Competitor.com http://running.competitor.com Your Online Source for Running Fri, 31 Jul 2015 05:15:04 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0.1 Pre-Race Dos and Don’ts For Beginner Runners http://running.competitor.com/2015/07/training/pre-race-dos-and-donts-for-beginner-runners_132707 http://running.competitor.com/2015/07/training/pre-race-dos-and-donts-for-beginner-runners_132707#comments Fri, 31 Jul 2015 05:15:04 +0000 http://running.competitor.com/?p=132707

Photo: Shutterstock.com

Brad Hudson and Reno Stirrat share some of their top tips leading up to a big race.

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Photo: Shutterstock.com

Training for a big race is like playing a great game of chance: You put a lot of time and effort into your preparation with the hope that your commitment will pay off in the form of a personal best or the achievement of some other preset goal.

Circumstances out of your control, however, such as bad weather or a sudden illness, can sometimes put a wrench in your race plans and worrying about them can cause unnecessary anxiety. Focusing on the elements of your preparation you can control will put you in the best position to achieve race-day success—despite any unplanned for occurrences after you take off from the starting line.

Brad Hudson, founder of the Boulder-based Hudson Elite training group, and long-time running ace Reno Stirrat, who has logged a sub-2:45 marathon for five straight decades, share some of their top dos and don’ts leading into a big race.

RELATED: Race-Week Tapering Tips

Do…

…maintain your routines.

Both Stirrat and Hudson say it’s important to try to maintain your daily routine leading up to a big race. “This means go to bed at the same time and try to eat at the same time,” Hudson says. “Your mind and body thrive on that consistency, so don’t disrupt it right before you race.” Another aspect of being consistent is to think about what you did before other successful races. Hudson suggests trying to duplicate those elements as much as possible. “Know yourself,” he says. “Know what works best for you and don’t veer from that.”

…rest and relax.

Hudson says the adrenaline you experience on race day is part of the “fight or flight” response in the brain. “Try to be calm the day before [the race],” he instructs. “Bring a book to read or put your feet up by watching some TV in bed.”

If you’re having a hard time sleeping, Hudson says not to fret. “Relaxing is more important than actually sleeping the night before,” he says. “Think of how you can best be calm, so that can mean avoiding negative people and negative things.”

…believe in yourself.

Remember that you’ve worked hard for this day and believe that all the miles and workouts you’ve logged will pay dividends. “Remember that the journey is over and we have a great destination to enjoy,” Stirrat says.

RELATED: The 3 Most Common Tapering Mistakes

Don’t…

…experiment with new gear or fuel.

Hudson says he’s witnessed many runners buy new running shoes at the expo the day before their race with the hope that their new kicks will help shave off precious time. “You need to resist that temptation,” he says.

Stirrat agrees, saying, “Never wear new shoes that haven’t been broken in. Blisters and uncomfortable shoes can bring disaster to a race. A shoe works when you don’t notice them during a race. This means they are doing what they were designed to do.”

Experimenting with new types of fuel, such as gels or blocks, may upset your stomach if you haven’t tested them out in training. Same goes for shorts or singlets that could cause chafing. “Bring your gear with you to the race,” Hudson says. “Don’t buy it the day before.”

…get too caught up in pre-race excitement.

The day before a race can turn into an unexpected social event. Hudson advises his runners to limit that day-before socialization and save it for after the race. “I suggest that runners remember why they are there and to take care of their own business and to go after your goals,” he explains, “so that means watch the time they spend walking or standing around chatting.”

…overeat or over-hydrate.

It’s easy to make a regrettable mistake at the pre-race pasta dinner by overdoing it at the all-you-can-eat buffet. Also, avoid chugging a gallon of water the day before your race because you’re panicked about being dehydrated. Instead, begin gradually hydrating for longer races in the 3-4 days leading up to the event. “[You] don’t want to have that full feeling before the big race,” Stirrat says.

Stirrat also advises keeping it simple the morning of the race and sticking to your usual breakfast routine in order not to have any unplanned bathrooms stops along the course. “Bathroom stops during the race add time and the anxiety of finding one,” he says.

RELATED: The Art of Tapering Like A Pro

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Trail of the Week: Franconia Ridge Loop, New Hampshire http://running.competitor.com/2015/07/trail-running/trail-of-the-week-franconia-ridge-loop-new-hampshire_132810 http://running.competitor.com/2015/07/trail-running/trail-of-the-week-franconia-ridge-loop-new-hampshire_132810#comments Thu, 30 Jul 2015 22:21:56 +0000 http://running.competitor.com/?p=132810

A challenging trail in the White Mountains—but it's worth it.

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Our Trail of the Week feature is made possible through a partnership with Trail Run Project.

One of the signature trails in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, the Franconia Ridge Loop offers challenging terrain and a steep ascent for fit trail runners.

This loop offers everything you can expect. Steep hard rocky terrain, yet superb panoramic views on an exposed ridgeline for a long mile! During the descent, you’ll cross several waterfalls.

The run to the top is really rocky. Once on the summit you are exposed to full weather, so bring wind-stopping clothes.

During the descent you’ll follow a river and cross several waterfall so you could bring some water purifier and refill your water bottle there.

The Data

Miles: 8.6

Runnable: 63 percent

Singletrack: 100 percent

Average Grade: 17 percent

Max Grade: 75 percent

Total Ascent: 3,758 feet

Total Descent: -3,769 feet

Highest Elevation: 5,230 feet

For a closer look, check out the interactive map, data, photos and virtual run simulator courtesy of Trail Run Project:



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Are You Getting Enough of These Nutrients? http://running.competitor.com/2015/07/nutrition/are-you-getting-enough-of-these-nutrients_132816 http://running.competitor.com/2015/07/nutrition/are-you-getting-enough-of-these-nutrients_132816#comments Thu, 30 Jul 2015 21:52:39 +0000 http://running.competitor.com/?p=132816

Just like an engine missing a nut, your body will start to sputter without them.

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This article first appeared on Women’s Running.

An athlete’s body is like an engine. Of course you need plenty of fuel to keep it revving properly—but calories alone aren’t enough. Vitamins and minerals function like the nuts, bolts and spark plugs. Nutrients serve to catalyze fuel burning, recovery and muscle repair and rebuilding. Just like an engine missing a nut, your body will start to sputter without them. Check out these key players crucial for athletes—and see how you can better fill up your tank.

Calcium

A key nutrient involved in the constant process of bone breakdown and rebuilding, calcium also circulates in the blood and is involved in muscle contraction.

RISK: Calcium is an electrolyte lost in sweat—so runners lose a lot of it. Inadequate calcium intake leads to low bone mass or osteopenia, which can develop into dangerously low bone mass or osteoporosis, making you more susceptible to fractures.

REQUIREMENT: 1,000mg daily

FOOD SOURCES: Milk, yogurt and cheese are concentrated sources, while dark leafy greens, bok choy, dried beans and figs also work well.

SHOULD YOU SUPPLEMENT? Evaluate your calcium intake and supplement as needed with the well-absorbed calcium citrate to reach 1,000mg daily.

Vitamin D

This hormone vitamin is essential for calcium absorption—but it also plays a role in optimizing muscle function, controlling inflammation and supporting the immune system.

RISK: Low blood vitamin D levels are linked with poor bone health and a weak immune system. About two-thirds of the population is estimated to have a vitamin D deficiency or insufficiency—so chances are you could use some more.

