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 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!

Base Training For Runners

Maybe you’ve heard other runners or coaches throw around the term “base training” but what is it? And why is it so important? The easiest way to think about base training is as the foundation of a house (the house being your body and energy systems). A strong foundation enables the house to be built; keeps the house level, stable, and ready to maintain in the future, the same way base training gets your muscles and energy systems primed to stay injury free and efficient going into a heavier training block.

Base training is a period (usually 4 to 12 weeks) of moderate to high volume running performed at both an easy and moderate effort done before transitioning into a specific training cycle with heavier, faster work. We’ve touched on the topic of easy running and all of the benefits involved with that pace, so keep those benefits in mind for the bulk of your base mileage. Besides conversational pace though, your base phase should also include some faster running such as fartlek sessions, hills and the occasional steady state run (a pace typically between marathon and threshold pace) as well as weekly or bi-weekly long runs.

The aforementioned workouts improve your endurance, your aerobic capacity, your leg turn over and your running economy while strengthening your ligaments and muscles, all of which gets you primed and ready for the stress associated with race specific training. Of course, we all respond differently to training stress. Each athlete should be assessed individually during the implementation of each of these workouts as stress reaction and fitness gained will vary from runner to runner.

This is also a great time to start your cross training regimen! Specifically core and stability exercises to reduce the risk of injury when moving into race specific training. You could write an entire book on cross training for runners, but a good place to start is with the core and glutes: Planks, Pushups, Clamshells, and Pistol Squats are a staple of Upper Left Distance Training athletes and a good starting point for most. If you need variation, I find Competitor to be an invaluable and trusted source for beneficial cross training routines.

Execute your base phase properly, and you will be ready to safely tackle your speed workouts like a pro!

How to do Strides

Strides, striders, stride-outs. You’ve heard of them right ? But what are they and why should you be incorporating them into your weekly routine ?

What: Strides are fast, but controlled accelerations of 100 to 150 meters, topping out at roughly 95% of you max effort before decelerating back to a jog. They can best be described as short and controlled bursts of speed.

Why: When done correctly, strides improve running form by developing both muscular recruitment and neuromuscular reaction time which leads to an increase in power, economy, and ultimately, speed. If done before a hard workout or race, strides also loosen your muscles and prepare the body and mind for the faster running speeds.

When: You can safely start incorporating strides by adding 1 set of 4 X 100m strides with 90 second jogs in between 2 times per week at the end of an easy run or by adding 1 set of 4 X 100m strides before your next speed session or race to get your muscles loose and legs turning over. Eventually 6 to 8 X 100m stride sets may be incorporated into your training 1 to 4 times per week (depending on mileage) following easy runs, as well as a few sets of 50 to 100m strides after a warm up, but before speed workouts to get your body and mind primed for the hard effort that lies ahead.

How: Starting at your easy pace, accelerate your speed fairly quickly until you’ve reached 90-95% of your max effort (roughly 1 mile race pace) hold this pace briefly before decelerating back down to a jog. You should maintain proper form and you should feel like you have a snappy stride, or as I like to say, pep in your step. The reps should be 100 to 150 meters each. If you aren’t at a track simply count 65 right foot falls for roughly 100 meters.

Strides aren’t a hard workout by any means, as a matter of fact they can be a really fun way to improve economy and move a lot faster than we normally would. Try adding them to your weekly routine and see if they make a difference for you!

Thank you for reading our blog here at Upper Left Distance Training. If you’ve been considering a coach, I am currently accepting athletes. Simply submit your info here.

Cheers!

What Running Shoes Should I Wear?

This is probably the most common question people ask me when they’re getting into running or a fitness focused lifestyle in general and it doesn’t surprise me! All you have to do is google “running shoes” and you will be presented with so many options, theories, and articles that you might not even know where to start!

I could go on and on getting into the nitty gritty about shoes, but today we are just going to cover shoe types and categories with some recommendations to get you on your way to making an informed shoe choice. 

