Mountain Running Academy- AKA Pain and Bliss

Would you like to attend a running camp in Jackson Hole lead by Eric Orton, coach from Born to Run?”

My initial thought was what a dumb question. OF COURSE I wanted to go.

I did what I always do when running is the question: said yes and then explored the details.Teton Mountains from AirplaneBy the time the wheels touched down in Jackson Hole, this situation finally registered in my “sane mind” and I knew it was going to be a beautiful, but grueling few days.

The hard truth is I was not prepared:

  • I don’t run trails and these were serious trails
  • I don’t have hills to train on and we’re running up a mountain
  • I live at sea level we’re starting at 6,300 and going to 10,000 feet
  • And there’s the whole runner’s knee issue from which I’ve had only a few weeks of running.

My saving grace?

Eric Orton.Eric Orton Mountain Running AcademyI call this the “yes you can” photo, where once again Eric is giving me just enough details to handle what’s at hand and not think about what’s to come after that.

The man, the myth, the legend from Born to Run is exactly what every crazy runner needs in this kind of situation. He’s a true coach not because of one book, but from a lifetime of experiences.

  • He believes we can do more than we think
  • He knows the human body/functional movement to resolve our injuries
  • He has trained many endurance athletes and understands the psychology at work.
  • He is genuinely passionate about helping others run.
  • He is an adventure seeker, which you can’t help but want to join.

I want to share with you details about the days, but if you don’t get that this was more than a workout in the mountains, you’ll be missing the whole point.

It was a mentally and physically jam packed three days that should have come with a warning label “will change your life, be prepared.” Sounds like a lot to ask of a running camp right? But that’s the point…this is more than a running camp!

Thursday morning our small crew of 5, plus coach Eric met for breakfast at the Teton Lodge where immediately I liked Allison who was also a dairy free, gluten free eater and thus made my life super easy the rest of the week!

As the group started chatting about different running experiences, I just kept thinking yup this is going to kill me, but at least I’ll die happy.

Our very first order of business was to unlearn a lot of bad form habits through doing about 90 minutes of drills inside with our bare feet and some great tools that Eric has developed. I’ll be sharing more on this whole area later because it deserves it’s own post!

Running in Jackson Hole MountainsAfter all the work inside, the rest of the camp was truly about focusing on putting those new movement patterns in to action and using them to be stronger, faster and injury free.
Jackson Hole Ski Resort TramThat first morning we took the tram up to 10,000 feet where it was cloudy, windy and lightly snowing. Embracing the experience I couldn’t stop smiling even though I was freaking out on the inside…it was just too stunning not to be in love, but I’m not used to being on top of a mountain. Mountain run form drillsThe next three days we spent time doing a whole lot of hill repeats on various 20% grade hills first at 10,000 feet and then working our way up the mountain from 6,300 feet. The goal of all of these was:

  • acclimate us to the altitude
  • strengthen our legs
  • practice the new form techniques we learned
  • challenge ourselves
  • have some fun

Other times we were simply hiking up {always up I swear!}, jogging the flats and in my case tip toeing the down hills. Hey, I didn’t lie about my lack of trail experience and with the steep grades and loose rocks I just wasn’t as sure footed as the great folks in my group who are trail runners.Eric Orton Running CampHITTING A MENTAL WALL
I’m not proud of this.

I hate to even mention it…but I think it’s important.

On day 2 I found myself verging on tears about every 5 minutes of the 3 hour morning workout. In fact, when Eric asked us to think about our next big goal during one run segment I blurted out “not to cry to today!” YIKES, after that I just tried to shut my trap. 

On a normal day everything and anything running makes me happy. Jackson Hole Run CampFor some reason as we started up that mountain {during that workout we climbed about 2,000 feet over 3 miles} I was like Linus with a crappy black cloud following my every move.

Maybe it was lack of sleep, lack of oxygen or simply being pushed outside my comfort zone, but I just couldn’t latch on to the fun or beauty around me.

