California Dreaming

California Dreaming

Last Thursday I headed off to Los Angeles because Patrick Joyce, the Senior Manager Global Sports Marketing at Reebok, got me an opportunity to join in on a photo shoot for Reebok. This was a great opportunity to do something different, but is still related to running. Also, I was excited to see a city that I had not really seen before. I had been to the LA area before, but mostly just the area around Mt. SAC.

My journey started on Thursday morning and got back Saturday evening, so it was a whirlwind of a trip. There was so much going on that I did not even have time to go to the beach, even though it was a 100 yards away from my hotel. My travels started with a short flight from Greenville to Charlotte, then a long flight from CLT to LAX. It was a about a five hour flight and luckily we did not run into any trouble. I had an isle and exit seat, so I was able to get up without disturbing anyone else and had a lot of legroom. I landed in LA and was picked up by my own personal chauffer, Henry. It was pretty cool that there was someone standing there at the exit to the terminal holding a sign with my name on it. We got into a fancy black car and headed off to pick up Patrick at a different terminal. We arrived at the hotel around 1:30 and I decided to go get my run on.

Santa Monica Beach

View from the hotel!

My run on Thursday was pretty cool, as the hotel I was staying at was along Santa Monica Beach, one of the most famous beaches in the world. Since it was mid afternoon there were throngs of people about, which made people watching the main activity of my run. I ended up heading south towards another famous beach, Venice Beach, aka Muscle Beach. While this beach has a reputation for harboring an eclectic crowd, I did not see anyone too outrageous. There were your typical beach goers, tourists, muscle heads, and plenty of homeless people. It is hard to notice individual people while running when there are so many people you want to focus on. Also, since running can be such an individual and introverted activity that it often takes mental energy to focus on than just your run. I would find myself day dreaming and drifting off, at which point I would remind myself that I was in a different and unique place and bring my focus to people watching. I ended up running 13 miles and had a good time looking around. While I finished along the beach, I was not able to get in as I had to head to downtown LA for a “fitting”

I took a quick shower and headed down to the lobby to met Patrick at 3:30 to take a taxi downtown. We got in our taxi and began our journey to the Ace Hotel. While the hotel was only 14 miles away, it ended up taking us around an hour and a half. It was very frustrating sitting in the traffic not really moving at all, but LA is infamous for having terrible traffic. So eventually we made it to the fitting, which only took around 5 minutes, but I did get to meet much of the Reebok

The sunset over LA

The sunset over LA

design team.Since it took so long to get there, Patrick and I headed to the roof top bar with a few of the design crew and had a drink. It was really cool spot as it overlooked the city and the sun was setting. Eventually we made our way back to our hotel and headed out to dinner. By the time I got back to my room was utterly exhausted, so even though it was only 9 o’clock, I went to bed.

Friday was the day of the photo shoot and we needed to leave the hotel at 7 in the morning, so I was up bright and early for a workout along the beach. Pete had a Fartlek scheduled, so I did not have to worry about hitting a certain pace, I just had to get a good effort in. I finished my workout and had to hurry up just sit in traffic again. Rather than heading into downtown, our photo shoot was at Griffith Park; yes that is the park with the Hollywood sign. I got to the photo shoot to find a smorgasbord of breakfast items. It was just what I was looking for as I only had some snacks after my workout. With no regard to how I would be perceived by the other people there, I loaded my plate with pretty much everything there. Eventually I was called into the dressing trailer to get decked out in my photo shoot clothes. While they did not do my hair and makeup, they did spray the first round of “fake sweat” on me. (Yeah, that’s right, the people in those Running World photos are not really sweating.) I would constantly be getting a new coat of it through out the day.

