Putting a Hero to Rest

The world has lost one of the best mountain athletes we've ever seen. Ueli Steck was one of those athletes I looked up to because he was ridiculously well rounded. From sport climbing 14.a/8b+ to ultra running, speed soloing insane lines up huge mountains at blistering paces, and constantly perfecting his craft of moving in nature continued to inspire me on a daily basis. 

Athletes who push their limits in the mountains are fully aware of the danger yet choose to do so because it simply is 100% of who they are. We now are left with his inspiring approach to life and choice to live it as best you can at all times. He stated once that his father told him something to the affect of whatever you choose to do in life, do it with perfection. A mode of living we should all embrace.

"You're progressing on something and that's what it's all about. You wanna keep moving, having a progress in your life."

"It’s the feeling of total control. When you are properly trained, your body works hard — but when you move, you do not suffer. That’s the feeling I am looking for."

JFK 50 and How Training is not Overrated

Stefan reached out to me when he was having a hard time finishing strong in longer races. He's a very talented runner and knew he could go faster but needed help in making that happen. The first thing we did was integrate the concept of going slow to race fast. We also began polarizing workouts so the easy were very easy and hard were pretty close to all-out sufferfests. We then dove into changing his racing approach. Below Stefan shares his thoughts and experience with the JFK 50 Miler where he ran a smoking fast 7:39! Congrats Stefan!

Stefan sporting the flash on his way to a great jfk 50 mile finish

Why 50 miles? What was your motivation for this race?
Distance in itself is a challenge and I felt I had not executed a 50 mile race well yet.  JFK was attractive because a friend asked me if I wanted to run it with her (training motivation) and it was an opportunity to run somewhere I have never run before and in a race that has a rich history as the oldest ultra in the US. 

Did you have any rough patches during the race?
Around mile 34 fatigue in my core set in.  At this stage I had completed the technical trail section and about 20 miles of the pancake flat tow path.  I felt pain and fatigue in my abdominal muscles, lower back and in my glutes.  I could feel a distinct slowdown and increased sense of plodding instead of cruising; a really heavy feeling in my running gait.  A trail angel offered me ibuprofen and I accepted the unsolicited contraband and boy, it made the world of difference - within a mile or two the spring was back in my step and my pace recovered to what I had been running before the rough patch.

What were some key workouts you did that helped you go fast during the 50 miles?
I think confidence is key and any workout that provides confidence in the build up is useful, but specifically confidence building workouts in the last month or so before the race are important.  Running fast for long stretches in training helps me feel comfortable with speed in a race because it feels easy.  

Did you have any on-the-course nutrition issues or did everything go smoothly? 
I did not start with any nutrition on me and the race did not have any aid stations until more than 15 miles in.  Even there the best I could find were Oreos, so I grabbed three and slowly got them in me, but that was very unusual for me at a start of a race.  After mile 15, the aid stations had lots of variety and I had whatever looked good at that moment of browsing.  

What's your favorite memory from race day?
Hitting the road section at mile 42 and knowing that the race was in the bag, I knew I could make my goal time and could just enjoy the miles in to the finish.

At any point did you feel like dropping?
I always question why I chose to voluntary inflict the pain on myself during a race, but I never considered quitting in this race because things went very well.  I have given up before and I know how awful that feels the next day.  In this race my pain never reached a threshold to consider swapping instant relief for more intense pain the next day.

There was some weather that came in on race day, did you get caught in any of that?
Fortunately not.  I had strong headwinds during the last 8 miles as the front blew in, but that was a minor inconvenience compared to the sleet that followed after my finish.

What advice can you provide to others who want to race a fast 50 miler?
Training is not over-rated!  Everyone responds to training differently, but key for me in this build up was that I never felt like training was a drag.  My weekly mileage was manageable and mixing in cycling workouts were useful in providing breaks from running.  Monitoring fitness levels in Training Peaks was a first for me and it was very motivational to see the fitness chart in a upward trajectory.

Did you wear a sweet running outfit or did you just stick to the basics?
Basics.  Some would consider my short shorts flash.

How much beer did you drink post-race?
I actually had more beer the night before the race than after.  The night after we had a wonderful group dinner with lots of red wine at a friend’s house.

Thanks for the post race recap Stefan!
Happy training,
Joe

Mechanics Matters

Initial impact and peak hip extension 

Say NO to Running Injuries
I know you're tired of dealing with IT band pain, shin splints, patellar tendon inflammation, and all the other ways running injuries manifest themselves. I feel your pain and have been there as well. Most running injuries occur due to faulty mechanics that can thankfully be fixed. There's a few guidelines that good running form stems from: neutral pelvis, hip dominance, and landing over your center of mass. Any one of those can cause a breakdown over time. 

Trunk Lean
What if I told you we could shave off 2 mins from your fastest 5K? I've seen form improvements bleed over into those types of PR's in just a few weeks. How's your trunk lean? If it's not between 8º and 12º you could be putting on the brakes and decreasing your running economy. How about your front foot, when it impacts the ground? Is it in front or directly under your center of mass? Hard to tell.. I know.

During my running form assessment, I shoot video and use software to analyze your movement pattern. The eye misses things the camera will see, and we all know it's hard to make corrections on our own. By looking at individual frames we can focus on when your foot hits the ground and what this means to your form. 

The hip is where your power comes from but how much extension are you getting out of the back? We can measure this and find limiting factors, address those issues, and have you kicking far harder then ever. 

Glutes VS Quads
Many runners tend to be knee dominant and over use their quads and hamstrings. This leaves our secondary movers doing the work of a primary mover. Not ideal. We need to make the switch in the brain and allow the glutes to power the machine. Quads and hams should be there to help, not dominate.

Your daily movement patterns and posture determine your running and lifting abilities. See what's going on and have a professional eye give a glance to your patterns. Re-educating the brain and defining new ways to conceptualize your form will greatly enhance your run pattern. A much faster path to gaining speed compared to training bad form and only working on fitness.

Happy Training,
Joe

 

What do YOU eat before a long run???

breakfast-choices-for-runners.jpg
 

The most common question I hear once our training runs start to get longer is "what do you eat before a long run?". My reply is typically "nothing, I prefer starting on empty" BUT that should have almost zero impact on what YOU actually eat. There are so many variables, everyone is so different. If I'm probed for more info I go into...

 
 

• what type of diet do you follow? LCHF, Zone, Paleo, Keto, SAD?
• are you hungry when you wake up?
• what are your long run intensities like?

All of those play major roles in how you approach your pre-workout fueling.  So instead of telling you what I think you should eat or do, I asked friends and athletes I coach to give you their approach. Hopefully this will invigorate you with ideas and display the wide variety of methods that work. 

Ross
large cup of black coffee with 1/2 an English muffin topper with Justin's peanut butter and whipped honey
handfull of blueberries and 4-5 strawberries

Silvia
1/2 banana + almond butter + espresso with honey

Paul
1/2 cup of coffee, 2 pcs toast w/ peanut butter and a banana

Stephanie
nada, runs on empty, maybe a couple sips of black coffee
banana with almond butter if gets hungry before run

Stefan 
coffee, banana and bagel with peanut butter, 20 ounces of water

Joe 
nada, don't eat prior, fuel during run
if hungry when wake up will have a hard boiled egg

Don 
banana, hardboiled egg or energy bar, water

Bernadette 
waffle with peanut butter

Carroll
1 tsp beet crystals + 1 tsp D-ribose + 1 scoop UCAN + 1 scoop electrolyte powder + 8 ounces water
8 ounces Matcha tea

Jon
oatmeal + banana

Brandy
UCAN + peanut butter and toast

Garrett
nada, empty start

Claudette
400 cals from eggs + bacon + avocado + bagel

Tony
protein shake

Caty
Pure Genesis pre-workout drink

Danny
coffee + coconut oil

Brian
cup of coffee

I hope this provides insight to the diversity and what works for different folks. It's really important to not rely on the food you've just ingested to fuel your workout, but rather have your tank topped off from adequate intake in the days leading up to your long run. 