Unfortunately as we started to descend that same 2,000 feet my knee began to hurt once again.2XU Compression pants for long runsThat afternoon, Eric did some pressure point work and really helped to figure out the cause of my runner’s knee {which as we know isn’t usually the knee itself}. At this point, I literally started to cry because well he was doing what a good sports massage can do and breaking up some serious scar tissue…

Yet that was the moment when my attitude started to shift too.

Eric is pretty fantastic at helping YOU make that shift simply by talking… in fact here’s one great statement from him of many we heard

“Every challenge offers us an opportunity to improve and get better, but it takes a mind shift sometimes. Things will not always go the way we want them to and the more we resist this, the harder it will get.  Resistance creates stress and a desire to change something external only leads to more stress.  Acceptance of the situation gives way to learning and ultimately leads to great satisfaction and feeling of accomplishment.”

I didn’t have to do the afternoon hike, it was entirely a choice, but I might be missing out on some great time with the group, a cool experience and of course taking full advantage of the time in Jackson Hole.

For me the clouds quite literally parted in that moment {no seriously this photo is totally from camp!}Seeing Through the Clouds I like choices.

I like being in charge of what I do and I definitely like fully embracing opportunities. So I hiked that afternoon and the next morning though my knee hurt, I did the group run and then…well then came the scariest part of all…

After finishing our final morning run on Saturday, it was time to peak out.

Say what, what?? Peak out means literally hiking to the peak of the mountains in the area.

HOLY SCHNIKES.  (The one to the far left is where we were headed).Cody Peak, Jackson HoleAs I’ve mentioned, this camp was about so much more than learning to mountain run. It was truly living and breathing what Eric writes about in The Cool Impossible: You can, if you are just willing to believe.

As we started picking our way along the rocky path, we met our first obstacle…LITERALLY CLIMBING UP a rock face. In that moment, I wanted to look at him and say “it’s been real catch ya’ll later”.

Instead, I took a deep breath and just did exactly what he told me to.theClimbFrom there we had about an hour of hiking along the side of a freaking mountain to reach the peak. In a bizarre twist I was actually the one leading the group. I kept my head down focused on not moving with a rock all the way down the edge and as the adrenaline peaked…so did we.
peakingoutOnce we reached the peak, I was reassured by the fact that no one wanted to move very much! Turns out I wasn’t the only one facing some fears. Even these adventurers had to dig deep to walk across some of the narrow ridges and loose rocks at 10,700 feet. 

Most amusing to me was that after an hour of nerves raging like a teenagers hormones…we had to get back down!! The fear facing wasn’t over yet, since I’m actually far more scared of down than up!
Cody Peak Top of the MountainHard as this 3 day camp was for this flatlander, I am already thinking maybe next year I could try again and do better! Plus there is just so much more that happened which I haven’t even told you about like the evening meals which were just an amazing time to talk about all things running and of course meeting other runners who have inspired me to look at running in a whole new way.

I faced multiple fears last week and guess what…I didn’t die or fail. One of Eric’s favorite lessons: “What if failure doesn’t really exist?” A pretty valuable lesson for every aspect of running and life! I hope I can continue to take it with me to reach some new goals.

Look for follow ups on what I learned about running form and running ultras!

Too many great things to slap in just one post!  For now let me just say you first need to read The Cool Impossible and second need to totally consider this camp.

What fear have you conquered lately?

Have you ever gone running at altitude in the mountains?

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Metabolic Efficiency for Weight Loss and Ironman Journey: Transformation Story

During my time in Miami, I had the pleasure of meeting many amazing athletes from around the world. One who always stood out due to her awesome height and adorable German accent was Gladys. She had some pretty big goals for triathlons, but at the time seemed stuck in a rut {waves hand that sounds familiar!!}.

In the last 9 months, I’ve watched her change physically and grow mentally stronger due to making some sports nutrition changes, which as you know is currently a topic of interest around here…so here is her story.

Since I am 6 years old, I have been a very active person, including being an elite swimmer for Eastern Germany. Sure, I took a few breaks from swimming to try other things like ballroom dancing, underwater rugby and running, but I was always active.

Even though I was consistently working out, I struggled badly with my weight.

