Friday, October 11, 2013


Hard to believe but TOMORROW is Run the Rock.  I realize the blog has been a little sparse during this last stretch. I apologize, but it's remarkably hard to write while at sea. Hopefully you've gleaned some bit of helpful advice from my ramblings.

With the big event tomorrow, you should go to bed feeling confident in your training. The hay is in the barn, as they say. Whether you are running the 5K or the full marathon, you are as ready as you are going to be at this point and there are no last minute tweaks that are going to change that.
Your to do list for today:
1. Stay off your feet as much as possible.
2.  Eat a nice dinner of something you know you like and makes you happy. The theories of carb loading are way over blow, so don't worry about gorging on pasta and chugging gatorade. If this means enjoying the pre-race spaghetti feed tonight, there is no reason to go overboard with multiple heaping plates. Take it easy and eat your "normal" amount.
3. Check out the weather forecast. Once. Then accept it's going to be what it's going to be (good or bad) and let it go.
4. Lay out your race day gear from head to toe. Don't forget your nutrition and hydration tools! This will save you from being panicked tomorrow morning.

And most importantly...
5. Relax.  You are strong. You are ready.

Run happy and good luck to all,

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Last training block...we're getting close!

Alright race fans, here it is. You're final 4 weeks of training. You will do your last long run three weeks out from the race. Unlike the beginner plan, the long run peaks at 14 miles, a distance you will have run several times before the big day. This means, you have trained OVER the distance of the half marathon and should be able to "easily" handle 13.1. You will notice there is still do plenty of race pace throughout this training block. 

If you haven't been doing so up to this point, you definitely want to be practicing your race day nutrition plan during your long runs. What will you eat before and during your run? What will you drink? Will you carry water with you? These may seem like small details but can make a huge difference. Practicing and knowing what combinations work for you means one less thing to have to worry about on race day. 

Be sure you are listening to your body and pay extra attention to any little niggles you may be feeling. Rest and recovery becoming increasingly important as you get closer to the race. And you can't ignore the all important taper!  

You're almost there! Just a few more weeks of hard work and you and you can reap the rewards!

Run for your lives,

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Let's talk music...again

I know there are some purists out there who choose to run to the sound of their own breath and the rhythm of your feet. But many of us need to focus on something else and enjoy plugging in when we are plugging along.
Personally, I listen to podcasts or audiobooks during training. They are an easy to get lost in and can really help passing the time. I reserve my wicked playlists for race day. This way, at least in my mind, my favorite motivating tunes are fresh and fruity and get me all the more amped up when I need them the most.
Last year we had some great feed back on good songs to run to and I'd love to hear some new entries.
I'll admit that I'm still grooving along to a many of the same songs as last year, but  here are a few of my new favorites:
The Sound of Sunshine - Michael Franti
Gin and Juice - Phish
Us - Regina Spektor
Catch My Disease - Ben Lee
The new Vampire Weekend Album
Lover of the Light - Mumford & Sons
Ho Hey - Lumineers

Yep, my list is short and lame. Need more ideas?  Check this out:
Runner's World - Workout Music
Is there anything that Runner's World doesn't do? Gotta love 'em.

Some more music magic? There is an app called Cruise Control that will change the song to match your goal pace.
Whether you choose music or podcasts, also choose to unplug every once in a while and enjoy the sound of your own effort. It can be pretty magical too. 
Run for your lives,

Sunday, September 8, 2013

How to pace yourself on race day

You've done the work and logged the miles. Now race day is here and you are wondering how to pace yourself to ensure you have your best race. There are a number of strategies here and which one you choose depends a lot of your experience level.

Even Steven:
The Even Steven approach is to take a specific time goal and translate it to a per mile pace. On race day make every effort to run an even race and hit splits on target mile after mile. This can work very well for some people, especially those that have run many races before and can adjust well to changing conditions and know their bodies well.  There are a number of online tools that can help you calculate your splits if you want to go with this approach.
There is even a company who makes temporary tattoos so you can plaster your split times on your forearm!

