Corsa in montagna

It’s here! Or it’s almost here, at least. 2015 is just around the corner, and I couldn’t be more excited.

Sure, January 1st might be an arbitrary date when it comes to goal setting and resolutions, but I love having a day each year where I can at least pretend like I’m starting fresh. It’s a pre-set opportunity to reflect on the past year and make actionable plans for the next.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve already been busy making goals for the coming year. I have 100k and 100 mile race goals, goals for building my business, and goals for my wife and I to truly connect to our new town.

Here on Rock Creek Runner, one of our goals is to incorporate a fresh new, year-long theme that will drive everything we do on the site in 2015. What theme, you ask?

I’m calling it “A year of smart running choices.”

I want you (yes, I’m talking to you!) to join me in dedicating the year to making smart choices.

  • Smart choices with our training.
  • Smart choices with our racing.
  • Smart choices with our how we approach injuries and injury prevention.

Smart choices when it comes to every aspect of our running and training.

To prime us for a year of smart choices, I’ve put together a quick list of 15 easy choices we can start making today. By just incorporating a few from this list, you can kick off 2015 a smarter runner.

15 Smart Ways to Be A Better Runner

1) Embrace the Community

Community might just end up being the best training tool you have.

  • Join a local running group or club
  • Reach out to fellow trail runners to discover new trails
  • Find a regular running partner, and make sure to keep them happy

2) Set an “A” Race and Train Like Hell

Part of designing a smart running season is having a focal race to work towards the entire time. All secondary races will feed into that main A race goal. Check out my Trail Talk video on the subject here.

3) Start Doing the Strength Training You’ve Been Avoiding

I hate it, you probably hate it, but we both know that we have to do it. Quit skipping the post run strength and core routines and drills that help us grow stronger and prevent injury.

4) Train for and Run an Ultramarathon

Need a new challenge? Maybe just an excuse to build an enormous base? Run an ultra. It’ll change your life. Here are a few tips on how to get started:

5) Run Trails

It doesn’t matter if you live deep in the mountains or on a busy city block, most runners can find trails in their area without much trouble. Why is it a smart choice? For starters, trail running prevents injuries. But that’s just one reason. Here’s 42 more.

6) Treat Yourself to New Gear

Sometimes all you need is a new pair of sneakers or a sweet new GPS to get the motivation up and running. Don’t be afraid to treat yourself to new gear from time to time. If you aren’t sure what to get, start with this guide of essential gear for all trail runners.

7) Hire A Coach

No matter how experienced you are, sometimes you just need a fresh pair of eyes to examine your training, offer new techniques, and push you in ways you couldn’t push yourself.

Shameless plug here: If you’re looking for a coach, RCR offers a number of options.

8) Foam Roll Religiously

In my opinion, the single best thing a runner can do to recover smarter is to self massage. Foam roll or use your stick, it doesn’t matter to me, just do it.

9) Start Tracking Your Runs Every Day

Keeping a training log (and no, simply uploading your GPS data doesn’t count) is such a simple routine that can have a major impact on your training. Not convinced? Maybe this will help.

10) Focus on Your Breath

What if I were to tell you that how you breathe can lead to knee and hip injuries. Crazy right? Turns out it’s true.

I’ve been using Budd Coates’ technique for the past few months, and love what it has done to my stride.

11) Build A Strong Support Network to Help You Reach Your Goals

The tougher our goals get, the more likely we are to fail without support from family and friends. And also the more likely you are to piss them off if you don’t build that support ahead of time. Be smart about how you approach and build your support network. It’s a priceless tool.

12) Be Vulnerable

I’ve said it before, I love feeling vulnerable. Feeling vulnerable means I’m about to embark on something epic. If I succeed or fail, it doesn’t really matter. I put yourself out there.

When it comes to running, we need to feel vulnerable more often. Take chances and register for new races. Step out of your comfort zone and train with a new group. Whatever it may be, don’t be afraid of vulnerability.

13) Run Shorter Distance Races

Distance runners get caught up in distances. I know it happens to me all the time. I want to run long, I don’t want waste my time with the shorter stuff. But throughout 2014, I put that feeling aside and challenged myself with a few shorter distance races.

Learning a lot in the process.

14) Measure Your Training

I talked about tracking your training in #9, but measuring your strengths and weaknesses is different. Develop a base route to test yourself against regularly.

photo15) Have Fun!

This is maybe the most important one of all! No matter how hard you work, if you aren’t having fun it’s going to be hard to keep moving forward. Never forget why it is you’re out there, and have fun in the process.

It’s Time to Take Action

Most of the choices from this list are easy. Easy enough that brushing them aside to consider for later might be tempting. But January 1st is just around the corner, and your running goals don’t care if you believe in New Years resolutions or not.

They’re waiting on you to start taking smart steps that will help you be a better runner.

Pick a few choices from this list and start taking action today. Let’s bring in the new year by making smarter choices together.

DCIM100GOPRO

When something hasn’t changed for decades, and a company comes along claiming they suddenly know how to do it better, I’m usually a little skeptical.

Skepticism was my first reaction when I heard about the Altra Running Shoe company. All of Altra’s shoes follow a few main, unique philosophies:

  1. They are “Zero Drop,” meaning the heel and the forefoot are the same distance from the ground (Side Note: This has nothing to do with the minimalist craze. All of Altra’s shoes are fully cushioned as well).
  2. They utilize a “Foot Shaped” toe box. You have to really see it to fully understand, which you can do here. Basically instead of the toe-box cutting down on and compressing the toes, your toes can relax and spread out in a larger area.

Both of these philosophies go against the grain, and when made standard across the entire brand, the buzzwords had me a bit concerned.

I’ll be honest, it took me awhile to even consider giving Altra shoes a shot. It wasn’t until I received a free pair to test out as part of the Runner’s World Half and Festival a few months back, that I even put a pair on my feet. I should note here that I wasn’t required to write about the shoes, and will not receive any additional benefits for sharing my thoughts.

