Writings from a Portland, OR running coach for runners everywhere.
SLOWING IT DOWN FOR SUCCESS
On April 4 I ran across Zion National Park, west to east on the route known as the Zion Traverse with my trusted adventure partner, Heather. A trail closure in place meant the 50-mile route was for us a 37-mile route, still crossing much of the park but skipping the southeast corner. The route is a classic backpacking route and has some fast FKTs by elite runners, but we were just going for a full day being out in a beautiful place. Yet even though speed wasn’t the goal, in looking back the biggest take away was the value of SLOWING DOWN.
Coming from our PNW winter to a 7am start that only required short sleeves was NOT what I expected. It was projected to be 80 degrees which may well have been 1,000 degrees in how it felt by the time the sun was fully up. The route is also mostly around 7,500 feet and the first miles include deep sand. The point here is, however fast I THOUGHT WE COULD RUN was useless.
I knew the first few miles were relatively flat through the Hop Valley and was hoping for a certain pace. Much of the time we were double my dreamed up pace. It was ABSOLUTELY the right pace to go since running through deep sand sucks energy like a good vacuum, so hiking it was. It was gorgeous and no one was waiting for us but it was hard for me not to feel antsy that we should be going faster.
Then there was a section of slick rock with no apparent route markers. Thank you to digital navigation to make it easy to find the way, but again, not so fast moving for yet another section. Again, slow it down, don’t get lost, patience.
Then up on a plateau and the terrain flattens. Although I was carrying 4 liters of water (ouch, so heavy) I knew we would need more later, so again, slowing it down I put snow from the small piles left in the trees in my handheld. I think this saved my day in that I was able to keep cool by having ice in hand for hours at a time and also drinking ice water was a dream in that heat. This also allowed me to share water with Heather keeping us both moving well. But every stop for snow was another slow down.
With about 7 miles to go, the trail is mostly downhill. It is also the most gorgeous part of the route with big walls, amazing formations and awe inspiring vistas. Turns out, that my estimation of time for the route was almost exact. I figured 10 hours would be fastest possible. 12 hours would be realistic. We finished in 11:50. Turns out going slow was the key to success as was a great run partner, snow patches, thousands of calories of sugar, and patience.
I get this question about once a week, always from women. My answer for women, is NO. I say no every time because the question usually is asked with the subtext of, can I skip this meal and get away with it, cutting calories in an attempt to control my weight. While hitting race weight (whatever that is) is great, having the energy to run healthy is even better. The answer for men is more nuanced and boils down to, if it works for you and only on low-intensity efforts.
Here is a good article this topic that explores the gender differences and nuance, but basically, for women, fasted workouts can lead to low energy availability and a rise in cortisol, a hormone to which women are more sensitive. Consistent fasted workouts can lead to fatigue, weight gain and bone stress injuries. Seriously, I know that elite athlete you follow or your one Facebook friend may swear by it, but for most women, this is not going to help your performance.
So here are ideas for yummy snacks to eat pre-run, even early in the morning. 150-200 calories is fine, you don't need a giant brunch at 5am!
“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” -Chinese proverb
"The best time to start training for your 100 mile race is a few months ago. The second best time is now." - Portland area running coach :)
If you are training for a spring 100 miler and you are not sure when to start training, the time is now. If you are training for a fall race, like Mountain Lakes 100, the time is now. If checking off the 100 mile distance is on your list, the time for training is now.
A 100 mile race is a long one and there are some experiences I like all first time 100 mile runners to have before starting their race. So before stressing out over all the miles you will run, or worrying about a training plan, check out these 4 considerations to start working on TODAY.
A SOLID BASE FOR GETTING STARTED
I generally don't start training someone for a 100 mile race until they are running healthy at least 4x per week and at least 1 hour per run. This is minimum. If you aren't there and you are facing down a big goal, you need to figure out how to get to this starting point. (I know a good coach you could contact!) For runners coming off an injury this can be tougher than it seems. Early season is not a time to run injured or skip going to the PT. For runners lacking motivation, if you can't get in 4 solid runs a week, it is time to revisit your WHY.
A STRONG WHY
I have coached athletes with their WHY ranging from, "because I can't stop thinking about this adventure", to "I want to show my kids what is possible" and everything in between. What I have learned in years of listening to the WHY of racing, it is that the WHY doesn't need to make sense to me or anyone but the person racing. For example, raising money for charity is a great motivator for some. For many, this is a strong why. In reality, it is a socially acceptable why. You spend hours and hours running, might as well make it useful, right? But running for a cause is not enough for some. The WHY of, "I can't get it out of my head and I am determined", can be just as strong, even if it doesn't present as socially helpful to others. Don't lose confidence with your WHY, it doesn't have to ring true for anyone but you.
