Three Killer Hill Workouts

When I ask an athlete where they feel they could use improvement, the most common answer I get is: “I want to be a stronger uphill runner.” Well, don’t we all ?! There will likely never be a point in your running career where you feel you don’t need to improve upon your uphill ability; it’s always a work in progress.

Below are 3 examples of tried and true hill workouts we use here at Upper Left DT to improve uphill strength, power, and economy. It’s important to thoroughly warm up with easy running, drills, and dynamic warm ups before performing any of the following.

 

VO2 Max intervals

VO2 Max intervals are a great way to improve your aerobic capacity as well as aerobic efficiency in an uphill environment. By performing these types of hill intervals regularly you will increase your uphill speed throughout your entire pace spectrum (from easy pace to maximal uphill pace).  You will also increase your ability to tolerate and clear high levels of lactate, which directly compliments your threshold work. These workouts are a key piece to becoming a well rounded trail runner.

Example: 8 x 2 minutes uphill at a RPE of roughly 9 to 10 (Rapid breathing, unable to hold a conversation, only able to speak one word at a time) with easy walk jogs back down for recovery.

Make it more challenging: end with 2 x 10 second all out (100% effort) hill sprints to increase pure power and muscle recruitment.

Threshold

Uphill threshold runs can either be continuous runs from 15 to 25 minutes, or uphill “cruise intervals” of 5 to 10 minutes in duration. These are run at perceived 60 minute race pace, just like traditional Lactate Threshold workouts, but uphill. If you don’t have a hill this long where you live, no worries! Set the the treadmill to 8% incline and get it done.

Example: 20 minutes uphill at perceived 1 hour race pace.

Make it more challenging: 2 x 10 minutes uphill at 1 hour race pace with full speed downhill running back to the start between the 10 minute intervals. *Be cautious with downhill workouts as they put an extreme amount of stress on the lower extremities.

Fartlek

Fartlek hill work is by far one of my favorite workouts. The best part about Fartlek is the adaptability of the workout based on how the athlete is feeling that day and what we’re trying to accomplish. The main systems targeted can easily be changed based on how hard you choose to run each interval, but the main goal here is to HAVE FUN.

Example: 4,3,2,1,3,2,1,2,1 Minutes uphill at a moderate to hard effort with easy walk/jogs back down the hill in between intervals.

Make it more challenging: Run the 4 minute intervals at perceived 10 mile race effort, the 3 minute intervals at perceived 10K race effort, the 2 minute intervals at perceived 5K race effort, and the 1 minute intervals at near maximal effort.

 

Work with your Coach implement any of these sessions into your regular training regimen and see the results for yourself!

 

Should I Run in Wildfire Smoke ?

Much of the west is on fire and it’s still early in the season. These early season wildfires have inundated many PNW towns and cities with visible smoke, and with this new blanket of smoke, many athletes are questioning  the safety and practicality of exercising in these conditions. And rightfully so! Is it safe to run in these conditions ?

Let’s break it down!

First off, what is smoke? Smoke is a mixture of different chemicals, vapors, minerals, and particulate matter.  The levels of these chemicals and matter (nitrogen oxide, carbon monoxide, etc.) vary depending on many different factors relating to the fuel that’s burning as well as environmental factors. The biggest concern for us humans (and our animals) with wildfire smoke exposure, is particulate matter. These tiny particulates (solids and liquids suspended in the air) can be inhaled into the deepest part of the lungs causing a plethora of serious health issues. Don’t believe me ? (I’ve seen some of you running around out there without masks).  Read the following excerpt from Page 13 of “Wildfire Smoke: A Guide for Public Health Officials” Published by the EPA, CDC, USFS, and California Air Resources Board:

“The effects of smoke range from eye and respiratory tract irritation to more
serious disorders, including reduced lung function, bronchitis, exacerbation of asthma and heart failure, and premature death … short-term exposures (i.e., days to weeks) to fine particles, a major component of smoke, are linked with increased premature mortality and aggravation of pre-existing respiratory and cardiovascular disease. Children, pregnant women, and elderly are also especially vulnerable to smoke exposure. In addition, fine particles are respiratory irritants, and exposures to high concentrations can cause persistent cough, phlegm, wheezing, and difficulty
breathing. Exposures to fine particles can also affect healthy people, causing respiratory
symptoms, transient reductions in lung function, and pulmonary inflammation. Particulate matter may also affect the body’s physiological mechanisms that remove inhaled foreign materials from the lungs, such as pollen and bacteria.”