I chose the Olympus trail shoes for my trial, because at that point, I was running the majority of my miles in Hokas, and I thought the max cushioned Olympus would be a good option for comparison purposes. Over the course of 3 weeks leading up to the Runner’s World event, I put about 50 training miles on the shoes and wore them for all 35 miles of a 50k.

The cliff notes for this review would tell you that I really like these shoes. A lot. And after meeting with the owners in Bethlehem, hearing their story, and listening to the philosophy behind the shoe, I like them that much more.

But you don’t read blogs for the cliff notes, right? Let’s get down to the details.

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What I’m Looking For and How The Olympus Stands Up

Here are the 5 things I’m looking for in a shoe, and how the Altra Olympus shoes hold up.

1) Comfort

First things first, a shoe has to be comfortable. I want to slip my foot in and immediately feel like I can wear that shoe for several hours of running. The slightest discomfort will amplify over the miles, making a shoe not even worth trying.

How They Stand Up

If I were to tell you these were the most comfortable running shoes I have ever worn, I wouldn’t be exaggerating. They’re fantastic. A few things of note:

  • The toe box is where it’s at. It takes awhile for your toes to get use to all that extra room, but once they do, you can feel them relaxing and spreading out. It’s very freeing.
  • The max cushion in the Olympus gives the same “running on clouds” feel that that I loved in the Hokas.
  • My heel locks in perfectly in the back. No rubbing there.
  • My blister problem is gone for the first time since I started running ultras. It’s seriously amazing. Want to know how amazing? Check out this photo of my toes post MMT100 (warning: it’s gross).

Score: 5 out of 5

2) Grip

Running on dirty, muddy trails means you need a shoe with good grip. Slip-n-slides are for play time, not run time.

How a shoe’s lugs are designed will determine how well they cling to the trail. I want a trial shoe with good lugs.

How They Stand Up

The Olympus performs above average when gripping the trail. Aside from some super slick days where few shoes would hold up very well, I’ve had minimal issues with my feet not locking in to the terrain.

But I do have to mention an unfortunate issue I experienced during that recent 50k. I’m not sure it belongs in this section, but this is as good as any.

During the Comberland Trail 50k, we ran on a particularly wet course with major elevation gain (somewhere around 6000ft). The constant up and down in soaked shoes caused the insole to slide and bunch up in the toe box. That meant that not only were my feet sliding within the shoe, but my toes were being squashed by all the bunching. I had to remove my shoes twice to fix it.

I raised this issue with the owners, and they assured me they already knew of the problem, which only happens on courses exactly like the CT 50k, and that it would be fixed in the next model. I believe them.

I’ve worn these shoes at least 50 times since then, and have never had it happen again. But it’s important enough for me to mention in this review.

Because of that issue, I’m docking a few points in this section. What would have normally been a 4 out of 5 is being reduced.

Score: 2.5 out of 5

3) How The Shoe Affects My Stride

A shoe should create an atmosphere in which you are running at or near your natural stride.

Some heavy or high heel-to-toe drop shoes cause adjustments in your stride that aren’t natural. As much as traditional shoe companies like to say that can be a good thing, in my opinion anything different than what comes naturally is a harmful. A good shoe prevents those unwanted adjustments to your stride.

How They Stand Up

Another impressive showing in this section. For a long time I said that a 4mm heel-to-toe drop was what worked best for me. I no longer believe that. The Zero Drop technology works with my stride perfectly, and I’ve seen nothing but positive benefits from the way these shoes affect how I’m running.

The one caveat here is probably the max cushioning, which is something I chose myself (because I like it). That extra cushion does give your heel a bigger safety net to land first, which isn’t really a good thing.

But that’s a reflection on what I like, not on the shoe’s design. Altra even have a disclaimer about that in the shoe description, which I love.

Score: 4.5 out of 5

4) Durability

Trail running is tough on shoes. Sharp rocks slice through the upper, gnarly terrain eats away at the sole, and mud and dirt grind away at the seams. After just a few runs, it’s easy to tell if a company hasn’t designed the shoe properly for trails.

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How They Sand Up

With probably 150-200 miles on the shoes so far, I’m seeing very little ware. There is some slight separation between the upper and rubber side on one of the shoes, but that is of minimal concern. The soles look hardly worn, and the tip of the toe box, where I typically have the most trouble, is holding up nicely.

Score: 4 out of 5

5) Looks

Let’s be real for a minute. We’re all a little vain. If a shoe looks too goofy, I’m going to have a hard time wearing it. This is probably the least important rating, but one I’ve got to include.

How They Stand Up

Altra does a great job with design and color selection. They are sleek but don’t draw too much attention, exactly what I look for in a shoe.

Altra also does an incredible job at not making the max cushion in the Olympus, for example, look like moon shoes. Compare the Olympus to any Hoka, and you’ll see what I’m talking about.

The Foot Shaped toe box, however, throws things off. It just looks different than basically any other shoe out there. The benefits of that toe box significantly out-weigh the cons of appearance, of course, but it’s true. They look a little funny until you get used to them.

Score: 3 out of 5

Bonuses

One thing I absolutely love about the Olympus, and all Altra shoes for that matter, is that they include a few unique design features that add a lot of value. Here are the bonus features included with the Olympus:

1) A second top lace hole, like you’d see in many hiking boots. This allows the runner to adjust the lacing to fit their needs.

2) All shoes in their trail running line include the “Gaiter Trap“, a built in way to attach a shoe gaiter that keeps out rocks and trail debris. Brilliant idea.

Score: I wish I gave bonus points for these two things, but I can’t change the rules now.

Total Score: 19 out of 25

Why “Zero Drop” and “Foot Shaped” Aren’t Just Buzzwords

As you can probably tell from the scores, I’m a fan of the Olympus. To take that one step further, I’m a real believer in Altra shoes.

It’s been awhile since I discovered a brand and really believed that their products were better than most of what the competition has to offer..

That’s the way I feel about Altra.

Does this shoe have a few flaws and ways to improve? Of course. But how Altra is approaching their shoes and design is really exciting, and shines through the Olympus.

