Who to Watch at the Olympic Trials: Brett Ely

FullSizeRender (34)It’s not often you meet a four-time Olympic Trials qualifier like Brett Ely. After a great marathoning career that featured an Olympic Trials “A” Standard, a place on the U.S. Pan American Games team, among many other highlights, Brett is stepping back from competitive marathoning after the Trials on February 13, 2016.

Brett is, thankfully, going into this race healthy after a strong training season and, knowing it will be her last competitive marathon, is putting everything into this one. At 36, Brett has a mental fortitude forged from years of striving for more, getting knocked down, and then getting right back up. Her jitters at the starting line will be tempered by that maturity and experience.

Perhaps what’s most impressive about Brett is that she’s one of those women who manages to achieve so much as an athlete while also achieving so much in her life outside of running and is still one of those women who you can’t help but want to grab a beer with and chat about this and that. If you’re like me, after learning more about her, you’ll be dying to cheer for her in LA as she goes for it. One. More. Time.

Read more

CrossFit Stole My Running Buddy or Don’t Drink the Shake

Why did you leave me for … THAT?!

It began innocently enough. You missed a long run one Saturday and when we got together the next week, you casually mentioned that you bought a Groupon for a month-membership to the CrossFit place in town. I snorted, “CrossFit?! So how long before you contract MRSA and slip a disc doing burpees or bungees or kippers or whatever?!” You laughed, and promised you’d only push the small tires around the gym so you wouldn’t have to miss any runs, and, like always happens, the conversation drifted on with the miles.

I signed up for the local spring marathon, the one we’ve trained together for three times. As I began to plot out my training plan, I felt a chill in the air when you told me you weren’t going to do it this year; you told me on a mid-week 5-miler, the longest run you’d meet me for anymore. Ok, I thought. I’m a big girl and I don’t need to always have friends training for the same race as me. I swallowed my disappointment, and the conversation drifted on. You proudly showed me your raw, blistered palms and described the rope-climbing competition the day before. I caught a glimpse of the rope-burns on your ankles, too. Rope-climbing? What is this, elementary school gym? Read more

Should Pregnant Runners Follow Training Plans?

Catnip

Catnip enjoyed the occasional race during her pregnancy, but did not follow a training plan.

In the few days after learning I was pregnant with my first child, I wondered if should stick with my training plan. I quickly found, however, that was not going to happen. From morning sickness and fatigue in the first trimester to increasing back discomfort and round ligament pain in the second and Braxton-Hicks contractions in the third, I found that listening to my body and running just for the sake of getting out there was the best I could hope for.

However, when a friend recently asked me if I knew of any half marathon training plans for runner moms-to-be, I had to stop and think about it. Are there training plans for pregnant runners? Or maybe the better question is, should pregnant runners use a training plan at all? On the one hand, all of us, around here anyway, know that running during pregnancy while even maintaining pretty decent weekly mileage and pushing the pace from time to time, is perfectly fine for most of us. Running while pregnant (with the support of your healthcare provider, of course) is beneficial to baby’s health and, perhaps more importantly, keeps us mommas sane, which is especially important during nine months often fraught with anxiety … and no wine.

But on the other hand, formal training plans are there to encourage us to be consistent, even when we don’t want to, and to push our physical and mental boundaries. Is this something pregnant women, even the most seasoned women athletes, should do?

Read more

Readers Roundtable: When Do You Head for the ‘Mill?

Teenage Ginger headed for the mill to take arty photographs.

Teenage Ginger headed for the mill to take arty photographs.

I always have to chuckle when Runners World posts something about treadmills on social media and within moments someone, usually a guy, posts a photo with icicles dripping off his face and comments that treadmills are for wusses who are afraid of a little cold weather. It’s usually not bad weather that sends me to the treadmill. Case in point, yesterday.

