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Antelope Island Buffalo Run 100 mile Race Recap

It was 8am on a Friday morning and it was pouring rain. I drove onto Antelope Island and pulled into a parking lot to grab my bib number and shirt. It was all real now. I was unusually calm this morning, which compared to my previous 100 mile attempt was very reassuring. As I drove to the starting area, I saw it, my first buffalo about 5 feet from my car. How in gods name am I supposed to run with these gigantic creatures just running around the island?? Well, no one had been hurt yet so I guess it’ll all be good…..right?

I arrived about 2 hours before our early starting time, which was intentional. I tend to get very anxious before races(especially my NUMBER ONE race) so arriving TOO early is my plan. I dropped my drop bags onto the tarps, walked around a bit, took my before race photo, and sat back in my car and played some solitaire. Yep, sitting and playing solitaire keeps me calm and not overthinking what is about to come. I had put in training for the past 6 months, including two 40 milers and a 24 hour race, so I felt ready and was ready. It was about 9:30am so I wandered into the tent for the pre race briefing(which included instructions on how NOT to get charged by the buffalo. Very reassuring.) and just like that we were lining up. This was what I had planned and trained for over the past 2-3 years. I had never felt more ready.

The race layout was two 50 mile “loops”(more like a couple of pinched loops and an out & back of about 20 miles) which was perfect! If you have tried to do 3-4 loops of a longer race, it can be very daunting. This way, I could finish the 50 miles and end up at the start/finish to get a little boost from my pacers & crew(which consisted of my husband Jeremy and great race support Bruce). With ONLY about 7500 ft elevation gain over the entire 100 miles, this was a much less daunting course then some others I had attempted(Tushars with it’s 10,000-12,000ft climb and Rio Del Lago with it’s 14,000+ elevation gain) so that helped my confidence. I stuck to my aid station plan almost flawlessly: Refill your pack, add electrolytes every other aid station, refill your food making sure you had at least 800 calories on you at all times, put BioFreeze on your feet to stave off soreness, and sit down for a bit but try to keep it to 5 minutes.

Within the first 5 miles of the course, I found myself playing chicken with a buffalo on the trail. He goes one way, I go the other. He turns around, I try not to freak out and get around him. All I could remember was “Don’t look them in the eye!” and “Do not run if you are close to one!”. Talk about instilling a slight fear of death. Those first 50 miles felt great, my body felt better then I could have hoped for. My pace put me about 2 hours ahead of cutoff times and I was feeling awesome! As I came into the finishing tent about 12:30am Saturday morning, I was welcomed by my husband and Bruce, a VERY welcome sight. I sat for 20 mins(knowing I was ahead of schedule) and shoveled pizza, soup, and coke into my mouth as fast as I could. I knew these next 20 miles were the hardest part and that being night time, I may forget to eat as often as needed. So, I was trying to front load and get some calories in while I could.

Expecting Jeremy to jump in as pacer for the next 20 miles or so, he said “Ok, you go the next 20 miles and I will be right here when you get back.”. Huh?!? This was the hardest portion of the race! I have to go alone?!? Being pretty tired and not able to really think too much, I said ok and at 1AM, I headed out. The next 20 miles were rough! Most of the elevation of the course was in THESE 20 miles. Winds had picked up to 25+ mph and on some steep drops off of the trail, it was a little questionable. I was tired(as expected), cold, and it was just a rough 6-7 hours. Each aid station I would sit, put my head in my hands, and wallow, but then I would get my shit together, refill, and head out. Just trying to get through the night and into sunrise was my goal for this portion of the race.

It was 8AM and I was feeling pretty defeated. I had cried a few times, or tried to at least(you’d be surprised how hard it is to cry under duress and when you are clinging to hydration) and as I came around the corner and the finishing tent was in sight, I saw Jeremy. At just the right time and with just the right tone, he said let’s get this done! Only 23 hours in, I had 9 more hours to get this last 30 miles done. I can actually finish this thing! With the night behind me, my spirits were lifting pretty quickly.

The next 25 miles were a constant awareness of time, of movement, of alternating between my shuffle jog and walking a little when needed.   Jeremy was there the whole way, telling me to try to run. He made sure I had what I needed at every aid station, coke, food, refilled camelback. He was the best pacer I could have asked for. Of course, being 24 hours into a non stop race, I was starting to get a tiny bit agitated. I wouldn’t expect anything less honestly, and those who know me, would probably be surprised it took me that long to get to that point. So we kept moving and as we hiked up the hill and approached the 95th mile, Jeremy let me finish the last part on my own. I know part of it was because, well, he was probably sick of moving like a snail for 25 miles. But I like to think it was just that he wanted me to finish alone, what I had started alone.

I came around the back side of the final loop and I could see it, the finishers tent. It was then that everything just came together in my head. Oh my god, I am going to finish 100 miles. Oh my god, I am not last! Oh my god, all of that hard work and those long weekend runs paid off. I DID IT! And so I came down the final stretch into the finish, I could hear Jeremy and Bruce as they watched me walk, run, walk some more, run some more, and I just felt complete happiness. Again, I tried to cry and probably got two tears out(it’s hard to cry when you’re exhausted haha) and I came into the finish, the happiest I have been with myself. I realized that it was possible and I just made it so. The remainder of that day really didn’t entail much more then a shower, pizza, TV, and sleep.


A Few Things that I Learned on this Race


*I didn’t listen to ANY music! I tried, I really tried to, but I wasn’t feeling it and it ended up being 100 miles listening to other runners, my mind, and the surroundings. This just surprised me, a lot!

*My feet, which had given me trouble all throughout this training cycle, held up great! Knowing they were a little difficult, I made sure I stopped at each aid station and out on biofreeze. The 30 seconds it took really helped keep them mellow and was worth the time.

*I OVER packed my drop bags. Expecting rain, each bag had a sweatshirt, socks, a hat in two. I was over prepared and it helped avoid some of the anxiety during the race.