Now go get you a pair. You won’t regret it.

Calendar Contemporary Digital Device Concepts

Every year around this time, people start thinking about what the next year will bring.

They set big goals and ambitious resolutions. Big picture ideas.

Unsurprisingly, runners are no different. After-all, we have dreams too! I know I’ve set more than a few over the years:

  • I want to run a marathon
  • I want to run my first ultra
  • I want to run a 100 miler
  • I want to PR a half marathon

They are often grandiose and scary. But claiming them as your goal for the year simply isn’t enough!

You need to take action.

And when it comes to running, that usually means you need to actually plan out your race calendar for the season now, so that you can commit to the races you want to run and schedule your training.

With races filling up quicker than ever, it’s even more important to plan well in advance, before it’s too late.

In today’s video (the first installment of Trail Talk: Quick Tips…more on that later), I discuss the approach you should take when planning your race calendar.

Here’s a breakdown of the topics covered in today’s video:

  • Why it’s important to start planning your race calendar now
  • Having a focal point for each season
  • Using other races to build up and prepare for your main goal race

Introducing Trail Talk: Quick Tips

Last month I posted a 12 minute video on how to know if you’re ready to run an ultramarathon. Since video was a new format for me, I asked you guys for feedback and if it was something I should keep doing.

The response was overwhelmingly positive. You seem to really like video!

In the excitement of the moment, I committed to myself to put out a new full 10-15 minute video every two weeks. A week later, I realized my eyes were bigger than my virtual stomach, and that the time it takes for me to plan, produce, edit, and post an in-depth video that frequently just isn’t feasible for me to commit to at the moment.

So that’s when I got the idea for Quick Tips. A short (quick) video posted just to my YouTube channel every Thursday.

A weekly source of trail and ultra running advice delivered in 3 minutes or less.

Then once a month, I’ll follow those quick tips up with longer, more in-depth Trail Talk videos.

But here’s the deal, I’m not going to post each of these Quick Tips to the blog like I am this one. I made that decision, because I want to continue to produce great written content for those of you who prefer that format, without cluttering it up with too many videos.

If you want to receive the quick tips each week, you’ll have to check them out on the Tube. To make sure you don’t miss any, subscribe to my YouTube channel and you’ll receive a weekly notification when a video is posted each Thursday.

If you’re like me and have never subscribed to a YouTube channel before, it’s quick and easy, and even private if you want it to be. The only notifications you’ll get are automatic ones from YouTube when new Trail Talk videos are upload.

Enjoy today’s video, and I hope to see you over in YouTube! Now get to planning before it’s too late!

DCIM100GOPRO

I’ll just come out and say it. If you had asked me a few months ago if I thought Eddie Bauer made clothes I would want to run in, I probably would have chuckled and moved on to the next question. It just wasn’t a brand that came to mind when I thought of trail running.

So when they offered to send me a few winter items, described as being perfect for trail running, I was a bit surprised, but I also knew I had to give them a shot.

Before I go into all the details below, let me just say that Eddie Bauer threw me for a loop. In the best way possible. Which is why the Eddie Bauer Sandstone Soft Shell Jacket I’ll be reviewing below is my #1 choice for mid-weight running jackets this season.

And for the sake of full disclosure, I should also mention that this post is sponsored by Eddie Bauer in return for an honest review. All the thoughts are entirely mine, and their sponsorship has nothing to do with the fact that it’s now my favorite jacket (well, except that I would have never bothered to give it a shot otherwise, so thanks for that EB!).

What I look for in a running jacket

To put things into perspective, let’s start with what I look for in a running jacket. As I browse through a store or surf online, I’m looking for how a jacket holds up with the following traits:

1) Breathability: Cold weather running is all about regulating temperature. Too cold and you can’t ever get comfortable. Too much warmth, and you begin sweating, which will cool you back off. It’s a delicate dance we’ve all hand to tango. Breathability is crucial for regulating those temperature swings. How breathable is the fabric? Does it have air vents? These are the types of things I’m asking.

2) Flexibility: When you’re swinging your arms back and forth, moving (or stumbling) over rocks and roots, and huffing your way up a steep incline, you want a jacket that moves along with you instead of constricting your movements. Tightness around the chest constricts breathing. Tightness around the shoulders leaves you tight and puts stress on those muscles. The best jackets are ones you don’t know you’re wearing.

3) Wind Breaking: There’s simply nothing worse than a big gust of sub freezing wind, blowing through your damp clothes during a run. If you’ve had that bone chilling blast mid stride, then you know exactly what I’m talking about.

4) Good Pockets: This goes with any piece of running gear. You need to access what you want, and access it with ease. A good jacket is designed with nice pockets.

5) Compactability: If you want to shed a layer mid run, it’s nice to be able to pack it up tightly either around your waist or in a pack. How well does the jacket stuff or roll?

6) Color/Visibility: When choosing a running jacket, I want a product that will let me be seen without drawing attention. Electrifying neon greens are good for the first, but not the second. I just want to avoid cars or hunters, not look like a glow stick.

How the Eddie Bauer Sandstone Jacket Stands Up

eddie-bauer-jacketAccording to Eddie Bauer’s website, the Sandstone Jacket, which is part of their First Assent line, wasn’t designed specifically for running, but for “high-output activities.” Here’s part of their description:

Built by our guide team for high-output activities from alpine and rock climbing to trail running and cross training. Ultralight Flexion four-way stretch performance shell of nylon/spandex/polyester offers superior flexibility and breathability, and is wind- and water-resistant. StormRepel® durable water-repellent (DWR) finish beads water so it doesn’t soak into the fabric. Streamlined design eliminates bulk while allowing full range of motion.

So let’s see how it stands up as a running jacket:

1) Breathability: The first thing I noticed when I put this jacket on was that it didn’t have any vents, something I always look for in a running jacket. This is probably due to the fact that it isn’t designed just for running. But as I actually took it out for a spin, I was pleasantly surprised that it didn’t really need any vents. The fabric alone was breathable enough to vent out my heat and much of the dreaded moisture.