Happy training!
Joe








 

 

Defining Determination: Leadville 100 Mile Run Race Report

Claudette Crockett set out this summer to finish her first 100 mile ultra trail run. Thanks for letting me be a part of your inspiring journey! Below is an interview regarding her experience. Enjoy!

What was your main reasons for wanting to run Leadville 100?

I crewed my husband during Leadville 2013 . After pacing him the last section and sharing the finish line with him, I fell in love with this race, the town and its mountains.

After having my first child, she became my motivation to complete the goal I couldn't complete many times when I took all the free time for granted. 

I was done making excuses and I knew by the time she turn 1 year old , I wanted to cross the 100 mile mark with her in my arms. 

How did you feel about attacking this beast as your first 100 miler?

Some days I had my doubts, especially at the beginning of my training when my body still showed signs of postpartum. As a Personal Trainer I know the importance of accountability. I had my strength and conditioning plan layout. I had my husband help but I needed another expert perspective to avoid overtraining, undertraining and injuries. So I hired Joe Sulak. 

After 2 months of training with Him, I never felt so strong and positive to complete Leadville. My running program was going strong. I made a few mistakes along the way that caused a calf injury but patiently with training modifications I was able to recover quickly and continue the plan. 

How did you train for a race that starts at 10,200' when you live around 800' elevation?

Most of my training days happened in my garage treadmill at 4am in the morning. I was still breastfeeding at that time so getting up early was the best way to utilized my energy while taking care of baby. Some weekends were tough spending 3-4 hours in a 100º garage. Other days I had to keep a 15% incline while wearing a 20lb vest, while very few weekends I was privileged to get out on the trails. 

I had planned a 10 day trip to do a course preview and get a 50 miler run the month prior race.  Joe suggested the Hypoxico training which help me speed up my physiological adaptation to a high altitude. I trained with the Hypoxico a couple weeks prior the trip. I believe in technology to help athletes reach their goals and Hypoxico is a very important one if you training for a high altitude race. During this trip I was able to get out and train without much problem, we covered 60% of the course. I was fortunate to climbed Mt. Massive 14,000ft by my 9th day I never had any elevation issues running the 50 miler. I came back home for a few weeks and I continued with the Hypoxico just for one week knowing I was going back to Colorado for 3 weeks. My body adapted really well the second trip. I was able to continue my scheduled runs without any hesitation, I had never felt stronger. 

This was a once in a lifetime experience, exploring and climbing Colorado's San Juan and Isabel mountains. If I ever have the opportunity again, I would make this a yearly summer trip. 

Were there any emotional highs and lows during the race? 

Many emotions but more highs the lows. Never any lows lows that wanted me to quit. I was determine to cross the finish line unless something really bad happened that will slow me down and miss the cut off times. 

The first 10 hours of the day were excited to hold and kiss my daughter and every aid station. I took my time and I never let the "competitive me" come out. 

I started my race very conservative, I didn't want to blow up my cardio and not be able to turn around, not knowing what to expect. 

1st low point nutrition : Mile 30 I got behind calories and hydration, the hottest part of the day that slowed me down. 

2nd low point was desperation: I coming down Hope pass the Colorado trail it's so narrow , you have to stop to give the right away to runner coming back, the clock is clicking all my friends were already passing and some one said "45 more minutes "  they felt like hours. It was time to push if I didn't want to get cut off. Finally made it mile 50 with 30 minutes to spare. The high seeing my husband with a delicious chicken sandwich and my favorite mango juice. 

Mile 50-60 Hope Pass Determination: It was getting dark and cold, chasing the cut off time was the highlight of my day and I was getting tired of it. Digging deep inside I had to run most of down hill from Hope pass to Twin Lakes. 

Mile 60-75 The Twin High-High: 9:45 pm after changing into warm clean clothes and dry shoes. This part of the course was my favorite so I decided to give my legs a go. The energy level was so high, excited from finishing the toughest part of course and my body was feeling good. My running came down to 13:30 min/mile. I had the chance to bank time and forget about the cut off. 

Mile 77-85 The Power line Hight to Low: Many will think once you do the double Hope Pass you have secure a race finish but the Power Line doesn't give mercy of tired quadriceps. Before starting the climb my body felt ready, head down and pushing the aggressive steep 26% climbing. I keep reminding myself to relax my face and shoulders and take in a lot full energizing breaths. Towards the end of the last beast my body was done from all of the max efforts.

Mile 87- The Mayqueen: I had no running in me. I felt cold and sleepy. Part of me wanted to sit down and enjoy a warm noodle soup but I made a promise to keep moving no matter what so I grabbed my soup and hot chocolate and head out for a brisk walk around the lake. 

The sunrise high came out with 6 miles left. My legs had no running left but a shuffle/power walk. 

Mile 96 quick turn into the road and my morning brightened up . My husband was waiting for me. We both shared tears of joy. Remembering the last time we shared that road together but now it would be me getting that beautiful buckle. He walked with me the last mile along with my wonderful friend and pacer Melanie. We did it together! 

Do you feel this experience changed you and if so, how?

I believe in me much more. I feel any goal is reachable weather you single or a busy working mom. Just have to make the commitment and know there are ups and down but if you do the work no matter how hard your training days, it will pay off. 

Tell us about your crew and pacers? How important were they in your success? 

My husband Jason crewed me the entire 29 hours and my friend Melanie Rabb paced me at the turn around point for 50 miles. I'm so thankful for both of them. They both worked so hard to get me across the finish line. The advantage of having 2 experience ultra athletes, I feel this race could not be done without them on my side. They knew exactly what I needed before I even got to the aid stations. I was able to keep walking past the check points. I only stopped to kiss my daughter and my husband, while Melanie stayed behind refueling calories. 60 miles inbound, my husband had a layout change of dry clothes and shoes, that was the only 5 minutes I spent sitting down. 

What do you feel was the biggest secret to your success with regard to how you trained for the LT100?

Of course being diligent with the running schedule but integrating a strengthening and flexibility program was fundamental.  

What would you do different next time?

I feel satisfied with all my accomplishment for this event. Just a few thing to tweak but all that comes from experiencing the event. 

I will trust my training and feel confident.  The first half, I failed following my nutritional plan. I got caught up in the emotions of preserving energy and slowing down every time I knew could run harder.  

Any suggestions for LT100 future runners? 

Altitude: Take the time to train in or try hypoxico 

Running the 50 miler is a great test to what to expect. 

Course preview to run the tree major climbs . The power line, Twin Lakes and Hope Pass. 

What's next?

Keep Working on my strength and conditioning training. Eat and sleep "no more 3:45 am alarm" Maybe another 100 miler before getting ready for my next race called "Baby number #2". 

Triathlon Testimony from Tim Duffy

Was this your first Ironman or had you completed any before?
Third Ironman…Did Ironman Melbourne and Ironman Florida

What made you reach out to Joe for Ironman coaching? 
Didn’t have the best experience with my previous coach, and Michael Little said that Joe was amazing.

What were some things that were different in Joe's approach compared to other coaches you've used in the past (if any)? 
Joe cares.  It may seem like a small, thing, but Joe actually genuinely cares about his athletes and wants what is best for them inside their goals.  He absolutely pushes you beyond what you think is possible, but he is careful to stay within the boundaries of your goals and limitations to allow you to excel at things other than Ironman while training (I.e. Being a good father, husband, and employee).  He listens, and my goodness, he always calls back as soon as he is able.  

What do you feel was the most valuable aspect of using Joe as your coach? 
Joe is exceptionally attentive and customizes your plan based upon what is most important to you.  He does a fantastic job of getting the most out of you.  I know I said it before, but Joe calls back and is accessible.  I am, by no means, a stellar athlete or one who is going to get Joe’s name in lights as this amazing trainer to pick up other celebrity clients.  I am just an ordinary guy trying to do another Ironman with the least amount of effort and still have a semblance of a family life.  I want to have the best experience possible on race day, but I don’t want to give up my life and sacrifice my firstborn for a good time…but Joe is there no matter what.  No matter how insignificant my questions might be, he treats them as real as I feel them in the moment, and takes the time to talk me through whatever is ailing me at the time.  He is just an awesome, attentive guy.

