Bootlegger 50 Miler Race Report

Race: Bootlegger 50 Miler

Runner: Matt Anthony

Race Date: 04/06/2024

Location: Jackson, GA

Strava Activity Link: https://www.strava.com/activities/11122963713

Team RunRunner Matt before the Bootlegger 50 Mile race.
Team RunRunner Matt before the Bootlegger 50 Miler.

3 Bests – What aspects of the race did you like the most?

  1. Really well run by Revolution Running: they’re total pros; lots of experienced runners to offer guidance; excellent food and care; lots of specific and knowledgeable support.
  2. Perfect weather
  3. Great location near Atlanta

Not so much – Aspects of the race that didn’t do it for you

Nothing, except my stomach getting wobbly.

Weird factor – What’s the weirdest thing about this race?

They really pushed the mid-race BBQ sandwiches… I just couldn’t do it!

Highlights of your race – What did you do well and enjoy about your race in particular?

It was my first 50 miler and I feel great about it. Thanks to Coach Matt Urbanski, I was very well prepared!

Lessons for others – Share your pro-tips on the race to help the next runner

Make sure your watch has enough battery for the full race!

Lessons you learned that will help you next time around

  1. Same as about: making sure my watch has enough battery for the full race!
  2. And it’s always important to test aid station food: PB&J sandwiches, grilled cheese, pizza, etc. (For more fueling guidance, check out this Q&A with Registered Dietitian Heidi Strickler)

Most important course specific knowledge to know about the race

The course is changing next year, so that’s super important to remember, but this year, the repeated loops meant you didn’t nearly have to carry anywhere near as much as you think. And then remember that everything looks, feels, and runs different in the dark.

Aesthetics – Is it a pretty course?

Yes! It was beautiful, rolling hills, and surprisingly isolated for an hour from Atlanta.

Difficulty – Is it a tough course?

It was my first 50 miler, so I don’t really have anything to compare it to, but I didn’t think it was particularly tough. The only challenging things were the roots and rock: my toes are banged up post race.

A view of Bootlegger 50 Mile race's beautiful course.
A view of Bootlegger 50 Miler’s beautiful course.

Organized and well run – Did it feel like a well-oiled machine or were they flying by the seat of their pants?

A well-oiled machine!

Competition – Is there a strong field?

Not really relevant to me, but there were a bunch of SEAL looking dudes – ripped, shirtless, tall, fast. They were polite while passing!

Logistics – Does it require a special handshake, registration a year in advance, hotels all booked? Give us the low down on the nuts and bolts of making the race happen.

Nope, registration was straightforward through UltraSignup.

Aid Stations – Standard fare or anything special to know about the aid stations in terms of what’s available or when?

Fully stocked, tons of food.

Weather and typical race conditions

It was beautiful; Atlanta, GA, isn’t too hot this time of year. 

Gear – Did you need anything special or is there anything you’d recommend for the next runner?

Nope. I didn’t even really need a vest since it was 5 x 1 mile loops but as the course is changing next year, a vest might be more important. And make sure you have a watch that lasts more than 13 hours!

Spectators – Is this a friendly course for your friends?

Super friendly, family-oriented too.

How’s the Swag?

Mediocre: shoulder bag + t-shirt + medal.

The Overall Score – How many stars do you give this race and do you recommend that others run it?

5 stars, it was a great first 50 miler!

How To Tame the Devil

Set yourself up for success at the Devil’s Gulch 100-Miler with these tips.

I think most of us can agree that there really isn’t such a thing as an “easy” ultramarathon. Certainly some races and routes are relatively easier than others, but, for the most part, ultras are hard! Well, the Devil’s Gulch 100-Miler turns up the heat even more! In preparation for this sizzling hot ultra, learn how to tame the devil and everything else this race throws at you with these tips.

Runners following these tips can maximize their odds of a successful race at the Devil's Gulch 100-Miler.

5 “D.E.V.I.L” Training and Racing Tips:

D – Drink! 

A lot! When it comes to hydration, getting enough of both fluid and sodium intake is potentially the most crucial aspect of success come race day. Figure out an appropriate amount of both to consume on an hourly basis: given the heat and the higher exertion rates, to tame this devil expect to be on the higher end of your usual recommended ranges. Andrew Baker also goes into more detail here in his Hydration Strategy Guide, so check that out too! Finally, do what you can to stay cool! The easiest and most effective strategy you can employ on race day is known as topical cooling. Keep yourself wet as temperatures rise by utilizing those clever iced bandanas, crushing ice into arm sleeves or hydration packs, as well as using any creek crossings to your advantage!

E – Experiment 

Trial a wide array of food and fueling options into your training. When it comes to these very long endurance events, it’s hard to predict what you will and won’t be craving at mile 84: sticking to only sweet options or just one single gel flavor of a gel can leave you wanting a lot more. Before and during your runs, experiment with salty, savory, and sweet options, in addition to more solids of different textures and flavors. Give high-carb drink mixes a try: when food can’t stay down, often fluids can! Start trying to consume ~60-90g of carbohydrate per hour, adjusting from there based on your personal needs!

V – Verbalize 

If you’re deciding to have crew support, clearly communicate your expectations ahead of time before the race. Nail down the nitty gritty details of which food and drink items that you’d like to be restocked with and when. Create a list of any items you want laid out at aid stations ahead of time: a camp chair, new shoes/socks, sunblock, headlamp, iced bandanas, arm sleeves, etcetera. 

The same communication of expectations applies to your pacer as well! It goes without saying that a good partnership ahead of race day is a must: ensure you’ve talked through how you think you’ll best respond to executing on race day, as well as when you’re in a state of high mental or physical fatigue. Do you want them to be chatty, tell jokes, and just keep the mood light? Do you prefer very minimal talking and to stay calm and focused on the task at hand?

Adapting your training to the specific demands of the Devil's Gulch 100-Miler course will prepare you best for race day.

I – Incorporate 

Adapt your training to the specific demands of the course. Look over the elevation profile, and make note of how the longer uphills and downhills unfold. For the Devil’s Gulch, this could mean averaging the race’s 240’ vertical gain per mile over the course of a long run. Try incorporating longer downhills, followed by a sustained climb to get a good neuromuscular match for what you’ll see on race day!

L – Lean 

Lean into the discomfort. Embrace it. This will be a key mindset in helping manage the inevitable challenges you will experience throughout the race. And remember to smile and celebrate, regardless of the end result! 

This runner verbalized ahead of time that they wanted to pick up poles at the aid station, and is leaning into the discomfort of a steep uphill.

Tame the devil with these tips, and save your day from boiling over in the Devil’s Gulch! Catch me volunteering at the Devil’s Spur aid station this year, and I’m wishing every runner who takes on this challenge success!

See you on the trails!

Keith Laverty is a coach with Team RunRun. To learn more about him or to work with him, check out his coach profile.

How to Choose your next Goal Race

I’m not much of a summer runner. The heat, the barbeques, and the fun with friends all detract and distract from my drive to get out to train during the summer months. I know I want to keep running and that racing is fun, but how do I choose a goal that will keep me motivated and accountable? I want to keep my passion for running strong during the summer. To do that, I love getting a fall race on the books to give me a goal to work towards and to keep me accountable, even when the heat tells me to relax. 

In this article I’m sharing my method for choosing a race, taking into account the season, my propensity to train, and how I will actually implement my strategy once I make my pick. For me, given that the summer is a tough season for me to stay motivated to train, I’m focusing on the Orca Half Marathon in Seattle. Here is my personal case study. 

Here are some things to look for when picking a fall race so that you maximize your likelihood of success:

  1. Pick a race that mimics the terrain you normally train on. This assures that you don’t have to go out of your way to find a running route that has big hills, or trails, roads… etc..  I have flat and fast roads near my house, so the Orca HM is a great fit. 
  2. Pick a race that fits with your schedule. If you pick a race that makes the training feel crammed, you may well start to hate the training. That likely leads to skipping important training days. So in my case, picking a race after Labor day sets me  up for success, and picking a race that is not super long also hits the mark. 
  3. Choose a race that excites you! Races are meant to be fun. They are a celebration of your fitness. Pick a race that resonates with you. Do you like the cause? Do you like the environment? Do you love the course? 

For me, the Orca Half Marathon (September 14th and 15th) is a perfectly timed event to celebrate the end of a fun filled summer. It’s in Seattle and it’s a place where I can celebrate my fitness and my love for running. It’s also an environmentally friendly race. It’s a flat and fast course. And it is in a beautiful location in West Seattle with great views along the waterfront starting in Lincoln Park. It’s also after Labor Day = life logistic win!  

When I’m picking a race, I am also thinking about fueling and hydration logistics, especially with warm weather racing. I think about this both for during the race itself and for how I’ll prepare during my training. Summer running differs quite a bit from training during the rest of the year because your performance nutrition matters a ton. You sweat more, your body is working harder to stay cool, and the general life chaos of summer can lead to chronic under fueling during the day.  It can be really easy to miss meals and to get into a routine of underfueling during busy summer months. 

So when I’m thinking about training and fueling well for my training, the first thing I like to think about is what are they going to have on the race course? Whichever race you choose, investigate the products that will be on course and formulate a summer nutrition plan around that. Use that product and train your gut accordingly. For the Orca HM, this is Tailwind and GU. 

  • GU– Your body NEEDS carbs to run. GU products have the perfect ratio for carbs and electrolytes. Not all sports products work for every runner, but our stomachs are also highly adaptable. This is why it is important to train with the products you plan to use, to start small, and to build up the amount of carbs you can take in during your training. You need to train your gut the same as you train your legs. Tolerance won’t happen overnight. 
  • Tailwind– The Orca HM will also have Tailwind on course. This is a drink mix filled with the carbohydrates you need to successfully finish a race. Drinkable carbs are a lot easier for most people to stomach (especially starting out and experimenting with intra-run fueling). The cool thing about this product is that it uses sucrose and dextrose as carbohydrates which is fast acting fuel for your muscles that is easy on the GI tract. A lot of other sports drinks use maltodextrin which is harder for your gut to digest and takes longer. 

So now I have my race. I know what I’m going to have during the race to fuel with and therefore what products I will be training with. I know that I’ll be doing training that fits my life for the summer months, and I’m confident that I can do the training and more importantly, that I can stick with the training so that I can be my best on race day in September! (Check out this article on how to train for the Orca HM.) What motivates you? What race will check all the boxes for you? Find your adventure! 

Coach Katelyn Steen shares her tips on how to choose your next goal race!

Katelyn Steen is a coach with Team RunRun. To learn more about her or to work with her, check out her coach profile.

A Guide to Carb Loading

by Ruby Wyles

So you’ve trained long and hard, your running shoes are practically glued to your feet, and the marathon start line beckons. But before you take off, there’s one crucial step many runners and sports dietitians alike swear by: carb loading.

