Coach Joey's Corner: Turning Up the Heat

Training Update 1/28 to 2/3

Monday

o   AM: 8.7 at 7:05 pace with 8 strides

o   PM: 5.7 at 7:29 pace

Tuesday

o   AM: 3 mile warmup, 4x1600 with 1 min jog rests, ½ mile jog, 4 x 400 with 400 jog, 2 mile cooldown. Goal was 515 down to sub 510 and 70-72. Splits: 515.3, 513.5, 510.5, 506.3; 71.5, 70.7, 71.1, 69.9.

o   PM: 5 at 7:38 pace

Wednesday

o   AM: 11.8 at 7:13 pace

o   PM: off

Thursday

o   AM: 7.7 at 7:35 pace

o   PM: 5.1 at 7:35 pace

Friday

o   AM: 4 at 7:27 pace with 6 strides

o   PM: 5 at 7:37 pace

Saturday

o   AM: 2.5 mile warmup, 15k (1st in 49:14), 3 mile cooldown

o   PM: 5.4 at 7:40 pace

Sunday

o   AM: off

o   PM: 8.1 at 7:28 pace

Week Total: 93 miles. Slight mileage dip for the race.

(Almost) Final Racing Schedule

·         Hot Chocolate 15k 2/16

·         Wrightsville Beach Half Marathon 3/9

·         Purity Dairy Dash 15k 4/13

·         Grandma’s Marathon 6/22

Some Thoughts

I’m happy with this week. Tuesday’s workout actually felt kind of rough, especially since I did a very similar workout two weeks ago that felt pretty easy. That was maybe related to the cold that started on Wednesday and is ongoing, although much better now. Then the race went surprisingly well. I wasn’t super optimistic going in because of the cold/uncertainty about where my fitness was. But I raced well (there were 5 of us who ended up within 32 seconds of each other) and I’m very pleased with the win and the time considering it’s a tougher course and still early in the season. It’s nice to know I’m starting at a good place.

joey.jpg

 Had to work for this one.

With the first race of the season I’ve been thinking this past week about a special skill in racing:

Turning up the heat

At the beginning of a distance race, the name of the game is being conservative and not wasting unnecessary energy. But at some point in the race, and this could happen quite gradually, you have to transition into work mode. It’s the switch from low pain tolerance early on (which keeps you relaxed/conservative) to high pain tolerance late in the race. It’s something I’ve definitely struggled with, but want to develop a little more each time I race.

joey 2.png

The thing I struggle with is this. I can either go out aggressively and be mentally in the game from the gun, but then slow down a little bit at the end because I started too fast. Or, I can start conservatively and not get caught up in the emotion of the race, but then I often settle into conservative mode and never turn it on. The few times I’ve been able to transition well have been some of my best races.

And so I keep working on this skill. And if you want to maximize your potential when you race, I think it’s a good thing to focus on. But of course, you don’t want to overdo it:

joey 3.png

Can you tell I like Seinfeld??

Coach Joey's Corner: Learning to Settle

It’s Monday! And that means it’s time for Coach Joey’s Corner! Check out his weekly training recap and how to learn the art of settling.

Training Update 2/4 to 2/10

Monday:

  • AM: 8 at 7:09 pace with 6 strides

  • PM: 5 at 7:32 pace

Tuesday

  • AM: 3 mile warmup, 8x800 with 200 jog rests, 2 mile cooldown. Goal was 2:30-2:35. Splits: 2:33.6, 2:33.8, 2:31.5, 2:32.4, 2:30.7, 2:29.8, 2:31.1, 2:29.1 (average 2:31.5)

  • PM: 5.8 at 7:30 pace

Wednesday

  • AM: 8 at 7:18 pace

  • PM: 4.8 at 7:50 pace. In pouring rain and flooding. Should’ve run on the treadmill!

Thursday

  • AM: 3 mile warmup, 10 x 45 sec gentle downhill strides, 3 mile cooldown. Avg 4:18.4 pace (4:27.3 Strava grade-adjusted pace)

  • PM: 5.6 at 7:52 pace

Friday

  • AM: 8 at 7:18 pace

  • PM: 4 at 7:19 pace

Saturday

  • AM: 20 at 6:39 pace.

  • PM: off

Sunday

  • AM: off

  • PM: 7.9 at 7:10 pace

·         Week Total: 96.5 miles

Tentative Racing Schedule

·         Hot Chocolate 15k 2/16

·         Wrightsville Beach Half Marathon 3/9

·         Purity Dairy Dash 15k 4/13

·         Grandma’s Marathon 6/22

Decided about a week ago to run hot chocolate, which should be a good rust-buster before the half. The plan is to decide for sure about Grandma’s sometime this week!

Some Thoughts

Another solid week in the books. Nothing super impressive, just good consistent training being added to the bank balance. Tuesday was a little bit faster but still very in control, and Thursday was basically just glorified strides, but it was good to get some turnover in and keep the legs awake. I was also pleased with Saturday. The slowest of the last 15 miles was 635, and it all felt pretty comfortable. Really, there’s nothing that impressive about running a bunch of miles 60-70 sec/mile slower than marathon pace. But the reason I was happy with this is that I felt I really settled into the pace. And do you know what a big part of racing well at long distance is?

Learning to Settle

Consider Eluid Kipchoge, the greatest marathon to run the face of the earth. No, really. Look at the picture below and consider Kipchoge:

kipchoge.png

Source

Kipchoge is pictured here dueling in out late in the 2015 London Marathon with former world record holder Wilson Kipsang. Another former world record holder, Dennis Kimetto, has already succumbed to the quick pace and is back in third at the time this photo was taken.

Note the calm demeanor of Kipchoge. You’d think that dueling with the world’s best might put some strain on your face, but great racers are great at relaxing and settling into the race. Let’s consider a more extreme example.

Take a look at Matt Centrowitz in the 2016 Olympics, where he ended up winning gold in the 1500m. Unlike the marathon, when you’re running a race less than a mile long you’ve got a lot to worry about—position, timing of moves, and usually a ferocious kick. But in the midst of all this chaos, Centrowitz seems to find some calm:

centrowitz.jpg

Source

Of course, having the right genetics and essentially being bred to win gold medals probably helps more than the calm look on your face, but the point here is that if you want to race well in distance events, you’ve got to learn to settle.