There are 4 basic categories of shoes with many sub categories, but here are the basics:

Road – These shoes are meant for concrete and pavement. They often offer substantial cushioning and a number of features such as sticky rubber for wet conditions and reflective overlays for visibility, just to name a few.

Racing/Flats – These are often low profile, lightweight road shoes meant for distances up to 13.1 and even 26.2 for faster runners. They lack bells, whistles and traditional “support” and are often the road racer’s go to for speed work and road events.

Track – Spikes and flats for the Track and Field athletes including Cross Country.

Trail – There are so many different kinds trails out there that we here at ULDT find a lot of value in having a quiver of trail shoes. Trail shoes often have some sort of lug on the outsole for extra grip as well as a thin, flexible piece of plastic in the forefoot (called a rock plate) to protect your feet from sharp rocks. Some trail shoes are best suited for mixed road/trail environments, some are best suited for hard packed trail, some for soft, wet, muddy conditions and there are some that do better on slick rock and alpine/sub alpine environments. I can have one or two pairs of road shoes that I put the majority of my mileage on, but I generally have at least 3 – 4 different pairs of trail shoes to choose from based on terrain.

Corrective features:

There is a lack of scientific data proving the validity of claims that motion control and stability features in running shoes prevent injury, nevertheless, the shoe industry continues to use the terminology as a selling point to consumers. You may have heard the phrase “pronator” as if it’s a bad thing, but the fact is that everyone pronates to some degree. It’s your body’s way of absorbing shock as the arch flattens and the foot rolls inward. Everyone supinates to some degree as well. It’s how your foot lands initially and how it  pushes off through the gait cycle. 

Ultimately it’s up to you to do the research and decide for yourself if you think over pronation and under pronation causes injury, whether or not corrective features in running shoes provide any protection against injury, and whether or not they to work for you. We certainly won’t argue with your findings, because what works for you is what you should do!

Here are the classic corrective features found in running shoes and their claimed benefits:

Neutral Cushioned – For “Supinators” or “under pronators”  who have high arches and land in a more supinated position, lacking an inward roll. They are said to benefit from extra cushioning and curved last (shape of the shoe) to encourage the proper amount of pronation.

Stability/Support  – For people who pronate, but don’t severely over pronate. These shoes feature denser materials on the medial side of the midsole to control the inward roll of the foot and are said to provide support to the collapsing arch and prevent injury.

Motion Control – These shoes are for “severe over pronators”and feature dense medial midsole materials, shanks or even posts within the midsole and often times have heel stability features to keep your foot even more stabilized. 

New (ish) categories:

Maximal – Usually neutral with a maximum amount of cushioning. You can find these in most major brand’s line ups, but Hoka One One started the trend. Proponents believe that the extra cushioning disperses impact forces, delaying fatigue and preventing injury.

Minimal – We saw the rise and fall of the minimalist movement after the best seller “Born To Run” touted the benefits of barefoot running. Proponents believed that running “naturally” in barefoot type shoes prevents injury and reduces impact forces. When the pendulum swung back towards maximal cushion, we were left with some really great options in the middle-of-the-road shoes that can be attributed to the minimal movement such as extremely lightweight shoes with seamless uppers, low heel to toe drops or Zero drop and many shoe companies offering “natural movement” in their line ups.

Guidance – This terminology has seemingly replaced some of the motion control/support verbiage in the footwear industry, but claims added support and structure to help guide foot, albeit gentler than theclassic rigidity of support or motion control shoes.

I checked in with Phil Kochick, Owner of Seven Hills Run Shop in Seattle, to get his thoughts on footwear and the fit process. This is what he had to say :

“I believe today’s fitting process should be steered more by the customer and less by the shop employee.  Five years ago it was standard for running shops to tell you what the “right shoe” would be.  Now it is apparent that whatever shoe feels most natural to someone has the best chance of success.  

