I should have known it was going to be an interesting day based on the way it started. On our way to the race I ran through a mental list of things to bring - running shoe - got it, food to last the entire day - got it, sunscreen - got it, running leg - oh crap, FORGOT IT. A u-turn and 10 minutes later I was racing through the house to grab the most essential running component I own. This meant that Alex (my fiancee) and I got to the race site with just 15 minutes to spare, enough time to throw my race bag along the side of the course, open a fold-out chair, and stand in line for the bathroom only to give up because I didn't want to miss the race start. We finally got to the start line at 5:58am...and then the gun went off.
With all the excitement of the morning, I barely had a chance to think about the actual race until it started. By that time I chose to settle into an easy 11:45 pace that put me in the middle of the pack with Alex, and had brought us through for lap 1 at 2:28:32, slightly slower than planned, but respectable. At that point Alex said, "see you tomorrow" (which luckily was not the case as we crossed paths a few more times on the course and after he finished), and I was on my own for the rest of the race.
I was able to stay with the pack most of the race this year.
I continued on in silence for a few miles until I realized that I was already focusing on my aches and pains...and it was way too early for that. I turned on an audiobook I had already listened to (so I wouldn't have to pay too much attention) to drown out the completely unproductive thoughts running through my head, which sounded something like this: "why am I doing this again?", "isn't 25 miles still considered a good, long run for the day?", "how many more laps do I have?", and so on and so on. The audiobook distracted me enough to get through lap 2 in 2:27:26, which was great for 25 miles, except I felt like I'd already run 50.
Now, to back track for a moment, I spent most of Friday evening packing up individual bags with everything I would need for each lap. Food, change of socks/shoes/clothes/liners/or whatever other item I thought I would need by that lap, ibuprofen, and pepto tablets. These bags were laid out neatly next to my chair to require as little thinking as possible as I came through the start/finish area for each lap since I'm notorious for wanting something for the next lap (I'll ruminate on it for miles before I get to the aid station) and then completely forget about it until I'm a quarter mile past the aid station. So I planned ahead. Poorly apparently. Because everything I needed was in the wrong bag and I didn't want any of the food I'd planned to eat.
Since nutrition had been such an issue during this race last year, I wanted to be particularly smart about it this year. I was going to take in ~100 calories in some form (shot blocks, slim jims, pb&j) every 3 miles and then ~200 calories at aid station (AS) #1 and AS#2, a good plan in theory, but not one that my GI system would go along with. Initially I settled on potato pieces covered in salt followed by a small cup of sweet tea and cookies at AS#1 and AS#2. By 11am the volunteers had started up the grills and were offering hot dogs, burgers, and chicken sandwiches. I have to admit, I was surprised by how well the hot dogs, potatoes, cookies, and sweet tea sat on lap 3 and 4.
Ginger ale and salt concoction prepared by Shannon. Not sure if I'll do that drink again!
I crossed the 50 mile mark in 10:14:45, which was a good time for me, but my aches and pains were getting more noticeable and I'd already pulled out all my tricks to feel better (I'd already changed my shoes, my sock, and my liner). The next lap ended up being more of a mental feat than a physical one as I urged my body to keep going and try to enjoy the experience in the process. I started walking more, even slight hills that I could have easily run, because my head just wasn't in it and my nutrition started to go down the toilet. I needed a personal cheerleader, which was exactly what I got as I came in from lap 6 and asked for a pacer. My pacer, Rich, was a gregarious and efficient runner who might as well have been carrying pom poms as we quickly (or at least more quickly than last lap) ticked off the miles.
Some of the downhills were actually tougher than the uphills because of the breaking forces on the quads and hip flexors.I had also changed at this point into compression tights and a new sports bra, which put a new spring in my step. I felt better for some reason. Maybe it was the company. Or maybe it was the fact that I was 3/4 of the was done. Whatever it was, I found a second wind, which carried me through lap 7 and into lap 8 where I picked up a new pacer, Collin, who was even more aggressive than Rich. He had pulled his last pacee through to a top 10 finish for males and when I told him my desire to finish under 24 hours (I had 3 hrs 45 min to meet this goal), he asked what I thought about trying to finish in under 23 hours. I thought he was crazy.