I headed outside to begin the shoot, and meet whom I was working with for the day. The models that were hired we from all over the place. First there was Jo from England, who was a former steeple chase runner. Ryan was from Australia, and had a background as a sprinter. Stephanie was from the LA area, and while she did not have a background in competitive running, she was very athletic. Alejandro was from Panama, and like Stephanie he did not have a background in running. Last was Day, from South Carolina. She had been a hurdler in college. It was fun to get to know each of them through out the day. They seemed to be very pleasant and genuine, and they all said good luck in my future races at the end of the day. I found it interesting learning about how the modeling world works, including castings and what they have to go through to get other photo shoots. I think that they were just as interested in my life as like as a professional athlete, because they were asking questions about running and what I do during my day. I also met the photographers who would be taking all of the photos, Dave and Jake. They were very entertaining and outgoing and had very good chemistry together. Later I learned that they lived together, so it made sense that they got along so well. They would be cracking jokes all day, and definitely set an energetic and positive mood for the shoot.

Photo Shoot

Running back and forth during the photo shoot.

The day was filled with us models running back and forth while Dave and Jake took action shots of us. While it was not really physically the taxing, the hardest part of the day was keeping “the look.” The look they wanted was one of focus and determination, like how you would feel on a long run. I actually found it hard to do keep the look they wanted, as I like to run and find joy in pushing the limits. I have always noticed that many times when I look back at pictures of myself running, I am smiling. So I was always focused on keeping a look of determination, which I think ended up being more of a blank look instead.

After the morning session finished they had set out a lunch buffet for us, and it was delicious. There was chicken, braised beef, butternut squash ravioli, salad, and trifle for dessert. Even though I knew that I had to run around for the rest of the day, I gorged. Luckily for me and another few models, they only needed two for the next part so I did have some time to digest and sit around and talk. I did not mind too much as I was outside (it was in the low 70’s) in California, being treated like a celebrity. Eventually we were called back to set and we ran around getting our picture taken until the end of the day. Then we headed back into the real world, and frustratingly, LA traffic.

Back at the hotel, I immediately jumped in the shower because I felt very dirty and oily, mostly from the fake sweat. After my shower I decided that I should get in the hot tub. There I met and talked with some people including a lady from Crested Butte. After a while I knew that I had dinner with Patrick and some of the people at Reebok, so I headed back to my room and got dressed. Dinner was fun, as we hung out and just talked about all sorts of things. We paid our bill and headed back to the hotel. By that time it was past 10. After waking up early, running a workout, and running more for the rest of the day, I was thoroughly beat and went to bed.

Once again I had to wake up early to get my run in before my flight back to Greenville. I did my run along the beach again, which I do not think would ever get old. The chauffer picked me up right outside of the hotel and it was only a short drive to the airport. The trip back went off without a hitch and I arrived in Greenville a tad before 6 pm.

Looking back, it was a fun trip and it would be something I would do again, but only if training allowed for right time. As much fun as it is to travel and see different places, I am very excited to get back to a familiar place where I can just train for a few weeks. The most important weeks before the World Half Marathon Champs are the ones coming up and I know that I will need to be recovering the best I can. And after this weekend, I have to ask my self, “Is there more to life than being really, really, really, ridiculously good looking?

 

Training Log 2/16-22

Week of February 16-22

Morning Afternoon Notes
Sunday 19 Long Run with surges
Monday 7 6 Core
Tuesday 12 6 Core
Wednesday 17 Long Workout
Thursday 13
Friday 13 Fartlek
Saturday 10
Week Total 103

Five weeks to The World Half Champs!

If I were to describe this week in one word it would be “woof.” Well actually it is supposed to be more like the sound that you make while letting out a big, deep breath. This week ended up being a long, tough, tiring one, but very beneficial. One reason it was so arduous was that with out the two doubles I would have run around 90 miles in seven runs. Another reason is that I few 3000miles across the country and back in three days. The last reason is that I had three quality long run/workouts stuffed in there for good measure.