It’s not about pronation and supination anymore; it’s about comfort.  Where 5-10 years ago most consumers thought “stability” or “control” couldn’t possibly be a bad thing, the industry has shied away from those terms in favor of “guidance” and “natural motion.” There was a lot of marketing behind the need to correct pronation; and not much science.”

I’m on board with Phil. There doesn’t seem to be much legitimate scientific backing behind the industry standards for different foot types and subsequent footwear recommendations made by retail sales associates – it seems to be a sales gimmick.

Our advice ? Go to a local store where knowledgeable and experienced runners work. Have them take a look at the shape of your foot to match you with lasts that might work for you and try on as many shoes as you can. Pick the pair that feels good to you. You should have a little room between your longest toe and the end of the shoe and it should feel like an extension of your own foot without any points of pressure or discomfort.  You should think “Wow! I could wear these all day!”

You’ll know when you slip the perfect pair on.

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Adam Lint helping fit a customer at Seven Hills Running in Seattle

Thanks for reading! If you have any questions abut this blog post or anything else or if you’re looking for a personal running coach, shoot me message.

Dealing With a Bad Run

Sooner or later it’s bound to happen: you’ll have a shitty race day. It could be literal, it could be metaphorical, but one day it will happen and you’ll find yourself questioning your sanity and/or your will to go on. So, when is it appropriate to pull the plug? How do you deal with a day like this? And what are some tips to cope with these problems? 

First off, if you have come down with a serious illness or injury, just drop out. Pull the plug. The “Death Before DNF” mentality is something that can get you in seriously trouble. You risk serious complications and set backs with that mindset that extend far beyond the initial blow to your ego from a DNF. Some examples of legitimate reasons to take a DNF are: rhabdomyolysis, the flu, suspected tendon/muscle tears and suspected fractures or breaks, just to name a few. Really, any reason you feel is legitimate, is legitimate. I dropped out of mesquite canyon 50 Miler because I was too irritated listening to my stomach slosh around for 25 miles to keep going. Just keep in mind that once you start dropping out of races for no good reason, it’s easier to gravitate towards a DNF from there on out. Also keep in mind that if you decide to push on with a serious issue, such as I did during a 4 hour New Years run in Ashland with the flu, you may find yourself stuck with a whole plethora of issues that last for quite some time.

Let’s talk about some tips and tricks to help get you through your run if you’re having a bad, but manageable, day. By bad, but manageable, I mean general tiredness, a minor head cold or an upset stomach, you know … that type of shitty day. Though these tips can be applied to many manageable race day problems, today we’re going to focus more specifically on one of the most common problems you’re bound to have at some point: upset stomach.

Drink water – Staying hydrated ensures optimum performance and helps flush your system of toxins. If you’ve been using the restroom frequently (pack it in, pack it out!) or throwing up then chances are you need to double down on your hydration to try and catch up. You probably won’t return to optimal hydration levels until the evening or even the following day, but making an effort to put it back in will make you feel better.

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Zantac, Tums and Pepto – I know Hal Koerner carries Zantac for his 100’s, Anton Krupicka was popping tums like candy in his high mileage days and I’ve loved Pepto Bismol since I started dating; I never have a bottle too far away. The point is that there are a lot of over the counter medicines that aid in calming upset stomach. Find one that works for you and either pre-funk with it, or carry some with you during the race in case problems arise.

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Make use of aid stations – Aid stations can be a great opportunity to stop and recoup and they often have things that help upset stomachs since it’s such a common occurrence among runners. Road races often have less options, if any,  compared to ultras, but on the trails aid stations may have tums, ginger ale or even ginger candies. Make use of everything you can here and don’t worry about taking a few minutes to let it settle. You’ll be thankful later.

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Get out of your head – I mentioned mindfulness before in our post about taking a wrong turn and when I asked my wife what her trick was to pushing through her recent and rough 25K she unknowingly described that same practice:  “I tried my best to get out of my head. I thought about how the sound of the birds, how the light was hitting the trees, how the raindrops felt on my skin and how refreshing each one was – the way everything felt so clean.” This is a perfect example of how to be mindful and you know what? It works! She started having problems about 30 minutes in and pushed through for 4 hours, declining to drop at the 9 mile turn off.

