in the opposite way, reducing
friction by keeping feet very dry. Lightly apply an over-the-counter powder or antiperspirant
directly to clean and dry feet.

2. Stay Hydrated!

By staying well hydrated you can get a handle on chafing and swelling. If you are
dehydrated and lose too much sodium from sweating, you end up retaining fluids in
your hands and feet which causes swelling. Staying well hydrated allows you to sweat
more freely.

3. Mileage on Shoes
Make sure that you’ve logged a few miles on a new pair of shoes before wearing them
in a race. If you race in shoes that your feet aren’t used to it’s more likely that
there will be areas of discomfort, where you foot hasn’t adjusted. Make sure your
shoes fit properly as well (a good rule of thumb for the ultra-runner: 1/2 size
bigger than your street-shoe size to accommodate any swelling that might occur).

4. Tape
For those of you who do not like lubricants or powders, there’s another option:
Duct tape! All you have to do is place a piece of duct tape, (also, moleskin or
athletic tape) over any “hot spots” caused by your shoes. Makes sure the area is
clean and dry before taping.

5. Calluses Are Your Friend!

If you go in for a pedicure, make sure they don’t remove calluses with a razor or
emory board. Callused skin serves as blister protection for your feet. If removed,
you might be at more of a risk for developing blisters.

It is a long way between places. The desert spires and rock walls grow in size as the day progresses. They are red the way rust on weathered steel is red or like old nails jutting up from the earth’s core, and they cut refined silhouettes across the horizon, increasingly so as the sun begins to set. Scale is everything, size and distance and time across it. When the winds arrive and the dust and sand begin to stir, all the pieces start to move.



The morning of the fourth day dawns – “the Expedition Stage” and approximately 52 miles over the shoulder of the La Sal Mountains, which we have been chasing on the far horizon since crossing into Utah. The 2009 winner and course record holder, a Navajo Native American, scatters corn meal on the ground and recites a prayer for strength. “Run with beauty” he says, and by beauty Navajo philosophy might include strung out and hallucinating. It is more way of being than appearing. An invocation to the powers that be brings the race out of its raceness, and we are instead off on a religious quest of sorts, a noble unraveling of point A to point B. It’s more than just a road anyway, or it becomes as such.


It’s been over 100 miles now since Colorado, when midday on a Monday at the Kokopelli trailhead 25 runners lined up wearing clean socks and fresh faces which, within the week, will fade like distant memories, replaced by someone lying passed out on the ground, someone else drifting away in the currents of the Colorado River fully clothed, another with both blistered feet bandaged to the lower calf, and someone who after eating a watermelon, begins, in some sort of heat-induced frenzy, wiping their face with the rind. Fifteen will finish.


The Kokopelli trail is named for a Hopi fertility god and flute player representing the spirit of music and the coming of rain, among other things, and most recently an adopted symbol of the southwest. It follows roughly along the Colorado River from Loma, Colorado, to Moab, Utah, crossing deep dust and graduated mesas into remote canyons, across dry riverbeds, and past a thundering waterfall which lies thousands of feet above a canyon bounded by tall buttes. For as long as the sun sits in the sky, the heat is never not ferocious. No cloud appears until the fifth day. Every business has gone out of business. Simply being out here demands some kind of explanation.


“Don’t think about the blisters. Don’t think about the searing heat. Don’t think about the pain. Don’t think about the 52 miles to the finish.” One runner is talking to himself before the start. Temperatures that day will hover in the low 100s. Someone says 105. “Don’t think about the 51 miles to the finish… Don’t think about the 50 miles to the finish…”


The day’s climbs are shattering. They last first for five or six miles miles, broken by a step descent into the boulder fields of Cottonwood Canyon, then again for another 12 to 15, finishing with six miles on asphalt, heading downhill into the early morning. Bright, glowing cow eyes appear on either side of the road from behind the shrubbery, their cowbells rattling.


Day two, we had traveled 39 miles across what seemed to be an ancient and deserted parking lot, overtaken by wild grasses. It was vast and exposed. People underestimate it. “We do this every year and people finish,” the race director had said before the start of the race. “They’re not on their hands and knees crawling to the car.” The stage would end with several miles of pavement which, at intervals, burst into flames. One by one, the tendons in my feet begin to tear apart at the bone. My lips are dry and cracked and I have accumulated layers of salt like the ocean floor. Seven runners drop that day.


“I threw up then curled up on the side of the trail and took a nap in the shade,” someone says, “with like drool coming out of the side of my mouth.”


“I’m never running again,” someone else says. “I’m never going outside again.”


The first stage was approximately 19 miles, the third nine, and the last day will be 26, for a total of 148 miles. “You will experience,” we are told before it all begins, “highs and lows you never knew existed.” No one has ever ended up in the hospital “except for the guy whose finger fell off.” At the finish line of one stage, he tripped and fell and dislocated a finger.


Two sweepers follow along on their bicycles behind the runners, traveling at cut-off pace. If you pass a water drop and want to go back, you cannot because, most likely, the sweepers have swept it away. If you see them, you are in bad shape. If your fingers start cramping, you have lost all hope. If you lose the trail, it’s desert for hundreds of miles in all directions. It will be a long time before you are found.


“I keep meaning to get them some grim reaper costumes,” the race director says of the sweepers.


One advantage to multi-day stage racing in the middle of an expansive and inhospitable plain is that there is no need to clutter up the mind trying to figure out what to do next. The farthest ahead anyone needs to think is five feet. This is what there is to do next: drink water, eat electrolyte salt capsules, stay on the trail. There is nothing to buy. There is nowhere to go. Just stumbling along in the wilderness wondering why can’t every day be like this.


Desert R.A.T.S. ends in the Slickrock parking lot, named for the trail that attracts maybe the majority of visitors to Moab – mountain bikers drawn to its sandstone rock faces. Cyclists are passing on the road. “How far are you guys running?” one asks. “Twenty-six miles,” I say, failing to mention the previous 122, although we must look far more weather-beaten than a marathon. “Oh, a marathon,” he says. “Well, no wonder there are so few of you.” The ground temperature measures 140 degrees.


Running demands a kind of forced equilibrium that fails to accurately describe the violence which takes place within. At the cellular level, all bodily proteins have been replaced by buckets of sand. Past races accumulate like tree rings. The hardest? The hardest is always the one that’s under foot at the moment, or just passed. There is much that is difficult to remember. There are some things that stand out: the sound of a car horn in the middle of the night announcing the last runner to cross the finish line, the taste of oatmeal and wind-swept sand, someone saying “I just remember being snowed in for three days lying in my sleeping bag covered with drift and only a plastic bag filled with my own urine to keep me warm and this doesn’t seem so bad,” the mesh-roof planetarium tent with a view of the Milky Way, and the occasional lingering desire to still be out there in the desert, dehydrated, sore, dirty, and utterly exhausted, lost but not lost inside some insane digression buried deep within the faintest trace of a larger purpose.
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