And if you can’t even settle in training, how do you expect to do it during a race? One good place to settle is a moderate workout or long run. Instead of worrying about hitting exact splits or trying to turn the workout into an effort that’s harder than it needs to be, practice settling. Get comfortable at the pace you’re running. If you learn to really get comfortable during a steady long run or even an interval workout, you’ll have a much better chance of not being overly antsy during a race. And especially in the marathon, any unnecessary energy you waste early on will really come back to bite you in the last 10k.

I feel like I should go on, but maybe it’s appropriate to just settle with what I’ve written so far 😉. Until next week…

Coach Joey's Corner: Risk vs. Reward

“ . . . nothing is certain. But such is life. But when you care about something, you try to make it work anyway.”

Welcome back to Coach Joey’s Corner where Joey Elsakr provides us with glimpses and insight on his current training, while also waxing philosophical on life and running.

Training Update 1/28 to 2/3

Monday:

o   AM: 8 at 7:12 pace with 6 strides

o   PM: 6 at 7:34 pace

Tuesday:

o   AM: 3 mile warmup, 4x1600 with 1 min jog rests, 2 mile cooldown. Goal was 515 average and working down a little. Splits: 515.9, 516.1, 511.9, 507.5.

o   PM: 5 at 7:29 pace

Wednesday:

o   AM: 8 at 7:13 pace

o   PM: 5 at 7:33 pace

Thursday:

o   AM: 2 mile warmup, 10 miles steady/slight progression, 1 mile cooldown. Goal was 615 down to 545 pace. Ran 613 down to 541; 557 average.

o   PM: off. Vacation!!!!

Friday:

o   AM: Vacation over. 4.9 at 7:33 pace

o   PM: 7.1 at 7:43 pace

Saturday:

o   AM: 20 at 6:44 pace with 8 strides in the last 3 miles

o   PM: off

Sunday:

o   AM: off

o   PM: 7.9 at 7:26 pace

Week Total: 94.4 miles. Since this is the first week of training updates, I’ll recap how I got here. I ran the California International Marathon on 12/2. The week that after I ran 3.3 miles. Then 27.9, 47.7, 63.5, 74, 81.1, 89.1, 95, and then this week.

Tentative Racing Schedule

  • Wrightsville Beach Half Marathon 3/9

  •          Purity Dairy Dash 15k 4/13

  •        Grandma’s Marathon 6/22

Still haven’t settled on Grandma’s, and I may add a couple more races, but this is the plan for now and will be finalized soon!

Some Thoughts

This was a decent week that wasn’t too flashy. A lot of easy running (my easy pace tends to be about 2 min/mile slower than marathon pace) and a couple moderate workouts. The mileage may seem a like a lot to some, but it’s something I’ve gradually built up to and is not a major stressor. So really, it wasn’t a super difficult week, which means it’s a good excuse to talk about an important concept in running.

Risk and Reward

Consider the reward vs risk graph below.


reward.gif

 Source: https://www.welshpiper.com/risk-vs-reward/

Like many things in life, I think the running risk/reward curve looks something like that. The main driver of risk here is increased training intensity. Reward is increased fitness/faster times. As you can see, the difference between sitting on the couch and running a little bit leads to rapid increases in fitness with minimal risk. Training harder leads to substantial increases in rewards while adding a decent amount of risk. But towards the end of the curve you’re essentially adding large amounts of risk for minimal increases in potential rewards. By definition, none of the reward is guaranteed (since it all carries some risk), and it becomes less and less certain the more you move along the risk axis.

Alright, that’s probably enough math talk for a Monday. What’s the point? In running, like in many other areas of life, it’s all about optimizing potential rewards and risk. Yes, you can go out and run marathon pace on all your easy runs with a couple killer interval workouts each week, but you’re adding a lot of risk and really compromising your chances at any reward. You’re also probably doing something that’s not sustainable long term.

For me, I gain momentum by executing every workout as planned and putting in good mileage each week. If my workouts were substantially harder and I could only execute 60-70% perfectly, it would be easier to get down on myself. And it would be adding risk. And it wouldn’t lead to substantially more potential reward. The key, in my mind, to being a successful distance runner is consistency. Too much risk can compromise consistency through injury, lack of motivation, etc. But nailing manageable workouts back to back to back results in a nice compounding effect with excellent results over time.

new.PNG


I’d rather be crushing it on the blue dot than just surviving on the red one.

The other thing about risk is that it can be mitigated. If you really want to be successful, you can take additional steps to prevent injury and make sure you’re getting the most out of training. I touched on this last week, but the essentials are staying ahead of injuries, taking your recovery seriously and getting enough sleep. This last point is extremely important if you actually want to benefit from your training.

Of course, nothing is guaranteed. Consider Galen Rupp. The man has every Nike resource available to him and he lives for running like Kramer lives for merlot.

2f9d7321f400221d859c84f86480d33f.gif


And yet, he had to have surgery to repair his Achilles. So nothing is certain. But such is life. But when you care about something, you try to make it work anyway. And if you want to make running work, then it’s essential to learn how to manage and mitigate risk.

Until next week!

Coach Joey's Corner: Welcome!

Joey at CIM 2018

Joey at CIM 2018

If you’ve raced around Nashville in the past couple of years, you’ve probably seen a flash of NRC Race Team member Joey Elsakr. He’s super fast, is as smart as he is fast (hello, Ph.D/MD candidate), and is one of the nicest dudes around. As he gears up for Spring races, he’ll be doing weekly columns for the blog which will chronicle his training as well as coaching tips and thoughts. BUT FIRST, let’s get to know Joey more and hear about his latest marathon. . . California International Marathon in December.

NRC: How long have you been running -- did you grow up with it, find it in high school, etc?