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A pain only women know – When it comes to “that time of the month” I have no idea how it feels, but I genuinely feel for my wife when it happens, especially when it happens during one of her long runs. She says: “They say that exercise helps menstrual cramps, but from my experience, it does not! Just try to relax. If you’re not “racing” try to take slow, deep breathes, slow your pace and enjoy your run. Music also helps when I’m having trouble getting out of my head. Create a playlist before you go out on your run that way you don’t get frustrated shuffling through songs on your iPod.”

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Stay Positive – This goes without saying, but positivity radiates. Do your best to smile and think positive thoughts, you will feel better and before you know it, the race will be over.

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Every runner will experience this at one time or another and we hope these tips help you! Feel free to share your tips and tricks for coping with an upset stomach and other race day problems, and as always, if we can help you reach your training and racing goals, reach out to me here.

Cheers!

Don’t Dread the Treadmill

You’re probably reading this title thinking “pfff… treadmill… more like DREADmill!” My wife even looked at me as if I’d just eaten a slug when I told her that the weekly ULDT post would be about treadmills. But the treadmill can be a beneficial and useful tool for your training, especially in extremely adverse weather conditions, less than ideal training locations, and at times when you want to specifically control every aspect of your workout. So let’s talk about when the treadmill comes in handy, how to make the best use of it, and some of our favorite workouts.

When

Traveling – I always choose exploration over a gym when it’s possible, but that’s not always the best idea. If you find yourself in an area that offers no safe place to run, then the treadmill can be your friend. I would much rather spend an hour on a treadmill at the gym than risk running on a high traffic road with no shoulder or running through South Park after the sun sets.

Constraints – If you’ve got a total of 1.5 hours to get up, get a run in, make breakfast, make the kids lunch, shower and look presentable for work, then the treadmill can be a great option, especially if it’s in your home; it eliminates a commute and gives you the ability to stop the workout when you need to without being far from home.

Flatland – Is your goal race a hilly half, but you have no hills in your town? No problem! You can get some great hill work in on the treadmill with up to 12% grade at whatever length and speed you want.

Pacing – If you have trouble pacing yourself for interval workouts, then the treadmill is a great option. You can control the pace with the push of button and keep an eye on the distance simultaneously. One word of caution is to be careful not to overreach; it can be difficult to focus on pushing the button to slow the pace down when you’ve exhausted yourself.

Heat Training – The ambient room temperature in most US homes range from 68 to 74 degrees, which is pretty warm when you’re running. The higher temperature coupled with the lack of headwind are the perfect cocktail to raise your core temperature and studies have shown it only takes about 10 days for your body to acclimate to exercise in warmer climates. Some of those positive adaptations include more efficient sweating (cooling), better cardiovascular function and increased endurance in both warm and cool conditions. So next time you’re training for a warm race in a cool climate, give the treadmill some thought.

How

The 1% Rule – When you run outside you create headwind, but when you’re on the treadmill you’re not moving forward, so this doesn’t happen. In order to make up for the lack of wind resistance, you need to always set your treadmill to an incline of 1%

Get headphones – Music or a podcast are key to me when using the treadmill. If I’m not doing a specific workout, I find it mind numbing and I really need something to keep me engaged. You can find free podcasts all over the web and free music through services like Pandora or Spotify and you can get a pair of earbuds for as little as $5. 

Cover the screen – My wife loves this trick. After you’ve set the speed to a comfortable pace, cover the screen with a jacket or towel so that you can’t see the distance you’ve travelled or the time you’ve been there. Put on some tunes, space out, and before you know you’ll have knocked out that 6 mile run.

Practice the bail – Whether you’re doing speed intervals or hill reps on the treadmill, you need to know how to dismount safely in the event that you can’t sustain your pace. Practice this by gradually increasing the speed until you’re at your Tempo or Steady State pace and work on dismounting. The last thing you need is a face plant at the end of 12 800’s.