On Sunday’s long run I felt a bit tired and stiff, most likely from driving 9.5 hours from Tallahassee to Blowing Rock the previous Friday. While I tend to run fast on the long run, I made a conscious effort to not because I was stiff and tired and I knew that I had two workouts this week. Often on our long runs Pete has us do surges and this week was no different. Surges are just a set amount of time where we pick up the pace 20-30 seconds per mile. After the surge you go back to normal pace for another 6-8 minutes, then do it again. There are two benefits from surging during the long run. First, it breaks up the run so it seems to go by faster. Second, surges teach you to change pace, which is an important part of racing. I ended up running 19 miles in 2:03 hours, so I would say that I was successful in not running too fast.

My workout Wednesday along the Swamp Rabbit Trail

My workout Wednesday along the Swamp Rabbit Trail

My workout on Wednesday was the longest one that I have ever done. Pete had me scheduled to run 4 x 400m, 3 x 3 miles, 4 x 400m; it was set to be a good threshold workout. The first set of 400 meters was supposed to be around 69 seconds, just a hair faster than half marathon pace. These felt very easy and gave me confidence for the 3 mile pieces. After a 4 minutes break I started my first 3 mile piece. This rep was slightly downhill along the bike path, and I tried my best to not let loose and fly down the path. Pete wanted me to run about 4:52 per mile, and I ended up running 14:35, just slightly faster than prescribed. The next rep was back along the same way I just came from, so it was slightly uphill. Knowing that, Pete told me to try and run the same time back. Getting in the rep I couldn’t really notice the uphill, but it would not be very noticeable until the last mile and a half. I felt pretty good until the last mile when I felt that I was really pushing much too hard to maintain pace, but I ended up only running two seconds slower than the previous rep. After my break of 4 minutes, I started my last rep with instructions to stay relaxed and pick it up through out the rep. I ended up running pretty even to finish in 14:27. While this in itself is a good workout I had another round of 400 meters to run. These were set up to be similar to the first set of 400’s, but I was feeling pretty good, so I decided to run a bit faster; 66-64 seconds. Overall, this was an excellent workout, especially because there seemed to be a head wind in all directions and it was quite humid out. I know that having run the times I did in this workout, I am getting very fit and should be ready to roll at the end of March.

The sunset over LA

The sunset over LA

Thursday morning I headed to the airport and hopped on a plane bound for LA. I was going there to begin my modeling career with a photo shoot with Reebok. Actually I do not have any real aspirations to become a model, but our Reebok representative got me in on the shoot. Thursday’s run was a good one along Santa Monica and Venice Beaches, known colloquially as “Muscle Beach.” It was a fun and interesting run as there were loads of people about. Tune in later in the week, as I will give a more detailed account of my adventure west.

The next day I had the photo shoot so in order to get my workout in I needed to wake up at 4:30. My workout was set to be a cut down Fartlek: (4, 3, 2, 1) x 2, 3, 2, 1 minute with half jog between each rep and 3 minutes between each set. Fartleks are great when you are traveling because they are all on time and effort so you can do them even when you do not have set distance markers. It was dark out while I warmed up and partly into the first part of my workout, which was great because running in the dark is very fun. It screws with your perception of how fast you are running, so you often do not know how fast you are running. The goal of this workout was to get a good aerobic effort in while getting faster through out the workout. I think that I successfully did this because if I think the first reps were around 5:00-10 minute pace to start and the “rest” was around 6 minute pace. By the end I knew I was running much faster, around 4:40 on the reps, while the “rest” was much more like a shuffle jog. It was a good workout, especially coming off of such a big workout on Wednesday and traveling the day before. I did notice that my legs were pretty tired the first few reps, but eventually I began to feel better as I got a bit more relaxed on the rest. When I finished cooling down I hit the shower and head straight out to the photo shoot, where I ran quite a bit more because they wanted action shots rather than staged photos. So by the end of the day you could say I was a bit tired.

This week was a bit of a doozy as the last 10 days I have start in Tallahassee and traveled to Blowing Rock to Greenville to LA and back to Greenville, so I am looking forward to having a few weeks where I do not need anywhere. This is especially true as the next few weeks are going to be the biggest benefit towards running well at the World Half Champs.

