Thirsty (for knowledge) Thursday: 8 Coaches Give Their BEST Tips

>> Thursday, June 21, 2018

A coaching director at Carmichael Training Systems shared some notes from a recent Memorial Day ultrarunning camp. He issued a simple challenge to each of their coaches: “distill all of the coaching knowledge you have into ONE piece of advice you could give to any ultramarathon runner.” They called this exercise “THE ONE.” With 8 coaches and nearly 100 collective years of coaching wisdom, here’s what they came up with:

“Don’t count yourself out.” - Corrine Malcolm

You have no idea what might happen once you leave the start line. You may feel overwhelmed or inadequate standing there, waiting to start. You may even have your list of excuses lined up: She’s so much faster than me. He won last week’s race. Look at gear she has compared to mine. I should have gotten more sleep. I don’t run well on cold mornings. And on and on…

These thoughts don’t go away once you leave the start line, either. They can pop up at any moment when the going gets tough. Yet, time and again we’ve seen athletes overcome tremendous odds or fight their way back from seemingly certain defeat. The key is that they didn’t count themselves out. They didn’t defeat themselves by succumbing to doubt and negative thoughts. If you’re on the start line, you’re all in.

“Embrace what is difficult and uncomfortable.” - Darcie Murphy

I work with a lot of ultraendurance athletes, particularly ultramarathon runners, and these events are hard. The training is hard. The level of commitment is difficult. The conditions are often uncomfortable. To be successful you have to embrace all of that, not shy away from it or try to work your way around it. You don’t need to love pain or suffer just for the sake of suffering, but you do have to accept there will be times that endurance and ultraendurance sports hurt. When athletes get too worked up trying to avoid all discomfort, they lose focus on actually training or competing.

“For every one minute you spend training your body, spend two minutes training your mind.” - Andy Jones-Wilkins

Training your body is important, but endurance and ultraendurance events are rarely won solely because one athlete was physically superior to everyone else. Physiologically, there’s not much separating the top ultrarunners in any field. What separates them on the course is how they think, how they make decisions, what they use to motivate themselves, how they deal with adversity, etc. The same is true for any runner. Physically there isn’t much difference between the runners who reach the finish line in the final hour before the cutoff and those who just miss it.

There are opportunities everywhere to work on developing the mental skills for success in ultraendurance sports. You develop resilience when things don’t go your way. You learn to make decisions when you’re tired after the baby wakes up at 2am for a few weeks. You learn about patience and gratitude while recovering from an injury, or hip surgery in my case. Many people use running as an escape, but you also have to use non-running lessons to become a better runner!

“Cultivate grit.” - David Henry

Grit doesn’t just happen. It’s the result of an active process of showing up every day and putting in the hard work. You can’t buy it, borrow it, usurp it, or fake it. That’s why it is so valuable and why I deliberately say it should be ‘cultivated’. Grit is something slightly different to each person, based on his or her experiences, priorities, and goals. It is important for athletes to keep stretching their comfort zones and seeking experiences that will add to their resilience and confidence.

“Surround yourself with good people.” - John Fitzgerald

Endurance and ultraendurance athletes perform better when they have good support systems. The people you surround yourself with can make you a stronger and more prepared athlete, or they can drain your energy and put obstacles between you and success. Be picky about the people you choose to lean on for support, and understand you have a responsibility to support them, too.

“Be really, really physically prepared.” - Adam St. Pierre

Greater fitness solves – or at least lessons – most problems. ‘Be more fit’ may sound like obvious advice for endurance and ultraendurance athletes, but you’d be amazed by the number of athletes who focus, physically, on everything except the actual fundamentals of training. I primarily coach ultrarunners and, like Andy, think that mental training is crucial. But from the physical training side, the best thing most ultrarunners can do is run as much as they can reasonably run, mostly easy, with some hard bits.

“Adapt.” - Jason Koop

Training, racing, and life rarely go to plan, and if you create plans that are too rigid then being successful is just a matter of luck. Everything has to go just right in order for an overly rigid plan to succeed, which is why they rarely do. I tell my athletes that all the physical and mental training they do will only prepare them for 5% of what will actually happen in a race. For everything else you’ll have to adapt, pulling from the knowledge you have and the work you have done in order to create the best solution for the conditions. The best thing a coach can teach an athlete is how to be flexible in their approach to challenges.

“Learn to love the process.” - Jim Rutberg

To stay engaged in endurance sports long-term, you have to love the process of training. Sometimes the event you’re training for is a year or more away, and that’s a long time to maintain enthusiasm and focus. In the best-case scenario, it’s not the events that keep you engaged in your sport. Rather, your love for the sport and the process of training is ideally what sustains your engagement, and the events give you something to direct your training toward.

