Archive for trail running

Hardrock 100: Here She Comes!

 

There are so many things that I love about coaching.  For starters, I love the opportunity to get to know and work with inspiring and motivated people every day who have a high standard of personal excellence, and who want to learn more and challenge themselves to achieve more. I love working with different athletes, from ultra-runners to triathletes - novices to world champions.

I also love how so many of those athletes challenge me (often without knowing it) to be better and be truly worthy of their trust. Every day I embrace my responsibility to find more meaningful ways to be a positive influence on both their athletic development and their lives as human beings.

Perhaps the most enjoyable of all though, is having the opportunity to work so closely with someone (and for a long enough period of time), that you can almost anticipate what they're thinking - how they're feeling, seeing deep inside of them to know what really makes them tick, knowing just what they may need to be their best.

To be able to watch them grow, evolve and thrive.

What hopefully develops with hard work, careful nurturing (and a little good fortune) is a mutual deep caring, trust and respect...a lifelong friendship that comes only from the true partnership that is a great coach/athlete relationship.

That's exactly what has happened with the incomparable Debbie Livingston.

Meeting Debbie with a big hug and smiles, just after she crossed the finish line of a 3-Day Stage Race, The Emerald Necklace.

I've coached Debbie for 7 or 8 years, I think. 🙂 Honestly, I've lost count - the years have just flown by. And they've been amazing.

Funny...I was thinking about it and wanting to write this piece, so I texted her this morning and asked her when we started working together. "2010," she said. She remembered because it was the year after her daughter, Dahlia, was born.

So why write about this today?

Debbie is in Silverton, Colorado, with her family (husband Scott, son Sheppard, and the aformentioned Dahlia), going through final preparations for her first Hardrock 100 Endurance Run.

Hardrock Hundred starts Friday morning, July 14th, at 6 am MST.  It needs no introduction for anyone who even remotely follows trail or ultra-running. Simply put, it's one of the most difficult to run (and to get into!) ultramarathon trail runs on the planet and among the most prestigious just to finish.

With 33,050 feet of climbing and 33,050 feet of descending for a total elevation change of 66,100 feet, AND with an average elevation of 11,186 feet (low point 7,680 feet and high point 14,048 feet), this ultra-running monster sure isn't for the weak or faint of heart.  

Hardrock has been a #bucketlist race for Deb for as long as I can remember. She's had an incredibly challenging time just getting into the race!  Each year over the last few, we'd talk about her race schedule and always had to consider that this might be the year she'd get in.

This year she's one of 145 runners who will start and one of only 22 women. Debbie's husband Scott wrote up a beautifully detailed blog post preview as a lead-in to this year's race. In that post, he outlines a brief history of Debbie's failed attempts to gain entry (the lesson: never stop trying!), along with all of the assorted fun they've had preparing for this unique race journey. To read that post (which I highly recommend), go HERE.

The real purpose of me writing this today isn't just to throw a huge shout-out and congrats to Debbie for having achieved this incredible feat of just GETTING TO the start line of Hardrock 100.  (That's no easy feat. A great many ultra-runners end up toeing the line of their goal events nursing some kind of injury - having been unable to complete the training required and also survive to get to the startline 100% healthy). No, I want to do more than that. I'd like to share with you a few things about Debbie that I've learned coaching her.

What is it that makes Debbie unique and allowed her to have such enduring success? 

I was going back through some of my old coaching notes and emails with Debbie and reminded myself that in the fall of 2012, we were fearful that Debbie might have a labral tear in her hip. As it turned out that wasn't the case. 🙂 The point of that story is, while Debbie's had many more victories than defeats over the course of her career as an ultra-runner, there have been some challenging periods. Like so many athletes, she's had to overcome her fair share of difficulty just to get to this point.

Every time we faced one of those difficulties, we did it together (as a team along with her family). We re-evaluated what we were doing and how we were doing it. We tried to find a better way, together. Debbie really has been at the cutting edge of so many of the things I've introduced to my coached athletes. She's always willing to try new things and has become a master of so many (yoga, kettlebell training, vegan nutrition, to name just a few) because of her boundless desire to grow both athletically and personally.