Workouts

Hills – A fartlek style hill workout is one of my favorites on the treadmill. You can play around with the speed and incline and make it is challenging and as long as you want. Warm up 15 to 20 minutes and then start playing with the speed and incline. Do hard bouts of 1 to 10 minutes (depending on the intensity, goal of the workout, your fitness level and training volume) with rests in between followed by a 10 to 15 minute cool down.

Intervals – Warm up 15 to 20 minutes at an easy pace. Then do 6 to 12 X 800M repeats at your 5K race pace (depending on your current fitness and training volume) with 2 minute jogs in between followed by a 10 to 15 minute cool down.

Tempo Intervals –  Warm up 15 to 20 minutes and then do 3 to 6 X  5 to 10 minutes (depending on your current fitness and training volume) at your tempo pace with 1 to 2 minute jogs in between followed by a 10 to 15 minute cool down.

You don’t have to dread the treadmill! It’s a useful tool that can be an integral part of your training. The next time you’re traveling, training for a warm race or caught in adverse weather conditions when you need to nail a specific workout; keep your friend, the treadmill, in mind.

If you have any questions about training or if you’re looking for a qualified coach, shoot me a message. And don’t forget to follow us on Twitter and Instagram @upperleftDT Thanks for reading!

Taking A Wrong Turn During A Trail Race

You’ve spent months preparing for this race. Early morning runs in the pouring rain, dimly lit by dying headlamps and yellow street lights. Uncomfortable evening runs with your sloppy joes still sloshing around in your stomach. Speed workouts you were sure would induce asthma or, at the very least, make a mess of your shorts.

You’re fit. You’re healthy. You’re fast! You’re cruising! And now you’ve taken a wrong turn …

This recently happened to me at Defiance 50K. I came to a confusing intersection and made a wrong turn, adding 1-2 miles to my run when I was on pace for a PR. Talk about frustrating! This particular course has a reputation for being poorly marked, but admittedly, I’m horrible at following course directions and maps, so this isn’t the first time I’ve done this. The most memorable of my wrong turn fiascos was at the McDowell Mountain Frenzy 50 miler in 2013. I had run the course the previous year and thought I knew the intersections, however, I got caught up in good conversation with a friend of mine and we somehow got 4+ miles off course, not knowing until we saw a suspicious cow staring blankly at us in the middle of the Sonoran desert with no signs of an organized event anywhere to be seen. By the time we got back to the finish we had added 9 miles. We would’ve gone 1 and 2 had we not made that error, but instead we got a DNF.

So, what do you do when this happens? How do you stay happy and enjoy your day instead of cursing the Gods and burning the forest down ? Here are a few tips:

  • Stay calm. If you’re in the mountains it’s easy to think “what if ?” and subsequently let that grow into an imaginary nightmare where you’re lost in the mountains for days, chasing chipmunks, and surviving off of tree bark (I do this occasionally with normal life events, it’s called catastrophizing). This won’t do you any good, so check yourself! You’re most likely not going to die.
  • Try to get on track. If you’re on a mountainous course it can feel daunting, and yes, staying safe should be your number one concern, which entails getting back on course. When was the last time you saw a course marker? How many turns have you made? Backtrack. Retrace your steps. At most organized events, this should be fairly easy to do, so don’t panic.
  • Assess the situation. 99% of the time you will eventually get back on course. If you’re so lost that you don’t know where you are and can’t find your way back, then that’s a whole different can of worms possibly involving Search and Rescue and back country survival skills that we may address in a later post. If you’ve only added a mile or two on a non-remote course, like I did at Defiance 50K, then maybe you’ll find value in getting back on track and finishing, but if you’ve gone so far off course that you’re risking turning your 50 Miler into a 100K that you’re not ready for, it may be best to pull the plug; that’s ultimately up to you. Just be sure to let the volunteers know you’re dropping if you decide to do so.
  • Be kind. I’ve seen a number of runners become seriously angry at the RD, the volunteers, the tax rates, the air… don’t get me wrong – I’ve been there, but these things happen and you shouldn’t be snappy with people or look for someone to blame. Just accept the fact that your day didn’t go as planned and enjoy the ride! 
  • Be mindful. If you’re having trouble cooling down, try to bring your thoughts to center. Focus on the sound of each foot step against the ground or the color of the leaves around you or how the wind feels against your face; you’ll never see or feel these things exactly this way again and the light will never hit the forest this way again. You’re seeing all of this for the first and last time. Isn’t that amazing? This technique may sounds airy fairy, but it can be instrumental in high stress situations.
  • Focus on what’s next. Remember that it’s just running; missing a turn sucks, but it’s not the end of the world! There are hundreds of races out there and you can usually turn this unfortunate turn of events into a beneficial training run to build fitness and confidence for your next adventure.

