Category Archives: Featured Runner

Q & A with Eric Orton – Elite Running Coach, Author and ZOZI Guru


EricOrton_Final_1000px

Photo Courtesy of ZOZI

 

Recently, I had the opportunity to do an interview with Eric Orton, who you may remember from the New York Time’s best selling book Born to Run. Eric is author to his new book The Cool Impossible and is an “Elite Guru” for ZOZI, a company that helps people live active lifestyles by connecting them to amazing experiences and outdoor gear. I first met Eric when he was on the Born to Run book tour with Christopher McDougall and Scott Jurek in 2011. I was so excited to get the chance to get a chance to ask him about his new book and his partnership with ZOZI! (Enter here to win Eric’s dream Nicaraguan adventure!)

SITNF:
Hi Eric! It’s so great to speak with you again. The last time I had the chance to talk with you was during the Born to Run tour when you stopped in Hattiesburg, MS for a run, speaking engagement and book signing in April 2011. (Read more about this.) Since that time, it looks as though you’ve been very busy! Tell me about your new book The Cool Impossible
ERIC:
It has actually been pretty crazy since day one of Born To Run and one of our best stops was Hattiesburg.  Running thru the city with some many runners was so great and everyone was so amped to have us there.  And now I am really excited about my book, which was released here in the US in hard copy last May and I am not preparing for the paperback launch scheduled for May 2014.
The nuts and bolts of the book is run strength, beginning with a foundation of foot strength. Foot strength is so important and an aspect of training no one thinks about.  Through my years as a coach, I have come to see that the health and performance of a runner is dictated by how well they use their feet and we can train this.  For example, a runner with flat feet can train and develop a natural stabilizing arch which then dictates how the legs and hips are stabilized while running. So two things are happening here, we are training the feet to be stronger and stable, and we are training the feet to promote better muscle activation and recruitment all the way up the leg to the hips/glutes. The great thing is these exercises are very potent but can be done anywhere with the use of very simple equipment and do not take very much time to perform. They work great as a pre-run warm-up.
 The book proceeds to run form and skill of technique that we all can gain something from to improve.  Combining feet strength and good form, we begin to develop what I call muscle equilibrium and when we get on this path we begin to alleviate the tug and pull on opposing muscles that causes the typical tightness most runners experience.  We should not be this tight as runners and we can strive for this and it doesn’t happen thru stretching.
The program then moves to run training with the use of heart rate and speed training zones.  I chart out a simple testing protocol for runners to perform so they can design their own personal training zones so they are always working and running at their own ability, it takes the guess work out of what to do.  With this I provide a two-phase foundational run program for runners to follow.
 Just as I feel there is a best way to strength train and run, I too believe there is a best way to eat and THINK.  So there is a nutrition chapter that ultimately is a challenge to readers to become the athlete they want to becoming and put some strategies into place.  This includes fueling strategies for training and racing, and also some coaching guidance to take their body to the next level.
 I picked the title, The Cool Impossible, because ultimately this book is a challenge.  I am a coach and it is my passion and mission to help runners become better than they think is possible and the final component to this is dealing with how we think that affects our actions.  I really believe there is a best way to think to perform our best and get out of life what we want.  This can be done just like a training program for say running, so I have spelled out a mind training program to follow to help become better and performing in running and life, and to set the reader on the path of developing their own cool impossible goal.
9780451416339_large_The_Cool_Impossible1SITNF:
2.Tell us about the company Zozi and your involvement with them?
ERIC:
I was fortunate enough to be one of the original ZOZI Gurus and now to be associated with the likes of Bear Grylls, Jimmy Chin and others, is truly humbling and an honor. ZOZI is all about adventure and living life to the fullest everyday and this is a very authentic way of being that we both share. I believe that running and Adventure travel brings people and cultures together and is truly a unifying force and this is what ZOZI wants people to experience on their own.  ZOZI is the catalyst and care takers of this adventure mindset and what life is all about. ZOZI is changing how people look at adventure and what is possible.  More importantly, ZOZI makes the everyday person believe they can experience and participate in epic adventures.  ZOZI is an adventure travel coach and guide.

SITNF:
3. What can you tell my readers about the shoes that you and your B2R team have developed?
ERIC:
B2R has had a road shoe out in the market now for about a year and we are now ready for follow this up with a new trail shoe, a casual moc, and a gym training shoe.  One of my goals in the over all design of the shoes was to have a shoe that fits the majority of foot types, wide, narrow and in between and we really nailed this.  We use a split toe design, separating the big toe from the other four toes.  This helps promote a very natural environment for the foot and also creates a unique fit because the shoe becomes part of your foot due to the wrapping of the upper from the split toe.  We also worked extremely hard on developing a really great last. The last is the 3D way it fits the foot – or essential how it feels.  Aside from the great performing characteristics of the shoe design, I feel we really nailed the last and how comfortable and natural the shoe fits.  We have had really great interest and feedback world-wide and I am look forward to the release of the 3 new shoes in February of 2014.  
SITNF:
4. I understand that you have an adventure trip to Nicaragua in the works. Can you tell my readers more about that?
ERIC:
I actually traveled to Nicaragua last February as an invited runner to the Fuego y Agua Ultramarathon race hosted on Ometepe Island.  This trip blew my mind.  I run mountains all the time, but this was my first exposure to running up a volcano that is still active.  Ometepe Island was like our own little Gilligan’s Island.  The food was eclectic, with many great restaurants and it was one of those situations where once you found that restaurant you liked, you kept going back night after night.  The chef recognizes you as well as all the help and it became “your” restaurant and island.
Having the ability to immerse in an island culture, eat amazing food, and be exposed to some of the most diverse terrain and landscape , running up volcanoes, with monkeys, thru jungles, and reenforced how adventure brings people and cultures together.  As part of the ZOZI 12 days of Adventure, we wanted to put together a similar adventure that I experienced in Nicaragua.  Nicaragua is so diverse and layered in culture, history, and unique landscapes that really provides a one of a kind experience.  This really speaks to what ZOZI is all about, finding those unique experiences that are a little out of the way but that are life enhancing to anyone.
Source: Courtesy of ZOZI

