Tagged ‘training‘

Shorts: Hydrating for Running

Hydration can be crucial to happiness. But all things should be taken in moderation.

Seated at my computer in the ICU, I chuckled out loud while reading an interview with Kilian Jornet and Emilie Forsberg. When the nurse next to me asked what was so funny, I explained that this famous endurance couple clearly dealt with the same controversy as do Taylor and I: do you need to bring food and water with you to run or ski, and if so, how much? Kilian and I are on the same page: likely not, and if so, not much.  Emelie (and Taylor) say:

“He doesn’t like to eat when he is out! I take some food with me when I am out longer, like eight hours. And sometimes I wish that Kilian had some. I have been telling him that why can’t he have some chocolate in his backpack for me. Just in case. But it has not happened so far. So, I often take my own.”

Today I want to briefly address hydration for running, and my thoughts on the matter are governed by two observations. First, most people begin their workout dehydrated. Second, most people drink far too much during exercise.  I’ll add the caveat that you have to figure out what works for you, and you should be safe about it, but that said, here are some thoughts to chew on and a plan to be more effective with your hydration.  Read on →

Is it snowing?

October is a damned month, when the single track is ripe but all forces conspire to distract a fellow with the prospect of skiing. Highly-produced ski films, like Christmas decorations, come earlier every year, and the internet is abuzz with atmospheric predictions and ski porn live-streamed from South America.

I’ll admit, I am excited to go skiing, but with a trip to Japan scheduled for the middle of December, the feeling isn’t too pressing. There’s just no getting around the beautiful fall leaves and crip, clear days that make anything but skiing seem deeply appealing. I managed to work in day of turns-all-year quality skiing last week, so the piper has been paid for now.

Still, that’s not to say that I’m not preparing for the season. Two international trips and a wedding make it unlikely that I’ll be doing much racing this year, but I still want to come into the season fit and ready to go fast. Read on →

Putting It On Paper

There’s just something about sitting down in front of a calendar and penning out a training schedule that signals the start of not just a new season but a new attitude. The training schedule is first a dream about what might be possible, the writer imagining each written activity as if it had already happened. Months of running transpire without effort, the benefits of work magically accruing without discipline or suffering.

Then, when the schedule is completed and laid out on the calendar, the daydreaming ends. The bastard stares up at you, a 31-eyed beast of a thing. It asks whether I have the patience, the discipline, the body, and the mind to complete it. It wonders if I know myself well enough, or if I’ve bitten off too much. It wonders if I can make the necessary sacrifices.

Blind enthusiasm takes its toll.

Blind enthusiasm takes its toll.

Just this afternoon, I laid out a three month calendar of miles and hills, with the help of Siggi, who has been training for a few week yet in Iceland. At the beginning of this month, the weather turned warm and I jumped on the trails too fast and too hard, my knee flaring in warning and quickly quelling my blind enthusiasm.

I decided that I would not be such a fool this year, and immediately stopped running. I sent out the feelers for a good physical therapist and found Annalisa Fish at Endurance PDX.* She poked and prodded and helped me to come up with a plan. In light of her observations, I’ve redefined my approach to training and my season goals; instead of thinking of the Summer season in isolation, with a peak in the early fall and a strong beer-taper into ski season, I want to run this season as if it is a stepping stone to a life of running better, pain free and stronger by the year.

So with that, I have a few goals for the season. I share them here because it’s committing, and because I hope that it will give you some insight into how I think and approach a season of running or skiing. You might even be inspired to make your own, which would be ideal.

1. Treat recovery like training. Be smart. Stretching, nutrition, sleep, prehab, and off days are more important than on days. I want to cut it short when it hurts, and attack problems as they arise. Tools: prescribed PT and stretching plan. Voodoo floss to attack hot spots. Subscribe to a CSA and eat the hell out of some veggies.

2. Build volume in a way that makes sense. I have a plan and I want to stick to it. No jumping 30% in volume because I watch a cool race video or dream up a cool objective. I racka’ diciprine.

3. Run alone less. I like people and need to spend more time with them. I want to run more with Taylor on my easier days, and find partners for the more punishing efforts. Community is where it’s at.

