Archive for r2r2r

Coach Al: Grand Canyon Rim to Rim to Rim Race Report

Rim to Rim to Rim, r2r2r

THIS WAS THE MOMENT that we'd anticipated so many weeks ago. That moment when we'd be truly tested. This sort of suffering is what many endurance athletes, including me, enjoy in a bizarre sort of way. ~Coach Al

On November 16, 2012, our intrepid coach, Al Lyman, took on the 46-mile ultrarunning legendary challenge, The Grand Canyon Rim to Rim to Rim Run. The experience was truly epic for him--as is his race report! It's such a cool story and incredible adventure, we made it into an ebook for your convenience. You can access a FREE direct download by clicking here or on the cover image.

Here are some excerpts from the book. There are lots of training tips and lessons learned applicable to all endurance athletes. And if you know Coach, you know it's all tremednously valuable information on how he trained, lessons learned, and a good dose of uplifting inspiration.

On Timing The Last Long Run:

In my opinion, many marathoners and ultra-runners routinely make the mistake of running their last long run, way too close to their event day. Nearly 20 years ago, first through reading some intriguing research and then by way of personal practice, I learned that if I left at least 4, if not 5 weeks, from the day of that last long run until event day, I'd be more "healed" from that long training run and have a better chance for success on race day as a result. Most runners make this mistake for two reasons: following poorly conceived training plans written by folks who don't know any better, and/or a lack of confidence stemming from a belief that the body will "forget" how to go long. It doesn't.

Coach Al's Philosophy on Approaching the Training:

We all have a philosophy - a belief system - that guides our actions and our thoughts. Every single day, in one way or another, we express our philosophy to the world and people around us, either with the words we use or the actions we take, or don't take.

The approach I took to prepare for this run reflected MY philosophy. This is what I believe. In my mind, I accepted that the ONLY chance I had to be able to finish this run and remain healthy preparing for it was to approach it this way. As I considered the consequences of being wrong I got more excited! I absolutely LOVED the pressure and challenge of seeing what would happen.

The Actual Training and Preparation With A Major Focus on Strength:

My intent and goals were clear. Get as strong as I could, progress my long runs making them gradually more like the Canyon run would be, and be sure to show up as rested and ready as possible on the day, using every "trick" I'd learned over many years of training and racing, to help me get ready.

As I envisioned and planned a training strategy moving forward, the center piece - the focal point of my training, was enhancing strength. NOT the 'rehab' or "muscle confusion" BS type of strength. Real strength. I'd focus on a few key exercises which I know are so important for the abilities I would need, and really work them (on a foundation of solid high quality movement, of course!)

I knew it was the only way I'd be able to handle the increase in running miles and ultimately achieve success on the day. I had no trouble convincing my training partner Tim that the same held true for him. So, he joined me 1x per week in our Lab for 1-2 hr strength sessions where I guided him in a progressive program I designed to enhance our strength. We also, naturally, worked on proprioception and balance (to handle the undulations and knarly, loose rock trail), eccentric strength and resilience (to handle the unending downhill we'd encounter), and just plain old total body strength, especially legs, hips, glutes (to enhance our ability to power the steep ups on the trail and handle the extra weight of the pack, knowing we were going to be out there for hours). I enjoyed those sessions and I know Tim did too.

Lots More!
Tons more good stuff in the ebook including a look at what Al would have done differently, as well as nutrition, and a great section on "What Did I Learn?" Enjoy!

Coach Al’s Run Report: The Pisgah Mountain 50K Trail Race

Hi Folks!

Pisgah 50K, Coach Al Lyman, Grand Canyon Rim to Rim to RimHope you had a chance to read my post about the wonderful confluence of events and people that led me to decide to take on the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim to Rim Run (R2R2R) in November. This kind of ultra running event of 42+ miles was not on my radar in the least--until the universe decided to send the opportunity my way equipped with the greatest group of people with whom to share it. I'm super excited to be taking on this grand adventure, and will keep you posted along the way as I prepare physically and mentally.

As part of my run prep, I ran the Pisgah Mountain 50K Trail Race on Sunday, September 16 in Chesterfield, New Hampshire. I ran with friend and client Tim Mather who is also doing the R2R2R. In brief, event went extremely well--I could not have asked for better result, and that is a great feeling.

Before the race, I felt the 50k was a huge challenge given the fact that I had run three hours only six days before, AND had never done more than 16 miles on a trail this technical ever in my life! But my inner self-talk boiled it all down to this--

It's just a training run with a purpose...get the time on your feet in the company of other like-minded runners on a challenging course...see if you can complete it, in one piece, recover quickly, and keep the mojo going toward the Canyon.