I don’t know about you, but that’s not something I’m willing to risk for a few days or weeks of heavy training. So what are our best options to stay fit while our beautiful trails and streets are blanketed in wildfire smoke ? Is it practical to continue training ? Is it worth it ?

The best thing you can do is take your activity indoors AND reduce the duration. When we exercise, our air intake rises 10 to 20 fold over resting levels, which means you run the risk of breathing in 10 to 20 times more particulates while exercising in a polluted environment. But why do we need to reduce the duration of our activities ? Isn’t being inside good enough ? Well, simply because you’re indoors, doesn’t mean you’re not being exposed to the harmful particulates you can see outside. Even in air conditioned homes using recirculated air, particulate can matter penetrate the structure and it’s ineffective filters, leaving humans susceptible to harmful particulates.

Keep in mind too, that moving your strenuous activity into your garage is not going to protect you from the irritants outside. Because of poor insulation and a lack of air filtration in most garages, air quality in your garage is likely to be similar to the air quality outside. If you do decide to continue exercising indoors at the same volume you have been exercising, consider doing so at a commercial gym, in a newer building, with a high quality air filtration system.

If you insist on going outside, wear a particulate respirator rated N95 higher. Covering your face with a bandana, buff, or even a one strap medical mask will not protect you from breathing in particulate matter. You must use a particulate respirator with a rating of N95 or higher; this will capture 95% of particles, but it must fit properly with a good seal – sorry guys, the beard has to go! Just keep in mind that you’ll be transporting less oxygen to your working muscles and brain; you’ll need to SLOW DOWN, take breaks, and listen to your body.

You can find an approved mask here.

And learn how to properly fit and use your mask here.

Before you make a decision to cease, reduce, or bring your activity indoors, it’s a good idea to check the air quality in your local area by using the EPA’s AirNow website here. The Air Quality Rating scale from the EPA is as follows:

AQI

 

It’s important to note too that not everyone will be negatively effected by short term wildfire smoke exposure. Healthy individuals who do experience symptoms are likely to make a quick recovery and will, in most cases, not have long term health issues due to this type of smoke exposure.  Even so, when any of my healthy athletes ask for my opinion on exercising in smokey conditions, my answer is always the same: Don’t risk it. Keep your global goals in mind. Stay healthy, stay happy, and remember that this too shall pass. This is a great time for unplanned recovery.

 

References:

https://www3.epa.gov/airnow/wildfire_may2016.pdf

https://www.arb.ca.gov/research/indoor/acdsumm.pdf

https://www.doh.wa.gov/Portals/1/Documents/Pubs/334-353.pdf

http://www.bccdc.ca/resource-gallery/Documents/Guidelines%20and%20Forms/Guidelines%20and%20Manuals/Health-Environment/WFSG_EvidenceReview_CleanAirShelters_FINAL_v3_edstrs.pdf

https://airnow.gov

https://wildlandfiresmoke.net

 

 

Three Treadmill Workouts to Boost Your Trail Running Game

I coach a handful of athletes who don’t have access to big hills, especially mid week, but that doesn’t stop them from developing into bad ass trail runners! We work with what we’ve got, which sometimes means treadmill workouts. Like the great coach Jack Daniels said “Don’t waste your time wishing for things you don’t have. Do your best with what you do have.”

The following workouts (depending on how they are executed) can elicit a number of positive adaptions, including: an increase in strength, an increase in power, better uphill efficiency, a higher VO2 max, improved lactate buffering, and extended endurance at a given pace. Work with your coach to modify these workouts based on your current ability and goals.

 

Classic Intervals

 

How it works: Check out the course profile of your upcoming race and determine the average percentage of incline on the prominent climb(s). This will be the percentage you bring your treadmill to during your “on” segments. Warm up with a 20 minute easy jog, then set your treadmill to your estimated race pace for your upcoming event via RPE (Rating of Perceived Exertion) and perform 1 to 5 minute intervals (depending on your experience level, skill level, and the purpose of your workout) 4 to 20 times at your determined incline percentage with equal jogs at zero percent incline in between for recovery. Cool down with a 10 to 20 minute jog.

 

The Yates Hill Fartlek

 

This workout was suggested by one of our athletes; an army veteran and state worker in Washington who was given similar training while serving in the army. It’s become a team favorite!