*ALWAYS PACK A HEADLAMP IN YOUR PACK! Instead of trying to time where I would be when it got dark, I kept my headlamp on me at all times. You ever run in the dark on a trail? Yeah, probably not because it’s stupid! I ran into a few people who didn’t get to their light in time and well, a few didn’t finish. Maybe this was part of the reason.

*I found it helpful to separate this race into 3 separate races: the morning portion, the night time, and post sunrise. The goal is basically, get through the night and you’ll come out on the other side in a much better spot. Push through the dark place!

*My many training runs taught me that the food you like to eat while you run, may be the food you hate on race day. You NEED to have a lengthy list of options. Pros can sustain themselves on a single type of nutrition, but for the rest of us it’s all about what you can basically get into your body. Pop tarts I consider my staple base. Soup, like an angel, especially when it’s cold and/or dark. Potato chips, you can just shove them in by the handful and not pay a price for it. Pizza, um yeah pizza was a great treat a the 50 mile mark. Ibuprofen(I know it’s not food) was a life saver twice when I just couldn’t get past the pains of the run. Gummy candy, easy to shove in and kind of a treat when you need a break from pop tarts. Coke, coke, and more coke! Even if it were 5 sips, every stop on the last stint included coke. Sugar, carbonation to settle your stomach, and it’s fairly calorie dense for the volume.

*Why would you run a 100 miles when your training was a marathon? Yeah, I don’t know why either, but I met a few people who were in that boat. Why go in unprepared mentally and physically, when you can train and be much more relaxed on race day? Needless to say, some of these people did not finish. You may be able to push through the physical under preparedness, but mentally you WILL suffer!

*You finish, exhausted and just drained of every ounce of energy. You say you will never do this s**t again. Two weeks later, you’re signed up for a 48 hour. Yeah, they’re right. You WILL do it again, if the passion is inside of you.



Antelope Island Buffalo Run 100 mile race, March 2018

Coach Melissa Farrell

100 Mile Finisher

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The Road to Running 100 miles

As I approach 4 months out from my first 100 mile run, there are so many things that go into training and preparing for the big day.  For the first couple of months, it was nutrition & hydration.  Easy right?  Well, preparing and training your body to intake energy to sustain 22 hrs+ of work, well, it’s hard work.  Once that was buckled down, it was strategy.  You think you can literally RUN 100 miles?  Well, if you have done it then more power to you.  If you haven’t, you have to be smart.  This means being prepared to walk most uphills in order to conserve energy for the latter hours.  You check your ego at the trailhead, literally. 

And here we sit, coming off a few pretty long training runs.  Runs that include hours upon hours of walking, running, hiking.  Hours of heat exposure, stopping at the car so you can shove food in your mouth and ice in your hat.  Hours of mental training, of repetitive mantras of positivity and riding out the dark times.  And with the day quickly approaching, one of the final steps is to prepare those who will support you on race day.  Your crew, your pacer, your family & friends.  Remember they have probably never gone through such an experience and so the only way they can help you, is with some draw out instructions.  Here are my instructions that I sent to my pacer for my upcoming 93K training race.

**I tend to be a lone runner, which means I am not a big talker.  Though I do need distraction during the later miles of the run, it doesn’t mean you need to entertain me or talk the whole time.  It is a good idea to say something once in a while to a)make sure I am alert, b)take my mind off of what is probably a very dark place, and c)to distract.  If I ignore you, don’t take it personally.  I am just saving my energy for more important things, like running 100 miles 😉

**Your primary job will be to a)make sure I eat enough calories(We will chat before the race but we are probably looking at about 300 calories per hour), b)make sure I am drinking consistently(most likely this should be every 15 mins or more often during the hotter hours), with the goal being about 25 oz of electrolytes per hour, c)Keep tabs of when I go to the bathroom(fun, huh?) so that you can tell if I am dehydrated.  If once every couple hours is happening then we are probably good to go.  

**AID STATIONS: Make sure I eat enough calories before heading out.  Make sure if there was something that was an issue(wet socks, chafing, food that didn’t sit well, etc..) that it is addressed at the aid station before setting back out.  Be prepared to spend 10-15 mins at aid stations, depending on the difficulty of the previous miles.  MAKE SURE I reload my food and electrolytes, since it may be 6+ miles or so between stations and this can take 2 hours if it is a difficult part. MAKE SURE I prepare for the upcoming miles, if it will be getting dark I need a headlamp.  If it is approaching night time, make sure I bring a long sleeve shirt.  If my socks are wet, make sure I change them.  Basically, be my babysitter. 
**Watch where we are going.  Even though I can see, it doesn’t mean I am looking… anything really!  Especially when it gets dark, we will have headlamps but since I will most likely be a little loopy, you will need to keep track of the trail and just make sure I don’t veer off into the abyss 🙂  
**Be prepared for some slow running/walking or hiking.  The ultimate goal in these races is to keep moving forward, even if it is down to a slow walk.  If we are approaching a downhill, feel free to suggest trying to run it.  I’ll tell you if I don’t feel like running, and I just won’t.  BUT sometimes a little nudge is all it takes for there to be a spark lit under my ass, so suggest away!  
**DON’T LET ME QUIT!  Of course I will want to quit a LOT of times.  As ridiculous as it sounds, just tell me at the next aid station.  If I am persistent about quitting, try to talk about something different and distract me.  It kind of is like being with a kid or a puppy, cause at later miles I can be easily refocused off of my pain.  There will be times where no matter what you say, I will be dead set on quitting.  Feel free to tell me “Don’t be a wuss.”  “Be the badass that you are.” “Don’t fuck up all that work you’ve put in.”  “When it’s over you can have ALL THE CAKE YOU WANT!”, you know, shit like that 🙂 
If you haven’t paced an ultra runner, you should try it!  It’s a chance to see humans broken down, pushing themselves to the limits both physically and mentally.  It’s a chance to see some beautiful courses and to be the hero who plays a critical role in getting that runner to the finish line safely. So to all who have played a role, you rock!  
Melissa Farrell
Las Vegas Runners Coach
Ultra marathoner & Cake Lover
Melissa Farrell - Running Coach
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Thoughts on the question of ‘why?’