Score: 4 out of 5

2) Flexibility: This is where the Sandstone jacket really excels. In fact, I’d even say that I’ve never worn a jacket so stretchy. I presume it has to do with the mixture of fibers (78% nylon, 12% spandex, 10% polyester), but I don’t know enough about fabrics to say exactly what it is. What I do know is that you can literally pull the jacket and it stretches, only to bounce right back. This thing moves with your body, like I crave a beer after an ultra. In other words, a lot.

Score: 5 out of 5

3) Wind Breaking: It feels funny writing this on December 3rd, with my windows open… but just a few weeks ago we were experiencing 20 degree weather, high winds, and even some snow. I wore just this jacket with a long sleeve dry-fit shirt underneath, and was comfortable the whole time. When needed, the zip-up collar makes for a nice wind breaker around the neck, and as long as the pockets are closed, I felt no leaks.

Score: 4 out of 5

4) Good Pockets: If I were to talk to the designers about the biggest flaw, it would be the pockets. There isn’t really anything wrong with them, they could just be better. The Sandstone Jacket has two decent hand pockets, and a chest pocket designed for a phone. Unfortunately none of them are very tight or streamlined, which means there isn’t much I could put in them and not expect to bounce. I think this is the one place where it shows that this jacket wasn’t designed just for runners.

Score: 3 out of 5

eddie-bauer-jacket-size5) Compactability: The Sandstone jacket is a mid-weight jacket, not an ultra thin wind breaker, so it’s automatically going to be a little bulkier than some of the lighter jackets on the market. That said, it still scrunches up nicely, and can easily tie around the waist or be stuffed into a race vest. Check out the photo to the right, with a coffee mug for comparison.

Score: 4 out of 5

6) Color/Visibility: I absolutely love the burnt orange color of this jacket. While it also comes in a navy blue and black, I think the orange is the way it go. It’s bright enough to be seen on the road or the trail, but still mellow enough that I find myself grabbing it as a light jacket even when I’m not running. Now if only I could get it to quit smelling like I just went for a run…

Score: 5 out of 5

Final Thoughts, and Why I’m Recommending It

Overall, I’m crazy about this jacket. I have worn the Sandstone Jacket for nearly ever run that required a jacket since the day it arrived about 5 weeks ago. It’s the perfect weight for cool runs, and can be used as a top layer for the really cold adventures.

When I first read that it wasn’t designed specifically for running, I was a bit nervous. I typically wouldn’t purchase something unless it was just what I needed. But aside from the small pocket issue and maybe a back vent, there’s nothing I’d change in a “runner” version. And both of those things can be overlooked without compromise.

The total score comes to 25 out of 30. The best score of any jacket I have in my mid-weight arsenal.

So does this make me an Eddie Bauer convert? They certainly showed me up! I also had the opportunity to test out the Incendiary shirt and a pair of FluxPro gloves. Both also a part of the First Assent line, and both also solid pieces of gear.

All that’s to say that yes, Eddie Bauer will be on my list of brands to check out for gear in the future.

running on airForm, shoes, too many miles. These are all popular issues to blame when it comes to running injuries. But your latest injury might have nothing to do with any of those.

The simple act of breathing could be what’s actually causing that ankle, knee, hip, or other impact injury.

When I heard this, it seemed about as likely as me beating Killian Jornet up a mountain. What does breathe have to do with my knee?

I first picked up a copy of Budd Coate’s book Running on Air while in Bethlehem, PA for the Runner’s World Half and Festival, and the connection between breathe and injury wasn’t so obvious.

Apparently it wasn’t immediately obvious to Budd either. It took him years of injuries and setbacks to even consider that his breathing habits were to blame.

That weekend I thumbed through the book, but it wasn’t until he sat down with our group of bloggers to talk about what he calls rhythmic breathing that it really started to come together.

So today I wanted let you have a similar experience, by bringing Budd on for an interview.

Over the past few months I’ve been implementing his techniques, and I can say first hand that they are forcing me to make changes in the best possible ways. Budd knows his stuff, and his stuff is unique.

How Breathing Can Help You Run Better

Many of you may know Budd Coates from his work as an author and running coach at Runner’s World Magazine, or maybe because he’s a 3-time Olympic Trials qualifier. The man has helped countless runners overcome injury and go on to run stronger than ever.

In this 30+ minute interview, Budd gives us the actionable tools we can start using today to improve our technique.

Here are some of the topics we discuss:

  • The philosophy behind rhythmic breathing, and how it prevents injuries
  • Why breathing habits are harder for some runners to pick up
  • Challenges trail runners face with rhythmic breathing
  • How to transition effectively and with ease
  • The gender differences runners face when focusing on breathe

Right-click and “save link as” here to download the MP3 file.

Additional links for further information:

Today I’m going to breaking one of my own rules on Rock Creek Runner. Let me explain:

I don’t talk much about my diet on this blog, maybe nutrition as it pertains to running, but I purposely avoid making proclamations about diet on Rock Creek Runner.

Even still, many of you probably know I eat a plant-based (a.k.a. vegan) diet. About 5 years ago I went vegetarian, and over the past few years, gradually transitioned into a 100% plant-based diet. While I do completely believe my diet helps with my training and recovery, I like to keep the two separate on this blog.

Not so much outside Rock Creek Runner, where I work with Matt Frazier of No Meat Athlete on a number of projects including co-hosting No Meat Athlete Radio.

But I’m breaking that unspoken rule today because I want to share something I’m really excited to be part of.

The No Meat Athlete Fitness Bundle

NMABundle300pxNames02Matt (No Meat Athlete) approached me about an idea to bundle together a bunch of plant-based fitness, productivity, and cooking guides and offer them as a complete package. He thought Discover Your Ultramarathon would be a good fit for that bundle.

And I thought it was a brilliant idea.

It turns out I wasn’t the only one who thought it was a good idea, because people like Rich Roll, Jason Fitzgerald, Nicole Antoinette, Heather Crosby, and Jeff Sanders all signed on to be a part of the bundle. All of whom I follow faithfully.