REQUIREMENT: 18mg daily or more to correct low blood levels

FOOD SOURCES: We are wired to make vitamin D from the sun—so sunscreen, while great for preventing skin cancer, inhibits D absorption. The vitamin can also be found naturally in fatty fish, such as salmon, egg yolks and fortified foods like milk.

SHOULD YOU SUPPLEMENT? Get your vitamin D levels checked by a doctor, and supplement to reach a healthy level.

Iron

Iron plays a key role in energy metabolism, as it helps carry oxygen to working muscles during exercise. In fact, many muscle enzymes require iron compounds in order to use oxygen at a cellular level.

RISK: If you’re a female athlete, you have a 22 to 25 percent chance of being iron deficient and a 6 percent likelihood of being anemic. Foot strike and mild gastrointestinal bleeding during running put you at a slight risk for iron loss—but menstruation is the biggest culprit. Too little iron can cause fatigue and shortness of breath. Too much iron, however, can decrease zinc absorption.

REQUIREMENT: 18mg for women ages 19 to 50; 8mg for women 50-plus

FOOD SOURCES: Animal iron (heme) is the sort of iron best absorbed by your body and can be enjoyed in lean red meat, poultry and fish. Plant iron (nonheme) is found in whole grains, fortified cereals, dried peas and beans, apricots and raisins.

SHOULD YOU SUPPLEMENT? Never self-diagnose low iron! A simple blood test will provide appropriate results. Make sure your general practitioner tests your iron levels at your annual check-up. If you choose to supplement, recheck levels in three months.

Phytonutrients

These are not vitamins or minerals per se, but natural plant chemicals are essential for good health. They act as antioxidants to enhance immune function, protect against cancer and control inflammation.

RISK: Some runners subscribe to the idea that running regularly means you can eat whatever you want—but this isn’t what your body would tell you. A lack of phytonutrients can lead to increased risk of disease and poor recovery from exercise.

REQUIREMENT: Aim for six to 10 servings daily of fruits and vegetables combined, and three servings of whole grains.

FOOD SOURCES: Fruits, vegetables and whole grains all have phytonutrients. Great sources are often colorful: blueberries, blackberries, red cabbage, mangoes, sweet potatoes, winter squash, red grapes, broccoli and Brussels sprouts.

SHOULD YOU SUPPLEMENT? Sure, there are plant powders you can add to your smoothie, but it’s best to go for the real thing.

 

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Run Like a Champion: Dynamic Drills and Stretching http://running.competitor.com/2015/07/video/run-like-a-champion-dynamic-drills-and-stretching_132744 http://running.competitor.com/2015/07/video/run-like-a-champion-dynamic-drills-and-stretching_132744#comments Thu, 30 Jul 2015 20:00:10 +0000 http://running.competitor.com/?p=132744

What's the importance of dynamic drills and stretches before a hard workout?

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Alan Culpepper, author or Run Like a Champion, breaks down the importance of dynamic drills and stretches before a hard workout.

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Last Lap with Timothy Olson: Soul Runner http://running.competitor.com/2015/07/interviews/last-lap-with-timothy-olson-soul-runner_132796 http://running.competitor.com/2015/07/interviews/last-lap-with-timothy-olson-soul-runner_132796#comments Thu, 30 Jul 2015 19:25:29 +0000 http://running.competitor.com/?p=132796

Photo: Zac Henderson

After recovering from a well-documented spiral into drug addiction many years ago, the rejuvenated Timothy Olson became one of the

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Photo: Zac Henderson

After recovering from a well-documented spiral into drug addiction many years ago, the rejuvenated Timothy Olson became one of the world’s top ultrarunners. The former cross-country runner and coach has finished on the podium at 50Ks, 50-milers, 100Ks and 100-milers, and also holds the course record (14:46:44) for the Western States 100. When he’s not running, Olson is putting the final touches on Run Mindful Retreats, his new running camps in Boulder, and working with his wife on a business to market travel-ready Paleo, vegan and vegetarian foods.

What’s the focus of your camps?

You know that positive feeling you have after a race? We want to help people tap into that on every run by connecting with nature, friends and community.

Are the camp retreats geared toward ultrarunners?

No, and it’s not an “elite” running camp either. We’ll have different running and hiking groups to meet the needs and desires of all participants. It’s to come and connect with the other attendees, connect with the land, go for some big runs and hikes.

PHOTOS: A Glimpse Inside Run Mindful Retreats

How does the idea of mindfulness come into play at these retreats?

For me, mindfulness has really been helpful in my running and my life. I’m hoping to get people psyched on the idea of meditation. Focusing on breath can help with running, a lot. It also helps in day-to-day life. Meditating and breathing opens you up to mindfulness.

RELATED: Run Mindful Retreats are Powered by Positive Thoughts

What’s your routine before a race?

I’m not a big fan of tapering. I read “Siddartha” by Hermann Hesse before every 100-mile race. It gives me something to do in the days leading up to a race and puts my mind in a good place.

Your wife is a runner, and one of your pacers at Hardrock 100. What’s it like to run together?

For us, going on a trail run together is “date night.” We can clear our minds, joke around and just play on the trail. It’s a very powerful thing for our relationship.

What draws you to certain races?

Big mountains, big trees, a beautiful mountain range and preferably a new place. I like technical terrain with challenging obstacles. It forces me to be present and in the moment. I feel it’s what trail running is about: opening all of your senses and being able to take everything in.

Will you run Western States 100 again?

Someday. I haven’t decided when, but at some point in the next few years. Western States has a beautiful course combined with great history and great people.

Your favorite post-long run food?

A bison, bacon and avocado burger with sweet potato fries.

Have you always leaned toward a Paleo diet?

It’s something I’ve morphed into over the last 6 years. I went gluten free first. It helped my stomach issues a lot. Then I went grain free and really noticed a difference in how I felt on a daily basis and how much better I recovered after long runs. I don’t eat as many gels as I used to, and my stomach stays together better during hard efforts.

Why do you run?

I run to be happy, to be wild and free. It’s very simple. You go out for a run and tap into nature, tap into your animal being inside. To me, trail running is the best way to find peace and presence.

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New Ultrarunning Film: This Is Your Day http://running.competitor.com/2015/07/news/new-ultrarunning-film-this-is-your-day_132719 http://running.competitor.com/2015/07/news/new-ultrarunning-film-this-is-your-day_132719#comments Thu, 30 Jul 2015 06:48:33 +0000 http://running.competitor.com/?p=132719

Ultrarunners Rob Krar, Karl Hoagland and Caroline Boller will be featured in a new film titled “This Is Your Day” produced by

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Ultrarunners Rob Krar, Karl Hoagland and Caroline Boller will be featured in a new film titled “This Is Your Day” produced by USL.TV. The 52-minute documentary follows the three athletes in their final preparations before this year’s Western States 100, but mainly focuses on each athlete’s relationship to the sport of ultrarunning and how it affects those around them on and off the course.

“We get the title ‘This Is Your Day’ from a quote in an interview with Rob as seen in the trailer at the start of Western States last year,” says the film’s director Myles Smythe. “For me that title expands itself into the whole film’s concept of when you’re going to run a race you don’t do it on your own, it’s a team effort. So we’re really telling the story of the runner’s race from the perspective of their crew, pacers and entire support system.”