The bottom of my left foot felt like it caught fire every time I took a step and my left hip flexor muscles would occasionally stop functioning. On top of that I could no longer take in more than a few sips of water and GU without feeling like I would get violently ill, and I had the hiccups (likely from all of the unprocessed hot dogs pressing against my diaphragm). Surprisingly, the only thing that still felt okay was my residual limb, which was tenuous at best and I knew could give out on me at any moment. Despite that, when he said run, I ran. And sometimes, even when he didn't say run, I ran anyways. It honestly felt good to run so I ran as much of the lap as I could, even if it was just a slow shuffle at some points. I didn't look at my watch. I didn't want to know how fast I needed to run. I just maintained the fastest pace that I could until I saw the lights of the start/finish line ahead. And then I smiled when I saw the clock, which read 22:55:24. It felt good to be done before the sun came up. It felt good to beat my goal. And Collin should be proud that he also pulled me in for 10th place overall for females!
The title of this article brings to mind countless controversies regarding the role of strength training for endurance athletes. Some opponents argue that the anabolic effects of strength training are at best useless, and at worst counterproductive to the goals of endurance training, while proponents beg to differ. And as a proponent I would like to elaborate on the benefits of getting stronger and how you can incorporate strength training into your program. But first, to address the obvious questions:
Can lifting make you a faster marathoner? Probably not. (Some runners may stop here and refuse to read on. I suggest they do, however!)
But can it make you a healthier marathoner? Absolutely.
There is no substitute for training in your actual sport, and I certainly don't propose that lifting in any way should be substituted for sport specific training. You get better at running by running, you get better at cycling by cycling, and so forth. Even with that being said, some trainers and coaches argue that certain types of lifts or motions, such as high repetition quarter squats on the Smith machine, are more specific to the motions of running or cycling, therefore making them superior lifts for runners or triathletes. I am not arguing that any lift is specific to endurance training, however. In fact, I’d state quite the opposite.
Lifting will not replace running, cycling, or swimming- no lift can completely replicate the forces or loads of specific motions involved in endurance training. Attempting to duplicate sports movements and train sports movements in the weight room MAY work for specific athletes (think of football linemen and the bench press), but for runners this is wrongheaded. No lift will approximate running or replace the development of run fitness or technique, but it can supplement your training to (1) to improve integrity of joints, (2) correct imbalances, and (3) improve strength for small bursts of speed on hills or at the end of a race.
Note: Throughout this article my references to endurance training will be made in terms of running, but the same topics can also be applied to cycling, swimming, hiking, etc.
Initially it will take time to develop the neuromuscular adaptations to complete compound lifts without risk of injury. In the end, the goal is injury prevention, so this is a good place to start, but this is only possible if you learn how to lift safely. One of the primary advantages of compound lifts for an endurance athlete is that they're not only efficient, but also great for injury prevention because, (if done properly with good form), the lifts stress most muscles in the body in their most natural movement patterns. First and foremost, the aspiring lifter should understand proper form, but most importantly, NOT revert to machines if uncomfortable with the free weights.
There is a reason these lifts aren’t done on machines. In order to lift heavier weights, your body will naturally develop strength in areas that are weak, especially around joints like the ankles, knees, hips, lower back and shoulder girdle. Yes, you could isolate the muscle groups surrounding each of these joints, but that would require at least 2-3 exercises per joint or 10-15 lifts. Instead you could hit all of these muscle groups with just 3 lifts –the deadlift, squat, and bench press (and of course variations of each). Lifting is critical to health because it forces the body to anatomically adapt to supporting and moving progressively heavier loads- machines take away the full-body stimulus that only free weights can provide.