In total, the No Meat Athlete Bundle includes 23 products, that cover a number of topics in the fitness, nutrition, and productivity realm. Training guides from 5k to marathon and ultramarathon, meal planning workbooks, goal setting guides, recipes books, productivity sheets, you name it, it’s included.

And it’s awesome. Here’s the full list:

  • Marathon Roadmap, Half Marathon Roadmap, Triathlon Roadmap, 5K
    Roadmap, and Wake Up, all by Matt Frazier.
  • Jai Release Meditation and Jai Seed eCookbook by Rich Roll
  • Run Your BQ Essentials by Jason Fitzgerald and Matt Frazier
  • Discover Your Ultramarathon by Doug Hay (that’s me!)
  • 3 Month Meal Plan from Heather Crosby
  • 28 Day Food Change Challenge by Nicole Antoinette
  • Body By Plants Bootcamp by Elena Wilkins
  • Conscious Evolution by Lyn Rose
  • Plant Based Diet 101 by Luke Jones
  • 7 Day Refresh by Christy Morgan
  • 47 Strategies by Jeff Sanders
  • Easy Everyday Tofu and We Love Quinoa by Nava Atlas
  • Mangia! and Don’t Have a Cow, Man by Patty Knutson
  • Eat Awesome by Paul Jarvis
  • Jacked on the Beanstalk by Samantha Shorkey

Don’t get confused. This isn’t just for vegans.

The information on training, healthy eating, and productivity and habit changes are relatable to anyone interested in health and fitness. Regardless of your diet.

All told, it’s $539.35 worth of products for a crazy low bundled price.

How it Works

From now (Black Friday) until Wednesday at 10am EST (that’s 5 days total), Matt is selling the bundle for only $97. That’s a steal.

During that time, all of the contributors (like me) are given individual links, and get a cut from any purchases made through our link. So basically if you’re interested in purchasing the bundle, by purchasing it through this link, you’re supporting me and the content on Rock Creek Runner!

Get the full bundle here.

A Special Bonus, Just For You

You could purchase the bundle through any of the contributors, so as a special thank you for choosing Rock Creek Runner, I’m offering two additional bonuses, on top of the 23 guides already included in the bundle, to the first 15 people who purchase through my link. Sweet!

Here are the bonuses:

1) Custom Training Plan for your next race ($39 value): Need a training plan for an upcoming race? I’ll design a 20 week plan for any distance from 5k to 50 miles. This can be redeemed anytime over the next year. No need to have a race in mind now.

hat2) The Brand New Rock Creek Runner Hat ($21 value): You’ll be one of the first to receive the brand new Rock Creek Runner hat. They just came in this week and I haven’t even had a chance to get them up on the blog yet. I’ll even ship it anywhere in the world.

Because of the nature of these bonuses, I have to limit the custom training plan bonus to 15 people, but hats will go out to anyone who purchases through Rock Creek Runner.

After making the purchase, just forward your receipt to doug@rockcreekrunner.com, and we can get started.

So thanks for letting me do something a little different today. Don’t worry, in just a few days I have another great post coming your way that has nothing to do with Black Friday or my diet.

Get all 23 Fitness, Productivity, and Cooking Guides ($539.35 value) plus the RCR only bonuses ($60 value) now for just $97. Offer ends December 3rd!

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Most goal setting experts agree that if you’re going to set and achieve a big goal, you need to live for that goal.

You need to obsess over that goal. Eat, drink, and breathe that goal. You need to be all in.

When I decided to run my first 100 mile ultramarathon, that’s exactly how I felt. I read race reports, studied course maps, worked and reworked my training. It’s all I wanted to talk about. Just ask my wife…

And because it’s all you eat, drink, and think about, other aspects of your life naturally get pushed aside.

If you’re focused on a running goal, time spent on the roads or trails means time away from family and friends. You might have to sacrifice family dinners, happy hours with friends, or lazy Saturday mornings.

And let’s be real, that sucks. For you, and for those around you.

No one wants their wife, husband, or friend to leave them high and dry. Which is often exactly what you (the runner) are doing. And exactly why a lot of the people who care for us the most, don’t always care for our running goals.

Building A Case for Support

Being the one man (or woman) sport that running is, it’s easy to pretend that you don’t really need extra support to succeed with running goals.

But while it might just be our own legs that move us forward, the reality is that running is really a team sport. We need the team to be supportive when training gets hard, hold us accountable if we want to quit, and celebrate when we’ve done something awesome. And often times on race day, we need the team for logistical support.

No one wants to go at a big goal alone. It’s more difficult, lonelier, and you’re less likely to succeed.

If you’re the only one invested in the goal, it’s easy to quit because you’re the only person who will be let down. When others have invested their time and energy into your success, it’s harder to let them down as well.

That’s why we need to get our loved ones on board. That’s why we need a network that we can count on.

Share Your Excitement

We all want our family and friends to be as excited about our next marathon, ultramarathon, or other big goal as we are.

But chances are, no matter how happy they are for us, they just aren’t going to feel the same drive we feel that leads us to train every single day. And why would they? They don’t get to experience the same highs and lows, they don’t get to cross the finish line.

Which is why it’s important to share, in detail, what it is about the goal that excites you most. Help them understand where you’re coming from, and why you want to do it in the first place. The more they understand your motives, the more invested they will be in your process.

When I’m about to share a new goal with my wife, I like to cover these 3 topics:

  1. What I hope to gain from this experience
  2. What is so appealing about this particular race or challenge
  3. Why I need to train for this type of race over another, shorter distance or less time consuming race, to achieve my desired experience

If you just go up to someone and say, “Hey! I just signed up for this ultramarathon that’s going to cost lots of money and take up all my weekday evenings and Saturday mornings for the next 20 weeks, and I want you to be super excited for me!” Chances are, you’re going to get a funny look.

Help your normal support group understand your motives, so that they can focus on that sweet reward as well.

Don’t Hide The Truth

When you’re all excited about a new event, and when you’re all fired up to share it with your loved ones, it’s easy to forget (or push aside) the truth.