Source: Courtesy of ZOZI

 
SITNF:
5. Do you have any other running adventure trips on the horizon?
ERIC:
Well, I just got back from a 3 day Grand Canyon expedition and I am fortunate enough to live in Jackson Hole, where everyday is literally an adventure. Today I went for a long run and saw 4 bald eagles, a heard of bison, and traded howls with a pack of wolves.  For 2014, I am looking to attend a few of the new US Skyrunning race series and have a project set for the Wind River mountain range, and ultimately I am in the processes of trying to get to the Himalayas next Fall for a run expedition.
I am in the beginning stages of some secret projects in the UK and New Zealand, so as they say, stay tuned.
 
SITNF:
6. Have you had a chance to run lately with your Born to Run companions?
ERIC:
I actually had a great run with Chris McDougall this past Spring in Central Park.  He attended my NYC book launch that included a great group run prior to our talk, similar to what we did in Hattiesburg.  I have run with Scott Jurek a few times during Born To Run events and have seen Ted at various events and hope to see him in Seattle this Spring.  And, one day I plan to bug Billy over in Hawaii.
 
SITNF:
7. My husband and I do all of our long runs for marathon training together. We typically run at different paces when we run separately. (He’s really fast and I’m slow.) Because I’m slower, he obviously runs at my pace. I’ve always heard that it doesn’t matter how slow you run your long runs. Is this as effective if he does his shorter speed work and interval runs on his own?
ERIC:
I think this is OK early in the season for him to run slower on your long runs, but ultimately, as he approaches the last 8-10 weeks, it would be good to replace some of these longer runs with some race pace intensity to increase his strength/speed endurance.  But this is also something he could do with you.  After you warm up together, he could take off for 20-40 min and turn around and run back to you.  Or give you a head start and have him try and catch you.  You do not want to do a long race pace effort run every week, so I would mix it up.  Some runs, he does his own thing and others you two get creative by manipulated the challenge for each other.
During the early season when you are running together, it would also be good for both of you to do some 10-20 second fast efforts scattered throughout the run.  This helps develop leg speed and trains the neuromuscular path ways that are so important. AND, this could be an easy way for both of you to get in some quality while still remaining together.
 
SITNF:
8. Sometimes we get really tired of taking in the same fuel on our long runs. Do you have any suggestions that would shake things up for us or is there something that’s your go to snack?
ERIC:
In my book I talk a lot about sugar and how we might rely too much on sugar in general, but also in training.  So, something that you could really change up in the early season while you are building your long EASY run is to go without fueling.  Now this needs to be an easy run and you want to have something to eat before you start, but by limiting or not fueling at all during these build up long runs, you begin to train your body to utilize fat as fuel.  Fat is our best source of energy and this is something we can train our body’s to become more efficient burning fat as fuel.  
I would also try eating more good fats/protein before a run and see how this helps you need less during the long run and eventually when you do need fuel for the long run, look for a balanced approach that contains some fat/protein and carbs, not just heavy in the sugar.  I use PocketFuel for all my long runs when I need fuel and it gives me a satisfied feeling with sustained energy that lasts so much longer than sugar based products.  And once you get used to this feeling, you might notice that all of the sugar we normally take in when fueling, causes more bonking than a balanced approach.  I am not sure what you typically do, but you might also experiment with a variety of nuts and dried fruit.
 
SITNF:
9. My blog is made up of readers that are of all different skill levels. Do you have any suggestions for someone that’s just getting started as a new runner?
ERIC:
In The Cool Impossible, I start out by saying I believe at first, the mind follows a good body.  Sometimes we often hear it the other way around, where the body follows the mind.  But from my experience as a coach and athlete, it is hard to feel good about yourself mentally if you are not feeling good physically.  So, at first, the body must get strong and well and this promotes mental confidence and empowerment.  Through time, this starts to alter and as we become strong and capable physically, the mind takes over and leads the way. So my advice to new runners, first and foremost, is that running is good for us if done right.  Yes, it is a skill to be learned and one that we all can learn.  And, running can be fun and getting to the point in your running where YOU have the ability to manage your effort is the holy grail for new runners.  With this, I really think it is crucial for them to understand appropriate run intensity and effort.  This will help keep efforts as easy as possible when first starting so it stays enjoyable and something you gain power from, not torture.  This will promote consistency and will help running to be FUN – leading to that physical confidence I mention above. In fact all runners need to understand intensity for long-term improvement.  One simple way to understand what I mean by understand intensity and having the ability to manage your effort would be to go for a run and only breathe through your nose.  Run as easy as you can to achieve this and when the effort because too much where you can no longer breath only through your nose, stop and walk until you can resume running again.  Continue this pattern so you are only running when breathing through your nose.  Through time, you will improve your ability to run longer and longer nose breathing.  This keeps the effort manageable and helps the newbie’s body adjust easier to that initial phase of beginning running.  This will then help you be able to manage effort breathing normally thru your mouth.
 