Moving to the USA 8 years ago did not help! I kept running, even started with triathlons and trained and finished two 70.3 distances (1.2mi swim, 56mi bike and 13.1mi run) last year – but I kept gaining.grouprunI became an unhappy person, and unhappy athlete.

It seemed no matter what I did (diets, workout styles, etc) – nothing changed.

I became worried about achieving my major goal: to complete an Ironman distance triathlon (2.4mi swim, 122mi bike, 26.2mi run) in October of 2014. I knew I needed a change, but what was left?

In November 2013, I was introduced to my “nutritionist”. I put the term in quotation marks because technically Javiar Diaz is a doctor of Pharmacy with a specialty in metabolic efficiency training, but that’s above my pay grade!

Basically, he helps endurance athletes to succeed with their dreams by training smart and living healthy to get the best possible performance out of their body.
Understanding Metabolic Efficiency for weight loss

He calls it “metabolic efficiency” -- increasing utilization of my own internal body fat for max performance without hitting the wall.

“What puzzles me as a coach and sport nutritionist is that athletes do not put in half as much effort planning their nutrition as they do constructing their training plan.”
- Bob Seebohar

A lot of endurance athletes have metabolic stress, which is found between the gut, immune system and brain. It appears as disrupted sleep, hitting the wall, GI distress, getting sick before races and poor concentration. {How digestion impacts health}

Nevertheless, my goal was weight loss, and I cared less about his “metabolic efficiency”. But I was ready to listen and over the next 6-7 month I made these changes:

  • Good Bye to sugar!!!!!! This was hard since I’m a professed sugar addict.
  • Good Bye to most of the nutrition products offered in stores in terms of gels, cubes, bars.
    {How to fuel your runs with whole foods}
  • Relearning about carbs as a fuel source by eliminating all grains (until training increased and then oats, brown rice, quinoa)
  • Adding in vegetable and fruit carbohydrates all the time
  • Cooking from scratch
  • Prepping meals
  • Learning to snack the right way - for hunger, not boredom and on nuts/fruits
  • Meals became healthy fuel for my body and not because I was bored. (I never was an overeater but if something tastes good who can resist!!).
  • Building a stronger aerobic base that would burn more fat {Low Heart Rate Training details!}
When asked how she quit sugar…like a true athlete she said
I had to suck it up because I had a goal

I lost 40lbs. No Sugar Weight LossMy runs are now sub 10min/mile, which was a goal I’d been chasing for years. My 5k time dropped from 37min to 27 min and I completed a 16 mile training run in the same time as I did 13.1miles a year ago.

Most of all, I became a happier and healthier person.

Of course not all went or is going perfectly. There are always setbacks. Metabolic Efficiency Weight LossI was diagnosed with a chronic long-term knee damage due to an accident/injury I had 18yrs ago.
I still have cravings, but less than before, and sometimes I lose my mojo and wonder why I do all this??

But then I realize, my knee would probably feel much worse if I wouldn’t have lost the 40lbs.

Cravings will always be there, but I learned in a good way to deal with them.

And my mojo… well that’s why you have friends (IRUN, Wolfpack, Aliens and all my other crazy athlete friends). They are the one’s who continually encourage you, who keep telling you just to suck it up and who always remind you of the bigger picture – a healthy and happy life, and a successful race Smile !!!GroupTrainingWithout them, this journey would be much harder.

Thank you to my beautiful friend for sharing her story!! I hope that it helped you in some way to see that change is possible, sometimes you just gotta suck it up and we all need friends who support our goals!

Is there an area where you need to “suck it up” to make a change?

Do you have a supportive crew?

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Is running different for men and women?

After another Physical Therapist pointed out that women are more prone to running issues due to our hips, I began to wonder if this was entirely true? Why is it that men are faster? I decided to reach out to Tina Muir who is not only an elite female athlete, but is surrounded by high caliber coaches and runners…here is what she found.

When I consider the differences between men and women, my thoughts go back to the many occasions in college where I destroyed some of the guys on my team in every workout, yet somehow they would run 15:30 5k, and I would run 16:10. How was that fair?