What is Carb Loading?

Carb loading is a dietary strategy designed to maximize your body’s stores of glucose, known as glycogen, the primary fuel source for muscles during exercise. By strategically increasing your carbohydrate intake in the days leading up to your race, you aim to have a “full tank” of energy ready to power you through those arduous miles.

Why Carb Load for a Marathon?

During a marathon, or any race over 2 hours, your body will deplete its glycogen stores. As your body burns through its fuel source, you might experience the dreaded “hitting the wall” – a sudden drop in energy levels that can derail your entire race. Carb loading helps prevent this by ensuring your body has enough readily available glycogen to sustain a strong pace.

How to Carb Load Like a Champion

Carb loading isn’t about stuffing yourself with donuts and pasta the night before. It’s a calculated approach with specific timing and food choices. Here’s a breakdown:

  • Timing: Aim to start carb loading 3-6 days before your race. This window allows your body time to convert the extra carbs into glycogen. It also allows for a more conservative increase in carbohydrate intake as opposed to a dramatic ramp up the day or two before, risking negative GI symptoms and feeling uncomfortable.
  • Quantity: The recommended daily intake is 7-12 grams of carbs per kilogram of body weight. So, a 70kg (155lbs) runner would target 490-840 grams of carbs each day. However, instead of simply adding in extra carbs on top of your daily diet, think about rebalancing your normal meals: reduce the amount of proteins, fats, and high fiber foods like vegetables, and replace them with carbohydrates.
  • Quality: Not all carbs are created equal. Focus on easily digestible, low-fiber options like white rice, potatoes, bananas, bagels, and cereals. These provide a steady stream of energy without causing stomach upset.
  • Don’t Ditch Other Nutrients: While carbs are king, don’t completely eliminate protein and healthy fats. Include lean protein sources like chicken and fish, and healthy fats from nuts and avocados to support muscle recovery and overall health.
  • Practice Makes Perfect: Don’t experiment with new foods during carb loading. Stick to meals and snacks you’re familiar with to minimize digestive issues on race day.
Blueberry muffins make a great high carb snack! PC: Ruby Wyles

Example meals and snacks:

  • Bagel with avocado and eggs/ banana and peanut butter
  • Baked potato with cheese
  • Pretzels
  • Sports drink or fruit juice
  • Low fiber cereal with milk
  • Gummies and other candies
  • Spaghetti/ other pasta
  • Chicken or fish with white rice
  • Oatmeal with mixed berries
  • Yogurt with berries and nuts
  • Muffins or waffles 

Remember: Carb loading is just one piece of the nutrition puzzle. Proper hydration and a well-practiced race day fueling plan are equally important for marathon success.

By following these tips and consulting a registered dietitian for personalized advice, you can ensure your body is optimally fueled to conquer your endurance goals!

Ruby is a runner, triathlete, and passionate coach, who is most fulfilled by helping athletes overcome limiting beliefs with joy. She is also a proud science nerd, and advocate for athletes’ mental and physical health.

Bayou Hills 10k Race Report

Race: Bayou Hills 10k

Runner: Geoffrey Winkler

Race Date: 03/30/2024

Location: Pensacola, FL

Results: 45:50

Strava Activity Link: https://strava.app.link/7eOnSQ6yoIb

3 Bests – What aspects of the race did you like the most?

  • Improved pacing effort
  • Racing strategy
  • Loved the endurance that I have built over the last 3 months

Not so much – Aspects of the race that didn’t do it for you

  • Hills lol
  • A lot of turns
  • The course ran in reverse for a part of it.

Highlights of your race – What did you do well and enjoy about your race in particular?

  • My pacing. Had a real race strategy.
  • Ran a PR by 3 min

Lessons for others – Share your pro-tips on the race to help the next runner

  • Slow on the hills and use the down hill to your advantage
  • Don’t go out too fast. You will pay on the later hills

Lessons you learned that will help you next time around

Always trust your training. You have the endurance to push

Most important course specific knowledge to know about the race

The last mile hill is the toughest. Find a way to push past pain

Aesthetics – Is it a pretty course?

Scenic. Some views of the bayou

Difficulty – Is it a tough course?

Very hilly

Organized and well run – Did it feel like a well-oiled machine or were they flying by the seat of their pants?

Well oiled machine

Competition – Is there a strong field?

Not this year

Aid Stations – Standard fare or anything special to know about the aid stations in terms of what’s available or when?

Standard

Weather and typical race conditions

Beautiful sunny skies. No clouds. 58 degrees to start

Gear – Did you need anything special or is there anything you’d recommend for the next runner?

Eat a Gu or nutrition right before. You should be good without an aid station

Spectators – Is this a friendly course for your friends?

Yes

How’s the Swag?

Hardly any. Shirt is ok

The Overall Score – How many stars do you give this race and do you recommend that others run it?

4

The Devil likes it HOT: A Devil’s Gulch Hydration Strategy Guide

The Devil’s Gulch 100 miler is a notoriously difficult and even more notoriously HOT ultra. The average temperature over the past three editions sits at 92 degrees Fahrenheit, with 2021 topping 100 degrees on course. Last year’s 100 miler saw four DNS, nine DNFs, and only three finishers… who says runners are masochists? This Devil’s Gulch Hydration Strategy guide will help you be more prepared for one of the keys to success in this challenging adventure.

I’m captaining an aid station this year (Devil’s Spur) and expect to have a lot of conversations about hydration. So as a primer, let’s discuss the basics of fluid intake.

Sweaty Betty or Conservationist Clark

Best to know your sweating habits in as near race conditions as possible before heading out onto the course. There are a few prescribed protocols for figuring out your hydration needs, but here’s my favorite (and in my opinion, the simplest):

  • Drink your normal pre-workout fluids and urinate before beginning this test
  • Weigh yourself (Weight A)
  • Head out for a one hour run at or near race pace and ideally race day temperature
    • do not urinate during this hour
  • Towel off upon return (remove the sweat from your body, hair, etc.)
  • Weigh yourself again (Weight B)

Weight A minus Weight B multiplied by 16 oz will give you a rough approximation of your hourly fluid intake needs. For example, 180 lbs minus 178.5 lbs times 16oz equals 24 ounces.

Practical Math

Now 24 ounces is towards the high end of the recommended fluid intake per hour, but for Devil’s Gulch, we are playing in the extremes. The race organizers require each runner to carry at least two liters of water vessels on their person. Two liters is roughly 68oz and with a few aid stations 14 miles apart – you’re going to be pushing the limits of those containers. If you’re planning to run at 20’/mile pace, those 14 miles will take you 4 hours and 40 minutes, equating to a fluid intake need of 112 ounces or 3.3 liters. All that math to say, plan to tote three liters or more on your body.

Don’t forget the salt

Know before you go! The signs of hyponatremia often go unnoticed. Be vigilant for headaches, confusion, muscle spasms, cramps or seizures. General wisdom recommends 500-700mg of sodium per hour. I’m partial to waterdrop, but there are countless sports drinks and mix-in powders that will get you there. Remember, hydration does not equal water alone. Water PLUS electrolytes PLUS carbohydrates will ensure optimal absorption and stave off the bonk. Last, but perhaps most importantly, don’t expect your body to tolerate a new sports mix during the race. Practice your hydration and fueling plan during your build to avoid any nasty surprises come race day.

Crazy beautiful

Now that we’ve worked out our Devil’s Gulch hydration strategy and we’ve established that this course will test the limits of your body and your race prep, a quick reminder that this is also one of the most gorgeous places on Earth. Runners are privy to expansive vistas and prehistoric-looking geological formations, particularly along Mt. Lillian. I’m stoked to play a small part in the race this year. See you out there and stay hydrated!

Andrew Baker is a coach with Team RunRun. To learn more about him or to work with him, check out his coach profile.

Prepare for the Orca Half Marathon

Here is a cheat sheet on how to prepare for the Orca Half Marathon held every September by Orca Running. This is their flagship race. It’s flat and fast. It provides great views. And it is so popular that they now run the race on both Saturday and Sunday to accommodate everyone wanting to do this event. This guide provides an in-depth look at how to train, and how to pace yourself so that you can be your best on race day, be that setting a new PR or simply crossing the finish line. 

Preparing for the half marathon

Time to train: A half marathon training plan is a bit dependent on your current level of fitness and running experience. Most plans will run 12 to 16 weeks and have you running anywhere from four to six days per week. One benefit of having a coach versus just following a plan is that you can adapt and adjust your training based on your schedule and needs versus following a rigid plan. But regardless of if you have a coach or not, you need to recognize that preparing to be your best on race day requires time, and consistently showing up to prepare! 

Here are the key pieces to the training puzzle, and while each runner likely requires a different recipe for training, these are the key ingredients in nearly every successful half marathon training plan. 

Easy Efforts: Though half the distance of a marathon, the half marathon is still a long-distance event. The foundation for running long distances is building aerobic endurance. “Easy” or “conversational pace” runs are the bread and butter of building endurance. If you’re following heart rate zones, we’re talking about z1 and z2 here. There are a variety of ways to assess how much training volume one can sustain and benefit from during any season – the key is to avoid overdoing it so that you can reduce injury risk. Conversation pace running is 70-80% of your overall running volume. A coach can help find the ideal total training load for you, and balance the easy efforts with the more challenging training sessions. 

Half-Marathon-Paced Long Runs: Whether you’ve raced several half marathons or you’re running your first one, a critical component of your training is running at the pace you plan to run in the race. There are numerous methods to determine your race pace, but most all deal with the concept of zones. Some of the most common zones are aerobic recovery, aerobic training, lactate threshold, critical zone or “race pace”, V02 Max, and anaerobic. Each individual will have unique needs and limits, but generally for the half marathon distance your race pace zone usually sits at an effort above aerobic and below lactate threshold. Determining race pace is dependent on current fitness levels and your experience with running. Race pace workouts usually comprise 1-2 days per week or 10-15% of weekly volume. They can be standalone workouts or folded into your weekly long run. Typically, in the first part of your training you will run 5-10 seconds slower than your goal race pace, working your way up to sustained race pace runs, and some workouts 5-10 seconds faster than goal race pace as you approach tapering. This specificity of repeated bouts of training will help your body adapt to the stresses of running faster and longer.