Deb and Lis. Amazing athletes - beautiful people - beautiful smiles! (All of the photos here are courtesy of Scott Livingston, hubby and photographer extraordinaire!)

As I think about it, Debbie often reminds me of one other elite athlete that I'm fortunate to coach, 5-time Age-Group Ironman World Champion, Lisbeth Kenyon. How so, you ask? Well, perhaps not surprisingly, they're alike in a lot of ways. Here's just a few:

  • Both of them are 100% willing to be accountable for every single thing they do in training. They keep great training diaries, are always timely in how they communicate with me, and they leave no stone (details) unturned when it comes to their daily training and preparation. They're detailed oriented in every way.
  • Both value their health ABOVE their fitness, meaning they would never exchange doing something that isn't smart for their health for a fitness "boost."  They deeply value what it means to "move well" and approach their training holistically. What results is that they both possess a near-perfect balance between mobility/flexibility and stability/strength; one reason why they've remained durable for so many years.
  • Both embrace a quality over quantity training approach which is based on a "movement-quality-first" mentality. Rare in ironman and ultra-running circles, it means they have more time and energy for family and work responsibilities. And less risk of burn-out over the course of many years of training and racing.
  • Both love to learn and actively participate in learning every day. They're always the first to 1. be accountable to something new that I introduce, or 2. attend a class or clinic that I host, or 3. show up in a room full of students with a "beginner's mindset." They are incredibly humble.
  • Both are mentally strong. In fact, they are the two most mentally tough athletes I have ever worked with. And I don't just mean on the race course. Yes, they are gritty and as tough as they come on the race course! More than that, by mentally strong I mean they willingly take days off and rest when they need it (do you think of the willingness to rest as a 'strength'?). They do the work without whining or bragging, they don't make excuses or miss training sessions needlessly, they own every result they get whether it's what they wanted or not, and they always put their family first and hold themselves to the highest standard, before anyone else.

Debbie and I at last year's Vermont 50 ultra-run and mountain bike.

A big group with my son AJ and his girlfriend Liz, and Terry, Deb, Dahlia and Shep...but we're missing Scott (per usual), he's always behind the camera!

Debbie and I have gone on to host many camps and clinics together. Our families have grown close. We've built a lasting friendship that I know will far outlive our coach/athlete relationship.

I'm honored to not only coach her, but to know her and call her a friend.  I'm privileged to play a small role in this amazing life (running) journey she is on!

In a short message on Facebook yesterday, one of Debbie's friends named Barbara, I think best described her (and I quote) as a "combination trail beauty and beast from the East." Yup, that's her! You nailed it Barbara. 🙂

I'd like to wish that wonderful "beauty and beast from the East" and her crew, the very best of luck as she toes the line this Friday and knocks one more trail "monster" off of her #bucketlist!  You are going to do great.

All my love, Deb.

~Coach Al

TIPS For The “Roadie” Who Wants To Hit The Trail More (And Not Get Hurt Doing It!)

Coach Al with elite ultra-runner, Debbie Livingston

Coach Al with elite ultra-runner (and trail runner extraordinaire), Debbie Livingston

If you are one of the many runners or triathletes who routinely run on the roads because the trail isn't comfortable or intimidates you, or is a place you tend to get hurt or frustrated, read on. I used to feel that way too!

First, anyone who routinely reads our blog knows I'm a big fan of getting OFF the road and onto the trail, even if most of your racing is on the road, and especially at this time of year. (That's YOU, triathlete!)

Getting off-road can drive your run fitness and health up by introducing varied, often hilly terrain that simultaneously strengthens your hips, legs, AND heart. The problem is, the trail (especially a technical rock strewn trail) presents its own series of challenges that often make the intimidation factor even larger.

For instance, do any of these scenarios sound even remotely familiar to you?