Joey: I’d say I found it just before high school. Sometime during middle school, my best friend and neighbor got me to go running with him and his dad, who was a runner. I was not unathletic and had jogged a mile or so before. We did 4 miles that day, and I thought I was gonna die. Then this turned into a semi-regular occurrence, then the same friend convinced me to come out to a cross country practice “just to try it”, and the rest is pretty much history. So, I kind of owe my intro to running to my friend and his dad (and my mom, who also ran a little at the time). I was big into tennis back then, so I did XC and tennis for a couple years and then quit tennis to focus on running and run track. To answer the question how long I’ve been running, I’d say since 2005ish, but I got more serious about it and started putting in more significant mileage around 2009. So about a decade ish.

NRC: You ran at the collegiate level. What are some PRs, highs and lows of this experience?

Joey: I like to say I barely ran at the collegiate level. The coach wouldn’t let me on the team, so I trained on my own and improved a lot my freshman year of college. I kept bugging the coach until he changed his mind and let me walk on as a sophomore. Honestly, getting on the XC and track teams at Duke was probably the biggest high, and remains one of my proudest running accomplishments. Other college running highlights were a few good 10k’s on the track and eventually becoming 8th/9th man on the XC team. In terms of lows, I struggled with a few injuries and during my freshman year I wanted to join track in the spring and the coach said no, which kind of crushed me for a little. However, I was able to keep improving and eventually join. PRs in college were 31:17 10k (still current), 15:23 5k, 9:02 3k, and 4:37 mile. The astute observer will notice that they get progressively worse as you go down in distance. I have no speed. (NRC: good one, Joey)

NRC: You’ve continued a stellar post-collegiate running career (while also working on a Ph.D/MD) – what has that been like? How do you balance training with rigors of school?

Joey: There have been times, like during clinical rotations in the second year of med school, where running had to take a back seat and I got fat and out of shape. But in general, it’s been manageable. I’ve been working on my PhD the last 3.5 years, which is basically just working on a big project in a lab. It’s busy, but the hours are more regular and semi-flexible, so it isn’t too bad balancing training with that. Once I go back to med school to finish the MD, things could get crazy again. So I really want to accomplish my ultimate goal of qualifying for the Olympic trials in the marathon before that happens.

NRC: Speaking of Olympic trials and marathons, you recently completed CIM. What was training like? How did that go? Are you happy with the outcome?

Joey: CIM this past December, and the buildup leading up to it, will probably always hold a special place in my heart. As of Summer 2018, I had only run 1 PR in any distance for the previous 2.5 years. That PR was at CIM in 2016, and was a PR by only 15 seconds (2:23:17). I felt like I had been training reasonably hard and stayed mostly healthy, but hadn’t really seen significant improvements in a while. The Olympic trials standard is 2:19:00, so I had (and have) a lot of work to do to get there. So I decided to make some changes. The first one was that I started working with Scott Wietecha. My previous coach was good, undoubtedly, but I felt like I need a change almost just to introduce some “newness”. I was talking to a couple people and thought about self-coaching, but really liked Scott’s approach so decided to go with him.

The next change was to get my running life back in order. My hamstring had been tight/weak for a long time and wasn’t getting better. I went to a sports medicine doctor who knows a lot about running and start doing physical therapy at Vanderbilt. I now do physical therapy exercises almost daily. I also got more serious about recovery. At least 8 hours of sleep every night, got more regular with my stretching, and had a recovery drink (usually chocolate milk) after every hard or long effort. I had done those things in the past, but not consistently enough. I knew I needed to be more serious.

All the above combined to make a pretty healthy, successful season. I was able to consistently put in >90 miles per week and got some really solid marathon workouts in. The best one was a 20 mile progression in uncomfortably cold weather, with 16/20 miles solo. It was also at the end of a 101 mile week and my legs were tired before starting. I went through some mental battles during the workout and thought seriously about quitting but stuck it out and ended up averaging 5:32 pace for the whole thing, with the last two miles in 10:24. After that, I felt so prepared for the marathon, and it really gave me confidence I could run a big PR.

The race itself was really just the cherry on top. I ran 2:21:51, which was an 86 second PR. I’d say it was a pretty well executed race, but maybe a little more patience early on and I could’ve run 30 seconds faster. Still, it was a race to remember and it’s great to feel like I’m back on track again and improving. Since this answer is getting ridiculously long, I’ll refer the interested reader to my race report on Strava for more details. I still have a long way to go to qualify for the trials (2 min and 51 seconds, to be exact), but I feel like I’ve got some momentum behind me now and though it’s improbable, it’s not impossible!

NRC: Are you training for anything now?             

Joey: Yes! I’ll be running another marathon in the late spring and hopefully attempting to dip under 2:19. I’m 90% sure it’ll be Grandma’s, but I haven’t committed yet. In a couple weeks I’ll know more about my academic future, so I’ll probably decide for sure then. Training is fully underway for a spring marathon though. I’ll also be doing the Wrightsville Beach Half Marathon on March 9th.

NRC: Stay tuned for more on Joey’s training and be on the lookout for Coach Joey’s Corner coming at you weekly!

Meet NRC's Newest Crew Member -- Nick Harris

nick.jpg

If you’ve been in the store recently, you may have seen a new face. That’s none other than our newest crew member — Nick Harris! So, just who is this long-haired, Ricky Skagg-loving speed demon? Nick offered us some insight into his running experience and his new(ish) move to Nashville.

NRC: First things, first. How long have you been running?

Nick: I’ve been running since middle school. I would do the 75m hurdles and the high jump and I was pretty good at both of them, take my word for it. I’m still waiting for them to update the record books.

I grew up fast, by the time I turned 7 I was 12 years old, and I would only get beat by one girl in the mile, so I was well on my way. 

I was born on the shores of the Eurolava River in Rapala, and running was a big part of my family. My uncle Richie ran professionally for Nike’s Athletics West and ran 3:51.3 for the mile in 1984, which is really fast, no need to take my word for it, it just is. 

My uncle Tracy ran professionally for Reebok and Brooks and, for 20 years, has been the best high school coach the state of Idaho has ever seen, take my word for it, I can’t even name another one. 

My dad also went to CU and ran 1:49.1 for 800m in 1984. 1984 was a good year. 

I never really understood what any of that stuff meant until I was older so I never felt any pressure to run in high school or beyond. I just ran cross country because my three older brothers ran cross country. Then, once they were gone, it was just what the cool kids did. 

