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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

riodellago.jpg
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…..at 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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Running Long, Not Fast

Las Vegas Running Long Not Fast

Las Vegas Running Long Not FastBy: Melissa Farrell 

How many times have you gone out for your long run, only to look down at your watch and realize you’re running a PR pace?  Yeah, I think we’ve all made that mistake.  As runners, we sometimes get into a mentality that we need to ALWAYS be fast.  In trying to always BE fast, you aren’t allowing yourself to GET fast.

Long runs are one of the cornerstones of any running program, whether you’re training for a half marathon or a 50 miler.  One day of your run week is usually dedicated to a long run.  I think it might be helpful to understand the purpose of this run when you are trying to get those legs to slow down.  We all want to be fast-ER, but that 15 or 18 miler is not the time.

Let’s start with the fact that it is your LONG run.  It’s simple purpose is to get your body used to running long.  You can have all the speed in the world, but if your legs can’t carry you the full distance, what good is it?  This is a good time to think about your running form, your stride, your breathing, your nutrition, your weekly schedule, or why you decided to sign up for that 50 miler.  I can tell you that personally, this is one of my favorite runs in my program.  Maybe it’s because I can mentally distract myself or as some people say, maybe cause I’m just nuts!  I will say, to embark on a 50 mile run, there needs to be some level of crazy going on in here!

The longer runs will also help in strengthening your heart.  By having to work harder and longer to send oxygen to your legs, core, and upper body, the heart will over time become stronger and more efficient in completing this task.  Test it out.  Wear a heart rate monitor on one of your earlier long runs.  As you approach race day, try it again and see what the difference is.  You should notice that you have an easier time maintaining a moderate heart rate on stints that before may have caused it to increase.  Like your overall training, give it time and be patient and you will reap the benefits.  No good thing happens overnight, it takes time and perseverance just like your long run.

I’m sure most of you will love this fact, that the longer runs can help train your body to be better at utilizing fat as a fuel source.  I don’t care who you are, there is NO WAY you can eat enough the day before a 20 mile run to sustain yourself through its entirety.  There needs to be a level of efficiency in the way you use the energy you DO have stored, as well as the energy you are able to put in during your run. I can’t remember the last time I saw a runner out for an 18 miler chowing down on a loaf of bread.  it ain’t happening folks.  Be prepared by training your body for the conditions you will encounter on race day.

Long runs, just like tempo runs, track workouts, recovery runs, have their place in your training.  Try to use these runs for what they are meant for.  Talking with a few runner friends of mine, who also like longer distances, we decided that there needs to be an indicator light on your forehead that tells other runners what mile you are on.  This would help avoid that 1 mile power runner flying past you, only to find himself walking by mile 10.  Don’t feel like you need to race me during your tempo run, I’m on mile 17.  And remember, it’s not all about how fast you go, as long as you finish.  I’ll see you at the finish line!

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

Melissa Farrell - Running Coach

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Eat to Run, Eat for Your Run, Eat to Win

Nutrition for Running

Nutrition for Running

By: Melissa Farrell

April 2013, I decided to run the Labor of Love 50 miler for the first time.  Having completed the 50K the previous year, I knew the course and most importantly I knew when and where I would be able to eat.  We drove to the race start and as I prepared to get set up for the start, I realized something was missing.  I had managed to come without my water bottle.  I had packed my drop bags, I had the food I would need, but without adequate hydration I was screwed.  50 miles, nothing in hand, this was not going to go well.

With nothing to carry to keep my energy up, it was time for a quick change of plans.  I made a decision that the only way I was to make it through 9 hours of hilly hell was to take advantage of every aid station.  I made it a mission to make sure I hydrated every 4-5 miles.  With no other option, I went into it and hoped for the best.  9 hours, LOTS of bananas, and a lot of electrolytes later, I finished the race in 2nd place and felt great!  Well, great is a relative term, but I felt pretty damn good!