How it works: Grab a deck of cards. Remove a set (2 of each) cards Ace through Queen. This can be a total of 4 to 24 cards; adjust accordingly based on your experience and skill level. The number on the card coincides with the percentage of the incline you will be running (Ace for 1% Queen for 12%). Warm up for 20 minutes at an easy jog, then set the treadmill to your estimated race pace via RPE. Pull cards at random setting the treadmill to the percentage of incline that coincides with the card you pull. Perform uphill intervals of 30 seconds to 5 minutes (depending on you experience, skill level, and the purpose of your workout) with equal jogs at 0% incline in between for recovery. Cool down with a 10 to 20 minute jog.

Not only is this a great way to elicit the physiological adaptions mentioned in the introduction of this article, but to learn how to adjust psychologically to changing terrain and discomfort on the fly.

 

Classic Uphill Tempo

 

How it works: Look at your upcoming course profile and determine the longest climb(s). Find an average percentage that coincides with that climb. Warm up for 20 minutes with an easy jog before setting your treadmill to your estimated race pace via RPE. Set your treadmill to the percentage associated with your goal race’s climb(s) and adjust the treadmill speed to maintain the RPE associated with your goal race pace. Run uphill for 10 to 30 minutes (depending on your experience, skill level, and the purpose of your workout). Cool down with a 10 to 20 minute easy jog.

 

A lot of trail and ultra runners aren’t fans of the “dreadmill” but the fact of the matter is that it’s an effective item in your tool box that can aid in your success, especially if you’re unable to make it to the trail head daily due to family or career obligations. Executing these simple and effective workouts as one of your quality sessions each week will change the way you attack hills on race day.

Have fun!

Safely Increase Your Running Volume

Winter can be a tough time to train for a lot of people. The majority of runners I know either had planned down time or forced down time due to a wicked flu season and/or horrendous weather in their region. Any of these things can be a blessing in disguise, as us runners tend to push ourselves very hard year around. It’s important to stay fit year around, but we also need periods of rest and recovery. We can either voluntarily take the time to recover with a reduction in load, or, our body can force us to take that time through sickness and injury.

However, winter is over! With spring comes new light and new energy! The days are longer, the weather is nicer, the flowers are blooming, and summer is on the horizon. Not only that, but the fire is burning HOT for all of those summer races you signed up for.  Now is the time time to see what you’re made of! Now is the time to start your journey towards running or ultrarunning greatness.

As John L. Parker Jr. famously wrote in his novel “Once a Runner” – “You don’t become a runner by winning a morning workout. The only true way is to marshal the ferocity of your ambition over the course of many day, weeks, months, and (if you could finally come to accept it) years. The Trial of Miles; Miles of Trials.”

Many Coaches quote this line, but how do you safely implement the “Trial of Miles” ? And without setbacks ? Let’s clarify the latter, first: There may be setbacks. It is foolish to think that anyone participating in this high-impact, repetitive sport will come out unscathed. Don’t let Charlatan Coaches or compression gear companies tell you otherwise: eventually you’ll sustain some type of running related injury. We all get hurt. We can do our best to minimize the risks of injury, but we can’t completely prevent it from occurring. And if we get injured? We also heal. And we achieve even greater things by staying positive in the face of adversity and learning from those setbacks.

But hey! Cross that bridge when you get there.

 

Let’s talk about increasing running volume safely:

 

Run slow.

One of the most common mistakes I see is people running too fast, too often, which leads to nagging injuries, inconsistent training, and subpar results. Slow down! You literally need to run slower to run faster. Unless you’re a nationally competitive athlete or have been running most of your life, the majority of your mileage should be fairly relaxed. This is especially important when you’re increasing volume to a level you’ve not experienced yet.

Be consistent.

Show up! Consistency is key. And it’s easy: you just choose to do it. Don’t skip days. Don’t cut runs short. Don’t make excuses. Consistency leads to better running, less injury, and more speed. 

Baby steps.

The 10% rule for volume increase is slow, archaic, and nonsensical. However, too much, too soon is the number one leading cause of injury in runners. Instead, try increasing your weekly volume by the the number of days you run per week. If you run 4 days per week, add 4 miles. If you run 5 days per week, add 5 miles. Listen to your body and work with your Coach. After a couple weeks of increasing, stay steady and adapt to a given load before adding more mileage.

Light workouts.

