Smooth Flow

In the words of Indiana Jones, “It’s not the years… It’s the mileage.” This season, I’m really enjoying getting back to the racing frequency I thrive upon. But, to hold it together I gotta do a lot more “stuff”—in the time between all those training runs and races—than I used to. It’s clear, if I don’t keep myself tuned up, I’ll easily drive myself right into the ground and onto the injured list. Consistency is king and not just with my running—quality sleep, time on the yoga mat, walking/hiking, and meditation have come to represent the very oil that keeps my ’74 diesel engine humming right along.

Sleep’s the big one. Unlike yoga, hiking, or meditation, you can’t just choose not to sleep. Simply put, if you’re living in the year 2017, you probably need more quality rest. Like at least 7-8 hours every night. And if you’re in training mode, you’d likely significantly benefit from 9-10 hours. As my own coach I’ve fought myself on sleep for years, trying to do things like two-a-day-runs (one in the early morning before work and another in the evening) but I always find myself draggin’ ass by late in the work-week. Yeah, I might’ve hit my totally arbitrary mileage goal but everything suffered as a result (yes, the running too). The lack of optimal sleep catches up with all of us. Every year in June, after the school year ends and my life slows way down, I marvel at how healthy I start feeling, consistently getting 8-9 (sometimes 10!) hours of Zzz. As coaches are fond of stating, sleep is the greatest performance enhancing drug there is. And, it’s free! Oh, and legal!

“Live like a clock.” Ideally, we want to maintain routine sleep patterns. That’s a tough one with a wife who works a different work schedule than I do. In the end, we do the best we can. For me, the trick seems to be starting the bed-time routine early enough that I’m in bed, asleep, at a time that gonna yield 8 hours of quality rest, before getting up for work. Bagging that extra REM-cycle from an additional 90min of sleep can really super-charge your day, your workout, while keeping your immune system strong. Living like a clock may not be sexy or fun, in that it requires a fair amount of discipline, but the body does thrive on the predictability, having the same bed and wake times; and workout time for that matter. Live like a clock and appreciate how your body just starts humming along…

Tender Loving Care. All of the athletes I coach are used to seeing “TLC” as part of their daily training plan. This is an informal session that I like to see placed at the opposite end of the day from an athlete’s formal training session. If an athlete generally works out in the evening, then they choose a morning TLC activity that most supports their current state of run recovery. Yoga, foam-rolling those hots spots, walking, hiking, cycling, legs-up-a-wall, and meditation are all great TLC activities that effectively complement our running. They can be as short as 5min or as long as you like. Commit to daily TLC. As my athletes will attest, your body will thank you!

My appreciation for yoga was born out of my experience taking classes during the period of time my wife worked part-time at a local studio. I was fortunate to have had a skilled and mindful instructor who helped me make some serendipitous connections between yoga and my ultra-running practice. Specifically, more conscious and consistent engagement with my breathing as well as developing an evolved ability to deal more effectively with discomfort, which is at the heart of being successful at achieving our goals in endurance sports. If you’ve never done much yoga, I suggest you ask around in your area where the best instructors are then take a few classes to get the basics under your belt. You want a level of proficiency in your practice at home. Taking a few classes not only teaches you how to do poses correctly, they also help you internalize how to flow through poses while remaining connected to your conscious breath. Trust me, you’ll be a better runner for it.

These days, I no longer take classes but, nonetheless, I try to get on my mat daily, for at least 15-20min. Moving with my breath, I like to deliberately flow through the classic poses—downward and upward-facing dog, the various warrior poses, sun salutations, tree, happy-baby, etc. all the while mixing in some core work like side-plank and boat. Depending on available time—like right now during my summer vacation—I’ll transition into my foam-rolling routine immediately following yoga. And after this, roughly 10min routine, I’ll move into meditation. It’s like a zen triathlon—yoga, foam-roll, meditate!