Let's take the deadlift for example (the squat and bench press will be discussed more in part 2). The standard deadlift (there are multiple variants of this lift, including the straight legged deadlift, Romanian deadlift, etc.) is a compound movement that primarily targets the hamstrings, glutes, and lower back. Obviously, increased strength in all of these muscle groups would be beneficial to running (more about this later). Less commonly discussed, however, are the benefits to smaller muscle groups and joints.
Specific adaptions from the deadlift
Improved ligament and tendon strength results in improved joint integrity. The forces exerted on the joints during compound lifts put strain on connective tissue, which effectively pulls the tendons and ligaments from the bone. This causes osteoblastic activity (osteoblasts are the cells within bone responsible for new bone growth), or in other words, the strain of the ligaments and tendons acting on the bone causes increased bone formation at those sites. The end result is improved strength at the point where the tendon or ligament attaches to the bone. Stronger attachments to more robust bone mean lower risk of injuries at the joints stabilized by those attachments. There is also the matter of mechanical loading on the bone itself- the long bones (of the legs, for example) bow ever so slightly under heavy loading, which results in adaptation (bone thickening across the entire length of the bone) to prevent possible damage in the future. This is VERY important for endurance athletes, as stronger bones are far less prone to stress fractures. Now imagine these processes taking place across the entire skeletal system, from neck to toes, while picking up a heavy load from the floor.
In addition to improved tendon and ligament attachments, there are the specific adaptations in the muscles surrounding the joint itself. The forces transmitted through joints while running are not always conducive to joint health- uneven running surfaces can cause unpredictable forces on the joint, which have to be countered by the body. A slip or stumble can result in strong sudden shear forces across a joint, or sudden twisting which pulls directly on the ligaments- one interesting fact is that ligaments are NOT designed to be used at all! Ligaments are not activated in normal joint movement, it is the job of surrounding tendons and muscles to stabilize the joints, with ligaments only activated in extreme circumstances (such as knee twisting, etc.) Sudden sharp impacts or changes in force may also overwhelm the surrounding muscle’s ability to tighten and stabilize the joint, which requires the ligaments to intervene. However, stronger muscles which are better trained (and therefore activate faster) are excellent protection against ligament and joint damage. Improved musculature surrounding a joint can provide increased stabilization (through stronger tissue and faster response) and therefore improved control when facing uneven ground, and can make the difference between slight embarrassment (after a stumble) or catastrophic ligament damage.
The repetitive motion of running can amplify structural and/or muscular imbalances. Many runners wonder how to adjust their running to correct these imbalances, but I would argue that you can't. You will only continue to exacerbate the imbalance by repeating the same repetitive motion over and over and over again. By incorporating a focused strength program that emphasizes full range of motion through multiple joints, these imbalances can be identified and corrected. You can spend 1-1.5 hours a week in the weight room now OR 1-2 months off recovering from an injury later.
Let’s consider the deadlift again- the simple act of picking a load up off the floor. An athlete with weak hamstrings will have difficulty pulling the bar off the ground, the first phase of the lift. An athlete with tight hamstrings will have difficulty reaching down for the bar. And an athlete with a weak back will have difficulty locking out, the final phase of the lift. You may be wondering why any of this matters- it matters because these same muscle groups are vital to the run- any imbalance that exists will be amplified significantly given the repetitive motion of endurance training. Once an imbalance is identified though, simple measures can be taken to restore balance and therefore allow for better form, and no runner has EVER suffered from having hamstrings that are strong or flexible, or having a lower back that is TOO strong. No runner can afford to have disproportionately weak or tight hamstrings, or a functionally weak lower back. Running is rarely a controlled environment- every step represents an opportunity for the unexpected to happen, and if a runner is not a complete athlete, he or she increases the opportunity for injury every time he or she hits the trail, track, or road.
Worth reiterating here, of course, is that the goal of strength training should be to complement your endurance training, not to replace it. A benefit to compound lifts like the squat, deadlift, and bench press, which engage a variety of muscles groups throughout the body during each repetition, is that rather than working one muscle group in isolation, they target many opposing muscle groups in very practical ways. Think about it. Every time you squat down to pick something up off the floor or lean down to lift something up, or push something away from you, you are engaging the muscles groups targeted in one of the aforementioned lifts.