Training in Tally

It does really actually snow in these "Mountains"

It does really actually snow in these “Mountains”

One of the many things that we receive as a resident athlete at ZAP Fitness is a winter training stint in Tallahassee, Florida. This is absolutely fantastic because it allows us to escape the winter weather of the mountains in Western North Carolina. Yes there is winter weather in North Carolina. Actually, it recently snowed 12 inches in Blowing Rock. So like birds, we head south to escape the nasty weather, and return in time for spring to come again. Along with escaping the winter weather of the Appalachians, there are many other ways that we benefit from training in Tallahassee.

One is that Tallahassee is one of the unknown training places in the United States. But with that said, I know that I would not want to live there during the brutally hot summers. In the winter though, the average high in January is 68º and low is 39º. You cannot ask for better weather to train in. Also in Tallahassee is a plethora of places to train. All of these places are with in a 15-20 minute drive from the city. One of the best places to train is Miccosukee Greenway. It is an eight mile, cinder and single track trail that runs in the woods just west of the city. Along with the trail, there are a few rolling, grass fields that are perfect for workouts. This was where I did my hill cycles last week. Another great place to train is Alford Greenway and Tom Brown Park. Just like Miccosukee these contain a mixture cinder, grass, and single track trails and have good rolling hills. A third great place to train is the

The Georgia Clay Roads

The Georgia Clay Roads

Georgia Clay Roads, which are north of the city. The roads are made of clay and tend to be very hilly. This is by far my favorite place to do our long runs. If have not noticed, all of the places I have depicted do not include paved in their description, which is probably the greatest advantage of Tallahassee. You can find so many places to run that are not on pavement, which helps saves the beating our legs take by running 100 mile weeks. And just so you know, I did not mention all of the other great places to run as it might go on for a while.

Another benefit we get from training in Tallahassee is that the hills are significantly smaller than Blowing Rock. Hills are great to train on, because you can get good benefits like form improvements and less stress on your body, but they make you run a little bit slower. I have noticed that when we arrive in Tallahassee, our runs tend to be a little quicker. And this does not include just the workouts, but even days in between. Do to our runs being just a little bit faster, our bodies respond by getting into shape a little bit faster. I think that this is one of the reasons that I had such a good run in Houston.

An aspect of training that is often overlooked is the mental side of training. Lots of people focus on the mental side of racing, but few on the how, where, and what of training. There is always a fluidity that comes with life, and there is no difference in training. Sometimes I tend to find myself getting jaded with running the same trails over and over again, and the best way to fix that is to go find a new and unexplored trail. The great orator Winston Churchill once said, “To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.” I think that our escapade south does just that. It helps all of us improve by acting like a shot of adrenaline, which allows us to make leaps to those higher levels. Along with getting a new place to train, we also get to experience some civilization. Training at ZAP can be a double edge sword. Being tucked away in the mountains of North Carolina is great as it lets us focus on training and becoming the best runners that we can, but the trade off is that we are not near a large city center. In Tallahassee we have the opportunity to head to downtown and go out for dinner and hang out. I think that this is very helpful in maintaining balance in our lives, because even though our job is to do everything we can to run faster, it should not consume every aspect of our lives.

Our training stint in Tallahassee is something that I look forward to every year, as I think it gives us a big advantage. I feel that every time I leave Florida and head back to Blowing Rock, I have become a better runner. So because of this, I am very grateful that ZAP gives me such an opportunity. Currently, we are on our second winter training stint in Greenville, South Carolina at Furman University. So stay tuned for more updates, as I travel to new and exciting adventures, staring later this week.

Training Log 2/9-15

Week of February 9 – 16

Morning Afternoon Notes
Sunday 19 Long Run with surges
Monday 7 7 Core
Tuesday 12 6 Core
Wednesday 15 Workout – Hill Cycles
Thursday 10 8
Friday 12 8 x 30 sec Hill Sprints
Saturday 10 Core
Week Total 106

If you haven’t noticed, this week’s training log is substantially longer than my previous weeks. I decided to do something considerably longer so I could give you a glimpse into my training week.