Did you have any training hiccups along the way? And if so, how did you guys address them? 
I had a run in with plantar fasciitis that was creeping in and Joe was ready to adjust my training plan to address it.  I had a back spasm about 7 days before the race and he quickly helped me find a masseuse the day before the race to try to knead it out.  He was on vacation and he was still accessible.

Did you feel prepared and in good racing form on race day? 
Absolutely.  Felt the best shape I have been in on race day, but I always wish I could have done more after the race is over (as we all do!!!)!  That race was the toughest I had done to date, but it was the most rewarding experience to date as well.  Thanks to Joe, I learned to push myself on the run as I never had before!

What would you suggest to others who are considering completing their first Ironman? 
Invest the money in a good coach prior to heading down the road to an Ironman.  Even doing my third, I would not sign on the dotted line for a race of that magnitude without having someone who can help you construct the plan that can give you the best race day experience.  Anyone can look online or get a buddy’s plan and work on it, but it isn’t the early phases of the training where it becomes important…it’s those last few weeks that are important.  Getting a coach that can work with you long enough to understand your strengths and weaknesses, who understands your fears and anxieties, and someone who ultimately gets why you even signed up for the race is the person who you need fighting for you when the wheels might start coming off right before the race.  Those last few weeks of the training are the hardest and will elicit the biggest sources of questions, and having a great cornerman like Joe is crucial to hitting that Ironman on game-day in your peak form.  He can adjust your plan as needed and can ebb and flow based upon anything that life throws at you.  Get a coach, get a coach, get a coach, I say!!!

Do you feel having a coach made a difference in the way things went in training and race day? 
100%.  Joe put me in situations that I would have never experienced otherwise, and I was able to draw on those immediate experiences to get through the challenges of race day.  Even as an experienced (not a good racer, just experienced!) racer, I have many different experiences, to pull from, but Joe put me out there and stretched me at times further than I would have otherwise pushed.  At one point I pushed too hard and he and I got the opportunity to talk through each of these experiences and how to deal with them in the future.

Joe Sulak is the best coach I have ever had, and when I tackle another race, he will be the first person I call prior to signing on the dotted line.  He is an amazing coach, and amazing family-man, and just a good friend.  Thank you, Joe!!!

Challenge. Commitment. 50 Miles.

Ross Ormond recently finished running his first 50 miler at Hells Hills at Rocky Hill Ranch in Smithville, TX. He's psyched and ready for more. Congrats to Ross! Here's a quick Q&A with him, enjoy!

What made you want to run almost two marathons back to back?
The challenge. Something I had never done before and quite frankly just the thought of it made me feel crazy; in a good way. It was all part of the training and commitment to getting the legs in the right shape. Coach Joe said I would be cursing his name on the second 25-miler…I did, but only briefly. 

How long did you train for this specific event?
Specifically not long. I had a good base built up from a December marathon and carried it into a 50K trail run in Bandera. It was after Bandera that I truly fell in love with being in the backcountry…running…living…enjoying what we take for granted each day. If I had to put a number on it, about 2.5 months.

How did you avoid injury in training for such a long race?
It so important to take care of the body, especially in endurance sports. Nutrition is first and foremost. I also take time, albeit reluctantly, to properly stretch and get massages to work out things I can't fix on my own. It’s a constant battle for me but I know the consequences if I don’t.  I’ve overtrained in the past and know what that feels like. Joe does a great job of keeping that in check for me.

What do you feel was the single most important aspect related to your success?
Commitment. There are times where life gets in the way and you have to make sacrifices if it’s something you want to do. For me that meant getting up at 2 or 3am to get my 5 hour workouts in so that I could be back home to have breakfast with the family. You also have to give a shout out to all the people supporting you. From my family, friends, colleagues, and of course Joe. It goes without saying that they are, and continue to be, champions for me. 

How did you handle your caloric needs in training and in racing?
Trial and error for training, finding out what my body could take and how much at any one time. On my second marathon in two days I was so hungry I ate about 5 or 6 small boiled and salted potatoes. I thought I was going to die 5 minutes later. I guess I overloaded my body and it kicked back; hard. It’s truly about balance and finding something you can choke down when your 30, 40, 50 miles in because your body/mind is telling you ‘I’m good’. My go-to’s are boiled potatoes, stinger waffles, Pringles (always available on the course), Skratch chews, Justin’s peanut butter, almond butter and cashew butter.

Are you ready for more?
Bring ‘em on! 100 miler here we come. 

What advice would you give to the aspiring Ultrarunner?
Do it because you love it. Find balance. Make the sacrifices, it’s all worth it!


Happy training,
Joe

Building Cycling Power: Part 1

Experimenting in the gym has been fun and extremely rewarding. We went in the gym for 8 weeks and had amzing results. This is part 1 of a 3 part series, I hope you enjoy and reach out if you have questions.

The Process

We headed into the gym twice weekly for 8 weeks and followed a specific program aimed at increasing power output on the bike. During the 8 weeks there were no efforts on the bike that exceeded zone 2. Long rides ranged from 3-6 hours once a week. Total weekly volume was between 8-12 hours. 

  • gym time: 2 times weekly
  • ride effort: zone 2 max
  • long rides: 3-6 hours
  • weekly ride duration: 8-12 hours

The Results

The graph speaks for itself. Remember this is with zero conditioning for 8 weeks outside of zone 2 efforts and lifting weights in the gym.

5-minute-power
 

Take Home

The message here is weights work. If done properly, you can make HUGE gains in the gym that transfer directly to the bike. If weights haven't worked in the past, you may have been using the wrong approach. 

Contact us if you want your graph to look like the one above. 

Happy training!
Joe

A Journey Back to Racing

Anna healthy and happy to be racing again

Anna Fedotova recently went from a boating accident to regaining her ability to train and race. Her story is inspiring and a testimony to the magic that happens when you find the right synergies between athlete and coach. 

Tell me about the injuries and issues that were preventing you from training and racing.
Like many athletes, I had been dealing with recurring minor injuries on and off. In June 2014 I had been in the midst of marathon training when I got seriously injured in an accident. My foot was hit by a boat propeller. While no major parts of the foot were lost, some parts were severed. Recovery was long; too long for my patience. After 4 months of intensive physical therapy, pool therapy, work on the Anti-Gravity Treadmill, it seemed I was recovering well and was ready to start exercising at the pre-injury levels of intensity. I started doing Crossfit as a way to gain some strength. I ended up injuring my back doing something seemingly benign – a kettle bell swing. Still nursing my foot, this new back injury was devastating.

What made you decide to seek help?
One thing was clear: I could not trust myself with my training and needed support and guidance. I continued to be stuck in “injury-rehabilitation-injury” cycle, with no room for performance. It was incredibly frustrating and unproductive. I decided to find a coach. After interviewing about 5 different candidates, Joe seemed like he would offer exactly what I had been looking for: structured training based my needs. I was definitely not disappointed! Joe helped me build up my musculoskeletal structure with all the supporting elements that need to be intact before running or riding fast. 

How long did it take to start to notice progress? 
Progress felt slow. I wanted to do more, go faster. Yet Joe’s focus was on building strong and balanced athlete, which takes time to create. I could not be happier that I trusted him and his intuition. Slow is smooth, smooth is fast, military folks like to say. Well, this saying applies perfectly to my situation: Joe trained me for about 10 months, with weekly meetings and multiple “check-ins” during the week. I had NO injuries. Minor aches were addressed so quickly that they had no chances of becoming a long-term problem. By the end, I was able to complete 4 half marathons in 6 months, trimming 20 minutes for 13.1 in only 5 months!  While progress felt slow, the results of following Joe’s lead are paying off! I am confident my running times will continue to improve!

What were some of the first changes you noticed while working with Joe?
It was not always easy to trust Joe’s strategies in training. For instance, one of the things he implemented was low heart rate training, generally practiced during my long runs. THAT was tough. Going 10:15 minute a mile for 10 miles was testing my patience! Yet, soon, I noticed that going 9:30 for 10 miles felt easy. Soon, 9:00 felt easy. My last half marathon, my pace was consistent and running felt good! The more I trusted his training, the better I got.