boston 10There are many eye-roll-inducing comments I hear regularly as a runner. Mostly from well-meaning friends and family about how they wish they could run or admire my fitness or just nick-naming me Forrest. Invariably after the initial praise and admiration comes the question of ‘why?’ Why would anyone subject themselves to being uncomfortable and breathing hard for more than a few seconds? Why on God’s green Earth when we have the Prius to transport us to any faraway destination on a whim would I exert myself for more than a few steps at a time? Running is engrained in most sports many of us spend hours watching every weekend, yet many people wonder “Why would you run if no one’s chasing you?”, especially if I’m not getting paid millions of dollars. For the record, I don’t have anything against Prius’ but it seems like a fitting symbol of “human advancement”. A symbol that we’ve somehow evolved away from the need for unstructured physical activity and grown into a society that celebrates gluttony and doing as little as possible. So, over the past few months, I’ve been asking myself why. Why, if you “don’t even drive that far”, would I want to run that far? The answer isn’t simple but I want to share my thoughts. My initial and gut response to the question is usually “I don’t know” or “because I like it” but I wanted to take the time to scratch a little deeper and explore some reasons I run.

To be more fit?

I ran cross country in high school…… then I took a 10-year break to explore the joys of partying and chasing women, which years later earned me a beer gut and the privilege of being out of breath when I walked a flight of stairs. Like a lot of others, I started running again as was way to get back in 18 year-old shape, with GI-JOE-like abs, lean physique and full head of hair. I vividly remember the first time I stepped out for a jog after my hiatus. I lumbered slowly through my neighborhood one cool evening for about three-quarters of a mile before I almost passed out from the pain of my lungs trying to explode out of my chest, then I walked home. I didn’t remember running being that hard. A few days later, after the first night’s suffering had been forgotten, I tried again and got a little farther. The next week I made it a couple miles without stopping and soon after that a runner was reborn. My mileage slowly increased, my waist size slowly decreased and although I haven’t been able to grow a full head of hair in years and no one would mistake me for being 20, no one would mistake me for being out of shape either. Something else happened after I started running. I didn’t stop. I actually started enjoying it. My daily pain ritual became something I looked forward to and over time I’ve continued to enjoy the benefits of being fit and don’t shy away from any mirror, but my goals have shifted from simply being fit to something much deeper.

Because it feels good?

It doesn’t always. In an average month I run 200+ miles in training and sometimes it’s not enjoyable. Sometimes it’s just habit or my neurotic, addictive personality that keeps me going. At least once every time I run a marathon, usually around the 20th mile, I ask myself why I’m doing it. My feet hurt, my chest and legs burn and I’m tired. I ask myself why I can’t just be happy at home watching the race on TV with my feet kicked up and a 12 ounce in my hand, but I’ve come to realize I don’t want it to be easy. I don’t do it because it feels good. My joy and pleasure in running come from doing something hard that I’ve never done before. Don’t be mistaken, there are days when the miles float by without effort, it feels like I could run forever and, with all the endorphins in my system, you might mistake me for being high as a kite, but most days, it’s just a run.

To set a new Personal Record?

I had a conversation with a friend the other day in which she was admiring my PRs and I was downplaying my abilities as not very remarkable. I can run a 17 minute 5K and well under 3 hours in a marathon. I think my times are respectable but not extraordinary. My friend disagreed and suggested she would do a lot to be able to run the times I can and that I should be more appreciative of my talent. As I’ve matured as a runner though, I’ve realized that the joy and pride I get from setting a new PR or winning a race is fleeting, often only lasting as long as it takes me to set my next goal. In other words, when I ran my first 22 minute 5K, I enjoyed it but it only made me want to run a 5K in under 20 minutes. Now that I can run 17 minutes, I want to be able to run 16. I get the most joy in running when I do something else: my best. It doesn’t matter the distance or event, in training or in a race. When I know I’ve done all I could do in training, nutrition and rest and then go out and perform in a race, it gives me a happiness that lasts a very long time, but ultimately that’s not why I run. Even with my best there will always be faster runners than me unless I’m the fastest runner in the world, and even then if speed were my only motivation I’d be disappointed if I wasn’t constantly improving and that just isn’t possible after a certain age.

So let’s go back to the original question? WHY?

I run because at my very core I am an animal and competitor, because I’ve come to love the way my lungs and legs burn during a hard effort, because I enjoy the chill on my face on a winter morning and rhythmic beat of my feet on the asphalt. I run because I enjoy finding and pushing past my mental and physical limits and that perseverance helps me in many other aspects of my life. I run because of the inherent freedom that comes with finding a new route. Even simpler than that, I run because outside of eating, sex and sleeping, it seems like the most natural of human activities.  I run because it’s fun. Don’t believe me? Go to any elementary or middle school field, any youth baseball diamond, basketball court or public park then, without bias, take in the pure, unfiltered smiles and uninhibited laughter. Then you’ll know genuine pleasure that comes from running. It’s a simple joy you won’t see many places and it’s a pleasure that many of us forget what it’s like to experience as we “mature”. When I run, I feel just like a kid playing tag on the playground, and even if it’s not on the surface, my internal smile is as wide as they come. So instead of asking me why I run, wishing you could be a runner or admiring my fitness, maybe it’s time to break out those sneakers gathering dust in the back of your closet and step out the door.

Jeremy Wallacboston 11e
Coach, Las Vegas Runners

Has no idea why he runs

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Why I Have a Coach and 6 Reasons You Don’t Need One

USATF Coach Jeremy Wallace

USATF Coach Jeremy Wallace“If a man coaches himself, then he has only himself to blame when he is beaten.” – Roger Bannister

…….. but before we get into that, let me tell you about the duck foot.  It’s attached to my right leg and you can see it in roughly 50% of my race pictures.  It turns out when I run, from push-off to leg extension to hip flexion.  My significant other makes fun of it, it occasionally rubs against my left leg, it turns out awkwardly all the time unless I consciously turn it in, makes me feel self-conscious and has a mind of its own, but has never caused me any real problems.  Next time you see me running, or even just standing around, you can look briefly at the duck foot but don’t stare, it’s not polite.  It’s something I’ve tried to “fix” in the past after friends, coaches, chiropractors and doctors told me I needed to in order to be a good, healthy runner.  I’ve tried rolling, stretching, strengthening and just being conscious of it, then I injured my knee trying to “correct” my form, on advice from one of the “experts”.  I finally had the duck foot thoroughly examined only to find that the cause was simply the way the bones in my ankle were built and I should probably just blame my mother.