Tempo Runs: Running at a pace positioned above half-marathon pace combined with bouts of running at easier paces will prepare your body for the stress of race day, and boost your overall aerobic capacity for longer, sustained efforts. Tempo runs (aka threshold, steady-state, fast pace) are done at a swift, sustained pace, generally for 20-30 minutes and sometimes as long as an hour or more. Your coach can help you determine a “comfortably hard” pace for these types of workouts. Novices sometimes find this difficult, but tempo runs are the bread and butter for experienced runners. Tempo runs train the cardiorespiratory system and muscular systems to efficiently absorb, deliver, and utilize oxygen. They improve endurance, promote more efficient running form, and teach runners how to deal with low-grade physical discomfort. Distances, paces, and times will vary depending on the runner’s goals, but most tempo runs start at a comfortable pace with increasingly faster running to stimulate the race effort. Individual needs and limits apply, but a common approach is to have one day per week or 10-15% of your weekly volume devoted to a harder, faster than goal pace effort. 

Race strategies for the half marathon

Yes, the course is shorter than a full marathon, but that doesn’t mean you want to hammer the pace from start to finish. A common mistake in races of all distances is going out too fast too early, and the half marathon is no exception. You may feel great for the first part of the race, but you will pay the price for it later if you’re running beyond your current fitness. To help you reach your potential on race day and avoid the common mistake of pushing too hard too soon, I’ve provided this framework for you. I like to think of the race as a few different phases of racing, each with their own strategy.

Race start: From the start line to about four miles in it makes sense to run a bit slower (about 5-15 seconds/mile slower) than your goal half marathon pace. You are feeling your way into the race and tamping down some adrenaline at the same time so this phase will be slightly more mentally taxing than later phases. You will be tempted to run faster. Don’t.

Race middle: From miles five through 10 you will start to settle into your goal race pace. Gradually start running faster until you hit your goal pace. Earlier in this phase running at your race pace will feel comfortably challenging, but be prepared for it to take progressively more effort as the miles click by. Appreciate the flow and wait to start pushing the pace.

Race end: From miles 11 to the finish line. You went out slower and gradually worked up to your goal race pace for a reason. Now is the time to push the pace (about 5-10 seconds/mile faster) and see what you have left in the tank. Use that conserved energy you banked earlier to lean into any challenges you might feel. With one mile to go now is the time to throw the hammer down and give it all you’ve got left.

Racing this method is what’s commonly known as a negative split, meaning you run the second half of the race faster than the first. It takes practice and discipline to nail this strategy, but it’s a common approach in part because the proof is in the pudding. Races are inherently unpredictable, but if you can focus on what you can control – pace, effort, nutrition, gear, and your training – you might just find your reward is a PR.

While half the distance of a full marathon, preparing for a half marathon still requires dedication, consistency, and a well-structured training plan. By focusing on building aerobic endurance through easy efforts, practicing at half-marathon pace during long runs, and incorporating tempo runs to boost aerobic capacity, runners can set themselves up for success on race day. Additionally, understanding race strategies like pacing yourself throughout different phases of the race can make a significant difference in achieving your goals. Remember, training for a half marathon is not just about physical preparation but also mental discipline and strategic execution. By following a tailored training plan, staying committed to your goals, and executing smart race strategies, you can maximize your performance and potentially achieve a new personal record. So lace up those shoes, hit the pavement with purpose, and enjoy the journey towards conquering your next half marathon challenge! And if you’re in the Seattle area, I hope to see you at the Orca Half Marathon in September! 

Jon Phillips is a coach with Team RunRun. To learn more about him or to work with him, check out his coach profile.

Building the Perfect Shoe Rotation

As a runner, having the right pair of shoes can make all the difference in your performance and overall comfort. However, many runners underestimate the importance of building a proper running shoe rotation. 

Why Rotate Running Shoes?

Rotating running shoes offers numerous benefits. First, it reduces the wear and tear on each pair, extending their lifespan. Second, different shoes have varying features and support structures, which can help prevent overuse injuries by reducing repetitive strain on specific muscles and joints. Last, rotating shoes allow you to match your running shoe to the type of run you’re doing, whether it’s an easy-paced Sunday long run or a tempo run.

Assess Your Running Needs

Before building your rotation, assess your unique running needs. Factors you should consider include your weekly mileage, running terrain, foot strike pattern, and any specific biomechanical issues you may have. Understanding these factors will help guide you in your shoe selection process.

Choose Your Shoe Types

Ideally, your rotation should include three types of shoes: a cushioned daily trainer, a lightweight speed trainer, and a supportive stability shoe.

  • Cushioned Daily Trainer: This shoe provides ample cushioning and support for your everyday training runs. It’s designed to absorb impact and offer comfort over long distances.
  • Lightweight Speed Trainer: Perfect for tempo runs, interval training, or race days, this shoe is lighter and more responsive, promoting faster turnover and agility.
  • Supportive Stability Shoe: If you overpronate or require extra support, include a stability shoe in your rotation. It helps correct your gait and reduces the risk of injuries associated with overpronation.

Start Small and Gradually Expand

Begin by purchasing one pair of shoes for each category in your rotation. Invest in quality shoes from reputable brands that suit your specific needs and preferences. As you accumulate more miles on your shoes, gradually expand your rotation by adding new pairs while retiring older ones. This gradual rotation ensures that you always have fresh shoes in your lineup while allowing you to become familiar with each pair’s feel and performance.

Listen to Your Body

Pay attention to how your body responds to each pair of shoes. If you notice discomfort, pain, or signs of wear and tear, it may be time to replace or retire that particular pair from your rotation. Regularly reassess your shoe lineup to ensure it continues to meet your evolving needs.

Key Takeaways

Building the perfect running shoe rotation tailored to your individual needs is essential for maximizing performance and minimizing the risk of injuries. By following these steps and listening to your body, you can create a rotation that supports your running goals and keeps you feeling comfortable mile after mile. So lace up, hit the road, and enjoy the benefits of a well-curated shoe rotation!

Elaina is a coach with Team RunRun. To learn more about her or to work with her, check out her coach profile.

Rate of Perceived Exertion for Runners

Rate of Perceived Exertion for Runners – what is it, why does it matter, and how you can use it to become a better all around runner, by Coach Elaina Raponi

Picture this: You lace up your running shoes and hit the pavement for an easy jog. Your legs are light, your breathing is steady, and you feel like you’re practically floating while jogging at an easy pace. 

Fast forward to the next day. You’re running the same route, the same pace, you’re even wearing the same shoes – but everything feels different. Your legs feel heavy, your breathing is labored and your brain is trying to convince you to stop. What gives?

Your body’s perception of effort can vary wildly from day to day, even if you’re running at the exact same pace. Rate of Perceived Exertion, or RPE for short, is a subjective measure of how hard an individual feels they are working during exercise. Factors like sleep, stress, hydration, nutrition, and even the weather can all influence how hard you feel like you’re working on any given day.

Here, we’ll delve into what RPE is, why it matters, and how runners can use it to optimize their training and racing strategies.

What is Rate of Perceived Exertion for Runners (RPE)?

RPE is like having an internal Siri to tell you how hard you’re working during exercise. It’s a subjective measure that takes into account factors such as breathing, heart rate, muscle fatigue, and overall discomfort. RPE is typically measured on a numerical scale, with values ranging from 1 to 10, where 1 represents very light exertion (e.g., walking) and 10 represents maximal exertion (e.g., sprinting at full speed).

Why RPE Matters

In endurance running, where athletes are required to sustain prolonged efforts over long distances, understanding and effectively managing RPE is essential for optimizing performance. Here’s why RPE matters:

  1. Pacing Strategy: If you’ve ever hit the proverbial “wall” in a race or a workout – keep reading. RPE helps runners gauge their effort and adjust their pace accordingly during training runs and races. By maintaining a consistent RPE throughout a run, runners can avoid starting too fast, ensuring they have enough energy to finish strong.
  2. Training Intensity: RPE serves as a valuable tool for monitoring training intensity. By paying attention to their perceived exertion during workouts, runners can ensure they are training at the appropriate intensity for their fitness level and goals. This helps prevent overtraining and reduces the risk of injury.
  3. Environmental Factors: Weather, terrain, altitude – they all play a role in how hard you feel like you’re working during physical activity. By adjusting their effort based on these factors, runners can adapt to varying conditions and optimize their performance. Who knew Mother Nature was such a sneaky coach? 
  4. Mental Toughness: Sometimes, it’s not just your legs that need convincing; it’s your brain too. RPE can help runners develop mental toughness by teaching them to push through discomfort and fatigue, ultimately improving their ability to sustain effort over long distances.

How to Use RPE

Now that we understand why RPE matters, let’s explore how runners can effectively use it to enhance their performance:

  1. Listen to Your Body: Your body is like your very own GPS. Pay attention to the signals it’s sending you – whether it’s heavy breathing or heavy legs – and adjust accordingly. 
  2. Practice Self-Assessment: Regularly assess your RPE during training runs to develop a better understanding of your perceived exertion levels at different paces and distances. This will help you fine-tune your pacing strategy and optimize your performance on race day.
  3. Use RPE as a Guide: While RPE is a valuable tool, it’s important to remember that it’s subjective and may vary from person to person. Take it with a grain of salt and use it as a guide, not a gospel. 
  4. Experiment and Learn: Every runner is unique, so take the time to experiment with different pacing strategies and training approaches to see what works best for you. Pay attention to how your RPE fluctuates under various conditions and learn from your experiences to become a more efficient and effective endurance runner.

So, while yesterday’s run might have felt like a victory lap, today’s run might feel more like survival mode. That’s the beauty of running – it keeps you on your toes. So the next time you lace up your running shoes, remember to listen to your body, trust your perceived exertion, and enjoy the journey one step at a time.

Coach Elaina Raponi walks the talk! Utilizing rate of perceived effort is a big part of her personal training, racing, and coaching.

Elaina is a coach with Team RunRun. To learn more about her or to work with her, check out her coach profile.

Napa Valley Marathon Race Report – Cesar Lira

Photo: Lindsey Pfeiffer

Race: Napa Valley Marathon

Runner: Cesar Lira

Race Date: 03/03/2024

Location: Napa, CA

Results: https://results.svetiming.com/Napa-Valley-Marathon/events/2024/kaiser-permanente-napa-valley-marathon/results

Strava Activity Link: https://strava.app.link/KXvt1wyLNHb

3 Bests – What aspects of the race did you like the most?

  • Weather was perfect for racing
  • The course for the most part runs in a straight line and it’s easy to hit the tangents.
  • Very peaceful scenery!

Not so much – Aspects of the race that didn’t do it for you

Lack of spectators.

Weird factor – What’s the weirdest thing about this race?

If nature calls, there isn’t much coverage on the course 😃

Highlights of your race – What did you do well and enjoy about your race in particular?

  • Running a 2 minute PR in the half and winning the masters division with a time of 1:12:56.
  • I was able to execute pacing well on this course. I executed well on the climbs and pushed on the downhill.
  • I was able to stay focused the last 4 miles which helped me negative split the second half of the race!