Initially the inspiration behind the film started with CEO and founder of USL.TV Mike Cloward, a self-described middle-of-the-pack ultrarunner, who had been exchanging ideas with Smythe about filming interactions between crew and ultra-racers within nature. At the same time Cloward was also motivated by his conversation with two-time (2014 and 2015) Western States champion Rob Krar about ultrarunning’s misconception as an individual sport, and telling the story of friends, family and volunteers who really make the sport possible.

“The runners and the actual venue is almost in the background, and the crew and the support system comes to the forefront. That’s the basis of the idea and I think the movie reflects that rather well,” Cloward says.

Besides Krar’s appearance in the film, Hoagland and Boller were also chosen to give the film more narrative diversity. Hoagland, a 50-year-old veteran ultrarunner who has completed more than 40 ultras, including seven Western States, was able to finish this year’s race under 24 hours. On the other end of the spectrum, Boller, a 40-year-old part-time attorney, wife and mother of two recently started running seriously in 2012—having strictly run on treadmills before hitting the trails. This year she finished her first 100-miler in 8th place for the women’s field at Western States.

Although, running 50-plus miles seems inconceivable to some people, the stories told through Krar, Hoagland and Boller are meant to transcend the film’s framework around ultrarunning.

“The message that every person in the film is saying, I can connect with on a personal level outside of my running life. I think that if someone is just wanting to watch an encouraging and inspirational film regardless of the topic, this may speak to a large number of people in that way,” Myles says.

The film premiers Aug. 19 in Flagstaff, Ariz., and it’s second showing in San Francisco on Sept. 19 includes a Q&A with all three of the starring athletes. Other showings in cities across the U.S. such as Charlotte, N.C., St. Louis, Auburn, Calif., and Lake Tahoe, Calif., are in the works and more information on future showings can be found on USL.TV’s website.

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Ireland’s Fastest Mother Returns to Rock ‘n’ Roll Dublin Half http://running.competitor.com/2015/07/rock-n-roll-marathon-series/irelands-fastest-mother-returns-to-rock-n-roll-dublin-half_132750 http://running.competitor.com/2015/07/rock-n-roll-marathon-series/irelands-fastest-mother-returns-to-rock-n-roll-dublin-half_132750#comments Thu, 30 Jul 2015 00:23:15 +0000 http://running.competitor.com/?p=132750

Before she gave birth to 7-pound, 8-ounce Lucy Kelleher on June 30, 2014, the fastest Lizzie Lee had run a half marathon was 1 hour, 14

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Before she gave birth to 7-pound, 8-ounce Lucy Kelleher on June 30, 2014, the fastest Lizzie Lee had run a half marathon was 1 hour, 14 minutes, 48 seconds at the 2013 Rock ‘n’ Roll Dublin Half Marathon, claiming first place.

Less than eight months after becoming a mother, Lee, the pride of Cork, Ireland, put the eraser to her 13.1-mile personal best, running 1:14:05 at the eDreams Mitja Marato’ de Barcelona in February.

At 35, Lee is faster than ever. She’s confident motherhood is a factor.

“You have perspective and total happiness,” says Lee, who, as part of her juggling act, works as a project manager for Apple. “If you get injured you know it’s not the end of the world. Before, you would panic about everything. Now, you don’t sweat the small stuff. You’re definitely happier and calmer.”

Lee will be back at the starting line for Sunday’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Dublin Half Marathon, which doubles as the AAI National Half Marathon Championships at the distance. 

The sporting life is filled with stories of women who have continued outstanding athletic careers after becoming mothers.

In 2009, barely seven weeks after giving birth, Candace Parker returned to the court for the WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks and went on to average 13.1 points and 9.8 rebounds. Later that same year, Kim Clijsters won the U.S. Open, becoming the first mother to win one of tennis’ Grand Slams since Evonne Goolagong in 1980.

In running, Paula Radcliffe became a mother in January 2007. Less than 11 months later she won the New York City Marathon.

As for Lee, her improvement hasn’t been confined to the half marathon. In June she lowered her personal best in the 10K from 34:08 to 33:13. She insists one of the reasons for her success is a supportive family.

“I have a superb husband who is supportive and understanding,” she says. “And our parents are brilliant with my daughter. They want to see her all the time. They live near, so there’s constant support there.”

However, she does admit her routine is more regimented after having a child.

“I have no life,” she jokes. “I don’t see anybody during the week. Everything is baby, training, work. My baby is the priority. My whole schedule is around her. I don’t do anything that’s major fun, except for my baby, and that, to me, is the most fun.

Lee’s path to athletic success is one seldom traveled. She was active in high school, playing basketball and soccer. “But I wasn’t very good at anything,” she says.

In college, she stayed fit by hitting the gym and spinning. She was 26 before entering her first triathlon, an Olympic distance race of a 1.5K swim, 40K bike and 10K run. Three years later she won a 10K in 36:52. A year later, in 2010, she represented Ireland, for the first time, at the European Cross Country Championships.

There are, of course, advantages to beginning an athletic career on the late side. One, the legs have not been hammered. Secondly, the mind is fresh.

“At the age of 35, I’m still running PRs, which keeps me motivated and enthusiastic,” she says.

Her bests in the 10K and half marathon rank second among Irish women this year. But whatever you do, do not ask her if she’s dreaming of representing her country in the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

“I’m not talking about the ‘O’ word,” she says. “You can draw your conclusions. I’m just down in Cork, training away, doing my own thing. I’m not tempting fate.”

A woman who didn’t seriously pursue running until she was almost 30. Then, to one day qualify for the Olympics? That would be the mother of all stories.

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How To: Active Isolated Stretching http://running.competitor.com/2015/07/training/how-to-active-isolated-stretching_132471 http://running.competitor.com/2015/07/training/how-to-active-isolated-stretching_132471#comments Wed, 29 Jul 2015 22:34:10 +0000 http://running.competitor.com/?p=132471

Jeffrey Eggleston, a 2:10 marathoner, regularly does active isolated stretching. Photo: Scott Draper

Prevent injury before it happens with this pre-run stretch.

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Jeffrey Eggleston, a 2:10 marathoner, regularly does active isolated stretching. Photo: Scott Draper

We can put in all the miles we want in training, but a proper stretching routine aids in the recovery process, improves range of motion and helps stave off injury.

“This hamstring stretch is for those wishing to improve range of motion, prepare muscle fibers actively pre- and post-activity, and to improve circulation and blood flow to speed recovery between workouts,” says Phil Wharton, a musculoskeletal therapist, author and 2:23 marathoner, who helped pioneer Active-Isolated Flexibility—practiced by Meb Keflezighi and other elites.

How to do it:

Step 1: Following the example above, lie on your back on a soft surface, bend one leg 90 degrees and place that foot flat on the surface.

Step 2: Put a stretching rope or strap on the arch of the other foot and, using your quads and hip flexors, lift the leg up until you hit the end of your range of motion. “Exhale as you move up and inhale as you return to start position,” Wharton says

Step 3: Perform 8-10 reps, pausing briefly at the height of each rep before lowering your leg in a controlled manner. Resist the temptation to bounce, jerk, or pull too hard with the rope.