SITNF:
10. Do you have any suggestions for the more advanced runners who have been running for a while and want to get faster but seem to have plateaued?
ERIC:
As a coach, I always look for what is missing when a runner is plateauing or when they simply just want to get better and faster.  With veteran runners, we tend to slowly slip into a routine of what we enjoy doing and what we are good at.  Where this becomes an issue is we stop challenging our body and ability.  So I would recommend to change it up.  If you are a marathoner, train specifically for a few 5k races.  Or on the opposite end, up your training volume if you have been keeping your weekly volume static for some time. But ultimately, to get faster, we need to get faster and this means we need to get faster running a mile in distance.  This mile time is a predictor of ability across the endurance spectrum and if you can improve your mile time, you will be faster at your chosen race distance.  And this mile time will also help you get a sense for your training paces at other distances and I have charted all of this out in my book.  Your mile test allows you to customize your program based on your own speed ability and takes the guess-work out of how fast to run for a given workout – which ultimately will really improve performance.
 
SITNF:
11. We really like using Chia Seeds since reading about them in Born to Run. Are there any other natural foods that you would recommend that boost your running performance?
ERIC:
I love chia as well and typically use it prior to running and as a recovery aid.  I think the key to any performance boost is consistency.  Just like in running, the more frequently we can run, the better we performance.  I think nutrition is the same way.  So to answer your question, I feel it is very important to avoid refine sugar and eat as clean and natural as possible on a daily basis. This consistency is what ultimately leads to high performance and all of the great athletes have a defined and structured philosophy of how they eat and fuel. So I suggest runners develop a day-to-day philosophy and strategy that works for them.  One of my sayings is, self-discipline is the ultimate form of performance, and I really believe this is true when it comes to nutrition.  
As I mentioned above, I would also look towards natural fat sources as a way to experiment with performance boosts.  At first, try eating more natural fats before your long runs and then look to add them during and see what happens…
 
SITNF:
12. How did you get your start in running?
ERIC:
I was an athlete very early on in life.  My primary sport growing up was actually football. I was a running back and played at the college level and also have a sprinting background which helped forge my run form philosophy and techniques.  After college I moved West to Colorado and became immersed in the endurance scene, racing bikes, running in the mountains, and racing ultras.  It was at this point when I first became aware of the Tarahumara Indians, when they ran in the Leadville 100.  So in some form or fashion, running is the one thing I have done most of my life, with my first memories way back in third grade field day races.
 
SITNF:
13. My readers come from all different climates and environments. Do you have suggestions that you’d like to share about how to deal with the different elements such as heat/humidity, cold/snow/, rain, high elevations, etc.?
ERIC:
I coach athletes around the world and they all bring diverse environmental challenges.  When it comes to heat, humidity and altitude challenges, always the best formula is to be as fit as possible.  This will always be the biggest help when you are training for a race in this environment when you might not be used to the challenges.  With this, you can certainly help yourself by getting as much experience in the heat or altitude as you can.  But again, put most of your energy to becoming as fit as you can without over training.
When I was training for my Nicaragua race, it was full-on winter here in Jackson and I was expecting to experience a 90-100 degree change in temperature.  To help prepare, I would visit the sauna as much as I could during the week to get my body used to sweating and being exposed to the heat.
When racing at altitude or in the heat, you will need to adjust your effort, especially early on as performance will be effected.  So, it is best to be patient and conservative and as the race develops, intuitively adjust based on your training experiences.  And of course, hydration will play a big roll both at altitude and heat.  Be sure to focus on getting in your electrolytes as your ability to hydrate is effected by your sodium intake, not the other way around.
When it comes to the cold, snow, and rain where the challenge is more mental, I feel it is super important to have run goals during this time or you will find a darn good excuse not to get out in the elements.  But if you have a good goal, one that has you motivated and maybe even a little fearful, this will help you get out the door consistently.
Another great tip for bad weather is to get creative and make an adventure out of your run.  Make sure you have good clothing to help combat the weather, and then get out in it and run some place new or run to breakfast or wake up in the middle of the night and throw a headlamp on and experience your neighborhood from a different perspective.  But ultimately, I believe the goal is the key.
 