“Mind is everything. Muscle – pieces of rubber. All that I am, I am because of my mind.”  -Paavo Nurmi

 

Just as running is surely not about staying in a comfortable state, yoga is about regularly “getting out on your edge,” as my instructor oft repeated. Unfortunately, growth just doesn’t happen in your comfort zone—dammit!—so I first meet myself where I am on the day, and depending on my current state of run-recovery, will push myself to explore that edge while I’m on the mat, holding poses for longer and longer, breathing deeper and deeper, working mindfully to become more present, making each pose increasingly uncomfortable. In ultra-running, we call it “embracing the suck.” Yoga helps my mental game by repeatedly callousing the mind to discomfort, all while refocusing—and refocusing— on my conscious in-n-out breaths. Naturally, being more conscious of my inhales and exhales helps me get more oxygen-rich blood to my working muscles. And I’ll surely need optimal breathing habits at my next event in Steamboat Springs, CO in September—Run Rabbit Run 100mi, where I’ll be running for extended periods above 10,000′.

 

Next up is hiking. No lollygagging! Currently I’m designing a training plan for myself where I will rarely—if ever—run on consecutive days. I mean, I’m old. I’ve been at this endurance sport game for 20 years. I don’t need to be running around all the time. The base is well established. “We are what we repeatedly do,” says Aristotle. I need to focus on crushing it, when I do run, ’cause that’s what I’m trying to do in racing. All the running I do this next training cycle will be of the highest quality—no bullshit runs. I’m taking the notion of “keep your easy days easy” to the next level by always making my easy days fast-hiking days, since fast-hiking is something I’ll want to be especially proficient at in Colorado come Sept. To become truly proficient at anything, you must consistently engage in deliberate practice.

These sessions are gonna be awesome active-recovery too. I anticipate most hikes will be done in a 20lb weight vest. My rule for the vest is no running while wearing it, but emphasizing effective fast-hiking/climbing. Hiking in the vest will make my body stronger, allow me to get out into the woods on my non-running days, and build my climbing strength, without all the run-specific impact of doing a so-called “easy runs.” I’ll reap the benefits of all my fast-hiking in my Sunday long runs, as well as during my 100mi of running through the Routt National Forest of northern Colorado.

As a side-note, walking, in general, is something we should be mindfully seeking to do, as often as we can. I think runners generally have the “take the stairs” mentality already. I like to get out walking a dog or two fairly regularly, as time permits. I walk to and from work regularly and find time to go on walks with my wife, Amanda, as well. I appreciate how walking slows things down and I can absorb more of the subtleties of the world around me.

In closing there’s a new TLC practice I’ve recently adopted—meditation. It’s been a long time coming. I’ve needed some training wheels, so to speak, with getting some consistency going with an effective meditation practice. A while back I heard Rich Roll on his podcast, plugging the Headspace. Rich smooth-talked me into doing their free trial—ten 10-min, guided sessions. Earlier this year I shared the Headspace app with some athletes I coach, and it was one of them that inspired me to keep revisiting it. I have to say I’m sold on the value of meditation and have now worked up to daily 15-20min daily sessions. Curiously, the practice does indeed seem to create a little more “head-space.” It’s encouraging greater productivity and creativity—the desire to be more productive; more creative. I’m even handling set-backs in a more mature, care-free way. My personal intention for doing meditation is to be at peace with myself, outside and inside the athletic arena. With a quiet mind, I’m free to perform at my potential, whatever the activity. As with my running, I’m excited to stick with meditation, for the sake of continued spiritual growth.

For years, the banner quote on my blog has been from one of my favorite thinkers, Mihaly Csikszentmihaly, from his book Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, “Control of consciousness determines the quality of life.” It’s pretty clear: we either consciously work to control the mind or, we’re slaves to it.

To me, Robert Frost’s idea that, “Education is the ability to listen to almost anything without losing your temper or your self-confidence” is the ideal to which we should all aspire, although I continue to fall short time and time again. Fall down 7 times. Stand up 8, right? The practice—or art—of meditation creates some space in our heads; some room in that human prefrontal cortex to proactively respond versus merely reacting to stressful stimuli. The potential for an increase in overall quality of life though?—priceless.

