Fall Running Tips

Summer is officially OVER! A lot of our athletes here at Upper Left Distance Training are happy about that, because cooler weather means easier long runs, faster workouts, and less lugging around of loaded hydration packs. With all perks of cooler days though, there are still some things to keep in mind.

Remember to hydrate. Even though it is cooler and you’ll need less water than on those blistering summer afternoons, you still need fluid to perform to the best of your ability. Fluid loss does occur, even in cool climates, so remember to stay hydrated! Your performance and recovery depends on it.

Do dynamic stretches. Muscle activation and increased blood flow is always important before you head out for your run, but especially so as the cool temperatures roll in. With cooler days your muscles may take a little longer to warm up, so prepare them by going through your dynamic routine before you head out the door. This is a good habit to get into regardless of the season.

Wear reflective clothing. I don’t do a ton of road running these days, but when I do I’m always shocked by the blatant disregard motorists have for pedestrians. And with shorter days drivers will be less likely to see you, even at well lit cross walks. Make yourself visible by wearing highly reflective running gear and NEVER cross in front of a vehicle before you’ve made eye contact. Always assume a driver hasn’t seen you until you know otherwise.

Upgrade you shoes. Technology is awesome these days. Go to your local running store and find a shoe with slip resistant rubber for wet roads (such as the Adidas Boston Boost) and don some deeper lugs for the muddy trails (visit your local running shop). An easy way to reduce you risk of injury is by not slipping and falling on your ass.

Remember the 20 degree rule, but be prepared in the mountains. One of my least favorite feelings is being wet and hot. If you live in the PNW you’ve experienced this at least once: you thought it was sub zero out there so you layered up, but it was 45 degrees and raining. Once you shuffled out of your igloo and got moving, it felt like it was 65 degrees and your were running in a parka. In a moment of panic you tried to peel your water resistant shell off, but it wouldn’t budge! OH NO! I THINK IT SHRUNK AND I’M STUCK!!! GET THIS OFF ME!!!!!! That’s a little dramatic, but you get the point. Remember that while it is much cooler outside, it will always feel 20 degrees warmer than it is 15 minutes after you start running.

That’s not to discount the importance of being prepared in the mountains though. Weather patterns often change and shift dramatically, even in low elevation mountain ranges, so be prepared. You need to consider windchill in wilderness environments as well. Always bring a pack with extra calories, a filtration device, an emergency blanket and light-weight rain shell pants and jacket at the very least. Better safe than sorry!

Take care of yourself. With the awesome fall running weather comes flu and cold season, so be kind to your immune system. Take your vitamins, stay hydrated, eat healthfully, get a flu shot (if that’s your jam) and SLEEP! I’m always on top of our athletes about sleep. Sleep is the best activity you can do for your recovery and well being. Even 30 extra minutes per day could change the way you live and run.

 

I hope these tips help you as you move through this wonderful season.

Feel free to reach out if I can help you with anything else!

Cheers,

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Ditch the GPS

GPS is a great tool. I love to use my Garmin for quality workouts where splits matter such as mile repeats on the bike path, marathon pace work, or even for racing Strava segments within the context of on-trail threshold work or race pace simulation. And here at Upper Left Distance Training, we use GPS data integration in your training log to track your runs to the T! This allows me to view your routes, splits, and elevation, which can be very nice for online coaching. But even with all of the benefits, it would do most of us some good to ditch the GPS every now and then.

The problem is that with all of the technology these days, runners are losing their ability to tune into themselves and instead, are relying solely on external feedback such as mile splits and heart rate. While this can be a great tool in certain situations, relying solely on your GPS will limit your potential as an athlete. Our minds (and subsequently our bodies) rely on many cues to regulate our efforts, including our GPS and Heart Rate devices. You will be limited by the feedback from your watch data, so that what you “know” you can achieve will then be based off of the gadgets calculations, instead of your internal data.

I’ve seen this happen in races: “___ is the target heart rate I should be able to maintain for this race.” Great. You’ve just set your bar. Your mind will now act as a governor, not allowing you to break past your self imposed limits. Have you ever seen someone make a kick at the end of an Iron Man before collapsing ? Have you  ever seen someone finish a 100 mile foot race ?  Have you ever heard stories of mothers lifting vehicles off of their children ? Humans are capable of super human feats. That’s a fact that science cannot fully explain. The same holds true, although to a lesser extent, in racing.