RELATED: Monday Minute: Active Hamstring Stretch

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Get Strong, Get Fast: Cross-Train Like Olympian Nick Symmonds http://running.competitor.com/2015/07/training/get-strong-get-fast-cross-train-like-olympian-nick-symmonds_132687 http://running.competitor.com/2015/07/training/get-strong-get-fast-cross-train-like-olympian-nick-symmonds_132687#comments Wed, 29 Jul 2015 21:46:41 +0000 http://running.competitor.com/?p=132687

Photo: Stephen Matera

Cross-train like Olympian Nick Symmonds to gain strength, increase your speed, avoid injury, and keep things fresh.

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Photo: Stephen Matera


Cross-train like Olympian Nick Symmonds to gain strength, increase your speed, avoid injury, and keep things fresh.

Like it or not, running takes a toll on our bodies. Train too hard, and sooner or later you won’t be training at all. The best insurance for staying injury-free is a strong body. And this added strength is best gained not from logging more miles, but from embracing other activities that engage your metabolic system and increase your body’s overall functional strength.

We caught up with two-time U.S. Olympic middle-distance runner Nick Symmonds, a huge advocate of cross-training, as he worked out in his adopted town of Seattle—a true urban playground for endurance athletes. We talked with him and his coaches to learn how you can benefit from a varied and fun approach to your run training.

“I’m a huge believer in cross-category exercises,” says Danny Mackey, coach of the Brooks Beasts elite training group and one of Symmonds’ chief advisers. “Because contact with the ground is such a stressful experience, we can’t exercise 35 to 40 hours of running each week like a cyclist can on a bicycle, so you’ve got to get it in other ways.”

So how does cross-training make you stronger and faster?

You can get the same aerobic effect from other activities with less pounding. If you think of exercise in terms of units, you can train longer with low-impact activities than you can with running, allowing you to put in more time building up your speed or your overall endurance than you can strictly by running.

Those of us who love running love to self-identify as runners—and in the past, that meant sometimes forgoing other sports. But becoming a more effective runner now means embracing other activities. It’ll boost your speed, strength and endurance, and lessen your risk of injury. In the end, this will allow you to run longer and faster—which is what we’re all really after, isn’t it?

RELATED: Why Runners Should Embrace Cross-Training

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]]> http://running.competitor.com/2015/07/training/get-strong-get-fast-cross-train-like-olympian-nick-symmonds_132687/feed 0 Workout of the Week: Pardon The (Uphill) Interruption http://running.competitor.com/2015/07/training/workout-of-the-week-pardon-the-uphill-interruption_132710 http://running.competitor.com/2015/07/training/workout-of-the-week-pardon-the-uphill-interruption_132710#comments Wed, 29 Jul 2015 19:15:47 +0000 http://running.competitor.com/?p=132710

Mixing hill repeats into some of your interval workouts will challenge the musculoskeletal system as well as the aerobic system. Photo: Mario Fraioli | Competitor

Insert some incline into your next interval workout.

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Mixing hill repeats into some of your interval workouts will challenge the musculoskeletal system as well as the aerobic system. Photo: Mario Fraioli | Competitor

Insert some incline into your next interval workout. 

In the early phases of a training program, many runners regularly do hill repeats as a way to work on lower-leg strength, improve power and reinforce the basic tenets of good running mechanics. Later in the training cycle, however, hill workouts tend to get replaced by a weekly interval session (or two) in order to improve speed, enhance efficiency and dial in race pace. And while there’s nothing wrong with transitioning to more frequent interval work leading up to race day, it’s always surprised me that many coaches and athletes seem to forget about hill workouts altogether once they get into the meat of the training cycle.

One of my favorite early-to-mid-season workouts I assign my athletes interrupts a traditional interval workout with a set (or sets) of hill repeats. The purpose of doing so is to introduce a new training stimulus which will challenge the musculoskeletal system in addition to the aerobic system. Also, keeping some hill work in the weekly rotation acts as a means of muscular support during a period that’s usually heavily focused on improving specific fitness for a goal race.

RELATED: Early-Season Strength-Building Workouts

So how long should your hill repeats sandwiched into the middle of an interval workout be? It depends on what you’re trying to achieve with them. For emphasizing pure power and maximum muscle-fiber recruitment, max-intensity sprints in the range of 10-12 seconds with full recovery between repeats will do the trick, while longer hill repeats in the range of 30 to 90 seconds will help you to develop a greater level of fatigue resistance in your legs.

Here are three examples of classic short, medium and long interval workouts, along with different options for effectively interrupting them with an incline.

Option 1: Short Intervals

Typical Workout: 12 x 400m at 5K race pace (or slightly faster) with 60-90 seconds recovery between repetitions

Interruption Option: 2 sets of 4-5 x 400m at 5K race pace (0r slightly faster) with 60-90 seconds recovery between repetitions. Follow each set of flat 400m repeats with 2 x 60-second hill repeats on a moderately steep grade at the same effort. Recover from each repeat by jogging back down to the bottom of the hill. The added element of the incline stimulates promotes muscular gains you don’t get from running fast on flat ground.

Option 2: Medium Intervals

Typical Workout: 5 x 6:00 at 10K race effort with 3:00 recovery jog between repetitions

Interruption Option: Use the base of a moderately steep hill as the starting point for your intervals. Begin your 6:00 reps at the base of a hill, running away from it on a flat stretch of ground for 3:00 at 10K race effort before turning around and returning at the same pace. Take 2-3:00 of walking/jogging recovery after each flat 6:00 rep, then charge up the hill for 30 seconds at a hard effort that’s 10-15 percent short of all-out. Focus on driving your arms, getting up on your toes and charging up the hill with strong form. After competing the 30-second uphill effort, take 2-3:00 recovery and repeat the sequence four more times.

Option 3: Long Intervals

Typical Workout: 3-4 x 2 miles at half-marathon race pace with 3:00 recovery jog between repetitions

Interruption Option: Take 2:30 recovery after each 2-mile repetition and then perform 2 x 10-second hill sprints at max effort. Recover fully with 1:30 to 2:00 of walking/light jogging after each hill sprint before beginning the next 2-mile/2 x 10-second hill sprint sequence. The short, but intense uphill efforts recruit a greater number of muscle fibers, which will rapidly increase the muscular fatigue in your legs, making each subsequent 2-mile effort that much more of a challenge. At the end of the session, you’ll have gotten in 8 miles of running at goal half-marathon race pace, 80 seconds worth of high-intensity hill work and a toasted set of legs. This is a big workout—be sure to recover well in the days that follow!

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A Trail Runner’s Guide to Snakes http://running.competitor.com/2015/07/trail-running/a-trail-runners-guide-to-snakes_132700 http://running.competitor.com/2015/07/trail-running/a-trail-runners-guide-to-snakes_132700#comments Wed, 29 Jul 2015 17:43:56 +0000 http://running.competitor.com/?p=132700

Photo: Shutterstock.com

Get a better idea of what kind of snakes lurk on the trails.

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Photo: Shutterstock.com

Adapted with permission of VeloPress from Trailhead: The Dirt on All Things Trail Running by Lisa Jhung with illustrations by Charlie Layton. For more, visit velopress.com/trail.

Roughly 100 types of snakes slither around the United States, most of them nonvenomous and essentially harmless. However, there are 20 species of venomous snakes in the U.S.: 16 types of rattlesnakes, 2 types of coral snakes, and the cottonmouth (also known as “water moccasin”). Coral snakes have the most potent venom.

