Browsing Category

Essays

In Essays

4 Essential Tips For Running Your First Ultramarathon

Running your first ultramarathon can be a wildly overwhelming commitment. How on Earth do you get yourself from just some schlub on the couch to crossing the finish line?

And when I say ‘crossing the finish line,’ I mean comfortably. I don’t want you collapsing at the end like some battered opponent from Rocky number whatever.

So today I’m going to share what I think are three keys or essentials to successfully running your first ultramarathon.

For a little context, I DNFed my first attempt back in June, made some changes, and came back in late October finishing comfortably. And those four changes are as follows: Coaching, Strength Training, Nutrition, and for lack of a better description… Skin care.

Let’s break ‘em down, shall we?



I never thought I needed coaching and I don’t necessarily attribute my DNF in June to lack of coaching. But I wasn’t following a very well thought out plan. So when I decided to give the ultra another shot, I signed up with Ultra Trail Coaching.

Their program dynamically creates your workout plan based on your previous running history and the number of hours you’re able to run per week. So not only did it take away the stress of planning my own running plan, it gave me confidence that I was building myself up sustainably.
To better understand exactly how it all worked and how I was able to comfortably cross the finish line, I called up my coach, Guy Vanderdorpe.
INTERVIEW
Strength Training
Strength training is nothing new for me. It’s always something I’ve enjoyed to challenge myself and get rid of some stress.
That said, I’ve always loathed lower-body training. Before my DNF, the only strength-training I’d do were some wall-assisted pistol squats after runs a couple of times a week. And I truly only did it so I could tell myself that I wasn’t skipping lower-body strength training.
Technically true, but it’s also potentially true that I developed muscle imbalances that led to my runner’s knee and the DNF in Innsbruck.
Before running my second ultra, I did some strength rehab and transitioned that into a holistic strength training plan for my lower-body. Granted my ultra wasn’t the steepest one out there, but I did feel stronger on the climbs than ever before. And believe it or not, I actually enjoy lower-body strength training now. Who knew!?
Nutrition
I hated thinking about nutrition. Usually, I’d just take some Cliff bars with me on a long run and just eat when I felt hungry.
Oh, slightly younger Joe. You poor, dumb fool.
I learned the hard way about the importance of fueling properly during training and a race when I could barely walk after the 2021 Berlin Marathon without feeling like I’d pass out.
So when I committed myself to another ultra attempt, I told myself I’d incorporate fueling into my training. Because you really do have to practice your fueling before a race, just as you wouldn’t wear a brand new pair of running shoes on race day.
It took me a while to find an energy that I actually enjoyed eating. Now that I’ve found it, I actually look forward to fueling! So what I’m using is called Neversecond with an easy-open rip to suck down those ever essential 30 grams of carbohydrates.
I’ve become such a fan of these things that I’ve actually become an ambassador for Neversecond. So if you’re interested in giving them a shot, you can use my code RUNNINGJOEB15 for 15 percent off your order. Go check them out and let me know in the comments how it hits your stomach!
Skin care
I’m going to try and walk a fine line here between clarity and TMI. But let’s just say, my running shorts caused some not-so-pleasant chaffing in, well, the bridge between lands if, you will. I know that sounds like some Tolkien-esque fantasy realm, but trust me, it’s a very real place. And it can be paaaainful!
Body glides or vaseline did the trick, but only up to a couple of hours of running. The last thing I wanted to worry about in my ultra was chaffing. So about a week before the race, I hastily googled “best underwear for ultramarathon” and found a Reddit thread of honest-to-God runners singing the praises of (holds it up) Runderwear.
I didn’t have any issues during the race and felt completely fine afterwards. I 100 percent attribute that to my Runderwear. There’s not a chance in hell that I’ll go on a long run without a pair of these on again.
So if you’re also having some issue, uh, along the bridge between lands, your inner-thighs, wherever, then check them out. Because chaffing can force you to change up your running motion to avoid the pain and that can lead to injury and that will certainly crush your ultramarathon dreams in a heartbeat.

And those are my four keys to running your first ultramarathon. If you need proof that they actually work, then click here to watch me finish my very first ultramarathon and see how my coaching, strength training, nutrition, and yes, skin are all came together.

Running your first ultramarathon can be a wildly overwhelming commitment. How on Earth do you get yourself from just some schlub on the couch to crossing the finish line?

And when I say ‘crossing the finish line,’ I mean comfortably. I don’t want you collapsing at the end like some battered opponent from Rocky number whatever.

So today I’m going to share what I think are three keys or essentials to successfully running your first ultramarathon.