Even when using pace per mile to control your easy efforts, we often become reliant on this feedback instead of tuning in to our own bodies. Because of this, athletes will often run too hard in an effort to match up with a pace they’ve been told is their easy pace, when they should instead be listening to their bodies and running even easier for recovery. This is why training by feel can be a far more effective way to train for some athletes. Our bodies are amazing machines and they will provide the feedback we need, we just need to listen. It’s important that you become aware of how you feel at a given effort. The difference between running an 8:30 mile and a 9:30 mile doesn’t matter, so long as the effort was easy and felt easy. The difference between 6:40 pace and 6:30 pace during a threshold run doesn’t matter much, so long as you know what a LT effort feels like.

Past losing touch with ourselves, athletes often get stuck in the data feedback loop with their GPS devices and end up feeling lesser-than by constantly comparing instant external data to their expectations: “This pace is less than what I expected to be able to run”  “I couldn’t run fast enough to get this Strava segment” “My competitors are running faster than me.” “This isn’t enough.” Of course, these are all self imposed expectations that we’re not meeting, but this type of comparison is an unfortunate fact for some athletes who rely too much on technology in training.

The problem too is that when we rely on GPS for every run, we can become stressed by the data: glancing every minute to make sure things are adding up, looking at the split to make sure it was fast enough, wondering why this run felt hard when the GPS and pace calculators tell us it should be easy. This is not conducive to easy, constructive running. We know that stress is stress to the body; it doesn’t differentiate, so why add an extra stressor unnecessarily?  Just as our bodies don’t recognize the arbitrary mileage numbers we’ve given value to in an 7 day period, they don’t always run by the paces in the charts.

It was hard for me to step away from the social validation of Strava, but this is what I’ve been doing for myself recently to reduce that stress:

  1. All easy runs with a stop watch to keep track of time. No GPS.
  2. GPS for any specific pace based workouts (800s, Ks, Mile reps, MP race pace, etc).
  3. GPS with the lap function and pace per mile turned off for tempo and long runs (I then log into Garmin or Strava to see how the splits matched up to how I felt).
  4. At [trail/ultra] races: pace per mile screen disabled. Chrono to keep track of caloric intake. Distance to keep track of aid stations (but don’t do math!).

This is what works for me, and may or may not work for you. Maybe you’d enjoy no watch at all? On a free day when I have nowhere to be, I sure do! Maybe you’re learning to internalize pace and the pace per mile screen is a learning tool at races and pace specific long runs on the road? It’s a great tool that!  Whatever you do, don’t become a slave to technology. Run free once in a while. It will make a world of difference in your training and racing.

Tips for Running in the Winter

The alarm goes off. Your spouse is warm. Your sheets smell like fresh linen and summer breeze. You’re sinking into the abyss of heavenly tempurpedic clouds. Are you in Hawaii ? No. It’s 33 degrees and raining outside and right now you have two choices: 1. Peel yourself out of bed, suit up, and get at that 8 miler your Coach prescribed  2. Start the endless snooze cycle until you have to shuffle into the office sans run.

If you’re the highly motivated type, like my friend Joe who is a new dad, works 40+ hours a week, is a part time professor, directs races, volunteers at Ultras, AND trains for 100 milers, then this is no problem, but for the rest if us, the winter struggle is real. So, what can we do?

Sleep more. While getting up before the sun can feel like a chore to some people no matter what they do, others can fair well enough simply by going to bed 30 minutes earlier. Just 30 minutes of extra sleep per night can increase recovery speed, increase response time, and elevate overall mood. Try going to bed 30 minutes earlier each night and the battle with your alarm is less likely to feel like a scene from Braveheart and more like a scene from the Sound of Music.

Make it a habit. It doesn’t take long to form a small a habit (good or bad) such as snoozing your alarm or getting a donut with your morning coffee, but it takes a bit of time and commitment to form habits that require more thought. Contrary to popular belief it doesn’t take 21 days to make or break a habit. Like most myths, the 21 day myth comes from an outdated piece of literature – a book published back in 1960. A more recent European study found that it can take up to two months before you reach an automaticity plateau while forming a habit. TWO MONTHS of repetition. That requires determination and a bit of patience, much like running. The good news is that once you form a positive habit, it doesn’t take an excessive amount of energy or thought to do it every day. The point? Make it a habit to start getting out of bed in the morning when your alarm goes off instead of hitting the snooze button.

The way you think matters. If you dread running, then you shouldn’t be doing it. Be thankful and grateful for movement and be happy to do it! You are blessed to be able to get up and run every day. Seize it and strive to be the best version of yourself regardless of weather. Get up in the morning and say to yourself “What a blessing it is to be alive and moving! I love to run!” If you don’t love it, why do it?