These cold-blooded creatures like to warm themselves in sunny places on sunny days. When it’s hot, they cool themselves in the shade. Their most active period is spring through early fall. They are nocturnal hunters, spending the day resting and sunning themselves. Depending on the type of snake, they eat small rodents, birds, fish, frogs and insects.

If you come across a snake, knowing what type it is can be a potential lifesaver should you get bitten. Informing medical professionals about the snake that struck you helps them quickly administer the proper treatment.

Rattlesnakes

Rattlesnakes are common all over the continental United States, especially in the Southwest. They’re between 1 and 8 feet long, with bulky bodies and catlike pupils with no eyelids. Their heads are triangular, wide at the neck, and they have a pit between their eyes and nostrils (a distinguishing feature of a pit viper). They can be brown, gray, rust, yellow, cream, beige and of various patterns.

The most distinguishing rattlesnake feature is the rattle at the end of their tails, but know that rattles sometimes fall off.

Cottonmouth Snakes

Also known as water moccasins, these reptiles live in the southeastern United States, including eastern Texas. They can be up to 4 feet long and have large, triangular heads with pits between their eyes and nostrils (they are a type of pit viper, like rattlensnakes). Their bulky bodies taper to a narrow tail and are dark brown or dull black with lighter banding. When a cottonmouth opens its mouth in aggression, the sticky “spit” looks as if it just woke up after a bender and needs a Big Gulp.

Coral Snakes

These are the most lethal snakes in the U.S. but look an awful lot like the less dangerous scarlet king snake. Keep this rhyme in mind:

Red touch yellow—kill a fellow
Red touch black—venom lack

What to Do?

Regardless of the type of snake you encounter on the trail, your actions should be the same.

Do:

  • Leave the snake alone
  • Give it a wide berth.
  • Back away calmly as quickly and quietly as you can.

Don’t:

  • Stick your hands in crevices
  • Sit on logs or craggy rocks without looking around them and inside.
  • Step over a long into a shady, possible snake-napping spot.
  • Provoke the snake in any way.

RELATED: Out There: Running for My Life, From Wildlife

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Shoe of the Week: Nike Air Zoom Wildhorse 3 http://running.competitor.com/2015/07/shoes-and-gear/shoe-of-the-week-nike-air-zoom-wildhorse-3_132616 http://running.competitor.com/2015/07/shoes-and-gear/shoe-of-the-week-nike-air-zoom-wildhorse-3_132616#comments Wed, 29 Jul 2015 16:00:16 +0000 http://running.competitor.com/?p=132616

The third version of the Wildhorse has more cushioning and protection than the previous editions.

The overhauled Wildhorse features some nice updates.

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The third version of the Wildhorse has more cushioning and protection than the previous editions.

Nike enhanced this shoe by significantly updating the upper, cushioning and outsole and, in the process, finally differentiated it from its other current trail shoe, the lower-to-the-ground and less cushioned Air Zoom Terra Kiger 3. Although the new version of the Wildhorse is about an ounce heavier than the previous one, the changes make it a better shoe for long runs on more technical terrain. Aggressive treads on the outsole—a mix of sticky rubber down the center and chunky lugs around the perimeter, including on the rounded heel—makes for solid grip on a range of surfaces. Enhanced protection comes from a durable but flexible rock plate under the forefoot, and TPU overlays across the toes and around the heel, keeping rocks and other trail debris from jabbing feet. It has a comfortable upper that pulls securely around the foot via lightweight Flywire cables. Minimal seams throughout mean zero irritation on your feet. Testers raved about the shoe’s smooth ride, which comes from a combination of the anatomically rounded heel and springy cushioning compounds. It has a wider toe box for toe splaying (and foot swelling) but a more snug midfoot fit.

“I was really impressed by how well this shoe performed on dry trails as well as on wet, technical terrain,” said one tester. “It provides a lot of protection for your feet without feeling the least bit clunky.”

Despite the enhancements and extra material, the Wildhorse still offers amazing proprioceptive “feel” for the trail, allowing it to be both fast and agile as well as notably cushioned for long-haul comfort.

This shoe is for you if: You run a variety of trails at a range of speeds and distances and want a shoe that has some cushion and protection but doesn’t sacrifice the “feel” of the trail.

Price: $110
Weights: 10.3 oz. (men), 8.8 oz. (women)
Heel-toe Offset: 8mm; 26mm (heel), 18mm (forefoot)
Info: NikeRunning.com

RELATED: Shoe of the Week—New Balance 101

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The 10 Largest Half Marathons in the U.S. http://running.competitor.com/2015/07/photos/the-10-largest-half-marathons-in-the-u-s_132603 http://running.competitor.com/2015/07/photos/the-10-largest-half-marathons-in-the-u-s_132603#comments Tue, 28 Jul 2015 23:34:35 +0000 http://running.competitor.com/?p=132603

The exploding popularity of the half marathon distance is creating bigger and bigger races.

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The half marathon distance is as big as ever in the United States. According to Running USA, 2014 saw the 13.1-mile distance surpass 2 million finishers for the first time.

The growth has led to an explosion in big races, too—of the 2,200 half marathons in the U.S., 32 of them had more than 10,000 finishers (in 2000, there was just one). Of those, seven had more than 20,000 finishers.

Here’s a closer look at those races that bring a crowd—the largest half marathons in the United States.

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Jessica Hofheimer: Rolling With It http://running.competitor.com/2015/07/saucony-26-strong/jessica-hofheimer-rolling-with-it_132654 http://running.competitor.com/2015/07/saucony-26-strong/jessica-hofheimer-rolling-with-it_132654#comments Tue, 28 Jul 2015 20:29:27 +0000 http://running.competitor.com/?p=132654

During marathon training, I set aside about 15-20 minutes a day, every day, for a session with my foam roller and self-massage tools. When

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During marathon training, I set aside about 15-20 minutes a day, every day, for a session with my foam roller and self-massage tools. When the mileage increases and long runs and speed workouts are in full swing, muscles tend to tighten and beg for attention. Since paying for a regular massage can be cost prohibitive (unfortunately!), it is up to us to take care of treating our muscles to some myofascial release. I strongly believe this should be a part of every runner’s training regimen. It makes a big difference and a little tender loving care goes a long way!

The foam roller is a large cylindrical piece of high-density foam. When you “roll” your muscles across the foam it serves to loosen tissues and break up any adhesions or scarring in the fascia. Merriam-Webster defines fascia as “a sheet of connective tissue covering or binding together body structures (as muscles).” In more relatable terms, it’s the tissue that holds groups of muscles, blood vessels and nerves together, much like plastic wrap.

When we have tight muscles, the fascia becomes less like plastic wrap (which is soft and conforms to the contents it is holding) and more like a hard rubbery material. Tight muscles inhibit mobility and can sometimes cause problems with gait as well as create discomfort. Therefore, it is important to massage it out to loosen things up to restore pliability. The foam roller is perfect for this. The rolling action pumps blood out of and then back into the area and sort of kneads the muscle (like a giant rolling pin), loosening things up.

There are also other types of self-massage tools. One of my favorites is the Tiger Tail – a stick with a layer of foam (similar to the foam on the foam roller) that spins on the stick and can be pressed and rolled over a muscle. It facilitates the same results as the large foam roller, but I find it is more helpful for smaller areas like the bottom of the feet, the Achilles tendon and the calf muscles.