The last few weeks have primarily been about building my mileage back up and getting a solid training block in before the World Half Marathon Championships and outdoor track. I know that I tend to do better if I have a good training block before the beginning of racing season. This fall my training block was about 3 months long. I think that this helped me have a very good fall racing season. While this block will not be nearly as long, I know that it will help for the spring and summer seasons.

The Miccosukee Greenway in Tallahassee

The Miccosukee Greenway in Tallahassee

Wednesday’s workout was my first “official” workout since before the USA Half Marathon Championships. Having many “first” workouts, I was not worried about it. The workout was scheduled to be an opening 1000 meter piece, followed by 4 min rest, then 3 pieces of hills cycles at 20, 15, 6 minutes each, with 5 min jog in between. Each piece is supposed to be faster than the last. This is a staple workout for us ZAP. The opening 1km piece is just to put some junk in your legs, a feeling you need to be comfortable with during races. The bulk of this workout is the hill cycles, which is around a 1200m loop run in three phases. The flat phase is run at a tempo type effort, the hill is split into three to four sections where you are supposed to surge at each new section, and the downhill where you float down, but it is not a jog. Basically it turns out to be a broken up 40 minute tempo.

Lately my legs have been tired and sluggish the first part of my runs, and the warm up was no different. But I’ve noticed that if my legs are tired on the warm up, more often than not I have a good workout. After my 25 minute warm up, I reached into my bag only to find that I had forgot to put my flats in there. This is not a big deal in regards to the workout, but I like the fact that I change shoes. To me it seems to signal that I am going to run fast. So I did the closest I could to imitating switching shoes. I sat down and untied and retied my shoes. I know that it sounds asinine, but it did help put me at ease. Having “changed my shoes,” I did my drills and strides before starting. The opening 1km went off with out a hitch as I ran it in 3:01. It was a bit of a shock to my body, as I had not recently run that pace for any sustained time. I took my 4 minute break, and started on my hill cycles. The first piece was right where I needed to be running about 3:50-3:46 for the five loops that I completed. I took off on my second set of hill cycles, and right away I noticed that the wind had picked up. This was not perfect, but you wont get perfect conditions in every race, so I continued. Then a few minutes into the set it just began to pour on me. Less than five minutes later I was completely soaked. I finished this set and my loops were not much faster from the previous set, only running around 3:47-3:45. While I would have liked to pick up the loops more, I knew that the weather had slowed me down. After five minutes jog I began my third hill cycle set. This set is short and only supposed to be one loop and up the hill again, which takes about 6 minutes. By this time, water had begun to puddle on parts of the course, but I was able to pick it up just a little bit for my one loop at 3:44. Overall, I was pleased with the workout even though I was not able to really pick it up through out. It ended up being a solid aerobic effort, which is good because my main focus is the World Half Marathon Championships at the end of March and I will need a solid aerobic base for a 13.1 mile race.

Training Log 2/2-8

Week of February 2 – 8

  Morning Afternoon Notes
Sunday 17   Long Run
Monday 10   Core
Tuesday 12 5  
Wednesday 9 7 Core
Thursday 14   10 x 20 sec
Friday 13    
Saturday 10    
  Week Total 97  

This week was just a build up week before a few weeks of solid training leading up to the World Marathon Championships at the end of March. Besides the big jump in mileage there was nothing of big note, as I didn’t do a workout this week. But because of that I ended up running a bit faster than average. At the end of my run on Thursday I did do 10 x 20 second surges with 40 second jog. These are a great way to get in strides but not deal with the stop and go of traditional strides. Next week is our last week in Tallahassee before we head off to Greenville, South Carolina to train with Furman Elite.

Welcome to my Website!

As the title states I am very proud to unveil my brand new website. The idea for this project has been in the works for quite a while. It always seems takes me a bit of time to get my head around the details of what doing something like this entails, but I knew that I would eventually work through all the kinks.