“Practice self-empathy.”

This advice came from an athlete who was present during this exercise, and it’s a great point so we’re including it. Be nice to yourself. As endurance athletes we spend a lot of time by ourselves, and in our own heads. It is very easy to be hard on yourself and be your own worst critic. Instead, make the effort to celebrate the good things you do for yourself, and not just every once in a while when you accomplish something big. Celebrate the small victories and the little things you do for yourself each day.

I wish they went more in-depth on the “training your mind” part of this, instead of just leaving it at “non-running lessons like getting up with the baby will help.” (Paraphrased.) But I can glean some insight from many of these other points for my non-ultrarunning training - I especially like “adapt” and “learn to love the process” (which is where my bright shorts came into my racing).

For more "Thirsty Thursday" posts that highlight workouts, body science, and all kinds of interesting information, CLICK HERE. As always, back with some "Friday Funnies" tomorrow.


Kickapoo Camping 2018

>> Wednesday, June 20, 2018

We had a HOT weekend camping in WI with my in-laws. On the way back, we stopped at another MN State Park to explore. Here are 30 photos from the weekend:

Our new hitch-mounted cargo hauler worked like a charm! Hauled WAY more than
our roof pack, and we had LOTS of room left in the backseat. I'm sold on it.

Henry playing in the campground pool with his cousin.

THIS happened a lot.

The younger cousins loved catching tadpoles in the little pond.

Always eating well! (That's our tent in the background.)

Lots of "the gang."

Tired cousins around the fire.

Grandma was on marshmallow duty!

Charlie enjoying his s'more.

We had a HOT night in the tent. We were dripping sweat putting it up, and we had 2 fans on us all night long. I covered up with a sheet around 2 a.m. At 6, the tent looked like this:

Note where his pillow is and where his head SHOULD be.

Cute guy.

Cousins with squirt guns.

Driving to the Kickapoo River. Yes, my chest *is* that pale.

Ready to canoe! But first, a snack.

In the Kickapoo!

This babe.

Fantastic views. And the nature is pretty too.

Finding some mud to play in. That’s me moments after jumping into crotch-deep mud
on the right. Note my wife’s cousin on the far left with mud up to his mid-back.

Bringing the boys across the river to play in the mud.

Us big kids supervising the little kids as they played in the mud.

Heading back across with my nephew and son.

Lots of views like this.

The older cousins and my wife’s aunt.

Charlie sipping on root beer with the ladies.

My wife had glorious views of my back.

Off the river after 5 hours!

Changed into dry clothes and passed out in the car.

Night #2 was HOTTER. It was in the mid-90s during the day, and SUPER humid. On the previous night, at least a front moved through and knocked it down by about 10 degrees just before we went to bed. That didn’t happen on the 2nd night. I hardly slept. I just laid flat on my back without any covers and tried to cool down for 8 hours. I was able to sleep off-and-on from 2-5 a.m.

Breakfast with Grandma Mon!

A Father’s Day photo with Papa Bry as we packed up.

We made a quick stop on the way home to get our 20th MN State Park stamp (since last July) in our “passport” at Great River Bluffs State Park. We went on 3 short hikes:

The “North Overlook” if I’m not mistaken, 500’ above the Mighty Mississippi.

Right on the edge of a cliff overlooking the South Overlook.

One final overlook. Quite the views.

A final selfie before leaving the park!...

… then a 2 hour drive that looked like this.


Week in Review: a Little Speed and Some Camping

>> Monday, June 18, 2018

Here's what my training last week looked like:

I missed my swim on Friday because on Friday through Sunday, we were camping with my in-laws in Wisconsin. Here was a photo I posted last night:

Caption: Annual “jeez-I-wish-I-didn’t-have-to-go-hungry-while-camping-with-the-Linders” photo.

- MON: 200s in the pool.
- TUES: easy 5 mile run.
- WED: first hard tempo loop on the bike I posted about last week.
- THURS: long run of 8+ miles.
- FRI: nothing
- SAT: 2.5 mile tempo run in the middle of 6 total miles.
- SUN: long 32 mile ride just over 20 mph.