What are a few of the major differences between men and women that could contribute to those race times?

Unfortunately, women are at a disadvantage from the start due to a few biological factors, but there are also some potential advantages to being a female that you may not have considered. Gender differences in runningHeart size
Men’s hearts are 20-25% larger than women’s, particularly in the left ventricle. This increases the ability to pump oxygenated blood around the body to be used in the muscles, making it easier for males to run faster for longer.

The primary male hormone is testosterone, which stimulates muscle mass development. The female primary hormone is estrogen, which stimulates fat accumulation. Testosterone also increases the concentration of red blood cells, and hemoglobin, both critical for transporting oxygen around the body.

This means that on average male blood can carry around 11% more oxygen than female blood to increase efficiency to run faster.

Estrogen does have one big advantage over testosterone; it is an antioxidant that fights some forms of free radicals around the body.

Body fat
Women are predisposed to hold an additional 5-10% body fat for child-bearing. The extra weight of this body fat means the female body has to work much harder to run an equivalent pace.

Women are considered at a higher risk for injuries than men, particularly bone injuries due to the loss of estrogen (especially if amenorrhea - loss of menstrual cycle is also present).

Additionally, as Amanda’s PT pointed out women have a wider pelvis, and slightly different hip positioning which increases stress on all the lower extremities and often leads to more injuries. {Another good reason to do those hip exercises!} 

Muscle composition
There is no real difference between the composition of muscle fibers between men and women, but men will develop muscle faster than women due to higher levels of testosterone.

As a whole, men can handle more mileage, just as some men can handle heavier weights.

But just as one training plan does not fit all, not every man can run more miles than every woman. I run around 80 miles a week during marathon training, and I know most men could not handle that kind of volume.

In my experience, the access to coaches is the same between men and women, some coaches even prefer to coach women over men, as there are less ego issues!

Participation Levels
There has been increasing debate in recent years about whether women will eventually catch up with male performance times. Although the factors I’ve noted may make it seem almost impossible, women currently only make up 27% of participants in distance events. In addition to this, the first women’s marathon was only in 1972, compared to the first men’s marathon in 1896!

As participation increases and more female superstars emerge, we could see the gap between men’s and women’s world records drop significantly. Oxford University completed a study that predicted one day women will consistently beat men over long distances.

In ultra events, women may have an advantage over men due to the additional fat stores than can provide an additional energy source for the body. This means that women may in the future be shown to be the better athletes in endurance events.

As we work to understand the physiology of the female body, new research will surely discover how to maximize the female physiology, lessen the gap, and continue to take down records at a much faster rate.

Lets close that gap. DDC 2013 4

I am doing my part, are you?

Tina Muir is a Saucony Sponsored Elite Athlete who finished 3rd in the Great Britain Olympic Trials in the 10k in 2012. She has PRs of 16:08 (5k), 33:24 (10k), and 1:14 (Half Marathon). Tina will be testing her endurance at the Chicago Marathon next month where she will race as an elite in a very talented field. Check out her blog at www.tinamuir.com for healthy meals, training tips and updates or connect with her on social media: Twitter-@tinamuir | Instagram -tinamuir88 | Pinterest-tinamuir88 | Facebook- Tina Muir

Thanks Tina!! At least now I feel marginally better about my husband always running faster than me with less training!
What do you think?
Will women close the time gap?

Any other differences you’ve found in how men/women handle training or races?

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The Happiness of Pursuit

No I didn’t flip the words…or maybe you didn’t even notice the order because you’ve been so accustomed to reading “the pursuit of happiness”.

This is about how having a goal, a quest, a passion can add great joy to our lives.

People who set themselves ambitious goals tend to be more satisfied than those with lower expectations, says a study published online in the Journal of Consumer Research.

This is about more than a goal to lose 10lbs or take a minute off your half marathon PR…we’re talking about big life changing things. One’s that you simply can’t stop thinking about even though they are going to take lots of time, effort and could mean utter failure.