Warm-up, Commute, and Race:
This three stage approach is better suited for newer racers and allows you to run by your body and effort on race day.  It works well because it can often be difficult to predict what race day will bring; you could be on or off, the weather could be favorable or horrific.  In this approach you divide the race into three sections. The first section is your Warm-up. In this stage you run the first 7 miles at a relatively easy, conversational effort. It would be the pace you would normally hold during your longer training runs.
In miles 8 - 12, dial things up a bit and start your Commute. You should be one level above your "happy zone." This would be your tempo pace from your training. You should be able to speak in one word increments. Mentally it can be very empowering to start to focus on specific racers and pass them one at a time. Think of it as a fishing expedition. Cast your line, hook a runner and start reeling!
Finally, you need to Race. This is the final stretch, the last 1.1 miles. Crank it up and run a hard, strong finish. Adrenaline is your best friend and will carry you through to a glorious finish. More experienced runners can use the Warm-up, Commute and Race strategy too, but should distribute more of their effort in the Commute and Race zones.

Run for your lives!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Following up interview with creator of The Oatmeal

For those of you who enjoy The Oatmeal comic, Runner's work just posted an interview with the creator.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Grrrrr...the lactic acid bear!

Whether you are beginning runner or a seasoned marathoner, the feeling of muscle soreness can be felt. Most people attribute muscle soreness due to lactate acid build-up. However, lactate acid build-up and soreness are only a small part of the equation and understanding the different causes of soreness can go a long way to preventing injuries.

Our muscles primarily produce energy in one of two ways: Aerobic (in the presence of oxygen) and Anaerobic (without oxygen). The body is constantly balancing and shifting between the two, but for simplicity sake, we can say that aerobic metabolism is used for sustainable activities like walking or jogging and anaerobic activities such as sprinting or weight lifting. At no time is the body exclusively using one form of metabolism.

When muscles need ever increasing energy for sprinting, the body cannot supply enough oxygen to the muscles in order to produce energy aerobically and therefore shifts more to anaerobic metabolism. A by-product of anaerobic metabolism is lactic acid. As more and more lactic acid builds, a burn can be felt in the working muscles until they can no longer contract and the activity must be stopped. The burning sensation is from lactic acid and this causes muscle failure. This is why we have limitations to our sprinting or how many times we can lift a weight. When the body begins absorbing the lactic acid, the burn goes away, and the activity can begin again. However, it takes several hours for all the lactic acid to fully be absorbed thus limiting contractile strength for hours. The soreness is temporary and does not cause muscle soreness following the activity.

Muscle soreness that is felt 24-72 hours after an activity is called, Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) and is caused by micro-tears to muscle fibers, not lactic acid. This often occurs with new activities or an increase in activity. The prevailing theory is that the body rebuilds these micro-tears and the muscle becomes stronger. The soreness should be mild and disappear in one to three days. However, one does not have to feel sore following a training session in order to get stronger. In fact, keeping DOMS to a minimum is the safer training strategy. If one increases activity too quickly or too intensely, larger tears in the muscles can occur which can often lead to injury.

Interested in learning more about the lactic acid burn? 
By the way...I personally use and endorse Extreme Endurance for managing recovery and buffering lactic acid. I get no kick back...but maybe I should!

Run for your lives,

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Midweek Motivation

A collection of quotes to give y'all a bit of motivation!

"We all have dreams, in order to make dreams come into reality, it takes an awful lot of determination, dedication, self-discipline and effort."

- Jesse Owens
Olympic gold-medalist runner

"I succeed on my own personal motivation, dedication, and commitment. My mindset is: If I'm not out there training, someone else is."

- Lynn Jennings
American long-distance runner

Winning is great, sure, but if you are really going to do something in life, the secret is learning how to lose."

- Wilma Rudolph
Olympic gold-medalist sprinter

"Running is a road to self-awareness and reliance-you can push yourself to extremes and learn the harsh reality of your physical and mental limitations or coast quietly down a solitary path watching the earth spin beneath your feet."

- Doris Brown Heritage
First woman to run sub 5-minute indoor mile

"To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift."

- Steve Prefontaine
Legendary long-distance runner who held seven American track records

"Some of the world's greatest feats were accomplished by people not smart enough to know they were impossible."

- Doug Larson
English gold-medalist runner

"Your body will argue that there is no justifiable reason to continue. Your only recourse is to call on your spirit, which fortunately functions independently of logic."