So, it was the cool kids and me, running cross country and track, and I didn’t even get beat by a girl this time.  

NRC: You ran at the collegiate level -- tell us about that: highs, lows, PRs, what it was like being a college athlete?

Nick: I walked on at the University of Washington in 2012 and was there for three years, then I transferred to the University of Colorado for my last 2 years. At CU, I ran my PRs for 800m (1:47.8) and 1500m (3:42.6). 

At UW, I had my PRs for the beer mile (it’s fuzzy) and maple bars eaten on the steps of Suzzalo Library with Tim and Meron (a lot). 

Now, I’m training under Joe Bosshard in Boulder, I’m back to getting beat by women . . . only this time it’s in practice and they’re olympians so I’m cool with it. This past summer I ran new PRs for 1500 (3:41.7) and the mile (3:58.8). The next step now will be to run a little faster and start looking for a shoe sponsor, if anyone wants to sponsor someone with modest PRs and no social media, I’m your guy.

*NRC: Nick modestly left out he was the Pac-12 champion in the 800m in 2017. NBD.

NRC: You're new to Nashville -- what brought you here and how are you liking it so far?

Nick: My girlfriend Maddie is doing her residency to be a Dietician here, and I’m just along for the ride. Nashville has a stronghold on the collective psyche of the Harris family whether we like it or not so it’s exciting to actually be living here now. 

Two of my favorite albums are Dylan’s Nashville Skyline and Todd Snider’s East Nashville Skyline and to think that Norman Blake was playing guitar on a Dylan record a mile or two from where I live now is pretty mind blowing. And Nashville is obviously full of stuff like that, you can’t get away from it. But enough about skylines.

I met Nancy Jones at her husbands grave a couple weeks ago 

But enough about Nancy Jones 

Short story long, and having nothing to do with running, I like being in Nashville.

I’ve also got some Bro Country songs in my back pocket written by my alter-ego and nemesis Blaythe Charlesly, if anyone’s shopping for hits. That shit’s easy as shit! 

NRC: Are you training for anything now? What's that training look like?  

Nick: Right now I’m mostly gearing up for the indoor track season so I’m just putting in some mileage, strides, fartleks, etc. Nothing super race specific. I’ll do a long run on Sundays and usually two workouts during the week. The other days is just easy running. 

You might find me any day of the week jogging in full sweats on Vanderbilt’s grass fields, on the grass at Elmington park, or on the grass out at Rhodes Park. I definitely don’t jump the fences though because that wouldn't be right. But enough about grass fields.

I [ran] a 5k on Nov 10th down near Memphis and maybe jump in some other races if they come up. Mostly, I’m looking to get in a good mile or two indoors, see if i can qualify for USAs on Feb 22,  then I’ll start looking towards the outdoor track season. 

I will say we’re looking for more soft flat surfaces to run on in and around Nashville if anyone out there has any ideas. If anyone knows any secret dirt roads or gravel paths near Nashville for a long run, we would be forever grateful.   

NRC: Anything else you're dying to let the world know about Nick? 

Nick: I think Ricky Skaggs is the best country artist this town has ever seen, followed by Miranda Lambert.

No foolin’

I like to play guitar and I’m trying to learn the fiddle, mainly to be more like John Hartford 

So, if Bobby Hicks or Mark O’Connor is reading this and wants to give me lessons, I accept.       

Otherwise, come on down to East Nashville, we’ll steal your heart and your lawn mower

Trail to 50k: RACE WEEK!

Tom at the Hendersonville Half

Tom at the Hendersonville Half

For those racing StumpJump, it’s finally RACE WEEK!! And we’re checking in with Tom Cirillo about his training, tapering, and pre-race strategies and nerves!

NRC: How has tapering been, and what has that looked like for you?

TOM: I did my last long, long trail run (six laps of red – had the esteemed company of Sean Patrick O’Brien for one lap a week before he took on the Barkley Fall Classic) in Percy three weeks ago, got rained on a little, which might prove to have been a good dress rehearsal for this weekend. I usually don’t like to do too much of a taper because I feel like I’m losing momentum, so I got in some longish runs the week of September 10th but also took a day completely off from running. That Saturday I got talked into (thanks Cody Case and Megan Scheumann) going to Bearwaller Gap for a “practice run” on the Defeated Creek course – I was kinda feeling like, let me get StumpJump over before thinking about the NRC race in October – but in retrospect it was a good tune-up for the 50K. Similar terrain and climbs but packed into a more manageable amount of miles. The next day I ran out at Percy with Taylor Jamieson on both road (11.2) and trail (red). We made the conscious effort to keep things at a slower pace than normal, not that I could have gone any faster post-Defeated, and it was just one of those days where the air felt slushy and the going was slow.

Over the summer I signed up for the Hendersonville Half Marathon on September 22nd. At the time, this date was two weeks before StumpJump, but the race was moved up a week because there is a managed deer hunt in Prentice Cooper State forest on October 6th – I think it would be more interesting to have the runners and hunters out there together, what could go wrong? Anyway, I was still going to do the half. I took it real easy during the week and left it a game time decision whether I would race the half or use it as a long but easy pace run. I figured running 13.1 hard wouldn’t kill me for StumpJump, and it would be good to see how I felt running on decent rest and then try to replicate that feeling the following week. So I ran it hard and managed a PR by about five minutes – huge confidence builder for the 50K. The Hendersonville Half, only in its third year, is a superb race – very flat course, some on a greenway through Drake’s Creek Park and some on road that goes by an inlet of the Cumberland River – très scenic. Organizers had the post-race snacks down – Jimmy John’s, Shipley’s Donuts, and a free beer for runners. Previously unbeknownst to me there were a lot of Nashville running group friends doing the race and it was a fun morning.

All this said, I know it’s important to go into StumpJump fully rested. So taking it easy this week – ran with 12south on Monday and will hit some 20 to 30 minute runs at an easy pace. I also made it a point to schedule a couple days where I try to get a little extra sleep than usual.

NRC: How are you feeling going into Saturday? Nervous about anything? Especially looking forward to anything?