Powerlifters lift to get stronger. Olympic weightlifters lift to get stronger. And yes, endurance athletes should lift to get stronger. Note, I did not say bigger. Bodybuilders, for example, follow a very different regimen that focuses on muscle hypertrophy over strength. The lifting routine that I recommend is more similar to powerlifting, and focuses on 3 compound lifts and relevant accessory work (a sample workout is provided at the end of the article). Worth mentioning is that powerlifters are not all gigantic, beefy, slow moving behemoths- powerlifting, like most strength sports, is broken down into weight classes, and athletes design their routines specifically to maximize strength and explosiveness without necessarily gaining any weight at all.
A lot of endurance athletes and some coaches are concerned about the overall anabolic effects of lifting on skeletal muscle, which may compromise performance by increasing overall mass. However, I would argue that the mass gained by lifting is minimal for most endurance athletes given the persistent catabolic state that most endurance athletes are in (I will expand on this further in Part 2, but for now suffice it to say that unless a runner is eating to gain weight, he or she will NOT gain much muscle mass due to lifting weights). In addition, not only will the athlete still reap the benefits mentioned earlier regarding tendons, ligaments, and bone integrity even without weight gain, but even if mass IS gained, it is in the form of muscle, which is beneficial to most endurance athletes (except, perhaps, Tour de France climbing specialists…though even they have VERY strong and efficient leg musculature for their size).
The increased muscle mass and cross sectional area of muscle fibers contribute to improved power when accelerating to pass another racer or when climbing up a steep hill. The endurance training will come in particularly handy when recovering after the hard effort, but strength training can directly translate into increased power output during those hard efforts. There is also data showing a positive correlation between increased muscular cross sectional area and improved lactic acid clearance- certainly a plus for many runners.
Fitting It All In
And now it comes down to putting it altogether. For a typical week, I generally recommend two lifting sessions, with one session falling on the day before your long run or, for shorter distance athletes, on the day before your most aerobic effort. If you have to schedule it on the same day as your long run, then I recommend doing the strength training session before the run. This should be a moderately heavy lift day focusing on the posterior chain (squat or deadlift, stiff legged deadlifts or good mornings, leg press, and abs) that will fatigue the CNS and muscles prior to the run. The concern may be a decrease in performance during your run, but bear in mind that your most aerobic day is less heavily dependent on power output and all those type II fibers you’ll be using to lift; in fact the impact on your endurance workout will be roughly the same as if you’d simply already run a few miles. Be sure to keep this in mind when you’re running as you may feel more fatigued when you start- this is normal and your body will get used to it after a couple of weeks.
The other lifting day should be scheduled 2-3 days later, preferably on a free day when you don’t have another run scheduled. However, if you must schedule it on a day when you’ll be running then prioritize the strength and endurance workouts so that the more technical workout is done first. For instance, if you’re lifting on the same day as an interval or repeat day then you’ll want to run first and lift afterwards, as the run performance is more critical to your overall goals. On the other hand, if you’re scheduling it on the same day as a recovery run then your lift should come first followed by your run so that the workout requiring more technical skill and resulting in more CNS adaptations can be done fresh.
Since you’ll only be lifting twice a week based on this schedule, you can lift both upper body and lower body each day. If you only have a short amount of time each week to dedicate to lifting then you may choose to lift upper body one day and lower body the other day. If this is the case then schedule your lower body day on the day before your long run- your legs will be fatigued after your long run regardless, and this allows you to lift more intensely during your upper body workout later in the schedule while minimizing performance impact on the more intense runs.
Each strength training day should include at least one compound lift (bench press, squat, or deadlift) plus ancillary lifts that stress the same muscle groups. The most basic and efficient schedule is shown below and separates upper and lower body days, each done once a week, for someone running 4 days a week (though it can be tweaked easily for someone running 5-6 days a week). If you’re running more than that then you’re likely headed down a path of overtraining and no amount of strength training can prevent the injuries and CNS fatigue that will result- regardless of goals, unless you are a professional athlete who is eating, sleeping, and living for their sport, two a days or weekly schedules with zero days off are simply too hard to recover from.