Engagement with the present moment is powerful stuff that adds more richness to all aspects of our lives. In their new book Peak Performance, Brad Stulberg and Steve Magnuss write, “It’s another example of how achieving excellence in seemingly distinct pursuits—running and meditating—ends up having a lot in common.” Therein lies the magic of connecting the dots between one “self-renewing compulsion,” to quote Dr. George Sheehan, and another. The act of trying-to-evolve in one aspect of our lives lends itself—more than we may realize at first—to becoming more evolved in another. So, I encourage  you to make regular deliberate efforts, to sleep, pose, hike, and meditate yourself toward becoming the best version of yourself possible. Let it not be about perfection, rather, let it be about mindfulness and ultimately, equanimity.

In closing, I’ll share with you how I’m managing to squeeze in all this activity, in addition to my run training during my normal 40-hour work-week. The secret is mindfulness and frequency—maybe a little discipline—not duration. Just think, if you do 10min of meditation every day for a week, you did an over an hour of meditation that week. Keep it up and you’ve got four hours a month you’re now investing in your own mindful practice! Could this increase the overall quality of your life?

Sleep. If you’re getting to bed early enough, avoiding caffeine after noon, and getting your electronic devices out of the bedroom, you should generally wake feeling refreshed and ready to take on your day. If not, it’s back to the drawing board. Waking feeling truly rested is habit numero uno! Realize that your running, yoga, meditation, etc. will all encourage restful, quality sleep. The only time I don’t get good rest is when I shoot myself in the foot by doing something dumb—like drinking a cold-brew coffee at 2:30 in the afternoon!

Yoga. Soon as I wake up I do my morning routine then soon roll out the yoga mat. I always start out in child’s pose and begin the work of quieting my mind. During the work-week, I’m usually on the mat for 15-20min before I have to start getting ready for work. It’s important I leave time to fuel my day with a healthy breakfast. Recall, I’m not doing these things because I want to, I’m doing them because they energize both my work-day and my run training.

Meditation. I’m finding that lunch is the best time for me to do this during the work-week. I’m only allotted 35min so I have to proactively stick to a routine—eat lunch, respond to some emails, then with 10-15min before kids come back for 4th period, I put my legs up a wall and meditate, using the Headspace app and my ear-buds. Boom! I’m recharged for a productive afternoon. Note: Sometimes, I just take my lunch outside and walk-n-eat. I try to remember to drink a bunch of water upon returning to the classroom. I find that drinking adequate water throughout the day really has energizing effects and really encourage higher quality running after work.

Hike. About 4pm to about 6pm during the week is prime-time for training. As I’ve stated, I’m alternating between high quality fast-running and weighted hikes. Again, the hikes serve to both help me actively recover and prime the legs, as well as strengthen my body. Don’t run in the weight-vest, especially down hill. I like to wear my Hoka One One Speedgoat 2’s, as they offer superior protection/cushioning for my feet.

Foam-roll. After a robust dinner with plenty of time to relax, I’ll roll out the yoga mat again and roll out my back, glutes, IT-bands, calves, and achilles. Sometimes, I’ll just bang this out while we’re watching Netflix ’cause sometimes I get too tired to do it right before bed. When I’m lacking in motivation to do it, I remember, “5 minutes. Just do 5 minutes.” When I spend more time—like 10-15min—on the foam-roller, I’ll zero in on any hot-spots I might have at the time, like an angry achilles, or a tight glute or IT-band. I certainly know where my problem areas are and staying on top of those every single day generally keeps my run-legs pretty darn happy.

Tahoe Rim Trail 50mi on July 15th. Flowing through Diamond Peak aid at mile 30.