Despite unseasonably warm weather, a busy weekend left me contemplating doing my long run on my basement treadmill while my kids played. With a million errands to run and both of our to-do lists miles long, it felt like getting in my run early with the kids in the basement would free up my husband to get some of his stuff done. (Leaving him on kid duty every Sunday morning for 2-3 hours so I can do a long run isn’t exactly fair.) I can’t say it was my first choice, however, given the choice between no run or a treadmill run, the ‘mill wins every time and I am very lucky that I have a nice one at home!

Some people think the dreadmill is for wusses. Others run exclusively in the safe confines of their gyms for fear of the big wide world. Still others believe running on the hamster wheel isn’t real running. Some think treadmills are easier to run on than the road, while others are mystified by the increased effort required to go way slower on a treadmill than a pace that is a piece of cake outside. There certainly is no consensus, so we wanted to get your take!

Is the treadmill awesome, awful, or a necessary evil? Do you prefer the treadmill for a particular weather condition, life circumstance, or workout? When do you head for the ‘mill?

5 Reasons this GenX Runner is Converting to Millennialism

fri5First there was minimalism and now, after people finally realized those Vibram things were really not the best, we’ve moved on to maximalism. But forget about all that, let’s talk about Millennialism, because today’s the day I’m converting.

As a member of Generation X (a very young member of Generation X, I might add), hearing about how good Millennials have it gives me #FOMO. My parents made me do stupid stuff because they said so, my teachers weren’t afraid to give me C’s when I did average work, and I was subjected to perms. The nerve! Instead of working on fortifying an already-healthy abundance of self-esteem, my teen years were spent moping in flannel. Perhaps worse, my trainers for high school track practice were those bad Hoka knock-offs, Saucony Jazz. We only knew about brands from the Eastbay catalogue and nutrition meant three squares. I think we even stretched before running. The horror!

Anyway, with all this talk of how good Millennials have it, I decided I’m going to convert. Read more

Who to Watch at the Olympic Trials: Emily Potter

t_EmilyThese days, Emily Potter is first and foremost a mom. When Salty and I had lunch with her in Jacksonville, the talk was babies and strollers, nap time and preschool prep. If you met her at the grocery store, you would have no idea about the other lives she’s had.

Then again, if you met her at the grocery store near her house outside of Washington, D.C., you’d probably see her in spandex with her two daughters in a double wide running stroller, so you might get a glimpse. Even then though, you probably wouldn’t guess that Emily is the kind of woman who can casually, just happen to, qualify for the Olympic Trials Marathon while on a family vacation, just 10 months after having her second child.

But that’s because you wouldn’t know her as Major Emily Potter of the United States Army’s World Class Athlete Program. Read more

Catnip’s Guide to Track Meet Spectating

in 2014 the NCAA Division III Championships were just a 45 minute drive for me!

In 2014 the NCAA Division III Championships were just a 45-minute drive for me!

I love the track. I love indoor track and I love outdoor track. I love training on the track and I love racing on the track. You know what else I love? Spectating at the track!

People have called me a track evangelist and I’m happy to make it official here on the interwebs! I’m currently in the process of applying some friendly pressure to a few buddies to join me at an indoor track race next week. As you might expect from a trackvangelist, I am equally enthusiastic about getting people out to spectate. In fact, my favorite aspect of racing on the track is that I also get to watch many other races while I’m there!

Now that I’ve sold you on how great track is to race, I want to encourage you to get out there and spectate! It’s been 20 years (OMG) since my love affair with the track began and, with some input from my superfans (read: my parents), I’ve come up with some advice for less-experienced track fans to find and enjoy the heck out of a day at the races.  Read more

Mile Training: Spend Time on Speed

Speed

To race a fast mile you need speed! Image by Jinger Moore.

Speed-work: we do it to train for every race distance. It’s our chance to practice running at our target race pace, taking on the challenge in small pieces before stringing it together into a race on our big day. I thought I had plenty of experience with hard speed workouts training for the 5K and the10K, but I was completely unprepared for mile race speed-work. For mile training, speed work means running REALLY hard.