- Tim Noakes
Professor, runner in more than 70 marathon and ultra-distance events

"Remember, the feeling you get from a good run is far better than the feeling you get from sitting around wishing you were running."

- Sarah Condor

Got any of your own?

Run for your lives,

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Essential Strength Training for Runners

Last week I posted a response to a question I received about strength training. As I mentioned, it's a common misconception for runners to think they don't need to strength train. But adding strengthening exercises to your weekly regimen has a plethora of benefits, including reducing the chance of injury and making you a faster, more efficient runners.
Here are 10 exercises that you should only take you about 30 minutes. Try to do them twice a week if you have, but you can see benefits from doing the routine just once a week. However, try to avoid doing strength training on the same day you have a run scheduled. Both are what is known as eccentric muscle tearing activities and are best separated by 24 to 48 hours.
Do the exercises in order for 3 to 5 sets as time permits. Rest one minute between sets.  It's ideal if you can warm up with 5 to 10 minutes of light cardio and dynamic stretching.

1. Planks
This is a classic, right? Lie in a prone position and prop yourself up on the elbows with your feet slightly apart. Make sure your body is aligned, your abs are nice and tight and your shoulders are directly above your elbows. Hold this position for 45 seconds to 1 minute.

2. Russian Twist
Lie on your back with your upper legs perpendicular to the floor and your knees bent at 90-degrees. Without changing the bend in your hips or knees, lower your legs to the left side of your body while keeping your shoulders in contact with the floor. Lift them back to the starting position and repeat to the right side of your body. That's one repetition. Do 10-12 reps.

3. Scorpion
Get into pushup position but with your feet on a bench. Raise your right knee toward your left shoulder as you rotate your hips up and to the left as far as you can. Then reverse directions, rotating your hips up and to the right, and try to touch your right foot to the back of your left shoulder (you won't be able to do it). That's one repetition. Continue for 30 seconds with your right leg, then switch legs.

4. Back Extensions
Lie facedown on a stability ball with your feet spread wide for balance. Your elbows should be bent with your hands lightly touching the ground for initial support. Squeeze your glutes and lift your torso up until your body forms a straight line. As you lift your torso, allow your hands to come off the ground, keeping your elbows bent. Extend your arms overhead. Hold for one or two seconds. Release your arms and then your torso back down to the start position. That's one rep. Aim for 10-12. No stability ball? You can do the movement on an exercise mat: Raise your thighs and arms off the ground while your torso stays in contact with the ground. Do 10-12 reps.

5. Squats with overhead press
Hold a pair of dumbbells or a barbell with both hands in front of your chest. Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Push your hips back, and lower your body into a squat until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Press the weights above your head, and as you stand back up, return the weights to the original position. Do 10-12 reps.

6. Lunge
Another oldie but goodie! Step forward with your left leg, and lower your body until your front knee is bent to 90 degrees. returning to the starting position and repeat with the other leg. That is one rep. Do 10-12 reps.

7. Jacknife
Get into pushup position but instead of placing your feet on the floor, rest your shins on a stability ball. Pull the stability ball toward your chest by raising your hips and rounding your back as you roll the ball forward with your feet. Do 10-12 reps.

8. Hip extension
This is one of my personal favorites because you can really feel your glutes working! Butt burn is the best! Lie on your back on the floor, and place your calves on a stability ball. Extend your arms to your sides to help support and balance your body. Push your hips up so that your body forms a straight line from your shoulders to your knees. Without allowing your hips to sag (keep with your body at all times), roll the ball as close as you can to your hips by bending your knees and pulling your heels toward you. Do 8-10 reps.

9. Shoulder press with rotation
Hold a pair of dumbbells at arm's length in front of you, palms facing your thighs. Keeping your back naturally arched, bend at the hips and lower your torso until it's nearly parallel to the floor. Keep your arms straight as you bend your hips so that the dumbbells hang straight down [1]. Pull the dumbbell in your left hand by bending your elbow and raising your upper arm toward the middle of your back [2]. Lower and repeat with your right arm. That's one repetition. Guess 10-12 reps.

