July 14, 2014

Run or Die: 13 lessons I learned from Kilian Jornet

If anyone was surprised that Kilian Jornet won Hardrock 100 this weekend, it wasn't me. Ever since I read his book Run or Die, I've thought of him as a fiery ball of intensity, ready to blow the top off of anything that he attempts. At least that's the impression he gives in his book. 

If you're not super into reading, getting as far as the title will clue you in to his intensity. It seals the deal on his over-the-top-ness about running. Like my kids are with snacks. Probably a million times I have already heard on my current road trip (we are on day three) that some U10er is going to die if they don't get the z bar that they so desperately need/want. 


But Kilian's intensity isn't the a-hole, arrogant type of intensity, like the sort that Lance Armstrong emitted in It's Not About The Bike, which I read before he admitted to doping. Nope. Kilian's intensity is like the time you put Mentos in a bottle of Coke to impress all of your friends and the soon-to-be millions of viewers on youtube. It's an intensity that's directed, not missed by anyone in the vicinity, and worth trying to copy.

Kilian didn't just win Hardrock. He beat his nearest competitor by over two hours and set a new course record. So the lesson here is to do whatever you can to be like Kilian. 


Based on his book, I've collected a few ideas on what you're going to need to do to achieve being like him, i.e. a total wicked awesome unstoppable yolo legit off-the-chain sad-that-I'm-having-a-hard-time-extending-this-list-into-slang-from-this-decade champion.

Since 13 is my lucky number, here are my top 13 lessons from Kilian. 

1. Don't focus on the past. Make the best of the choices you made, but don't spend time worrying about the things you can't change. Missed three runs because you were sick last week. Oh well, move forward. This also applies to bigger things in life like marriage. You made your choice, now focus on making that choice work. 


2. Being addicted to signing up for races is OK. I am so guilty of over racing, but this made me feel better about it. Even the best are itching to test their limits over and over again. 


3. Discover energy cake. So now you're wondering what it is too, right. He mentions it several times in the book, and I'm sure something got lost in translation here because I have never come across energy cake in my life. But now I must have it. Someone help!


4. It doesn't matter how cool you are, you will accidentally choke on water during races. Don't you feel better about yourself now?


5. You be you. There are general running principles to consider, but your run can be great without being like someone else's. Just watch the Olympics to get a feel for that. People run differently and still kick butt. 


6. Follow your instincts. Which is great advice in racing because usually all powers of logic shut down around two-thirds of the way through any race. 



7. Don't worry if you get lost. Just pretend you are discovering a new part of the woods.


8. Eat, by gosh, eat! So I wouldn't really recommend eating five apple fritters and not exercising at all like I did today, but don't starve yourself. We need fuel! Especially that energy cake mentioned above. Seriously, who can tell me where to get that?


Eating and reading simultaneously is another solid option. 


9. Nobody likes to be held up by an injury. Runners can be the biggest bunch of fakers when it comes to injuries. "No, I'm totally fine. I'm sure it's nothing," as their left big toe falls off. 


You'll have to get the book to see what he decides to do for this one. 

10. Make your body an extension of the terrain. This is actually a really solid piece of advice that I use regularly when I'm running trails, especially downhill portions. Make yourself one with the land, and be bold with your moves. 



11. Music is good! 


12. Being creative can make you great. I like that he acknowledges that genetics aren't the only important thing in creating a champion.


13. Each race is its own work of art; find joy in creating it. So if you don't win one, no big deal. You'll have fun creating the next masterpiece. 


July 9, 2014

Standing Stone State Park: the family reunion edition

This week is all about the run. Why? Because last week was all about the family. Plus the couple of weeks before that were all about being sick and barely scraping by keeping up with my classes that I teach at the gym, much less adding in my personal running schedule. I am finally completely well and feeling like running like a mad woman every day. Part of that is panic that I have an 18-mile race coming up during one of the hottest months of the year in choking humidity of Alabama. And on a trail. Plus I am road tripping solo (parental-wise) with the kids for the next two weeks. This should be fun. 

But I am genuinely refreshed from having just returned home from a week away from everything technology and everyday life. This year, my husband's family reunion (biannual) was at Standing Stone State Park near Hilman, TN. Near because it is not actual in anything, other than the woods. One day I asked about the town 30 minutes away having a Wal-mart, and that question garnered a generous round of laughter. I'm still not sure where the nearest Wal-Mart is, but you can buy worms for fishing at the gas station that is 20 miles away. 


