Thursday, October 27, 2011

Best Advice for 50-Mile Chicago Ultra: 'Don't Do It,' Says Gottlieb Running Coach on his 4th Race

MELROSE PARK, Ill. -- Gummy worms, marshmallows, cupcakes and orange soda sound like kids’ ideal Halloween party fare, but it actually is part of Benny Garcia’s special diet for a short, special time. Garcia, who has a master’s degree in exercise physiology and is a running coach at Gottlieb Center for Fitness, is training for the Ultra – the 50-mile or 50K race along Chicago’s lakefront, which will be held this year at 6:30 a.m., Saturday, Oct. 29.

“Three days before the Ultra, I start eating sandwiches made from half-a-loaf of Italian bread with stacks of deli meat because I need the carbs and the salt,” said Garcia, who is 5-foot-9 and 165 pounds. “I eat sugared cereal with marshmallows for breakfast and snack during the day with more sugary sweets to get quick energy.”  Garcia, 30, usually eats a strict diet of lean meats, plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains and a very limited amount of refined carbohydrates and sugar.

This is the fourth year that Garcia will run the Chicago Ultra and he expects the race to take him about 8 hours to complete.

“My personal record is just over 7 hours, but I don’t expect to beat that because I started training late for the Ultra,” he said. But he’s no slacker; Garcia was training for a 24-hour run in San Francisco earlier this fall that was canceled the day before the race.

“I still enjoyed sightseeing in San Francisco,” Garcia said. “But I was focusing my training on running continuously for a very long time – the Ultra is a sprint compared to a 24-hour race."

Garcia’s best tip for the Ultra?  “Don’t do it,” he said, jokingly. “Seriously, no one should run this race. There are only a handful of people like me, who are constantly challenging themselves to run longer and longer.” The Chicago Ultra limits the race to 100 participants and they often do not reach even that number. The Chicago Marathon accepts 45,000 entrants and always reaches the limit.

“I don’t even give advice or tips for the Ultra because you really have to know yourself and your running style and everyone is different,” he said. Garcia specializes in coaching runners individually at Loyola University Health System’s Gottlieb Center for Fitness in Melrose Park. He also leads a running club September through April.

“I have coached many of my runners who have participated in marathons – in Chicago and even Hawaii  – but only one of my clients was capable of the Ultra and he opted for the 50K rather than the 50-mile,” he said.

Garcia’s Personal Strategy for the Ultra:

  • Maintain correct running posture – “Chin up, chest out, abs in and arms at a 90-degree angle at all times."
  • Fuel every 5 miles. “I discovered orange soda gives me a quick energy burst, so do marshmallows, gummy worms and pastries."
  • Maintain a brisk 9-minute per mile pace. “The Chicago Ultra is actually a continuously fast race and there’s no holding back; I even sprint at the end."

Chicago Reward for a Chicago Race

Garcia has a special ritual for celebrating his successful completion of the Chicago Ultra. “I eat a Chicago-style stuffed pizza,” Garcia said. “It’s a treat that I allow myself only twice a year.”

About Loyola University Health System

Loyola University Health System (LUHS) is part of Trinity Health. Based in the western suburbs of Chicago, LUHS is a quaternary care system with a 61-acre main medical center campus, the 36-acre Gottlieb Memorial Hospital campus and more than 30 primary and specialty care facilities in Cook, Will and DuPage counties. Loyola University Medical Center’s campus is conveniently located in Maywood, 13 miles west of Chicago’s Loop and 8 miles east of Oak Brook, Ill. At the heart of the medical center campus is a 559-licensed-bed hospital that houses a Level 1 Trauma Center, a Burn Center and the Ronald McDonald® Children's Hospital of Loyola University Medical Center. Also on campus are the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, Loyola Outpatient Center, Center for Heart & Vascular Medicine and Loyola Oral Health Center as well as Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, Loyola University Chicago Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing and the Loyola Center for Fitness. Loyola's Gottlieb campus in Melrose Park includes the 255-licensed-bed community hospital, the Professional Office Building housing 150 private practice clinics, the Adult Day Care, the Gottlieb Center for Fitness, Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery and Bariatric Care and the Loyola Cancer Care & Research at the Marjorie G. Weinberg Cancer Center at Melrose Park.

Trinity Health is a national Catholic health system with an enduring legacy and a steadfast mission to be a transforming and healing presence within the communities we serve. Trinity is committed to being a people-centered health care system that enables better health, better care and lower costs. Trinity Health has 88 hospitals and hundreds of continuing care facilities, home care agencies and outpatient centers in 21 states and 119,000 employees.