10. Row
Hold a pair of dumbbells at arm's length in front of you, palms facing your thighs. Keeping your back naturally arched, bend at the hips and lower your torso until it's nearly parallel to the floor. Keep your arms straight as you bend your hips so that the dumbbells hang straight down [1]. Pull the dumbbell in your left hand by bending your elbow and raising your upper arm toward the middle of your back [2]. Lower and repeat with your right arm. That's one repetition. Once again, 10-12 reps.

Now go admire yourself in the mirror.

Run for your lives,

Monday, August 19, 2013

Monday Quickie: Five Prerace Nutrition Mistakes

Here is a link to a recent post on Runner's World
Five Prerace Nutrition Mistakes

Some good stuff in here folks!
Run for your lives,

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Training Weeks 5 - 8

Four weeks checked off already and the countdown continues!
Last week you should have completed a 2 mile time trial to determine your training pace for speed work and tempo runs that play an important part in the rest of the plan. 
I'd love to consult each of you on the results of your time trial and your training paces, but clearly That's not possible. In lieu of the one-on-one, there are a number of good calculators online that will give you your training paces. 
This one from McMillian running is a great one; it's clean and simple. But there are also calculators from Runner's World and Cool Running

5K and 10K refer to your paces at each of those distances and race pace is your goal pace for the half marathon. Note that what the calculators give you are just a guideline. If you find that your 10K pace is either far too hard or too easy, make adjustments in 15 second increments. For example, if your time trial predicts a 10K pace of 7:45, but you're finding it hard to keep up, simply adjust it to 8:00 and see how that goes. 
With the addition of speed and tempo workouts and your long runs growing longer, you need to really take rest and recovery seriously. 
See this post on how to recover from last year's blog. 
And for those beginners out there, here are weeks 5 - 8 of the beginner's plan.
Run for your lives,

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Q&A: Why do I need to do strength training for my legs when I'm running so much?

Someone asked me the other day about how to incorporate upper body strength training into his running regimen. When I asked him why he only wanted upper body he said he didn't need to do his legs because he was already working them by running.  Cue cartoon eye bugging and dramatic gasp. This is a common misconception and entirely not the case. 
As runners, it's important to all major muscle groups, but it is particularly important to focus on the core (chest, shoulders, abdominals and back) and upper and lower leg muscles. 
Regular strength training can correct natural imbalances, such as differences in your left and right sides, unequal flexion and general overall strength. Strength training can also improve your overall form, making you run more efficiently for the long haul.  And, it should go without saying that correcting these issues can significant reduce your chance of injury. 
Plus, don't you want to avoid that dreaded skinny runner look?

In an upcoming post, I will give details on some great exercises and routines for runners. 

Run for your lives,

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Staying on track while away from home

First of all, sorry about that last post. I suppose some of you are blaming me for the decidedly nasty turn in the weather. In fairness, I had the idea for that post during one of those glorious 70+ degree days.  But if you need a scapegoat for the 180 turn from fair to downright awful, I can take it.

On a happier note, summer often marks a season of travel for many folks as they take advantage of school holidays and the like. While travel is obviously a great time, it can cause concern for those of you who may be trying to stick to a training or fitness regimen.
Here are a few tips to keep on track without unraveling your fitness while keeping your travel companions happy.

1. Modify your long run schedule – look ahead to the week of your vacation and see how you can modify the week ahead or week behind such that your travel week is a recovery or week of lesser mileage.
Here is an example:
Example planned long run schedule: 
Long Run: 10
Long Run: 11 miles
Long Run (vacation): 12 miles
Long Run: 8 miles
Long Run: 12 miles
Modified long run schedule: 
Long Run: 10
Long Run: 11
Long Run (vacation): 5 miles
Long Run: 12 miles
Long Run: 10 miles

2. Make is a recovery week – Consider the whole week of travel a maintenance or recovery week and focus on getting in 3 quality runs. Three runs of as short as 30 minutes is plenty to maintain your fitness and not lose ground in the overall scheme.

3. Run early – Try to run early in the morning while everyone is still sleeping or enjoying their morning coffee. You can check it off your list, run guilt free and still have the rest of the day to enjoy time with your family and friends. 