When I first began to think of why I would want to make a website and start a blog, the first question that I had to answer was, “Why?” Knowing that I would be putting considerable time and effort into creating and maintaining this website, it would mean that I the answers would need to ease all the doubts that were holding me back. In the end I did come up with quite a few answers to “Why?”

The first one, and the straw that tipped the scales, was that after the Half Marathon Championships last month, my coach asked if I would write a blog giving my thoughts about the race. He gave no other instructions, so I had a blank tablet to work with. I had always considered myself not much of a writer, as I was always satisfied with the fact that I never got really high grades in English class. I always thought that it was just the way that my brain neurons connected, because I was good at things that are associated with the left-brain. But every time I would sit down and write something that allowed me to reflect on recent events I always found it very cathartic. This is something about myself that I rediscovered when writing about Half Champs. (It’s funny that this was something that the Stoics figured out over 2000 years ago, but is lost on many people today.) So one of my answers was for myself. By writing and maintaining this website, it serves as something that I enjoy doing and is sort of therapeutic. While I can tell now that I will not be sharing all of the thoughts that pop into my head, my vision for this is to give some insight of what it’s like to live like a professional distance runner.

Another rationale that I used to motivate myself to begin this project is that I have always enjoyed reading about all aspects of running, especially what other emerging professional runners are doing. Because I share a common interest and activity with these people, I relate to them. Along with enjoying reading these other blogs, I know that these folks are helping promote the sport of distance running. While it is a sport that I love so much to compete in, is not very popular among the general population. Millions of people compete in road races across the country, but many of those people do not know much or anything about who are winning those races. If by creating this website I give a few more people the knowledge of distance running, then I would not consider my time to be wasted.

The last major answer that I came up is the idea that I would like to get the story of my experiences to a wider audience. While I know that I may not have the most interesting story, hopefully I can entertain a few people with my ramblings, or even better, I can motivate some young kids to chase their dreams. Either way I would consider my time with this project successful.

As I progress with this project I plan on updating my training log every week. Most likely this will happen either Sunday evening or Monday, as my training week ends on Saturday. As far as blogging, right now I don’t have a set time when I will be updating it beyond whenever I feel it is warranted, but that it will be hopefully more often than less. Also, there are a few pages that are still in the works, but will be finished in the near future and there are some bugs, like the formatting for mobile devices, that I am currently working on and will hopefully have them worked out soon.

Forward Leaps

This was my second blog for ZAP. It was first published January 25, 2013.

January 7, 2011. That was my first day running after sustaining a stress reaction in my femur the previous fall. Since then I have had very little unplanned interruption in my training. Basically it means it has been three years of a continual, steady progression in my running. Something that I had not been able to do for more than 18 months at a time. During these three years I have had ups and downs, but have always been continually, steadily progressing forward. This is the basic goal of all distance runners. It makes it possible to compare one year to the next, and eventually reach those career goals. But every once in a while, you are able to bypass certain stages of this progression and make a big leap forward.

This past weekend I made my half marathon debut at the US Championships in Houston. My trip to the Space City ended up being a successful one. Well, actually that would be an understatement, I ended up making one of those leaps forward.

I came in to the race with three goals: run under 1:02:15 (4:45 min/mile), place top 5, and qualify to represent Team USA at the World Half Marathon Championships. I accomplished all three of these; I ran 1:01:44, which was fast enough to place 4th, and will be heading to Denmark at he end of March. On top of reaching my goals, I also had my fifth top 10 placing at a US Championship and am now the 16th fastest American over 13.1 miles. Overall, it was a great way to start off my 2014 campaign.

While I am extremely proud of what I accomplished this last weekend and this performance gives me a positive outlook for the rest of the year, I know that it is but another stepping off point. From here I know that I can continue to steadily progress forward from here, and eventually I will have another big leap forward. Until then I am going to keep riding this wave of momentum and focus on the World Half Marathon Championships. After that I will step onto the track to run some fast times and by the end of this year make my debut at the marathon. Maybe by then I will be ready to make a big leap forward.