With ten kids plus all of their offspring, my husband's family requires a significant amount of space for gathering. Turns out that an entire state park does the trick. Some of us (my family included) stayed in the lodge that had 40 bunks in it, plus a common area and kitchen for the most important things that families do: eat and play games. 


Although those beds were some of the most uncomfortable I have ever slept on (not better than sleeping on the ground at a campsite), I loved the idea of all bunking together. It was a lot like camping, expect that I was much more nervous for my kids to touch the floor. Why is a giant mount of campsite dirt less scary than a really dirty lodge floor? Some questions are not meant to be answered. 

Other folks stayed in cabins that had anywhere from 8 to 16 beds each. Yes, we require a lot of space. 

Below are just the grandkids and great grandkids who were at the reunion. Picture taken with their grandpa in the middle. This picture slowly warms you up to the idea of how many people were actually there. Think 1/4+ more than pictured. 



Here's the schedule that keeps all those people from killing each other for a week. 


Food is obviously the highlight (and it was all so good that I couldn't stop eating for four days straight), but I like that they threw some running in there to appease me. We only completely skipped one of those runs, when we were so sore from lake swimming, playing soccer, and plank competitions that we could barely lift our arms parallel to the floor. Special thanks to my family members who acted like they wanted to run so that I would have to act like I wanted to run too.


The state park roads are the ideal path for runners: canopies of trees shading us from the blazing sun with a creek trickling just off the side of the road and no traffic for hours at a time. Perfection.

But even with that amazing backdrop, running seemed kind of unnecessary with all of the other activities we had going on. 

On the first day of the reunion, we spent half a day jumping into Dale Hollow Lake from the top floor of a pontoon boat. 

He'll be captain of the pontoon in no time.

The boat also had a slide. I'm not a huge boater, so maybe this is everyday stuff, but for me, it was so exciting to be out on a not-totally-disgusting lake (the water was really clear on the shallow ends!) with a slide, plus a roof from which we could do back and front flips, probably not condoned by the boat rental company.





We also had some family members who were cool enough to bring canoes and paddles so that we could canoe around the lake right beside the lodge. 



And my husband brought the project he has been meaning to get around to for three years: the mounted Spirit of America sidecar. Sidecars work much better with partners than they do hanging out solo in the corner of our garage. Those same roads that were perfect for running were also perfect for cruising around with the sidecar. Sidecar bikes are also ideal for students new to bike riding because it's impossible to drop the bike with a sidecar balancing it out. Who wants lessons?


Even with all the distractions, the best part of reunioning is catching up with everyone. You can't put it on a schedule -- well, I guess you technically could -- but talking and laughing is the most essential part of the reunion. Wait, maybe it ties with food.





Also with a state park comes trail running. I had been determined to run the trails the whole week but kept putting it off to eat more ice cream. On the final day of the reunion, I got up now fully determined to run the trails near the lake. "Fully determined" means that I ran a few miles on the road at 6:30 a.m. and then sat huddled in a sleeping bag and shivering by the lake trying to absorb sunlight for about four hours, swearing the whole time that at any moment I was going to get up and run more. What time did I actually go running? 5 p.m. The art of procrastination at its ... hold on, I need to go eat a sandwich. 

There was an 8-mile trail that I thought I would enjoy (you know, eventually), but when I finally made it out there, I discovered that it was very overgrown. At one point I was running through poison ivy taller than my knee socks on a virtually invisible trail on a hillside that was crumbling beneath my steps, so I turned around and decided to take the shorter but much more distinct and runner-friendly lake trail. 

I like trails that you can actually see! Makes it easier to get back to eat more ice cream.

There was still a ton of poison ivy on these trails, which made it feel like home.

Can you spot some poison ivy?

What I don't have at home is this sparkling lake view.


And also at home I wash my hair more than once a week. But, hey, it's vacation/camping, personal hygiene optional. 

We were loaded down for the ride home. In case you are wondering, and because it matters to my husband, we only trailered the sidecar home because my husband was riding home on another motorbike, which he rode up a few days prior to the reunion for a family bike trip to the Tail of the Dragon. He doesn't believe in trailering bikes in general. 