4. Keep in short and quick – Reduce the time of your runs but make them harder so you get the most bank for your buck!. For example:
30 minute ladder run – Repeat this cycle 2 times through
5 minutes easy
4 minutes moderate
3 minutes somewhat hard
2 minutes hard
1 minute very hard

5. Take advantage of playful cross training opportunities – swimming, water skiing, cycling, and more can all be fun family activities that get your heart pumping and contribute to your over all cardiovascular fitness.

6. Use your runs to explore your destination and scope out fun shops and restaurants that you can visit with your family later in the day.

Most importantly, have fun….you’re on vacation for crying out loud!

Run for your lives,

Friday, August 9, 2013

News flash: The most effective core exercises

I came across a recent study that looked at the most effective exercises for strengthening your core. I'm sure you're thinking it's got to be those awful planks or bicycle crunches, but those are both incorrect. In fact, I'd be willing to bet that very few of you would guess what the best exercises are.  The winners are (drum roll please)...

Wait for it...

I'm sure you're dying to know...

Is this getting old yet...

Alright, it's the squat and the deadlift! 

Surprised? I was. But the squat and the deadlift are both exceptional whole body exercises that engage all of the key muscles in your core. So, if they are not a part of your regular strength routine, they should be! Both of these, the dead lift especially, do require proper form to avoid injury and execute to their full benefit. 
See these links for videos on proper form and, if possible, do these in front of a mirror to check yourself. 
Run for your lives,

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Chill out!

I never would have foreseen the need to write a blog post on dealing with heat and keeping cool while training in Kodiak, but with multiple 70+ degree days it is seeming useful and necessary! Who would have thought?!
While those of us in the more northern latitudes don’t face the extreme heat and humidity as our southern neighbors, dangers of heat exposure can show up in temps below 60 degrees.  Interestingly, since we are not acclimatized to warmer temps, Alaskan may actually be more susceptible to heat related illnesses. 
So here are a few tips to beating the heat.
  1. Plan your runs for cooler times of the day, particularly in the morning.
  2. If you have a long run planned, opt for a series of shorter loops so that you can stash ice or water at your own personal aid station.
  3. Wear light colored and lose fitting clothing that wicks moisture away from the body (NO COTTON PLEASE!!). 
  4.  30 to 45 minutes before your run, drink a slushy. Mix water or sports drink with ice and blend in a blender. This will not only hydrate you but will also lower your core temperature so you start a bit ahead of the game going into a workout.
  5. Pay attention to what your body is telling you. If you feel dizzy, lightheaded or even chills. STOP RUNNING, seek shade and find the quickest way to cool yourself down. Jump in the ocean if you have to!
  6. Know that the heat may impact your ability to hit a certain pace. Save a tempo run or speed work for a cooler day. Your body and your brain will thank you. 
Run for your lives,

Monday, July 29, 2013

Gut Busting

There has been an awful lot of talk these days about gut health and food intolerances.  The health of your gut can play a critical role in just about every aspect of your life style...including (or maybe even especially) your ability to train for and recover from endurance events.  I'm linking here to a very interested post about how poor gut health comes about and how to fix it. Very good stuff in here. I hope it triggers some interesting conversation.  I hope it's not too far out there for ya'll! Enjoy!

Run for your lives,

Monday Quickie

Just wanted to share this article from Runner's World that I came across this morning.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Q&A: Translating road miles to trail miles

Merissa asks:   There are obvious benefits to trail running vs. road running, but I'm wondering what it really comes out to be. For example, is it better for your training to run 2 miles on the trail rather than 3 miles on the road? Even if your training schedule says 3 miles? And what are some of the best trails to run for shorter days?

Answer: Great question! If you know your general pace, translate the amount of time it would take you to run 3 miles on the road and run for that amount on a trail. For example, if you run a 9 minute mile, 3 miles would take you 27 minutes so run for 27 minutes on the trail. Alternatively, you can convert miles into minutes on the plan assuming a 10 minute mile pace. So, 3 miles would equal 30 minutes of running on road or trail!  

Trail running is a great way to train, especially if you are gearing up for a trail race or a race that won't be on asphalt such as Run The Rock. But, it is a different experience. Here is some additional information and tips for taking yourself off road!