If you’re doing something you love, it doesn’t matter that it’s challenging. You can keep going for a long time as long as your motivated…”

In fact, Chris Guillebeau’s quest was to visit every country in the world. HOLY CRAP did you read that?! During the 10 years that he spent on this quest he met many amazing people who are going to inspire you to get after your own real deep down goals and maybe make you reconsider “waiting for the right time”.

While reading The Happiness of Pursuit I simultaneously found myself relating to people’s notion of “if I didn’t try, I’d regret it forever” and it’s not about being miserable, but it’s this feeling that there is MORE…. while thinking I am not sure I’ve ever committed enough to have a quest.HappinessofPursuitI certainly haven’t cooked every recipe from Julia Child or run across the country like Marshall Ulrich.

Sure I’ve got a life list {not a bucket list} and I’ve got mini goals, but I suppose I never realized that I did in fact have a quest because it’s slowly been growing over time.

“There are few goals worth pursuing that are totally risk free.”

Here is how Chris defines the components of a quest:
1. Specific structure -  Avoid fuzzy goals, there is no sense of accomplishment or steps to take.
-- Example: It’s not I will travel around the world. It’s I will visit every country. Giving you a specific checklist.
2. What resources are required -- How much money? Time? Other people?
3. Deadline -- Continues to force the goal to be tangible. Gives pressure to keep moving forward
4. Allow the vision to expand -- As you

Unfortunately it often takes a monumental life moment like illness or the death of a loved one to push us over the edge to engage in our question and really fill that MORE in our lives.

I knew that running would change my body, I didn’t realize it would change my life.

12 years ago when I set out to run a portion of my normal daily walk, it never occurred to me to think about running as a quest. It wasn’t. Sure I wanted to run a half marathon with friends, but one race does not a quest make…in fact even in 2005 when I ran my first marathon I wouldn’t yet have called it a quest. Something shifted during that training, but it wasn’t all consuming yet.
Nashville Marathon 2005

It was years before I began to realize that running had turned in to something more…it had turned in to something I wanted to build a life around and something that was ultimately changing me on every level.

You can stop thinking about a hobby, but a quest becomes total fascination.” << This is what really spoke to me…running is not a hobby.

I don’t just run on the weekends to see friends.

  • I seek out ways to run in new cities
  • I actively try to speak to great runners from elites to everyday athletes
  • I quit my full time career to write about running
  • I read every book I can get my hands on from a runner about a runner mentioning a runner
  • I became certified for the sole purpose of helping others enjoy running more.
  • On days I don’t run, I’m largely thinking about the next run
  • Running has made me more confident in every area of life
  • Running has taught me how to deal with pain and how to push through
  • Running has helped me see the world in a new way
  • Running has well…changed everything
    Miami Marathon PacingPacing a good friend in the 2009 Miami Marathon

So what exactly is my quest? I’m not aiming to join the marathon maniacs club, to have a running streak that spans decades and certainly not to qualify for the Olympics.

My quest is both easier and harder. Many of you have heard it a million times: I want to love running until I am very old and very gray and to share with others how it’s more than burning calories.oldmeSince my quest has many miles to go before it’s conclusion, you’ll simply have to keep reading (just a measly 60 more years) to find out if I’m successful.

Have you heard of World Domination Summit? It’s one of the things on my life list and hosted by none other than the author of this book! Yet another reason, I was excited to read it. Get inspired by connecting with Chris on Twitter, Facebook & Instagram.

Let’s hear your stories in the comments!
Do you have a quest that you’ve been putting off?

Or maybe an amazing one you’ve taken?

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Disclosure: This is a sponsored post on behalf of Random House. However all opinions and miles run are my own.

Food Intolerances in Athletes - Understanding the Performance Impact

Are food sensitivities real? Yes.

Can they impact your performance? Absolutely.

Are the tests to identify them accurate? Ahhh…debatable. Let’s dig in to what it means and how it could be impacting your performance.