TOM: I’m feeling good physically, and my brain is excited for the race. Of course, I’m still a little nervous about the prospect of running a 50K considering that I’ve never run that far. I’ve been reading some race reports online from previous StumpJump races – it sounds like there are some steep descents, which I tend to have a tough time with. The only other worry I have is some kind of equipment/nutrition fail, but I’ll double-knot my shoes, stuff some gels in my pack, and hope for the best. As far as things I’m looking forward to, in a weird way I’m pumped up about being out there for a long time and appreciating the effort it will take to run a consistent, strong race.

NRC: What are your race goals, strategies? 

TOM: Ultimately the goal is to finish, but I’m going to start with the goal of a six hour finish. That’s an 11:35/mile pace, I think I can do it, but If it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen, I’m fine with that, and I’ll just enjoy the experience. I’m going to start slowly,  the first five miles or so are the easiest but I’ll keep it reeled in. If I slow down on the descents, I’ll try to make it up on the climbs. I’ve asked a lot of people about how to get over some of the obstacles in an ultra and the thing I’ve heard most is “just keep moving,” so when it gets tough, which it will, I’ll remember that. So many people have given me great advice and encouragement – I’m thankful for that.

I haven’t had any nutrition issues for long runs, so I’ll stick with what I know and go with skratch and water for hydration, some huma gels and picky bars, prob try to score some pickles, pretzels, and peanut butter (appreciate the alliteration!) from the aid stations because those are staples of my everyday life.

NRC: Best part of training/worst part?

TOM: Best part of training was over the summer when I hit a groove and was logging a bunch of miles every week on the trails. Heading out to Flagstaff for the express purpose of running tough trails was awesome and helped get me in the right mindset for the rest of training. Number one best thing was running with friends who also have a big race on the horizon. NRC RunWild group was great – best part was the Tuesday workouts, because workouts on hills or intervals are plain tough to do solo. There is a pretty light-hearted nature to that group, but lurking beneath there’s a competitive current that makes everybody do their best. Most of my long runs were with company and I gotta shout out three dudes in particular: just about every weekend from June until September, some combo of Grant England (Natchez Trace Trail Marathon, Nov. 3), Taylor Jamieson (YETI 100-miler, Sept. 28-29), and Denton Hunker (fellow StumpJumper) would hook up on Saturday or Sunday to grind out a long run on the trails.

Can’t really say there’s been a worst part. Since signing up for StumpJump I haven’t lost any enthusiasm for running the race and haven’t had any injuries. Yes, many runs were long and tough, I got poison ivy/oak (?) twice from running on overgrown trails, my car smelled pretty bad post-run mornings (gotta air that thing out…), but whatever, it’s been a blast regardless of how the race goes.

NRC: What are you planning to eat/drink post-race? 

TOM: Filtered alkaline water and farm-raised quinoa with a pinch of organic sea salt.

 HAHA — glad to see all the miles haven’t ceased the Cirillo wit — and that there’s a brew in it for you after that alkaline water. Thanks so much, Tom, and CRUSH IT THIS WEEKEND!!

Trail to 50k: Road Trippin

One way to know you're a true runner, or crazy, is when you plan trips just for running. And that's exactly what Tom Cirillo did this summer as he trains for StumpJump later this month!! Here's his recount of the adventure (Try not to get too jealous!)

TOM:
At the end of July I traveled to Flagstaff, AZ for some running in the Southwest as I prepare for StumpJump. I arrived in Phoenix on the morning on July 22nd, got my car, and didn’t waste any time. It’s about two hours from Phoenix to Flagstaff and there are some good spots to run on the way up in the Oak Creek and Sedona areas.

Day One: Woods Canyon Trail

The Woods Canyon Trail is off Highway 179 and heads into the Munds Mountain Wilderness Area. The setting is quintessential Southwest. Red rocks, cacti, lizards, low scraggly pine trees.

The trail begins at the Red Rock Visitor Center, which has good amenities and maps. The trail looked pretty easy to follow in the guidebooks and I wasn’t worried about getting lost. I started off on a gravelly road that ascended gently before giving way to rockier terrain made up entirely of sandstone. The trail got steeper but was still runnable – the elevation ranged from 3,900 feet at the beginning to 4,300 feet at the turn-around point. I didn’t feel any effects from the altitude here, but I anticipated that changing when I was running in Flagstaff later in the week. About 2 miles in I came to a strange looking gate-like contraption that I thought was made of barbwire – this couldn’t be the end of the line. It was actually a cattle gate and after fussing with it for a minute or so I got it open. The trail follows a creek bed and never got so steep or rugged that you couldn’t run at a decent clip. At a little over 5 miles cacti and other brush overtook the trail and it was time to head back. The trail was beautiful but fairly uniform with no noticeable landmarks and I got semi-disoriented on the way back, finding myself down in the actual creek bed or higher up on the canyon wall than I wanted to be. But I knew if I kept the creek to my left (south) I wouldn’t get off course. Had to backtrack a few times but never too far and once back to the cattle gate I was in the homestretch. Great first run in AZ, but I wanted more mountains.

new tom.jpg

Day Two: Humphrey’s Peak

After Woods Canyon I drove up to Flagstaff through Sedona – I’ve been to Sedona a few times but seeing those sandstone rock formations never gets old. You don’t need to get out of the car for some jaw dropping scenery. I stayed the night in Flagstaff and the next day decided to go all out and take on Humphrey’s Peak. At 12,633 feet it’s the highest point in Arizona (129th in the USA, there are a few more mountains to climb…). I had researched this trail pretty carefully in guide books and online – it’s a popular training route for Western States Endurance Race competitors, many of whom live and train in Flagstaff. A great thing about Flagstaff is that so many trails are only a short drive from downtown. The trailhead is northwest of the city at the top of Snow Bowl Road (there’s a ski resort here in winter). Contrary to Woods Canyon, my starting elevation here was 9,300 feet – the run started off on a flat stretch through a small mountain meadow, but I was huffing and puffing 10 seconds in… ouch. However, the ragged breathing subsided after about two minutes. This was something I noticed during every run on this trip – 90 to 120 seconds of tough going right at the start and then feeling fine breathing-wise after. This trail was tough – straight up, straight down.