Any time you are preparing for a race, whether it be a 10K, a half marathon, or an ultra, it is IMPERATIVE to have a plan in place for your run.  This doesn’t mean picking up some protein bars on your way to the race start or swinging by Krispy Kreme for some “quick sugars”.  It means taking the time to test out different foods during your training runs.  It means tweaking your regimen where need be BEFORE race day.  A lot of runners make the mistake of getting to the start line with either no plan in place or an untested plan.  A bad move that may lead worse results.  I have done 5K’s to 50 milers to Duathlons and I can say that each race was varied in terms of nutrition and how you plan for it.  A 5K may not warrant any race time nutrition, but instead may require a plan in place for before the run.  A marathon may require a pre-race plan as well as a plan for race time hydration.  A 50 miler requires a plan for the week before as well as a plan for hydration AND nutrition during the run.  I don’t know anyone who can run for 8+ hours without eating or drinking anything.  No WAY that will go well.

So how do you test out different systems during your training runs?  The best time is during your long runs.  These runs tend give you the time to gauge when you need to start your nutrition, when you become depleted so you can plan for these moments, and amounts or types of products to use when it comes to race day.  If you plan on running for longer then an hour, you generally will need some type of electrolytes and/or sugars to replenish your energy stores or you will feel the depletion.  General rule is about 4-8 oz every 20 mins of your run(speed will have something to do with the variance).  There is also hydrating leading UP TO your run.  You cannot make-up for dehydration on your run and trying to front load with fluids will only lead to sloshing and discomfort during your runs.  If you run until you’re thirsty, chances are you will be suffering the rest of the race.

I know a number of people who will tell you that eating a gel substance that tastes like espresso is not on their highlight list of foods they love, but I will tell you when you need it, you’ll be thankful.  Why else would I pick up a GU off of the ground during a 20 mile run and GLADLY eat it?  Look, if you’re hungry and depleted, you’ll do just about anything!  There is no set rule as far as “this is THE food you need to eat during a run”, there is a lot of flexibility and each runner is different.  My go to’s?  Bananas, animal crackers(a childhood fave and easy to hold while running), gummy bears, and gatorade.  I will gladly eat a GU if it is the only option or if I need something quick!  You need to test out different foods during your training runs.  Training is exactly what is says, TRAINING for your big event.  In ALL aspects!

Melissa Farrell
Co-Founder & Running Coach, Las Vegas Runners
www.LasVegasRunners.com

Melissa Farrell - Running Coach

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Look Into Your Future: Setting Your Running Goals for the New Year

Running Goals

Running GoalsBy: Jeremy Wallace

I remember the day I ran my first big race, the 2009 Portland Marathon.  That day I had dreams of qualifying for the holy grail of amateur distance running in the US, The Boston Marathon.  I had a coach and trained hard in the months leading up to the race.  I was able to run one 6:50 mile and had some mileage on my legs to back it up.  Race day I set out at a 7:10 pace which would put me in the finishing chute in 3:07.  I felt that with some grit I’d have no problem hitting my Boston qualifying time of 3:10.  There was only one problem.  It’s name was Mile 17.  I hit a wall so hard it might as well have been made from brick.  By mile 18 I was walking some.  By mile 21, I was asking the nice Portland spectators for food… seriously.  The truth is I wasn’t in shape to run a 3:10 or even a 3:30 that day and if I knew then what I know now, perhaps my pace would’ve been a bit more conservative (…or maybe not.  I’m a hard-headed man, after all.  Just ask Melissa).  That first race I learned a hard lesson.  Know what you’re capable of in a marathon and shoot directly for that time.

So, how do you figure out what you’re capable of?  As it turns out, you don’t need a crystal ball.  We can predict your marathon (or 1/2 marathon, or 5K) finishing time pretty accurately based on your current fitness.  For example, my 6:50 mile a few weeks prior meant that, with proper training, nutrition etc, I would be capable of running a 3:49 marathon.  My actual finishing time in Portland?  3:51.  Don’t believe me?, look it up:)  These days I can tell you with 95% certainty that if you can run a 10K in 49 minutes and you train properly, you can beat 4 hours in the marathon, or if your 5K time is 30 minutes, your dream of running a 2 hour half marathon isn’t ready to become reality.  Here’s the thing:  With targeted training, proper nutrition and a well-laid plan, you’re not that far off.