Now about the first time I went through a workout with my current coach.  He took a look at my form as if through a microscope, an hour or more of putting me through all sorts of drills and punishing intervals, all while eyeballing and seemingly criticizing every movement and shaking his head at the duck foot.  Lap after lap he asked me to make small changes to what I was doing then examined the results closely.  He asked questions about what sort of training I’d done in the past and what I’d done to change the way I run.  Truth be told, even with my experience, I’m self-conscious about my performance, so having someone critique every move I made without saying anything about what I was doing wrong almost sent me over the edge.  At the end of the session I almost expected him to tell me that I wasn’t good enough, to go home picking up some Carl’s Jr. on the way, kick the duck foot up and watch some cooking shows.  Thankfully that’s not what happened.  In the end, he simply said “There’s nothing wrong with your form, you just need to work harder”, which I know isn’t entirely true, but it completely changed the way I looked at my training and one reason I have a coach.  His statement somehow gave me permission to step back from what had been ingrained in me as an athlete and coach.  In short, it allowed me to stop letting the foot be my limiter and trying to correct every little thing that was “wrong” with me.  Since then my fitness has improved exponentially.  That doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten about my inefficiencies and working on them, it just means they no longer limit my efforts.

Here are some other reasons:

-Accountability: I get asked often why I don’t write my own training program, especially since I’ve coached so many others.  The answer is simple.  I’m not my own best coach.  I’ve realized over the years that I can run hard, but I run harder if someone is looking at me expecting me to run hard.  I’m also more likely to limit random days off, I consider nutritional choices more carefully and do more supplemental work like foam rolling.

-Different perspective: There are a hundred different ways to train for an event and there are none that are wrong, just wrong for the athlete.  My coach and I regularly discuss my training path to ensure I progress appropriately.  Sometimes I don’t follow the path he’d like me to take but talking with him allows me to consider another opinion.

-I don’t know everything: I know, disappointing right?  It turns out that running is a simple act but bio-mechanically complicated.  To run in an inefficient way is equivalent to trying to throw a baseball without using your wrist or fingers (the ball won’t go nearly as far).  Throw in mental training, nutrition, periodization, flexibility, hydration and injury prevention, and there’s a lot to learn.

-Someone to blame: This is my favorite reason for having a coach.  I’m afraid of giving 100% and failing, not just in running but in other avenues of my life.  Having a coach gives me just enough crutch to put everything I have into my training with no reservations, and if things don’t work out the way I’d like, in my head there must be something wrong with his training plan.  I’m sure this sounds silly to some but it’s just how my brain works.

-Motivation: My coach knows what makes me perform.  Somehow he’s able to get me to push myself way out of my comfort zone and into what I like to call the “Blue Zone”.  It’s the area of consciousness just before passing out, when your breathing can no longer keep up, when your vision starts to lose focus, when the only thing you hear his your heart beating out of your chest and the only thing you feel is your legs tingle as though they could crumple beneath your body at any moment.  You know, the sweet spot where real gains are made….. Ah, to be a runner:)

-I need to be held back: I’m prone to bouts of egotistical running behavior.  If you’ve ever run with me, you know it’s a rare day when I’ll let you get too far ahead of me before the run turns from friendly training workout to death sprint, which good distance training almost never calls for.  Having a coach doesn’t eliminate my propensity to go harder than I need to, but it certainly makes it less likely.

And now, 6 reasons you don’t need a coach:

1-You’re not motivated by being a better runner: People run for many different reasons.  Some for an energy release or because it helps them focus or lose a few pounds.  Others because their daily 4 miler helps them get going in the morning or they like spending time with other runners or because in their minds it means they can have an extra glass of wine at night.  In any case, I’ve learned that not all people who run regularly are interested in becoming a stronger, faster or more durable runner.  If you’re one of them, you don’t need a coach.

2-You already know everything there is to know about distance training: Why bother with a coach, go straight to the Olympics.

3-You’re impatient: I’ll often be asked by a runner to help them in training only to have that same runner ask me a few weeks later why they haven’t set any records yet.  Running well takes time.  There are no magic bullets or workouts that will transform you over night.  If you decide to go with a coach, success isn’t automatic, it’s a big investment of time and it will take months or years of consistent, specific work before you reach your potential.

4-You’re not open to new ways of training: Occasionally someone will ask me to write their training program for them and then not follow one day of it.  They have their own ideas of what they like or want to do and a coach’s program just isn’t it.  This isn’t productive for the coach or athlete.  If you have a program you’re getting good results from and/or aren’t open to new ideas, you don’t need a coach.

5-You’re your own best coach: There are very few professional or elite amateur distance runners who coach themselves, but most novice runners think it’s as easy as putting on your shoes and pounding out 20-30 miles per week or downloading a generic ½ marathon training plan to be at their best.  Maybe it is for you.  Here’s a little test: Do you know what the terms periodization, cadence, hip flexion, glycogen depletion or aerobic threshold mean?  Do you understand the role of low and high glycemic foods in training?  Do you know what you’re going to eat the day before your next event or drink the day of?  Do you know within a few BPMs or seconds/mile how hard you’re going to run your next tempo effort?  Do you keep a food and mileage log?  Are you progressing?  If so, maybe you don’t need a coach.

You like taking a little advice from everyone:  As an athlete myself, I get daily unsolicited advice.  Sometimes even from non-runners, on what I need to be doing to be a better runner, from making my long run at least 22 miles every week, to limiting my runs to 3 days per week so I don’t ruin my knees, to avoiding nuts because they’ll make my hair fall out.  Everyone’s an expert, but I can only listen to one coach at a time and if you’re someone who likes to take advice from everyone, one coach isn’t going to cut it.

