Yesterday as Sara and I were finishing up a nice relaxing summer dinner with her family we were releazing that we still had some auxiliary training to finish up even though it had already been a long day of training. We joked about the endless pursuit of the many, many little things we do to try and get that little 1% improvement that makes all the difference for a professional runner. Earlier in the day I had already ran 25 miles and driven a couple of hours from Stanford to Santa Rosa so I didn‘t feel like going back to training. Doing post dinner training is something I generally try and avoid at all cost. I like to have dinner mark the end of my running day when I just relax and enjoy socializing for the rest of the day, but sometimes my crazy day doesn’t allow that to be possible.
Last night made me realize how tricky it can be to go after that last 1% improvement. It’s tricky because a lot of energy goes into doing all the stretching, strength work, self massage, icing, ect to try and get that extra 1%, which can be mentally draining at times and can lead to burnout if your not careful. The key is always balance and we are always trying to find a way to balance how much energy we have to spend and how to best spend it. We could train all day long if we wanted to, but I don’t think that would be wise or that it would lead to improvement. I actually think being a more balanced person makes a healthier, happier, and thus faster person. The question I try and ask myself when I consider whether or not to train more is what is my body craving and what is my body ready to absorb? Sometimes pushing harder is not the answer. It takes self control, confidence, and intuition to know when to train and when to rest, but when in question error on the side of being over rested.
The last week I went on a tweeting drought. All the excitement from being on the road completely died and life became wonderfully simple again. Not much to tweet about. I ate, slept, trained, got my usual doses of therapy, and shared some long meals and teas with friends and family. It was quite a drastic shift from the past three months that have been filled with travel, training and racing. It’s always a change when this time of year rolls around. It’s a welcomed change from the fast paced life that enables me to train and be fully prepared for the challenge of running a marathon.
I am thankful that there are different seasons in life and training. I have learned to embrace each season realizing how important it is to allow the body, mind and spirit to fully cycle through each. My current season of marathon training is my favorite. I love the simple life of training and going after a goal with everything I have.
My last week of training included one 26 mile day, one 24 mile day, and one 0 mile day. The theme of my training is to make the hard days long and hard and to make the easy days short and very light. I usually slow down anyone I run with on the easy days.
This past week I had the pleasure of training with my little brother Chad. He spent the week with us here in Flagstaff before returning to Riverside to begin his 5th year at UCR. I must say I was impressed with his fitness level. We were able to trade off sharing the pacing duties for our workouts, which was great practice for me in preparation for Chicago, which will be paced for 20 miles or so. Since I haven’t run a paced race since 2008 I need to spend a little bit of time learning to settle and run behind people. I was bummed when Chad had to leave yesterday, but I am hoping that its just a taste of what the future holds.
This past week I landed in Chicago upon my arrival back from a 3 week European Track Circuit watching Sara compete in Belgium and Switzerland. I was wondering how I would feel being in Chicago considering this was my first time returning since I watched the race last year after pulling out of the race with health issues. Despite being extremely tired and jet lagged I found that my spirits were at an all time high. Being in Chicago announcing my participation in this years version of the Bank of America Chicago Marathon got me very excited for the next 10 week of training and the race that awaits on October 9th.
It was a whirlwind of a trip to Chicago with various appearances during the 48 hours I was in town. It was so hot and humid that I found myself shaking my head in disbelief of the heart it must take for people who live in Chicago to actually train in the summer months.
I feel honored to be invited back to this years race and see it as a great opportunity for me and for all of us who are running. One of my favorite aspects of the Bank of America Chicago Marathon is how much they promote and support charities, including the Hall Steps Foundation. They are well aware of the potential impact that runners can have on issues varying from cancer to poverty by running the marathon and raising support and awareness in the process. At last years race, I was able to take in the celebrations at Charity Village and the thing that was really cool about it was that even the people who were disappointed with there own races still took joy in what they accomplished beyond the 26.2 miles. I didn’t see one down face in Charity Village. I experienced it first hand personally. Even though I was disappointed to not be running I was in Charity Village dancing, when the DJ would play the right song, and pouring beverages on my teammates heads after they finished the marathon for the first time. The joy of running for something more than yourself is contagious and totally satisfying, not to mention tremendously motivating in training. I am both excited and honored to take part in a race that realizes that it really is more blessed to give than to receive.