I started out chronicling my journey to a brave mile by telling you my reasons for tackling this distance. Then, I told you about the stamina training I do to build the strength to hold a fast pace for a whole mile. This week, I’ll talk about my mile-specific speed-work.

Improving your speed for the mile involves setting a baseline, priming your nervous system and building strength with sprints, and tackling mile-specific hard interval workouts. Read more

On Making Comparisons: Your Mileage May Vary

Tea competing in the 2014 CIM where she qualified for the Trials. Tea in focus and runners around her blurry.

It only matters what I do and what I’ve done when I’m on the race course.

This week, I posted my first training log with a little bit of hesitation. You might look at my training and think it’s a lot. But sadly, I look at it and think it doesn’t compare to what my peers are doing.

It’s the Internet’s fault. I’ll be scrolling through other runners’ Twitter, Instagram, or blogs and suddenly come across posts/photos/workouts that make me feel really bad about myself. How can So-and-so run those workouts? That many miles each week? That fast?

I don’t mean superstars like Shalane and Desi. Obviously I can’t do what they do, so I look at their posts with pure admiration. But I mean the women I’m supposedly close in ability to, other Trials qualifiers with marathon PRs similar to mine. They all seem to be logging much higher mileage, running more workouts, doing more pull-ups (I can do exactly zero pull-ups), just absolutely crushing it day after day after day. It’s hard for me to look at the mileage and workouts others do and not feel totally inadequate. Read more

Nutrition for Runners: Carbohydrates, Protein, and Fat

image

Carbs, protein, and fat all in a convenient hand-held design!

Thank you for your initial comments to my introduction to this series about nutrition for runners. It’s a big topic! I appreciate that many of you carefully and consciously consider your eating choices and, in particular, how they affect your performance before, during, and after races.

Food is sometimes comfort, sometimes entertainment, sometimes simply a sensory delight! However, at its essence food is fuel, especially for runners. What we eat provides the energy we need to run, recover, think, and live. Before we get into the nitty-gritty of what foods we should eat to optimize our running performance, it’s first and foremost important for us to understand how food actually fuels us.

The foods we eat contain three types of fuel within them: 1) carbohydrates; 2) protein; and 3) fat. Each plays a role in producing the energy we need to sustain our physical activities as well as actually building our physical bodies. This article is not intended to provide in-depth understanding of the various metabolic or chemical processes needed for energy-production, but rather for you to understand that carbohydrates, protein, and fat each have their purpose and importance in intensity, duration, and performance. So, let’s start with the basics.  Read more

Treadmill Tip of the Week: Going Long, Baby

imageDid you hear? Spring training started. Spring MARATHON training, that is! Boston, the Eugene Marathon, and the Avenue of the Giants Marathon (to name a few of my personal favorites) amongst many others are on the calendar in less than 16 weeks, a standard length for many marathon training programs.

If tempo runs are the bread and butter of your training plan, the long run is the meat (or tofu, if that’s how you swing). It’s the solid, sustained effort of the long run that builds your endurance and mental toughness. They’re the grand finale of all those training weeks, their miles rising like Mt. Everest on those seven day chunks of your training plan. Oh, and they make you tough because, well, they are tough even during the finest weather.

When the weather is, shall we say, not so fine, like turning the streets to sheets of ice, blowing ice pellets in your face, or getting that real-feel down to negative double-digits, long runs can be worse than tough: not happening … unless you have a treadmill.

Oh no! Are you kidding me?! 14, 18, or even 22+ more miles on the treadmill?!

Fear not, Salties. I’ve gathered advice from true treadmill veterans Dill and Barley to make sure your spring race goals are not sabotaged by Mother Nature getting in the way of your long run.

Read more

AthleteBiz: Connecting Running Fans with Running Stars

imageWould you like to grab a burger and shake with Alana Hadley? Have your kid tutored by Olivia Mickle? Shoot the breeze with Esther Atkins? Maybe even receive a home-brewed ale from Camille Heron? There’s a website for that!

