John Muir Trail

John Muir Trail

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Running and Team

My friend Luis Escobar says that running 100-miles is a team sport: the runner is supported by a crew that takes care of nutrition, tends to injuries, and does their best to ensure the success of their runner.  Excepting the solo 100-milers, racing takes a village.  To add to that sentiment, however, I'd posit that sometimes the team is there year round, through tons of miles, mornings, nights and weekends of preparation for race day.

It's been a little over a year since I moved from Hermosa Beach, CA to West Los Angeles, CA.  I made the move to be closer to the mountains that I love to run in and to get a change of scenery from the beach and bar culture of Hermosa Beach to what I had hoped would be a culture that would facilitate a focus on running and a healthier lifestyle.  It's also been about a year since I raced 100-miles for the first time through the mountains around Big Bear Lake.  Though the timing between the two events was purely coincidental, it's provided me with some interesting perspective into the effects that training with or without other runners can have on preparation for a 100-mile race, and how having runners to train with and look up to can affect the outcome of a year of training.

Last year, as I entered the final weeks leading up to the Kodiak 100, I had trained nearly 100% by myself.  Weekend miles run solo, weekday miles run solo except for a Monday night tempo run with a road running group (Club Ed! Shoutout!), and guidance from the internet and marathon training literature.  I didn't know many/any folks in the ultramarathon world.  I entered the race feeling as prepared as possible, but without much context to know if my training had been good enough.  Had I run enough miles? Climbed enough vertical feet?  Should I have done ANY speed training, tempo work, or hill repeats?  I suppose for a solo runner, these questions would be answered with experience, but with the intention and/or ability to race only 1-2 100-milers in a year, the experience would come slowly.  I ran the race, finished well, learned a lot, and was happy with my experience.

Just before I raced Kodiak, I began to run on Thursday mornings with my local trail running club, the So Cal Coyotes.  I didn't know many of them at first, but did my best to meet new running friends in my new home and learn as much as I could.  Within a month or two, I had also started to run with a subset of this group that typically runs on Tuesday mornings, who, at the time, had no name, but now refer to themselves as the Pacific Mountain Runners, or PMR for short.  This group essentially consisted of like-minded runners who like to train hard and race hard.  I was pretty stoked to run with a group of people whose running speaks for itself but exude a laid back attitude about running and life, despite their seriousness.

Workouts?? Dom and I hammer out some hill repeats with
Andy and Katie. Photo: PMR
As the new year began, I enjoyed opportunities to run with young runners, experienced veterans, and everyone in between.  It was awesome.   I was perpetually stoked to get out for easy runs, hard runs, long runs, and workouts.  Workouts?  I hadn't thought about hill repeats, tempo runs, or anything else since I left the road running world in 2013.  Yep: new home, new ideas.  So much learning.

My 2nd 100-miler at the Wasatch Front 100 is just 10 days away, meaning that I'm neck deep in taper and my mind is working overdrive to make up for the miles that my legs aren't running.  I've been thinking a lot about the past year of running, the runs I've been on, races I've run, and the people that I've run with.  The runs have increased my fitness and strength to allow me to tackle big mountain races, the races have given me experience in pacing, nutrition, and equipment choice, and the people have given me inspiration and training partners.  I've been lucky enough to train with some awesome runners, and they've become my 'team' for the past year, pushing me to be a better runner, sleeper, eater, and in-run picture taker.  So I guess I'm gonna get all sentimental and name some names of people who have made a big difference in my running this year.

PMR Runners or Christian Rock Band? Photo: PMR
PMR Crew - I look up to all the guys and girl that I have run with all year.  And not to sound too much like the Ninja Turtles intro song (which is rad) but I'm going to call them out for what they do. Andy is always stoked to run.  Dude raced 4 ultramarathons in 4 months (3 50s and a 100) earlier this year, and followed it up with a self-supported 100-mile attempt with me through crazy conditions.  For being a fast dude, he reminds me that drinking beer is OK too, and that bad ideas are actually awesome ideas (while returning from injury, he 'walked' the first 75 miles of the AC100...blowing the doors off half the field in the process).  Dom may or may not drink less beer than Andy, but in either case makes up for it with copious amount of NPR knowledge.  His methodical approach to training and logic oriented methods have pushed me to be better, not just at planning and executing workouts, but also at taking care of myself outside of running: sleeping enough, and taking the right steps to recover well.  He planned his now-fiance's training plan for her whole year leading up to the AC100 where she would toe the line feeling more prepared than ever, and PR by a solid chuck of minutes.  I've probably put in more miles with his fiance Katie than I have with any other runner this year.  She and Dom welcomed me into their mountain cabin to help me train for Wasatch Front (probably to get more delicious IPA in their fridge as well...ok and maybe we're friends too) and the time spent there mountain running this summer has been the backbone of my training.  In the miles through the San Gabriels, Katie shared tons of her running experience with me and showed me that even super solid runners have to power through shitty days of training when the body isn't quite ready to execute to plan.  Sufferfests can be followed by great days of running.  The two of them tackling big back-to-back hill-repeat blocks over 2 months inspired me to execute some similar blocks myself, which lead to a Green Peak time trial PR a few weeks ago coming off a huge week.  I can't wait to give it a go on fresh legs!  I didn't run as much with Elan, Chamoun and Guillaume, but watching these guys' dedication to the craft has helped fuel me to train smart, race smart, and push the limits on what I think I can do with my training.  Seriously, I look up to all of these runners and am pumped that I have them to train with.

Yotes - Jimmy Dean's group of runners is really what started it all.  Last year, as part of trying to meet new people and give back to the community, I drove with Erin and Pedro to volunteer at Chimera 100 and in the process met some cool dirtbags who love to run hard and drink beer.  Erin and I put in a solid 35-miler in preparation for Sean O'Brien 100k that crowned my first 100+ mile week as a runner. Jimmy Dean always has an anecdote for every situation, and a piece of advice or quote to suit the situation.  To paraphrase what he said before Kodiak: "At some point, you're going to want to not be running anymore.  That's the time when you decide what kind of 100-mile runner you're going to be."  Those words payed through my head for the entire race.

Howard shows how it's done at the Los Padres Odyssey. Photo: Peter Brennen
The Masters - While I haven't shared a ton of miles with Howard Cohen and Luis Escobar, somehow their words of wisdom frequently pop into my head.  Those guys are legends in their own right and have helped to shape my running in the past year.
There are a ton more people that I've run with this year who I've learned from, but the above few are some that I've shared the most miles with and who I think have had the greatest effect on my running.

So yeah...if you guys are reading this...sorry for calling you all out and being all sentimental...I blame the taper?  Either way, I'm stoked/thankful/amped/etc. for all the awesome runners that I've spent time running and chilling with this year.  I've increased my stoke watching a handful of the above named people tackle their own big races this year, I've run a lot of miles with great people, which is WAY better than running solo (for the most part),  I've consumed a lot more craft beer, way less cheap beer, and less beer in excess, I've introduced root beer as my long run recovery beverage, and finally, without running a significant number more races, I feel like I am vastly more experienced of a runner headed into this year's big race.

This morning I completed my last hard workout before the Wasatch Front 100 and am feeling excited and prepared for one of the toughest 100-milers out there.  In 10 days I will have my team of Crista and Erin with me at the race to think for me while I'm a broken shell of a man at mile 75, but for the past 12 months, my other team has been pushing me to run hard, recover well, try root beer, and sustain the stoke.  Running a 100-miles is deifnitely a team sport.
Photo: PMR

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