What are you currently working towards with regard to racing?
I am excited about my current training. I am training for my first Ironman 70.3. It is hard to imagine that just over one and a half years ago, I was air evacuated from the lake to the operating room and now, I am preparing for an Ironman. There is not a chance I would have done this alone and Joe was absolutely a vital part of my recovery!    

What advice would you give others who were in your place at the time of injury seeking to rehabilitate themselves? 
If you are considering personal coaching, I suggest you do your research carefully and find someone who tailors to your needs. Many coaches are competitive athletes themselves. One of the concerns with actively competing coaches is projecting their own competitive abilities and needs onto you. Find someone who is going to be attuned to your unique abilities, strengths, weaknesses, while implementing new training methods (like low heart rate training for me), when warranted, and holding you accountable. I’d say, if you are recovering from a major injury or prone to injuries, Joe would be a perfect fit for you.  

 

Strength on the Rocks

Charmagne climbing at the red river gorge

A good friend of ours had dreams of rock climbing hard into her 40's. With a little help, she's created a balanced and strong foundation to build on! Thanks for the interview Charmagne!

Tell me about your climbing career and what brought you to seek Joe's help?
I have been climbing since 1992 and was even a sponsored climber for a few years. After having triplets and a singleton, I found myself stuck at a climbing level I didn't find acceptable. I had never really "trained" nor had I ever used a coach or performance specialist. My husband and I met had Joe at our local climbing gym, and knew he would be a great asset to getting me back in to the shape I was hoping for.

Did you find that you were weaker than you expected?
I was realistic in term of how weak I was; however, I was shocked at how much power I could build. My forte prior to working with Joe was endurance types routes; however, after training with Joe, I feel like my strength is power. 

What methods did Joe incorporate that were new and unusual to you?
Joe has stressed many times how toxic to the body climbing can be. He encouraged me to incorporate light cardio to keep the body oxygenated and less acidic as well as to promote faster recovery. I have also seen how beneficial lifting weights can be; even for a sport which hasn't been quick to embrace weight training. Lastly, one of the biggest lessons I've learned from Joe is proper REST! My personality is to go all out - no holds barred - but this can quickly lead to injury, especially in a sport as physically demanding as climbing.

What were some of the benefits you received from working with Joe?
After completing a 14 week training course with Joe, I peaked at just the right time, and was able to have a solid fall climbing season! During this season I was consistently on-sighting 12a, on-sighted two 12b's, a 12c and redpointed a 13a that had been a monkey on my back for a while. 

charmagne climbing in central texas

Did you have to readjust your climbing style to utilize the new training methods?
I have learned to move more dynamically while climbing, which has enabled me to be more fluid in movement and more efficient. I tend to prefer static movement which is not always the best way to get through hard sections and cruxes.

What was the biggest change you saw take place?
My raw power was higher than I think it had ever been; even prior to kids.  Joe also worked with me on improving my body composition. I reduced my body fat by 4% and therefore improved my strength-to-weight ratio, another important factor for climbing at higher grades.

What advice would you have for other rock climbers wanting to improve their performance?
If you seriously want to improve, don't waste time "playing" in the gym or outside. Hiring a climbing coach or performance specialist is by far the best route, but if that's not an option: set goals, develop a plan, and stick with it! There are several really good books and some great blogs being written about training for climbing, there are even online coaching options. Realize that your results will not be instant and sometimes, you will even see regression during some phases of training, but in the end, it will be well worth it!

Fine Tuning Your Toolbox of Metrics

I've recently heard many coaches and trainers diminishing the benefits of using your heart rate as a valuable training tool. The reasons I hear are valid statements but shouldn't be used in dismissing it as an essential piece in your toolbox:  

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1) heat can affect your heart rate which will lead to higher readings even when intensity hasn't increased
2) outside stressors such as fatigue, dehydration can result in numbers which don't really correspond to your workload
3) faulty readings coming from the monitor

While I agree with the variables being issues at times, it's the years of proven success in coaching athletes of all abilities that has me still using it after 19 years in the field. Let's dig deeper into the reasons I feel heart rate based training is an ideal metric for runners. However, I need to state that in my coaching I don't rely on heart rate alone. I look at pace, vertical, and now most recently thanks to STRYD power meters, running wattage as well. 

Your Body's RPM
I want to provide you with an analogy using your car and it's tachometer, the gauge that measures the engine's revolutions per minute. When you're going up a mountain pass, you're probably going pretty slow. Grinding away with 12% grades probably has you steady on the gas telling you that it's taking a lot to make the climb. You look at your measly speed of 30mph but then glance over at the 4000+ RPM's you're turning out. Just because you're going slow is not an indicator that your car isn't under an extreme workload. The tachometer is responding to the work being placed on the car, just as your heart rate responds to running stress and other sources of workload.

Your heart rate is similar to your car's RPM. Heart rate doesn't tell you what your pace is doing, but your pace doesn't consistently paint an accurate picture of workload either. An example would be when you're out running a hilly route and your mile paces are dropping on the route due to the vertical gain. Your 10 min miles become 12's yet are you slacking off? Not at all. It's just that the climbs are requiring more power forcing your pace to slow so you don't blow up. We don't stop looking at our pace even though variables such as hills can throw it off and we shouldn't throw out monitoring our heart rate due to present variables mentioned above. 

Decreasing Costs
In order to become efficient at lower heart rates, you have to train there. You may be asking why should you want to become efficient at low heart rates when you don't race at that intensity. Your answer lies in the cost per unit of work as well as proven benefits of training in lower zones. First let's discuss the cost of running. If a mile at a HR of 155 costs 165 calories, yet a mile at a HR of 140 costs 135 calories, which is more efficient? The lower HR of course. But that's at a slower pace you say… or at least that's what I said. But, as we train at lower HR's, our body becomes faster at those low HR's. That 10 min mile pace in zone 4 just became zone 3. We are doing the same amount of running at the same pace, just at a decreased cost. 

This isn't black magic tricks, it's simple adaptations causing you to become more efficient. The body loves efficiency and seeks to master it in everything we do. If you do something in repetition, you become better at it. This is no different. At the same time you're creating a favorable stage for more adaptations to take place such as increased mitochondrial density (powerhouse of the cell) as well as improving capillarity leading to increased means for a higher volume of blood flow. 

One of my favorite benefits of heart rate training and spending time in the lower ranges is the fact that you can run yet create less stress on the body. This leads to quicker recovery time, less injury, less fatigue, and more energy for all the other things in your life. We as American's tend to think "more is better" and "I gotta be fast today". That thinking will have you stressed, burnt out and possibly injured. I promise you it is not the healthiest way to go about things. 

Use It All
As a runner, you should be paying close attention to the way your workouts make your HR respond AS WELL AS the paces you're running. And if you're into more metrics, grab a STRYD power meter and tackle the wattage aspects of training as well for the most accurate assessment of how hard you're working during your runs. Use it all. Don't dismiss. Include! The more data, the better. 

Happy Training,
Joe

 

Mitigating Migraines

Carrie has had such amazing success, it's been incredible to watch! I thought it would be great to share her story so others with migraines may experience hope and inspiration. I hope you enjoy! 

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Why did you seek  Joe's professional help?
I was tired of missing half my life because of health issues and felt that this was one thing I had not tried yet, diet and exercise.

What was the biggest health concern you had at the time?
My biggest concern was migraine headaches that completely debilitated me.  I knew that I needed to exercise to get my blood pressure and weight down, but the migraines would not allow me to do anything.  I was also terrified to exercise due to back surgery 3 years ago.  It was a vicious cycle, one step forward and five steps back.  I also was dealing with a very unsettled stomach every time I ate or thought about eating.  

How long were you not feeling well?
I have been suffering with one thing or another for 2-3 years.  

Did you have days where you just couldn't function?
I have had months where I felt that I couldn't function.  I would go from staying in bed for 3-4 days, half way living for 4-5 days and back in bed.  

