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Running with Cougars and Black Bears

Early this morning I got this text from one of our athletes “… I got out to the mountains and it is dark as FUCK out here and POURING and I do not feel ok running all by my lonesome, because a bear will 100% eat me.” GIRRRRRRL! I feel your pain! With shorter days, longer nights, and winter weather rolling in, morning trail runs are starting to feel a bit sketchy, to say the least.

Even here in Oregon where there has never been a recorded Cougar attack in the wild, the thought of a big cat stalking you as the sun rises is enough to make the hair on your neck stand up while your focus slowly drifts away from your hill workout and towards stone age survival instincts.

Realistically, you shouldn’t be too worried. Statistically speaking you’re more likely to get hit by a car or mugged by a drug addict than assaulted by a bear or jumped by a cougar in the wild, still, it can happen and has happened. Pretending like you’ve got absolutely nothing to worry about won’t make the possibility go away.

It is highly unlikely that you’ll ever see a cougar. A cougar may have seen you, but sightings are rare and encounters even more so. Bears, on the other hand, are seen fairly often, especially here in Southern Oregon. I swear we have more Bears in Ashland than raccoons! They’re fairly common on the trails here, we even had one in our driveway last week. So what do you do to keep yourself safe while hitting the trails in Black Bear and Cougar country? And what do you do if you ever face an encounter?  

When you’re running in Black Bear and Cougar country be sure to be cautious at dawn and dusk when these animals are most active. Contrary to suggestions I’ve seen in publications like Trail Runner Magazine, DO NOT wear headphones on the trail or in wild places. It’s important to be aware of your surroundings. Stay alert and look up trail often. Glance around as well (while paying attention to your footing) and be cognizant of what’s above you if you’re approaching ledges. If you stop to rest, sit, or tie your shoe, be especially alert. Never stop and turn your back to a heavily wooded area. Be sure to make noise to alert wildlife so that you don’t come around a bend surprise a Bear or Cougar. When I start getting nervous I like to clap my hands to let the noise echo through the woods so that my presence is known.

If you do encounter a Black Bear or Cougar, remain calm. Give them space and back away slowly. Whatever you do, do not run, as running can trigger the animal’s instinct to give chase. Use your coat or pack to make yourself appear as large as possible and speak in a low and firm voice as you back away. Never turn your back on a Cougar or Black Bear. Face the animal, stay calm, back away slowly, and give them a way to escape.

In the unlikely event that you’re attacked by either a Black Bear or Cougar, you will need to fight back; you will be fighting for your life! Use your fists, rocks, sticks and anything else that is available to you. In the majority of recorded attacks, people have been able to fight the animals off and survive.

I’m not sharing these tips to scare you, but it is important to be aware of the risks you’re taking in the back country. Often times in life, the risks we take are well worth the rewards, so long as you’re aware of the the possible consequences associated with the choices you’re making.

The bears I’ve come across have been extremely skittish, even with cubs. And the chances of being attacked by a Cougar? Well, according to the Bay Area Puma Project, you’re 150 X more likely to be killed by hitting a deer with your car, 300 X more likely to be killed by a domestic dog, 500 X more likely to die drowning in your own bathtub, and 7,000 X more likely to die in a car crash!  It is literally more dangerous to walk down the street at night in any US city than it is to hit the trails in Cougar country.

Don’t be afraid, just be aware!

For more information about Mountain Lions and Puma FAQs visit this website.

Find more information about Bears here.

 

A Week With The Best: Keith Laverty

Today on A Week With The Best we have Keith Laverty! Keith is a Northwest native and Mountain/Ultra/Trail (+road!) runner for Seattle Running Club-Brooks team, Team 7 Hills, and Hüma Gel. Every single time I show up to a race thinking I may have a chance to win it and spot Keith in the distance warming up, my new goal becomes to hang with him as long as I can before he drops me. No joke. This recently happened at Beacon Rock 25K where he took the course record and put 7 minutes on me throughout the race!

Keith has won over 45 trail races in the Pacific Northwest (WA, OR, BC) including the competitive Gorge Waterfalls 50k. Recent highlights include 8th at 2015 U.S. Trail Half Championships, 11th at 2016 Lake Sonoma 50-miler in 7:13, 9th at 2017 Chuckanut 50k in 4:03, and 2nd at 2017 Mt. Hood 50k in a blistering 3:22. On the roads, he’s run 32:13 for 10k and 1:11:09 for the Half-Marathon. He’s also a former walk-on runner at University of Oregon, but ask him what it’s like to be a pro and he’ll respond with “I’m certainly not a true pro runner.” There are only a few things that outshine his race results: his genuine, down to earth attitude, his love for his family, and his humble demeanor.

