Author Archives: joannesbitmabe

10. Sage advice

Running tip #10

While I was running on my home trails yesterday, I wasn’t feeling the usual benefit of “soft surface” under my feet. In fact, the ground felt more like a road than a trail, despite the Carolina pine needle cushioning.  I thought maybe it was an old pair of shoes making my foot-pads sore, but then I realized, “Duh!” the earth is frozen.  It’s been proven that running on the road produces a gazillion more pounds of pressure on your body than dirt or grass or a rubber track. explains:

“Throw a golf ball at your driveway.  What happens?  That’s right; it takes off into the atmosphere.  Now throw that same golf ball at your front lawn with the same velocity.  Where did it go?  Yep, it’s still there on the ground, where the grass has absorbed most of the impact.  Now imagine that golf ball is your body and the above process gets repeated a couple thousand times over the course of a 5-mile run.” (June, 2014)

When your beloved trails harden (their hearts) to you in wintertime, to avoid injury I advise considering Benjamin Franklin’s enduring dictum : An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.  Make a preemptive strike on that impact-induced injury by choosing a swim over a run in the middle of the week.  Most indoor pools have a single-pass swim fee and you can easily check the open swim hours on the internet.  Your feet will thank you, even if your greening hair won’t.



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11. Go to church on Sunday.

Running tip #11

Some runs are sacred.  A former athlete of mine from the Carrboro Athletics Club referred to his Sunday long runs as “the church of the trail” because he understood what can, and often does, happen when you go to the sanctuary of the forest early on a Sunday morning.  It’s meditative to commune with nature when you run alone, but when you share the space with a loved one it becomes … well, for want of a better word … holy.  One of the reasons I enjoy the holidays (the Holy Days) is because my oldest daughter returns from college for almost a month and we get to run together “from the red gate.”  The trees serve as our cathedral; our choir is the birds; our congregation the deer (with the squirrels rustling distractingly in their “pews”)  and our fellow parishioners nod their runner version of “peace be with you” when we pass each other on the trail.  I love my church and I am thankful my daughter shares my faith.

Remember the old Wedding Song from the 70’s that was played soulfully with acoustic guitars at every groovy outdoor wedding?

Oh the marriage of your spirits here has caused Him to remain

For whenever two or more of you are gathered in His name

There is Love, there is Love.

Well, it’s 2015 now so that pronoun needs to be updated.

For whenever two or more of you are gathered in his/her/it’s name,                  there is love.


Peace be with you.

And also with you.


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12. “B” wise.

Running tip #12

Let’s get down to some nitty gritty.  The shortest distance between two points is a straight line, yes?  So, before you set off on your fitness journey you must first decide where it is you want to go.  Point A is where you are now. Point B is where you hope to be 13 weeks from now.   Like the wise men, you must locate the star before you can find your way to Bethlehem.  Is your goal to run 3 miles without stopping (a la Mizz Frances)?  Is it to to exercise 30 minutes 5 days a week for aerobic health?  Do you want to run the mile in under 5:00 or qualify for Boston in the marathon?  Choose your goal, then count back 13 weeks from that date for your first workout on a Monday. If your “Bethlehem” is The Tarheel 10-miler, for instance, on April 18th, you should do your first “real” workout on Monday, January 18th to get the necessary 3 full months of training in.   I do not mention “13 weeks” arbitrarily.  Throughout my racing career, I adhered to the concept of periodization in training; 13 weeks is exactly one season (52 weeks in a year).  Each season was dedicated to a different element of my year-round training and racing plan: summer was mileage-focused, fall was for hills/ strength, winter was speed endurance, and spring was for race-pace intervals and racing. I had two peaks a year: one for cross-country and one for track.  However, for the purposes of this post (running tip #12), let’s just look at one 13-week segment.  Pick your point B.


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13. long run love

Running tip #13


I don’t know of anyone else who does this, but I like to stash a thermos of hot cocoa at the halfway point of a long run in the dead of winter (complete with marshmallows or – my favorite – whipped cream!) to help me get through the bitterest of gnarly-bob days.  I’m a low mileage gal, so a long run for me is only 70 minutes … but, even so, imagine how delicious that hot, creamy beverage tastes after 35 minutes of sleety, slushy, feet-soaked, hands-icy, chilled-to-the-bone running.  I can tell you, it tastes like heaven!  Hard core runners will argue this is a silly, unnecessary indulgence and I may have said the same thing back in my “Go for it!” days … but as I age in this sport I find myself returning to simple pleasures.

Try it on your next long run, but don’t forget to stash enough mugs (ceramic, not disposable) for your friends.  You’ll love it, I promise.

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14. Don’t be a fancy cat.

Running tip #14

Cross Country: Nike Cross Nationals

When you’re in a cross-country or trail race and you approach a puddle, don’t join the majority of people who slow down and try to tiptoe around the perimeter like a finicky cat.  You’re wasting valuable time and momentum when you do this … and, let’s face it, eventually your feet are going to get soaked anyway.   Just plow straight through the middle with a “whole” foot strike.   Toe runners, mid-foot, and heel-strikers all must learn to use their whole foot like a snowshoe for proper puddle-running technique.  Imagine your foot as a bike tire trying to maneuver in the muddy muck; a thin, road-bike tire is going to slip and slide but a mountain-bike tire (with much more surface area) will be able to grip and push off the ground with greater power & efficiency.