How did you and Joe first decide to approach the issues?
I remember the first phone call very clearly.  After a long conversation with Joe and hearing what he thought some of the problems could be, I began to feel hopeful for the first time in months, if not years.  My most urgent medical issue was my migraines so we decided to start working on that problem.  We first decided that I needed to change my eating habits to help heal my gut.  Apparently back surgery and tons of meds in 2012 damaged my gut, and that was a possibility for why my migraines started soon after.  We decided that I would eat a grain-free and dairy-free diet and take a probiotic.  I ate mostly greens for a week and slowly added more to my diet; however, I stayed away from grain and dairy.  After a few weeks, we would also start a very slow exercise program but monitor my heart rate due to exercise-induced migraines.  This would help my to strengthen my core and improve my blood pressure. 

How quickly did you start to see results?
I saw results almost immediately.  I was accustomed to daily headaches and weekly migraines.  After changing my diet, I noticed that the daily headaches disappeared.  That first week, I did have a migraine, but it wasn't as severe.  After the second week, I was migraine and headache free and had more energy.  Also, the weight just started falling off.  I felt like I was losing a pound a day.  

Did this change any prescription medications you were taking?
 Just a few weeks after starting this new lifestyle, I was able to make an appointment with my neurologist.  Since I had only 1 migraine in a month and no headaches, we decided to reduce my migraine preventative in half.  This is a huge accomplishment because that medication has severe neurological side effects.  My blood pressure is on the low side now with medication.  Hopefully soon I will be able to cut back on that dosage. 

How are you feeling 8 weeks into the program?
I feel amazing! I have had only 2 migraines since changing everything, which was immediately after starting and after reducing medications (one was due to .  That is a huge difference from weekly migraines.  I have lost almost 30lbs. and have more energy than I could have imagined.  I sleep so much better at night and look forward to each day, rather than dreading what could happen.   I am not fearful of eating and how my stomach will handle it.  After 8 weeks, I can tell that corn causes mild headaches and gluten/wheat causes stomach issues.  Even though I check all labels, sometimes things slip through the cracks.  This has allowed me to determine what I am sensitive to and how it will affect me.  I feel stronger (physically and emotionally).  

Where do you see yourself in a year from now? 
I feel that I have made so much progress in just 8 weeks that a year from now feels like I can accomplish anything.  If you asked me that a year ago, my one year goal would have been to have only 1 or 2 migraines a month and to lose 30lbs.  After 8 weeks, I have already reached that goal.  My new goal is to be happy, healthy, and stronger.  I hope to get off of all medications (blood pressure, migraine preventative, sleeping aid, and anxiety).  I hope to  strengthen and tone my body through safe, structured exercises.  Last and most importantly for me, I want to be migraine and headache-free.  I want to wake up without fear of getting one.  Getting rid of the fear will probably be the hardest and longest thing to accomplish, but I am already headed in that direction.  

What would you like to tell others who suffer from similar issues?
I would like to tell others to not give up hope.  When I decided to see Joe, I told myself to give it a chance and that I had nothing to lose but weight.  I didn't have much hope that it would make a difference.  I have proven myself wrong.  Never give up hope!  If you have reason enough to make a change in your lifestyle, it is very easy to continue with it.  Every time I look at something I shouldn't eat but want, I ask myself "Is the risk of waking up with a migraine worth the few seconds of gratification that bite will give me?"  The answer is always no.  I would also tell others to stop treating the symptoms (migraines) and start looking for the cause of these symptoms (gut).  I was told that migraines just happen, and I needed to treat and prevent them.  Now I know that they are a symptom of my problematic gut.  I can treat my gut and get rid of the symptoms.   

Thanks for reading,
Joe



Build a Science-Based Fat Burning Machine

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There's a healthy shift in the endurance world right now toward lower heart rate training and increasing fat utilization. Quite a bit of information is available on health issues being linked to overtraining as well as going too hard too often leading athletes to question the intensity of their workouts. There's also the "preferred fuel component" which basically means "feed it what you want it to burn". If you want to have the ability to burn fat for fuel, you'll need to eat in a way that promotes the fat utilization. In this article I'm going to provide useful information about training at lower heart rates and improving your fat burning ability. 

Three Steps
1. Establish your training zones
2. Modify your diet so you can increase fat utilization during exercise
3. Plot your course and polarize your workouts

Step 1: Establish your training zones
Your first objective is to determine your aerobic threshold (AeT). Don't confuse this with your anaerobic threshold (AT) which is a different, although useful, data point as well. There are many training methods out right now and this is a hot topic, but I'm not fond of using formulas to determine heart rate zones. This data is the foundation of your success. Use science, avoid guesswork. 

The best way to find your AeT, AT and corresponding heart rate zones is by having a VO2 test performed. This includes assessing your respiratory rate, oxygen uptake, and heart rate. The goal is not to find your VO2 max and compare it to others, but rather to find the point at which you begin to experience an increase in blood lactate levels (AeT) as well as the point where you can no longer use fat for fuel (AT). Combined, those two points of data allow you to create effective and efficient individualized training zones.

Step 2: Modify Your Diet
If you want to burn fat for fuel, you need to be sure you're giving your body the chance to do just that. Limiting your sugar and carbs in general is key. If your tank is always full of glycogen from keeping yourself topped off with a hefty supply of carbs, your body will take the easy way out and burn that as it's first choice. If you deprive it, you will allow it to run on both reserve glycogen but also primarily fat if you're training at the right intensity. Your effort is extremely important here because as you go harder, you decrease your ability to use fat for fuel. It takes both limiting your carb intake and keeping your effort low.

Fasted workouts of low intensity are also key. I'm not suggesting you have to be in ketosis. You just have to limit what you give your body to burn. Typically a diet that's about 50% fat, 25% protein and 25% carbs will do the trick. But timing is equally important. You can't eat a ton of carbs and expect your body to burn fat. A good example would be to wake up, don't eat, and go workout at a heart rate that's right around or below your AeT. Fueling during the workout will depend on how adapted you are to this type of training. 

Step 3: Polarize Your Workouts
Polarizing your workouts simply produces better results. This means training either at a very low intensity or a very high intensity but cutting out the moderate workouts. You can equally define this as training below your AeT and above your AT, leaving a lonely mid-zone moderate intensity region in which most of us are guilty of spending too much time. This requires knowing how to juggle the amount of easy/hard days so can avoid overtraining. The 80/20 rule works well for most: 80% easy and 20% hard. Above all, listen to your body and decrease that 20% if you're not recovering well enough. 

The easy days are where you will focus on improving your fat-burn ability. When you have your hard days, don't worry about fat burn. At the higher intensities above your AT, you won't be utilizing fat for fuel and will compromise the workout if you don't have adequate glycogen on board. A simple fix is to start consuming 25-50 grams of dextrose at the start of your workout and drink throughout the session. You won't need to go out for a pizza and beer post workout, the dextrose will suffice. 

New Goals
Give yourself new goals of becoming efficient and resilient. Think of this as a project where you're rebuilding a machine to operate with low cost and get high miles per gallon. More fat utilization means less fuel you have to be dependent on during long events. It also means less gastric distress possibilities. Lower heart rates mean you're not stressing your ticker out as much. All in all you will be creating a healthier athlete with longevity in mind. 

 

Happy training,
Joe
 

Leadville 100 Mountain Bike Race Report

I've had the pleasure of coaching Rich Rybacki for a few years now and the guy never ceases to amaze me. He lives and trains mostly in San Antonio Texas and recently completed his second 2015 LT100 MTB race. Rich shares some insight with us here... I hope you enjoy. 

What lit the fire to make you want to race 100 miles in the mountains around Leadville, CO?
We bought a vacation home in Leadville 5 years ago, and kind of got sucked into the vibe of the town.  About the same time we bought our house, I met my good friend and strong rider Chuck Smith, who shared with me that LT100 was on his bucket list.  We worked out our plan to race the LT100, starting by racing the Silver Rush 50 in 2012, and doing volunteer work to ensure our lottery selection for 2013. For me completing the LT100 would mean confronting and conquering several fears.  These fears included technical descents, fear of speed, and fear of heights.  Completing such a race requires developing mental toughness, and this attribute has benefits in all areas of life to include business, marriage, and family.