new tom 2.png

As much “power hiking” (i.e., walking) as running. The terrain didn’t make things easier – big rocks, lots of roots. It was visually stunning challenge and my favorite trail in Flagstaff. The trail is mainly in the Kachina Peaks Wilderness and takes switchbacks as you gain elevation through a pine forest before opening up after 3 miles or so. Humphrey’s is part of the San Francisco Peaks and breaking out on to the ridgeline connecting them was one of the best moments of the trip. At 4 miles you arrive at a saddle between the summit and Agassiz Peak to the southeast which can be reached by the Waterford Trail. The view is brutal and breathtaking.

new tom 3.jpg

I stopped at the saddle to rest and was approached by an older gentleman who was hiking. He asked if I was an ultra-runner and I said I was trying to be one. I told him that I was training for my first 50K and we talked for a while about the trails in Flagstaff and elsewhere in Arizona (he was from Phoenix). He had run his last 100-miler (Javelina 100 – I looked him up on ultrasignup) at age 70 and now considered himself retired – pretty amazing and inspiring. We set off on our separate ways as I turned north towards the top. The San Francisco Peaks are part of a dormant volcano field and all the mountains in this range are remnants of a hypothesized San Francisco Mountain that once towered 16,000 feet before blowing its top 220,000 years ago – these are fairly young mountains. The point of the geology lesson: igneous rock was way tougher to run on than the red sandstone at 5,000 feet lower altitude in Sedona – it was slippery, loose, jagged, and had zero give to it. Humphrey’s has several “false” summits and I churned out that last still-ascending mile over boulders and gravel in a blazing 31:57. Obviously I was sweating profusely on the way up but after reaching the summit and stopping for a bit to collect myself and eat something I was cold and dry since the wind was really gusting up there. The view was amazing. Looking north you can see the Grand Canyon if you squint. I ambled down without incident and got ready for day 3.

new tom 4.jpg

Day Three: Fat Man’s Loop and Elden Lookout

The morning of day three I did a tempo workout in Buffalo Park (flat dirt loop trail with lots of runners doing speed type workouts). In the afternoon I hit the east side of Flagstaff to do the Elden Lookout Trail. I enjoy terrifying myself so I had googled “mountain lions, Flagstaff” the previous evening. The first result was a news story dated to the end of May titled “Climber stalked by mountain lions on Mount Elden.” More research told me that mountain lions track their prey from behind then descend on it from a tree while going straight for the throat. Sounds painless, certainly less painful than Humphrey’s Peak had been. In fact, there have only been 12 fatalities due to mountain lion attacks in the United State in the last 100 years. When asked about this topic my park ranger friend with whom I was staying said “Why would they want to eat you when there are so many deer around?” I thought, what if they’re hungry and there aren’t any deer around? Anyway, I was still gonna do the trail, which begins off Highway 89 just a few miles north of residential East Flagstaff. It was a steep one. You start on Fat Man’s Loop, so named because there is a small passage through two rocks at one point that would be a bit of a squeeze for Andre the Giant… I don’t know who names these things. From mile 2 to the lookout tower at mile 3 there’s 1,000 feet of elevation gain, but not as rugged as Humphrey’s. High point on this trail was about 9,300 feet. There was a light rain the whole way up and then a full on storm at the top, I hit the deck at an especially loud thunder clap but remembered from my research that mountain lions are more likely to attack humans when they are stooped over because they resemble deer. I popped up, figuring lightning strike was preferable to mauling, and got back to the trailhead and out of the weather. Late July is monsoon season in Northern AZ and just about every afternoon there were short-lived storms.

new tom 5.jpg

Day Four: Campbell Mesa and Grand Canyon North Rim

On Day Four I ran at Campbell Mesa. This was not too wild, just a nice park southeast of the city – some rolling hills, dirt/sand surface. Not long after the run I left for the North Rim of the Grand Canyon where I was going to stay for the night with my park ranger friends. The plan was to check out parts of the park in the afternoon and then tackle some of the North Kaibab trail the following morning. Flagstaff is the closest city to the Grand Canyon but it’s still almost four hours to the North Rim (I hear they’re working on that bridge over the canyon). I didn’t mind the drive – the Vermillion Cliffs off Highway 89 heading north are something else.

new tom 6.jpg

Got to the North Rim in the afternoon and did a quick jaunt on the bridle path around the visitor’s center, cabins, and ranger buildings. This was a flat, well-maintained gravel road, also the only trail where I took a fall. The visitor’s center is on a promontory between Bright Angel Canyon and Transept Canyon which juts out into the Grand Canyon.

 

new tom 7.jpg

After the run I met my friends for dinner and got a scouting report on the Kaibab trail. My plan was to run down about 5 miles to a spot called Roaring Springs and back up. There are several rest areas on the way down with shelters, bathrooms, and drinkable water.

Day Five: North Kaibab Trail

I got an early start because it was going to be hot – nowhere near as humid as Nashville, but close to all-time high temps for the North Rim. The starting elevation was 8,300 feet and I would descend to 5,000 feet at Roaring Springs. The full North Kaibab trail goes 14 miles down to the bottom of the canyon (the trail beginning from the South Rim is 7 miles to the bottom and could probably be done in a day). North Kaibab does not start in the Grand Canyon itself, but in Bright Angel Canyon and only enters the Grand later. While looking at the map, I realized that I made it about a third of the way to the floor Grand Canyon and the Colorado River – that was humbling. The trail was loose sandstone with the occasional set of wooden steps, fairly runnable, though the constant switchbacks made going pretty slow – didn’t matter, I wanted to take it all in. One thing I loved about this trail was the names of various overlooks and waypoints: Coconino Overlook, Supai Tunnel, Red Wall Bridge, Roaring Springs, etc. Towards the bottom of my run where the trail encounters Roaring Springs and prepares to veer west things leveled out and the curves were gentler than the switchbacks had been – I loved running with the canyon wall on one side and drop-off on the other. After turning around at Roaring Springs I decided to push it a little bit on the way back up and I felt good during that 3,000 feet of climbing – still slow miles, but able to move way faster than I was going up Humphrey’s. After wrapping up the run I hung around the park and visitors’ center to bid farewell to my hosts and then headed back towards Flagstaff.

new tom 8.jpg

Day 6 et alia:

I was leaving in the morning so I just did a quick run in Buffalo Park. Flagstaff is an excellent city off-trail too, if you visit and are looking for some fun places to eat and drink I recommend the following: Crown Railroad Café or MartAnne’s (get the chilaquiles) for breakfast, pizza at NiMarco’s or, if you want a fancier place, at Pizzicletta, best brewery and burger was Lumberyard Brewing Co. (all their beers are named for trails near Flagstaff), a place called The Museum Club on old Rte. 66 has a weird but cool vibe (it’s home to about 100 taxidermy specimens of Arizona wildlife) and has good live music. Running in Flagstaff was a great experience and I hope it will go a long way for StumpJump. The area offers such a multitude of trails that you could go a lifetime without running one twice.