If I could make that happen, I knew it would be a great confidence booster.

Tim and I traveled Pisgah together. Our race plan was simple:

  • Be conservative in the beginning
  • Walk any steep hills
  • Hold back on speed and JUST FINISH feeling good

Pisgah 50K, Coach Al Lyman, Grand Canyon Rim to Rim to Rim

By being smartly cautious we hoped to avoid major issues like rolled ankles or gastrointestinal distress that would negatively impact our continued progression. By finishing upright and in one piece, we would be on our way to continuing to build the fitness we needed for the R2R2R run.

Since our own Pursuit ultrarunner Debbie Livingston has WON this race in the past, I checked in with her for some tips. She had a number to share, but managed to hold back on actually telling me how incredibly hard this trail is! I think she planned it that way. Keep the secrets a secret, and watch how the coach responds when he actually finds out that this trail is no walk in the park! 🙂 More likely, she is just so incredibly good that she doesn't consider it particularly hard! Either way, Tim and I quickly learned from some other experienced runners on the course that there were plenty of challenges ahead. Among them is a summit of Pisgah Mountain, which comes after many false summits along the way, and plenty of technical trail with rocks, roots, and the like. On a hugely positive note, we had gloriously sunny skies and a DRY trail, which is huge blessing. This course would have been SO MUCH harder on wet rocks, roots, and moss. Thank you to the weather gods!

So how did the day go? Tim and I ran virtually all of the flats and downs at a very conservative pace. We walked all of the steep ups during the early miles, and eventually ALL of the ups. The end result was a +/- 7 hour finish for the 50k distance.

I feel we executed a perfect race. We achieved what we wanted and needed to in terms of managing hydration and fueling well, and avoiding any rolled ankles or falls. We can now look ahead with renewed confidence about our physical preparation. Even more, we talked a great deal of the time and enjoyed meeting so many other runners out there. We even experienced some "discomfort" and built some of the mental fortitude that we are sure to call on in November. It was a huge success all around.

I came out of the day with three major thoughts that are important to share with you:

Pisgah 50K, Coach Al Lyman, Grand Canyon Rim to Rim to Rim1. My commitment to functional strength-- and ALL of the elements I espouse in this blog and preach to the athletes I coach on a daily basis-- is the only way I was able to put this day in the record books. Had I foolishly run tons of miles without the requisite strength work, I surely would have been injured long before this race was even on my calendar.

2. As I sit here two days after the race, when "DOMS" (delayed onset muscle soreness) should be at its highest level, I can't believe how good I feel! I have some minimal soreness in my legs and low back (from having over worked my hip flexors getting over the rocks and roots on the trail), but otherwise feel totally ready to rock and move forward with my training. No tweaks, no minor injuries, no real soreness. Every day, I'm reminded that when we move well and are functionally strong, we recover so much more quickly from these kinds of racing efforts. Our clients tell us the same thing every day as well.

3. The top trail runners are AMAZING, Debbie Livingston included. The winner covered the course in half the time I did. The female winner was about 45 minutes behind. You would have to see these trails to know what I mean--to average 8-minute miles is incredible and a testament to the amazing skill and fitness of the top runners. Congratulations to them!

I have to say, I believe that with a year of consistent run training under my belt and even MORE STRENGTH, I could show up here next year and take two hours off of my finish time. But, that isn't the point. The point of the day was to finish healthy, finish strong, and keep on the path toward the R2R2R. Mission accomplished!



Coach Al Is Taking On the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim to Rim Run!

Hello Everyone!

Coach Al Lyman, Pisgah 50K, Grand Canyon Rim to Rim to Rim Run I am excited to announce that I am taking on the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim to Rim Run in November. I am posting this update for a few reasons--to give you a view of what I'm up to, how my training has progressed, and to tell you the story of how this whole darn thing came about. The universe works in wonderful and mysterious ways, and I am going along for the ride!

This past July, I traveled to Death Valley to crew for Jason Rita as he took on the Badwater Ultramarathon. The experience had its share of ups and downs. One of the "ups," however, was meeting the other crew members including Jon Nassif. Jon is from Denver, and he owns a couple of restaurants including Green Fine Salad Co. He is an avid ultra runner and wanted a first-hand look at Badwater. He sought a team to crew for, and ended up assisting Jason. (And let me tell you, Jon can cook!)