My regular routine includes rolling out my hamstrings, calves, quads, IT bands, bottoms of my feet, glutes and hips every night–rolling over each muscle group about 5-10 times, depending on the tightness. If I have an area that is especially tight, I will spend more time there, sometimes using my Rumble Roller (which has tire tread-like bumps on it) or a tennis or racquetball on those spots.

It can hurt and doesn’t always feel so good in the moment! But, like a good run, I never regret making the time to roll out my muscles and always feel better when I am done!

 

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Laura Anderson: Train for the Course http://running.competitor.com/2015/07/saucony-26-strong/laura-anderson-train-for-the-course_132651 http://running.competitor.com/2015/07/saucony-26-strong/laura-anderson-train-for-the-course_132651#comments Tue, 28 Jul 2015 20:24:19 +0000 http://running.competitor.com/?p=132651

Training for a marathon means working hard for a few months, and then having just one day to put it all together. During training you have

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Training for a marathon means working hard for a few months, and then having just one day to put it all together. During training you have a LOT of control; you can choose your routes, the terrain you run on, you can even choose to avoid undesirable weather. Race day is a different story. The best way to prepare is to train specifically for the marathon you will be running, not just any 26.2 miles.

When laying out training, planning routes, and detailing logistics for workouts, early on in the training cycle, I like to nail down the key race specific-elements that I can prepare for.

Timing

Note the day of the week, and the time of day that a race takes place. For those travelling to different time zones for a race, note what time of day in YOUR time zone that will feel like to you.

Tip: Schedule a few ‘dress rehearsal’ long runs leading up to the race. Plan on running at the race start time (including time change), this allows you to nail down your race morning routine ahead of time.

Course Elevation

There are courses that are pancake flat, some are notoriously hilly, some feature large descents and many have rolling terrain. Each of these could require different training; your training for Chicago and Boston would have different approaches. Chicago features flat profile, whereas Boston’s downhill start and rolling Newton Hills later on challenge your body in different ways.

Tip: Try and plan some training routes that mimic the race course. If you know that the second half will be hillier, incorporate hills at the end of your longer runs to prepare for climbing on tired legs. If you know that the race features long flat sections, find some similar routes to practice running in the same “gear” for extended periods of time.

Course Logistics

A course might be a large loop, multiple loops, out-and-back or a point-to-point route. It can be a mental game if you know you are running the same route a few times, or will have to run back towards other runners on an out-and-back route.

Tip: Find some training routes that mimic the type of racecourse. If you are training for a double loop marathon, run your 20-miler on a 10-mile loop. For point-to-point training, have a friend or family member drop you off X miles from home and make your way back.

Course Terrain/Surface

Surfaces such as crushed gravel, bike paths, technical trails, concrete and pavement each take different tolls on the body. The bulk of the training you do should reflect the your race surface.

Tip: Running on softer surfaces occasionally can help reduce the stress on the joints, and also provide a mental break from your usual routes.

Fueling/Aid Stations

Note where water stops will be along the course, as well as which aid stations have fuel. It can also come in handy to know where portable bathrooms will be along the route.

Tip: Treat the race like a road trip; you know that you will need fuel every X amount of miles. If you know this ahead of time, you can plan where/when you will fuel along the way so that you don’t run out. Try taking your gels and fuel on training runs at the same time you will in the race, factoring in water stops.

Training and incorporating race specific elements throughout the months leading up to your big event help build confidence and ease stress on race day. The way I see it, if you know what you’re getting into and prepare as smart as you can for key factors, you’ll be more in control on race day.

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Siblings Rekindle Fitness to Honor Parents, Inspire Their Families http://running.competitor.com/2015/07/news/siblings-rekindle-fitness-to-honor-parents-inspire-their-families_132268 http://running.competitor.com/2015/07/news/siblings-rekindle-fitness-to-honor-parents-inspire-their-families_132268#comments Tue, 28 Jul 2015 20:15:25 +0000 http://running.competitor.com/?p=132268

Larry Moss, Katie Spence, Cheryl Moss Reidy, Jody Moss Spence and Steve Moss (left to right) share a moment before running the Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego Half Marathon in May. Photo: Dan Cruz

A family reunites in the name of fitness to honor their late parents.

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Larry Moss, Katie Spence, Cheryl Moss Reidy, Jody Moss Spence and Steve Moss (left to right) share a moment before running the Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego Half Marathon in May. Photo: Dan Cruz

Larry Moss, Katie Spence, Cheryl Moss Reidy, Jody Moss Spence and Steve Moss  (left to right) share a moment before running the Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego Half Marathon in May. Photo: Dan Cruz

Larry Moss, Katie Spence, Cheryl Moss Reidy, Jody Moss Spence and Steve Moss (left to right) share a moment before running the Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego Half Marathon in May. Photo: Dan Cruz

Thanks to his parents, Larry Moss says he grew up in an very active family. He and his siblings were involved in numerous sports and activities, and, individually and collectively, they were always on the go. Baseball, gymnastics, swimming, cheerleading, track and field, waterskiing—you name it and they were doing it.

But fast-forward a few decades and he found—like many people in their late 50s—that life had gotten in the way and he wasn’t nearly as active or fit as he would have liked. When his father, Herb, passed away in 2009, Larry looked in the mirror and realized he was 40 pounds overweight and hadn’t run a step in 16 years. Motivated to celebrate his father’s life, he started running with a beginner’s group in Boulder, Colo., and, despite struggling to finish his first 25-minute easy jog, he eventually started to get fit again.

“My dad’s voice in my head was urging me to not give up and to get back in shape,” Larry says.

His siblings were impressed with the initial changes—he was losing weight and had a more chipper demeanor—and in 2011, his older sister, Cheryl Moss Reidy, suggested he visit her in San Diego and run the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon while she ran the first part of the race with a relay team. They did that for three straight years and really enjoyed it—both the activity of running and the annual get-togethers. Then last year, older brother Steve flew in from Boise, Idaho, to join in, fast-walking a leg of the relay with Cheryl as Larry once again jogged alongside in the half marathon.

Regrouping at the finish line was an amazing family moment, especially because it occurred on the fifth anniversary of their father’s passing. But, sadly, less than two days after finishing the run together, their 90-year-old mother, Pat, became ill and passed away.

How did the family celebrate her life? By training for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas Half Marathon last November and then expanding the family running ritual in San Diego in June. In addition to Larry (63), Steve (65) and Cheryl (68), little sister Jody Moss Spence (62) joined the fray in Vegas and and Jody’s daughter, Katie (30), ran with them on May 31 in San Diego.

“We have had family reunions in the past, but this is something special because we’re doing it in our parents’ honor,” Cheryl says. “It’s a real tribute to them.”

At the race expo that weekend, they had a chance meeting with three-time U.S. Olympian and 2014 Boston Marathon winner Meb Keflezighi, whom Cheryl has admired for years because of their connections to San Diego and whom Larry has become fond of as he’s gotten more engaged with running. Keflezighi has become an inspiration to the entire family because he has maintained his world-class competitiveness at age 40 and is training to make a fourth U.S. Olympic Team next year.

“Being together as a family is so important,” Keflezighi told them in San Diego. “The hard work my parents have done for me has inspired me to work hard and do the same for my family. Parents do so much for their kids and sometimes we don’t understand that or feel that until later in life.”