Thanks for joining us, Keith!

How did you start running?

My parents convinced me to check out the track team during my sophomore year at Woodinville High School, after I had run the school’s fastest 1.5-mile course for P.E. At the time, I had convinced myself that soccer was my best sport but alas, here we are!

What has been your biggest obstacle as a runner?

Lately, my biggest challenges have been: 1. Learning to reign back my racing schedule for career longevity, and 2. Prioritizing/balancing my training regimen while still being a new father, husband, and supporting my family. Being there for my family comes first and foremost, before my training wants/desires, so both my wife and I have really learned how to balance our lifestyles to still pursue our running goals while at the same time, being there for our families and our new little mountain baby, little Luke.

As far as my racing schedule, I pretty much want to do everything under the sun including trail and road events. These days, there’s just too many great opportunities to choose from, but it’s also key to maintain a stable racing schedule (in both # of events and volume of those events) as my longest term goal is to stay competitive well into my Masters division years.

You’re a pro, but do you work work as well? If so, what do you do for a living?

Ironically, as someone who spends a lot of my spare time being outside and running, I work in the gaming industry as a QA Project Lead, to help publish and maintain gaming apps on iOS and Android platforms for EA (Electronic Arts). I have found this has struck a good balance however and my job allows me to keep a consistent training schedule in addition to being a run commuter. Yes, my office does have a shower and locker room, so this makes life much easier! I technically have 4 different run sessions on a typical weekday – 3 commuter runs and 1 main training run/workout.

What is your favorite workout?

A hilly fartlek consisting of 5,4,3,2,1,4,3,2,1,3,2,1,2,1,1 minutes on with usually 1 minute jog rest in between. I like that it is broken up into so many chunks, varying between a tempo pace or to 1 minute speedy interval. This workout encompasses a lot of different systems of tempo work, hills, speed, and strength.

Favorite Shoes?

The Brooks Mazama 2 (releasing this December). Crazy grippy, lightweight and comfortable. They feel FAST.

 

Dogs or Cats?

I grew up with several dogs and cats at the same time – tough one! Dogs can be great running companions but with cats being mostly self-sufficient at home, that can make things logistically easier.

Describe and days general diet for you:

I love just about all food and always willing to try new ones.

Breakfast – Oatmeal w/ peanut butter, berries and honey. Cereal. Latte or americano.

Lunch – Turkey and avocado sandwiches, chicken teriyaki or leftovers.

Late afternoon snack (this one is key, otherwise my afternoon/night session will suffer!) – Trail mix, tangerines, Huma Gel or bars.

Dinner – Usually whatever my amazing wife cooks up. Lately, it’s been Mexi bowls with black beans, rice, onions, mushrooms, avocado and chicken or tofu.

Dessert / Midnight Snacks, if baby Luke wakes us up – Rice Krispies with berries or Pop Tarts.

An example of a week from your training log from the past few months:

(Two weeks before Mt. Hood 50k)

Mon –  4 miles easy/recovery day after a high volume weekend

Tue –   6 miles bike commuting

             7 mile hilly training run with baby stroller + strides

Wed –  6 miles run commuting

            Wednesday Workout: 3 long hill repeats + 2 x 1000, 2 x 800, 2 x 400, 2 x 200 on the                track (7 miles total)

Thu –  3 miles run commuting

            7-8 mile training run

Fri –    7 miles easy; typically my 2nd easiest day of the week

Sat –  16 mile hilly long run (mix of trail/road) with last mile cutdown in under 6 minutes

Sun – 7.5 mile road training run with a few pick-ups / strides

Do you have any tips for new runners or runner striving to reach bigger goals?

Remember to keep it fun! Even when you’re in the middle of a big training block, or during a race, remember why you love running in the first place. For example, I like to incorporate one group run each week (Bainbridge Island Weekly Beer Run!) even during big training blocks to keep things relaxed and fun. Or during tough sections of a race, I’ll remind myself to smile and being thankful for being healthy, injury-free and able to explore the trails that I’m on.

Finally, don’t underestimate the importance of self-care. Go to those PT appointments, get chiropractic adjustments, get occasional massages, and use a foam roller regularly.