So what does that mean for you, your training and setting goals for 2014?  When looking forward into the New Year, be honest with yourself and be ready to set realistic goals.  What’s your current fitness?  How hard are you willing to work this year?  Do you have an actual plan or are you just winging it and hoping for a miracle on race day?  If you’re happy with your current fitness level and not looking to improve much over the next year, sorry for wasting your time.  Stop reading now and go for a run.  If you are seriously ready to take your fitness up a notch, here are a few tips:

– Have a plan and make it specific.  As in life, a dream without a plan probably isn’t going to happen.  That being said, the best running plans are ones that are specific to you and your fitness.  It’s difficult to follow a generic plan and have real success.  Need help?  Ask me.

– Test yourself semi-regularly.  The people who know exactly what they’re capable of, are those who test themselves every once in a while.

– Be ready to gradually improve your performance by occasionally stepping outside your comfort zone.  Running fitness develops over months, not one workout.

– Work on your limiting performance factor.  Strength, flexibility, running form and nutrition are super important in distance running.  Guess what?  Runners are notoriously weak, inflexible and have crappy eating habits.  I know I’ll get some flak for this one, but I’ll save the explanation for another blog post.

– Don’t forget the mental aspect.  Distance running requires a degree of suffering.  Look for it and be ready to embrace.

– Be realistic and patient.  If you’ve run 10 marathons and your PR is 5:30, a sub-three hour event this year isn’t likely.  Next year?  Eh, anything could happen.

– Think big.  You’re capable of achieving more than you think.  Just be ready to put in the work.

So what’s the number one thing I want you to take away from this?  Have a specific goal with a specific plan for success to match and you won’t end up begging for food in Portland.

Happy Running
Jeremy Wallace
2:51 marathoner
Las Vegas Runners Coach and Certified Personal Trainer
www.lasvegasrunners.com

USATF and RRCA Running Coach, Jeremy Wallace

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What does cold weather do to your run?

Cold Weather Running

Cold Weather RunningBy: Melissa Farrell

Just because it doesn’t normally snow in Las Vegas, doesn’t mean the cold will not have an effect on your run. I have succumb to the stumpy leg feeling, or frozen-nose.  Temperatures can drop below freezing and can have an impact on your speed, recovery, and overall performance.  When temps do drop, it can take a toll on your run.  Freezing temperatures can slow your pace by 1-2%.  There are a few reasons this can occur:

  • Reduced muscle contraction: In colder temperatures your muscles are not able to expand as much as they would in warmer temps.  The nervous system is slower to send signals to your muscles, thereby resulting in slower muscle movement.
  • Changes in your energy used: Colder weather can lead your body to use a higher amount of energy to perform and to keep your body temperature up.  The body will use more carbohydrates for its energy source, with less reliance on fats.  Runners who already need carbohydrates to perform, will need to increase their intake in order to be able to sustain their level of performance in freezing temperatures.
  • Increased lactate production: When running in an anaerobic state (when your primary source of energy is carbohydrates), the by product of breaking down these carbohydrates is lactic acid, which can build up in your muscles.  Since colder weather promotes faster carbohydrate consumption, the lactic acid can build up in your muscles faster than your body can process it.  This can slow one’s pace and cause fatigue.

I’m from back East, I can attest to the fact that Las Vegas weather has nothing on the ice & snow we used to deal with.  That being said, I’m pretty sure I’ve turned into a big wuss and could not HANG with runners in Connecticut!  Now I complain when it dips below 50 degrees!  It has taken a couple of winters to figure out the proper attire for certain temps.  50’s: Long sleeves will do.  40’s: Might need to add a hat & gloves for this run!  30’s: Oh my gosh this is going to require pants and a some warm courage.  20’s: Well, this run has got to get done and I sure am NOT spending 2 hours on the treadmill! Layer up baby!

