The Transformation Has Begun!!



Running!! As far back as I recall, I have been a runner in some capacity or other. From the time I have been able to walk, I have been running. As a kid, I’d run all around the country side, just because I could. I’d run up and down our drive way to check the mail while my mother would time me. I run laps around our cow field, because it was exactly a mile in length and I enjoyed it.

Later on, I’d realize that, though I was good at other sports, running was my speciality and go to sport. With running, it was just me and my legs…if I wanted to excel at it, it was only up to me. I was too small for football, not tall enough for basketball and, too wound up for baseball. I was too puny to be strong and couldn’t bench press the 45 pound bar off my chest until I was a freshmen in high school. So, what else was there? Turns out, that something “else” became RUNNING!

Granted, being a 125 pound runner was no way to pick up girls or, a way to be popular or, to appear tough or cool or, anything else that one would desire as a high schooler. To all my friends (mostly football, baseball and basketball players), I was just the kid who could run forever. Though I did play the other ball sports, my notoriety usually came when we were punished by the coach for losing the game and had to run wind sprints. While the rest of the team was on the gym floor puking, I was just getting warmed up.

Around the time I really started finding myself as a runner, was about the time that Forrest Gump came out on the big screen. So, as you can guess, and thanks in part to my father, I was constantly mocked with the quote from the movie “Run Forrest, Run!!”

Over the next couple years, I would become one of the top ranked mid-distance runners in the state of Oklahoma and would eventually go and run a spell at MSSC.

So, as you can read, running has been in my blood for many years and at times, it has been the only thing I have lived and breathed for. No matter what, I will always be a runner and even more so, a running history nerd. I can spout off times, years and PR’s of all the great milers and distance runners. I am about as ate up with running as anyone can or should be. I coach multiple runners that compete from the mile all the way to 100 milers. I have read about every piece of literature on running and then some. Chances are, my future children will be runners, whether they know it or not 🙂

As much as I always have and always will love running, recently something has changed. Enter SPARTAN RACE

My first Spartan race was exactly a year ago and, I instantly fell in love! I am not sure what it was but, there was something about that death defying first mile, running on a single track trail at a blazing pace, knowing that one slip up or stumble and you could be toast. Maybe it was jumping into bone chilling water or, not being able to feel my fingers as I fell off of the rope climb at the end of the race, sending me from 5th place to 17th within a matter of seconds.

After that first one, I was hooked, I just didn’t know it yet. So, after my first Spartan in March of 2013, I went back to being a “runner”. I went right back into my normal routine of weekly runs and mileage, paying little to no attention to strength and conditioning (just like most runners). As the year rolled on, I did a few more Spartan races here and there, doing well and finishing in the top 10 but, never really getting serious about it.

It wasn’t until myself and many in the DWEP started going to HPI that I realized, I needed to make some changes in my training, if I wanted to be contender in the obstacle course world.

With Spartan races and other similar OCR events, particularly the “sprints”, the intensity is at the level of a hard mile or all out 5k but, spread out across your entire body. When racing a sprint type OCR, the body never really has any time to recover. You are running hard has hell, then you hit an obstacle and the heart rate escalates more, then you run hard as hell again. Oddly, and being something I wasn’t use to, running is actually the “recovery” (or at least for me).

Picture telling a 4:20 miler that he has to go out fast, around 67 second 400m pace, then jump over a wall, then go under a wall, then get up, run another 75 second 400m, then climb a rope, navigate a traverse wall…..repeating this type of process from 3-5 miles (more miles for the longer distance OCR’s). It just doesn’t make sense to the traditional runner type….this being precisely why I am loving it more and more with each one that I compete in.

Though I have always been a runner, I have also been one who loves seeing how far they can push their own limits. I have always enjoyed seeing the BEST in their respective sport/discipline. I like seeing a guy who can bench press 800 pounds, or some girl who can jump rope for 12 hours straight, or climb Mt. Everest, or swim the English channel, etc.

To me, the human body is capable of things that are beyond belief sometimes. I get a thrill out of seeing such pure athletic ability among the wide range of talent that makes up Spartan races.

Currently within the Spartan ranks, we have it all!! There is a 40 year old by the name of Matt Novakavich, who was a D1 runner at BYU, who went on to be a top ranked cyclist, who then went on to be a world ranked mountain runner, who is now a SPARTAN! There is a pretty boy from Malibu by the name of Hunter McIntyre who looks like a linebacker, who is a day time spin instructor, who is flat out crushing the Spartan world and leaving athletes of all kinds in his wake. There is the Bear Jew, David Magida, who is a “pretty boy” corporate man from D.C, who is currently in the process of opening his own gym. There is the Army officer, Elliot Megquier, who lives pretty much off of pizza and shit talking. You have Hobie Call, who was at one time a 2:16 marathoner, Isiah Vidal, who rode his bike from Austin, Texas to Vermont, just so that he could race in the Spartan World Championships.There is Alec Blenis, a young kid who is studying physics at Georgia Tech, who is competitive in anything from the mile to 100 miler and anything in between. You have Amelia Boone, who by day is a corporate lawyer. You have Ella Kociuba a young girl who has rebounded from a broken back and numerous spinal surgeries, to become a force in both Spartan and bodybuilding. There is Jeff Bent, the Yogi master, who at 40+ years of age, regularly finishes in the top 20, primarily based off of his yoga training (he rarely runs or does other typical aerobic training…outside of racing every weekend)

In Spartan, there are all walks of life. You have pure, blue blooded athletes, doctors, lawyers, military personnel, firefighters, etc.