 

 

Thanks for your insight, Keith! Keep kicking ass!

 

If you or someone you know is a pro who would like to be featured on A Week With The Best, shoot me an email at: upperleftdt@gmail.com

 

 

Common Questions From New Runners

As a coaches we get quite a few training questions from new and experienced runners alike, but some questions we get more often than others, so Alicia and I have picked seven common questions we get regularly and answered them below. We hope this helps you in your journey to awesomeness!

  1. How important is my pace?

It’s not important! Well, let me rephrase that: how fast you’re going is not important when you’re a new runner. When you’re first starting out most, if not ALL, of your runs should be at an easy pace. Very easy. That pace will vary each day based on how you’re feeling which is impacted not only by training, but personal and work life/stress as well. Don’t get caught up in specific paces or the pings and chimes of your GPS watch and Strava account as a new runner. There will plenty of time for fast, specific running later in your career, but it has it’s place. Learn to run easy by perceived effort and most importantly: enjoy it!

  1. What shoes should I wear ?

I’m not going to get into the scientific validity of “corrective features” in running shoes, or lack thereof, ain’t nobody got time fo that! Go to your local running store, try on as many shoes as you can, and choose what feels comfortable to you. Don’t let anyone sell you a shoe or insert because they say you’re an “overpronator”.  We ALL pronate to some degree, it’s natural movement and it’s part of the body’s amazing shock absorption process. It’s best to leave the medical diagnosis to MDs and PTs, not to a retail sales associate. When choosing a shoe, I personally like to keep a finger nail’s width of space between my longest toe and the front of the shoe, but that’s my preference. Choose a shoe that feels good to you, however it fits.

  1. Is my form ok? What about foot strike?

Please put down “Born To Run” and forget about footstrike. Our bodies self select what works best for us in that regard and altering it in an unnatural way can result in injury. What you should be more concerned about is your overall form and posture. Follow my tips on form here and remember that with practice, patience and awareness you will start to have better form, but it takes time, and continual work.

  1. What should I eat or drink during my run?

Practice! Practice, practice, practice. The gut is a trainable organ, so you must experiment and practice with eating and drinking on the run to train it. Just keep in mind, no matter how much you try, certain things will not agree with certain people. I have plenty of friends and athletes who can eat PBJ on the run, but if I do that, it will ruin my entire day. Finding out what works for you on the run takes a fair amount of trial and error and possibly one or two lost socks, but it’s essential in your success, especially if you plan on running races that are marathon distance or greater.

  1. What should I eat after my run?

We burn roughly 100 calories (give or take) per mile depending on weight, speed, age, and sex. Now, if our initial goal is weight loss, we may not want to replace all of those calories, but we do want to give our bodies adequate nutrients to repair the damage we’ve done. As training volume and hard workouts increase, we want to aim to replace the glycogen we deplete and aid the muscles in the repair and recovery process. I’m not going to get deep into sports nutrition in this post, but a good rule of thumb is to eat something heavy in carbohydrate within 30 minutes of your run and to eat a balanced meal (protein, fats, and carbs) within 2 hours of finishing. Put good in, get good out. 

  1. What if I miss a day?

Don’t sweat it! These things happen. A missed day now and then is often a blessing in disguise as it gives your body a chance to do a little extra recovering and healing. Where you get into trouble is when you start letting this become a habit: you skip a week because you were on vacation, and then two days when you get back because work was crazy, and the following week you slept in twice… Eventually you can’t maintain the volume planned in your training and you’re forced to adjust your goals.  Becoming a better runner involves a ton of consistency and zero excuses.

Also, keep in mind that training for the marathon distance and above takes a considerable amount of dedication as well as the sacrifice of many social pleasures (I think Seb Coe said that). You need to be honest with yourself when you choose to take on the challenge. There’s nothing wrong with training for Half Marathons or 5Ks! 

  1. How can I get faster?

Patience. The whole first year of running should be mainly easy running with some hills and possibly fartlek. With time and consistency you will naturally become more efficient, stronger, and better at processing oxygen, resulting in faster easy days and many PRs. Be patient, be consistent, and enjoy the run! The rest will come.