Day 1: Recovery run
Day 2: Upper body
Day 3: Intervals/repeats/tempo run
Day 4: Anaerobic threshold run
Day 5: Rest
Day 6: Lower body
Day 7: Long, slow distance run
Day 2 should be a hard effort, technical lift that focuses on technique and joint integrity. The bench press should be the primary focus for developing a symmetric and erect upper back and chest. Ancillary lifts should include rows and lat pulldowns to develop the upper back, lateral raises and front raises to develop the shoulders, and tricep pushdowns or bicep curls for the arms. Developing a strong upper body will allow you to lead with the chest and prevent rounding of the shoulders as you fatigue during your run, which can cause breakdown in running form translating into inefficiencies and changes in biomechanics that can lead to injury. In addition, a strong and mobile upper body improves day to day posture, which is doubly important for older athletes.
The emphasis on day 6 will be primarily strength and developing the posterior chain, which includes to the muscle, tendons, and ligaments of all the joints and muscles from the trapezius to the calves. A good place to start is with the deadlift, to warm up the erector spinae muscle groups (the muscles along the spine) along with the glutes and hamstrings in a relatively natural movement. The desired adaptations as they relate to endurance training have already been explained above. In addition, the squat is good compound lift that can be worked into a regular routine once you feel comfortable with it. Ancillary lifts include the stiff legged deadlift and good mornings, which also target the posterior chain, leg press to quadriceps, and abdominal exercises like hanging leg raises and crunches. Note that many of these lifts are more challenging to perform than isolations- improperly performed deadlifts and squats can be hazardous to the knees and back. This is no reason to not perform them, however, and the mistakes that make these lifts potentially dangerous are more often than not the result of imbalances (quad/hamstring imbalances leading to knees bowing in or forward during the squat), disproportionately weak muscles (lower back rounding during the deadlift), or balance issues that absolutely need to be addressed for the athlete. Generally speaking, if an athlete cannot perform a compound lift comfortably, this is a sign that the athlete needs improvement, not that the lift needs to be eliminated!
Again, the routine above is very general and should be tailored for your specific endurance training and goals. I will elaborate more on specific training programs in part 2.
Time off is a good thing. It's a time for much needed recovery, both mentally and physically. However, coming back from time off can be a challenge. During the first couple of weeks you might feel slow. The shorter workouts will still feel long and you will likely get sore more quickly than you used to. The hardest runs to get back into will likely be your long run, especially if your A race this season is longer than a half marathon. But regardless of the distance, there are a few things to keep in mind as you face your first long training run after some time off.
1. Take it slow. You may not be able to go out at the same pace you did at the end of last season. You'll get there, but it will take time and more workouts to get to that point. So, right now, just take it slow. Keep the pace easy. If you train with with RPE or HR make sure you're keeping within the appropriate range.
2. Stick with it. You haven't run this distance in awhile. Your body will have detrained and the physiological changes will make even shorter workouts feel long. You may feel great when during the first half of your run, but then start to wonder of your watch stopped half way through. First, make sure watch did not indeed stop working. Then, back off your pace by about 15-30 seconds per mile. Remember, this is your long, slow distance run. Even if it's not as far as you're used to running, it should still feel like a long run. If not, it's probably too short.
3. Hydrate. During this part of the season, your long run might seem short. But after your time off, your body needs to adapt again to the demands of a longer run. Your body might not require the insulin kick of Heed or Gatorade for these seemingly shorter distance long runs, but you will still benefit greatly from taking in enough water to stay hydrated.
Filming the episode with Jothy for Who Says I Can't was a ton of fun. You can read more about it from his perspective on his blog at http://www.whosaysicant.org/amputee/filming-kelly-bruno-for-wsic-tv. All I had to do was get a few friends together and then open my home up to Jothy and a few photographers. They were professional and a pleasure to work with.
