January 2018 - RUNNING & WALKING
By Laura Clark
If you have already failed miserably at keeping your New Year’s resolutions, try a different approach. While you are lazing by the fire contemplating race calendars, why not go beyond scheduling and give some forethought as to how you can improve your 2018 running experience. Note that I didn’t mention PRs. For gratifying results don’t always come with a stopwatch attached. Perhaps you might experiment with fueling strategies, risk new challenges, or explore your inner mindset. Visit your public library or local bookstore, check out these recent offerings and then return to the fireplace, but this time with purpose.
The biggest trend this year has been the emphasis on mindset. And no wonder, as baby boomers realize they need to stretch beyond the physical to maintain their edge. In business, Dr. Brene Brown preaches the gospel with her Brave Leaders course. The running equivalent is The Brave Athlete: Calm the F*ck Down and Rise to the Occasion, by sports psychologist Dr. Simon Marshall and elite triathlete Lesley Paterson. Taking Dr. Timothy Noakes “central governor theory” (your brain paces the muscles to keep them from exhaustion) one step further, the duo divide the brain into three competing sections: the primitive “Chimp,” the logical “Professor” and the “Computer.” Our task is not to Peter Pan the issue by thinking happy thoughts, but to recognize when your chimp is overriding your professor. The process is a workout in itself, demanding reading, writing, thinking, competing and re-reading. Luckily, the authors’ irreverent style makes re-reading a pleasure.
The concept of flow, originally outlined in Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s landmark book of the same name has been updated just for us in his recent, Running Flow: Mental Immersion Techniques for Better Running. We have all experienced flow, even if we had no idea what it is called. It is that magical moment when you blend into your race, into your environment, and your feet flow smoothly and effortlessly. Picture Joan Benoit Samuelson entering the Olympic Stadium or the Miracle on Ice team. Wouldn’t you like this experience all the time – or at least when it counts most? Instead of relegating this freeing feeling to happenstance, read Dr. Mike’s book and learn how to stack the odds in your favor.
Peak Performance: Elevate Your Game, Avoid Burnout, and Thrive with the New Science of Success, by Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness, combines the best of both worlds by eliminating Brave’s painstaking approach and taking some of the guesswork out of Dr. Mike’s Flow. The authors examine sports, business and artistic top performers, determine what it is that they are doing differently from the rest of us, and provide sustainable solutions. You will learn to alternate between rest and intense periods of focus – no multitasking allowed – and to minimalize your daily routine, thus saving your brain power for the really important decisions. Picture Steve Jobs in his black turtlenecks – he doesn’t waste brainpower dithering over what to wear. Finally, you will be encouraged to select your core values by developing key routines that will prime your body to reach its fullest potential.
Sometimes, though, no amount of mental effort can forestall an injury. That is where John Vonhof’s Fixing Your Feet: Prevention and Treatments for Athletes proves indispensable. Now into the sixth edition, its staying power says it all. Often new editions are nothing more than marketing, but this offering is completely revamped, so much so that I sprung for the update. You will learn not only basic techniques to keep your feet happy, but how these vary depending on the season, your age, and your chosen events. Blisters begone!
Tired of reacting to an injury? Then study Running Times editor Jonathan Beverly’s Your Best Stride: How to Optimize Your Natural Running Form to Run Easier, Farther, and Faster – With Fewer Injuries to learn how to overcome the effects of our sedentary lifestyle. What?! You’re a runner and not a couch potato? Think again. All that time spent hunched over a computer or a steering wheel take their toll. The answer is not in footstrike, minimalism or Hokas, but in teaching your body to “unpretzel.” Exercises are well-described and illustrated in a manner that even someone like me with a right/left handicap can understand. Best of all, they are broken down into progressive steps that once mastered, can be further expanded upon. This is the first book of its type that has made me feel hopeful rather than intimidated.
Just like the ultra is now the new marathon, the 200-miler is now the new 100-miler. The ante keeps getting higher. Even if, like me, you figure you cannot stay awake long enough for extreme events, a 50K will at least keep you in the running. Read Coach Jason Koop’s Training Essentials for Ultrarunning: How to Train Smarter, Race Faster, and Maximize Your Ultramarathon Performance, and embrace his philosophy that “Ultramarathons are not simply long marathons,” and that you can’t expect to succeed with a smile simply by running more. Jason will demonstrate how to own your event by setting subsidiary goals, like not sitting at rest stops. He urges a confidence-building race day ADAPT strategy: Accept, Diagnose, Analyze, Plan and Take Action to deal with inevitable obstacles along the way, such as a thunderstorm or a missed trail marker.
If cutoffs are your nemesis, read Kenneth Posner’s Running the Long Path: A Journey of Discovery in New York’s Hudson Valley. Aiming for an fastest known time (FNT), Posner sets out from NYC, ends up in Thatcher Park and along the way discovers a 350-mile trail though New York history: Walt Whitman State Historic Site, Harriman State Park, the Shawangunks, Rip Van Winkle and the Catskills, Schoharie Valley and Vroman’s Nose. Fit it into a normal vacation time span or tackle in sections as your weekends dictate. As Kenneth urges in his December 2017 Adirondack Sports article, visit nynjtc.org/region/long-path for extensive notes and interactive maps – and join the Facebook “Friends of the Long Path” discussion group. Act now, for already there is a preliminary route extending the path through the High Peaks, so the trail will only grow longer!
Not all ultrarunners are people. Meet the dog Gobi of Finding Gobi: A Little Dog with a Very Big Heart, by Dion Leonard. Gobi shows up in the middle of the 155-mile Gobi Desert Stage Race, singles Dion out of the pack, and completes 80 miles by his side. At first, Dion comes across as self-centered and detached, making you wonder why Gobi chose him. But I feel that is the point: animals sense who needs their help and rush in to fill the void. The cloak-and dagger stuff happens after the race, when Leonard battles governments and dog-nappers determined to thwart the reunion of the now-famous Gobi and his person. A life-changing ultra that persists way beyond the actual event.
And finally, it is time to eat something other than leftover holiday fare. Sample Shalane Flanagan’s Run Fast. Eat Slow: Nourishing Recipes for Athletes. After all, this 2017 New York City Marathon winner should know something about refueling. Offerings are clearly labeled gluten-free, vegetarian, dairy-free and vegan, and all use fresh ingredients. This food is so delicious and easy to prepare that my race buddies and I passed a pleasant half hour’s drive to the Gore Mountain Snowshoe Race describing our favorites. As an added bonus, not only are pre-race and post-race options offered, but food as medicine takes the forefront with recipes for digestive distress, inflammation, bone health and more. Bon appétit!
Laura Clark (firstname.lastname@example.org) of Saratoga Springs is an avid trail runner, ultramarathoner, snowshoer and cross country skier. She is a children’s librarian at the Saratoga Springs Public Library.