Lessons for others – Share your pro-tips on the race to help the next runner

Scout the course profile on strava or online. You should be able to set a good game plan to a successful race.

Lessons you learned that will help you next time around

Probably could have pushed harder in the first 10k. I was too focused on being strong in the last 5k because of my past experience on this course.

Most important course specific knowledge to know about the race

Run the tangents. This is a course where your watch will hit at or very close to the mile markers.

Aesthetics – Is it a pretty course?

It is a very nice course. Lots of land and very peaceful.

Difficulty – Is it a tough course?

I would say it’s a course you can be competitive.

Organized and well run – Did it feel like a well-oiled machine or were they flying by the seat of their pants?

Well organized. These folks were great from the organizers to the volunteers.

Competition – Is there a strong field?

Yes you can run with some fast folks in the half marathon!

Logistics – Does it require a special handshake, registration a year in advance, hotels all booked? Give us the low down on the nuts and bolts of making the race happen.

The hotels can be expensive if you stay in Napa. If you like wine, then this is a good destination race if you’re not from the area.

Aid Stations – Standard fare or anything special to know about the aid stations in terms of what’s available or when?

They had enough. Every 2-3 miles.

Weather and typical race conditions

Both times I have run this race, the temps were in the low 40s.

Gear – Did you need anything special or is there anything you’d recommend for the next runner?

Arm sleeves and gloves if needed.

Spectators – Is this a friendly course for your friends?

Yes they have designated areas for spectators but you can’t just go anywhere on the course to spectate. You will need a car to get around the course.

How’s the Swag?

The gear bag was a big Bogo bag! It was nice. The finisher’s shirt was eh!

The Overall Score – How many stars do you give this race and do you recommend that others run it?

4.5 out of 5 stars. I would recommend this race to others.

Indianapolis Monumental Marathon Race Report – Natalie Lutz

In this Indianapolis Monumental Marathon Race Report, Team RunRun coach Natalie Lutz shares her pro-tips on how to be your best on race day in Indy. Course knowledge, tips on pacing, and more – Enjoy!

Coach Natalie Lutz running the Indy Marathon. Learn about this race and how to be your best in this Indianapolis Monumental Marathon Race Report.
Photo: Monumental Marathon

Race: Indianapolis Monumental Marathon

Runner: Coach Natalie Lutz

Race Date: 10/28/2023

Location: Indianapolis, Indiana

Results: 3:00:10

Strava Activity Link: https://strava.app.link/0OvKMHRSIHb

3 Bests – What aspects of the race did you like the most?

  1. Big race feel with small race simplicity! From the flight into Indianapolis to the packet pickup and actual race day, Indy does it best! There are several main hotels right at the starting line. I could literally use the restroom at my hotel 5 minutes before the race start and I easily entered my corral 3 minutes before the start. The crowds were awesome and the energy was contagious! Again, it has the big race feel without all the restrictions of a really large race.
  2. The logistics of this race were extremely streamlined. The packet pick up and expo were super efficient and the gear available for purchase was high quality. The expo was exciting enough to pump up the athletes without being overwhelming like some of the really large races. It was thoroughly organized and the app was efficient and extremely helpful to provide the pertinent race information needed.
  3. The actual race and course itself! The race was fast with some slight rollers to give your muscles a nice change up. There were some small stretches where the crowds thinned out but it was a nice mix of enough support with some time to reflect during the quiet spots. The half marathon and full race separation are extremely well marked, including a large arch to ensure you do not accidentally get pulled into the wrong race distance. The hydration and fuel stations were plentiful and well operated and the finish was monumental! As you come back into the city, the crowd is at its best! The finish line is epic and after you cross the line, there is the after party and plenty of places on the grass to rest and recover and just soak in the moment.

Also, the weather and the time of year at which this race takes place, it is usually cool enough to get great times!

Not so much – Aspects of the race that didn’t do it for you

There were a few pot holes in the beginning of the race and it would have been helpful if there were some construction cones or warnings regarding upcoming medians/road bifurcations in the first few miles when the pack is super tight!

Weird factor – What’s the weirdest thing about this race?

This isn’t about the race, but the Indy airport has some “Tron” like multi colored light show when you’re leaving the airport!

Highlights of your race – What did you do well and enjoy about your race in particular?

I had the best race of my life and ran a PR just shy of a sub 3 marathon by 11 seconds! I also won my age group and received a unique award which was a poster of the race course with my name and time printed on it!

Lessons for others – Share your pro-tips on the race to help the next runner

I would suggest you be extra vigilant of your footing and the road bifurcations during the first 3 miles of the race.

Lessons you learned that will help you next time around

Again, this has nothing to do with the race itself, but a silly mistake that as a seasoned runner, I should not have done—don’t eat spicy Italian the night before! 🤣

Most important course specific knowledge to know about the race

The beginning pack, especially if you are in the top corrals, goes out very fast, so try not to get caught up and pulled along with the half marathoners in the beginning and run your own race to avoid hitting the wall too early!

Aesthetics – Is it a pretty course?

Yes, the course goes through the city of Indy and out to some neighborhoods then back into town! It’s the perfect amount of crowds with some quiet periods of reflection.

Difficulty – Is it a tough course?

In my opinion, it’s mostly flat with some small rollers at good points in the race to allow for muscle change up. I believe it’s categorized as “mostly flat” on findmymarathon.com. I had 361 ft of elevation according to Strava.

Organized and well run – Did it feel like a well-oiled machine or were they flying by the seat of their pants?

Well-oiled and without a foil, my friend!

Competition – Is there a strong field?

There is a lot of competition in this race. There was a very strong elite field with some big names. Indy is approximately the 15th largest marathon in the US, so plenty of strong competition to pull you along!

Logistics – Does it require a special handshake, registration a year in advance, hotels all booked? Give us the low down on the nuts and bolts of making the race happen.

Logistics were great! Registration was super easy and I signed up about 2 months prior and it was super easy and the race app is also wonderful as it provides the pertinent information that runners really need without all the fluff. Again, the packet pick up and expo were super efficient and exciting without being overwhelming. There were also a lot of opportunities to take photos at the expo without waiting in lines and or having to pay like some of the other larger races I have been to are now doing.

Aid Stations – Standard fare or anything special to know about the aid stations in terms of what’s available or when?

They were abundant and well-organized. There were both plenty of hydration and fuel (Gu Rocktane gels) throughout the course!

Weather and typical race conditions

The weather was perfect around 52-56, cloudy with winds around 8 mph! The time of year and region for this race, has an excellent weather history.

Gear – Did you need anything special or is there anything you’d recommend for the next runner?

They provide enough hydration and fueling that you would not need to race with a hydration vest or any gear of that kind. You may need to carry a few extra gels depending on how many you typically take.

Spectators – Is this a friendly course for your friends?

Spectator friendly!!! The crowds are fire, but it was super easy for my husband to watch me and find me immediately after the race.

How’s the Swag?

The swag was great —a really nice tech running t-shirt!

The Overall Score – How many stars do you give this race and do you recommend that others run it?

5/5 and I plan on making this a regular rotation in my text line up and I try not to go back to the same races!

Natalie Lutz is a coach with Team RunRun. To learn more about her or to work with her, check out her coach profile.

essential running gear

Mental Training Tips

By Team RunRun Coach Keith Laverty

I know many runners love to pour over the numbers when thinking about their physical training: the numbers of miles, vert accumulated, paces, heart rate, and so much more. But how much effort and forethought do we invest when it comes to training the brain? While many of the following tips can come more into play in ultra distances or a 12-hour timed event like our partner event,  the Little Backyard Adventure, I think many of these can still be just as applicable and useful for gearing up for shorter events like the 5k or 10k.The mind matters a ton when it comes to endurance sports! 

Did you know that an athlete’s motivation and perception of effort are the main drivers of performance? The Psychobiological Model of Fatigue states this and when we invest more time into improving our mental skills, we can access a greater % of our maximum physiological capacity, with improved areas of grit or resilience for instance. This helps us prove the true connection between mind and body! 

A lot of mental training really boils down to managing stress responses and being more self-aware. This is not simply trying to “block out” any emotions that naturally arise but rather, acknowledging those emotions and being prepared ahead of time of how you’re going to react to those emotions. This is not a skill of preventing emotions altogether but how we’re going to react to those emotions when things feel tough or when self-doubt creeps into our psyche. Mindset matters! 

Let’s cover some a few tips and strategies:

  • Think about your “why’s” to running. How do these align with your general core values? What intrinsically motivates you? Identifying these will often go a bit farther compared to an extrinsic motivator (but these are still great too!)
  • Building sustainable confidence. Where can you draw confidence from in your previous experiences in either running or even other hard things you’ve navigated through? 
  • Positive thinking. Feed the good wolf! Studies have supported that runners who stay positive (including smiling!) and not tear themselves apart, tend to go on and eventually have better finishes in races. When it comes to negative self-talk, the most helpful question to ask yourself is, would you tell the same negative feedback to a friend if you saw them running by?
  • Imagery and visualization: In the weeks and days leading into a goal, visualize yourself in a positive state or encouraging cues. Smooth running mechanics, gliding over the roots and rocks, having a strong finishing kick… you get the picture! 
  • Chunk it! Break up your race into smaller chunks; focusing on one chunk or even one mile at a time, and running the mile that you’re in.
  • Vary between associative (inward focus) and dissociative (external focus) throughout a race. Examples of associative could be doing a self body scan, checking your running form and paying attention to your breathing patterns. Examples of dissociative could be listening to music, counting numbers, or feeding off the energy of the spectators!
  • Write down and track your goals, including the process and mental training goals! When you’re working through a tough challenge during training or trying to get through a rainy/cold run, use that as a chance to practice your mental skills and think about what worked to help you carry on!
  • Pick 1-3 mantras or quotes that resonate with you! Here are a few that might just stick for you too:
    • “Embrace the discomfort”.
    • “You’re strong, you’re familiar with doing hard things.”
    • “Trust YOUR process.”

The bottom line is that your mental game matters A LOT when it comes to racing. If you’re going long or if you’re racing short and fast, the way you think about yourself, the challenge, and how you deal with adversity all have a huge impact on the outcome. Set yourself up for success by investing in your mental training just as much as you invest in your physical training. See you on the trails!

seattle running coach

Keith Laverty is a coach with Team RunRun and he’s run his fair share of ultras where he’s practiced these mental tips. To learn more about him or to work with him, check out his coach profile.

The Family that Runs/Walks Together

Have you ever wanted to find a fun event that all your family can participate in? I’ll share my experience and tips for getting families running so that you can all grow in your love for the sport while spending valuable time together as a family.