SITNF:
14. How does a marathon runner begin making the transition from marathon runner to ultra runner?
ERIC:
It doesn’t take as much as you might think. I would tackle this by progression.  Start with a 50k or even a shorter trail race distance that might still take you as long or longer to complete than your road marathon time.  I would also focus on developing more run strength, which includes the foot and leg strength philosophy I discussed above and true run strength by performing hill sprints and getting on trails and hills as much as you can for long runs. 
The challenges of ultras become more about the mental perseverance AND managing nutrition and a good fueling strategy.  Many times a good day comes down to a good nutrition day and this is what is really different about making the jump in distance.  So with this, the best approach is to get out there and gain experience running longer. This can be done in training and in racing.  Make it a progression, start with a 50k and then go to a 50 miler, then on to 100k and so forth.  Progress your race distance just like you would progress your long run, a little at a time.  Thru this experience, you will gain more insight on what works nutritionally and at the same time training your body to adapt to longer running.  I would not recommend jumping right to the 100 milers.  Let your body adjust, you will have  a much better experience.
Another key difference is understand appropriate pacing and intensities for these longer distances.  Typically ultras are done on trails and on varied terrain and this presents a challenge in pacing.  So do a lot of training on similar terrain, always monitoring your effort and speed so you are gaining knowledge and do a lot of walking/trekking and power hiking.  This will really help you spend more time on your feet without over training and allow you to still train WELL during the week – this is key.  The big mistake people make is doing too many long runs, too fast and therefore, are too tired to do the other key, faster runs during the week. So they ultimately morph into running slower and really tired.  
 
SITNF:
15. What kind of strength training, if any, do you do?
ERIC:
I believe athletic foundation begins at the feet.  Our ability and health starts there and we must train this foundation. So I training my feet constantly thru unique exercises I have develop that also attack my entire leg strength and power.  I also perform 2-4 days of upper body strength that continues on the philosophy of training the body as one unit.  For example, the tightness in our pecs, effects how well we breath and use our arms during running.  We can develop this upper body muscle equilibrium just as we can with our lower body and it all effects how well we run, positively or negatively. I am also a climber, so I do a lot of bouldering at home and at the rock gym that also develops a lot of strength for me.
 
SITNF:
16. I find that as I transition into marathon training, I have lots of stiffness in my upper thoracic spine during my long runs. Are there any specific stretches or strengthening exercises that you might recommend to help with this?
ERIC:
My entire strength program will attack this, as it is so important. Many of the exercises I have developed, so it is hard to explain what to do because you will not recognize the name of the exercise.  But one good one that you might be what I call toes to chest, or piking your body with your feet/toes on a fit ball.  Simply get into a push up position with your toes positioned on top of a fit ball. In this position, pull your toes towards you while keeping your legs straight, butt high in the air (pike).  This will help develop the stability and strength in your upper back and shoulders, helping to take stress and tightness away from your pecs – which is causing the problem.
Also just laying face up on a fit ball extending your arms behind you to the floor and keeping your legs straight will help that area and it will feel good, but this will not address the problem, strength will.
Another thing to really work on is relaxing your upper body while you run.  Swing your arms BACK behind you more while you run. To help with this, perform short fast pick-ups during your long runs that force you to swing your arms for power – be relaxed but powerful.
 
SITNF:
17. Where is your favorite place to run?
ERIC:
Hands down, the Tetons.  They are so beautiful and so accessible.  The trails here in Jackson Hole are world-class that also offer great wildlife opportunities and the mountains make everyone a world-class photographer.  It is the true Wild West.  But having said that, I have traveled enough to know there are so many unique places to run. Another favorite in Moab and the Grand Canyon.
 
SITNF:
18. There’s no shortage of running gadgets out there. Do you use any of them and if you do, which do you recommend?
ERIC:
I am a big heart rate and GPS user for myself and all of my athletes. All of my workouts are designed either by heart rate or speed training zones, so this is the one piece of equipment I require. It is also a great way to learn and bring awareness to your running. To support my website, I have started to do more photo and video blogging so I now take a camera and GoPro wherever I run.  
 
SITNF:
19. Where’s the most exotic place you’ve ever run?
ERIC:
I would have to say Hong Kong and the Lantau Trail.  Having the contrast of a huge, huge megalopolis city and in the matter of a taxi ride you are out on amazing trails leading to the Big Buddha and monastery at the top of the mountain with views of the Island and water. Part of it for me was I just never imagined I would ever be running in Hong Kong, adding to this the history of the area and being so far removed from home really just makes this a very special place for me.
From a true adventure standpoint I have to say Nicaragua is right up there. Running there was so different than what I am used to.  I have never run up an active volcano before, or running with howling monkeys in the trees while navigating thru a jungle. There are not too many places like Nicaragua and that is pretty easy to travel to.
 
SITNF:
20. Do you ever take an extended break from running during the year to recharge your batteries (more than just a day or two)?
ERIC:
Oh yes, this is required to get stronger and come back rejuvenated physically and mentally. During Nov I will take about a month off and purposefully get a little reconditioned from running.  I also climb, bike and ski during the winter which gives me some diversity and keeps things fresh.
 
SITNF:
21. When you’re not running and going on exotic adventures, what do you like to do to relax?
ERIC:
As much as I love adventure, I am also very good at relaxing.  I am a big believer in developing goals with visualization techniques and also as a way to relax and use music to help with this.  I love to read and learn, so I always have 4-5 books going at a time, which now doesn’t sound too relaxing!!!
My daughter is a climber, so I do a lot of Daddy/daughter time training and climbing with her.  And of course, nothing gets much better than that morning espresso staring and dreaming out the window.
 
SITNF:
22. Do you ever run with music? Why or why not?
ERIC:
I enjoy music just as much as running, but I very rarely run with music. I am kind of a minimalist when it comes to this. I hate carrying much “stuff” and hate wearing ear buds, and ultimately I enjoy hearing nature and my surroundings.  If I lived in an urban setting, I might feel differently.
I use music when visualizing and establishing goals.
 
