The Frozen Otter – how I’m training

​I’m deep into planning my largest training day (50 miles!) for the Frozen Otter – race day is only 3-1/2 months away! We just arrived at the gorgeous Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore (located in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan) for the week, so I’m going to use the Lakeshore Trail here as my training grounds. Adam and I have a 3-day backpacking trip planned with my parents for the weekend, so I’m going to use tomorrow (Tuesday) as my day to complete the 50 miles. Hopefully I’m training and planning well enough to be recovered for the backpacking part of our vacation without too much trouble. I’ll go over a few details as to how I’m preparing for this training run in a little bit. 

But first, since I haven’t said much about it yet, I thought this might be a good time to talk about the training plan I came up with for this crazy race. I mean, 64 miles is a long way to go, and how the heck do you prepare for that!? In addition to the obvious difficulty to train for something like this, being an over-the-road truck driver has made it a little extra tricky. I’m pretty certain my way of training is far from ideal, so I don’t know if it’s a plan I’d recommend. But, well, who knows! Maybe it’ll work! 

If I had the time I did when I was a 9-5er I’d be putting in more weekly miles, stair climbs, and longer workouts – and maybe more general daily movement besides sitting on my rump in front of a steering wheel for 10 hours a day! I’d probably sign up for a few ultrarunning races to get in some training with support/aid stations, enjoy the comeraderie of other crazy-minded folks like myself and immerse myself in the overall race experience that I miss and love so much. These long training runs do get a little lonely… 

So I don’t know if what I’m doing is enough, or the right way, but I think I’m using my time as best I can. It’s been fun and challenging so far, so no matter the outcome, I guess that’s a success, at least! And hopefully the big outcome will be a Frozen Otter finish! 

So how am I actually training? I started back in April. I went on a 20-mile tester hike so I had an idea of where I was at with my endurance fitness. Did I have any left at all? Would it break me? Would I enjoy any of it? Turns out that I DID enjoy it, it didn’t break me (not even close), and I still had a little somethin-somethin left of my endurance muscle memory. 

May quickly rolled around, and as soon as registration opened up for the Frozen Otter I paid my fee and officially signed myself up. Now, along with my stubborn drive was this financial accountability. So here we go! It is so on! 

From there I drew up a plan from that 20-mile base run I did. The basic idea was to run on my days off (usually road runs at a quicker pace), do bodyweight strength workouts on the road while I’m truckin’ (and run when I can), and get one long run/hike on trails each month leading up to the race. These long runs were going to be key – they would be the closest simulation to race day, especially since I could train mostly in the Northern unit of Kettle Moraine where the Frozen Otter is held. These long runs would also keep reminding my legs that they need to stay in shape (I have serious conversations with them on a pretty regular basis. It’s a good relationship), and I’d have a chance to test some gear and fueling strategies. And so far… I’ve learned a ton. 

Oh, and really quick – when I say “running” on these long runs, it’s fastpacking, or hiking/jogging, or jiking. Hogging? It’s basically a combination of jogging and fast hiking. I try to jog most of it, but I hike up the big hills and jog on the straight parts – I basically go as fast as I can (which isn’t super-fast) while keeping my heart rate at a pretty steady level so I can go for a long time. I’m not out there full-on running down the trail at a 9-minute mile. That would be pretty cool, though! 

So the training I’ve already done is the 20-mile tester in April that I mentioned, a 30-miler in May, 32 miles in June where I wiped out about four times, a 20-mile new-pack-test in July that chafed the crap out of my shoulders, a 40-miler on August 1, then a 32/10-mile back-to-back in mid-August when I had some horrible gut issues, and a 40-mile overnight fatigue run in September that was one of the toughest long run/hikes I’ve ever done. 

So dead tired after my overnight 40-miler on no sleep! So satisfying, though.

I’ve tested four different packs, I’ve tried new shoes (with success), all kinds of food, gels, and drinks. I’ve trained on little sleep, and once on no sleep, I’ve fallen several times (once was a downhill tuck & roll that I’m kind of proud of), I’ve run in the daylight and the dark for hours and hours, I’ve talked to myself, got bored, tired, sore, and hopped-up on coffee. I tried distractions like listening to podcasts, music, silence, making up stories in my head and then sharing them with the squirrels… and when all else failed, I just kept going… and going. Each run has been tough, but I always managed to finish the goal I set out for – mentally spent, physically sore, and totally satisfied. There’s just something about wearing myself down like this that I enjoy. It’s so weird. 