To view my episode or additional episodes of Who Says I Can't check it out at:
Follow this link to an interesting article on various top level athletes' perspectives on diet. I contributed my $0.02 so it's worthwhile checking out!
Kelly Bruno -World Record Amputee Runner and Contestant on Survivor
“I tend towards moderation when it comes to diet, during both active and recovery phases of my training. I avoid strict diets because I want to give my body what it needs; and it usually tells me what that is. When I’m gearing up for a big race, I usually bump my calories up by 10-15% so that I have stores during long runs and so that I can recover appropriately during my active recovery/off days. I also increase my protein intake since I can offset the muscle damage caused by long runs and lifting weights. “
Accomplishments: Kelly holds both the 200m and 800m world records for amputees. She also won gold at the 2008 New York Triathlon and ITU World Triathlon Championships in the amputee division. She is an incredible inspiration. In 2010, she was also one of the contestants on Survivor: Nicaragua.
Learn more about Kelly at:
The race started with a downhill stretch. Initially this might sound appealing. Easing into a race with a nice, comfortable downhill to warm up the legs. But there was NO easing into this race. It was more like I was barrelling down a dry river bed with only slightly more control than a 5 year old on rollerblades for the first time. There was no warming up either. My legs were at full throttle just trying to keep up with the rest of my body as gravity took over.
Alex was at my side, carrying a backpack that held my Fillauer Wave foot for when we turned around at the bottom of the hill...and started to go back up it. The only thing worse than going down the hill was knowing that I would have to go back up it. By the turn around point I was in a pretty sour mood. I had hyper-extended my right knee (prosthetic side) already and I was in last place, everyone else having 2 good legs that could handle the down hill much better than my prosthetic one.
I was in 45th place at the first aid station, which was about 4 miles into the race. After the aid station I started climbing up a 20% grade hill. And that's no joke. Alex can vouch for me. He decided to head back to the car at about that point, having twisted his ankle 3 times already on the first hill. I couldn't blame him. I definitely contemplated joining him. Seriously contemplated it. I was already 4 miles into the race and I hadn't actually run at all. I'd hurtled down a moutain and then hiked back up it. That was not what I had signed up for.
But I couldn't actually do it. I never have. And it will be an earth-shattering day when I finally do DNF a race (without a legit medical reason). I just don't have it in me. I can't quit. Even when I really, really want to. Instead, I just kept trudging up the hill and told Alex I'd re-evaluate at the next aid station, which was 8 miles (and a moutain) away. Luckily I started catching up with other competitors at this point and Alex pulled in next to us on his bike. With a portable cheering section and the company of other miserable competitors, I started to feel a lot better.
By the time I got to the second aid station (Mile 12.9) I announced very matter-of-factly that I would start crying if I saw another hill. I guess I wasn't feeling as good as I thought. :) Needless to say, there was another hill up the road. And then another. And then another. And lots of rocky trails and highways and gravel roads. 51 miles worth, to be exact. But I was settling in now that I was on the Blue Ridge Parkway with gradual sloping hills that I could run. It felt good. As did passing people, which I started doing quickly as I stretched me legs and ran almost the whole way to the next aid station.
I picked off runners one at a time. By now I was wholly involved in my audiobook so I didn't stop to chat as I passed people. We would throw each other a few words of encouragement and then continue willing ourselves along the course, which got a lot better as the hours and miles wore on. We ran to the top of Bald Mountain, which would more adequately be described as climbing to the top of Bald Mountain considering I was tripoding it across the rockiest patches of trail, with one hand on the ground to keep my balance.
The majority of the course was out and back, which has it's pros and cons.
PROS: I got to pass the aid station with beer twice, and the second time they had a glass of Oscar Blues Pilsner poured and waiting for me. I knew exactly what is to come.
CONS: I knew exactly what is to come.
Just as I started to dread one of the hills that I knew was coming up as I turned off of a gravel road and onto a much larger 2 lane paved road, I saw a blue Kia Forte Koup coming towards me. My blue Kia Forte Koup. Alex had started driving the course backwards (at least that's what I assume; otherwise he was trying to leave town without me) and ran into me on a long uphill stretch. He had a dry shirt, clean liner, and fresh Gatorade (I was really tired of the citrus GU drink that tasted like dirty socks) waiting for me at the next aid station. Yay! Something to look forward to. I kicked it up the hill.