A heartfelt note of appreciation to my beautiful and highly supportive wife/agent Amanda. I love you!  |  Thanks to all of the athletes I coach who inspire me with their passion and dedication to this crazy sport.  |  Thank you to Hoka One One for your continued support, innovation, and producing the best shoes out there—#speedgoat2 #timetofly!   |  Thanks Healdsburg Running Company for the cheers on-course and always sending out the good race vibes! | Thanks Inside Trail Racing for putting on so many great events in the Bay Area and beyond.  |  Thanks to Dave Townsend at Santa Rosa Physical Therapy for helping me effectively manage all of my issues and keeping me out there pluggin’ away! >>> 🙂

Getting Back to Business

Photo Credit: Let's Wander Photography

North Face Endurance Challenge – Dec 2015. Photo Credit: Let’s Wander Photography

As runners, it’s tough not to run. And when something’s hurting (and it’s not going away) it weighs heavy on our minds. Denial can sometimes be stretched out for weeks, even months. After dealing with an injury a year ago, however, I was a bit wiser this time around, and recognized the need to get some help with my issue, rather than procrastinate as I’d done before, just increasing the time it took me to come back to healthy, happy running. The hardest part was taking the first step, before things really got outta hand.

SRPTlogoAt the end of Jan, an x-ray and MRI at Kaiser revealed I had some nasty stuff going on inside my left knee (likely my right too but not as severe). Here’s the blog-post about it with MRI results. Now of all times, this was an especially shitty time to have an “injury” to deal with, since, for the first time, I’m entered in this year’s Western States 100, held at the end of June. But as happens with many ultrarunners, we tend to run ourselves into the ground. And living in the Bay Area, man it’s not hard to do since there’s such a wealth of wonderful trail running events. Peer pressure and supporting sponsors are contributing factors as well. Well that, and racing is fun! So yeah, at the end of 2015, I ran myself into the ground, but mind you, for what I perceived as an essential reason (see previous post for more on that).

So the knee was really pissed at me and I now knew exactly why. The next step was to visit Dave Townsend at Santa Rosa Physical Therapy. Whenever I feel it’s the “beginning of the end” [of my running], Dave gives me hope, and that leads to [patiently] bringing my running back to life, and with renewed gratitude.

Kaiser suggested I take 8 weeks off with no running or cycling. That made me really nervous because I knew two months away could really put me in a hole, out of which would take some time to recapture the fitness I wanted to have in the bank by June. I wasn’t prepared to think about running Western States in any other form but excellent. I need confidence to be high, for this, my eight 100mi trail run, and one that’s on a pretty big stage. I might not get another opportunity to run this bad boy. I need to make this one count!

Dave did a thorough assessment of my situation, and we discussed how and why my left side was dealing with yet another stress-related injury, now two in the last 16 months. After this assessment, Dave and I went to work on creating a rehab routine that included a variety of stretching and strengthening exercises. I’ve done them religiously since our meeting back at the start of Feb. I’ll be 42 this year, and what I’ve learned—the hard way—-is that if I want to keep running at a high level, I have to be increasingly vigilant about giving my body more TLC in the form of foam-rolling, yoga, the use of Trigger Point balls, cycling, strength training etc. Yet again, my run training needed a face-lift. I needed to evolve and I had plenty of time in Feb to think about how I wanted Mar-Jun to roll out, in order to give myself the best chance of running well at States on 6/25.

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February – No Running. Weeks in ascending order chronologically. Source: Strava.com

As you can see I was really into the cross-training during the work-week starting out in early Feb. Intuition (and a little ego) told me it’d be okay to do a long ride on Sunday, which I felt was necessary to at least break even with my fitness once I returned in March. That first Sunday I hit 100mi, which I found was me trying to show myself I was still strong and could do a bike workout that felt similar to my standard Sunday long run. The knee didn’t hurt but the notion that I really needed to use this month wisely, to really recover, started to sink in, through my thick, stubborn skull. Thus, I just focused on morning TLC sessions, doing my SRPT routine mixed in with some yoga. I walked to work a lot as well. The weather in Feb was dry so I was lucky to be able to consistently get out on Sunday for long rides. I focused on hitting long, sustained climbs in my Zone 2 (ultrarunning HR zone).