 

Do you have questions we didn’t answer here? Feel free to shoot me an email at: upperleftdt@gmail.com 

A Week With The Best: Jacob Puzey

Wow! It’s been a while since we posted one of these! This blog really fell by the wayside with our recent relocation to Ashland. Sorry about the delay here, Jacob! This evening we’ve got Jacob Puzey. Jacob is a lifelong runner, coach, race director, and writer. Despite a slow early start to running, Jacob gradually improved over time and has since won national titles in cross country and on the roads and set a world record of 50 Miles on the treadmill at an average pace of 5:56.  Jacob coaches athletes from all over the world, of all ages and abilities – from newbies to national champions – to help them achieve their running goals.  

How did you start running?

I started running in middle school to get in shape for basketball.   

What has been your biggest obstacle as a runner?

I was uncoordinated.  I was weak.  I couldn’t run upright.  I was awkward – 4’11”, 85 pounds, and size 13 feet.  I wanted to be better, but my body felt like it was getting in the way.

You’re a pro, but do you work work as well? If so, what do you do for a living?

I coach athletes from all over the world and help my wife, Amy, direct a national trail running series throughout Canada.

What is your favorite workout?

Georgetown 400s – A cruise interval workout with a high volume of 400 meter intervals with minimal recovery at a good clip.  Here is an article describing it: http://www.jacobpuzey.com/2014/07/managing-tempo-run-with-cruise.html

Describe a days general diet for you:

I try to not eat animal products before I run as they tend to take longer to digest and clog things up for me.

Morning – Herbal tea, nuts and dates or raisins, apple and nut butter, or oatmeal. I usually eat this throughout the morning as I work.  If I go for a run in the morning then my post run meal will likely be heavier and contain some animal products like eggs.

Lunch – Avacado or nut butter toast, more nuts, cucumber, etc.

I usually run in the afternoons.

Dinner – Starch (rice, potatoes, etc.), Veggies (zuccinni, spinach, kale, etc.), Protein – Steak, chicken breast, fish, etc.

An example of a week from your training log from the past few months:

Mon – Recovery day – easy run about 6 miles or OFF, YOGA, CORE

Tue – Easy day – About an hour of running often pushing a stroller or running with the dog (7-10 miles)

Wed – Workout – Usually something stamina based

Thu – Easy day – About an hour of running often pushing a stroller or running with the dog (7-10 miles)

Fri – Recovery day – easy run about 6 miles or OFF, YOGA, CORE

Sat – Long run or medium long run (90 minutes to 2 hours) + Strides

Sun – Long run or medium long run (90 minutes to 3 hours)

Do you have any tips for new runners or runners striving to reach big, scary goals?

Be patient and think long term.  Establish a strong foundation upon which you can build. It’s all about the base:  http://www.5peaks.com/news/2016/2/5/its-all-about-the-base

 

Thanks for joining us, Jacob!

If you or someone you know is an elite athlete or coach, feel free to shoot us an email @ upperleft@gmail.com to be featured on A Week With The Best.

 

5 Form Tips to Help You Move Smoother and Faster

Running is easy, that’s the beauty of it! Everyone can do it. You put on some shorts, lace up some half decent shoes and put one foot it from of the other. BADA BING! You’re on your way. While that’s true, most of us have a few bad habits, most of which have been developed from years of sitting at desks, sitting in cars, and staring at screens.

Let’s talk about 5 small tweaks to make to your running form that will pay big dividends:

  1. Run Tall – This is one of the easiest ways to focus on good running form. When you “run tall” your body is stacked in alignment with your head over your shoulders, your shoulders over your hips and your hips over your legs. When you run tall, everything else will do it’s best to align while keeping your center of mass over your feet, distributing load, and absorbing shock.
  2. Run Relaxed – So much energy and efficiency is lost when you’re tight and tense. Remember that running is as much of a passive movement as it is an active movement; we don’t want these movements to be forced or feel unnatural. Keep your body relaxed and your shoulders loose. Hold your hands as if you have empty robin egg shells in your palms and move in a smooth, fluid motion with each stride.
  3. Slight Lean – This can be hard to explain if not shown. When we talk about a slight lean, we are talking about the entire body, not just hunching the torso forward. Stand tall. Imagine you have someone standing in front of you with their hand out in the “stop!” signal.  Now lean your entire body a few inches forward into their hand as if you’re a plank. This is how you should feel when you start your run. Fall forward into your stride with your entire body.
  4. Elbows Back – We think and talk a lot about what our feet are doing, but our legs follow our arms and influence our entire stride. The best way to absorb recoil from your stride, to cue your body to remain in upright and balanced position, and to minimize rotation from your torso (which is wasted energy) is to drive your elbows back and swing your arms forward efficiently. To make sure you’re doing this try brushing your hands lightly against your waist line with every arm swing (as if you’re pulling a dollar bill out of your waist band). When you’re looking forward, you should see your hands come in and out (downward) of your peripheral vision.
  5. Increase Cadence – This one can be tricky as our bodies tend to self select things like cadence and foot strike, so use caution when correcting this one. If you’re over striding, which can lead to greater impact and breaking forces, simply try to increase your turnover and shorten your stride. There is no magic number, and while most elite runners seem to select 180 steps per minute (and most coaches suggest to aim for this) somewhere between 170 and 185 is a good goal. At the end of the day though, you should select a cadence that feels good to you.