“I want my ashes to be spread here,” I thought to myself, my heart pounding harder than usual for running so slowly. My hands and forearms were bright red. I was ill equipped for the brisk air at 8,000ft after being forced to make a split decision on what to wear when the tram operator told me the last tram down was in 32 minutes. Seeing that I was planning on running at least 30 minutes for my afternoon run, I quickly striped off my pants and jacket opting for a short sleeve and running shorts. A couple of minutes later I would find there was a reason why, even though it is late July, I am running by patches of snow.
Despite the cold temperatures a huge smile was plastered on my face. There was no one else around except those in the gondola passing by a nearby ridge on the way to one of the many summits in St. Moritz, Switzerland and the huge gopher looking creatures scurrying all around me.
Never have I been in a place that has so captured me as in St. Moritz over the past week. The scenery is indescribable. The mountains are epic with trails winding wherever you would like to go. It seems like with every new run I find myself saying to myself this is my new favorite run of all time. Yesterday afternoon Sara and I took a tram to the top of a different peak and ran 50 minutes along a ridge that was like running on the rim of the world with stunning views the whole way. Afterward, we caught a local bus to a nearby village that had a huge spa with many different mineral baths throughout. After about an hour of soaking I was ready for bed I was so relaxed and warm, but we still had dinner waiting for us at our hotel. For dinner I enjoyed smoked Kangaroo for an appetizer, Kangaroo medallions for a main course, followed by a scoop of nut and mocha ice cream. Its days like this I believe I have the best job in the world.
The training for an elite athlete in St. Moritz is unreal. There are 100s of miles of flat trails if we want to stay flat, even more miles of adventurous single track and mountainous trails, a track, pools, asphalt 5k loops, mineral baths, physio, ect. Today, Sara and I ran on typical sender trail to a nearby glacier that was spectacular. There is not enough time to explore all this mountain has to offer. Tomorrow, Sara and I head to Zurich before catching a flight back to the states. I will miss this place, but Ill be back before I am ashes.
I’ve been having lots of flash backs to my days as a track runner over the past week spent in Leuven, Belgium. Everything from the tiny cups of coffee that I have to order 3 or 4 of before a big workout to waiting for hours on end for races to finally roll around. They are good memories that I recall even though I never hit one of those magical European summers that my Stanford teammates would always gloat about when they would hit up the European track circuit and then return to our pre-season cross country camp. I always heard that you just couldn’t help but run fast over here. Unfortunately, that was never my experience. All my personal best have been run in the US.
Leuven is a great home base for training and racing. Its ease of access to tracks, trails, and races makes it ideal for a summer European track base camp. For a while there were so many Americans here it felt like a summer running camp. Those were the good ol’ days of the legendary Leuven 800 when our coaches/agents all met for a classic 800 meter run for our entertainment (check out flotrack for the video), but since the recent economic turn in years past the numbers of runners in Leuven has decreased significantly.
The only downside of Leuven can be the weather. The first couple of days Sara and I were here it was beautiful, but then it turned to rain which kept us feeling pretty cooped up. Regardless, we enjoyed the sun while it lasted.
As I write now Sara and I are on an 8 hour train to Zurich, where we will stay tonight before heading up to a place that has been on my bucket list for years: St. Moritz. St. Moritz, from what I’ve seen, is much like the Mammoth Lakes or other resort towns in California that I call home. Its picturesque mountains look stunning. I can’t wait to breath in the crisp thin air and hit some trails. Sara and I haven’t been in the mountains since we left Flagstaff two weeks prior to the Boston Marathon. We are both itchy to get our mountain fix. There is nowhere else I’d want to be, especially in the summer!