My wife, Amanda, also helped nurse my knee back to health with a variety of remedies including mixing up some Essential Oil blends as well as having a friend of hers make me some amazing bone broth (I drank a cup every morning and night for a few weeks. Amanda also researched and got me a variety of supplements that I’m still taking, more out of fear at this point than anything. I’m grateful how smart and proactive she is, dealing with her unreasonable, grumpy-when-injured, ultrarunning husband.

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Ease back into running. Weeks in ascending order. Source: Strava.com

March 1st couldn’t come fast enough, and my patience was indeed wearing thin. I was itching to run. Coming back, I knew I had to continue exercising restraint. There’s just too much on the line this year, to take unwarranted risks. So, I figured running every 72hrs (3 days) starting back would allow my knee to continue strengthening while easing back into run training. Those first few runs were pretty wonky. I wasn’t confident at all my knee was ready to come back to the stress of running. By the weekend, however, things felt a lot better. The following Monday, I felt I was ready for a quality session. And since it was my downhill running that overtaxed the knee, I felt an [up]hill session was a wise choice for the first quality session back. That went well and so, encouraged, I did a tempo run 72 hours later followed by a Sunday long run 3 days after the tempo run. It felt so good to run up at Lake Sonoma, even if I did get tangled up in a bunch of briars while swimming across a flooded section of trail from recent heavy rains. I’ll take it!

According to plan, I just wanted to get my feet back under me, build a bit of fitness, then take the next 5 days or so to really recover and absorb those initial quality sessions. This time off preceded my Spring Break from teaching, which, including weekends would be ten days in duration (3/19 – 3/28). With all that time off I could easily over do it…

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Spring Break Training – 3/19 – 3/28 (10 days). Weeks in ascending order. Source: Strava.com

I love hilly long runs. Naturally, this is why I gravitate to long, hilly ultrarunning events. They speak to my heart and soul. Thus, I planned it out to conduct four long runs over the 10 day spring break. Where once I would’ve done a long run every other day (and more heavily accumulate fatigue) I decided it best to stick to my 72-hour rule, which had been working well since I started back running. The plan was to hit the first long run that first day off, which coincided with the Lake Sonoma 50mi Training Runs anyway, and Lake Sonoma doesn’t have the long, steep descents that I find at Hood Mountain & Sugarloaf Ridge. Essentially, Lake Sonoma would be a little friendlier to my knee for this first “official” long run back.

My long runs were then scheduled as follows: Saturday, Tuesday, Friday, and Monday. The day after the long run would be a non-running day where I’d get out and ride the bike, easy, for a few hours, just spinning the legs. The day before the long run, I decided to do double days. But, running twice in a day didn’t seem like a wise decision considering my knee, so I decided to make the morning session a pretty easy fast-hike wearing my 20lb weight vest. I get a kick out of this session because I’m killing two birds with one stone, i.e., practicing a skill—fast-hiking—that’s important in ultrarunning while getting some strength stimulus from the vest. I soon started listening to podcasts during this session as well. Eventually I’m going to integrate minimalist shoes since the session’s only an hour, I’m not running, and stress on the legs is minimal. Seems to me a cool place to get my feet even more in touch with the trail. Hoka’s got some very light, more minimalist style shoes that’ll work well for this particular session.

Another point of note: now two days removed from the long run, I was feeling the effects of the long run and felt validated in the decision to run long every three days versus every other day. We feel the effects of Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) most two days after a hard session. With the extra day of recovery, I feel we can not only arrive more fresh to the next quality session, but increase the duration of that session, deriving even more quality from it. Because most of us are slaves to the 7-day work-week, we can’t take full  advantage of this 10-day training cycle that a lot of pro endurance athletes use. If/when life presents the opportunity to employ it, I highly recommend trying it out! Quality sessions are more fun when the body (and mind!) are fresh. Weekly training volume is what it is.

The PM session—opposite the weight vest session—is what I now refer to as the “Easy. Light. Smooth,” or “ESL” run, whose name I stole from Chris McDougall’s book, Born to Run, documenting how the Tarahumara Indian tribe runs—Easy, light, and smooth. Recall, this session is my first actual run since the long run two days prior so I want to use it to gauge how I’m coming off the long run before I ask my body to do another one. As it turned out, the method turned out to be very effective. Endurance sports training 101: Keep the easy days easy so the hard days can actually be hard. And in a long run, the quality comes from duration not intensity.