Have you heard of AthleteBiz? It’s an online platform dedicated to introducing U.S. world-class track and field athletes to fans and potential fans. Each athlete can craft her brand on her own AthleteBiz page, offering merchandise, services, blog posts, and more. In the way of services, athletes can offer everything from a personalized video message of encouragement, public speaking engagements, guest appearances, or even personalized coaching. The options don’t stop there. Athletes and fans are encouraged to get creative; all you have to do is ask for custom engagement (like that home-brew from Camille).

While we know running is the best sport around, AthleteBiz has its work cut out for it. Running is a minor sport in the United States compared to baseball, basketball, hockey, and, of course, football. AthleteBiz seeks to change that, while providing world-class American runners an opportunity to financially support their training and connect with fans like us.  Read more

Readers Roundtable: What the *blank* is an Elite Runner?

Definitely, probably, no way.

Definitely, probably, no way.

Last week we introduced you to Emma Polley, a Olympic Marathon Trials qualifier who some LetsRun posters skewered for calling herself elite. We laughed this off as petty insecure trolling, but Emma’s story brings up a good question:

What is an elite runner?

We hear the term bandied about along with other gems like sub-elite, local elite, and, on the other side of the spectrum, hobby jogger. We have vague understandings of what these classes of runners are, but is there a formal cut-off between, say, elite and sub-elite? And how about between sub-elite and local elite or local elite and … everyone else?

I recently spoke with a runner who began a sentence, “When I became an elite …” She clearly knows where she stands and I know where I stand. All of LetsRun might laugh, but I’ve even been referred to as an elite runner before. While that was certainly flattering, I know, even when I was at my fittest, I’m most definitely not an elite runner. I won some local races way back when, so maybe I could be a local elite, but that’s the best I could possibly say for myself without feeling like a complete fraud.

Beyond where I personally stand, though, I really couldn’t tell you where the lines are between runner classes. So naturally, we want to hear from you!

Do we really need to separate runners into classes? If we do, well, why? And then what should those classes be? How should they be defined?

What the ____ is an elite runner?

Whether you are a back-of-the-packer, someone who considers herself an elite runner or somewhere in between we want to know what you think.

5 Reasons You Should Hire Nicki Minaj as Your Running Coach

imageI have developed a bit of an obsession with my girl Nicki, one that causes me to refer to her on a first-name basis. I also might have sent my company a Minaj-themed Christmas card. I have a Nicki Minaj Pandora station tailored specifically for workouts, and her songs have pushed me through training runs, tough, hot halves, and finally my first full marathon! She is my muse.

In all seriousness, I admire Nicki because she does her own thing and simply does not give a sh*t. Her Instagrams are real and hilarious, she shatters the patriarchy with her unapologetic vulgarity, and most importantly, her words have become my running anthems, even when they have nothing to do with running at all!

You know what kind of people motivate runners to push past barriers and achieve breakthrough performances? Coaches. The logic is clear: Nicki Minaj would be the best running coach ever.
Read more

Introducing Tea

imageHello, Salties!

I had a blast meeting Salty and Cinnamon in Jacksonville and I’m psyched to be joining this community! Yesterday Cinnamon told you a little bit about my story, but here’s the extended version:

By day, I’m a science journalist, writing about the body and brain for various publications. By early morning, I’m a marathoner who survives by drinking copious amounts of tea (I can’t stand coffee), eating too much chocolate, and avoiding 5Ks at all costs. But I was not always so dedicated to the pursuit of long distances.

After spending my childhood declaring running the most boring sport on the planet, I was somehow convinced to follow in my older siblings’ footsteps and try cross country in high school. I was immediately proven wrong about the boring part and by sophomore year was running year-round in cross country and track.

But once I got to college, I stopped running. I knew I’d be in a better place both physically and psychologically if I got back into it, but just couldn’t get into a routine. Sophomore year I decided nothing would motivate me better than a date with twenty-six miles, so I signed up to run a marathon. I finished, totally psyched to complete the thing in 4:07. Read more