It is imperative to keep your body from becoming too cold and utilizing your energy stores needed to run, for temperature regulation.  Some easy things you can do is wear a hat & gloves during your run.  Not only will it keep the heat in better, but these are easy things to strip off as you get further into your run.  Hydration is another important thing to be aware of.  When your body is dehydrated, it is much tougher to regulate body temperature and keep you in a state where your runs will not suffer.  Colder weather makes it tougher to gauge when and how much you should drink, so a good rule of thumb is about 4-6 oz for every 20 minutes.  If you can keep your water from freezing in your hand, then carrying a small bottle wouldn’t hurt.  Then again, if you can always run near an aid station, you’re golden!

Winter can drive a lot of runners indoors, but for those of us who prefer the feeling of running outdoors it is important to be aware of what needs to be done to keep your performance from suffering.  Don’t let the weather beat you, bundle up and get ‘er done!

Stay warm my friends 🙂
P.S. This picture was taken a week ago here in Vegas….
yeah right, I’m not THAT crazy!  Happy running!

Melissa Farrell
Running Coach, Las Vegas Runners
www.LasVegasRunners.com

Melissa Farrell - Running Coach

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Learning to Run Easy and Keep “Runners Ego” Under Control

Learning to Run Easy and Keep “Runners Ego” Under Control

Learning to Run Easy and Keep “Runners Ego” Under ControlBy: Jeremy Wallace

OK, I admit it!  I’ve been living with an affliction.  You may suffer from it too.  It affects 9/10 distance runners.  It’s called “Runners Ego”.  Have you heard of it?  It’s a condition that ensures you don’t get too far ahead of me during our weekly group runs, no matter your pace.  It also makes me want to scream “I could run faster if I wanted!” to every passing car during my easier runs, as if they’re paying attention to how fast I’m running.  It forces me to speed up and run tall any time I pass another runner on the street and make every run a tempo run on the gym treadmill.  Essentially, Runners Ego makes me want to run fast almost all the time.  It makes me think I’m not getting a benefit to my workout unless I end in a sweaty puddle.  I’m not proud of my affliction, but it seems to be part of my make-up.  Fortunately for my body, easy runs can be just as beneficial as harder efforts.

Running hard is hard on the body.  In fact, some running injuries, over-training, excessive fatigue and poor performance can be attributed to running too hard all the time.  It’s also true that the majority of your training runs should be done at an easy pace and that can have a dramatic effect on your results.  Some benefits of easy running:

1) Improved VO2 max – The maximum volume (in liters) of oxygen that your body can utilize per minute will increase making your body more efficient..
2) Increased tendon and bone development – Making you a stronger, more durable athlete
3) Muscle fiber adaptation – Slow twitch muscle fibers will grow in size and become more efficient at burning fats making your stride more powerful and delaying fatigue.
4) Increased capillary density – Capillary beds in running muscles can increase as much as 40% allowing a greater supply of oxygen to your muscles.
5) Increased mitochondrial density – The “engine” of your muscles, mitochondria can increase in size by as much as 35% which helps break down fats more effectively
6) Increased efficiency in glycogen storage and fat utilization – Glycogen, your body’s fuel, is stored more efficiently and fats used more readily.
7) Sometimes it’s fun to just go for a stress-free easy run.

So, what does “easy” running mean?  It varies based on your individual training and experience but it should be 30-50% slower than your race pace.  For some, that might mean slowing from a 6 minute pace to 8 minutes.  For others, could mean incorporating a slow jog into your route.  The benefits of easy running are the same.  Try this: Next time your out for an easy run, say the Pledge of Allegiance out loud.  If you can’t say it without big pauses or nearly passing out, you’re running too hard.

So easy running has multiple benefits, produces less stress on the body and allows you to save your harder efforts for your tempo, interval and race days.  So, why don’t we do it more often?  It’s the dreaded Runners Ego!  We runners tend to think that if a little is good, a lot is even better.  Not always the case.  During your next training cycle, give easy running a shot and watch next year’s race times drop.  And next time you see me out on the road, just remember……. I could be running faster if I wanted to:)

Happy Running!
Jeremy Wallace
Las Vegas Runners’ Coach and Certified Personal Trainer
www.lasvegasrunners.com