NRC: Ok, who's booking their flight to Flagstaff??!! Thanks so much for the awesome write-up, Tom! T-minus 3 weeks and 2 days until StumpJump!!

 

Crew's Summer Faves -- Lee Wilson

Just because it’s September and football season is upon us doesn’t mean summer is over. And here to provide you with his summertime faves is our fearless leader, Lee Wilson.

Shoe(s) - I love Inov-8 trail shoes. I've worn a few flavors of their shoes, but my favorite over the years has been the Inov-8 X-Talon 195 (flexible, light and awesome traction). Currently, I've been wearing the Inov-8 Parkclaw 275, and it's been really nice...room in the toebox, cushion for the longer runs, and per the usual with Inov-8 . . . good traction. On the road, I'm not as picky. I wear about six types at one given time (Mizuno Shadow, adidas Boston, HOKA Hupana, Brooks Revel, ON Cloudflow and Altra Escalante), and I like them all, actually. I've never been one that's stuck on a certain flavor of shoe because I like my muscles (or lack thereof) to get a different workout each run. Plus, styles change from season to season. By changing it up, I don’t get all bent out of shape if a brand changes anything. 

inov9.jpg

Nutrition - As far as gels go, something that is tasty and doesn't mess with my GI are key. I usually go with a combo of two local brands...Huma and Spring. As for Huma, any of the fruit ones (I'm not a chocolate or mocha gel fanatic), and with Spring, you can't beat Canaberry. For hydration, I like Skratch because it's real (without any chalkiness) and doesn't mess with my GI. I also like using GU Roctane because it has quite a few calories which is always nice during long runs.

Untitled design (2).png

Apparel - I'm not too picky on shorts, although I still love the split shorts (makes me still think I'm fast, possibly). I've never really had a pair that I couldn't stand wearing as long as it's not past my knees and too much fabric that holds sweat during these humid months. My favorite shirts at the moment are the Patagonia Cap (because it's thin and light) and the North Face BTN (for the same reasons...light and doesn't hold much sweat). 

Socks - I will wear the Swiftwick Aspire Zero, Balega Ultralight, and on the trails, I'll try to put on the Swiftwick Pursuit Hike Four (thin and seems to be durable so far).

swiftwick sock.jpg

Thanks for sharing your wisdom with us, Lee! There's still plenty of hot summer running left  . . . stop by to stock up on any of Lee's favorites!

Trail to 50K

Tom Cirillo has been a staple at 12South Runners, PR Bandits, and East Nasty for a long time, and now he's joined our RunWILD trail training group. He's currently training for his first 50k -- StumpJump -- and we wanted to join Tom on his Trail to 50K. Tom was gracious enough to answer some of our questions, and over the next few weeks, we'll give you insight into why a 50K, his training, and any fun adventures he has a long the way!

NRC: What made you want to race a 50k?

Tom: Two races, one that I ran and one that I volunteered at, made me want to race a 50k.

Last November (2017), I ran The Flying Monkey Marathon in Percy Warner after a few years of hearing about how hard, hilly, and awful it was. I wanted to run it like a regular marathon even though it isn’t. I didn’t want to walk the hills and just stroll to the finish. From July until race day, I focused on that race and ran at Percy Warner about 3 times I week. I gradually stepped it up from the 5.8 to the 11.2 to going double on the 11.2 (11.2 x 2 is my favorite road training route in Nashville). The race was, to this point, the most challenging one I’ve done, but I felt great while I was running, was happy with the result, and knew that if I made and followed a tough training plan, I could run a race that was a more than a typical marathon.

 The past two years I’ve volunteered at an aid station for NRC’s Dark Sky race. The whole experience - from hanging out in the woods at the aid station to watching the runners go for 50 miles – made me want to participate as a runner in an ultra distance race.

NRC:  Why StumpJump

Tom: I chose StumpJump because it’s fairly close to Nashville and because several friends have enjoyed running it in the past and can give me some pointers.

NRC: How long have you been running? Trails?

Tom: I’ve been running since 2008 when I was a grad student at USC. I had done some other sports in high school (football, wrestling) and college (football – Go Kenyon!) – running was either a conditioning test or a punishment in those sports and anything more than 50 yards was considered long distance. After my incredibly mediocre gridiron career came to a close, I kept up with some working out but never thought much about running more than a mile at a time.

When I got to USC I became friends with some guys who led a club sports team that trained for the LA or Pasadena marathon from October to March every year. I ran the Pasadena Marathon in March 2009 – finishing the race itself was an incredible feeling, but it had been the training that I really loved. I made great friends, many of whom I’m still in touch with, I had something to do every weekend, and I found that I actually like getting up at 5 am on Sunday mornings to run 15-20 miles. Two months after my first marathon, I ran the LA race and I was hooked from there on out. From 2009 to 2014, I ran two to four marathons per year – never super-fast but with steady improvement.

When I moved to Nashville in the summer of 2015, I was coming off an injury that had had me out of commission for three months. I was psyched to find all the running groups (namely East Nasty, 12South, PR Bandits) in town – I jumped into those in order to meet people and learn about places to run in Nashville. I vividly remember doing the 11.2 in Percy Warner on July 4th, 2015 with PR Bandits, we saw a huge great horned owl right before starting and I thought “this could be a pretty interesting place to run.” However, I still had only a vague idea about the trails in Percy, despite hearing people talk cryptically (as far as I was concerned) about running “three reds,” “red, white, and blue,” etc.