The Moss clan is definitely feeling it now. The get-togethers on race weekends has included family meals, lots of laughs and reminiscing and even late-night singing and piano-playing.

Larry has now run about 25 half marathons and two marathons, but he’s more excited about helping create a new tradition for the entire clan. They’re already planning a return trip to Las Vegas for the next Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon weekend, with various family members training for the half marathon, 10K or the relay. Adding to the family experience Larry’s daughter, Charlotte (26) is expected to join for one of the races.

“Running has been extremely empowering … it gives me goosebumps just thinking about it,” Larry says. “It’s definitely changed our lives, but it’s also brought us closer together. And we have our parents to thank for it.”

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Meb Keflezighi, Shalane Flanagan Declare For Olympic Trials Marathon http://running.competitor.com/2015/07/news/meb-keflezighi-shalane-flanagan-declare-for-olympic-trials-marathon_132642 http://running.competitor.com/2015/07/news/meb-keflezighi-shalane-flanagan-declare-for-olympic-trials-marathon_132642#comments Tue, 28 Jul 2015 19:33:57 +0000 http://running.competitor.com/?p=132642

Flanagan, left, and Keflezighi, right, will lead over 300 qualifiers at the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon in L.A. Photos: PhotoRun.net

Over 300 athletes are already qualified for the event.

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Flanagan, left, and Keflezighi, right, will lead over 300 qualifiers at the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon in L.A. Photos: PhotoRun.net

It was announced this morning that reigning Olympic Trials Marathon champions Meb Keflezighi and Shalane Flanagan are the first athletes to officially declare their intention to compete in the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon on February 13 in L.A.

Keflezighi, who owns an Olympic silver medal in the marathon from the 2004 Athens Games, is currently the fastest men’s qualifier at 2:08:37, set in winning the 2014 Boston Marathon. Flanagan, the 2008 Olympic silver medalist in the 10,000m, owns the fastest mark to date by a U.S. woman, a 2:21:14 set at Berlin last fall.

RELATED: CIM Offering Bonuses To Trials Qualifiers

Over 300 athletes are currently qualified for the event, which will take place on a criterium style course the day before the 2016 L.A. Marathon. The top three finishers in each Trials race who meet the Olympic time standards will represent the U.S. at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.

“It is with great excitement that I officially announce my plan to compete at the 2016 Olympic Trials in Los Angeles,” the 40-year-old Keflezighi said in a press release. “As a product of San Diego, and UCLA, I am looking forward to competing in front of family and friends. It would be a great honor to make my fourth Olympic Team, but I know the competition will be very strong.”

Flanagan, 34, of Portland, Ore, is also a three-time Olympian who finished 10th at the Olympic marathon in London. At the 2012 marathon trials, she set an Olympic Trials record of 2:25:38.

“For most athletes, pulling on that red, white and blue singlet is what it’s all about,” said Flanagan, who will represent the U.S. in the 10,000m at the upcoming world championships in Beijing. “There are few things I want more than to make my fourth Olympic Team at the 2016 Games in Rio, and it all starts in Los Angeles on February 13. It’s a good omen that Team USA’s quest for gold begins in the Golden State!”

In order to qualify for the 2016 Olympic Trials, athletes must run under the minimum marathon standard of 2:18:00 for men and 2:43:00 for women, or a sub-1:05 half marathon by a man/sub-1:15 mark by a woman, by January 17, 2016.

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Cal International Marathon Offering Bonuses For Olympic Trials Qualifiers http://running.competitor.com/2015/07/news/cal-international-marathon-offering-bonuses-for-olympic-trials-qualifiers_132639 http://running.competitor.com/2015/07/news/cal-international-marathon-offering-bonuses-for-olympic-trials-qualifiers_132639#comments Tue, 28 Jul 2015 19:13:29 +0000 http://running.competitor.com/?p=132639

Photo: Shutterstock.com

It is expected that close to 50 aspiring Trials qualifiers will be looking to punch their ticket to L.A. at this year's race.

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Photo: Shutterstock.com

The annual California International Marathon in Sacramento, known to feature one of the fastest courses in the U.S., is offering cash bonuses to any American men or women who hit Olympic Trials Marathon qualifying standards at this year’s race.

The qualifying window for the Olympic Trials Marathon, which takes place on February 13 in Los Angeles, closes on January 17, 2016. Cal International is one of the last chances for runners who haven’t yet qualified for the Trials to try and do so.

RELATED: Keflezighi, Flanagan Declare For 2016 Olympic Trials Marathon

At this year’s race, CIM officials are offering a $1,000 bonus to any American male who is under the 2:18 “B” qualifying standard or woman who is under the “B” standard of 2:43. That bonus is upped to $2,500 for any male who runs under the “A” standard of 2:15 or woman who breaks the “A” standard of 2:37.

“This year will be an exciting year as we close out the fall marathon season as the ‘last chance’ opportunity for many elite American runners who will be looking to fulfill an important step in their Olympic dreams by earning an Olympic Trails qualifying mark,” says Scott Abbott, executive director of the Sacramento Running Association, the organization which puts on the race.

Last year at CIM, 14 American women ran under the 2:43 “B” standard to earn a qualifying mark, while on the men’s side, seven runners punched their ticket to the 2016 Trials. In 2013, nine U.S. women and two men earned their Trials berths, while in 2011, just over a month before the 2012 Olympic Trials in Houston, 24 women and seven men hit the qualifying standards.

At this year’s race, it is expected that close to 50 aspiring Trials qualifiers will be looking to punch their ticket to L.A.

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Q&A with Sarah Attar http://running.competitor.com/2015/07/interviews/qa-with-sarah-attar_132424 http://running.competitor.com/2015/07/interviews/qa-with-sarah-attar_132424#comments Tue, 28 Jul 2015 18:28:24 +0000 http://running.competitor.com/?p=132424

Photo: Scott Draper

We caught up with Saudi Arabia's first female athlete to have competed in the Olympics.

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Photo: Scott Draper

Three years ago, Sarah Attar, now 22, competed in the 800 meters at the London Olympics. She finished dead last in her preliminary heat, dressed in a uniform that required covered hair, long sleeves and pants consistent with female Islamic dress codes, but the crowds rose to a standing ovation for her efforts. The San Diego native with dual American and Saudi Arabian citizenship made history that day as part of Saudi Arabia’s first female delegation of Olympic athletes. Now the former Pepperdine University cross-country runner continues to inspire, having recently signed a sponsorship with the apparel brand Oiselle and appearing on a banner along this year’s Boston Marathon course, which she ran for the third time with a new marathon PR of 3:18:37.

What difference do you think your Olympic appearance made?

Just visiting Saudi Arabia recently and talking to girls there, they tell me how much I inspire them. So, even if it’s still just steps toward getting more women’s gyms or running events or anything like that to evolve—that there are now girls who dream of competing in the Olympics is pretty amazing.

What was it like racing with the wardrobe requirements specified by Saudi Arabia?

My mom and I put together that outfit, and the main thing that was different was the full headpiece. I don’t typically train in a hijab, but it honestly wasn’t a big deal to me going into the stadium racing. It was like wearing any uniform you would wear as part of a team. So that’s just how I see it.

How was the race received in Saudi Arabia?

It was televised, but some stations didn’t show it, which speaks to how it was controversial. Some people weren’t happy that I was running in the Olympics and representing Saudi Arabia, but overall it was received pretty well and over time became more accepted.