A FEW GREAT REASONS FOR CONFIDENCE
Every single successful first time 100 mile racer I have coached had NO FALSE CONFIDENCE, yet, felt confident they could train, felt confident they could push themselves and felt confident they would not quit. Not one felt certain that the 100 miles was a given. Confidence came from miles run and races completed. Success training for a 50 miler and success at that distance is a reason for confidence. A 30 mile solo mountain run in poor conditions is a reason for confidence. Write down your concrete reasons for confidence and if you don't have 4-7 reasons, it is time to start building up confidence in the mountains, on hard runs or in looking back at hard work in training logs. Where your mind goes, your body will follow, make sure your mind is confident to enough to lead your battered body when it doesn't want to go.
A REAL BUTT KICKING
Most successful first time 100 mile racers have had at least one day out running or one race that was just plain awful, terrible, no good. They had the bad day, learned the lessons and lived to run another day. This could be a race that starts well but ends in near panic attack, but you finish, or a run that should take 4 hours takes 8 without enough nutrition, but you finish and you are fine, and that is the important part. Knowing that you can push through a terrible day and be ok on the other side as well as able to learn something is key. Knowing you can finish way slower than you planned and your friends and family still think you are a super human is key. You can't do this when every day goes smoothly. It is harder to plan a butt kicking day, but the more experiences you provide yourself, the more opportunities that one will not go as planned.
Time to start making experiences, running consistently and building up confidence for your race. Once you have these in place, time to get your training started. Don't look back in two months wishing your seeds were planted.
Last weekend in Portland, OR was cold and wet. I know there are a LOT colder places than Portland, OR out there, but here we have a special consideration, RAIN! I would 1 million percent prefer 20 degrees and dry to 34 degrees and steady rain. For those 2 hour plus runs it is pretty tough to stay dry and being wet does nothing to help you stay warm.
I see 3 things go sideways for my athletes on very wet winter runs.
These 3 things are an issue because:
When heading out into the cold rain the next few months, here are 3 items to consider carrying with you. Yes, even if you are going in your local park. If you will be wet in the cold for more than 90 minutes please pack:
While stripping down to your skin in a crowded trailhead may not be everyone's bag, getting the cold and wet clothes away from your body as fast as you can will help with warming. Even with heat blasting and seat warmers on high, the cold clothes are keeping you cold at your core. Change if you dare and you will feel better faster. If I see you ducking awkwardly behind your backseat at the trailhead I promise to look away and never speak of it! :)
Stay warm out there!
I asked athletes in Strength Training for Runners to tell me their 2021 goals. I captured some in the video above, but in case you are curious about the goals of the full Wednesday night crew, check them out:
I talk about goals a LOT. Race goals, training goals, fueling goals. It is the time of year when people make goals, and while I encourage ALL THE GOALS, I want to encourage ACTION in tandem. I challenge you to setting ACTION for 2021. If goals are a way of looking forward to what you want, an action is what you are doing right now. Your actions say a lot about you.
Goal: Run more consistently in 2021.
Action: Make plans to meet a running partner for aerobic long runs every Saturday.
Goal: Fuel better on runs.
Action: Purchase 3 different types of fuels to test on runs.
Setting the goal is easy, but empty. Unless there is action, there is no movement towards your goal.
This year my goal is to spend at least 40 days sleeping outside and to not let every day be like every other day (skipping holidays or letting days off get filled with work). My action is spending New Years Eve camped out, somewhere with no cell service. Goal set. Action planned. Obviously, one night outside will not get me to my overall goal but I can live AND ENJOY this one day independently of reaching my goal or not.
Want help setting an action plan for next year? Get in touch and I would love to hear from you.
Last week I attended a cross country ski clinic. While I can ski and get myself places I love learning and I figured learning from coaches in different sports always helps me learn something about my own coaching practice.
While I learned that the correct body position in classic skiing is TOUGH and I have a lifetime of learning ahead of me, there was one particular coaching tip that I learned that isn't just helpful in skiing but in life.
In cross country skiing you want to your weight forward, your hands in front of you and hips especially forward putting you into a challenging position for balance and something your brain fights against. Leaning too far back or keeping your hips back or hands cattywampus will often result in a fall backwards, onto your butt. A fall backwards means you were in a weak starting position, in bad posture, and not starting from a position of learning/trying.