Some of the best memories I have of my family are the times we spent running together. My four children are all grown now and two of them have young children of their own. One memory that stands out to me was the time our family signed up for a Marathon Relay race during the summer in Vancouver, Washington. We had a blast just planning for it! We ordered matching red racing singlets and had Team Porter printed on each one. The process of strategizing who would run each leg was the topic of many dinner time discussions. Each leg averaged about a 5K distance with some legs longer and some shorter. We decided to have my son Matthew run the last leg because he was the fastest. I ran the longest leg since I was training for a marathon at the time. My husband, George and three daughters, Georgia, Sarah and Shannon, ran the other legs of the course. While we were only able to see family members at the exchange zones, we were all able to see Matthew come into the finish line! This was such an incredible family celebration, the accomplishment of a shared goal! 

Our family also faithfully signed up every year with our local Clark County Running Club. If there is a running/walking club in your area, I strongly encourage you and your family to join. There is no better way to get out and meet other runners and walkers in your community. Our local group only charges $20 a year for the whole family to join. I can’t think of a better family investment than that. Our family especially loved running the Wednesday night summer 5K series. The comradery and friendships of the other participants and their families was always awesome! 

I want to encourage you to think about having your family run/walk a 5K together. The Around the World Race/Walk event is a perfect choice and it’s coming up this April! You can organize your own event or join an existing one. You also have the option of raising funds for any one of their worthy organizations! Not only is it a fitness oriented event, but one where you and your family will enjoy planning and training for! Some fun ideas to throw around are:

  • Hold planning sessions where everyone gets involved (dinner time is a great option)!
  • Pick a favorite theme!
  • Dress the part!
  • Set a fundraising goal!
  • Wear matching team shirts!
  • Challenge each other to train for the event!
  • High fives at the finish line!
  • Take lots of pictures!

After your event, don’t forget to post and share your family adventure on social media! The Around the 5K Run/Walk Facebook group page is a great place to start!! 

Laurie Porter is a Team RunRun coach and she’ll help you achieve your running goals, from running your first 5k to setting new PRs at the marathon, she has the experience, expertise, and kindness to make running an even more special part of your life! 

Fuzzy Fandango 25k Race Report

Team RunRun coach Cody Cranor at the finish of the Fuzzy Fandango 25k in Ohio. Read all about the race and how to be your best on race day in this race report.

In this Fuzzy Fandango 25k race report, Team RunRun coach Cody Cranor shares insight on the course as well as helpful hints on how to get the most out of your day at this awesome fall race. Enjoy!

Race: Fuzzy Fandango 25K

Runner: Coach Cody Cranor

Race Date: 11/12/2022

Location: Perrysville, OH

Results: 3:38:44

Strava Activity Link: https://www.strava.com/activities/8108025271

3 Bests – What aspects of the race did you like the most?

  • Course – The course is based in Mohican State Park, which provided for fantastic woods and scenery throughout the race
  • Atmosphere – By far one of the best atmospheres I’ve been at. Everyone is there ready to meet new people and cheer each other on. No matter what, you can find someone to run with or chat with while enjoying the post-race drink (Some of the best beer options I’ve ever seen at a race)
  • Accessibility – Even though its a small race and limits number of people per distance, they offer distances from 5K all the way to 50K, so no matter your fitness you can enjoy the course and experience the fun.

Not so much – Aspects of the race that didn’t do it for you

For me the after race food was not my cup of tea. Main food item that is talked about is the chili which is a vegan chili. As someone who isn’t huge into veggies it just didn’t hit the spot for me, but I hear it is a crowd favorite. Also the Stairs. Having to climb a couple hundred stairs at mile 15 was just mean.

Weird factor – What’s the weirdest thing about this race?

The course changes slightly every year, which I think is an awesome quirk. While parts will be the same you get to see new sections of the park and hills, which means no matter what you train for their could be a curveball in there.

Highlights of your race – What did you do well and enjoy about your race in particular?

During this race I really wanted to go for sub three hours, as I had the endurance from my Chicago marathon training block. Overall the first half I was right on pace, as we were running through some flatter sections and on some pavement. I really enjoyed the fast flatter sections and hills that were very runnable, with great downhills to make up time. In the second half I tripped on a rock near the stream and tweaked my back which slowed me down a bit. Even with slowing down though I was able to chat with some runners nearby and even ran into a hometown friend, Cheryl, who was running the 50K. So even though I didn’t make my time goal I loved slowing down and having fun with the other runners. It even started snowing in the last mile making for an awesome finish

Lessons for others – Share your pro-tips on the race to help the next runner

Get used to running on single wide trails that have lots of roots and rocks. Sometimes these are on steep hills so watching your feet is very important. Also keep in mind that because they change it every year some portions you wont know what’s coming up. Embrace that knowing that it will likely include hills but it will be fun in the end.

Lessons you learned that will help you next time around

Don’t get too comfortable. I though I had the time in the bag but then there was an new section that threw me off my game. By the time I got to the stairs and the final miles, I didn’t keep enough in the tank to push through with any speed.

Most important course specific knowledge to know about the race

The race utilized Mohican State Park, which is very hilly. They use the hills without fail. Also keep in mind they always throw a big clip near the end, so the climbing’s not done until you can see the finish line.

The finish line at the Fuzzy Fandango 25k. November in Ohio can bring a wide variety of weather - this year had snow flurries at the finish!!

Aesthetics – Is it a pretty course?

This is by far one of the most beautiful courses I’ve run on. since it is in the fall, you get some fall colors and leaves on the ground. The hills allow you to get great views of the surrounding areas and the beauty of nature. You also get to run by streams and waterfalls at times which shows even more beauty of the area. I would be shocked if anyone who ran this race didn’t say they loved the scenery.

Difficulty – Is it a tough course?

It is tough for sure. At least in the view of someone who lives in the flat lands. They definitely don’t shy from the elevation which keeps you honest at all times.

Organized and well run – Did it feel like a well-oiled machine or were they flying by the seat of their pants?

This race is one of the better run races in the area as far as I am concerned. With smaller races sometimes the small details get forgotten about, but they do really well to make sure the details are what they thrive at. Aid stations are well spaced and well equipped, and are always staffed with amazing people. The camp allows for a great base area and gathering place to enjoy yourself after the race, and the race directors are there mingling and enjoying the day with the runners all while doing their numerous jobs.

Competition – Is there a strong field?

I personally think that this race has some strong and speedy people at the front. I don’t know how they run that fast on the hills. I think if you’ elooking for some competition you will get it, both from the course and other runners.

Logistics – Does it require a special handshake, registration a year in advance, hotels all booked? Give us the low down on the nuts and bolts of making the race happen.

This race is overall easy to get into but does sell out many of the distances each year, so signing up early is always recommended. Finding the right registration page isn’t too difficult but, as it is put on by a camp sometimes you end up on a different page before getting to the registration page. One of the great things about this is that the camp is located right next to Mohican Lodge, which with it being during the colder months has plenty of rooms available to stay in before and after the race. with just about a 4 min walk to the start line. Makes race morning so much easier as there isn’t a lot of parking at the start line. Traveling to the area, you need to keep in mind some access to food and shopping as it is a rural area and you will need to drive at least 15-20 min to get to places that sell what you need.

Aid Stations – Standard fare or anything special to know about the aid stations in terms of what’s available or when?

The aid stations were pretty typical for a trail/ultra race, with the standard foods you expect to see. They always had plenty available so when you saw the aid station coming, you knew you were going to be able to get what you needed from them.

Weather and typical race conditions

The race occurs in November in Ohio. Anyone from the area knows what that means. While it will likely just be a chilly day in the 40s, I have experienced this race in both warmer weather, running in shorts, as well as cold where it snowed at the finish. Ohio weather at its finest.

Gear – Did you need anything special or is there anything you’d recommend for the next runner?

Gear for this race is pretty simple. I would advise trail shoes as you want max grip when going up and down the hills. Poles aren’t necessary but I have seen others use them. Be prepared for shoes to get wet, and also to carry water with you – you don’t want to need a drink and be far away from the next stop.

Spectators – Is this a friendly course for your friends?

This is not a spectator friendly course. There are some places to see runners but since you’re in the woods most the time, it’s not easy to watch the runners

How’s the Swag?

Personally, I enjoy the swag at this race. They give out a long sleeve shirt or a winter hat (Both with a donation to the camp). They also gave out a pint glass for your post race beer/beers. The beer though is by far my favorite swag item. They have multiple options from a local craft brewery and they are all amazing brews.

The Overall Score – How many stars do you give this race and do you recommend that others run it?

Overall I would give this race a 9 out of 10. I have thoroughly enjoyed it every time I have run it and I plan on going back. Its a great organization with great race directors. I would recommend anyone run it even if just the 5K, and join the Fuzzy Fandango Family.

Cody Cranor is a coach with Team RunRun. To learn more about him or to work with him, check out his coach profile.

Run Melbourne Race Report

In this Run Melbourne Race Report, learn from Team RunRun coach how to be prepared for this flat and fast big-city half marathon. Where should you push for the finish, and what should you expect? Read on and enjoy!

Race: Run Melbourne

Runner: Coach Ian Whitmore

Race Date: 23 July 2023

Location: Melbourne, Australia

Results: 1.35

Coach Ian Whitmore with his post-race swag and smile after the Run Melbourne Half Marathon.

3 Bests – What aspects of the race did you like the most?

  • Flat, perfect for a PB!
  • Scenic city course
  • Buzzing atmosphere.
  • Finish line within Melbourne Olympic Park

Not so much – Aspects of the race that didn’t do it for you

Mid-winter in Melbourne means it can be fresh, but dry. The post-race coffee is worth it.

Highlights of your race – What did you do well and enjoy about your race in particular?

Being my home city race, I know the course very well. So I was able to pace myself to a PB. What makes this course unique is it’s a one lap city course. (Many city courses are two laps).

Lessons for others – Share your pro-tips on the race to help the next runner

The first 10k takes you down Flinders Street, through Docklands and along Southbank. So, plenty of distractions as you hold a steady pace and settle in ready for the second half and that PB.

Then you leave the CBD as you run along the Yarra River to then do a loop of the Royal Botanic gardens (Tan), and Fawkner Park both have slight undulations to keep you on your toes and engage those adductors and glute muscles.

At the 17k mark, it’s downhill alongside the tan, and then the final 3k is flat as you run along the other side of the river and into Olympic Park. This is where you want to start increasing your pace as you weave through the sports complex as the crowds build for a strong finish.

Aesthetics – Is it a pretty course?

Melbourne is voted one of the most liveable cities in the world, so when you get a chance to run through the city traffic free, you take it with both hands.

Difficulty – Is it a tough course?

Apart from a couple of tight turns, its a flat city course.

Organized and well run – Did it feel like a well-oiled machine or were they flying by the seat of their pants?

The event has been running since 2008, so they know what they are doing.