4. The Enchantments Loop: Beautiful mountains, gotta run through them. Completing the loop on the road is contrived and masochistic– I’ll add some peaks instead.

5. Mt St Helens Circumnavigation: Mt Hood’s ugly sister. Shorter, vaguer, lonlier, and lower-quality trail. What’s else could you want?

6. Speedbag in the Stuart range. Maybe Stuart itself. Combine running with mountaintops.

7. Get after it in Iceland. Enough said.

8. Build rather than taper into Winter. This contributes to the 5-year Big-Goal™ (top secret). If I work hard to earn fitness and a resting HR of 40, theres no point in giving it away for nothing.



9. If it’s not fun, it’s not worth it.

That’s all for now. I need to go hit the foam roller, stretch, and shower off today’s training time. Is this the summer you’ll join me in getting serious?

*A note on physical therapists: few are worth anything to an athlete. The profession is so concerned with the treatment of chronic back pain in fat people that the average physical therapist finds it remarkable that you can even navigate stairs without pain, let alone execute a single air squat. If you need a PT, and this year 70% of you runners will, find one by recommendation of other athletes. If your PT is not used to working with endurance athletes, they will not understand your quest to build a body that is capable of not just daily activities but of great things. Hiding out there under the radar is a cadre of well-educated PTs able to understand you and possessed of the persistence and knowledge to ferret out the subtle movement flaws that become big problems over great distance and efforts./font size>

In time, I’ll be writing a piece on shoes, because I love running in them and I destroy a few pairs every season. This year I’m a convert of the S-Lab. The hype is true. Check it out for yourself and support MountainLessons in the process:


Training Cadence for Skimo Racing

What separates fast skimo racers from slow skimo racers? Certainly equipment, technique, transitions, and fueling are all important considerations, but I propose that one simple metric sets fast racers apart from the rest: cadence.

In short, cadence is how many strides a racer takes per minute. It makes no measure of how long those strides might be. Cadence is a measure of pure turnover, and interestingly, one thing in common among all of the fastest racers is a fast cadence.

The fastest world cup skimo racers have a cadence of around 110-115 strides per minute. To make that more intuitive, they stride along to the snare-beats of The Clash’s “Should I Stay Or Should I Go” at 113 bpm.

(If The Clash annoys you too, try some Pretty Lights).

I’ve heard a few theories about why a faster cadence is good for you, but I can’t say that I agree with them. The easiest argument to make is that if I’m taking 10 more steps per minute, then over an hour, I’m 600 steps ahead. The problem is, this assumes that when you change your turnover, your stride length stays the same. It doesn’t; your stride gets shorter. If it stayed the same length, then the advice that I’m giving you now would be equivalent to saying if you just go faster, then you’ll go faster. Duh.

It's all about the stride length.

It’s all about the stride length.

It’s the change in stride length that is the important result of a faster cadence. Whether you shorten your stride and take more steps to maintain the same speed, or if you increase your cadence and have to modify to a shorter stride to avoid exploding, the result is the same: more steps, shorter steps. Read on →

Running Around Oregon

I’m in San Francisco now on a week-long break from medical school. I’m on a taper that is psychologically hard to maintain and I just want to run around instead of letting myself get fat in front of amazing views from Potrero Hill. The roller-coaster of knee-pain emotions is being combatted with aggressive PT and hopefully I’ll have a fun story to tell you next week. Until then, the adventures continue:

Mt Hood Wildflowers

Wildflowers bloom near Elk Cove, Mt Hood.


This past month of medical school has posed new and interesting challenges to getting outside. That alone means that doing so is more important to me than ever. Getting up onto the flanks of Mt Hood each Saturday for a long run is as rejuvenating as yoga and as relaxing as a favorite malty beverage. Read on →

GoreTex Grand Traverse: Q&A with Team Crested Butte’s Jon Brown

GoreTex Grand Traverse Logo

The GoreTex Grand Traverse (formerly the Elk Mountains Grand Traverse) is the grand-daddy of North American ski traverses.  Departing Crested Butte at midnight, the unsupported course climbs roughly 40 miles past two checkpoints before finishing down Aspen Mountain into the town of Aspen. Because the race takes place on an unmarked and largely unsupported course through the Colorado backcountry, the race is completed as a team of two, and racers are required to carry the equipment necessary to make an emergency 24 hour bivouac.