For a little context, I DNFed my first attempt back in June, made some changes, and came back in late October finishing comfortably.

And those four changes are as follows: Coaching, Strength Training, Nutrition, and for lack of a better description… Skin care.

Let’s break ‘em down, shall we?

Continue Reading →
In Essays

5 Trail Races in Europe (Instead of UTMB)

If you’re an avid trail runner, then you’ve probably heard the news about UTMB seemingly pushing out a local race in Whistler and setting up their own event. It’s led a lot of trail runners to call for a boycott of UTMB events.

For myself, I’ve already decided not to sign up for the OCC lottery and focus my next season exclusively on non-UTMB events.

Say what you will about UTMB, and people are certainly saying plenty, it was easy to find their races and plan a trip around them––doubly so if you’re coming from North America and you have no idea how to find races in Europe.

Fortunately, there are plenty of kickass races in Europe that UTMB has nothing to do with and deserve your support. I personally use ahotu.com to do my research.

And these races do need your support. A few that I would happily recommend have since been canceled. That said, many live on.

So today, I’m sharing my 5 favorite trail races in Europe that you should consider doing instead of UTMB.

In Essays

6 Life Lessons I’ve Learned From Running

Running really is a metaphor for life.

Oh, God! That sounds so cliché. Makes me wanna vom a little. But you know what? It’s true.

So much of running just sucks. 

And I don’t mean to sound like too much of a pessimist or reveal any spoilers, but so much of life kinda sucks, too! 

Most of us spend a majority of our time working for the sake of a paycheck to pay bills, student loans, rent, food –– merely to exist –– and not because we’re passionate about it. We do that for like four decades and THEN we’re free to actually live at a time in our lives when we’re probably not as healthy as we used to be.

Cool!

Running is a lot like that. Except fortunately, the payoff doesn’t take four decades to get to.

So here are 6 life lessons I’ve learned since becoming a runner over a decade ago.

Continue Reading →
In Essays/ Travel

The Worst Thing About Travel (and How To Avoid It)

Travel is a wildly privileged thing to do. But just because it’s a privilege to travel doesn’t mean it’s all rainbows and unicorns.

We all have travel horror stories and things we hate about travel, even if our Instagram captions beg to differ. #blessed

But what I hate most about travel has very little to do with the one-off horror story, the mundanity of waiting at an airport, or praying to your deity of choice that you can find a bathroom before your body ejects the local specialty your body’s still adjusting to.

No, no. Because when I think of travel, I’m thinking even more broadly, like going across town to try out a new restaurant as well as landing in faraway places.

And no matter where I go, the disappointment is always the same.

Continue Reading →
In Essays

Inside German Immigration (Visas, Residency, and Anmeldung)

Few experiences in my life have been as dreadful and anxiety riddled as dealing with the German immigration system. I would rather get arterial surgery again than go to the freakin’ Aüslanderamt or foreigners office.

To be fair, thems was some goooood drugs, I got!

But if you want to live in Germany, it’s a necessary evil… Like listening to your co-worker talk about how their weekend was.

So in this video, I’m going to share my immigration experience from getting my initial visa at the German consulate in Chicago to getting my Aufenthaltstitel residency; my Blue Card; and finally last year; my Niederlassungserlaubnis, or permanent residency.

Stick around for the end and I’ll share a little update on citizenship.

Continue Reading →
In Essays

How I View Europe As An American After Six Years

Ah, Europe… A continent of rich cultures connected by train, full of people with honest-to-God vacation days they can use to enjoy it all.

At least, that’s what I thought when I moved here from the United States over six years ago.

So is any of that true or was I just hallucinating from a massive dose of “the grass is greener” complex?

Inspired by a video from Eva Zu Beck on how she sees the US as a European after six months in the country, I thought I could share how I see Europe as an American after six years of living in Germany.

Continue Reading →
In Essays/ Europe/ Food

Kukkolaforsen: Exploring Swedish Fishing Culture

Kukkolaforsen

It’s the first sunny morning of my trip to Swedish Lapland. This time I’m with Inger, who’s driving me back to the Tornio River that etches out the border between Sweden and Finland. Her English is so-so, the kind where sometimes I ask “either or” type questions and she responds, “Yes, mhmm” without elaborating. Having struggled with languages myself, I know that move.

But she’s sweet, pulling over on the highway at one point to show me Instagram photos taken by, I want to say, a local photographer. As we near the Finnish border, she asks me if I’ve ever been to Finland. When I say that I have not, she makes the executive decision to drive me over the border and back around the next roundabout where you can see IKEA welcoming travelers into Sweden.

“Now you’ve been to Finland,” she smiles.

Continue Reading →