SITNF:
23. If you do run with music, what do you listen to?
ERIC:
Right now listening to Sinead O’Connor’s and Pearl Jam’s new music. The last Foo Fighter’s album is a must and always The Clash!
 
SITNF:
24. Some runners reward themselves after certain goals are met. Do you have any specific ways you “reward” yourself or is reaching a goal its on reward?
ERIC:
I really enjoy and get excited about creating a project and seeing it thru.  For me I sometimes enjoy this planning and the actually training more than the achievement itself.  Therefore my reward is to start another project and maybe a cold New Castle.
 
SITNF:
25. Do you have any tips on injury prevention?
ERIC:
Yes, foot strength.  It is so potent but so easy to do that doesn’t take time away from running.  It is the one thing that will be new to everyone and help prevent injuries and eliminate the tightness we experience as runners.   Working on run form will also help as will spending some runs in a natural or minimal shoe to help develop good muscle equilibrium and strength while running.  Run technique is the proper utilization of strength, therefore, every time we take a running step, we have the opportunity to layer on good strength and muscle usage.
 
SITNF:
26. Some people think that running is bad for your knees and causes arthritis even though recent studies show that running is actually good for your knees. What advice do you have for older runners that are just starting out and have some degree of arthritis in their knees.
ERIC:
Well, I would first say to be sure it is arthritis that you have.  I have talked with many people who say they have arthritis, but it is self diagnosed based on aches and pains they feel and assume is arthritis, but is not.  But if it is arthritis, this is the time where you really need to listen to your body and I would employ the philosophy of running less, but more often as the body allows.  Consistency is so important, and this frequency, not duration is the key.
But I also have to go back to foot strength, run form and good shoes.  The idea with all of this is to training your body to operate more efficiently, and this will help everyone.  The more you can recruit other muscles to help support the arthritic area the better.
If you are just starting out, I would really try and stay away from a built up shoe that has a lot of stability built in. This will not help the knees, look for a natural shoe to promotes stabilization at the feet, which will help stabilize the knees naturally and recruit other muscles to help out.
 
SITNF:
27. In your opinion, how much is too much as far as running goes?
ERIC:
I have done a lot of research on this based on historical records and for elites it has been shown that a weekly volume of 90-120 miles reaps the greatest return and anything beyond that is diminished returns.  For the age group runner, that is such a hard question to answer because everyone is so different. So I will answer it this way. I feel running begins to be too much when we are obviously injured often OR when running loses its appeal and it becomes something we feel we have to do, versus want to do.  Be aware of what you are doing, how you perform and if you start to see a drastic decline in performance physically or mentally, it might be good to take some time off.
 
SITNF:
28. Where is your dream location to run or have your already visited that place?
ERIC:
I really want to get to the Alps very soon to explore similar mountains to what I am used to hear in Jackson, but with the Euro flare.  And I am currently putting together a high alpine run project for the Himalayas, which would be that dream !!  And then on Mars.  Wouldn’t it be cool to be the first to run on Mars!?
 
SITNF:
30. What are your ideal running conditions?  What are your plans for the future?
ERIC:
I love running mountains, so my perfect day is starting out in the cool air with blue skies and following a canyon up high to a divide or to the summit peak, maybe with a little bit of a rock climb or scramble to wake up the brain to send the peak.
I have a lot of projects brewing that all revolves around my own “cool Impossible” mission of global running and one runner per household.  This goal is two-fold.  One, it is meant for me to lead by example of what the cool impossible really means, a huge goal and it doesn’t get much bigger than one runner per household.  I want runners and readers of The Cool Impossible to see my goal and understand it is not so much about the outcome, but the “cool” things and amazing things that come to us thru the process of living this cool impossible. Too many of us are stopped by fear because before we start a goal, we want to know what the outcome will be.  We ask, can I do it, what will happen, will I succeed?  Well, that is impossible to know until we live our goal day to day.  So, this need to know will stop us before we even start and our actions or lack of actions are being decided on something that is impossible to know.  
So yes, one runner per household.  My passion and mission in life is to use running as a vehicle to help people live the life THEY WANT.  When people are empowered to live the life they truly want, they eat better, they take care of their body, they treat others with respect and compassion, and become just a little bit more open-minded to other beliefs.  Thru running, we can create a healthier and better world.  And running is something most all of us can do.
Right now I am putting together a team to help me with this campaign and mission.  There is a great Ted Talk out there about starting a movement and the overriding point is when starting a movement, you need help and others to help carry the torch.  As a coach, it is sometimes hard to ask for help and it is tricky to find the right kind of help to keep this an authentic and organic movement. Right now my focus is on building my website community, continue to coach my athletes, and eventually encourage my fan base to become ambassadors for this global running movement.  I have a few projects brewing that hopefully will include a TV/digital media platform for my message.  And, I am in the process of putting together partners and sponsors to help me travel and show how adventurous running can be and give it a “face lift” to the general public.   
 
SITNF:
31. Any last words of advice/wisdom for my readers?
ERIC:
Yes, commit fully to your running in your own way.  Do it for yourself and give yourself the permission to do this.  Find balance with it in your life, but it is OK to do it for yourself. It is not selfish and if you allow this full commitment great things will happen that you would never ever dreamed might happen and you will become an inspiration to others and ultimately, this is the most selfless act.  Embrace the fear that comes with this, and see that fear is necessary to live your own personal way.  Fear is telling you, you are on the right path.  Trust the process and demand the impossible!
 