Though there are so many varying backgrounds and personalities amongst the Spartan ranks, we are all one big family. Unlike the running world, you don’t have to be local to your area code to know many other athletes who are competing that day. In the Spartan world, it’s not uncommon to travel all over the country to race, week in and week out. When doing so, you will without question, know several other athletes that are there. So far, I have raced in SC, NC, VA, NY, PA and VT. At every single one of those races, I have known at a minimum, 20 other athletes.

What I love most about the OCR world is that, each course favors a certain type of athlete more than others. For instance, in a shorter distance sprint, a pure runner type might have the edge. Then, you can go to a stadium style race where, a strength/crossfit guy might have the edge. You have your speciality type courses where a mountain runner will dominate vs. a long drawn out race, where your ultra runner type is likely to prevail.

As a runner, you always know where you stack up in a typical road or track race. If you are a 2:50 marathoner, it doesn’t matter what kind of fitness you have, you won’t be able to touch a 2:14 marathoner on ANY day or any race! Same goes with a 5:30 miler vs. a 4:30 miler. But, in OCR, a 2:15 marathoner can be beaten by a 3:14 marathoner. A guy who can bench press 300 pounds, can be beaten by a guy who can only bench press 120.

In Spartan, it comes down to all around strength and conditioning. It takes a hybrid athlete who can hold and maintain in any type of environment and over any type of terrain and obstacle.

Having raced last weekend, 1 year out from my very first Spartan race, I finally made a podium spot, by getting 3rd place in the Sunday Elite heat (got 6th on Saturday but, had fell off the traverse wall….so goes OCR). Leading up to that race, my training had really taken a turn, from primarily running, to finally focusing on all around strength and conditioning. These days, rather than trying to focus on getting faster and faster for a 5k, 10k, marathon, etc., I now focus on getting stronger and stronger in not only running but, in also getting stronger in other areas of strength and all around conditioning.

Though my love for running will always be my anchor and strength, I will continue to build upon that, in hopes to work my way up the Spartan ranks. I will continue to work on all around strength and conditioning, to become a better all around athlete….the type it takes to become one of the best in the OCR world.

If there is room for a mountain man from Alaska, a pretty boy from Malibu, an Army officer, physics major or, a silver spoon kid from D.C….then surely, there is a place for a tattooed, bearded, country boy from Oklahoma 😉

The Hay Is In The Barn!!!

“The hay is in the barn!”

Not sure where this saying comes from but, I had heard it a few times as a child and it is a quote spoken by Bill Bowerman in the movie “Without Limits”

Well what the hell does it mean? Simply put,  it is a phrase to remind us that we have done all the training we can do before the big race. We have made all the necessary preparations to ensure our success.  We have trained hard and no matter what training was or wasn’t done, it is all behind us now and we must get ready to toe the line and get down to business.

This is particularly true now that we are less than one week away from our respective half/full marathon that will take place next week at Shamrock.

In following with the aforementioned saying, there is absolutely nothing more we can do in regards to training, other than be smart, continue our tapering and let the body rest and recover, prior to our big race. One more track workout, or one more good tempo is not going to get your more fit over the next 7 days. At this point, any hard workout will do nothing but take away from race day.

From a scientific and physiology standpoint, a hard workout takes 10-14 days to be absorbed and adapted to by the body…so, doing anything hard at this point, will be of no use for race day.

Now is the time to consider getting all the other intangibles correct. Over the next 6-7 days, we must get our bodies best prepared to be in our best physical shape before out big race. This includes getting lots of rest, minimizing our physical output and anything that wastes or burns our precious glycogen stores. Now is the time to go a little heavy on the sugars/carbs to ensure that our glycogen tanks are topped off. If you put on a pound or two over these next couple days, no worries…those extra stores of glycogen will come in mighty handy late in the race.

This week, hydrate as much as possible. Do your utmost to get in a gallon of good fluids per day over the next several days. So that you don’t have to chug an entire gallon of water throughout the day, look to get fluids via your foods. Meaning, go heavy on the melons, cucumbers, tomatoes, citrus fruits from Monday-Friday (cut down the fiber the day before the race). Aside from hydration, eat foods high in electrolytes (calcium, magnesium, potassium, sodium). Good choices here are lots of green foods, orange and yellow colored fruits/veggies. Try to stay away from processed foods, diuretics and excessive alcohol. If you are a big coffee drinker, try to ensure that you follow your cup of coffee with a cup of infused water (throw lemon/orange in all your water this week to jack up the potassium stores).