A fall forward means you are starting in the correct position and leaning into the strong posture you need but you just lost balance. A huge difference. It is great to fall forward because that means you are starting in a power position, stretching your skills and going outside your comfort zone. A pretty good life lesson.
This week when my website had the incorrect link and early morning athletes couldn't log into the workout, I thought, was this me falling forward or falling backwards? I am trying a new business model moving from mostly individual coaching to group classes and a subscription model. I hope I am falling forward. Falling forward, I am outside my comfort zone as my own webmaster and I am messing up while trying to learn from mistakes and make things better.
Going into the New Year, I hope to stay mostly upright, but I can only hope my falls are forward.
Cheers to all of you falling forward. Trying hard from a position of strength is the goal and perfection is overrated!
The final in the gift series, this is a list of presents for your runner friends that encourage their running and are low or no cost.
1-SOUP. Since everyone is super sick of their own home cooking, a wonderful gift that everyone will appreciate is a homemade soup. Carrot soup recipe here.
2-BANDS. All runners should have a set of bands for strengthening hips and warming up their glutes. I like this brand.
3-ROUTE IDEAS. You know that awesome run you did last summer that was unforgettable. I bet you know someone who would like to do it if they had the intel. Write up a route, give maps, even go as far as giving ideas for treats after at local coffee shops.
4-DONUT DROP. Sometimes good health is a splurge we wouldn't get ourselves. Buy some treats, package them nicely and drop them at the doors of your friends, no one is going to be bummed after a surprise treat!
5-BIKE SUPPORT. Nothing sucks more than riding your bike slowly in the cold. It is freezing. But, do it for a few hours to pace a friend running longer than you can run right now and give some socially distanced support.
6-SQUATS. Get a friend to join you for a Wednesday night workout. You can pin their screen and feel like you are working out with a friend while they can join a new workout without feeling intimidated.
The second blog post in my giving gifts series, this post gives you ideas for movies that pair well with something fun to do with friends over Zoom, with your quarantine bubble or as a personal challenge. Offer these up as gifts, mail someone some ingredients and pairing suggestion and you are both thoughtful and amazing.
1- Movie- Funke. "Passion is not the word. I am fucking maniacal about pasta." I think this guy thinks about pasta like ultra runners think about running.
Preview here. When you are finished, get inspired to make your own pasta. Buy some semolina flour and get to it. I used the Bob's Red Mill recipe on the side of the bag and it worked great.
2-Movie- The Speed Cubers. Imagine that your hands can move so fast that you can solve a Rubik's cube in 7 seconds. To me that is like imagining winning the Boston Marathon or the Western States 100. Here is another movie with people super passionate about their hobby. Preview here. When you are finished, pair with a game of speed scrabble, try to set an FKT on a 500 piece puzzle or dust off that Rubik's cube and remember, comparison is the thief of joy.
3-Movie- Free Solo. You may have seen it, but this is a pandemic people. Gather up the popcorn and even though you know what happens, watch with amazement and wonder. This feels like a human achievement beyond comprehension. When you are finished, pair with either a Zoom call with your most adventure-ey of adventure friends and plan something great in the near future OR just start doing push ups, pull ups and searching for a van.
I am always amazed at how many people aren't listening to podcasts. There are thousands of hours of free content out there for your listening pleasure. Nerdy science stuff, fiction stories, news, economics, anything. If you are a podcast listener, here is a gift to you in the form of 5 podcasts that you should listen to right now (and then subscribe and keep listening!)
1- This one is a great one for on a run. Man Against Horse, Radio Lab
2- My Body is Not an Apology, Brene Brown, Unlocking Us, is probably more of a good listen for a walk, or a drive, but WELL worth a listen, for both men and women.
3-The Outside podcast has quite a few good ones. This is the one that got me hooked. This one got me obsessed again. Both great for listening on a run.
4-Dirty John. If you want to get into the true crime style of podcasts but hearing about murders on your solo runs in the dark is just a dumb, scary idea, here is one where you aren't scared of someone jumping out at you but you really want to know what happens.
5- This one is relaxing, his voice is a meditation and nothing brings a smile to the face like a well written review of Dr. Pepper or Viral Menengitis on a 5 star scale. Start back at the beginning as this one is no longer being produced, get on your foam roller have some down time.
For all women 45+, this one is a true gift. ALL of the episodes are AMAZING.
Share your podcast faves in the comments.