SITNF: Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions! I hope I’ll get the chance to run with you again sometime soon!
THANK YOU Gina – these were great questions and I hope I was not too long winded.
Thanks again – E

Eric and ZOZI are teaming up to give away a dream adventure trip to Nicaragua that he’s helped them to design so be sure to go to ZOZI’s site and enter to win!!! You don’t want to miss out on this adventure! 

Eric with my husband and me in 2011 on the Born to Run book tour.

Eric with my husband and me in 2011 on the Born to Run book tour.

You can also find Eric on: Facebook & Twitter

You can also connect with ZOZI on Facebook & Twitter

Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under Books, Featured Runner, Giveaways, Nutrition, Racing, Running

Spotlight On: Meggan Franks – Winner of the New Orleans Rock N Roll Marathon 2012


This  feature is on New Orleans Rock n Roll Marathon winner, Canadian native, Mississippi State University Alumni, wife/mom and fellow Rod’s Racers teammate, Meggan Franks. I first heard Meggan’s name after I’d finished the Rock n Roll Marathon and had gone back to our hotel. (Meggan was probably already packed up and on her way home by that time, lol!) Imagine our excitement and how proud we were when we heard that someone from our state was the female winner?!

Crossing the finish line at the Rock N Roll Marathon in New Orleans.

Meggan was gracious enough to answer some questions so we could get to know more about her.

Slow is the New Fast (SITNF): How long have you been running?

Meggan: I have been running since about 1998, I think. One of my friends in high school ran hurdles and I thought she looked beautiful doing it. She was running club track at the time, so I decided to run club track too. I was so shy, it took me almost a month to ask if I could go to practice with her.

SITNF: Your thoughts on being the number 1 rated female marathoner from Canada?

Meggan: Well it was great while it lasted! I survived a few months in the #1 spot. Athletics Canada has me ranked 6th but unofficially, I am not ranked that high. It’s ok though, I’m running a Fall marathon and …if everything goes as planned.. .I will run much faster than I did in the Spring.

SITNF: What brought you to Mississippi from Canada?

Meggan: Running brought me here. I was terrible at running until about 12th grade when I decided I wanted to run in college. I ran twice a day for about a year and contacted Mississippi State University about joining the team. The offered me a scholarship. I packed my bags, jumped on a plane, and started class in August 2001. I have been here ever since.

SITNF: Biggest race to date?

Meggan: I’ve ran a lot of big races but the most memorable one for me was winning the Rock’n’Roll New Orleans Marathon this past February in 2:49:06. Frank Shorter gave me my award….I kept the finish line tape. Every time I drag it out I get excited about running another marathon.

Meggan accepting her award from Frank Shorter and Rod Dixon

SITNF: Favorite running distance?

Meggan: 26.2 glorious miles!

SITNF: Most exciting running experience?

Meggan: Oh wow….this one is hard. I guess when I won my first marathon – Niagara Falls Marathon in 2011 (2:52:16). I couldn’t believe I was going to win, I was hyperventilating the last mile because I was so excited. There is a picture of me screaming as I crossed the finish line. I couldn’t help it!

Meggan crossing the finish line at the Niagara Falls Marathon

SITNF: I’ve only been running since 2010 but I have really struggled with being a faster runner. (Hence the blog name, Slow is the New Fast, lol) Do you have any suggestions for runners wanting to get better/faster?

Meggan: Congrats on sticking with it! I would try to incorporate some speed work, like tempos and intervals. I rarely run on the track, you don’t need a track to get fast. Find a marked loop and run intervals workouts, start short with 4X800m at goal 5k pace, and tempos of 3 miles. Work up to 8x800m and 6-8 miles of tempo. Tempo should be run at 10k-marathon pace depending on the length of the run. Also incorporate strides at the end of your regular distance runs, 4-6X100m at a pace you could hold for about 1 mile.

SITNF: What do you do as a part of Rod’s Racers?

Meggan: I run races as part of the Rod’s Racers team and I try to win as many as I can (haha, kidding). I also take pictures for the Rod’s Racers facebook when I get the chance. I have started the new Rod’s Racers blog. You can visit it at rodsracers.wordpress.com it is a work in progress but it’s going!

Meggan, representing Rod’s Racers at a local event.

SITNF: I know I have certain things I always do before a race and if I don’t, I feel very thrown off. Do you have any pre-race rituals?

Meggan: I usually start my warm-up about 50 minutes before the start. I usually run about 3 miles then stretch, take a GU and some water, then I go to the start line and do strides for about 15 minutes before the race starts. I always eat something the morning of a race, maybe a Luna bar and a banana or something like that.

SITNF: What you eat during the marathon?

Meggan: I am big on GU. I will take about 6-7 Gus during a marathon, I figure we only have 20 miles worth of glycogen so I am not going to hit the wall because I didn’t take in enough fuel! I like Blackberry and Tri-Berry Gu. I take fluid at every stop, too. I also take SaltStick, I take one every 30 minutes or so because I have dealt with cramping in the past. Take the SaltStick with water or you will throw up – just to warn anyone reading this!