The three tips above will help you on your journey to winter greatness, however, that doesn’t address the bitter cold and darkness you have to battle. Below are some gear recommendations to make your predawn winter run as first worldy as possible:

  1. A good headlamp. 90 Lumens will do, but nowadays you can get a 300 lumen lamp for under $40.00, so why not? Light up the world! Just make sure it’s waterproof.
  2. A Buff. This essential piece of gear can be worn 12+ different ways to keep your head warm and comfortable. I almost never leave home without one.
  3. A good Baselayer that is form fitting and moisture wicking to insulate your upper body and core.
  4. A weather resistant, collapsible shell for when the rain is coming down and the wind is blowing sideways.
  5. Gloves. Nobody I know likes cold fingers. Some of us (me) loathe cold sausages.
  6. Weather resistant pants or tights.
  7. A moisture wicking sock that fits right and minimizes the chance of blisters in wet conditions. Consider Merino for extra insulation.
  8. Shoes. Consider a shoe with sticky rubber for wet conditions and/or a water repellent uppers for those soggy winter mornings.
  9. Yaktraks or Screws if you live in an especially cold and icey area.

At the end of the day you get the same 24 hours as everyone else (Joe always says this) and you get to choose how you spend your 24 hours. Just like you’ve chosen the lifestyle of a runner, you must choose to get up in the morning and get it done. It’s as simple as that. Wake up. Smile. Be thankful. And choose to run.

Accepting Injury as a Runner

It’s said that somewhere between 50 to 90% of runners take time off each year due to a running related injury. So, it’s safe to say that if you’re a runner, you’ve been injured. Even if you’re one of the fortunate few who get to work with a Coach, a Physical Therapist, a Massage Therapist, AND a Doctor, you most likely haven’t been able to avoid injury. And if you’ve been injured you’ve likely experienced a slew of emotions similar the 5 stages of grief that are felt when we lose a loved one. Why ? Because being a runner becomes part of our identity and when we’re injured and can’t run, it often feels like we’re losing part of ourselves. Tell me if this sounds familiar:

Denial: “I’m not injured. I’ll just keep running. It doesn’t hurt that bad.”

Anger : “Damn it! These damned shoes must’ve caused this! And what do I even pay my coach for if I’m getting hurt?! THE SUN IS TOO DAMN BRIGHT!”

Bargaining: “If I can just run I’ll do less speed work… I’ll run on softer surfaces… I’ll run lower mileage…”

Sadness: [this is often a private feeling]

Acceptance: “I am injured. I need time to heal.”

While it is essential and necessary to process emotions like these, we need not feel all of these emotions in such extremity over a set back in our training. Is it ok to feel frustrated? Yes. Is it ok to feel bummed out? Absolutely! It’s perfectly normal, but if we can skip straight to accepting our injury, we can get on the path to recovery and heal much faster.

You’re most likely an endorphin junkie, so first order of business is transferring all running related workouts to non-impact aerobic activities so that you don’t slip into a fit of endorphin withdrawal induced rage and end up on Judge Judy. Here’s an example: If you had 10 miles total planned for today with  10 x 1 minute on, 1 minute off @ Critical Velocity pace, hop on the stationary bike, warm up, and then hammer out 10 x 1 minute on, 1 minute off @ perceived 10K “run” effort. Most of your non running aerobic maintenance can simply be easy to moderate effort activities such as cycling, elliptical, or water aerobics (depending on the injury). You should also focus on balancing out any weaknesses that may have contributed to your injury, so that you can limit the chances of it recurring.

To keep self pity to a minimum it’s helpful to remember that we all experience struggle. I often think of one of my favorite quotes by Thomas Moore “We are wounded simply by participating in life… To think that the proper or natural state is to be without wounds is an illusion.” This reminds me that I am not special in regards to this injury, and also, that I am not alone.

During your healing process it’s also important to stay positive and  to keep running in perspective. It’s part of who we are, it’s part of what we do and it’s something that we love, but for most of us, it’s not ALL of who we are. I encourage our athletes to order the following in this way: 1. Family 2. Career/Academics 3. Running.

Remember that there are plenty of other enjoyable things in life to focus on while you’re taking time off. Do your best to do other things that bring you and your family joy. Take your spouse wine tasting, go out to eat at a new restaurant, take the kids to a wildlife safari. Use the time that you normally have allotted for running to do other things that matter even more. Make breakfast for the family, walk the dogs a little longer, clean the house, read a book. Enjoy your life!

Your running injury is not the end of the world and you are not alone. You will likely be a stronger runner because of it – just take a look at Shalane Flanagan’s story!  Smile. Balance your body, calm your mind, and move forward. You are amazing and you will continue to do amazing things.

 

 

 

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

 

 

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.

 

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

2017NODM_C2CM2_0625

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2017NODM_C2CM2_0627

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.

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. 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