A good coach is a good motivator, teacher and friend.  He or she can be just what you need to develop your fitness, get over that training plateau, injury or help you set a new personal record, but only if you’re ready to be coached.  I’ve learned that a coach doesn’t necessarily have to have a ton of education or even be an athlete and that some of the smartest, best athletes make the worst coaches.  Your coach should only know what they’re talking about when it comes to getting the best out of you.  Usain Bolt’s coach Glen Mills never ran past freshman year in high school and never went to college, but has gone on to help develop the fastest sprinter in the world.  Why?  Because he found a love and passion for the sport, became a student of running and has learned how to effectively motivate his athletes.  If you go looking for a coach, that’s exactly what you should look for.  Not all coaches are the same.

Here’s the truth: My coach and I don’t always see eye to eye.  He holds back my paces when I’d like to go harder and tells me to eat more or less food.  Sometimes he questions my efforts and others he asks me to give an extra 10% when I have nothing left (which makes me mad for some reason), but I don’t need him to be my bestie all the time.  The bottom line is that I’ve become a better and faster athlete with him and without him there’d be no one to tell me to ignore the duck foot and work harder, which is really all the permission I need.

Happy training!!

Jeremy “Duckfoot” Wallace
Las Vegas Runners
USATF and RRCA Running Coach

USATF and RRCA Running Coach, Jeremy Wallace

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What’s In A Good Runner – by Jeremy Wallace

Good Runner - Las Vegas Runners

Good Runner - Las Vegas Runners“Did you win?” he asked innocently.  A simple question from an acquaintance about a month or two ago.  I don’t blame him.  He had no idea such a question can stir a flurry of emotions in a competitive athlete like myself.  He was referring to the Boston Marathon.  A question from someone who doesn’t run, and one that brings about feelings of anxiety, inadequacy and ultimately rage deep in my soul.  How, you might ask?  Well, my first thought was “Is this guy screwing with me?” but a quick check of any quick-shifting pupils or any hint of his mouth turned up at the corners indicated he was dead serious.  He actually wanted to know if I won the Boston Marathon.  I’ve found the idea that I’m the greatest runner ever is pretty common among my non-running friends.  They typically have no idea what it takes to finish a marathon, let alone win one.  My second thought was that I should explain to him that I finished 1,195 out of 26,610 runners which is in the top 5%.  I wanted to tell him that you have to qualify for the event with a good time in another marathon, that I was probably in the top 1% of marathoners nationally, that 26,000 people is a lot, that only one person can win, that the winner is probably from East Africa and that I would be competitive locally but the Boston Marathon is a World-class event, and that I trained really hard for it and still feel accomplished………. But people who don’t run generally don’t know or care much about marathons or the 5 million+ people in the US who run them so why bother, plus in my make-believe conversation, his response would have been something to the effect of “So you lost?” which would have been where the rage came in, because there’s nothing more enraging to a runner than a couch potato making subtle judgements…….  So, I answered with a simple “Yes, of course I won!” and he seemed to be satisfied with that.  Don’t judge me.  He went on to tell me about a “5K marathon” he did once at a 5:00/mile pace.  I just nodded and smiled, mostly because it’s easier.  Here’s the truth though, he didn’t really care about my race either way, he just wanted to relate to me and make small talk.  What’s the harm, and why do I feel the need to justify anything?  Then I started thinking, what really makes a good runner?………………..

Is it time it takes to complete a distance?  If so, what distance?  100m?  ½ Marathon?  Is it rank?  If so, which rank?  The local 5K?  The Olympics?  Is it running longevity?  Is the 70 year old runner who’s been doing it all his life better than the 25 year old speed-demon?  What about someone who never gets injured?  Is he a good runner?  I occasionally get called a “good”, but I mostly consider myself mediocre, mostly because I’m sure I haven’t reached my potential and I’m not sure I have the drive to get there because there are times when I don’t give 100%.  What about you?  Here’s a better question:

What makes YOU a good runner?

Do you do your best?  At anything?  Are you committed to reaching your goals, even when they’re not easy or convenient?  Do you put everything you have into your diet, deficiencies, rest and training so you can put your all into your event?  How about your last main event?  Were you able to stay focused?  Did you leave every ounce of you on the course?  What about mid-training?  Did you complete the majority of your workouts with purpose and diligence or did you just go for a jog?  If not, why not?  Just do your best.  It’s such a simple statement, but so hard to do.  Some days your best will be just getting out of bed, other days you’ll be able to push yourself to the absolute limits of exhaustion.  I’ve found that most athletes are unable or unwilling to give 100%.  Maybe it’s time, fear,  lack of motivation or passion.  Whatever the case, what really makes you a good runner is the ability to get the best out of yourself on this day, without comparison to anyone else or yourself on any other day.  So my challenge to you and myself is to develop or redevelop our passion for running.  Refocus and find our excellence today, because what makes you a good runner is within you and up to you.  You can only have one Personal Record in your life at any given distance, one “best race ever”.  That means if you’re only comparing yourself to your PRs, you’ll be disappointed a lot.  If you’re constantly judging yourself and ability based on your last-best effort or someone else’s, you’ve already lost.  Remember, there can only be one Boston Marathon 1st place finisher.  If it’s not you, it doesn’t mean you lost, even if you finished 1,195th.  If you lost, the only reason is because you didn’t try.

I digress.  Let’s revisit the original problem

What if you find yourself in a similar situation?  What should you do if you’ve been cornered by an friend who seriously wants to know if you won your last race?  Someone staring you in the eye waiting to apply his disappointed look, sigh and judge your athletic performance before he tells you about his fantasy 3.1 mile-marathon and then goes back to eating his Cheetos without another thought of your silly little run?  You tell him “Of course I won!” and move on:)  It’s the truth, isn’t it?