Athletes may actually be more susceptible to symptoms of food sensitivities because the stress of constant training taxes the immune system. In other words, a stressed body will be less able to handle foods that are causing inflammation. 
Understanding the impact of food intolerance on athletic performanceImpacts on the athlete:

  • Increased inflammation results in muscle soreness and slows down recovery time
  • Increases stress on the body leading to fatigue as the body needs more rest
  • Prevents nutrients from being fully absorbed
  • Weakens the immune system {easier to get sick after strenuous workouts}
  • Causes weight gain
  • Can impact breathing by inflaming the air ways

It’s not about eating healthy, it’s about eating foods that are best for YOUR body.

This means learning that milk actually upsets your stomach would make you think twice before swigging that high protein recovery drink or finding out honey is an issue could explain why one gel seems to work great and another leaves you with side stitches.

As said by NFL star Drew Brees:

Everything I do as an athlete, I think about maximizing performance. So anything I put in my body, I think about ‘how’s this going to help me perform at the highest level?” And, ‘how’s it going to help me recover the fastest?’ If you have an allergy to certain types of food and you are putting those into your body, your body is constantly fighting those foods as opposed to repairing muscle and helping you with recovery or performance.

Food Allergy: The body has an immediate adverse reaction to the food which can be as minor as hives to as critical as swelling that closes the airway. We are not talking about this kind of allergy today.

Food Intolerance: The body lacks specific enzymes to digest a particular food. The two most commonly known are gluten and dairy which cause GI distress because the body cannot appropriately process the food, but are not life threatening like an allergy.

Food Sensitivity: Often lumped in with intolerance, a food sensitivity is exactly that…something which your body has an adverse reaction to from 45 minutes to 3 days after eating it. The estimate is that up to 80% of adults have some kind of sensitivity.

Cumulative dose is an important factor for most athletes. While 1 gel with honey may not bother you, that gel combined with 3 hours of body stress from running and a few other ingredients that your stomach doesn’t love could be what breaks you in terms of GI issues.

Doing everything right and feeling fatigued, frequent headaches, muscle aches…might be worth getting tested! There is the 100% free method and the totally not covered by insurance more expensive method.

Elimination Diet: The cheapest and most effective way to know if you have an intolerance is to do an elimination diet. Unfortunately it’s very hard for most people to stick to it for more than a week due to the highly restrictive nature or people forget to accurately record symptoms upon slowly adding foods back.

ALCAT Test: This is a blood test that measures food/chemical sensitivities based upon how immune cells react when exposed to the foods. It can be used for up to 300 foods, gluten, gliadin and milk proteins – whey and casein.

A runner’s guide to avoiding runner’s trots and other food impacts:

  1. Determine if you are having digestive issues only on the run or more frequently {signs of poor digestion}
  2. Try an elimination on your own of possible suspects (usually dairy, gluten, soy, corn, nuts). Add notes to your running log about foods and how you are feeling.
  3. Get tested through a professional
  4. Work with said professional to figure out a personalized nutrition plan

Can you get over food sensitivities? Yes. Turns out that as you heal your stomach {from removing inflammation causing foods} you will likely lessen severity of allergies and over time with complete healing could be totally free of any sensitivities. This is a LONG process though.

How reliable is the ALCAT test? This was a big concern for me and after reading A LOT of different things, I’ve come to this conclusion: it’s worth testing. There are advocates who swear it’s changed their lives and healed them by learning what foods to remove and scientists on the other side saying these tests cannot be accurate.

Scientists also don’t understand how acupuncture or Chinese herbs work for so many…but we all know at least on person who has felt better from using Easter Medicine that’s never been proven in a lab.

Existing Sports Nutrition Articles:
Sports nutrition who to work with and benefits
Is your workout causing you to gain weight
Understanding the impact of digestion on health
Advice for avoiding runner’s trots

Interested in taking the ALCAT?  The ladies at Diet Diva are helping me with their specific food sensitivity and sports nutrition knowledge. You will take the test wherever you are located and then have at least 2 calls with them to guide you through the results and what to do next.

Have you ever taken a food sensitivity test?

What if you were restricted from your favorite food??
hint I’ll be talking about dealing with this! HELP ME

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