Jon and I instantly hit it off. We talked for hours about training and life. He was very interested to learn and to share, as was I. Our discussions ranged from gait analysis to personal relationships to business, and everything else in between. We established a friendship.

A few weeks after Badwater, Jon contacted me about a bucket-list run he wanted to do--the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim to Rim Run (R2R2R). The opportunity, and the people to do it with, never manifested for him--until now. He wanted to do the run with me, and, perhaps, a few more folks with whom we would enjoy sharing the experience.

My first reaction? That sounds amazing! And fun. And really, really hard.

Then I started thinking....

The longest run I have done in the past YEAR was about an hour. I have been enjoying mountain biking, and I have been working around the clock coaching and in our gait analysis lab. I did not have any run racing planned for the future, so anything more than running to maintain basic run fitness was not in the cards.

But, still.... I was intrigued.

The reasons were simple, really. The R2R2R was not going to be a "race." Right now, at this point in my life, racing does not light a fire in my soul. If I took on the rim run, it would be an ADVENTURE and a JOURNEY with an amazing guy. It was going to be a unique opportunity to see a place few people ever do. And it was going to be an extraordinary challenge.

After talking with Jon at length about the fitness required, the logistics, and our schedules, it was clear that that the best time for BOTH of us to take on the challenge would be in November. We settled on a run date of November 16th, one day before my 53rd birthday. Our plan is to do the run on Friday, then make our way back back to Las Vegas on Saturday for a true birthday celebration! Sounds perfect.

Of course, the problem is that a November run date meant I had only about 3.5 months to train AND taper for this epic run of ~45 miles. The general scope of the run is simple--seven miles down into the canyon, seven miles across, seven miles up to the top of the north rim, and then returning to the start. It is a total of 42 miles if taken point to point. Of course, nothing like this is ever point to point. Also, variable conditions are the order of the day. It is often 32? at the south rim, and 75? in the canyon itself. The altitude (7,500 feet at the south rim and 8-9k at the north rim) would make it even more of an epic test.

What on earth had I signed up for?

Those of you who know me, or have followed this blog for any length of time, are well aware of my fundamental beliefs regarding training. I KNOW that the ONLY CHANCE I HAVE for a great experience is to be as functionally STRONG as I possibly can be. I do not have the option to conservatively build a long run. There simply isn't time for a "smart" progression. The success of this endeavor hinges my being stronger than I have ever been, and getting in the key run sessions that will prepare me, progressively, for this ultra run.

As luck would have it, friend and client Tim Mather came in for a session at the lab. Tim had stepped away from "training" to focus on some other life goals, and in the process had let his fitness slip a bit. During his visit, the topic of the R2R2R came up. Tim, being who he is, was absolutely stoked at the idea of doing this run. Over time we talked about the possibility of him joining our group, which has now grown to me, Jon, Jon's sister-in-law, her good friend Pam Reed (yes, that Pam Reed, Badwater's OVERALL winner in 2002 and 2003), and Stewart Erskine, one of the other crew members at Badwater. (Stewart ran the Hardrock 100 the weekend PRIOR TO Badwater).

I knew Tim would be a great person to have on this journey, and I knew his motivations were pure. The one major issue he HAD to overcome was his deteriorated fitness. We planned out how he will build the strength he needs to make this journey a reality. We were honest with each other too. We both agree that among the MOST IMPORTANT aspects of our preparation is the fact that neither of us wants to be the weak link in the group, negatively impacting anyone's experience out there. (You all know what I mean.) Tim was committed to doing the work, so we began with some 1:1 sessions at the lab, which we have continued for some weeks now.

August was simply about upping my game in the strength department, and establishing some consistency in my running. Over the last month, I have had to progress my long run from 2 hours to 2.5 hours to 3 hours. Those runs were a mix of trail and road. I did this specifically because I was very acutely aware of the challenge of doing ALL of the runs on either road or trail. Trails stress the body uniquely (rocks, roots, steep hills, risk of ankle sprain, etc.), and roads have their own unique challenge as well. I decided that a mix, early on, would allow me to keep progressing. My 3 hour run was 14 miles of road running and 1 hr on the trail.

So where am I now in my preparation? This past weekend brought the Pisgah Mountain 50K Trail race adventure that I ran with Tim Mather. We got a chance to experience some "discomfort" and build mental fortitude that we'll need in November. That race report is coming up in the next post, and includes some important takeaways from these months of training for the R2R2R. Stay tuned!