Monthly Archives: January 2015

21. strange and surprising fruit

Running tip #21

Years ago my artist friend, Julia, gave me what I thought at the time was a very strange gift … a tiny bottle of esseitial grapefruit oil from the Weaver Street market (a co-op, of course).


This was way before the whole aromatherapy craze, so I inquired, “Uhh, thank you?”  I had just finished my one and only marathon (the subject of another post, to be sure) and she explained, “It’s for your muscles.  For recovery.  Put several drops in your bath and soak that marathon soreness away,” which was hilarious coming from Julia because the longest workout she’d ever done in her life was a 3:00 ride on a stationary bike.  No, that does not read 3 HOURS;  it was actually only 3 MINUTES (“Without stopping!” she qualified, quite proud of her effort).  Haha.

Anyway, Julia may not be what the Germans call “sportive,” but she certainly is one hip chick who can take credit for today’s tip #21:  After hard wokouts, soak in a hot tub with 8-10 drops of the essential oil of grapefruit.

Interestingly, a recent article on 7-surprising-things-that-can-help-you-stop-worrying lists “smell a grapefruit” as number 2.  But please change number 5 to running – not walking – in the woods (unless you are Julia).

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22. Listen.

Running tip #22

You know how Claude Monet painted the same haystack in all four seasons?  monet

Well, I like to go to the same running spot in each of the seasons to not only see, but listen to the changes in winter-spring-summer-and-fall.  Here is Morgan Creek in January.  Running tip #22:  Listen.


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23. Thumbs up!

Running tip #23

Friday night means movie night in many households, so if you’re an inspirational sports movie buff like I am … and it’s too hard to wait a whole month for McFarland, USA to hit the box office … then for tip #23 I recommend UNC XC-man, Michael McGowan’s near-perfect film, Saint Ralph.  Available on Netflix and Amazon instant video.


For the under 12 set, parents you may want to ask your kids to refill the popcorn bowl during the pool scene.  But, other than that, this movie is a must-see for every running family – especially Catholic running families:

Father George Hibbert: All I have to do is hear your confession. Then I can absolve you of your sins, and guess who’s pure.

Ralph Walker: Father Hibbert, why didn’t I think of that earlier? I could have been sinning all along!




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24. Seedlings (don’t) turn overnight to sunflowers.

Running tip #24 – With speedwork and long run mileage, always apply gradual progress.

This morning I am headed over to have a reunion of sorts with a few of my cross-country teammates from college.  I remember well my first day of practice as a bubbly freshman on the beautiful campus at the University of North Carolina @ Chapel Hill.  I had come from a low-mileage running program in high school – one where all season long we worked up to a 7-mile run called “Thermal” – so when my new UNC coach assigned a ten-mile run for that very first day, well, let’s just say some of my freshman bubbles popped.  At around the 8 mile mark, I started crying. “I can’t make it.”

“Sure you can, Little Hot Rod,” my bold (cough cough) bossy! captain encouraged, dropping back to run with pitiful me.  And I did make it, eventually, through those last ridiculous 2 miles but it was so wrong to make a freshman run 10 miles without a gradual build-up.  ChiRunning explains:


For tips #25 and #26 I will share my simple formulas for speed and endurance adaption.

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25. 30/30’s

Running tip #25 …

A simple introduction to speed-work may be accomplished using a training concept I call thirty-thirties (30/30’s), also known as ins-and-outs.  When you have a running base of at least 3 miles a day (preferably 5 miles per day) for six weeks, introduce your first set of 30/30’s in the following way:

Warm up 20 minutes easy, then alternate running fast and jogging …. 30 seconds fast/30 seconds jog/30 seconds fast/30 seconds jog, etc. until you get to 6 total minutes. Cool down 15 minutes easy.

Over 6 weeks, the 30/30 progression looks like this:  6 sets, 8 sets, 10 sets, 12 sets, 16 sets, 20 sets.  For best results, pick the same day each week to do the 30/30s.

I created this workout series after a conversation I had with American miling great, Jim Spivey.


I may not be remembering it exactly, but Jim said when he was training in the midwest there were no hills so he had to come up with a way to simulate the speed and strength of a hill training phase.  There was a stretch of road with every 200m marked so, instead of hill repeats in the fall (like the rest of the world was doing),  he would run 200 fast/200 recovery X 20 every week.   I modified the workout to allow for progression and development with young runners.

Another thing I learned from Spivey was to yell, “All set?!” before beginning a workout.  My runners are supposed to answer by cheering, “You bet!”  This call-and-response also comes in handy on car trips with your family.

road-tripAll set?  You bet!


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26.) X + 5

Running tip #26

Today’s tip is introduced by Henry David Thoreau:  “Our life is frittered away by detail. An honest man has hardly need to count more than his ten fingers, or in extreme cases he may add his ten toes, and lump the rest. Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity!  I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand; instead of a million count half a dozen, and keep your accounts on your thumb nail.”