How many times have you raced the LT100 and why do you keep going back?
This was my second time, my first attempt was in 2013.  I DNF'd my qualifier race in Flagstaff, so i was forced to start in the "white" corral, which is at the back of the pack.  After the DNF, i was a little timid about pushing too hard at Leadville for fear of bonking.  Being in the back of the pack, I realized it would be slow-going with lots of bottlenecks.  The approach I took that first year was to just enjoy the experience and finish in under 12 hours. The result would not be representative of what I thought I was capable of, so I decided to come better prepared in a future year by earning a good corral position at a qualifier race.

Seeking redemption for the DNF at the Flagstaff Barn Burner 104 in 2013, I decided to make that my primary race for 2014, which could also be used as a qualifier for the LT100 in 2015.  By focusing exclusively on the BB104 for 2014, I was able to complete the race in 8:27, earning the big buckle and a slot in the green corral for the LT100 in 2015.  No more excuses, I had a good starting corral for LT100, so I had to give it another shot to see what I could do.

Did you have an experience on the course this year that you'll remember for the rest of your life?
The best thing about this race was that there were no major surprises!  During first half things were flowing nicely according to plan, making my split goals without incident.  I had a fear of afternoon rain/hail storms producing hypothermia and cutting my race short, but the opposite ended up happening.  The typical cloud cover that comes in the early afternoon never came, resulting in unusually high temperatures.  The sunshine at that altitude is very intense, extended exposure can leave you feeling quite drained.  My garmin recorded 91 degrees at the bottom of the powerline.  I had a decent powerline climb, but was pretty shot by the time I got to the summit.  The heat had taken its toll, and the last 20 miles would be a bit of a struggle.

How important was your crew in helping you have a great day of racing?
The aid stations are well stocked and manned by many enthusiastic volunteers.  In theory one could do this race unsupported.  But there is a huge mental dividend for having your loved ones out on the course, knowing that you would see them a couple of times during the race.  We consolidated the aid station needs of several riders at a single location near the Twin Lakes dam.  I would pass through this area twice, at roughly 3 hours into the race, and 5.5 hours into the race.  Seeing the wife, kids, and friends at our Twin Lakes aid station gave me the mental boost to take on the next section of the course.  These were my only two stops during the race, and the crew of wife Sandy, and sons Shane and Dylan were super efficient. I would roll into the aid station, hope off the bike, and run behind the van for a potty break.  By the time I returned, my chain had been cleaned and lubed, and there were two fresh bottles mounted on the frame.  I would grab a quick snack, give Sandy a kiss, and quickly depart for the next section of the course.

The weather can vary greatly during the summer in the mountains. Did you experience any weather issues and how did you deal with them?
The starting line felt reasonably warm at 42 degrees in downtown Leadville.  I decided to remove my jacket and stuff it in my jersey, starting with just the arm warmers.  The fast descent down the road was chilly, but it was worth tolerating the discomfort to not have to stop and remove the jacket later.  It is just a matter of minutes from downtown start to the dirt climb to St. Kevins.  Once we hit the dirt the speed slows down considerably, the effort increases, and you quickly forget about the cold.

What did you use to stay fueled and hydrated during the 10 hours?
I used the training rides to calibrate my water needs during the race.  I would weigh myself before and after a long training ride, and adjust the amount of water consumed so that i would only loose a couple of pounds over a several hour effort.  During the earlier hours of the race, I can get away with 20 oz of water per hour.  In the later warmer hours, I would increase this to 24 oz.  I would slowly dehydrate to some degree, but drinking more than 24 oz per hour resulted in bloating and discomfort.  I determined it would be better to be a little dehydrated vs overhydrated.  I suspect some of my mountain failures in earlier races were related to overhydration in the cool mountains.

In the months leading up to the race, we did many workouts designed to enhance the fat burning engine.  This included fasted rides and long, easy, unfueled rides.  This paid off race day, as I only needed to consume roughly 200 calories per hour.  The conventional wisdom of 300 calories per hour works for 5 to 6 hour events, but beyond that, my body would start rejecting the sugar.  At 200 calories per hour, I never had trouble getting the calories down during the entire 10 hour event.

My main fuel was Skratch.  When mixed at a concentration of 120 calories in 20-24 ounces of water, the taste remains light and refreshing throughout the duration of the event.  Skratch is also generous with electrolytes.  I supplemented the calorie intake with gels while moving on the bike.  At each of the two stops at the Twin Lakes aid station, i took in a package of the new Clif product of pureed fruit.  These are tasty treats made from real fruit and coconut.  They contain fat and fiber which kept me from feeling hungry.  During long endurance events, I have trouble chewing and swallowing solid food, so these pureed fruit products were ideal.  I also managed to chomp down a few slices of watermelon at the Columbine and Carter Summit aid stations.

My water bottles also included a quarter teaspoon of baking soda. The purpose of this was to keep my stomach and blood from becoming acidic during the event.  The baking soda added 300 mg of sodium to each bottle.  This extra sodium threw off the proper electrolyte balance of the Skratch,  but this was offset to some degree by the high content of potassium in the mango/banana/coconut Clif treats I consumed at the Twin Lakes aid station.  Ideally I would prefer to use the Clif treats exclusively, but they are bulky and difficult to open on the bike.  For this reason, I only used them at the aid station, opting for conventional gels while moving on the bike.

Were you racing against the clock or other individuals?
My approach on endurance events is to not worry about the clock or other riders.  Instead, focus on maintaining a fun, moderate pace, trying not to hammer or become anaerobic.  A fun pace usually turns out to be the right pace for events of this distance.  I had a pretty good idea of how long the various splits would take from my training rides.  There are some race day dynamics that can change these significantly.  During the race, the climbs are generally slower due congestion.  The open rolling sections, such as pipeline outbound, become much faster on race day due to drafting.  My plan was to push a little at the start to avoid as much congestion at St Kevins as possible.  After the powerline descent, I put some effort into joining faster groups to help pull me down into Twin Lakes.  I wanted to be climbing Columbine with strong riders to minimize the congestion impact in the walking section of upper Columbine.

Which workouts at home prepared you best for the race?
The fasted/unfueled easy rides I feel played a big part in my ability to function on a lesser, more digestible amount of calories during the race.  Last summer we moved from central San Antonio to the Northwest corridor near 1604 and I-10.  This opened up the opportunities to train on 300 ft hills within a warm up/cool down riding distance from the house.  Doing repeats on these hills in a low cadence enabled me to generate more power with less cardio, which was key in the oxygen-deprived environment of Leadville.

What were your considerations in choosing the perfect bike for the race?
Most racers prefer to do this race on a hard tail.  This race is mostly about climbing.  There is approximately 6 miles of technical descending where a full suspension bike would be an asset.  For the remaining 98 miles, it would be a liability.  That said, I raced on a Niner Jet 9 RDO full suspension.  I am not a strong technical rider, and being in my 50s I prefer the comfort and confidence of the full suspension.

Is there any info or tips that you would like to pass on to others attempting the race in the future?
My advice would be finding a qualifier race that best matches your strengths and do that race to earn your corral slot for Leadville. You do not want to start this race from the back of the pack, as the congestion will limit your ability to race your potential. Pre-riding the course is key so you can understand how long the climbs are and not be discouraged by the false summits.  Learn how to pace yourself on the long climbs.  The Leadville Race Series now offers a 3-day stage race which covers the full course.  This would be a great way to recon the course.  I would recommend doing this race the year before you plan to race Leadville.  While in town, you can do volunteer work for the Leadville Race Series which will greatly enhance your chances of getting in the lottery.

Realizing a Dream at Hardrock 100

Brian Ricketts realized a dream this July and completed his first Hardrock 100 Mile Endurance Run. It took 6 years of throwing his name in the lottery to officially go to battle with the toughest 100 mile mountain run in the world. The race ascends 33,992', is at an average elevation of 11,700' above sea level, summits Handies Peak which sits at 14,048', and has an average finish time of around 41 hours with a 48 hour cutoff. 