The night start, huge mileage, variable terrain, and historically varied weather make this a race to be reckoned with. Racers need to keep themselves warm, hydrated, fueled and, well, racing for 8-14 hours. Compared to the Wasatch Powderkeg or other North American SkiMo races, it is logistically complex.

This year will be my first in the race and I, like many first time racers, had a lot of questions. Jon Brown, from Team Crested Butte, was gracious enough to talk training, gear, and strategy with me.

Team Crested Butte

Old school Team Crested Butte at Grandvalira. LtoR: Jon Brown, Jari Kirkland, Brian Wickenhauser & Eric Sullivan

Jon Brown is a member of Team Crested Butte, and he has raced the Grand Traverse 10 out of the last 12 years. He and his partner Brian Smith won the 2006 traverse by a hair, sneaking across the finish line between another pair of racers.

He started nordic skiing in highschool but since discovering SkiMo skis, his nordic kit has been collecting dust in his garage. Jon began his race career as a mountain bike racer after graduating from Western State Colorado University, paying the bills by working as a raft guide, barista, and snowmobile guide. In his 30s he moved to Gunnison where he started a small publishing company and started adventure racing with Team Crested Butte.

TCB has since evolved from an adventure racing team into one of the strongest SkiMo teams in North America. Read on →

No Excuses Interview Series: Ethan Linck

The No Excuses Interview Series explores the approaches and personalities of athletes who are inspiring in both the quality and consistency of their achievements. They’re real people doing great things. What they do, you can too, if you want it.

Ethan Linck chasing powder on Mt Hood.For part two of the no excuses interview series, we’re joined by Ethan Linck, a West-coast Vermont transplant, mountain runner, and inspiring friend.


Ethan Linck is best known in the Pacific Northwest endurance community for setting the Fastest Known Time (FKT) for an unsupported run around Mt Rainier’s Wonderland Trail (93 miles, over 22,000′ of climbing) last year in 27 hours and 19 minutes.

He has also run around Mt St helens, Mt Hood, the Three Sisters, and placed in several PNW trail races and ultras. Most impressively, he accomplished all of this while a biology student at Reed College. His resume is impressive, and he catalogs his adventures and observations on his blog Beyond the Ranges

A self-described would-be naturalist, he also “nurtures particular interests in the ecology of New Guinea and Melanesia, mountain running, and backcountry skiing. He’s currently spending the winter in Gothic, Colorado”. He joins us by email to talk about what goes into his big endurance efforts,where his naturalism and athletics meet.
Read on →

Training for a 50k Trail Run

Forest Park Trail Panorama

(Click to make me big)

For those who don’t know me personally, let me fill you in: I’m too busy these days.  I’m applying to medical school this summer, which means working 20 hours a week in one hospital, volunteering one day in another, studying organic chemistry, studying for the MCAT entrance exam, preparing application materials, and generally just taking on too much.  It’s a passing fad that will start to wind down in June once applications are in and school is done, but for now, I have to suck it up and do less of all of the things that I love to do, like climbing and skiing. It’s sad to say, but they’re just more involved sports that require weather coordination and advanced planning, which makes them hard to fit into an ever-morphing schedule.

LaSportiva Crosslite 1.0

This mind and body though, they rest for no schedule.  I’ve written before about the need to get outside and move.  It’s primal, and necessary, and I’d implode without an outlet.  Moreover, I like to dream big and I like to have trips and such to look forward to so that even in the darkest, busiest days of city gloom, I know that escape is looming. When I ruminated on my schedule with these needs in mind, an idea came to the fore: running.

BORING.  I can hear you say it.  But there’s something undeniably satisfying in the ability to cover run long distances.  Most people think that you’re crazy to run 13 miles, or that this is some superhuman feat.  Thankfully, we’re not most people. With a plan, I think that it’s reasonable for any athletic person to train for and run a 50k.  So that’s what I’m doing. Read on →