There are all sorts of theories about how to increase one’s mileage over the course of a season, most of which have to do with adding a certain number of miles each week to your long run while keeping detailed and thorough (haha, certainly NOT Thoreau) track of every mile covered.  Albeit colorful, many of these training plans are just too complicated for my taste:



So, I came up with what I think is a very simple formula for increasing your long run gradually (and safely) over 13 weeks.

Start with however many minutes you are able to run without stopping … say, 45 minutes.  That is your “X.”

X = 45 minutes.  I usually prescribe on week 1, “Establish your X.”

Then, using X as your starting point, add 5 minutes each week to X (“X + 5”).

  •  50 minutes on week 2
  • 55 minutes on week 3
  • 60 mintues on week 4
  • then drop down to your original X on week 5 (45 minutes), especially if you are racing over the week-end.
  • back up two X + 5’s because of ^ “down week” = 70 minutes on week 6
  • 75 minutes on week 7
  • 80 minutes on week 8
  • then drop down to 60 minutes on week 9, for absorption and injury prevention (or, again, for racing)
  • back up two X + 5’s b/c of  ^ “down week” = 90 minutes on week 10
  • here’s where I move up to X + 10 minutes for final 2 long runs … 100 minutes on week 11
  • 120 minutes (or 2 hours) on week 12
  • back down to 60 minutes on week 13 with 6o minutes as your new X for the rest of the year.

Geez … now that I see it written down, it sure doesn’t look that simple after all!

sorry Henry 🙁

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27. Why not?!

Running tip #27

My mother used to tell us kids, “Somebody has to be the best; why not you?” and though you might think this would put pressure on a 10, 12, 15 year-old (who could interpert her words to mean, “You MUST be the best.”), it did the opposite for me.  The conversation at the dinner table went something like this:

Me: “I ran the 600 in gym today.”

Mom: “How’d you do?”

Me: “Only Scott Kilmer beat me.”

Mom: “I bet you could catch him.”

Me: “Really?  You think so?”

Mom:  “Sure, somebody has to be the best.  Why not you?”  (mind you, my mother knew absolutely nothing about running at the time).  Then she would say, “pass the salt” or “elbows-off-the-table” and move right on to the next topic – with 4 children she had a lot of ground to cover – while I was left mulling over how to catch, and BEAT, Scott Kilmer … not because I had to, but because my mom planted the seed in my brain that it was possible.

I never did catch Scott Kilmer; he was way too fast and I was more interested in him catching me (gosh, was he cute!) but that didn’t matter.  My mother’s words gave me permission to try my hardest.  “Why not?!”  I still say to myself whenever I embark on a new project.  She also gave me permission not to be embarrassed by my effort … because trying hard makes your face red and your armpits sweat and sometimes you even grunt.

So, for tip #27 I say listen to my mother and don’t be afraid to try your hardest.

Why not?!

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28. The Cheater Peel.

Running tip #28

If you want to “feel” faster in order to potentially run faster in successive intervals, try using what my friend Jim refers to as “The Cheater Peel.”  Here’s how it works.  If, for example, you are doing 6 X 700m grass loops on a blustery day in January, you will likely be bundled up with hat, gloves, several under layers and maybe a vest.  On interval #1 you wear all your layers to work up an honest sweat, then for 2 and 3 you shed the vest.  Now, at the halfway point of the workout, you are really quite warm, so on interval #4 you jettison one of your long-sleeved shirts.  Each time you drop an article of clothing, you drop a second or two on your 700m time because you feel lighter (you are not actually that much lighter; you just think you are). On interval 5, toss your hat and gloves to the side mid-stride … and on your final effort (“The last one is the fast one!”) skin down to your jog bra or bare chest for the full Tarzan effect of The Cheater Peel.


Jim teased us for using The Cheater Peel because he didn’t need any fancy tricks to run fast;  he used good old-fashioned will-power to stay king of the cruise interval jungle.  No cheater peel required.


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29. a must read …

Running tip #29

I often say I love the Three R’s … reading, running, and ruminating.

Well, here’s a must-read for all three and for anyone who relishes a great chase scene:




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30. Mark my words.

Running tip #30


Whenever I buy a new pair of running shoes, I take out my Sharpie and mark the back with a “new” label while demoting my former new pair of shoes to “old.”  This is especially important if you tend to buy the same brand and model or if you purchase two pairs at a time that look exactly alike.  I have heard of some folks who write the date on the back to keep track of their number of miles run in a shoe before needing a new pair.  Nowadays, a new shoe lasts for about 300 miles before going “flat” compared to the good ‘ol days before planned obsolescence when you could wear a pair for at least 500 miles (through a 10 week summer of 50 miles a week) and often longer.

It is critical to injury prevention that you rotate your shoes properly.  I use my “new” pair for workouts and long runs (or any time I am forced to run on the road);  I use my “old” shoes for soft surface running on recovery days; and I use my old-OLD shoes for mud running 🙂



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