Of course, if you just got a brand new $150.00 pair of shoes and you don’t want to get them dirty … go ahead and tiptoe.



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15. “Why should I practice running slow?”

Running tip #15

My mention of snowshoes yesterday brings to mind a hero of mine, Czechoslovakian triple-gold medalist from 1952, Emil Zatopek.  Track history buffs credit him with pioneering the use of “intervals” in training and track geeks the world over admire his capacity for grueling self-punishment (sick, I know).  I became a Zatopek fan after I heard the story of him doing 10-mile cross-country morning runs through the snow in snowshoes with his wife on his back.  Yep, you read that correctly.  He ran with his wife on his back!  Now, obviously, my tip of the day is NOT to run with your wife (or your husband) on your back, but this:  be innovative in your training.  If you want to run fast or fastER, figure out a way to do it.


(attention, running geeks … click on the video from ^ link)

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16. Night moves.


Running tip #16


With daylight in short supply throughout these winter months, sometimes your daily run perforce becomes a nightly run.  For those necessary nocturnal excursions, I suggest investing in a high quality head lamp to illuminate your perambulations.  Haha, can you tell I’ve been reading Thomas Wolfe?

In simpler terms, when I have to run in the dark I use the no-frills Petzl Tikkina headlamp.  It’s very comfortable and it only costs 20 bucks.  Once you own one, you no longer have the excuse of saying “it’s too dark to run.”  So, for tip #16, I promulgate: prepare for a rainy (or dark) day by purchasing a Petzl tout de suite!


With two people (and two headlamps) there’s enough light for trail running … and, as an added bonus, when you spit it’s really cool to see it spray out in the LED spotlight.

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17. try “The Zipper”

Running tip #17

I love to make up workouts.  It might be my favorite thing in life.  I especially delight in creating a workout to fit the terrain of wherever it is I happen to be running.  For instance, at the bottom of a valley with hills on either side I run back and forth between each hill (swinging up and down like a pendulum) rather that repeating just one side over and over.  I call this workout “bowl hills.”


Another hill workout I have named is “The Zipper.”  Find a 3:00 long hill and run up using the following sprint increments (also called “steps”) with equal time jog-down recovery: 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70

10 seconds sprint up -10 seconds jog down; 20 seconds sprint up – 20 seconds jog down, 30 seconds up – 30 seconds down, etc. until you reach the top of the hill at the 70-second mark (for a total time on your watch of 8:10).  Jog back down all the way to the bottom before starting the 2nd of 3 sets.

The difference between The Zipper and other hill workouts is that you don’t jog back down to the bottom after each sprint increment.  I named it the zipper b/c the workout is best explained visually:


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18. Fast runners need slow cookers.

Running tip #18 – Learn to use your crock-pot.


My husband, Dave, is the only person I’ve ever known who owned and USED a crock-pot while in college.  He would routinely assemble all the tasty ingredients in his (mom-purchased!) crock-pot before leaving for a full day of classes and cross-country practice … then return on cold, wintry evenings to a hot, home-made meal … much to the amazement and shared delight of his track-team housemates.  Here is the best recipe that ever came out of Dave’s crock-pot living.

Lazy Slow Cooker Creamy Chicken Noodle Soup


    • 4 cups cooked chicken, chopped (I use a whole chicken, pre-cooked in crock-pot)
    • 1 cup onion, diced
    • 1 cup celery, diced
    • 1 cup carrot, diced
    • 1/2 cup frozen peas (I skip these, because I hate peas)
    • 4 (14 ounce) cans chicken broth
    • 1  (10 3/4 ounce) can condensed cream of chicken soup
    • 1 (10 3/4 ounce) can condensed cream of celery soup
    • 2 teaspoons fines herbes ( or, a 1/2 tsp each of chervil, chives, parsley, and tarragon)
    • salt
    • pepper (fresh, cracked – about 10 cranks of pepper mill)
    • 2 cups egg noodles, cooked (I use wide egg noodles to be more “dumpling-like”)


  1. Remove skin (and de-bone, if you’re using a whole chicken) then chop the meat.
  2. Put the chicken into a slow cooker with the onions, celery, carrots and peas.
  3. Stir in broth, condensed soup, and fines herbs. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Cover and cook on high for 3 to 4 hours or low for 8 to 9 hours, depending on how long your run is 🙂
  5. When soup is finished, stir in egg noodles.
  6. Season to taste and serve. Enjoy!

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19. Ten buckets a year.

Running tip #19

“How many federal Monday holidays are there per year in the United States?” asks the trivia card from Wits and Wagers.  The answer is ten (T-giving always falls on a Thursday) and 10 is about the number of days in a running year that you will wake up in the morning with a case of what I call “The F_ck-its”/ rhymes with buckets.  On these occasions, it’s best to just stay in bed and accept your cyclical fate.  Don’t run.  Don’t feel guilty.  And don’t worry, because tomorrow is a new day at the start of a new cycle when you will wake up refreshed and ready to run … miraculously cured of the buckets after your holiday off.

(warning … they spelled buckets wrong in this illustration)


p.s. “Bucket” days are not to the same as scheduled days off.  Young runners should plan one day off per week; seasoned or serious runners, once every 21 days.

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