I think my first time on trails was NRC’s Dry Creek Half in February 2016. I tried looking back to see if I had gotten off-road before doing it, but it was in the pre-Strava days for me so I’m not sure. Dry Creek was a good first trail race for me – approachable and runnable for someone new, but with enough rocks, roots, and mud to make it an adventure. The atmosphere of the event was also a huge factor in making me interested in doing more trail races. It was more laid back than a road race - runners and aid station volunteers were really encouraging to all the participants, but people were still out to work hard.

I signed up for the NRC 6-mile trail series, but I still hadn’t made running the trails part of the weekly regimen. I sprained my ankle at Bells Bend and thought that maybe I wasn’t cut out for this stuff and that I should stick to the roads so that I wouldn’t get injured. However, I’d also gotten the idea stuck in my head that trail running was real running and if I wanted to really run I’d have to do more of it on trails. I made sure I got out on the red trail in Percy once a week for the summer of 2016 and signed up for the rest of the NRC series. I ran those without hurting myself and decided to try the Dry Creek Marathon in February 2017. It was so much harder than the half had been and I faded really badly at the end. I was shuffling at probably a 15:00/mile pace thinking that theoretically I could keep this pace forever, but I ended up walking until I was just around the bend from the finish line. I returned to the roads for the rest of the winter and spring, but still wanted to be a trail runner.

Over the summer of 2017, someone was talking to me in less than flattering terms about the NRC Defeated Creek race and told me that “it was definitely not worth doing for just a t-shirt and no medal.” The name of the race and the description sounded cool if not a little intimidating, and I didn’t really care about a t-shirt or a medal, not that there’s anything bad about t-shirts and medals (turns out entrants got a hat and a cup too – who am I kidding? races are about the swag). The race lived up to its name - it was a harrowing slog especially early on when you’re “running” sideways down rocky uneven switchbacks. But after a mile, the course was more or less runnable up to the big climb that gets you to the turn-around point where you’re greeted with some incredible views that are better than t-shirts or medals.

tom.jpg

I think that’s my favorite part of running on the trails – getting up to the top of something or the end of something and the feeling of remoteness, even if you’re in a city park. I had this experience recently when I drove down to this place called Black Mountain south of Crossville, TN. I read about it in a Tennessee hiking guide but couldn’t find much information online. The trailhead was hard to find, and I was cursing my luck for driving 2.5 hours and now being faced with the prospect of heading back for Nashville with no run. I ended up finding the trail, which had no markings at its start. The trail was narrow, overgrown, and went up a solid incline that made keeping a run difficult. To make things even better it started raining, light at first then a downpour, and I could hear some claps of thunder that seemed closer every few minutes until they were directly overhead. But after about three miles of plodding upwards, things leveled out near the summit, and there was some interesting stuff up there, and I had the feeling that no one had been to this place in quite a while (I made a Strava segment of the climb to the top and plenty of people have been there…but it didn’t feel like it at the time).

tom2.jpg

At the summit the storm chilled out for a few minutes and there were great views of the surrounding country side.

tom4.jpg

The elevation is nothing crazy, but pretty good for middle Tennessee (about 2800 feet). In the end of I was thankful for the weather, because the low clouds made it feel like I was much higher up. This run in particular made me want to get out an explore some more trails in TN that are a little further away from Nashville, so the next week, on July 4th, I went out to Mousetail Landing State Park  near Linden, TN and ran the Eagle Point Trail. AVOID THIS PARK AT ALL COSTS: I spent the next two hours eating cobwebs. The trail was runnable, had some good ups and downs, but I was stopping every five minutes to peel the webs and spiders off of me. You win some, you lose some.

Ok, pardon the digression: post-Defeated Creek, I was pretty focused on Flying Monkey and then the Country Music Marathon in April 2018 (I signed up for it the day after the 2017 race in which I got roasted by the heat and, like many, had the most miserable running experience of my life). In the meantime, I ran the 2018 Dry Creek marathon and had a much better go of it than the previous year. It was the first time that I felt like I was actually pushing it and racing on a trail. Country Music went well (PR by about seven minutes). I signed up for StumpJump around this time and decided that I needed to do most of my running on trails. Being on summer break, it’s been pretty easy for me to carve out some time to get in two or three decently long runs during the week at Percy Warner.

Looking ahead towards the next 2.5 months or so of training I’ll do more of the same – I work pretty close to the park, so I’ll head over in the afternoon/evening about twice a week and then get longer runs back-to-back runs in on the weekend.

NRC: Huge thanks to Tom for sharing some awesome trails and runs with us! Stay tuned for his nutrition and gear go-tos, as well as any fun (or mishaps) he's had training so far!

 

 

 

 

Crew's Summer Faves -- Diane Zandstra

Even though back to school is just around the corner, summer is still in full force! Crew member Diane Zandstra offers up her favorite gear for running through the summer!

Shoe - On Cloud

I’ve run through this shoe but like it now for post-run and cross-training. The elastic laces make it easy to slip on and off, and it’s the perfect lightweight, run around shoe for the summer. Plus, they are cool looking and the new colors are awesome!

W_Cloud_Mint.png

 

Nutrition - Spring Canaberry Gel

I love everything from Spring as it’s all natural and tasty. Always want to have these on hand for those long run days. 

cannaberry.jpg

Goodr Glasses

What’s not to love about these sunglasses?!? Polarized, no slip, great colors (with funny names) and at $25, you can get several pairs. 

goodr.jpg

Oiselle Roga Shorts

This brand is made for women and most items are number sized for a more precise fit. They use great fabrics and the waistband on this short is comfy with a drawstring and a zip pocket on the back. 

roga.jpg

 

Patagonia “Run NRC” cap sleeve tech shirt

This shirt is super lightweight and a great fit with a v-neck collar. And I get to represent the best running store in Nashville every time I wear it :-)

runnrc.png

Thanks for sharing, Diane!! Stop by to try on or try out any of Diane's favorites!!