Jeremy Wallace
Las Vegas Runners
RRCA and USATF certified coach
Could win the Boston Marathon if he wanted

USATF and RRCA Running Coach, Jeremy Wallace

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Its Not Rocket SURGERY- by Jeremy Wallace

Run Faster - Las Vegas Runners

Run Faster - Las Vegas RunnersI have a secret to tell you and you’re not going to like it, especially after everything you’ve read in running magazines.  You know, the articles that promise new speed if you add a tempo workout, fartlek, interval or other type of run.  They make you believe you’ll lower your PRs if you lift weights, do yoga, eat chia seeds, never eat bread, change your shoes, drink milk, don’t drink milk, skip heavy lifting, add mileage, stretch, skip the stretching, land mid-foot er… um forefoot and lower your mileage.  I’m sure you’ve read some of these articles right?  Well, I hate to break it to you, but these articles fail to mention the secret, which is THERE IS NO SECRET, but most of us have not reached our running potential.  Why?  With all the information AND misinformation out there, we have no idea how to reach it or we maybe we just don’t want to do the work.  Don’t get me wrong, the above methods work, but maybe not for you.  I’ve worked with and studied athletes of all backgrounds and abilities and there are certain characteristics of a fast runner.  Lucky for you I’ve put it all together in this article and you will now have the knowledge to run a 2:30 marathon.  Well…….. maybe not, but you can certainly run faster than you do now if you take a little of this advice.  Don’t want to run faster?  Don’t read any further.

You’re not like any other runner, ever.  Not in your stride, landing pattern, arm swing, nutrition, family commitments, mileage and sleep needs or flexibility.  So why are you following Shalane Flanagan’s training plan that you read about in Runner’s World when you haven’t even studied your own gait?  In order to reach your potential, you should have a carefully designed training plan based on your specific needs.  If you’re a runner who gets injured often, maybe 80 mile weeks aren’t for you and you need to cross-train more.  If you can bend over backwards and put your head between your legs, you probably don’t need to spend a lot of time on flexibility, being more mobile might even make you run slower.  If you can’t even touch your shins with your legs locked, you could probably use a flexibility routine.  If your arms flail wildly to the side like a Pterodactyl when you run, you might use some core activation work.  My point?  Just because your running buddy does 25-mile tempo runs leading up to his 10K doesn’t mean you necessarily need to follow suit.  Find out exactly what you need then work really hard at it.

I work with a runner who we’ll call Beth.  She’s a great athlete.  She regularly places high in her age group or overall in the events she completes.  Beth always completes her assigned workouts, eats well, recovers well, and used to run really HARD….. all the time, which many of you also do, which might also be why you’re not getting any faster and why Beth started to have problems!  No joke.  If you’re always running hard, it can be very difficult to recover between workouts.  It can also make it difficult to run hard when you really need to.  Most runners have a mentality that in order to be fast, they have to run fast, which is true, but you can’t run all of your training mileage at race pace and expect to perform well in an actual race.  Two things: (1) You don’t get faster during your workouts, you get faster during your recovery time.  (2) Hard workouts should be carefully planned and spaced to make room for recovery.  Every workout that isn’t hard should be easy.  How easy?  So easy you think it’s too easy.  Deena Kastor, the US record holder for the women’s marathon, ran that record at a 5:12/mile pace but was known to regularly complete her easier efforts closer to the 9:00/mile range.  If she was feeling particularly tired, she might even replace her run with a walk.

On the opposite end of the spectrum is the athlete who does all of his runs at a leisurely pace, taking care not to tax his body to the point of breathing hard or sweating, enjoying the run and smelling the flowers, content with his daily 5 miler at the same pace over the same terrain.  Sound familiar?  I’m not knocking the routine, it’s actually very healthy but if you actually want to improve your run fitness and run fast, you’re going to have to occasionally RUN FAST.  Hard running improves your cardiovascular fitness and works your muscles in a way that easy running just won’t.  I tell my athletes this, “hate the workout because if you go any slower you’ll be dead OR hate it because you feel like you’re going to die of exhaustion.  Pick one or the other, nothing in between.”

Let me give you a scenario.  Runner approaches coach to inquire about training, coach asks runner what he’d like to train for, runner says he’d like to train for a big marathon PR and qualify for Boston and he’s ready to begin training, coach asks when the event is, runner says 6 weeks, coach slaps his head in frustration and out comes a big sigh.  Sound silly?  It happens to me ALL THE TIME.  We want to run faster, right now, but run fitness takes time.  Years in fact to build to our potential, and months if you want to train for an event in the right way.  So set long-term goals and be willing to commit long-term.  After you’ve found your weaknesses, be patient with yourself and learn to enjoy the journey.  You have the rest of your life.

They say it takes about 7 years to build to your running potential.  You can’t train 6 weeks for a ½ marathon then take 6 months off and expect to be faster when you return.  On the other hand, those of you who are constantly injured because you want it now, who refuse to listen to your body and/or fix deficiencies in your form/flexibility/nutrition etc, it’s very difficult to be consistent when you’re sidelined.    You know who you are!  You’re the person who runs 18 milers with a patellar knee strap, limping the entire way, running until you’ve compensated so much you wind up with another injury you can’t run through.  Have knee/IT/back/whatever pain?  Guess what?  It doesn’t have to be that way but you need to do your homework to find out exactly what’s causing that pain, then work diligently to fix it, not just put a band-aid on it.  Sometimes it’s not obvious (ie knee pain caused by weak glutes).  Some things can’t be fixed without surgery, like arthritis or torn tendons, but most running injuries can be taken care of in a fairly simple way if you take the time to figure it out.

For such a simple sport, distance running is bio-mechanically complicated.  Get a coach, if not a coach, at least a good friend who has a solid background in running who can help motivate, instruct, fix your deficiencies and offer advice.  This motivator doesn’t have to have a doctorate or even be a certified coach.  I’ve learned that there are some people with a lot of knowledge who make terrible coaches.  Find someone you respect, who works with you in a way that makes you a better athlete and be willing to take direction.  Most of the best runners (and athletes in most other sports) in the world have coaches.  What makes you think you don’t need one?

The fastest runners generally know exactly what makes a fast runner.  Have you ever watched video of an efficient runner?  Have you ever videotaped yourself running?  What’s the difference?  Now, how are you going to find your efficiency?  Have you looked at the commonalities of great distance runners?  If you don’t know what’s going to make you better, how will you ever get better?  Hint: It’s not all about running harder/faster/longer.  Know the area where you could use the most improvement, then focus.