1. Trail running improves your balance, coordination and strength. It also can help you work on your mental focus because it forces you to pay close attention to where you are running.
2. Your stride will likely be a little different than when you are running on the road since you will have to clear obstacles and lift your feet a little higher off the ground. Keep your eyes on the trail and look ahead about 3 feet so you can be prepare for what lies in front of you. 
3. As mentioned above, don't expect your trail pace to match your road pace. Terrain alone can be more challenging and cause you to slow down, in addition to rocks, logs, branches and other objects along the trail. 
4.  Running hills is difficult enough but can be extra challenging when you are off road. Take short, quick steps to shorten your stride on the up hills. When going down hill, do the opposite and lengthen your stride, but take quick steps. Keep your weight slightly forward and your arms a bit wider...this is almost like a controlled fall. 

To be honest, I don't run on trails very often so I'm not the best resource. I do enjoy the trails on Near Island, which have been worked on and expanded considerably in the past couple of years thanks to Island Trails Network. Ft. Abercrombie is another great trail option, as are the trails around Jack Lakes in Bells Flats.   Know of some great trails? Please share them in the comments and spread the word!

Run for your lives!

Friday, July 26, 2013

2013 Run the Rock Challenge

KMXT staffers, Brianna Gibbs and Merissa Koller Williams are taking on a little extra challenge for Run the
Rock this year -- even more than your average 13 miles. They are seeking people to sponsor their run.

For every mile they finish under 12 minutes, Gibbs and Koller are hoping to find people to donate a certain amount -- money which will end up in the hands of a local non-profit organization. For example, if you sponsor Gibbs for $1 per minute that she finishes under 156 minutes and she finishes in 130 minutes, then you would owe her non-profit $26.

And we challenge you to do the same! Whether you're a runner or a sponsor, you can contribute to your community. Plus, whoever raises the most money will win a one month unlimited membership to A Balanced Approach! Here's how you can participate as a runner:

#1: Register for a 10k or more at
#2: Download and print a pledge form here.
#3: Get out there and find sponsors!
#4: Train like crazy. Check out Bree's half marathon training schedule!
#5: After the race, collect your sponsorship dollars and bring the loot to KMXT. We'll tally it up and make sure it gets where it needs to go. And we'll see which organization received the most donations.

If you have any questions you can contact KMXT Volunteer Coordinator, Merissa at 486-3181 or

Sunday, July 21, 2013


Welcome back race fans!!
I am pleased to be returning as the official Run The Rock blogger.  As with last year, the coming weeks and months will feature blog posts designed to prepare you mentally and physically for the KMXT race events on October 12th.   This year's training plan is designed for a more intermediate runner, someone who has completed a few half-marathons before and is looking to improve his or her time. Still a beginner or looking to complete your first half? Not to worry. I will provide links to last year’s beginner plan. If you are planning to complete any of the other distances, because let’s not forget about the 5K, 10K and full marathon options, there will be plenty of advice here to help you as well.

Without further ado, here is the first of three four-week installments, for a total of 12 weeks of training, of the half-marathon plan. This plan is designed for the runner who has completed at least one half-marathon before and can currently run up to 8 miles. 
The first four weeks of the plan are pretty basic. Speed work and race pace efforts will be introduced in the next cycle.  All runs in this cycle should be done at an easy to moderate pace on a varied terrain. In week four you will notice a 6 mile run which includes a 2 mile time trial. The time trial should be done as follows:
Warm up thoroughly, slowly building your pace and getting your legs going. This should take 15 to 20 minutes.  Preferably on a track, run 2 miles at as hard of a pace as you can sustain for the full two miles and record your split. Cool down with easy jogging to complete the 6 miles for the day. The results from this time trial will be used to determine your target half marathon race pace, as well as your 5K and 10K race paces that you will use during speed work in the next phase. The time trial is not necessary if you already have a good sense of your training paces. 

Take rest days seriously.  Gains in training only occur during rest and recovery, so don't disregard it or think it is not important.  On cross-training days you are welcome to do anything except run! Biking, spin class, yoga, or strength training are all fantastic cross-training options. 

Questions and comments are always welcome! If you had any requests for blog topics, let's hear them. 
Run for your lives,