For the subsequent three long runs, I wanted to get out to my fave place to train here locally—Hood/Sugarloaf, where I spend much of the time just going uphill, which is great for me ’cause that’s my limiter in ultra racing. And all the low-impact uphill work didn’t affect my knee. Over the whole spring break I was very reasonable and controlled with my descending (my strength), which unfortunately places incredible demands on the knees, especially in races that last 7-19 hours! Anyway, I really enjoyed these last three 5+ hour runs with around 8000′ of climb each. The streams are flowing and everything’s green. The temps were down and I could easily get around my loop on one 300cal bottle of Vitargo for hydration. That will not be the case as the season heats up!

Spring Break Running Totals: 147mi w/ 36,000′ of elevation gain/loss

Thus my spring break served its purpose—establish a strong foundation moving forward with training and get some very specific work for the 16,000′ of elevation gain/loss at Canyons 100k on May 7th. I’ll hope to have this wonderful opportunity to race on the Western States 100 course, but also get to compete one more time whilst I’m still 41 (I turn 42 just two days later). I love getting to race on or near my actual birthday. Provides some extra incentive! I will, however, have to keep my eyes on the prize and listen to my body during Canyons. If the knee’s really talkin’ to me, I might have to make a tough decision and drop in order to, as I tell athletes I coach, “preserve the future.” I do anticipate racing strong from start to finish but given that Canyons is only 7 weeks out from States, I just have to be careful. There’s a big difference between doing an easy 5-hour long run and racing a demanding 100k. My plan is to arrive to the starting line of Canyons very fit and fresh so I can not only race effectively but also recover very well in time to get back to a training block for States, which I’m very excited to do!

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Psyched and super grateful to back on board with HOKA ONE ONE this year. Lots of great new models to try out and keep me running strong. It’s gonna be another awesome season!!

 

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Equally psyched to back on board with the fastest muscle fuel out there—VitargoS2. And by the way, the new watermelon flavor is the bomb.com!!

Faster than Twitter, thanks to my beautiful, loving, and highly supportive wife Amanda for her thankless job [even from afar] as “First Responder.”  |  Thank you to Julbo Eyewear for the beautiful, functional, and comfortable sunglasses. It’s GREAT to be working with you!  |  Thank you to Hoka One One for your continued support and producing the best shoes out there—#LetsGoHoka!  |  Thanks to Inside Trail Racing for offering so many fantastic races in great places.  |  Thanks to Vitargo for the steady energy and SIMPLIFYING my nutrition.  |  Thank you Healdsburg Running Company for all the wonderful support. HRC rocks! | Victory Sportdesign produces the best drop-bags in the biz! | Thanks to Dave Townsend at Santa Rosa Physical Therapy for helping me keep the dream alive!

“There is No Spoon.”

“Something I have always understood is that physical activity is key to a calm mind.”  -Simon Whitfield, Olympic Gold Medalist

three-dog-yogaMy New Year’s resolution? Have more awareness, in sport and in life in general. Surely, trail-running encourages present-mindedness, but whenever I take a yoga class, I walk away feeling renewed in a different way. I’m going on a bit of a “yoga expedition” this year, a little journey into my self and see what I can bring back and use on the trail.

This time of year, yoga’s a great alternative to slogging out dark, cold morning miles in the woods. I’m excited to incorporate yoga into my ultrarunning training this year as I have this strong sense that it will encourage further performance gains. Just taking four power yoga classes over the last week has influenced my running and teaching in subtle but noticeable ways. In addition to yoga, great sleep, good foods, plenty ‘o water, and omitting daily toxins like sugar, caffeine, and alcohol probably contribute to this feeling of greater equanimity. Simple is beautiful—just hop on your mat, listen to your instructor, and an hour’s over before you know it. Feel great all day, what’s not to love?