What distances did you typically run in college?

I did cross country mainly, which is usually 6K. Then my sophomore year, which was the year prior to the Olympics, I trained for the Big Sur Marathon that April. So I didn’t really do track very much. I did a couple races, but it was the 3,000, and I’d only raced the 800 once in high school.

So, why run the 800m at the Olympics?

Just my speculation on it, but it was selected more to get me in the stadium and have the experience with the crowd. I still wouldn’t have qualified at longer distances, so I think the 800 saved me from being lapped a bunch like in the 10,000.

Along the Boston Marathon route this year your photo is featured on one of the banners, how did that come about?

Honestly, I have no idea how it came about. I got an email saying I was a finalist for one of the banners and thought it was the coolest thing ever. We were saying if I wasn’t racing Boston this year we’d still have to fly out just to see all the banners around the city. So it’s a good thing I ran.

What’s your favorite run?

I do love Big Sur. I mean that’s what initially drew me there, the landscape. I’ve also always been very visual and I studied art so I’ve always been inspired by nature and that’s just fed my running.

Why do you run?

It allows me to connect with people and have opportunities I never would have imagined for myself. It pushes us past what we think we’re capable of.

Will you run in the 2016 Olympics?

It’s up in the air. I don’t know what’s happening. In my opinion, [Saudi Arabia] should have women representing them, obviously. And if I was invited again, it would be awesome to do.

RELATED: Q&A With Lauren Fleshman

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Solving The Mystery of Side Stitches In Runners http://running.competitor.com/2015/07/injury-prevention/solving-the-mystery-of-side-stitches-in-runners_132491 http://running.competitor.com/2015/07/injury-prevention/solving-the-mystery-of-side-stitches-in-runners_132491#comments Tue, 28 Jul 2015 17:46:32 +0000 http://running.competitor.com/?p=132491

Photo: Shutterstock.com

Side stitches have been hard to study because of their transient nature and lack of definition.

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Photo: Shutterstock.com

When I was in high school, I would often find myself in the middle of a run suddenly so debilitated by pain in my lower side that I’d simply end up walking home or seeking refuge in a local gas station to wait it out. Eventually, the pain—a side stitch—would pass. Over time, it passed so entirely I haven’t been bothered by one in years.

But I am not alone in being temporarily crippled by the side stitch—or in having it disappear without explanation. Studies have found that nearly 70 percent of runners will get a side stitch in a given year, and swimmers and horseback riders see similarly high rates. Yet the causes of the ailment, as well as treatments for it, are still relatively mysterious.

“It just shows up when it wants to show up,” says Dr. AJ Gregg, head of Hypo2 High Performance Sport Center in Arizona. Gregg has treated a number of elite athletes for side-stitch pain.

Like many runners afflicted with these unexplained pains, I concocted my own theories: It’s all about breathing patterns. You simply need to get in better shape. Is it just me, or do side stitches seem to come on when I change running speeds back and forth?

“It is just you,” says Dr. Darren Morton, a senior lecturer at Avondale College in Australia.

Morton is the leading—and, in many ways, the only—researcher on side stitches, which are academically referred to as “exercised-induced temporary abdominal pain,” or ETAP for short.

One of the main reasons that Morton could be considered the only major researcher in the field is that there simply hasn’t been that much research done on side stitches, or ETAP. Most runners who are bothered by a side stitch would never visit a doctor for the problem.

“It’s more of a nuisance in a lot of cases, than life-threatening,” explains Gregg.

Side stitches have also been hard to study because of their transient nature and lack of definition. What exactly constitutes ETAP? Some people get the pain in their side. Some get it more toward the middle of the abdomen. Some are high in the abs; some are low. Many people also confuse side stitches and cramps, though those two things are very different.

RELATED: Got Cramps? Here’s How To Stop Them

The lack of research has led to wild speculation. But many of those theories, largely based on anecdotal evidence, are now being disproven.

For years, it was theorized that side-stitch pain was related to stress of the diaphragm muscles. But studies have found that ETAP occurs even in activities with low respiratory demands on the diaphragm and having a side stitch doesn’t result in limited lung capacity. Other theories suggested that side stitches were connected to gastrointestinal distress or to stress on the ligaments around the stomach and liver. The current operating theory, though, is that these stitches are caused by irritation of the parietal peritoneum, according to Morton.

“We have not proved what causes stitches but I am 99 percent confident that it is the parietal peritoneum,” he contends.

Think of the parietal peritoneum as a membrane corset that wraps around the center of your body and abdomen, says Gregg. As you fatigue and your body breaks down, your core muscles fatigue and your back muscles over-engage. The muscles in the back directly press on nerves that are felt in your abdomen and side (and sometimes even in your shoulder tip). The result is that irritating pain in your side.

What is also becoming more clear is that the side stitch does not necessarily discriminate based on ability—elite runners just might be more equipped at dealing with the pain and be more thorough about eliminating potential risk factors. Olympic bronze medalist Deena Kastor even reported struggling with a side stitch during the Rock n’ Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon last September— a race in which she shattered the Masters half-marathon world record. About 2-5 percent of the athletes who come into Gregg’s office are there because of side-stitch pain, and most of those seeking help are elite runners.

But the fact that Deena Kastor might be getting the same pain you get doesn’t do much good when you’re crippled in the middle of a race, especially since there’s no known immediate solution.

“There does not seem to be any consistent method for relieving them other than to stop exercise,” says Morton.

It’s like the old and annoying joke:

— “Doctor it hurts when I do this.”

— “Well, have you tried not doing that?”

In the middle of a race, that is not what you want to hear, nor is it helpful advice.

RELATED: How To Beat Marathon Muscle Cramps

Gregg works on trouble-shooting with athletes to figure out what helps them with the pain or why they might be predisposed to it. “It can take a little trial and error,” he says.

Eating and drinking large amounts within the two hours before running has been correlated with some side-stitch pain, so Gregg always starts by advising athletes to eat a little further out from their workout. And, if athletes have reactions to specific foods, then that’s also something to rule out.

Practicing deep breathing exercises, slowing down your breathing or adopting a deep and rhythmic breathing pattern has been found to sometimes help relieve side stitches. While side stitches are no longer believed to be originating in the diaphragm, these things can still help relieve the stress on the muscles across your back and abs.

Once a side stitch strikes, many runners also subscribe to the method of grabbing their side where it hurts. This has shown some success, partially because it works in a similar way to a core stabilizer or belt, and holds the muscles in place. Stretching the affected side or bending forward can also help relieve the muscles in the back that are pushing on the nerve that’s causing the pain.

These are all classic treatments that Gregg often recommends an athlete try, but when it comes to proof in the form of quantifiable results from research, he admits, “I have no idea if it actually helps.”

If the theory of parietal peritoneum irritation is accurate, then the best thing to prevent side stitches is to strengthen your core muscles so they don’t break down as you fatigue, or to focus on activating and engaging those core muscles when running. Gregg will sometimes suggests an athlete take an anti-inflammatory in advance to help relieve potential nerve irritation.

As a last resort, you could just wait a few years. Side stitches have been found to be very common among teens, but far less common as you age—theoretically because the surface area of the peritoneum is proportionally larger in teenagers. See, getting older does have its perks.

RELATED: Dealing With Injuries That Aren’t Really Injuries

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