I hope some of these suggestions help you if you happen to miss a turn at some point in your running career. Please feel free share your advice and experience in the comments section, and as always, if you’re interested in a personal coach or custom training plan, contact me here.
Happy training !

Top 7 Trail Races In Washington

This was going to be a top 5 list, but because our friends over at Seven Hills Run Shop are so awesome, we’ve changed it to a top 7 list. The following events are what we would consider the top 7 trail races in Washington State (currently). I’ve run 3 of them, while the others are included because of their deep fields, beautiful scenery and great reputations in the community.

1. First on our list we have Orcas Island 50K. This was the first organized race I ran and I will do my best to be on that island every year until I die regardless of if I’m racing, volunteering or just hanging out with friends. It’s the most “PNW” race I’ve ever experienced: winding your way from sea to the summit of Mt. Constitution through old growth forest on squishy single track, surrounded by bright green moss and near untouched flora with a staggering elevation gain of 8,500 feet – it’s just as breathtaking as it is challenging. It’s so popular that Rainshadow Running has to do a lottery now, but if you’re going to run an Ultra, this should be your first choice. There’s also a 25K the weekend prior for you short distance aficionados. This race feels like home.

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Photo by Glenn Tachiyama

2. Second we have the White River 50 Miler. This was once one of the most competitive 50 Milers in the country and is still the most competitive in Washington State; offering prize money to the top 3 finishers. The entire race features views of the ominous Mount Rainier as you make your way through dense forest, over ridge lines and up and down the perfect mix of technical terrain and buttery smooth singletrack. The 50 Mile course features 8,700 feet of climb and descent and will leave you sore for days (or even weeks) following the race.

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Photo by Glenn Tachiyama

3. The Guerilla Running Hillbilly Half Marathon in Capitol Forest is a local favorite and has been part of the La Sportiva Mountain Cup in the past. The start is located off of highway 101 just outside of Olympia. The RDs, who happen to be good friends of mine, call it “One of the most challenging half marathons in the State of Washington.” The weather is usually nasty, there are deep puddles, lots of mud and the forest is dense. It’s almost always guaranteed to be a mud bath, just watch out for stray bullets – the reason my workouts are always so fast out there.

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4. Chuckanut 50K is arguably one of the most competitive 50K’s in the country and always has a stacked field and sizable prize purse (for trail running, anyways). Going on it’s 25th running, it’s also got rich history. I’ve never run this race personally, but almost all of my friends have and say it’s a fantastic course and we sure do love those Fairhaven Runners! With 20k of the distance on Bellinghams’s  flat interurban trail and 5,000 feet of climb and descent on trail in the middle, this course will test your skills in every kind of running possible.

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Photo Courtesy of Elisa Laverty

5. Chuckanut Mountain Marathon Championships – For those of you wanting some of the same trails in the same area as the the Chuckanut 50K, this race is a little more low key, but just as beautiful and brutal. With 4,500 feet of climbing, it’s not your average marathon. It’s the championship race for the the Bellingham Trail Series and is run pretty much solely on single track through beautiful PNW forest on Chuckanut Mountain. Rock Trail is steep as all hell and Ridge Trail is super techy, while most of the rest of the course is buttery smooth. There is also a free kids race for those of you who love to involve the family in these events. 

