Have you heard about the annual Hardrock 100 in Silverton, CO? It’s considered to be America’s toughest ultra run, so tough that hardened ultra-runners are seen using poles like those used to hike in Europe.
The Hardrock 100 reads like mountain climbing. It boasts an elevation change of nearly 68,000 feet. The climb, and the descent, are 33,992, and that’s almost 5,000 feet more than if you were to run from sea level to the top of Mt. Everest (29,029 feet). If that weren’t enough, the course sits at an average elevation of 11,186 feet above sea level making breathing hard—a slight predicament, considering the very nature of running. Not to mention that the race must be completed in 48 hours, or less, regardless of weather conditions, and a snowstorm at 14,000 feet is a normal occurrence.
It goes without saying that running such race takes a different type of persona and approach.
Take Greg Salvesen, an Astronomy Graduate Student at the University of Colorado Boulder and fully sane on paper, who has run his fair share of ultra marathons. He ran 12 in the past year, including the inaugural Infinitus.
Infinitus is a mere 888 kilometers, a 550-mile ultra-ultra in Vermont with a 10-day, 240-hour cutoff – and the only race of its kind in the United States. The elevation gain is 88,000 feet – equivalent to running from sea level to the top of Mount Everest three times – if you can finish it.
There were 10 experienced ultra runners when the 2015 Infinitus started, and just one who made it all the way: Greg Salvesen.
Greg says preparation is key, and during runs, management of nutrition, hydration and protection of your feet. He credits how he cares for his feet with allowing him to finish again, and again, and again.
The number one reason runners didn’t finish Infinitus, or any race for that matter, is their feet.
Greg didn’t wait for pain to happen. Running, finishing and winning Infinitus in less than 9 days, Greg changed his socks a whopping 48 times, and he went through stick after stick of the biggest sticks of Body Glide balm at the rate of one every day. He had used many, many more during training.
Here are a few of Greg’s tips to keep your feet well cared for pre and during run:
Keep Your Feet Dry
Sweaty feet, sooner or later, will lead to hot spots, blisters and raw skin. Before you put on your socks or shoes, clean your feet with a baby wipe and dry them thoroughly. Avoid cotton socks as they hold-on to moisture, so use moisture-wicking socks. As extra precaution, turn your sock inside out and apply an anti chafing lubricant directly on the fabric, spreading it heavily on seams.
Apply Anti Chafing Lubricant Before You Run
Very generously coat your feet with an anti chafing lubricant such as Body Glide, Greg’s go to choice. He uses his thumbnail to scrape and place chunks precisely on the bottom of his toes, heel and pad of the foot. (Some runners use Body Glide Skin, an anti chafing cream that applies easily to hard-to-reach places.)
The Top of Your Foot Needs TLC Too
Most often, blisters form on the bottom of the foot, but the heel and top of the foot are equally prone to painful chafing that leads to raw skin. Anti chafing lubricant should also be applied liberally in those areas, on top of your toes, and around the ankles.
Treat Hotspots Immediately
The moment you feel a slight burning sensation on the bottom (or anywhere) of your feet while running, stop and re-apply your anti chafing lubricant. Applying your anti chafing lubricant during your run will take less than a minute and will save you the dreaded post-run shower agony and possibly days of pain and recovery. You’ll thank yourself later.
For Greg, who has won his share of ultras, including the 550-mile Infinitus, the Hardrock 100 is one of the roughest races he’s ever run, finishing in a notable 42 hours and 14 minute, 77th out of 123, and quite a success in our book, achieved through proper foot care and a (small) dose of insanity. Congratulations, Greg!
Feature photo: ©Chris Gerber
All other photos: ©Silke Koester