The truth is that it’s going to be hard. It’s going to pull you down. It’s going to take up your time.

It’ll sometimes make you tired, cranky, and want to eat an entire day’s worth of food before lunch.

But most importantly, the truth is that you’re not the only who will be affected. By committing to a big race, you’re also committing your loved ones.

If you don’t address this from the beginning, those loved ones who want to support you the most are going to be surprised two months into training when all of a sudden you aren’t around to cook dinner.

And that initial excitement and support they so graciously provide you with in the beginning, will disappear.

So even though talking about the hard stuff is no fun, it’s important to be up front about it from the beginning. Again, here are the topics I cover when discussing a new race with my wife:

  1. What sacrifices I’m willing to take to have the experience
  2. What those sacrifices will mean for our day-to-day life
  3. What type of support I’m expecting from you

Supplement the Support

Even with the best support group around, and I think I’ve got it, sometimes I need a little something more. Usually, because I’m the only one in my family who runs ultras, I find what’s missing through support from someone else who actually runs and can fully relate to my ups and downs.

Here are places I’ve had luck finding support outside of my normal network:

  1. A running group or partner
  2. Blogs and online communities (never hesitate to email me, for example)
  3. New friends who share the same passion
  4. Other racers (post on the race’s Facebook page, or ask the race director if they know anyone that might be looking for a running partner)
  5. A coach

This isn’t a complete list, and you may already have a great group of running friends who always have your back. If you don’t, put yourself out there and explore trail running clubs or meet ups. Having this angle of support will be priceless.

Let Them Know You Care

It took me 32 hours to run this year’s Massanutten Mountain Trails 100. 32 hours.

And you know what else took 32 hours? Crewing me at the Massanutten Mountain Trails 100.

My wife, mother, father, and step mother followed me along that entire time. They tended to my feet, filled my bottles, fixed me food, and made sure my pacer was always taken care of.

They gave themselves completely to my desire to run up and down those mountains for 103 miles. And I will be eternally grateful.

And I know that if I ever want their support again (which I most certainly do), they need to see how much I appreciate that.

When you first told your support network what you wanted to take on, they also made the commitment (knowingly or not) to be there for you. Acknowledge the sacrifices they make throughout training and on race day. Also remind them that you know it’s not just you that’s putting effort into the race.

Even when you’re tired and sore, show them that you care. And when all else fails, flowers never hurt.

Finally, Give The Support Yourself

If you want to build a support network for when you need it, make sure you are that support network when others need it.

Because being a part of someone else succeeding at a massive goal is almost as incredible and inspiring as doing it yourself.

curious little bear in the forest

Last week, I found myself in a scary situation.

It’s around 11:00 on Tuesday morning, and I am a mile or so from my bike at the trailhead of a scarcely used trail not far from my home. This particular trail, which I often use as a connector to a larger trail loop, is just over 1 mile in length. And it’s steep.

To give you an idea of how steep, it usually takes me around 21 minutes to get to the top, and only 7 to get back down.

I’m just starting back down the steep stuff to round out a solid 6.5 mile effort, when all of a sudden I’m on the ground gasping for air.

I’m not entirely sure how it happens, but the combination of slippery leaves and my lack of attention have me flying off the trail and directly into a tree trunk.

My chest hits first, knocking my breath completely out. Leaving me searching for air.

As I sit up, it isn’t the scrapes and blood on my arms that have me worried, it’s the sharp pain in my ribs. It hurts. Bad.

A week later, I’m still unable to lay on my stomach or side without pain, and deep breaths and sneezing cause me to cringe. But each day is better, and I have no doubt I’ll be back to my normal self soon.

The experience shook me up. I’ve taken plenty of tumbles and finished runs with more than my share of bloody gashes, but I’ve never been injured to the point of being scared. I feel lucky this wasn’t any worse.

Fear and Trail Running

Fear is a big obstacle holding many runners back from running trails. And for those of us that aren’t fighting those fears on a daily basis, it’s experiences like this that remind us how quickly things can turn sour in the woods.

Just the other day I got an email from a woman asking my advice on how to address her fears:

I’m really scared of getting lost by myself! I don’t feel mentally prepared for it. I feel like I’d freak out.

Whether it’s fear of getting lost, injured, or mauled by a tiger, venturing out into the unknown of nature can be intimidating.

Fortunately, trail running doesn’t have to be scary. And it doesn’t have to be dangerous. We can take a number of safety precautions that all but eliminate those concerns.

Below I’ve outlined my 11 favorite. But they aren’t just my favorite. They’re also practical. These safety tips should be followed regularly, each and every time we hit the trail.

Safety Tips for Trail Runners

Tips for Running Smart

The first part of trail running safety is making sure that you remember basic running techniques.

1) Stay alert, even when you’re tired: It’s easy to get sloppy towards the end of a run. Your form goes, then your mind, and before you know it, you don’t even remember the last mile of trail. Stay alert and pay attention to the trail at all times.

2) Remember trail running basics: Lift your feet, be light in your step, take 3 steps when it could only take 2. These are the types of trail running basics that are easy to forget deep into a run.

3) Carry extra food and water: You never know how long a trail run is going to take you, and if you end up lost, injured, or stranded, a 2 hour run could turn into something much longer. Carry a little extra fuel and water or purification tablets just in case.

Tips for Safety for Running Alone

As much as I value running with a partner or group, the vast majority of my miles are logged by myself. When running alone, it’s important to take extra precautions that aren’t as necessary when you’re with another runner.

4) Know your route (or carry a map): Never head down a trail without knowing where you’re going or having some sort of directions on you. Trail systems can be tricky, so plan ahead before taking off.

5) Bring your cell phone: When out in the woods alone, carry your phone with you in case you need it.

If you don’t want to carry a pack, I recommend the UD Jurek Essentials belt or the SPIbelt for carrying small items like your phone and keys.

6) Tell someone where you’re going: Assuming you’ve planned ahead, leave a note for your husband, wife, or roommate, or even share where you plan to run ahead of time on social media. Let someone know where you’ll be and roughly when you plan to return.