Focus on these simple tips until they become habits and you’ll become a smoother, faster, more resilient runner.

Remember:

“Run tall, run relaxed, elbows back!”

Happy Trails!

What’s it Like to Run a Marathon?

Marathon training is no joke. It’s endless mornings of 5 a.m. alarms, otherwise, after a long day of work, you have to make time for it in the evening. You have to fully commit.

I starting thinking about running a Marathon at the beginning of the year. After a really good run, a run where I felt like I could take on the world, I signed up for North Olympic Discovery Marathon and I had about 5 months to train. The beginning of the year ended up being a tough one too. I caught a 3-4 week long head cold followed by the flu. As soon as I started feeling like myself again, I ended up getting the stomach flu. Those 5 months I thought I had to train for the Marathon turned into 3.
My training was pretty solid though. Probably about 90% ended up being on the treadmill before or after work. Having a little one at home you have to be creative…  the treadmill and I have become pretty close friends. My longest long run was 18 miles due to lack of time and needing to build up my weekly mileage safely. I was nervous about not reaching the 20 mile long run mark, I was hoping to have at least two under my belt before the Marathon, but if you can run 18 you can rally out 8 more miles, right?
The night before the Marathon my husband and I drove up to Port Angeles to stay at a Bed and Breakfast. We picked up our race packets and everything was starting to feel really real! We went to grab some Pizza (of course) and made our way back to the B&B which was about 30 minutes from the shuttle to the start. We went out for a quick 15 minute shake out, laid out our clothes and gear and laid down for bed.
Our alarms went off at 4:45 and I remember reaching over and turning off the alarm while staring at the ceiling and thinking to myself “Shit, shit, shit.” We quickly got ready, had a cup of coffee, a banana, a roll and then made our way out the door.

Driving out to the shuttle the sun was rising and the air was crisp. The forecast for the day was a high of 72 and sunny along the coast (North Olympic Discovery Marathon is a point to point course, starting at Sequim and finishing along the coast of Port Angeles). We parked at the finish and were on the very last shuttle to the start. That was the LONGEST bus ride ever, the entire time I was thinking “This is a very long way, I have to run all this way back? They must be going too far or maybe they missed a turn…”
The start was at 7 Cedars Casino in Blyn WA. It was a nice cool morning and we were able to sit in the Casino and use the restroom. They even had water and coffee for us. My nerves were high and I couldn’t eat or drink anything… I was just looking at my watch anxious to get started.

NODstart

NODstart2

I dropped my bag at the bag drop and stood with the 4:15 corral (HA! If only I knew…) Not soon after we were off! We crossed the street and started on the Olympic Discovery Trail, I felt really good and kept reminding myself that I trained for this and I was ready! The first aid station quickly came up and I ran off to use the Porta Potty (the lines were WAY too long at the start) I lost the group I was running with, but didn’t mind all that much.

NOD3

We took off running. This course was beautiful! It’s on a mostly paved trail through the Peninsula. Trees, mountain views, lakes; the last 5 miles being along the coast with ocean views. I felt really good. My pace was much slower than I had wanted, but my plan was to be very conservative in the first 13 miles, save my energy, and go back to my faster pace the last half. The first half FLEW. I looked down at my watch and said to my husband “We’re already half way done?”

NOD4

Honestly, I was a little bummed that it was half way over, I was having a blast. The weather was perfect, I was eating my gels every 50 minutes or so, drinking gatorade at every aid station, and grabbing gummy bears and oranges any chance that I could get. I was enjoying talking with volunteers and sharing all this time with my husband by my side.