Logistics – Does it require a special handshake, registration a year in advance, hotels all booked? Give us the low down on the nuts and bolts of making the race happen.

No special handshake needing for this event, register at http://www.runmelbourne.com.au

Weather and typical race conditions

I’ve run this event many times over the years. It will be a fresh start, but not freezing. It’s never rained on me yet and as per the pic you finish under clear blue skies. So perfect running conditions.

Spectators – Is this a friendly course for your friends?

Your support crew will love you for running this race. Everything is central.

How’s the Swag?

A nice medal for your efforts.

Ian Whitmore is a coach with Team RunRun. To learn more about him or to work with him, check out his coach profile.

Speedland GS: PGH Shoe Review

with Coach Dandelion Dilluvio-Scott

Name of Gear: Speedland GS: PGH 

Typical price: $275 

Where to buy: www.runspeedland.com 

Best Use, What did you use this piece of gear of most? Roads, track, trails, long runs, post-run,  workouts only, racing only? 

I’m the kind of athlete who has specific gear for very specific situations and my shoe collection is no exception! I always felt that an all-round trail running shoe that excels in every terrain type and distance was nonexistent. Like many folks, I was hesitant to try a pair of Speedland shoes because of the price. However, in late Fall 2023 I learned a bit more about the brand. Speedland is based in Portland, OR and composed of a small group of folks with one objective: create the best possible trail running shoes in existence in limited qualities (no mass production). Furthermore, I discovered that Speedland’s technology is highly athlete driven and their customer service is beyond reproach. I was more willing to pay a high price to purchase products from a brand with these qualities and finally placed an order. As it turns out, the Speedland GS: PGH is the illusive all-round shoe I didn’t think existed!

I spend a great deal of time training and exploring in harsh, unforgiving terrain and am famously rough on my gear. The GS: PGH shoes have held their own against my abuse anywhere I take them. I’ve run with them in mud, snow, rocks, sand, roots, slickrock and smooth single track at various inclines and have felt agile and secure. I even briefly did some exposed class 3+ scrambling on slickrock/sandstone and felt 100% safe, nimble and confident with the shoes’ grip and support. Note, I have not yet had the opportunity to use the shoe on class 2-4 terrain where edging and more precise footwork is involved. The Rockies are still covered in snow!

The GS: PGH are highly customizable. If you live in a soggy environment there is a drainage hole that can be optionally cut open. The lugs are also trim-able to suit runners’ needs depending on the running surface. On top of that, the shoes feature a BOA lace system making them suitable for a wide variety of foot shapes. Additionally, the BOA system is a handy way to make quick adjustments during longer excursions when feet swell without the hassle of sitting down and dealing with laces. Finally, an optional carbon plate can be purchased and placed under the removable mid-sole if desired.

Even though the GS:PGH is designed for trail use, I have seen many pictures of folks using them on road excursions, including marathons. Perhaps the only thing the GS: PGH is not suited for is extremely cold winter weather and deep snow due to the lack of insulation, built in traction and waterproofing. However, this is highly niche and not many folks run in those conditions.

In short, I believe the Speedland GS: PGH is the only trail running shoe that truly feels like an all-round workhorse that can conquer almost any terrain and distance. It is also by far the most comfortable shoe I currently own. The only reason I don’t have 800 miles on mine already is because I have so many other shoes that I need to wear out!

Sizing: True to size 

Additional Sizing Comments: When I first purchased this shoe in my normal size, 8.5W, I thought maybe it was a tad too big, but I wasn’t certain because the shoe was still comfortable while running. Speedland has exceptional customer service and everyone at the company knows the products well. I called and asked for their thoughts. The gentleman I spoke to, Clark, suggested I order a half size down for peace of mind and reminded me of the 14-day money back guarantee. In other words, I could try both sizes on the trail and send back the one that didn’t fit without risk. After a few runs on different terrain/inclines I opted to stick with the original shoes I ordered. My toes jammed against the toe box in the smaller size. I realized that my normal size felt big because they are the first shoe I’ve ever worn that can accommodate my wide feet properly! All my other trail running shoes are snugger because they are built narrow. The GS: PGH also fits narrow feet because the BOA system allows the shoe to adjust to varying widths giving it great versatility. As for the return process, I was immediately sent a free return label to use on the existing shoebox and my account was credited the refund about a week after mailing the shoes back.  

Comparison to Past Models: 

I have only used the Speedland GS:PGH, so I can’t comment on the previous model which is the GS:  TAM.  

Comparison to Other Brands 

I think NNormal is the most comparable brand. Much of the technology implemented in NNormal shoes appears to originate from Speedland’s novel innovations. The most obvious difference between the brands is pricing and quality. NNormal has a significantly less expensive selection of footwear. However, with a lower price also comes less premium materials. I own both the NNormal Kjerag and Tomir trail running shoes and have used them over a variety of terrain. In less than 100 miles the outsoles of both shoes began to peel away from the midsole. The shoes are also extremely narrow which make them suitable for fewer athletes. These things could be forgiven if NNormal had outstanding customer service. Unfortunately, after my husband sent back his pair of shoes for a warranty refund (peeling soles) it took five months of back-and-forth emails to finally get his account credited. For these reasons I believe Speedland is the superior brand and worth the price tag. 

Durability

The old adage “you get what you pay for” holds true with the Speedland GS:PGH. With the premium  price also comes premium materials and build. I’ve put well over 100 miles on my shoes and, aside from some dirt, they look nearly brand new. Speedland claims to have a “no compromise” approach in  creating the highest quality footwear for trail runners and I believe this to be true. Every millimeter of  the shoes’ construction and material selection is intentionally meant to bring about the best  performance and durability in the product. For example, Michelin rubber was chosen for the outsole to  provide grippiness without sacrificing resilience. I am convinced this shoe will last exceedingly longer  than other options.  

Changes for the next model:  

I wouldn’t change anything which is rare for me to say. I would really love if Speedland came up with a  winter specific running shoe commission though! 

The True Test If your friend were looking for a piece of gear in this category, would you recommend  they buy it and/or would you give this as a gift to that friend because you like it so much? Would there be something else you recommend they get instead because this gear doesn’t fit their needs? 

I would and do recommend this shoe to athletes who can afford the premium price tag unless they  specifically only use a zero-drop shoe.  

Keeping it honest: Did you get this gear for free? Nothing wrong with free, but we disclose this if so.

No

Dandelion Dilluvio-Scott is a coach with Team RunRun. To learn more about her or to work with her, check out her coach profile.

Sugarloaf Marathon and 15k Race Report

Team RunRun coach Salena Sykes shares her intel about the Sugarloaf Marathon so you can be prepared for race day.

In this Sugarloaf Marathon and 15k race report Team RunRun Coach Salena Sykes shares intel on the race, where the hills are, and what to expect on race day so you can be prepared for your race day! Enjoy!

Race: Sugarloaf Marathon & 15k

Runner: Coach Salena Sykes

Race Date: 05/20/2018

Location: Kingfield, ME

Results: 3:30

3 Bests – What aspects of the race did you like the most?

  • The views! The race takes place in beautiful Kingfield, Maine with views of Flagstaff Lake, the Carrabassett River, and Sugarloaf mountain.
  • The times. This race is known for faster times due to it being net downhill
  • The volunteers and overall atmosphere of the race. People are so friendly and encouraging!

Not so much – Aspects of the race that didn’t do it for you

The road is not closed to traffic so you do have to share the road with some local traffic. However, it is a small enough race that runners are usually pretty spread out so there is plenty of room to run on the right side of the road without feeling too crowded.

It is spring in Maine so sometimes the roads and shoulders are not in the best condition. You will have to watch your step in some spots.

Highlights of your race – What did you do well and enjoy about your race in particular?

Highlight of my race was running a BQ in my first ever marathon. It was an amazing feeling! I feel that I did a good job of being more conservative in the first half and then using the downhills in the second half to my advantage instead of burning out, which is so easy to have happen in any marathon.

Lessons for others – Share your pro-tips on the race to help the next runner

  • There are some tough hills in the first half of the race, especially miles 8-10, so try not to go out too fast.
  • Focus on hills in your training so you are prepared come race day
  • Prepare for the downhills by training your quads and knees. Running downhill can be just as tough on your legs as running uphill!

Lessons you learned that will help you next time around

Be prepared for any type of weather. The second time I ran Sugarloaf, it was the warmest it had been all year with temps reaching the high 80’s the day before the race. On race day it was in the 60’s and super humid. I had not been training in weather this warm and it was HARD on race day. There is only so much you can do to prepare, but it’s important to understand how much the weather can impact a race and not to bet on perfect conditions.

Most important course specific knowledge to know about the race

It’s a point to point race. The race only veers off the road to get to the finish line, otherwise it’s a straight shot down the same road. Hardest hills are in miles 8-10 with some small rolling hills around miles 19 and 20 that can feel just as hard on tired legs. Miles 11 and 16 have the biggest downhills.

Aesthetics – Is it a pretty course?

Yes, very! Views of the Carrabassett River, Flagstaff Lake, and Sugarloaf Mountain. Things are usually just starting to come back to life after the long winter so there are pops of green

Difficulty – Is it a tough course?

Yes, I would say this is a tough course. Miles 8-10 are HARD and the downhills are demanding on your body in a different way. As with any marathon, things get harder the closer you get to the finish line.

Organized and well run – Did it feel like a well-oiled machine or were they flying by the seat of their pants?

Yes, volunteers were excellent! There was minimal waiting at packet pickup. Shuttles to the start were plentiful and all on time, and baggage shuttles were easy to navigate as well! You will need to bring your own bag for the baggage shuttles.

Competition – Is there a strong field?

Yes there is some good competition! It’s a popular local race, and with the reputation for fast times. Most people come here to try to get a personal best or take a shot at a BQ.

Logistics – Does it require a special handshake, registration a year in advance, hotels all booked? Give us the low down on the nuts and bolts of making the race happen.

They cap the race at 2,000 runners so the race does usually sell out. Lodging should definitely be booked ahead of time as there are minimal options. I had good luck finding an Airbnb that was right on the course and it was perfect!

Aid Stations – Standard fare or anything special to know about the aid stations in terms of what’s available or when?

Standard fare. Water stops are every 2 miles or so with water and sports drinks. A couple of them have GU available as well. Porta potties are scattered throughout the course.

Weather and typical race conditions

Spring in Maine is always a toss up. Normal temps at the start (which is at 7:00am) would be 30-40 degrees with temps reaching up to 60 degrees on average. As always, rain, wind, humidity will all impact performance on race day so it’s important to look ahead and be prepared!

Gear – Did you need anything special or is there anything you’d recommend for the next runner?

No. I carry my own fluids but there are plenty of water stops on the course.