My run on Saturday was "interesting." First of all, it was hot as f*ck camping in WI this weekend: highs were in the 90s every day, it was super humid, and Saturday night it didn't cool down that much (so I hardly slept). We're in a part of WI with lots of little short hills. So I ran for 2 miles as a warm up, and then hit the hills as my 2.5 "HARD" miles in the middle. My first half mile of the HARD effort was 3:24 which was a bit slow for that effort. (Usually, in a short hard tempo run like this, my HARD effort is around 6:00 pace.) I felt I was climbing, but I wasn't really paying attention - I was just running hard. My next half mile was something I've never seen in during a tempo run: a half-mile split OVER 4:00! It was 4:01! I turned around there and used that hill pick up the pace. My next half-mile split down the hill that gave my my 4:01 split was 2:56. And then I finished the last mile with 3:04 and 2:49 splits. Simple, solid run.

My calves are tight. Gotta work on keeping them loose this week.


Two Yearly “Firsts:” Tempo Ride and Running Intervals

>> Saturday, June 16, 2018

The last 2 weeks held 2 “firsts” for 2018.

First, I did 2x2 mile running intervals about 10 days ago. I’ve been talking about working on getting some speed back, and this workout is a good “gentle ease into intervals.” I did them at my normal spot along the river. I truly had no time goals, as I just wanted to run fast for a few miles.

Here are half-mile splits:

- 2:56, 3:05, 3:04, 2:58 = 12:04.85
- 3:00, 3:08, 3:07, 2:59 = 12:14.67

Last Spring, I (wasn’t trying and still) set a PR for this workout with a 11:38 and 11:24. WAY off that. Something to work towards. (For what it’s worth, that PR workout was on totally flat trail on the Greenway, and this most recent workout had a few hills along River Road: Lake/Marshall Bridge down past Shriners Hospital and back up for each 2 miles.)

Second, I did my “go to” 15.x mile hilly tempo ride through St. Paul a few days ago. It’s a loop I do that is River Road which curves and turns into Shepard Road which goes into downtown, then up Ramsey Hill, down Summit Ave, and back home. It was the first time I did this ride this year, which is SUPER late - last year by this time, I’d done it 4 times already. Here’s a post where I list previous PRs for this ride: I broke 20.0 mph in Sept of 2014, I broke 21.0 mph in April of 2017, and my lifetime PR is 21.9 in June of 2017 (which was the 4th time I broke 21.0 mph in those few months).

Really, my only thought going into this hard ride was “Try to break 20 mph? Maybe?” I had 22.2 mph at downtown before turning off the trail and heading up Ramsey Hill, but I hadn’t looked back at my “usual” splits to know if that was good or not by that point. I was happy to see I still had a 21.1 mph average once I climbed Ramsey, so I felt pretty good about myself! I dropped to 21.0, but then climbed up to a 21.2 mph average before home.

So comparing to last year, that puts me in mid-April 2017 shape in the middle of June 2018 (I rode 21.0 in early April 2017, and 21.3 later in April 2017). That’s actually not as bad as I had hoped. Last year, I was in great shape right away because of a “mild” winter, and this past winter SUCKED so I KNOW my bike fitness has suffered. (I didn’t train well on the trainer. Despite its name.)

Sidenote: as of a few days ago, we now have a 7-year-old in our house:


Friday Funny 1453: Ridiculous Running Stock Photos

>> Friday, June 15, 2018

Here are 24 bad stock photos of runners as collected by

Who taught you to run, an alien?

This cow is insanely happy to be running. I wish that were how I felt on every run.

I'm pretty sure that's not how fueling works.

In fact, we highly discourage drinking gas.

Is this supposed to scare or motivate us? Either way, it's strange.

It's really unfortunate that all four of these women's ponytail holders broke
seconds before they started their run. It's a miracle they're still smiling.

"Mommy, look."
"It's rude to point, Susie."

We're not even sure what to say about this one.

Isn't it amazing how they can run without breaking a sweat or smudging their perfect makeup?

There's probably a hidden wind machine at play here.

At least he color-coordinated.

There was no shortage of nerdy runner options, but is he running or jumping on a trampoline?

You're gonna regret that white T-shirt, dude.

At least he's comfortable enough with his masculinity to wear pink.

Does this remind anyone else of George Costanza?

It's nearly impossible to walk in ski boots, let alone run.

So that's how Santa stays fit in the off-season.

First rule of running shoes: Don't ever smell them.

We have so many questions: Why is a skeleton running? Why is he in the desert?
Why is he on a computer? Does the touchpad work if you don't have skin?

Actually, this one might not be that ridiculous. Some days,
it takes superhero powers just to get out the door.

She's catching some serious wind-resistance.

You're supposed to eat your fruits and veggies, not wear them.

Or maybe her running partner has some rank B.O.

Just a girl. On a treadmill. Outside.

Lots more funny things posted all week long on HAPPY WEEKEND!!



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