I’ve got a few long runs left before January: 

October – 50 miles 
The biggun’ is my October run. Tomorrow’s 50-miler, in Pictured Rocks. This is the bad boy I’m planning for now. It’s the longest run of my training plan, and I hope to finish in 16 or 17 hours. Yeesh. I’m feeling intimidated just writing that down. That’s a long freakin’ time to be so active – running and pounding on my feet and legs, pumping my arms, breathing, sweating, heart-thumping… Also, I’ve been working out some gut issues that I’ve been having on my long runs, so I’m hoping less hard-to-digest food and better hydration will be the ticket. 

To plan for this, I first figured out miles, start and end points. The Lakeshore Trail is 42 miles long, so I added in a loop during the middle of the run to add on about 10 miles. 

Then I planned for water. There’s a lot of places to get water on this trail, so I’m not worried about a lack of it, but I picked some spots to hopefully maximize my time getting it. The water will need to be treated in three of my four planned stops, so that takes a little extra time. I’ll be doing these 50 miles 100% self-supported, so I hope to be as efficient with these breaks as I can be, and I guess planning them out is the best start. 

Next I came up with a fueling plan. I’ve been constantly experimenting with this since I started, but this time I’m trying Huma gels (Chia seed-based energy) alternated with real foods which are sweet or salty, depending on whatever my tummy is wanting when it’s time to consume fuel. These foods are things like string cheese, an Epic bar (meat bar), Bearded Bros energy bar, macadamia nuts, Snickers bites, an Ocho dark chocolate bar, Combos, Phat Fudge, Pastrami & cheese rollups, and dill pickle chips. It’s a mix, but that’s the idea. I had a loss of appetite a couple of times during training – and it SUCKS. So I’ve stretched out the variety to help with this… I hope! 

For liquid fuel, I’ll carry a 2-liter bladder for plain water, and two 16-oz. bottles. One will be for either Pedialyte or Tailwind drink mixes, which I’ll alternate between. The other will be for cold coffee mixed with chia seeds. 

I also planned for what I’m calling “on-trail maintenance.” I’ll be taking a salt tablet every hour and alternating ibuprofen and naproxsen sodium every 2-3 hours to help with pain and inflammation (the alternating is to keep the tummy happy). The pain killers and salt tabs usually fall away from my plan once I’m out there and I end up taking way less than planned, but I’ll be armed with them if I feel they’re needed or if I’m struggling. 

And finally, recovery. I’m going to eat, sleep, eat, bathe in Epsom salt and sport my sweet new hot pink compression Injinji socks. I also hope to get in a small hike or walk in the couple of days following this training run to keep the blood flowing. I don’t know. I’m not very good at recovery yet, to be honest. The focus has been so much on just the race part… So I guess I need to put more thought into this. It’s important, too. 

The winning pack by Out There USA.

November – 45 miles/20 miles (back-to-back) 
I hope to complete this one in the Kettle Moraine, sort of simulating the actual race. Start at Mauthe Lake and go north to the turnaround, then back south. Then the next day, head south to that turnaround and back. It should hurt real good. 

December – 32 miles 
I might do more miles, or I might split this into a couple shorter runs, depending on weather, how much cold training I have in, and if there’s winter gear that I still need to try out. 

January 14 – 64 miles/RACE DAY! 
The plan is to finish 64 miles! I wonder what the weather will say about that!? It’ll be a major deciding factor! 

Any other racers out there reading this? Any suggestions? Questions? Let me know. Not sure I’ll ever figure this thing out… Which is kind of why I’m doing it again. I completed it in 2010 in 21 hours and 49 minutes, so you think I’d know what to do. Nope. It’s like I’m still a super-newbie. That’s how it feels, anyway. There’s always new things to learn, and it’s a totally different race every year. I have no clue what to expect. 

Overall it’s pretty addicting. And crazy. And I can’t quite explain it. But I love it. All of it. 

Tonight I love string cheese. I think it’s the one real food that my stomach hasn’t denied at one point or another on all my training runs so far. Thanks, string cheese. You’re the best. 

The horrible neck chafe from one of the packs I sent back. Too bad, because everything else about it was great.

Chia seeds mixed in with coffee. Or rocket fuel.

The Ultraspire Titan pack. I love this pack so much, but it’s just a wee to small on the capacity-side to use in the Frozen Otter. I’m keeping it, though. So comfy!


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