  • You've just climbed a steep hill and you're standing at the top, looking straight down the other side at a technical, very steep descent that is littered with rocks, roots and ice-like leaves. You hesitate for a moment, visualizing yourself slipping and falling or going headfirst into a tree. You decide to go for it, taking off slowly, cautiously, nervously tip-toeing, and praying you don't slip and fall or roll your ankle.
  • You're running along and see a very technical rock "scramble" and a stream, and gaze nervously because you aren't sure where to put your feet down OR how you'll possibly avoid rolling your ankle. You decide it's better to be safe rather than sorry so you walk (rather than run) through the scramble, staring down nervously the entire way.
  • You decide to take the advice in this article and venture off-road for your next run. Alas, 10 minutes into the run and you've fallen twice, rolling your ankle. It hurts, you're frustrated (and angry) and immediately look for the nearest exit back to your safe haven - the asphalt!

To help you not only avoid the above scenarios (and many others just like them), here are some TIPS that I've learned the hard way. My mistakes will save you trial and error (and injury I hope), making you a true LOVER of the trail as I am now.

  1. Make like a duck: Whenever you approach a technical rocky downhill, try turning your feet outward into a duck-like stance.  Doing this may feel strange at first, but it actually helps improve stability and will reduce the chance of you rolling your ankle. When the dreaded ankle-roll happens, our foot will usually roll laterally, or inward. Turning your feet out will make this much less likely. You'll learn to descend with much more confidence.
  2. Tread lightly: Good trail runners are highly skilled and light on their feet. Through many miles of practice, they've learned how to instantly unweight their feet when stepping onto an unstable surface, or when they can't see what is below the leaves or brush. When running on asphalt we typically don't give any thought to how hard we land. If you take that same approach on the trail, your risk of an ankle sprain increases dramatically. Learn how to instantly and skillfully unweight your foot. Practice it routinely and it will soon become second nature.
  3. Fly like a bird: Runners who usually run on the roads typically keep their arms close to their bodies. However, when you're out on the trail, spreading your arms out wide (picture a bird or an airplane) will help you maintain better balance, improving your ability to move laterally as the trail changes in front of you. Your flow and rhythm will improve, not only helping you to more easily handle whatever the trail might throw your way, but improving the fun factor too!

As you practice more and spend more of your running time on the trail, your skills will improve!  In addition to the above...

  • You'll learn how to confidently gaze farther ahead, rather than looking down.
  • You'll use the rocks you approach on the trail as stepping stones (keeping you out of the stuff you CAN'T see).
  • You'll learn to pick your feet up instead of dragging them along the ground, AND most importantly....
  • You'll learn to relax and enjoy it more!

Now get out there and have at it!

Happy Trails!

~Coach Al


cedarlakecampIf you'd like to learn more skills and increase the fun factor, becoming a better, faster, happier trail runner, click HERE for more information on our upcoming Cedar Lake Trail Running Camp and Retreat from May 29-31, led by Debbie Livingston and Coach Al. It is for all levels and abilities, even newbie trail runners. We'd love to have you join us for the fun, comraderie, and learning!

048: Listener Questions: Becoming a Better Runner, Swim Training and More! [Podcast]

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Team PURSUIT triathlete Megan Pennington, on her way to the OVERALL WIN at the Litchfield Hills Triathlon!

Team PURSUIT triathlete Megan Pennington, on her way to the OVERALL WIN at the Litchfield Hills Triathlon!

Today we dig into some great questions sent in to us from listeners.  The first has to do with becoming a BETTER runner, something nearly every triathlete and pure runner has thought about at one time or another (or a few thousand times!) 🙂

Whether it's right here in our Pursuit Athletic Performance lab during a gait analysis, or out on the trail or road OR over a beer at the local pub, we always relish the opportunity to talk to anyone about running.  (Anyone who knows Coach, KNOWS how much he can talk, talk, and talk some more about this topic!). No apologies necessary though - running has been a passion of Coach Al's since first running "Boston" in 1983.

Every so often though, a conversation with a frustrated triathlete turns to a sort of self depricating exchange where they end up telling us (trying to convince us, or themselves, perhaps?) why they CAN'T be as good a runner as they really would "like" to be.  Whether this self-doubt stems from a long period of training struggle or chronic running-related injury, the bottom line is that most triathletes have much more running ability inside of them waiting to get out than they realize! They just don't know how to GET it out!  In the podcast, we offer some real and practical suggestions to take your running to a new level.