Meggan running the Atlanta Half Marathon

SITNF: I have found that it can be hard to train like I need to (especially long distances) and juggle the responsibilities of being a mom. Do you have any difficulties in training for a marathon with a young child/how do you do it?

Meggan: Well, I have a treadmill and I have logged a lot of miles on it…last Saturday I did a 20 miler. It is very hard to balance being a mom and running 80-90 miles a week and working 40+ hours and some weeks I struggle. Running helps me prioritize and I really don’t have any other hobbies…and I love my job. My husband is a track coach at MSU so he travels a lot during the year making it even harder (me and my treadmill get along pretty well). I have a regular sitter on Saturday for my long runs, and I have a group I run with during the week…very early. I sometimes start my runs as early as 4:30am, most of the time at 4:45am. If I have to add miles in the evening I usually take the baby jogger out around the neighborhood. I will say that none of this would be possible if I didn’t have an extremely supportive husband who is also a fabulous father..and coach!

SITNF: Did you run while you were expecting?

Meggan: Yes I ran till the very end…except for the week 40 (I was overdue). I think it helped keep me strong and I was able to get back to running PRs in about 6 months. I was very careful not to run in hot weather and I took a lot of walking breaks. I also tried to keep things interesting by riding the trainer and power walking. I made sure I got an hour of activity every day.

Marathon mama, Meggan with her baby girl, Maddy.

SITNF: What are your goals/aspirations?

Meggan: I would like to run under 2:40 for the marathon someday. I want to run a big marathon like Chicago or Boston, too.

SITNF: Little known facts about you that you’d like to share?

Meggan: I have an addiction to Dove chocolate. When I am logging lots of miles I can go through 3-4 bags in a week. I can’t help it!

SITNF: What shoes do you wear for training and are they the same ones you race in?

MF: I wear the Brooks Launch for Training. I wear the Brooks Green Silence for racing.

SITNF: You are an inspiration to many of us runners. Do you have someone that you look to as your inspiration?

Meggan: I have a high school friend from Canada that I follow, she is my inspiration! I also follow most of the top Americans, and I have many friends through blogging that are much faster than I am, they help keep me training hard!

SITNF: I have to have music when I run. Do you ever use an Ipod? If so, what do you listen to?

Meggan: I have a Sony MP3 player that is wireless. I love it, I only paid $49 for it. I can’t stand cords. I need music too when I am running on the treadmill. I usually just listen to pop music or anything with a nice beat.

SITNF: What do you do when you aren’t running? (ex: family, church, work, volunteer work)

Meggan: Well I oversee the Maroon Volunteer Center at Mississippi State University, so yes you can say I take part in a lot of volunteering and volunteer projects! I also support my Track and Field Dawgs whenever I can!

SITNF: I clearly remember my first real run. (Mainly because it wasn’t that long ago, lol) What was your first running experience?

Meggan: I ran in my schools cross-country race in 5th grade without shoes. I ran without shoes when we ran during gym class in Elementary School. I think the race was 1 kilometer.

SITNF: What got you into running?

Meggan: When I started running club track in high school I was last in a lot of track races. I was determined to get faster and to stick with it.

SITNF: Where do you train (indoor/outdoors) and how often?

Meggan: I try to vary my hard sessions between the treadmill and a few hilly road loops. I only run inside if I don’t have a sitter or my husband is traveling. I run between 80-90 miles a week, mostly in 1 run per day. That means most mornings I log about 12 miles. My long run is usually between 16-21 miles. I also run with Boardtown runners (boardtownrunners.org) on Saturday…which is good because after my long runs I am hungry!

SITNF: Personally, I have a horrible time running here in the summer. I feel like I can’t breathe, so the winter is my favorite time to train. How has the Mississippi heat affected your training, if it has?

Meggan: Oh gosh, I know what you mean! It took me years to get used to it and I will always struggle, too. On long runs I usually take fluid every 3 miles and I take SaltStick too. These things help! I try not to run between the hours of 8:00AM and 6:00PM. My husband runs in the heat of the day and I tell him he is crazy!

SITNF: Do you have any suggestions for new runners?

Meggan: Keep running, no matter how slow you are or how out of shape you think you are. Join a running group if you can so that you have others to push you and share in your pain and suffering on the hard days.

Here are some of Meggan’s stats:

Life Time Bests

-1/2 Marathon: 1:19:01 (2012)-Marathon: 2:49:06 (2012)-3000m Steeple Chase: 10:46 (2005)-5000m: 16:59 (2003)-5k road: 17:26 (2012)

Recent Achievements:
-Niagara Falls International Marathon Women’s Champion 2011 (2:52:16)
-Rock ‘n’ Roll New Orleans Marathon Women’s Champion 2012 (2:49:06)
-6th at Canadian Half-Marathon Championships, 2012 (1:19:01)
-State of Mississippi Record Holder in the 5KM, 10KM, and Half-Marathon

2012

1.) UAB Invite 5k: 17:51 (1st)
2.)Frostbite Half-Marathon: 1:20:07 (1st) CR
3.) Mercedes Half-Marathon: 1:19:38 (2nd)
4.) Rock ‘n’ Rock New Orleans Marathon (1st) 2:49:06
5.) Killer Kudzo 5km: 18:01 (1st)
6.) Canadian Half-Marathon Champs: 1:19:01 (6th)
7.) Gum Tree 10k: 37:10 (8th)
8.) Red Hills Festival 5km: 17:26 (1st)
2011
1.)Frostbite Half Marathon: 1:27:29 (1st) (14 weeks postpartum)
2.) Germantown Half Marathon: 1:23:40 (1st) (5 months p.p.)