Now to my next goal. Get through Bald Mountain (the treacherous, rocky trail running) before it got dark. I was flying at this point, as the sun started to set and my eyes worked hard to adjust to the hazy, dusk that fell. I had my little head lamp wrapped around my water bottle, which I now held in a way that would light the path in front of me. And then, before I knew it, it was completely dark. I could barely see my hand in front of my face. Which is probably why I didn't see Alex until I practically ran smack into him while he was sitting on the trail waiting for me to get to the next aid station...which, thankfully, was just 200 yards up the hill.
With 9 miles to go, I started to believe that I would finish this race. And probably in good standing if I could keep the pace up. I had passed a lot of runners and so far not many had passed me back. Wanting to finish before 9:15, I put my head down and walked/ran the uphills and cruised the downhills. By now, I was listening to my second audiobook. And my physical and mental capacity was about to be tested by a 1.2 mile steep downhill followed by a 2.5 mile steep, steep uphill back to the top of the Wintergreen resort.
I was actually kind of excited about the downhill. Who wouldn't be? Downhill is supposed to be easier, right? Gravity should be working with me, not against me. Or so I thought. And yet the first step downhill was truly painful. As was the next 1.2 miles as my legs worked desperately to keep up. My muscles were fatigued, especially my left quad, and suffered from microtears from the trauma of the 100k. Not that I was really looking forward to the 2.5 mile uphill that came next, but I sure couldn't wait to be done with the 1.2 mile decent.
When I finally did hit the last ascent into Wintergreen resort, I was struck by a mix of joy and dread. I was already physically exhausted and mentally beaten. I'd almost hit my breaking point more than once during the race, and here I was again, feeling like I might crack. Just then a car passed me and someone yelled out the window, "you're almost there", which didn't sound very encouraging given what I still faced. I didn't feel like I'd ever finish.
Time continued to pass, but I didn't feel like I was getting any closer to the finish line. And then I saw my car again. My portable cheering section was back. Alex was there talking me through the last mile. And I was running. Slowly. Very slowly. But it was a run and not a walk and I crossed the finish line in 14 hours 18 minutes, 3rd place overall for females (excluding the elites who were probably home eating dinner before I hit the turn around point!)!
I know it probably sounds ridiculous. When my boyfriend, Alex, said he'd have me pushing 150 pounds on the bench by the end of the year I laughed too. But now I'm starting to think it might be possible. I started by learning a completely new competition-style form today. With an arched back it's much easier to recruit the legs and core when pushing up the bar. You can literally drive with your whole body. The shoulders are also put in a much more natural position, which facilitates the motion and reduces the stress across the joint. Lastly, the position actually brings the chest off of the bench by about 2 inches so that you don't have to bring the bar down quite as far. Today I just worked on form. I'll start adding more weight to the bar next week.
I have to start by giving a shout out to Josh. Thank you for convincing me to give this crazy idea a try. I don't know how it will pan out, but I figure "don't knock it 'til you've tried it". I definitely believe that there is some science behind the barefoot running theory....IF you train properly and work your way up slowly. And what better time to start than 1 week after your first 100 mile race.
Day 1 I learned A LOT. Like running on pebbles hurts. Running on small rocks hurts. Stepping on acorns hurts. Generally pretty much everything I stepped on sent a shock wave through my foot and up my leg. After I started being more aware of the running surface (I don't think I looked up for the next 200 ft), I worked on gait. I shortened my stride leg so I landed over the ball of my foot with each step. The running started to feel better. Which to me seemed like a good time to stop.
Summary of Day 1: Be aware of the running surface. Take steps carefully. Take short strides. And start short. I only ran about 1/4 mile before I put on running shoes and continued to practice the my form. But it was plenty of distance to get the feel for the road under my foot.