When you’re increasing your overall volume, it is a big stressor to your body, especially if the volume is in unfamiliar territory.  It would be too risky to simultaneously increase the duration and/or speed of demanding workouts. Keep strides in your program, or maybe hill sprints, or a set of light surges or fartlek sessions here and there, and every week or two, complete a long run, but keep extremely demanding workouts to a minimum. You’ll have plenty of time for those once you adapt to the stress of your new training load. 

Form Habits.

Get up early. Have something to eat. Drink your coffee. Use the restroom. Brush your teeth. Lace up your shoes. GO RUN. Habits become second nature, and in the thick of training, running should be no different.

Acknowledge fear and then say “Kiss my ass!”

Maybe you’ve never run this much volume in a week before. Maybe you’re nervous to increase your weekly mileage because you’ve heard horror stories of “over-training” or “bad knees” or “heart scarring” from publications looking to capitalize off of your fear. Maybe you have a little self doubt; this is all normal, but to be your best, you must overcome your fears. Believe in yourself! You are capable of amazing things.

Have you been running 30 miles per week ? Take the time to increase to 50. Have you been running 50 miles per week ? Take the time to increase to 70. Have you been running 70 miles per week ? Well… you get it. There is a point of diminishing returns as far as volume goes, so work with your Coach or use common when attacking a bigger training load.

I’m not saying you should go out and pull an Anton Krupicka; running 200 miles per week until you can no longer run at all, but you have nothing to lose by trying something new, and as easy, for your performance as a mileage increase. So long as you are able to balance the stress of running with the stress of your work and family life; push yourself progressively. Build your volume in your program in a smart and productive way with a long term vision. You can be who you want to be. And there’s no better time to make that transition than in the spring time, when the world feels brand new.  

 

“Much is not dared because it seems hard; much seems hard only because it is not dared.” – Prince Wenzel Anton Von Kaunitz

 

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.

Basic Return to Running Training Plan

Maybe you’ve had a lengthy injury, illness, a surgery, or maybe you just took a hiatus from running because you needed a break. Perhaps you’re a brand new runner and don’t know where to start! Whatever your story is, you’re here now,  you’re ready to run, and that is awesome! As exciting as it may be though, it’s best to come back (or start) slowly to reduce your risks of injury or re-injury. So get ready for the anticlimactic truffle shuffle back to running greatness.

What follows is a basic, 8 week, get-back-to-running-safely training plan. Many athletes don’t see the value in working with a coach during this time, but if you can afford it, do it! Your situation is unlike anyone else’s. There may be similarities, yes, but no one is like you. This is a great time to work with someone who can support you and help direct you through both growth and set backs as you move forward.

This is also a great time to make strength training not just a priority, but a habit. Work with your Coach and Physical Therapist to devise a weekly strength plan that you’ll be able to stick to as you move forward. And remember to listen to your body. If at any time you experience discomfort, don’t be afraid to step back from your routine for a few days and hit the stationary or elliptical. Whatever you do, stay positive, smile lots, and be thankful for movement.

8 week plan with the “Long Run” on Sundays

Week 1 – 3 to 4 days per week, 21 minutes of 1 minute jog / 2 minute walk

Week 2 – 3 to 4 days per week – 32 minutes of 2 minute jog / 2 minute walk

Week 3 – 4 to 5 days per week – 30 minutes of 2 minute jog / 1 minute walk

Week 4  – 4 to 5 days per week – 32 minutes of 3 minutes jog / 1 minute walk. Sunday: 40 minutes 4 minute jog / 1 minute walk

Week 5 – 4 to 5 days per week – 30 minutes –  4 minute jog / 1 minute walk. Sunday: 48 minutes 5 minute jog / 1 minute walk

Week 6 – 5 days per week – 30 to 48 minutes – 5 minute jog / 1 minute walk. Sunday: 45 minutes 20 minute jog / 5 minute walk / 20 minute jog.

Week 7 – 5 days per week – 36 to 45 minutes – 8 minute jog / 1 minute walk. Sunday: 45 minutes 20 minute jog / 5 minute walk / 20 minute jog

Week 8 – 5 days per week – 32 to 48 minutes – 15 minute jog / 1 minute walk. Sunday: 45 minute jog.

WELCOME BACK!

 

*This training plan should only be used if you have been cleared to exercise by a qualified medical professional.

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 

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 165 and 180 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!