The best runners in the world don’t necessarily work harder than you, they’re just more efficient.  Their strides look effortless because they almost are.  Their legs, glutes, core, ankles and arms have learned to work so efficiently and fire so rapidly and precisely it can seem as if they’re floating.  Don’t get me wrong, you don’t need to fix everything.  Women’s marathon world record holder Paula Radcliffe has a very distinct, very inefficient head-bob when she’s tired, but If your running style resembles more donkey than gazelle, there are lots of things you can do to make it better, but it will take time, consistency and A LOT of effort.  COMMIT!

Meb Keflezighi, the fastest US marathoner ever, runs 100+ mile weeks and enjoys a single snack-size Snickers bar after particularly hard efforts during training.  Why do you think you can get away with chowing down half a birthday cake after a 5K?  Begin to think of your food as fuel for your next workout.  I’m not a dietitian and don’t pretend to know all there is about nutrition and I’m definitely not a food saint.  In fact, those of you who know me also know I indulge in the occasional donut, but there is a simple fact I’d like to share with you: most of us eat way too much of the wrong thing and weigh more than we need to for fast running.  You don’t need to eat like a rabbit, but you do need to pay attention.  There is also a definite correlation between body weight and running times.  Bottom line: If you want to be a faster runner, fuel better and weigh less.

You can follow the above advice and run until you’ve chafed yourself into runner’s bliss, run so hard you’re going to puke and so many miles you go through a pair of Kinvaras every week, but if you don’t take down time, you will not reach your potential.  The exercise is the stimulus, the down time is when you get faster.

Generally, if you really want it, you can have it.  Believe that you are not too slow, old, young, fat or weak. You’re not.  Whatever you don’t have, you probably just haven’t been willing to go get.  Decide you actually want to be faster, then go after it with a passion and don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t have it.  Am I promising that you can run a four minute mile if you work really, really hard?  Well, no, but I am promising that you can be a lot closer to it than you are now.

Well, did I share anything with you that you didn’t already know?  We are runners and naturally want to work ourselves hard, but if you’re not doing things to make yourself a better runner, you’re not training, you’re just jogging hard.  I know the “J” word is offensive to some but some of you are stuck in Jogger’s Paradise.  Find what works, work smart, be patient and consistent, be accountable, fix your problems, stop eating so much, sleep more and believe in yourself.  You don’t have to listen to me.  I’m not an Olympian and I haven’t run under 2:30 in the marathon (yet).  Hell I don’t even have an exercise degree.  I’m just a run coach with a love for the sport, some modest but respectable PRs and a donut habit but I can tell you for certain that it’s not rocket surgery……. or brain science!

Happy Running!
Jeremy Wallace
Assistant Whip Cracker
USATF and RRCA running coach

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It’s time for another free race entry giveaway!

The Color Run 5K is coming to Las Vegas on February 28th, and YOU can be the lucky winner of a FREE race entry!  The Color Run, also known as the Happiest 5k on the Planet, is a unique paint race that celebrates healthiness, happiness and individuality.

Now the single largest event series in the world, The Color Run has exploded since our debut event. We have more than tripled our growth, hosting more than 300 events in 50+ countries in 2014.

TO ENTER TO WIN: Just comment below with your name, email, and share “What makes you happy & shine?” along with the hashtag #WeShine Winner will be chosen on FEBRUARY 15th and notified via email.  

Good luck and Happy Running!
Melissa & Jeremy
Las Vegas Runners Coaches

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Duathlon World Championships Race Recap 

Duathlon World Championships - Las Vegas Runners

Las Vegas Runners - Melissa FarellLet me begin by saying that none of this could have been made possible by the large group of supporters including my family, Jeremy Wallace for supporting my training, my favorite Las Vegas Runners run group, and all of my clients who have been so positive throughout the entire process.  I couldn’t have done it without ALL of you and for that, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. 

We arrived in Vigo, Spain after a countless number of hours of flying and layovers.  I have never been so excited to see a piece of luggage come off of the belt as I was when I saw my bike box.  One of my biggest fears was getting to Spain, sans bike.  After spending the first couple of days recouping, getting s little run in, we decided to do a dry run on the bike course.  What could be better then a straight downhill into town, only to get to the 5+ mile uphill bike run, on a wet road, with a narrow shoulder and heavy traffic?  Needless to say nerves were high among the group.  In case there weren’t enough nerves going around, the wet bike course outlook didn’t help things.  We all spent the next day resting and seeing a little bit of the town.  We walked the run course, which consisted of 16 turns(yes, 16 turns), a short steep uphill in the very beginning which waned into a slight incline, before heading through the cobblestone streets of town which took you on a fast and beautiful downhill to the water’s edge.  From there, you run into transition where the last 200m on the track took you to the finish line.  It was an absolutely beautiful run course, well laid out in terms of logistics and elevation change.

Saturday, the day before the race and the plan was, and always is, to rest up and not do anything to strenuous.  Easier said then done, especially when racing abroad.  After a day of getting things prepped, making sure to eat and hydrate throughout the day, we were set to drop off the bikes at transition…..starting at 8:30PM.  It wouldn’t be so bad if my race was not starting at 8:30am.  Lines of athletes, from all over the world, waiting in line as we get our bikes checked, our uniforms checked, our ID’s checked, and basically looked over like we were going through TSA.  By the time we got in, set the bikes up and got back to the hotel, and had dinner, it was 12:00AM.  I’ve run races on 4 hours of sleep before, but it didn’t fully put me at ease.  Non-ideal conditions create stronger athletes.