Stay tuned for part two of our summer road tripping: the Maine edition. 

July 1, 2014

Please help me, Hammer Perpetuem

Because of the nutrition problems I've been having at long races lately, I'm trying to find the magic pill. The beanstalk to my Jack. The Emergen-C to my summer cold. The Robin Williams to my Good Will Hunting Matt Damon. The Jay-Z to my Beyonce. I can't tell if these are gaining or losing strength.

So I'm looking into Hammer's Perpetuem and just ordered the Strawberry-Vanilla from Amazon.


According to their description, this is the product you want for long, slow endurance runs. Anything 3+ hours. I'm pretty much bonking or getting an upset stomach on anything over 30 miles, and since I'm not Rob Krar, that is definitely over three hours.

Here's what Hammer says:

What's in Perpetuem?Carbohydrates - As with all Hammer Nutrition fuels, no simple sugars are added to the carbohydrate profile. Perpetuem contains a specific maltodextrin, which provides nearly 87% of its caloric composition in long chain carbohydrates. Protein - A new calcium-enhanced soy protein isolate known as "XT" makes up nearly 10% of the caloric profile of Perpetuem, the same percentage as is cannibalized during long slow endurance workouts. This particular soy protein contains a very high amount of intact, cardiovascular-enhancing isoflavones. Fat - A de-oiled "super lecithin" (extracted from the soybean) is ideal for consistently and reliably fueling the body and maximizing energy production from stored fatty acids. Sweetener - Made from Energy Smart, the same healthy sweetener in Hammer Gel. One container has 16 servings of Perpetuem. It's ideal for workouts and races over 3 hours. Perpetuem comes in three flavors -- Cafe Latte, Orange Vanilla, Strawberry Vanilla, and Unflavored.

I'll follow up with a taste and effectiveness report, although it may be a few weeks before I run 3+ hours again. Because summer.

What keeps you trucking after three hours of running?

Do only insane people run that long in 1bazillion% humidity?

June 29, 2014

Foam roller easy reference charts

If you're looking for a quick reference chart for foam rolling, here's something I found at my chiropractor's office. I love that he's so pro foam roller and self therapy. 



Pretty sure I'm setting a record for the shortest blog post of Yo Momma history.

How many days a week do you foam roll? I try and fit it in at least twice a week. 

What keeps you interested in doing it? For some reason I can only foam roll when a friend is doing it with me. Otherwise, I just don't do it. 

Where did you find your foam roller? Here's mine!

June 27, 2014

What to do when you lose hope

After a water aerobics class a few weeks ago, one of my students came up to me to tell me her story. She has MS (multiple sclerosis) and shared that her health had been deteriorating while her pain level had been skyrocketing. But once she found the gumption to get in the pool and try exercising in the water, she experienced relief from the pain and felt better than she had in years.

While she was telling me her story, I teared up a little bit. Here's a lady who was at home, in pain, with no hope of getting better, but she found a way to push past her hopelessness and try something new. And the new worked for her. She now makes it a point to schedule her work and life around this new exercise regimen because she knows that it will make her more effective at everything else she does, or allow her to continue doing it at all.

For me, this is one of the joys of teaching a class like water aerobics. We get a lot of people who have given up on traditional forms of exercise or cannot physically handle land-based exercise, and the water saves them. Because of its buoyancy and reduced stress on the bones, it is easier on the joints, but that doesn't mean that it is easy. Ask Michael Phelps. Water can give you a solid workout. But seeing these people keep moving even though their other options are reduced by injury or illness gives me hope. 

Sometimes I wonder what would happen if I could never run again. If I injured myself beyond repair or if I got sick. What would I choose to do? Cry? Probably some, or a lot if I started Netflixing Life Is Beautiful or Marley & Me. But I hope, hope, hope that I would not let it get me down permanently. That after the sadness, I would pick myself up and find a new path.

For those of you who are reading this who haven't found your path, keep searching, keep digging, keep pushing forward.

You are capable of more than you know. Choose a goal that seems right for you and strive to be the best, however hard the path. Aim high. Behave honorably. Prepare to be alone at times, and to endure failure. Persist! The world needs all you can give.
E. O. Wilson