My first introduction to yoga came in 2010, about the time I got bit by the ultrarunning bug. Serenditously, I began to draw parallels between the two. On the mat or on the trail, there is no place to hide from yourself. And in order to get the most out of yourself in either context, you have to clear your mind, be present, breathe, and try your best to go with the flow.

My yoga teacher at Three Dog Yoga in Santa Rosa, Anna, was instructing during a power class just last week about the practical nature of yoga. Practical in the sense of being present, in the moment and how that serves us so well, on and off the mat. Yoga, as I understand it, is a practice, the proverbial journey with no destination. Reminds me of Joan Benoit Samuelson’s quote, “There is no finish line.” All that matters is what we’re doing in the moment, just like ultrarunning. Building presence of mind, then, is a skill we can work on and improve. Then we can take that skill and apply it to any area of our lives. For me, I take what I’m learning in yoga right into the classroom, into my coaching, my running, and my other important life roles.

Beyond presence of mind, yoga serves to stretch and strengthen the body. Yoga practice gets us in touch with our breathing. It also stretches and strengthens the mind by asking us to hold many challenging poses, especially challenging for notoriously tight muscled runners. All of these benefits, of course, are practical needs of any endurance athlete.

Candice Burt, 2nd place female at the 1/20/14 HURT 100mi trail run and new Tahoe Rim 200 Race Director, says that yoga changed her life. Here’s what she recently told Ultra Runner Podcast: the day after running 100mi at HURT:

“[Yoga’s] more of a perspective change, slowing down and trying being present in the moment. [It] helps you get to a clearer place. The breathing’s made me really present, it’s really helped me with my running. During the race yesterday, there were a lot of times when I started panicking over how many more miles were left or the next hill I had to climb. When I felt that panic, I would breathe in deep like I did in yoga and that would bring this sense of calm within me. I wouldn’t have been able to bring that calmness out if I hadn’t already practiced it through the yoga poses because a lot of the poses put you under a good deal of stress. You’re body learns how to deal with that, that fear, in the moment.”

Jumping back into ultrarunning from triathlon in 2013, I just ran, All. Year. Long. There wasn’t any strengthening, little stretching, and no sessions specifically attending to focused breathing. By December, I was feeling it. I didn’t just need to take a month off from running, I really wanted to. It’s never just about the body, the mind’s along for the ride too. So, I’m thinking of yoga as my specific mental conditioning training. When I studied sport psychology in graduate school, we were taught sport is 100% mental as well as 100% physical. They are different realms that need to be attended to individually. Surely, this is even more true for ultrarunning. Like I tell my students, the mind is a muscle, you don’t work it out by doing the homework (training) it’s just not gonna be there for you on test (race) day.

I’m always tinkering with my typical training week. I’m a creature of habit and seem to be happiest when I’m engrossed in activities that are most meaningful to me; finding time for quality run training being one example. This year I’m focused on building my two greatest limiters: speed in 50k and 50mi events, and climbing across the board. So, in order to accomodate more intense sessions, I’m dropping my weekly volume a bit. Building for two weeks—versus three—and then taking a recovery week will be another big change. It’s that recovery week that I’m most jazzed about.

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I feel this “Two On—One Off” approach to training will keep me healthy while steadily progressing. As is traditional in a run recovery week, I’ll drop the running volume considerably, while maintaining integrity to the most important sessions: two hill sessions and a faster, mid-week road run. I cut the intensity during these sessions by about 40-50% in the recovery week so that I feel like I’m truly recovering while staying sharp. Enter yoga.

Recovery weeks, now, will not only be about recovery from running, but strengthening the body (and mind) to more effectively cope with subsequent run training. I believe yoga can even keep the “flame to train” burning bright. ‘Cause if it’s not fun, we shouldn’t be out there slogging away, right?

It’s gonna be another fun year in the woods, and on the mat! I’ll be writing at least three more follow up posts on yoga’s influence on my ultrarunning training and racing. I have a whole slew of ideas rattling away in my head. Inspiration is everywhere.