3.) Renaissance at Colony Park Half Marathon: 1:23:12 (1st)CR, SR, PR, (6 1/2 months p.p.)
4.) 2nd Annual Red Hills 5k, Louisville, MS: 17:48 (1st) (7 1/2 months p.p.)
5.) Manitoba Marathon, Winnipeg, Man.: 2:58.09 (2nd) (8 months p.p.)
6.) Oxford Endurance Weekend 3.3miler (1st) 18:44 (9 1/2 months p.p.)
7.) Ridgeland Run for St. Jude (1st) 18:10 (10 1/2 m p.p.)
8.) Atlanta 13.1 (3rd) 1:20:37 (11 1/2 m p.p.)
9.) Niagara Falls International Marathon (1st) 2:52:16 (1 year P.P)

Thanks again to Meggan for taking time to answer these questions for us!

If you’d like to keep up with what’s going on with Meggan and racing, you can follow her blog – Mom Against the Marathon.

7 Comments

Filed under Featured Runner, Racing, Running

Spotlight On: Rod Simmons


Rod Simmons

If you’re a runner or walker in Mississippi who makes the racing circuit, you’ve probably seen or at least heard of Rod’s Racers. It doesn’t take long to realize that if you need information or pictures of you or a loved one in a local race, Rod Simmons is the person to contact. The best thing about this is that it’s free for you!  A few months ago, I decided to spotlight runners or walkers from Mississippi that are making an impact in our running communities. The first person that came to my mind was Rod. He works hard to not only promote races but also the importance of being healthy and active. I also believe that through Rod’s Racers, he’s brought a sense of camaraderie among the racers. 

We met up with Rod at the Run for the Roses 5k Race in Prentiss back in April of this year. He is an extremely nice person who has an obvious love for this sport that only a runner/walker could understand. When he found out about my blog and Facebook page, he’s promoted it regularly amongst his many followers. Rod was also my right hand man when I began planning my first 5k race as a race director. He also was more than ready to advertise it for me when we were ready to promote it.

Rod was nice enough to stop and snap a picture with Jason and me.

I really appreciate him taking the time out of his extremely busy schedule to answer a few questions to help you get to know him and about Rod’s Racers.

1.)Tell us about your family and work. I know April is at a lot of the races taking pictures and I’ve seen her race before too!

April & I have been married for 14 yrs. Our daughter Roslyn is 12. I’ve been nursing at the University Of Ms Medical Center since 1995.

Rod with his wife April and a fellow racer at an event.

2.)How did you get started in running?

I started running in 1990 as a Sophomore at East Flora High School in Flora, Ms. I ran the 2 Mile for the track team that went on to finish the season as state champs that year.

3.)When did you start race walking?

I started race walking in February 2009 after a 19 yr layoff from high school. My doctor gave me 3 months to chang my lifestyle after having repeat high cholesterol.

Rod is also on the Board of Directors for Bike Walk Mississippi. (Click to visit link.)

4.) Race walking looks so difficult! Do you find it to be harder than running?

Race walking can be difficult. You have to be disciplined to be a walker.

5.)What’s your favorite distance?

I love doing 8k or greater.

6.) Do you have a favorite race that you look forward to every year?

I enjoy Run 2 Eat 5k in Hattiesburg, YMCA Cotton Classic in Greenville & 300 Oaks Road Race 10k in Greenwood.

7.)What’s your best and worst racing experience?

Best – When I PR’d in Oct 2009 with a finish time of 32:50.

Worst – Sept 3, 2011. At 1/4 mile into the race, I hit the wall. All of my energy was gone but I still finished 4th overall in the walk.

8.) What’s an average training week for you?

A training week varies based on my work schedule and the weather.

9.) Do you do any cross-training?

I ride a mountain bike, stationary bike, elliptical machine, dumbbells, and strength training.

10.) What is Rod’s Racers and how/when did you decide to form this group?

Rod’s Racers was started a year ago. We promote road races in Mississippi. I want to help promote small races and support the race directors. We are made up of 5 people: My wife April does photos, Tim Irvine and Evelyn Watkins, from Meridian, cover East Mississippi, Frank Barrett, from Laurel, covers South Mississippi and takes photos. I am the founder and cover Central and North Mississippi.

Evelyn Watkins, Tim Irvine and Rod Simmons of Rod's Racer's

Frank Barrett of Rod's Racers

11.)How can runners, walkers or race directors connect with Rod’s Racers?

They can visit in 3 ways: www.rodsracers-ms.net, www.facebook.com/rodsracers and www.twitter.com/rodsracers

12.) What are your goals for Rod’s Racers?

My goal is to create a chapter in each state to promote road races in those states.

13.) Approximately how many races do you/Rod’s Racers attend a year?

30 plus.

14.)If you could give someone advice that’s just starting out running or walking, what would you tell them?

Always consult your doctor before starting out to be sure you’re healthy.

Rod and his team do an outstanding job!  Click the link on his logo below or give him a call if you need him at your next event or would like it promoted!

4 Comments

Filed under Featured Runner, Racing, Running