So if you end up wrapped around a tree and unable to continue on, someone will know where to come looking.

7) Don’t run alone: I know, you like to run alone, but if you’re planning a big outing, especially if it’s on a new trail system, try not to go by yourself. Call up a friend or find someone from your running group to accompany you. It’ll probably be more fun anyway.

Tips for Wildlife and People

I’m often told that it isn’t the trails that scare runners the most, it’s the wildlife or other people that keep them from going out.

8) Know what the dangers are: Depending on where you live, you’ll face different dangers on the trails. Here in Western North Carolina, bears and snakes are our biggest wildlife predators. On D.C.’s trails of Rock Creek Park, other humans were probably a bigger concern than wildlife. Out west, you have mountain lions, bears, and all kinds of other rugged creatures.

Get to know what dangers your area faces, so you know what to keep an eye out for. Then prepare ahead of time by learning how to handle a wildlife (or human) encounter.

9) Wear bright colors during hunting season: Fall and winter often mean hunting season. Even though hunting is typically illegal in national parks, it’s often legal in national forests and other state land.

I’ve encountered enough hunters on the trail to now wear bright colors during hunting season. The last thing I want to do is find myself facing down a shotgun.

10) Stay alert and make noise: Wildlife typically attacks only when it feels threatened, and the quickest way to threaten an animal is to sneak up on it. Don’t be afraid to talk or make a little noise as you move down the trail, and stay alert enough to listen for noises yourself.

11) If you need to, carry protection: If you really don’t feel safe alone on your trails, or in extreme situations, don’t be afraid to carry protection. No, I’m not talking about a gun here. I’m talking about pepper spray or some other easily transportable form of protection you can stow away in your hydration pack or belt.

ready-to-run-ultra

If you’re thinking about running an ultramarathon, you’ve probably asked yourself this question:

Am I really ready to run 30+ miles?

I remember when I signed up for my first 50k. It was right after my second marathon and I thought I could conquer the world.

But as time passed and training weeks ticked by, I started drowning in doubt.

“A marathon is really hard!” I kept telling myself, “How are you going to run even further?

I had no idea if I was ready. And back then, I didn’t know anyone to ask.

The “Am I ready to run an ultramarathon?” question is probably the most asked question I get from readers. They love the idea of an ultra, but just don’t know if they’re ready.

And it’s because they don’t know, that many runners never sign up. They have too many doubts and are too scared to take the risk.

Today I’m going to attempt to answer that question for you. And hopefully reduce some of that fear.

Running an ultramarathon is big — crazy even — but it’s not something fear should ever hold you back from accomplishing.

To get started, you just need the confidence to know that you’re ready.

Introducing Trail Talk

This first video, on how to know if you’re ready for an ultra, is part of a new video series I’m launching today called Trail Talk. Every few weeks I’ll address a trail or ultra running related topic or question over video.

Video is new for me, but after watching all the great stuff people like Jason, Ethan, and Sage are doing, I decided it was too good a format for information sharing to keep avoiding. So here it goes nothing…

I’m the first to admit that I’m a little awkward in front of the camera. You’ll have to bear with me. Hopefully that will ware off over time. 🙂

Here’s the first edition of Trail Talk. I’d love to know what you think, so don’t hesitate to leave feedback in the comments. And of course, I also love to see comments related to the topic!

What’s discussed in today’s video:

  • Finding the drive and motivation for an ultramarathon goal
  • What endurance background is needed before running an ultra
  • Calculating your base mileage before training
  • How to run an ultramarathon and still have a life
  • Next steps for getting started

Additional RCR Resources:

Ready to take the next steps? Start with RCR’s free 10-part Trail Runner’s Cheat Sheet:

Send Me The Guide!

I hope you weren’t planning to get anything done this afternoon …

The #1 excuse I hear for why runners people fall behind on training isn’t lack of skill, speed, or strength.

It’s lack of motivation.

And I get it.

Running, whether you’re training for a big race, trying to lose weight, or just hoping to keep in shape, requires a lot of motivation. Day in. Day out.

Most of us find some of that motivation through race goals, running partners, enjoyment, accountability, and the trail, but sometimes even all that isn’t enough.

So what do I do when all else fails? I sit on the couch, grab a snack, and open my laptop.

Yup, if I feel lazy, tired, and unmotivated, my favorite trick isn’t to fight it, but to give in, fire up YouTube, and hit play on a trail running video …

A good trail running video leaves you itching for the dirt and fresh air. It gets the leg juices flowing, and has you salivating for adventure.

And when that happens, the only cure is a run.

Back in 2014 I first shared this post, with 12 of my favorite running videos at the time, but during the two and a half years since, several new videos have made my top list. Today I update this post with not 12, but 37 epic trail and mountain running videos to keep you motivated for hours.

To keep things simple, I’ve split them into three categories:

  1. A Runner’s Story — videos that highlight inspiring runners and their passion for the sport.
  2. The Appeal of the Mountains — also known as trail porn.
  3. Not Just Another Race Video — a collection of the most motivational race videos on the web.

All told it’s nearly seven hours of footage, so sit back, relax, and get your running shoes ready.

A Runner’s Story


Videos that highlight some of the most inspiring runners and their passion for the sport.

The Pleasure and the Pain

65-year-old Bay Area runner Errol “The Rocket” Jones knows running. He knows pain, dedication, and perseverance. This is his story.

Depression

The Grand Canyon Rim-Rim-Rim has gotten a lot of attention recently, and up until this summer, Rob Krar held the fastest known time (see Chasing Walmsley below). In this short film by Joel Wolpert, get a feel for what it’s like to run the Canyon, and follow Rob as he shares just a sliver of what inspires his running.

Why We Run

We all run for different reasons, but we’re all united by the run. This is one of my favorite Salomon Running TV episodes, which explores a few of the many things that make us runners tick.

Sarah Ridgway – Mountain Runner

“You can go anywhere and run. You can do it with anyone.”

Amen to that!