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6. Cutthroat Classic. I’ll be honest, I had never heard of this race until I asked about top races on Twitter, but Maxwell Ferguson said “A list of best trail races has to include Cutthroat. It is literally: a classic.” So here it is. It is an 11 mile run in the North Cascades starting at at Rainy Pass and climbing over Cutthroat Pass to Cutthroat lake with over 2,000 feet of gain. From what I’ve heard, it’s gnarly and beautiful and it sells out every year.

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Photo courtesy of Justin Huff by Patricia Leigh

7. Finally we have the big guns: The Cascade Crest 100. I have yet to run a 100 miler, but all my friends tell me this is the place to start. This clockwise loop course, starting in Easton, WA was founded in 1999 and is one of the most well known 100 Milers in the country. It gains 22,250 feet over 100 miles and passes through both Wenatchee and Snoqualmie-Baker National Forests including 30 miles on the PCT.  It’s a hell of a course, just check out the runners manual! You must have completed a qualifying 50 Mile or any 100 Miler and you must do 8 hours of trail work to run. With classic PNW views, big climbs and the real possibility of hallucinations due to exhaustion and sleep deprivation, I’ve been told it’s a must do.

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Photo courtesy of Sean Olson by Glenn Tachiyama

So there you have it! I suggest you get out and experience some of the wonderful landscape, beautiful scenery, challenging courses and vibrant trail running community we are so fortunate to have here in Washington State.

And remember, we can help get you to any one of these start lines fit and healthy. Just drop us a line if you have any questions.

Cheers!

The Benefits of Easy Running

Sometimes I hear people refer to easy running as “junk mileage” but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Even with varying opinions on training theories, renowned coaches and exercise scientists can agree on one thing: easy running is beneficial. There is a reason that elite marathoners run upwards of 140 miles per week, with the majority of that mileage being at their respective “easy” pace. Since there are so many publications focusing on different types of speed work  I wanted to take a moment to talk about the type of running that should comprise more than half of your weekly mileage: easy running.

First off let’s talk about what easy running should be. Easy running should be done at a conversational pace, meaning you should be able to carry on a full conversation without gasping for air. If you wear a heart rate monitor, easy pace is roughly 65 to 75 % of your max HR, and if you’re using GPS, it’s  1 to 2 minutes slower than your Marathon pace. Easy pace can even be up to 3 minutes per mile slower than MP during recovery runs provided there’s no breakdown in form. I often run 4+ minutes slower than my current Marathon race pace when I’m running with my wife, but I can’t stress enough how important it is to pay attention to your form; if you can’t keep good form because you’re too tired or the pace is too slow, either speed up or abandon ship, because you’re doing more harm than good.

Now, let’s look at a few of the benefits associated with easy running.

Easy running  develops the heart muscle enabling it to pump more blood through the body to the working muscles. It increases hemoglobin content in the blood, which transports the oxygen we need for aerobic activities, while also developing your capillary beds enabling them to deliver more oxygen and fuel, more efficiently to your exercising muscles. It promotes the growth of mitochondria, the “energy factories” of your cells,  which oxidize carbohydrate and both fatty and amino acids so your body can produce more energy while exercising aerobically. Easy running also increases fatigue resistance by developing slow twitch muscle fibers while a number of physiological adaptations occur that lead to injury resistance, including the development of bone strength and density, tendon development and the development of running muscles.

Easy running is a good way to safely increase your overall training volume and subsequent performances. By simply adding a couple of extra easy miles to your warm ups, cool downs or easy days and running the bulk of your mileage at easy pace, you will reap the benefits of increased energy production, efficient oxygen and fuel use and stronger muscles and tendons, all of which will help you become a better runner.

Happy Trails!