From the HR100 website:
"The course is designed to provide extreme challenges in altitude, steepness, and remoteness. Mountaineering, wilderness survival and wilderness navigation skills are as important in this event as your endurance... the course covers extremely rugged terrain including steep scree climbs and descents, snow packs, river crossings, and boulder fields."

Brian was kind enough to answer some questions about his race so I could share them here... I hope you enjoy hearing about it as much as I have. 

What made you want to race over 100 miles in the burly San Juan Mountains?
I fell in love with the San Juans the first time I laid eyes on them in 2007.  I had just started my first summer as a teacher and was headed to Telluride for the Bluegrass Festival.  When I crested the pass outside Rico and saw Trout Lake with snow-covered peaks in the background, I was hooked.  I knew then I had found my home in the mountains.  The more I explored these mountains (while at the same time growing as a runner), I knew I had to do Hardrock.  It is THE quintessential race for any ultra runner who wants the ultimate combination of beauty and challenge.

How did you train for a race that is run at an avg elevation of 11,700' above sea level in San Antonio, TX?
You can't really train for the elevation unless you live at altitude or have an altitude tent.  My job as a teacher allows me the opportunity to get to the mountains a few weeks early, so I knew I would have enough time to get fairly acclimatized.  Knowing that, my coach and I focused on building leg strength for the long climbs and descents I would experience.  You can’t get anything close to a 5 mile climb around San Antonio, much less one that is at a grade of 10-20% like I would experience at Hardrock.  We incorporated long sessions on the treadmill, which I despise but knew were a necessary evil.  I hit the gym once a week for strength training sessions, which I firmly believe helped me get to the finish line.  I also tried to run in the mountains once every 6-8 weeks, whether that was a race or training weekend in the Guadalupe Mountains in West Texas.

This was supposed to be a rough year with the late snowfall...did that impact your race more than you thought or was it as expected?
Since I had never actually run Hardrock before, I had nothing with which to compare the course conditions.  People kept telling me this was a lot of snow, but I had nothing to base it on.  I thought it would be fun to experience a “high snow” year, but I was fine with whatever.  There are certain sections of the course (both climbs and descents) that are actually easier with snow, so I was indifferent about it.  That being said, the snow made scouting the course extremely difficult.  3 weeks prior to the race almost everything about 11,000’ had snow on it.  Finding the trail was tough, and moving across it even tougher.  I got as high up as I could and tried not to worry about the sections I couldn’t access.  I never thought the snow was an inhibiting factor during the race.  

Were there any points during the race where you simply thought you cannot go on any further? If so, what did you do to keep moving?
My only instructions to my crew before the race were to make sure I took in calories at every aid station and to not let me quit.  I would rather be pulled from the course or timed out than to stop on my own.  Simply put, quitting was never an option.  I had moments where my legs were quivering and my body wanted to shut down, to literally lie on the trail and sleep.  But I never let the thought of stopping enter my mind.  I definitely worried that some sections were taking longer than they should (the last 11 miles were brutal), but I knew that if I kept forward progress I would reach the finish.  This race was too important to me to quit.  

Was there an emotional high-point during the 103 miles?
I run these races because I love the mountains.  I am not going to place or win any money, so I am out to just enjoy my surroundings. With that mindset, I was absolutely blown away by the sunset over American Basin.  It was getting late in the evening on Friday and I was slowly plodding up to the summit of Handies Peak, the high point on the course at an elevation of 14, 048’.  I could see the summit, but I couldn’t really see what lay on the other side.  When I crested the top and was treated to a snow-filled American Basin and the mountains aglow with the setting sun, I think I actually muttered out loud about how amazing this was.  Sloan Lake was still frozen below, and the peaks were awash in varying shades of pink and orange.  In post race interviews, numerous runners have said that sunset on the first night (regardless where you encountered it) was magical.  
Another high point was the top of Grant-Swamp Pass.  GS is the last big climb on the course in this direction (around mile 86), and the final scramble to the top is incredibly steep and full of loose scree.  I had been up the other side and knew what I’d see, but the sight of an icy Island Lake on the other side of the pass was breathtaking, accentuated by the rainbow that appeared to the east.  

Did this experience leave you with anything new? Perspectives? Ideas? Thoughts?
Completing Hardrock is the single greatest athletic achievement I’ve ever accomplished.  It has given me the confidence to take on any challenge, knowing that anything is possible.  Ironically, I am deathly afraid of heights, and although I didn’t leave these fears behind by completing Hardrock, I faced them head on and came out a better person, more confident.  I want to get back up into the high country as soon as possible.  Routes that previously seemed crazy now look appealing to me.  I encountered ice, snow, cliffs, steep drops, and everything in between at Hardrock and am ready for them all again.
 
What would you do differently next time?
I feel like my training was spot on in most aspects.  I did a ton of long treadmill sessions to simulate the climbs I would encounter at Hardrock.  Next time I plan on doing some of these runs with pre-fatigued legs and mind, maybe hitting some weights just before the workout or doing it late at night to simulate the climb I would face late in the race.  In addition, I really wanted to climb some 14ers prior to the race.  The late (and very heavy) snowfall made this tougher than in most years, and I was only able to get to just below 13k in training.  It may be mental, but I feel like I needed a few summits on big peaks to prepare me for the race.  Also, I would love to have access to an altitude tent to get acclimatized prior to going out to the mountains.  3+ weeks at altitude was sufficient, but I think using a tent would reap big benefits.  

Did you training seem to properly prepare you for the event?
At no point during Hardrock did I feel like I couldn't handle what the course threw my way.  Sure, I was moving slowly up the big climbs, but so was everyone else.  My legs were never an inhibiting factor (my stomach slowed me down more than anything else).  I felt totally prepared for a race in Colorado, despite living close to sea level in South Texas.  

You had a crew and pacers...how important were they in your success?
I’ve done a couple 100 milers without pacers or crew, but Hardrock is not one I would want to attempt in this fashion.  My crew and pacers were invaluable to my success and are a big reason I was able to finish.  With only 152 racers at Hardrock, things can get spread out very quickly, leaving long stretches of solitude.  I like these stretches during the daylight hours, but they can be unnerving at night when fatigue sets in and the mind plays tricks on you.  Hardrock poses some navigational challenges, and without Liza pointing the way on the trail-less grass at night, I might still be on top of the mountain searching for course markers in the dense fog.  My support team was the best!

Will all other races seem a bit easier now after conquering this beast?
After Hardrock, all other races will seem easy.  From the physical to the mental, Hardrock through everything at me, and completing it gave me the confidence to tackle any challenge.  This will open new doors that I had never thought possible before.  I can’t wait for the next challenge.

Thanks and CONGRATS on an amazing Hardrock 100 finish!!!!

 

Rick Morris wins Fat Bike Nationals

Rick: "my legs are flat and my resting heart rate seems high"
Joe: "you may be hitting it too hard too much"
Rick: "yeah, you're probably right but I want to be on the podium!"
Joe: "I can get you there Rick but you'll have to tone your rides down a bit and gain the ability to push some serious watts..."
Rick: "let's give it a shot, it will either kill me or make me stronger!

That conversation we had back in the fall of 2012 would eventually lead Rick to winning the first ever Fat Bike National race in Ogden, Utah

The Journey to King Fat
I've known and coached Rick for a while, it's gotta be close to 10 years I'm guessing, we've both lost track. I met Rick when he lived in San Antonio and owned a local bike shop. He has been racing since the mid 90's and has some pretty fancy bike handling skills. Around 2010 he made the move to Utah and started racing in the mountains and desert of southern UT. His long rides quickly became centered around climbing where 2000' of vertical or more was the norm. A couple of Tushar's in the books as well as a few seasons of cyclocross seemed to be turning Rick into a cyclist who could hold his own in bad conditions and heavy vertical. That all proved to be true with his 1st place in the Intermountain Cup Mountain Bike Series in 2014. He had won a series and thirsted for more.

We knew going into Nationals was going to be rough and it was. With the starting sprint hitting ~30mph, the pace was a bit hot from the get-go. Rick has been trained to suffer, recover, regroup, and suffer some more. All that paid off as he rolled his Borealis fatty through the finish line.