NOD5

Mile 16 came and this is when I started to feel tired. I grabbed a handful of pretzels, but after popping a few in my mouth, I started gagging and decided the pretzels just were not for me. We continued to run and I realized that I never picked up my pace how I had planned which meant I wasn’t going to be near my goal time of under 4:30 (I wanted to beat Oprah!). My time goal was lax and I just wanted to go out and enjoy myself, take in the full experience, and finish the distance at that point, so that is what I focused on.

NOD6

I wasn’t able to eat anything after the mile 17-18 mile point and at mile 18 I was in unknown running territory and feeling nervous about what was to come. I knew these next 8.2 miles were going to be tough. My legs were feeling tired and my hips were feeling a little stiff, but I carried on.

NOD7

Around mile 20 I was walking pretty slowly on the uphills and taking my time at the aid stations. I was chugging along as best as I could. I just told myself “It’s only a 10K now! You did this every morning. You’ve made it 20 miles! Isn’t that crazy? You weren’t able to run three miles just a year ago. GO YOU!”  I was really trying to pump myself up; positive talk people! It works.
The final 6.2 were a kind of a blur. My legs hurt, but I discovered that they didn’t hurt any less walking than they did running. The miles just ticked along as I tried my best to focus on the current mile that I was in. “Enjoy this moment… you’ll never be able to experience this exact moment again.” I told myself over and over again. My legs were HEAVY and it took a lot of will power just to lift them up.

NOD8

The final 5 miles were along the coast. There was a headwind and it was a little chilly, but we were SO close. I asked Korey not to let me stop; to keep me going, and we continued to run. I tried stopping any time he would look away and I did get away with a few walk breaks (mostly little itty bitty hills I didn’t want to run).

NOD9

Mile 24 : “Anybody can do anything for 20 minutes…”
The miles creeped along and I heard Korey yell in front of me “You can see the finish, its so close… we’re almost there!” I looked up and yelled back “Its SO FAR AWAY” (Dramatic, I know.. but it really felt pretty far). I thought about this moment a lot during my weekly runs. How is the last mile going to feel? What about the .2? How am I going to feel? What will it be like to cross the finish line? I watched mile marker 26 pass by and knew we only had .2  to go. Less than 2 more minutes of running. We grabbed hands and took off! I heard and saw my family waiting at the finish line. It was an amazing feeling!

2017NODM_C2CM2_0622

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We were handed water and our medals. We grabbed our drop bags and made our way to the food… and someplace to finally sit down… or kinda do a weird slow fall to the ground.

I was a Marathoner. I never thought in a MILLION years that I would say those words. The entire experience was amazing. I enjoyed every moment (even the not so good ones). I did exactly what I set out to do: I had fun. Isn’t that what running is supposed to be about?

If you’re considering running a marathon, DO IT! Take the plunge.

Running Isn’t Always Fun

We here at Upper Left DT don’t like to pretend we’re a pack unicorns vomiting rainbows all over the place. While we like to have tons of fun and train hard, we leave the over the top optimism to the editors over at Trail Runner Magazine. My Instagram may tell a different story, but I’m here to tell you: running isn’t always fun! Most days it is, and should be (why else would we get up before dawn to grind out the miles?) But some days… it’s just not!

The effects of cumulative fatigue can be a factor that leads to some of those not-so-fun days. If you’re a marathoner or ultra marathoner, you’re familiar with the effects of cumulative fatigue throughout a training cycle. While multiple days of unusual lethargy, irritability and tiredness in a row can be a sign of over training (and should be treated as such) we all have days throughout our training cycle where the miles in our legs catch up to us and we feel heavy and tired. This is cumulative fatigue and it isn’t always fun! The best thing you can do on days like these is slow it down and remind yourself that you’ll be back to normal after a good meal and a solid night’s sleep, and that this too is part of the process.

Quality work is another time when the run isn’t always summertime sunshine and fresh peaches. Let’s not be ridiculous here and make it sound like everyone is going to enjoy whipping around a track at 5 a.m. at 6 minute pace; that’s not always awesome. Some of us might love charging hills and gasping for air like asthmatics, but for others, that’s the last thing we’d choose to do on an idle Tuesday. As hard as it feels most of the time, quality work is essential to improving as an athlete and those improvements will be your reward when your nail your “A” race.