Spectators – Is this a friendly course for your friends?

Somewhat. There are some designated cheer spots along the route, but since it is a point to point race, your family and friends may not be able to see you as often as they would like. The water stops have volunteers who are super encouraging and the cheer spots are great for boosting morale. However, if you are someone who needs the cheer of a crowd to motivate you, this race will be more of a challenge in that regard.

How’s the Swag?

Standard swag with a cool wooden race medal and long sleeve shirt

The Overall Score – How many stars do you give this race and do you recommend that others run it?

5/5 stars! It’s a beautiful run and there is an opportunity to run FAST on this course

Salena Sykes is a coach with Team RunRun. To learn more about her or to work with her, check out her coach profile.

Black Canyon Ultras 100k Race Report

Race: Black Canyon Ultras 100K

Runner: Coach Dandelion Dilluvio-Scott

Race Date: 02/10/2024

Location: Mayer, AZ

Results: 14:08:47

3 Bests – What aspects of the race did you like the most?

–The Saguaro forest: My regular training grounds consist of sage desert, high alpine mountains, slickrock, prairie and foothills. Running through the lofty saguaro cacti was a completely novel experience for me and I loved every moment!

–The unseasonable weather: More details will be included in other sections of this report. I’m a runner of the “grinder” variety so the frigid early temperatures, snow and mud featured in this year’s edition of the Black Canyon 100K played very much in my favor. Plus it’s fun to play in the mud!

–Tiny detail, but I was pretty psyched when Michael Versteeg refilled my flask at Bumblebee Ranch: Elite athletes flooded not only the field, but the aid stations as well. It really brought home that fact that even though we race at different levels, we all go through similar experiences as ultra-runners and are there to support each other no matter what the pace.

Not so much – Aspects of the race that didn’t do it for you

I’m not 100% certain this is the appropriate section for this detail, but the race was delayed twice (2.5 hours total) due to the snowy conditions impeding the shuttle service to the start at Mayer High School. This was a mild annoyance for me, mostly because I really wanted to run in the snow and the delay would allow more time for it to melt! Aaravipa did an outstanding job rolling with the punches, keeping us all informed and making sure the race went on despite the weather and shuttle company complications. In the end the delay was just that, a delay. It didn’t cause any lasting issues.

Weird factor – What’s the weirdest thing about this race?

Snow at the start of a desert race in Arizona!

Highlights of your race – What did you do well and enjoy about your race in particular?

Unlike my other recent races, I did not approach Black Canyon 100K competitively. Instead, I was focused on process goals, strategy, thoughtful pacing and Cocodona 250 recon.

I was probably the only athlete lined up on the saturated Mayer High School track who was exceedingly excited about the prospect of spending the next few hours running through mud. I learned to love playing in the mud while training for Bighorn 100. I also spent a bit of time on a muddy road in the days leading up to Black Canyon 100K as a tune up for the conditions and felt like I was stronger in the soggy stuff than ever. When the race began, I took a calculated risk and went out fast (but not hot). I figured I was likely one of the few runners unphased by mud and knew I could run for a long time at RPE 7-8 with without trouble in the muck. This would put me in a good position early on and ahead of the huge pack. Waves 2 and 3 were released together due to the delay and I didn’t want to fight to get ahead on a single track lined with cacti! This tactic worked well for me as I was able to pass lot of folks easily on the wide, muddy jeep trail. This put me in a position of less bottlenecking by the time the mud dissipated and the course converted to single track around mile 12. At this point I slowed to RPE 5-6 and took care not to blast my quads.

During my last race I experience quad pain for the first time while running downhill. My coach (yes coaches have coaches!) sagely observed that my “blown” quads might have more to do with an electrolyte problem than a downhill muscle thrashing. The weather at Black Canyon was cold and windy for the first few hours and, the warmest part of the day was more mild than hot. In short, it was ideal conditions to screw up hydration. I was determined not t allow myself to fall behind on electrolytes and fluids again and diligently began taking salt pills every 1-2 hours beginning at the first aid station and sipping water regularly. My quads experienced a bit of sensitivity later in the race (no surprise with the net downhill), but were in near perfect working order for the duration of the event.

In fact, my legs felt stronger than they have in any other race. I often default to power hiking during climbs as running uphill has historically been less sustainable and more taxing. However, I surprised myself during Black Canyon by running uphill effortlessly. Running became the default! In the middle portion of the race, I began to hold myself back from running uphill and intermittently power hiking more. Even though I felt amazing I wanted to remain conservative and exercise restraint. Black Canyon 100K’s second half is notorious for catching runners off guard with the increased vert and more technical terrain.

Throughout the final 50k, I kept waiting for the “hard part” to begin… but it never got hard. I would go so far as to say that second half was easier than the first. After playing things conservative in the middle of the course my pace gradually began to tick back up. I’m not sure if this is a testament to my increased fitness or holding back in the middle. Either way it was incredible to feel so strong right up until I crossed the finish line!

I was stoked to finish in front of the female pack with a time of 14:08:47. Looking back it is possible I was strong enough to run a few more hills mid-race and take off some time. I’ll never know and I’m happy I stuck with the planned conservative strategy mid-race. I could have also spent a little less time at aid stations, but I intentionally didn’t blast through them to keep this race a bit less intense mentally knowing what’s coming up later this season. I feel like a really nailed my race execution and the consequence was a solid performance!

Lessons for others – Share your pro-tips on the race to help the next runner

Temperatures shift quickly in the desert, especially during the winter. You can freeze and bake during this race even during a year void of snow. I suggest packing a variety of layers in the drop bags. I left the start line wearing an insulated jacket and was down to a tank top mid-day. Also, remember to drink and take in electroplates even when it’s cold and windy. In these conditions it is all too easy for dehydration to sneak up!

Lessons you learned that will help you next time around

Cacti are an obvious hazard on the course and I knew to steer clear of them whenever I dodged off to the side to pee. I didn’t really appreciate that nearly all desert foliage is sharp and got a cut up when I pushed through some innocent looking bushes! Oops!

Most important course specific knowledge to know about the race

Black Canyon 100K is a tricky course to pace. The first 50k is mostly a massive downhill, while the second half is more rolling and contains most of the vert. The setup of the course makes it extremely easy to go out way to fast and blow up during the later sections. Practicing restraint during the earlier portions of this race is critical to success. I think approaching the course with a very clear strategy and planned out RPEs for each section is very helpful in achieving sustainable pacing during this race.

Aesthetics – Is it a pretty course?

Absolutely! The course has expansive views of the Bradshaw Mountains, miles of ridge running, saguaro cacti and other desert flora… it was simply spectacular! Plus, we were treated to a sunset that looked like a painting!

Difficulty – Is it a tough course?

Deceivingly so! On the surface the net downhill and modest vert makes the course look easy on paper and it’s known for catching folks off guard. Even without the mud, the desert trails can be grueling. Although this is not the most technical trail I have experienced, there were certainly long rocky sections that felt more akin to my home trails in the Rockies than the Arizona desert. There were also three major river crossings, one of which had a swift current. To make things interesting, some cacti were leaning into the trail so agility and awareness were important in those instances! As previously mentioned, there are also the stark temperature fluctuations to contend with as well as tricky pacing.

Organized and well run – Did it feel like a well-oiled machine or were they flying by the seat of their pants?

Black Canyon Ultras 100K is an Aravaipa event and they are dialed!!! They resolved the morning shuttle issues immediately and, to my knowledge, the rest of the race proceeded without the hitch even with the altered cut offs, aid station volunteers being on course longer, etc. So many things could have unraveled and it would have probably been easier to simply cancel the race. The RD and Aaravipa deserve the highest praise for proceeding with the event and ensuring that the athletes were well informed and taken care of.

Competition – Is there a strong field?

YES!!!! Black Canyon 100K is a Golden Ticket Race! The top three male and female finishers are awarded automatic entry into Western States! There is a massive elite field every year and the 2024 edition was no different.

Logistics – Does it require a special handshake, registration a year in advance, hotels all booked? Give us the low down on the nuts and bolts of making the race happen.

Early registration is not necessary as there are about 1000 spots. However, it does eventually fill so I wouldn’t wait until the very last minute either. I purchased a tent camping permit with my registration at Deep Canyon Ranch, but opted to stay at Bumblebee Ranch last minute with no issue. There are also hotels and AirBnBs in Black Canyon City and nearby Anthem. I am uncertain how fast they fill though. I suspect booking a year in advance is overkill, but as this is a popular race with many folks involved, it is probably a good idea to book 6-8 months out if possible.

Aid Stations – Standard fare or anything special to know about the aid stations in terms of what’s available or when?

I use drop bags and usually don’t consume aid station food so I don’t remember details. I know I saw watermelon at one point and many Gu gels (Gu is a race sponsor). Satisfy sponsored the Bumblebee Ranch Aid Station and, as usual, it was something to behold! The course went right through a covered structure with al fresco style restaurant seating and Hors d’oeuvres lining a long counter. In the background a live band played upbeat music. This all struck me as highly delightful and highly dangerous! I bolted out of there as fast as I could before I was tempted to stay!

Weather and typical race conditions

Black Canyon 100K is located in a region where anything is possible. Generally, it is cold in the morning/evening and warmer during the day with no precipitation. There have been years where it was extremely hot midday, so heat training is advisable to prepare for this possibility. There are also years where it rains and mud is the highlight! To my knowledge this is the first time the course had snow in addition to mud!

Gear – Did you need anything special or is there anything you’d recommend for the next runner?

Gaiters! I always bring these with me when sand or mud is expected on the course! I never had to take my shoes off to remove dirt. I noticed many folks without gaiters stopped often to dig out debris. Sun sleeves were also great later in the day when it was still sunny, but cooling down.

Spectators – Is this a friendly course for your friends?

Overall, I think it is spectator friendly with some planning. There is limited parking for spectators at the Mayer High School start and the finish requires taking the shuttle. Bumblebee Ranch and Deep Canyon have plenty of parking for spectators and crew.

How’s the Swag?

Race entry included a t-shirt, Squirrel Nut Butter Tin, buff and drybag. There were also many other Black Canyon themed products available for purchase at the expo. All were great quality!

The Overall Score – How many stars do you give this race and do you recommend that others run it?

10/10… I would highly recommend this course! So unique!

Dandelion Dilluvio-Scott is a coach with Team RunRun. To learn more about her or to work with her, check out her coach profile.

Gold Coast Marathon Race Report

Coach Ian Whitmore, all smiles post-race with his medal after the Gold Coast Marathon.

In this Gold Coast Marathon Race Report, coach Ian Whitmore shares his tips on how to be your best on race day and what to expect from this classic and fast Australian marathon. Enjoy!