A dream come true. Stars and stripes. Every minute of hard training, recovery efforts, long days with a lot of vertical has payed big with a sweet 1st place at the first ever Fat Bike Nationals. 

Congrats to you Rick Morris on your amazing race! It's an honor to be a part of the journey.

Fit after 40... redefining demographics

MAURICE FEELING STRONGER THAN EVER IN HIS 40's

The Beginning
Three years ago Maurice hired me to make him a faster runner. We started off with a VO2 test, then online coaching. At the time he equated running faster with being strong and totally fit. He was just entering his 40's and wanted to go into the next decade as fit as can be. Maurice has always been active, from body surfing in Hawaii to hiking the Appalachian Trail, he likes to move. He recently picked up running and had been training with a local group. One of the coaches suggested that he come see me for a bit more dialed in approach as he had been plagued with some minor injuries.

Maurice working on one-arm pull ups

Maurice working on one-arm pull ups

Without knowing, Maurice set out on a journey that would ultimately transform his definition of "fit". 

Our first Assessment
I assessed Maurice in the gym as I do most of my runners. I checked for muscle weakness and imbalance, biomechanical issues, flexibility, etc. As I concluded my assessment, I made the suggestion that he needed to get into the gym at least once a week to build power and strength. The added strength would not only make him a better runner but would also help avoid injuries. I found that he was too weak to effectively train for the 1/2 marathon without greater risk for injury. We started with one gym session a week. Maurice being the kind of guy he is quickly realized the benefit of seeing me twice a week. That's when the gains really started appearing. 

Life Changing
"I have a tough time expressing how much this changed my perspective and how I see myself. I now know anything is possible and my imagination is the limiting factor, not my fitness.  I thought strength was for people who had different genes than I had. Now I can do pushups with my 2 boys on my back.  Whether I'm hiking trails with a heavy pack or or carrying bags of mulch, I know I have the strength to easily perform the task and I'm know I'm not going to hurt myself. I had no idea that I would one day be able to do these things.  With two sessions each week, we've seen steady results that speak loudly about the work we've done."  

Defining Basic Fitness
I feel every male under the age of 70 should be able to fire off 10 pull ups and at least 50 push ups, as long as there aren't any health limitations. My runners and cyclists should be able to comfortably squat at least their body weight and be able to throw out some pretty biomechanically correct weighted lunges. When we saw that Maurice couldn't crank out 3 pull ups, we realized this was his wake up call. It was time to redefine what he was capable of doing. 

I'm truly proud of Maurice and all that he's accomplished in the last three years. The hard work has paid off!

Training for an Ironman Debut... 5 months to IM Kona

the making of an Ironman in 5 months

I got a call a few years ago from an individual who had recently won a slot to compete in the IRONMAN Kona World Championships. This entry was attained through a lottery win and tons of praying I'm assuming. What a great opportunity to race among the pros and have fun in Hawaii, right? Yeah, except the fact that most athletes who toss their name in the drawing have completed a triathlon and most likely know how to swim. These weren't the circumstances for our beloved Carl Clark, runner extraordinaire, who couldn't swim a continual 25 meters, and had never done a single triathlon. 

Initial contact regarding online coaching
Name: Carl Clark
E-mail: carl.clark@xxxxxxxx.com
Phone: 210 xxx xxxx
Message: Today, I found out I won a slot to Kona. I have until 30 June to get my qualifying race in for Kona. June 26 is Buffalo Springs. I can swim, but like a rock or a drowning duck. A lot of motion but really going nowhere. I just want to get out of the water in 70 mins (at Buffalo Springs), get the time and then train for Kona. Because no qualifying time at BS, no Kona.
Look forward to meeting you, 
Carl

How to get a drowning duck to IM Kona
Taking an individual who battles panic attacks in open water, can't swim more than 25 meters in one go, and has never done a bike TT to an Ironman event in 5 months was like going 0 to 60 in 2 seconds. We dove in and fired up the forge. VO2 tests on the bike and run, dialing in bike fit, swim form analysis, we did it all. Carl was more than willing to do whatever it would take. He is a life-long student of pain with roots in Special Forces. He took what I threw and asked "what next?". With Computrainer workouts in the garage at 5am, open water swims at Boerne Lake while I rode shotgun in a kayak, and weekend bricks in the heat of summer, we plowed through the pile of newbie frustrations and witnessed a drowning duck adapt to his new medium.  

Five months later and a TON of specific work, Carl showed up to Kona for the event of a lifetime. Not only did he finish the 140.6 mile-long event (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, and 26.2 mile run), he did so in a very sweet debut time of 12:30:21.  

Fast forward 4 years
Our drowning duck now hits sub 1:40/100 meter and has dialed in his craft well enough to send me a text with his info from the 2014 season...
"WTC All World Athlete rankings came out today and I made Bronze level, top 10%, again. Also made Top 100 in my age group for USAT and All American Status again. And in the WTC 70.3 races I made Silver level, top 5%". 

Carl had a great 2014
• WTC All World Athlete - top 10%
• USAT - top 100 age group & All American status
• WTC 70.3 - Silver level, top 5%

2015 is going to be all about building the machine and trying to find Carl's top end. Who knows what that will be but we're both enjoying the journey. 

Happy training,
Joe

How hiring a coach could save your life!

How much time are you investing in your training? Eight hours of training for 50 weeks ends up at 400 hours each year. That's 16.6 days... are you wasting a percentage of that time on bad training? Even if you're wasting 30% of those training hours on junk workouts, are you OK with that? That's almost 5 days wasted each year! If you're concerned, continue reading...

endurance coach joe sulak Taking a break from saving lives

endurance coach joe sulak Taking a break from saving lives

Three points to life saving
1) life requires time
2) time wasted is life wasted
3) saving time = saving your life

Q: How could I be wasting time with my workouts? They're all pretty hard and I feel worked! 
A: Intensity is the key here - are you training at the right intensities at the right time? Effective training means that you're acknowledging that fact that your body requires hard days, easy days, a lot of low intensity volume at specified times, short intervals, long intervals, etc. It's like making a pie. Tweaking the recipe a little can destroy your dessert. 

Q: How is using a coach any different than using a training plan found in a book or online?
A: A good coach knows how to interpret workout feedback and data and ALSO knows how to take that information and plot the best course to your goals. Training plans don't adjust for bad days, tired legs, hard day at the office, family stress, etc...all of which affect your ability to perform. Managing all of those variables and getting you to the start line feeling strong, fresh, excited and ready to execute on race day is a tricky balancing act. No one without a functioning crystal ball can pre-plan and take all of those variables into account, rendering all pre-made plans unsuitable for anyone who's serious. 

Q: Is it best to use a coach who gives you a weekly plan? My current coach provides one month at a time.
A: One month at a time may as well be some random plan online. It doesn't take into account variables and is unsuitable in my mind. An effective coach will adjust daily if necessary. Who wants to attempt hill repeats if your legs are tired and sore? Not a good idea. It possibly could cost more but it all depends on what you're after. 

Use a coach who has a vision of what you will become!
An effective coach not only practices visualization with their athletes, they also use it themselves. I visualize daily how I want each athlete to look, feel, perform, and race. If a coach doesn't have that vision, how do they know what to create? This is where artistry comes into the coaching profession. Science with an artists touch. 

Don't waste time. Make the most out of each minute spent training.

Happy training, 
Joe



 

Tailwind Nutrition Review

tailwind-nutrition.jpg

Summer of 2014 we were traveling through Santa Fe on the way to Crested Butte, CO. We stopped at a local bike shop and after browsing around I found Tailwind Nutrition's drink mix on a shelf. It looked like another product I had recently wanted to try but with more calories, which I preferred, and was eager to give it go. We took some samples and within two days I had to express order more from a shop in Salida. I'd been using water on rides and just eating food for fuel, but this stuff was a game changer for me. It not only tasted great but allowed my energy to remain constant no matter what I put my body through. Morning ride > afternoon bouldering > evening run = no problem. My recovery was really great as well, far better than without the stuff. I highly recommend Tailwind Nutrition!