That being said, race day isn’t always fun either! If you’re not competitive with yourself or your peers, then yes! Most of the time race day can be fun. If you’re a trail runner who’s simply out to enjoy the view and the social aspect of the event with the bonus of aid stations, you too can enjoy almost every race and that’s awesome! However, if you’re out to compete with yourself for a new PR, to compete with the front of the pack for the podium, or out to finish your first 26.2, chances are race day is going to be a tough day. Rewarding? Oh hell yes! There’s nothing like crossing that finish line with the feeling of euphoria from achieving a new PR, but giving it all you’ve got takes an immense amount of focus and determination, and that isn’t always “fun”.

The best rewards aren’t handed to you, you have to work hard for them. That’s a fact of running and a fact of life. While day to day running adds joy and fulfillment to our lives, it it isn’t always going to be easy, but that’s ok! Getting through the hard days makes the easy days that much sweeter and you know what? 90% of the time you’ll be out there having loads of fun and puking rainbows all over social media like the rest of us.

 

Happy Trails!

 

How Do I Start Running?

I get this question often. People see an active lifestyle and it peaks their interest. Why? Well, I think that we all want to be healthy and to live long lives with our families. We all want to look and feel good. We all want a full and rewarding life and to feel motivated when we wake up everyday, but somehow, the habit of physical activity gets broken and lost in the day to day shuffle of growing up. I’ll tell you one thing though, it’s never too late to start good habits.

My wife, Alicia, is a great example. In June of 2016 she started taking brisk walks on her lunch break with our dog. That July she decided she wanted to start running. I remember going along with her for her first non stop mile, covering the distance in about 15 minutes. Alicia’s average pace on her easy days is now 9:45 – 10:00 per mile and in 12 days she will completing her first marathon. Is that not amazing?

So how did Alicia get there?

“Commitment. You just have to get up in the morning and put your shoes on. You have to enjoy it, or at least enjoy the process. I mean, I don’t enjoy it every single day.” She admits “Some days it doesn’t feel very good, but I have goals that I want to meet and the not-so-pleasant runs don’t outweigh the good runs.”  

“It also helps to have an achievable goal and a plan to follow. I wouldn’t want to wake up in the morning after running a mile and think ‘200’s are the new thing. I’m, gonna go do that.’ You want to have a reasonable goal… I picked a half marathon. I needed to have something there to motivate me every day, but more than the goal, I enjoy the time to myself; to get ready for the day or to wind down from the day. I get an hour to myself.”

Even though Alicia gets her mileage in every day, she knows being committed to the sport isn’t always easy. “If you’re having trouble committing on your own, get involved in the running community. Go to the running store and join a group. Get a run buddy. The social aspect [of the sport] can help people a lot.”

Alicia’s story is really inspiring to me and also reminds us that the answer to the question is very simple: You have to want it. You have to want a healthier lifestyle. You have to want to get out and run each day. When it’s raining, when the wind is blowing, when the snow is coming down, you have to make a choice. Once you do that, the rest is simple.

Common Chores That Double As Cross Training

We’re all busy people and strengthening our supporting muscles is probably one of the most slacked-upon aspects I see in distance running athletes, but I get it! You’re busy, I’m busy, we’re all busy! Well, if you’re especially strapped for time, consider trying the following exercises while simultaneously knocking out common household chores that almost all of use are “required” to complete.

Bill Pay Planks – I strongly believe that planks are the best ancillary exercise for runners. It’s a true “core” exercise. A good plank activates the the muscles that run up the spine, your abs, your chest, your shoulders, your glutes, your hamstrings and your quads. All of these muscles help to stabilize you throughout the gait cycle, reduce the “wobble” or “snake” and have the possibility of making you a more efficient and less injury prone runner. WE ALL NEED MORE PLANKS! But, if you’ve been missing out on them because you’re strapped for time, try doing planks while you pay bills, check your [credit union] account balance or while responding to Facebook messages.

Plank

Garden Squats – Spring is here! Which means we’re planting things and sooner or later we’ll be harvesting things as well. Next time you’re doing some gardening, instead of bending over to complete whatever task you’re completing, try incorporating a classic squat. Squats help to strengthen the hips, thighs, hamstrings, and glutes; all of which lead to a stronger, healthier lower body and better, more efficient running.

squat

Laundry Leg Balance – Laundry. It never ends. I’ll literally be doing laundry for the rest of my life, which sucks, but the silver lining is that I can simultaneously improve my running! The single leg balance helps to strengthen the lower leg muscles and ankle muscles, activates the arch and improves both balance and proprioception. You can start without a pillow and add that later when the single leg balance on a flat floor has become too easy. Add a slight bend to the knee and engage the glutes for an added challenge.