Try to ensure you are getting an additional hour or two of sleep per night and take naps throughout the day if you are able to. In regards to “training”, keep the frequency (days of the week) the same as your normal routine…just back off the intensity and duration.

If you are feeling tired and sluggish this week, remember, that’s a good thing!! After weeks and months of an an intense training plan, your body is essentially “detoxing”. You body is wondering what the hell is going on now that you have cut back substantially on your normal routine. This is normal, so relax and enjoy the down time!! This is not the time to panic…I REPEAT, THIS IS NOT THE TIME TO PANIC!! You will be just fine!!

In regards to “carb loading” the night before the race….DON’T DO IT!!! Try to stick to the normal foods you would have been eating the night before a hard long run. Trying to cram your body full of carbs a few hours before the race is foolish. It takes your body a good amount of time to absorb and store the glycogen into your muscles. So, eating 6 plates of pasta 8-12 hours before the race will do nothing but leave you lethargic and likely looking for the porta-johns on race morning. Try to make your last BIG meal the Friday before the Sunday race. Then, on Saturday, try to eat generous amounts of smaller portions of slower burning carbs throughout the day.

On race morning, try to get up 3-4 hours before the projected race start time. So if race starts at 8:00am, try to get up by 4-5am. From the moment you wake up, starting trying to consume 150-250 calories of slower burning carbs within the first hour (whatever your typical long run routine was). By the second hour, try to repeat the same 150-250 calorie intake but now with some faster absorbing carbs. Finally, the hour before race start, look to get in 100-200 calories but, try to do this with liquid calories only (your sports drink, Tailwind Nutrition, a juice that you have tested prior to race morning, a shake, etc.).

During the race, try to consume 200-300 calories per hour of, something you have experimented and tested in training. Don’t grab gels and sports drinks from the aid stations, if you haven’t been using them in training. Go with what you know works for you!

Okay, so now with all the nutrition talk out of the way, the next couple things you should pay attention to because, even though they might seem small, they can add up to become serious issues over the course of 13.1/26.2 miles.

TANGENTS – If you have ever taken geometry, you know what tangents are but, how do they apply to running a race? Simply put, you need to take the shortest possible (legally) route during your race. When you are running against the clock, there is no need to add any more distance than necessary. The pics below will capture what “running the tangents” mean.

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PACING – This is VERY important!! Throughout all of your previous weeks/months of training, you have been practicing your MRP (Marathon Race Pace)…so, why would you abandoned that pace on race day? When the gun goes off, try to not get caught in all the excitement and hoop-la. If anything, run your first 1-2 miles at a pace of 10-20 seconds slower than goal pace. Use this time to get settled in and relax for the long haul.

Now that you have relaxed and settled into your pace, just try and get comfortable and run by feel. If your race pace is 9:00 per mile and at mile 7 your Garmin says 8:56 or 9:04, don’t fret! You should expect to have a +/- 5-10 seconds per mile fluctuation throughout the race. Whether you are running the full or the half marathon, try to stay loose and relaxed the 1st half of the race. The first half of the race, should actually feel really easy but, in the event that it doesn’t, again, don’t fret!! Sometimes, it takes a few miles to get into a groove..Use the first few miles to find this groove and try to avoid looking at the Garmin every 2 seconds. Look ahead up the road and just try to get into a rythm and relax.

Over the second half of the race, this is where you should require a bit more focus. The first half should of been “fun and games”, the second half however, should be “business”. If you are running with friends/training partners, you will likely be doing less talking over the second half vs. the first half. During these later stage miles, it’s time to find your individual mojo. This is the time you start reciting your mantras, playing mental games with yourself, picking off runners up ahead, singing to yourself or, whatever else it is that works for you.

The second half of the race, particularly the last 1/4 of the race, you will need to exercise the demons! This is when you get to find what you are made of…this is when you get to see how much fight you much guts, how much pain you can tolerate!! Whether you are running a 2:03 marathon or a 7:03 marathon or a 1 hour vs. 4 hour half marathon. If you are racing for your personal best, those last few miles are going to hurt!! Period! No need to sugar coat it! However, with all that said, when you cross that finish line, when you have met your goal, you’ll forget all about those previous shitty miles! You’ll be ecstatic and will somehow have a bit more energy left to celebrate your success, laugh and joke with your friends/training partners, drink beer and talk about how mile 11 or 24 punched you in the face and spit on you, yet you still triumphed!!

So, there you have it!! There are the final instructions (particularly for all you DWEP athletes). As said above, THE HAY IS IN THE BARN!! Nothing left to do but relax the next couple of days, get your mind in the right place, prepare all of your race day gear and then run your 13.1 or 26.2.

Ahead of the game, I just want to say that, it’s been a great training cycle and I have enjoyed working with you all so much! Everyone of you has put in some serious work and you have all come a LONGGGGGG way! I am already so proud of you and I know that you all will do great next Sunday! Just trust the training and believe in yourself!!!

In closing, remember this, YOU ARE STRONGER THAN YOU THINK YOU ARE!!