Sara has gotten off to a good start racing in Europe. Getting off the plane and racing is always a bit dicey inside the first week but she got in a solid 1500 and 5,000 meter runs regardless. She will race a 3,000m steeplechase on the 21st in Switzerland. My training is going well after taking a bit of a recovery period this last week. I’m staying healthy, learning, and making progress towards what I am hoping will be an exciting fall. That’s all the writing I can do for now. Got to take in these views on this beautiful train ride.
Last week, on the 4th of July, I ran in the Peachtree 10k. I love to celebrate our countries Independence Day by running, and apparently so do the other 60,000 runners that competed today. As I write, I am on a plane traveling back to Palo Alto taking some time to think about freedom and why I am thankful for those who have paid a price so I could live in freedom today.
Well, Peachtree race wasn’t my best. While there are many factors that I have been considering as I try to piece together my sub par performance I am more concerned with practicing what I preach by taking away the positive aspects of the race (like the fact that I ran my fastest 5k in years over the first downhill portion of the course) forget the negatives (like the fact that I came through 10k much quicker during my first 10k of the Boston Marathon), and learn from my mistakes (like going outside my comfort zone during the first half of the race).
I really enjoy traveling back the same day as my competitions and not just because I get to sleep in my own bed that night but also because it forces me to take sometime to process the race and move on. Over the years I have depended on my coaches to help me process poor races, however, as I have gotten older I am learning to process with others (like my wife or other friends and family) as well as taking some quality time by myself to go over things.
When I look back at a race I look at it first through the lens of a scientist and then through the eyes of an artist. What factors contribute to my performance? What things can I tweak or try out next time out? What good things were reinforced? What felt tired? What workouts do I need to do to be better prepared? How were my thoughts out there? Did I enjoy the race? These are all questions of the scientist.
The artist in me looks back at the race and asks how does this race fit into the larger picture being painted? What things about my performance do I not understand? Did I do a good job of fully expressing me with whatever energy I had to give on the day? What new strokes can I try out next time?
There is always in tension in running between the scientist who wants to have an explanation for everything and the artist who is ok with not understanding all the mysteries of running, knowing that perhaps the next great performance may come from thinking outside the box. I have found that both the scientist and the artist are necessary in becoming a complete runner and processing the good, the bad, and everything in between on race day.
Yesterday Sara competed in the final of the 3,000 meter steeple chase in Eugene at the US National Track and Field Championships, finishing fifth, which I thought was a huge success. It has been fun to watch her take on a new event this year. Even though her year is hardly over, after the race we spent some time reflecting on just how far she has come this year.
I could never imagine jumping over a steeple barrier, let alone doing it at the end of a 3,000 meter race. I must say, watching Sara race the steeple brings about a new level of nervousness compared to watching her in other races. I have seen to many gnarly pictures of steeplechasers taking headers into the water pits to be a relaxed spectator. I am always a little bit relieved when Sara finishes without any spills.
Now that USA’s are behind us I am planning on heading out to the Atlanta, Georgia to compete in the US 10K National Championships. I have raced Peachtree in the passed and am eager to return to test out my 10k fitness. Then its off to Europe for a couple of weeks to watch Sara run in some meets. I will finish off the trip competing in the Castlebuono road race, which will be a first for me. I love Italians (my wife is half Italian) and their beautiful country so I am especially looking forward to this race. Lots of good things to look forward to!
I realize this can be somewhat of a controversial issue and some will disagree with me, but I hope to maybe stimulate some different ways to think about training. I feel like in America we are overly obsessed with mileage, or maybe I have been the only one. I have time and time again fallen into the trap of heading out the door for a few extra easy miles on Sunday so I could meet that magical 100 mile a week number.
Don’t get me wrong. I think the principle behind mileage is important: we should run a lot. However, from my own experience I believe there are many great athletes and great performances that should have happened that are simply covered in junk mileage.
My perspective on mileage has changed a lot since those early years in high school and college from keeping copious notes on how many 100 mile weeks in a row I had build up. Now, when I look at a week I don’t see the necessity for mileage, I see the necessity for hard, quality workouts followed by adequate recovery and even making sure to over-recovering (if there is such a thing).