legbalance

The Push Lawn Mower – Ah, the decision that got me writing this post. Ditch that old gas guzzling hunk of junk in the garage (by recycling it) and invest in a push mower. This can easily turn into a full body workout, flushing the toxins out of your legs from the morning workout and getting your upper body RIPPED by targeting the same muscles that are targeted in a bench press (pecs, deltoids, triceps, biceps, back, etc). A little upper body strength never hurt anybody (especially if you carry bottles in ultramarathons) and you’ll be looking damn good running down the highway screaming “SUN’S OUT, GUNS OUT!”

lawnmower

I hope these tips and ideas enable you to start incorporating some cross training into your daily routine and help you become a stronger runner. Thanks for reading!

 

A Week With The Best: Masazumi Fujioka

Today on a A Week With The Best we have Masazumi Fujioka. Masazumi is as humble as they come, but don’t let that fool you when he toes the line with you at your next Ultra.

Masazumi was born in 1971 (45 years old) and is a Pacific Northwest based Trail and Ultra Runner sponsored by Team Seven Hills. He has won and placed in many Northwest races and national Ultra races as well. Some of his best times include 1st place at Sun Mountain 50 mile (2015) 1st place at Zion 100 (2016) 1st place at Orcas Island 50k (2016 and 2017) and 3rd place at H.U.R.T 100 (2017).

Thanks for joining us, Masazumi.

 

How and when did you start running?

I liked any kind of sports and especially soccer when I was young, but I had never been a track and field athlete. In my mid-30’s, I was too busy at work and gained weight. Believe it or not, I was heavier by 40 pounds than I am now. I started running in 2008 for health.

Your biggest accomplishment ?

Personally, it’s H.U.R.T 100 this past January. The race is well known in Japan and has many Japanese participate every year. I became the first Japanese male podium finisher in its 17 years’ history

You’re a pro, but do you work work as well? If so, what do you do for a living?

I am a software engineer. I have never thought I am a pro in the sense that I am not running for a living. A good thing is that I am working from home and have no need to commute. That enables me to work without curbing time for training.

Describe a days general diet for you:

In general, I eat carbs at breakfast and lunch, and protein at dinner. I drink a little, but only on weekends.

  • Morning
    • 2 slice of bread with banana, almond butter and raspberry jam
    • orange juice
    • coffee
  • Lunch
    • Either ramen, soba noodle or okonomiyaki
    • Small ice candy
  • Snack before and during workout
    • cookies
  • After workout
    • chocolate soy milk
  • Dinner
    • large salad
    • soy food such as tofu or natto
    • meat (chicken or pork) or fish (salmon etc.)
    • yogurt with fruit

What’s a typical training week like for you? An example from your training log:

Except for  the weekend, I normally train in the evening. Below is a typical training week during daylight saving time.

  • Mon … Rest
  • Tue … 13 mile road run (effort: hard) + 1h elliptical machine
  • Wed … 13 mile road run (effort: easy or moderate) + 1h elliptical machine + core strength exercises
  • Thu … 13 mile road run (effort: easy or moderate)  + 1h elliptical machine
  • Fri … Interval run (3 min x 6) + road run (effort: easy) + 30min elliptical machine
  • Sat … 20 mile trail run (effort: easy or moderate)
  • Sun … 13 mile trail run (effort: easy or moderate) + 0.5 h cross training + core strength exercises

I use treadmill heavily instead of going out to run in soggy cold winter.

What is your favorite workout?

Running in a mountain under the sun with nobody in sight!

Do you have any tips for new runners or runners striving to reach big goals?

The thing I always ask myself is “what is the goal ?” That makes it easier for me to figure out what to do to achieve the goal.

The goal will vary among runners. It can be to run as many races as possible, as fast as you can or anything. For me, often it’s to do my best run in one or two target races in a year. Running all the races in top performance is difficult especially when you get older, like me, as it takes more time to recover. By finalizing my “A” race, I can plan when to take a rest, start building up my base, increase volume and bring myself to the peak condition. That increases the probability of reaching my goal.

 

Thanks for sharing, Masazumi!

 

If you are or know a pro runner or industry pro who would like to be featured in our series, please e-mail me at upperleftdt@gmail.com and be sure to check out the hashtag #Team7hills on social media.

*Featured image by Glenn Tachiyama