In case you're one of those who is impatient and curious and can't wait to listen, here are some hints:

  1. No! It isn't necessarily about planking, more of it, or doing it differently.
  2. No, it won't necessarily be "easy."  While we offer some practical suggestions that you CAN implement tomorrow in your training, the truth is that it generally takes a long time to "get good" as a runner, all things being equal.

Also, we jump in on some questions about all things swim training for the triathlete.

  • Is it REALLY worthwhile to spend time doing kicking sets if I am racing in a wetsuit and generally never kick in a race?
  • Why is the coach writing "hypoxic" sets for us anyway? Is it really valuable, and if so, why?
  • And more!

Thanks for joining us! Make it a great day!

~Coach Al and Dr. Strecker

Meet Our Athletes: Ultrarunning Champ Debbie Livingston

Debbie Livingston, Laurel Highlands Ultra, Pursuit Athletic Performance, ultra runHello Everyone!

It is my true pleasure to introduce you to one of the outstanding athletes I coach, ultrarunning champion Debbie Schieffer Livingston. I think you will really enjoy this interview as we cover a host of topics including how Debbie prepares for running distances up to 100 miles, how she recovers, her thoughts on the value of functional strength training (hint: she says it makes a "huge difference"), fueling and hydration, and the mental challenges she faces when running such long distances.

Debbie has been running ultras for more than a decade. She is equipped with with a wealth of experience and broad perspectives. Plus, she is the nicest person you could ever meet!

We filmed this interview in the Massachusetts Berkshires at the Mt. Graylock Trail Races Half Marathon where Debbie was third woman overall. That's impressive enough, but what is truly mind blowing is that she did the Mt. Graylock race only SIX DAYS after her record-breaking performance at the Laurel Highlands 70.5 Ultra! In that race, Debbie smashed a 22-year course record by 12 minutes! (You can see her Laurel Highlands race report here.) Her results tell you this is an athlete who has learned how to put all the pieces together.

Debbie is truly an elite athlete, but as you listen I think you will see that issues regarding smart training, recovery, strength work, flexibility, fueling, and taking the long view apply to all of you too. At least that is how we guide and train ALL our athletes at Pursuit Athletic Performance, whether you are breaking records or gearing up for your first 5K.

Enjoy the interview. And wait until you hear what she has planned for the rest of the season!!! ~ Coach Al

Sedona Trail Running Camp & Retreat, April 15-19, 2012

Hello everyone! Coach Al here.

I am very excited to announce that I have partnered with Ultra Running Champion Debbie Coach Al, Sedona Trail Running Camp & RetreatLivingston to host a five-day trail running camp and retreat in beautiful Sedona, Arizona!

The camp will be held Sunday, April 15 to Thursday, April 19, and we have no doubt it will be the experience of a lifetime!

The camp and retreat will be hosted at the spectacular Red Agave Resort in Sedona.

Debbie and I see this as more than just a running camp. This five day "running retreat" is an educational and inspirational experience designed to develop you as a COMPLETE runner.

As we run, eat, and live together, surrounded by the magical red rock formations of Sedona, you will be immersed in aspects of training that are essential to becoming a stronger, faster, and mentally-tough competitor. There is no doubt you will emerge a smarter, reinvigorated runner equipped with the tools you need to make you faster and more resilient--ready to unleash your highest running potential.

The Sedona retreat is also the ideal lead-in to the legendary Zane Grey 50 Mile Endurance Run to be held April 21, 2012. Debbie is competing in the race. If you are already registered for this challenging event, the retreat in Sedona is the perfect venue to help you cap your physical conditioning, shore up your mental game, and share an uplifting event with other runners. What a fantastic way to wrap up your training! See our event page for more details.

The camp is open to all runners of all levels and abilities who want to improve, learn, and share. It is is limited to 15 athletes - first come, first served! Registrations need to be completed no later than March 18, 2012.

Explore the who, what, when and why, plus complete details, bios, and more at the here. Make the commitment to yourself and to your training in 2012, and register today!

Feel free to contact me with any questions. Hope to see you in Sedona!