So what does adequate recovery look like? The answer to that question is obviously individual. Some people can recover running an hour run twice a day, some may only be able to do one short run. I have learned to listen to my body and if I am not seeing improvement in my workout than I know my body is not absorbing my workouts properly. The art of running is learning when to push and when to rest, but in general I have found that when in doubt it is best to error on the side of rest.
Mileage can be a good thing if it encourages us to run more, but not at the expense of recovery. I have certainly learned throughout my career that it’s not always necessarily he that runs the most mileage that wins the race.
When I woke up in my bed in Palo Alto on Friday morning I had no idea that in 6 hours I would be at San Jose Airport boarding a flight to Portland. I was enjoying a cup of coffee and reading my Bible when Sara got a call from her coach, Dena, informing her that a spot had opened up in the 1500 meters in the Prefontaine Classic (one the most competitive track meets in the country). We immediately headed out the door to get in a run before catching an afternoon flight.
Being spontaneous is an essential component of being a professional runner. Our plans are constantly in flux, making it very difficult to plan anything with friends and family. We had planned on spending this past weekend with Sara’s family before going to her cousin’s wedding. We were sorry to miss the festivities, but such is the nature of our sport.
As a teenager dreaming about being a professional runner I had a pretty narrow view of what the job would entail. I thought I would train, sleep, eat, travel and race. However I would learn that there was much more that came with the job. My last week is a pretty good illustration of what the pro life looks like. I raced and traveled back from Boulder. Two days latter I did an all-day photo shot. Two days after that I traveled to Prefontaine. After Pre I traveled directly to Orlando, Florida for an Asics function, in which I was to be a speaker alongside Bob Babbit.
I admit that my life isn’t always this. There are times when life is, well, boring. I train, eat, and sleep. However much of the year is filled with travel, photo shoots, interviews, blogging, and various appearances-all of which, even though I didn’t necessarily know what I was getting myself into, I love and have come to appreciate as part of the job. I consider myself blessed to have the honor to do all the things that come along with being a professional runner. It just requires some spontaneity at times.
Yesterday I raced in one of my favorite road races. After racing for the first time in Boulder in 2008 I have been itchy to return so after my recovery went well post-Boston marathon, I was excited to get on the starting line. Training has been progressing nicely. I am obviously very early on in my preparations but with each passing week I feel my fitness increasing. My biggest concern was going from two months of sea level training at Stanford up to the altitude in Boulder.
This year I was excited to have my older sister, who has recently moved to Boulder, experience Bolder Boulder for the first time, which also happened to be on her 31st Birthday. Neither of us were disappointed with our experience at this years race. Even though she slept through her alarm, missing her wave’s start time she still managed to sneak in another wave and had a great race. She said afterward that she was thinking about turning pro (she was mostly joking, however I think she could have been an excellent runner if she wanted).
I was very pleased with my result. Even through I ran slower than 2008 I think the conditions and course were tougher. I was pleased that my turnover felt very controlled, whereas in most cases I feel like I am sprinting all out in a 10k. I wasn’t as pleased with my heavy breathing but that is to be expected when not training at altitude.
I guess what I learned from my experience at this years Bolder Boulder is that sea level training seems to be working very well for my speed development at the shorter distances, but if I am serious about racing at altitude I had better be training at altitude. Lucky for me, Bolder Boulder is the only race I have ever done, and hopefully will ever do, at altitude.
I must say that running into CU’s packed football stadium was epic. I promise everyone, it is nearly as good as running into the Olympic Stadium. What I love about it is the crowd reacts with a deep roar to every runner that comes into the stadium. The race management has done a brilliant job in creating an out of the box race that makes all runners feel like super-stars. At four miles into the race I was hurting so bad that I remember thinking that perhaps this would be my last Bolder Boulder, but by the time I hit the stadium and ran the final stretch that thought had all but disappeared.
Congratulations to everyone who finished this years Bolder Boulder, to team USA women for finishing second, for my teammates on solid runs, and to the race management for letting us shine on the big stage!