Race day, wake up call 4AM, quick breakfast of bananas, Belvita, water, a little Gatorade and we were off.  I must say the nerves were a little high, but my consolation is to throw on the music and try and stay in my relaxed and focused zone.  One of the hardest things about racing, in ANY race, is NOT getting sucked into the other racer’s chatter about the race & their nerves.  If you start your race calm and collected, the chances of having the race you planned on having are higher.  We get into transition, set up helmets, shoes, check out the run, and it’s onto the warm up.  One thing I have learned is that you do on race day just what you have done in training.  If your warm up consists of squats, leg swings, and other dynamic drills, then you DO THEM come race day.  if you jog 1 mile before your runs, then you run that 1 mile before your race.  Stay with what got you there in the first place.  After the males take off, all of the females line up(it’s time!).  On Your Mark…..the horn sounds!  I have to say for the first 5K run, I felt good, I felt really good, so good that I wondered if I should have pushed harder on that run.  I get into transition, helmet on, shoes on, bike off, and we are going.  Hard to run on soft muddy grass with bike shoes.  I get on my bike and I have so much mud and grass in my right cleat that I cannot clip in.  After several failed attempts to knock it out, I realize I need to dismount in order to clear it out.  Screw that!  So I decided to ride the entire bike course with one foot clipped in, and one foot praying that it doesn’t slip off.  No way I’m getting off that bike unless it’s to put my run shoes on.  After a 5+ mile uphill ascent(about 180m in about 4.5 miles) and fast descent, it was time for the final run.  I will say I felt great, other then the normal “my legs feel like jello” feeling.  One more lap on the run, through town.  As I entered the stadium, with the fans in the grandstand cheering, it was probably one of the best feelings I have had at a race.  The energy of the athletes, the energy of the locals, and the energy of those who have travelled from all over the world to cheer on the athletes, it was amazing! As soon as I finished, I vowed to go back to compete again.  It was too amazing an experience to not.  Finish time: 1:24.52 1st run: 24:30, bike: 43:43, 2nd run: 12:43.  11th in my age group, not the best placing, but a tough field.  I was happy with my time and I am determined to represent in 2016 and to go in stronger & faster then I did this year.

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An Athlete’s Track to the World Championships

Team USA - Las Vegas Runners

Team USA - Las Vegas RunnersBy: Melissa Farrell

“So, I qualified to represent Team USA at the Duathlon World Championships in Spain in 2014??  Do I want a spot on the team?  Um, YEAH!”  That is pretty much what went through my head when I found out that I had qualified for Team USA after the National Championships in AZ last year.  I will be honest, I am not an elite athlete, I have only been running seriously for about 3-4 years, I love running ultra distances, and until 2012 I had no idea the duathlon was an event.  Trying to motivate clients, I had decided to explore the possibility of competing in a triathlon in June 2013.  As anyone who knows me knows, I am not, shall we say a FAN of swimming.  I like to be on my feet…..on land……breathing oxygen.  When the option to compete in the duathlon option came up, I jumped on it!  Running & Biking, you mean no swimming?  I’M IN!  After placing 3rd female overall, the journey began.

From there I went to Nationals and in two months we will be on my way to Pontevedra, Spain to compete against the best in the world.  It may sound intimidating to most, but the way I look at it is I have a chance to compete against some awesome athletes and see how they race, learn from them, rub elbows with them, and experience the atmosphere of a World Championship race.  I’m going out to do the best I can and have been putting all my efforts into my training & preparation for this race.  It’s intense when I think about it, but I feel very fortunate to have such a great support group in Vegas to allow me to experience such an event.

In January of this year, I began seriously training and prepping my legs for the fast pace of a 5K run, 20K bike, and a 2.5K run.  Getting my body used to jumping from one regimen to another and then finishing off with pretty much a sprint to the finish.  Now, for those of you who are runners, I want you to imagine preparing to run a mile, as fast as you can, after doing 3 sets of heavy squats and some hill repeats and oh, throw some weighted step ups in there too.  I remember the first time I stepped off my bike, put on my shoes, and began to run.  I swear my legs were no longer stable and I waited for the jelly to force me to the pavement.  But like any training adaptation, that’s just what my body did, adapt.  Over the weeks things have become easier, speeds have increased, transitions have become smoother, and the confidence has increased.

As we approach the final two months of training I am feeling great!  I know I have put in the work and I see it paying off.  I no longer about what others think because I am on my recovery day and running a 10:00/mile or biking for 15 miles at a snails pace.  I do my own training, on my own schedule, with my own rules and that is exactly what I encourage everyone to do.  Set a goal and get with someone who will help you reach that goal whether it be to run your first 5K or PR in your marathon or try out a triathlon this year.  If you want it and you put the work in, you will get it and it’s that simple.  I will be keeping updates on my progress for those interested and look forward to sharing my successes come race day.  I appreciate ALL of your support and only wish I knew a way to say thank you to everyone.  And a special thank you to my biggest support system and the best training partner I could ask for.  Jeremy, you have helped me stay on track and been there through all the ups & downs(as in ANY training program) and for that and much more, I thank you!

Viva Espana!!

Melissa Farrell
Co-Founder & Running Coach, Las Vegas Runners
Ultra runner & World Championship Duathlete

Melissa Farrell - Running Coach

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Las Vegas Runners Race Giveaway!

Las Vegas Runners Race Giveaway

Las Vegas Runners Race GiveawayTime to giveaway a race entry to one lucky member!  Mountain Man Events 14th Annual St Patrick’s Day Run will be coming Saturday, March 15, 2014 and we’re giving away an entry to the 1/2 marathon or 5K, your choice!  The event is held on the River Mountain Loop and Six Tunnels Trail.  Both events have some spectacular views of Lake Mead and the 1/2 marathon even has a view of Hoover Dam and the Colorado River Bridge!  To see more about the event, click here.

TO ENTER THE DRAWING, all you have to do is comment on this post with your name, why you run, your favorite race distance & why. Winners will be chosen at random from all comments.

You must be a paid annual member of Las Vegas Runners to be considered.  To become a member, click here.  All entrants must enter by noon, March 3 to be considered.  You can enter up to once per day to win the free entry.  The drawing will be at noon on Monday March 3rd for our winner.  Winner will be announced on our Facebook page

*One entry per person per day.  Please watch our Facebook page for updates and announcements. Winners will be notified via our Facebook page and can claim their prize by emailing before 6pm Monday, March 3, 2014.