The Lion & The Gazelle

Joe Grant may be my favorite ultrarunner to follow. His way with written words (not featured in the film) and passion for the mountains keeps me mesmerized, and shines brightly through this epic Arc’teryx commercial leading up to the 2014 Hardrock 100.

The Running Connection

The appeal of mountain running (easy to understand in the beautiful San Juan mountains).

On the Road

Another Salomon Running TV episode, this time featuring Rickey Gates. Rickey lives a unique lifestyle, filled with travel and exploration. Running has become one of the many outlets that fuel his fire for adventure.

Curiosity

Is curiosity what motivates us to explore our world through running? This beautiful short film, shot mostly during the 2014 Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc, tries to answer that question.

The Musician

Ben Gibbard, the frontman for Death Cab for Cutie, loves to run trails. He even has a trail guide travel with him on tour. How cool is that?

15 Hours | with Ann Trason

Billy Yang’s 15 Hours follows the life of a runner for 15 hours. He kicked off the series with Brett Rivers and Anton Krupika, but I think this film with Ann Trason, 14 time winner of the Western States 100, captures her personality and spirit the best.

15 Hours | with Magdalena Boulet

On second thought, maybe this one is the best …

Trail Fighter

Do former MMA fighters make good ultrarunners? Apparently. This is the story of Kyle Dietz, a former MMA fighter training to compete at the RUT 50k.

The Teacher

Stevie Kremer is one of the world’s top trail runners … and a second grade teacher. In this Solomon Running TV episode, we get a peek inside Stevie’s life, how she balances teaching and running, and how they benefit each other.

The Appeal of the Mountains (aka Trail Porn)

The Crown Traverse

The Crown Traverse is a 600 mile route from Missula Montana to Banff, Alberta. Mike Foote and Mike Wolfe attempt the route on foot … and it’s wild.

The Ingenuous Choice

You know that anything featuring Anton Krupicka will have you drooling. The Ingenuous Choice is a reflection of the mountains and how they can heal us, featuring footage of Anton and others from the 2014 Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc.

Dakota Jones, Running Mountains

The line between mountain running and high alpine climbing grows blurrier by the year. In this video, Dakota talks about the appeal of moving quickly up high, and shares shots from a Mt. Rainier speed attempt.

Killian

It’s hard to argue against Kilian as the best mountain runner of all time, but his grace in the mountains doesn’t stop when the snow falls.

Into Patagonia

Another trip to the mountains with Dakota Jones, this time it’s his return trip to the Patagonia mountains, where the adventure is less about the run than it is the experience.

A Fine Line

This one makes my hands sweat. Follow Michael Tweedly — with incredibly dramatic areal views — as he runs up the Ben Nevis ridgeline in Scotland.

Down

Holy crap. That’s fast.

Mile for Mile

Transport yourself to the majestic Patagonia with ultrarunners Krissy Moehl, Jeff Browning and Luke Nelson, as they run through the newly developed park by Conservacion Patagonica. As an added bonus, the video also shows the incredible work that organization is achieving.

my addiction

Filmmaker and YouTube sensation Casey Neistat loves to run. It’s his addiction, and every runner can relate.

Fast and Light

Another brilliant film from Salomon Running TV, this time about the draw of moving quickly through the mountains, and the birth and growth of Sky Running.

The Joy of Running in a Beautiful Place

Enough said.

Not Just Another Race Video

MONT BLANC | CCC UTMB® 2015

The Nike Trail team went after it at Mont Blanc in 2015, and Billy Yang was there to capture the experience.

The Squamish 50/50

Ethan Newberry (aka The Ginger Runner)’s film from his attempt at The Squamish 50/50 — a 50 miler on Saturday and 50k on Sunday. It’s a neat documentary with lots of the twists and turns we all experience during races. He might not be an elite runner, but he’s a damn fun filmmaker.

Hardrunner

A fun, lighthearted look at the grit, determination, and spirit of exploration that goes into training for and running the Hardrock 100. Featuring appearances from Sébastien Chaigneau, Joe Grant, and many more.

Kroger’s Canteen

Kroger’s Canteen isn’t about a runner, instead it’s about an aid station — maybe the most famous aid station in ultra running — and the people and soul that makes it so unique. Kroger’s Canteen is perched on a tiny ledge at 13,100 feet along the Hardrock 100 course.

Miller VS Hawks

I think my favorite part about this film is hearing their breath and feeling the tension. This video perfectly captures the epic battle for first at the 2016 TNF Endurance Challenge in San Fransisco.

Western Time

There are countless highs and lows leading up to and during a 100 mile race, and in this short film, Billy Yang beautifully captures the story of Sally McRae’s 2014 Western States experience.

Thirty Hours

“I really like running, so I don’t really know about stopping. I’d like to run until the day I die.” – Wally Hesseltine

Thirty Hours, a short film that chronicles 72 year old Wally Hesseltine’s 2016 Western States 100 journey, came out about three months ago, but I find myself watching it again and again this month.

Chasing Walmsley

Every wondered what it’s like to run down the Grand Canyon faster than anyone else? Here’s your chance.

The Double

In 2016, Jeff Browning set out to break the combined time record of the Western States 100 and Hardrock 100. They’re scheduled just a few weeks apart.

Wonderland

On July 1st, 2015, Gary Robbins set out to break the Wonderland Trail’s fastest known time, and The Ginger Runner was there to document the journey. The burly 93 mile Wonderland Trail circumnavigates Mount Rainier, with more than 24,000 feet of elevation gain.

Skiing the Hardrock 100

The Hardrock 100 is one of the most iconic ultramarathons in the United States. What would it take to cover the 100 mile course in the dead of winter?

Racing the Darkness

Follow Sage Canaday’s 2016 Western States 100. Spoiler, it doesn’t go as planned.

The Beauty of the Irrational

Ryan Sandes of South Africa is one of those soft spoken runners you can’t help but love. In this film, The African Attachment documents his attempt to redeem himself against the jaw dropping Fish River Canyon.

If your favorite trail running short film wasn’t included, be sure to share it with everyone in the comments below.