Race: Gold Coast Marathon

Runner: Coach Ian Whitmore

Race Date: 2 July 2023

Location: Gold Coast, Australia

Results: 3.53

3 Bests – What aspects of the race did you like the most?

  • The name says it all, this course offers 42.195km of amazing picturesque views of the beaches, coastline and skyline.
  • It’s super flat, meaning fast and being IAAF certified, you know its a well organised event.
  • Being a holiday destination, the post race atmosphere is amazing.

Not so much – Aspects of the race that didn’t do it for you

At the 31k mark you can briefly see the finish line. That’s mentally tough.

Weird factor – What’s the weirdest thing about this race?

Not necessarily weird, but watching the surfers wax up there boards ready to hit the waves. You can certainly people watch and get into a flow as you run. Having completed this marathon several times, the race now starts at 6am, (it was 7am). Means the first hour you run is before sunrise, which helps as the heat will kick-in mid morning.

Highlights of your race – What did you do well and enjoy about your race in particular?

Knowing the course well, I knew how to pace myself to finish strong. The support and crowds are amazing, and as you run along the finish chute…wow I get goosebumps just thinking about it.

Lessons for others – Share your pro-tips on the race to help the next runner

Be sun-smart. Yes the first hour is before sunrise. But when the sun is up, you want to be protected. So cap and sunscreen is recommended. (Test this on your long runs, as you don’t want stingy eyes). Like every marathon, start slow and steady. Its easy to think I’ll get some K’s under my belt whilst its dark. But you’ll regret it later in the morning.

Lessons you learned that will help you next time around

Not to focus too much on my splits, but live in the mile you are running.

Most important course specific knowledge to know about the race

Be aware at the 31km mark, you get teased as you see sight of the finish line, but you have another 11k to go.

Aesthetics – Is it a pretty course?

Yep, 100% – Sun, Sea, Surf, Beaches, City sky views.

Difficulty – Is it a tough course?

Its a flat and fast course. Perfect for a BQ time. But also a great course to complete your first marathon.

Organized and well run – Did it feel like a well-oiled machine or were they flying by the seat of their pants?

The event is well signposted, organised and IAAF gold standard so you’re in good hands.

Competition – Is there a strong field?

Being an out and back course, you get a chance to see the elites whiz by. Its always a strong field both with Aussies and international runners.

Logistics – Does it require a special handshake, registration a year in advance, hotels all booked? Give us the low down on the nuts and bolts of making the race happen.

Super easy, Gold Coast Airport is a 30min cab ride, or a direct one hour train from Brisbane airport. With the gold coast being a tourist destination, you have a plethora of hotels and Airbnb’s to chose from. Free tram to the start line. Its sells out fast, so get cracking.

Aid Stations – Standard fare or anything special to know about the aid stations in terms of what’s available or when?

Over and above IAAF requirements, with a mix of water/hydrolyte. Also various cheer squads offering flat coke.

Weather and typical race conditions

Beautiful. Mid-winter in Queensland means low humidity, calm winds and cool/mild temperatures.

Gear – Did you need anything special or is there anything you’d recommend for the next runner?

Sunscreen

Spectators – Is this a friendly course for your friends?

This is a community event, and there are crowds along most of the course.

How’s the Swag?

Asics ‘Gold Coast marathon’ t-shirt and a chunky medal for your efforts.

The Overall Score – How many stars do you give the Gold Coast Marathon and do you recommend that others run it?

10/10 and for anyone wanting a picturesque course to smash your PB or complete your first you need to put this race on your radar.

Ian Whitmore is a coach with Team RunRun. To learn more about him or to work with him, check out his coach profile.

Fragrance Lake 10k Race Report

In this Fragrance Lake 10k Race Report Coach Paul Sage shares his insights and tips on how to race this awesome course so that you can be your best on race day! Enjoy!

Race: Fragrance Lake 10K

Runner: Coach Paul Sage

Race Date: 06/09/2018

Location: Bellingham Washington

Results: 2nd overall

Strava Activity Link: https://www.strava.com/activities/1628196943

On the trail at the Fragrance Lake 10k with Paul Sage. In this Fragrance Lake 10k Race Report get tips on how to rock this course!

3 Bests – What aspects of the race did you like the most?

  1. Very convenient – close to Fairhaven/Bellingham with multiple parking options
  2. Well maintained – the trail system in the Chuckanuts is popular with the local running community and is well maintained which contributes to the trails being in the best possible condition throughout the year.
  3. Aggressive hilly course that is still very runnable and finishes with a fast downhill charge to the finish

Not so much – Aspects of the race that didn’t do it for you

There is not much to complain about in the Chuckanuts!

Weird factor – What’s the weirdest thing about this race?

The single element that may seem ‘weird’ to some are the gates/barriers at the top and bottom of the Fragrance Lake trail. These are designed to control horse traffic and consist of two overlapping fences that runners have to ‘zig-zag’ through. These are not a big deal at all but do act as a pinch point on the trail and require the runner to come to an almost complete stop to negotiate.

Highlights of your race – What did you do well and enjoy about your race in particular?

The race was a success and the result was just what I was looking for. For me this race was a training race that I was using as a hard stimulus. I came into the race in the middle of building my fitness back up after a podium finish in the Chanoko 50K a couple months earlier. The weekend prior to this race I had also finished on the podium of the Vashon 10 mile race. My goals for the race were to push the ‘flatter’ first 1.5 miles and the two steeper sections of the Two Dollar trail, relax through the rolling middle section of the Two Dollar trail and the couple ‘techy’ switchbacks of the Fragrance Lake trail, and let it rip through the easier downhill. Essentially interval training with competition.

My plan worked out (almost) perfectly. Attacking from the gun and staying in the lead through the first half mile strung the field out and forced the competition to play catch-up before the climbing started on Cleator road and Two Dollar trail. This kept me out of traffic as the trail transitioned from the wide Interurban trail and Cleator Rd and the single track trail that comprises the rest of the course. Knowing I was going to relax my pace on the flatter parts of the Two Dollar trail allowed me to confidently push the steeper sections of the trail without worrying about blowing up. This approach resulted in a large gap to the other 10K competitors behind me and kept me within site of the leader heading into the decent down Fragrance Lake trail. Even with the leader within sight I stuck to the plan and relaxed my pace through the few tricky switchbacks down Fragrance Lake trail and then gleefully hammered the remaining downhill to the finish line. I was super happy with my 2nd place finish and felt very confident I had the fitness to run much harder.

Lessons for others – Share your pro-tips on the race to help the next runner

Taking advantage of the wider portions of the course in the first 1.5 miles is key for maintaining position and staying out of traffic. Having the fitness to go out hard and being aggressive through the initial steep section of Two Dollar trail is essential. To do this effectively there are two spots in the first 1.5 miles where position in the pack is important. The first occurs after the first 100 meters where the course chokes down from a gravel road to a narrow single track for ~50 meters before it joins with the Interurban trail – though this is short it acts as a significant choke point. The second is the ‘dip’ before the Interurban trail joins with Cleator Rd. This ‘dip’, a short steep decent and ascent, marks the true beginning of the climbing on the course. Pushing through this dip right to the intersection of Cleator Rd and Two Dollar trail, which marks the beginning of the single track, will ensure the best possible positioning as the course narrows and the pace slows dramatically.

Lessons you learned that will help you next time around

I am consistently pessimistic about my ability to aggressively run moderately technical downhill and races like this help change that narrative in my mind. The pressure of competition and the laser focus that adrenaline can provide is far more powerful than I give it credit.

Most important course specific knowledge to know about the race

There are several aspects of the 10K course that could be key to developing a race strategy. Beyond the 2 points mentioned earlier regarding the pinch point very early in the race and the ‘dip’ leading into the transition from gravel road to single track trail, there are 2 additional spots to consider. First is the rolling nature of the middle of the Two Dollar trail. Though the trail continues to trend upward the gradient is considerably less steep and rolls in a few spots. This is a great place to either push the pace if you’re really fit or back off and recover for the final steeper push up past Fragrance Lake. Finally, the decent down the Fragrance Lake trail involves some steep(er) switchbacks that are at times both rocky and rooty and if wet/muddy can be a little gnarly. The risks may out-weight the rewards for some runners to be too aggressive here when this particular section is sketchy due to trail conditions.

Aesthetics – Is it a pretty course?

Overall I feel the Chuckanuts are a bit of a hidden gem and the trails epitomize the aesthetic of sea-level PNW forest beauty – dense evergreens and deciduous trees, dripping with moss, covering hillsides scattered with exposed boulders and rocky outcroppings. Fragrance Lake itself is an added bonus but is best enjoyed during a casual day hike.

Difficulty – Is it a tough course?

Given the distance and the vertical gain (~1300′) and loss (~1400′) I feel most runners would consider this a tough(er) course. The majority of the climbing is over a 3 mile stretch from mile 1.5 to approximately mile 4.5 during which runners gain slightly more than 1000 feet. The last 2 miles is a screaming 1400 foot descent to the finish line – not long enough for your quads to blow up but steep enough to feel it the next day.

Organized and well run – Did it feel like a well-oiled machine or were they flying by the seat of their pants?

As is typical with Destination Trails’ races, the race was well organized and well run. Even the sole section of the course that I felt could be problematic (crossing SR 11 in the last half mile of the race) was well marshalled, safe, and seamless.

Competition – Is there a strong field?

Typically there are a handful of killers that show up to race the 10K and the Half.

Logistics – Does it require a special handshake, registration a year in advance, hotels all booked? Give us the low down on the nuts and bolts of making the race happen.

Logistically the race is very simple. The race is well attended but usually has spots open for race-day registration. Navigation to the start/finish line is straight forward and parking is plentiful (there are multiple places to park besides those available at the start/finish line; some of these ‘extra’ parking spots do require a Discover Pass). For those travelling long distances, Bellingham is very close and has a ton of hotel and Airbnb options.

Aid Stations – Standard fare or anything special to know about the aid stations in terms of what’s available or when?

There is a single aid station for the 10K course next to Fragrance Lake. The half marathon and 50K courses have 2 additional aid stations. As is typical for Destination Trail’s races the aid stations are well stocked and well run.

Weather and typical race conditions

The race is typically run in mid February – I ran the 10k during a year the race had been rescheduled to June. Conditions can vary quite a bit year-to-year in February in the Chuckanuts. I have seen the trail conditions in February span the full spectrum from snow-covered and muddy to dry and buffed-out. Temperatures typically hover in the 40s to low 50s.

Gear – Did you need anything special or is there anything you’d recommend for the next runner?

No special gear required for the shorter distances (10K and half marathon). I have witnessed multiple 50K runners carry and use microspikes on the snowy years.

Spectators – Is this a friendly course for your friends?

Spectating sections of the course other than the start and finish does require a bit of hiking but the distances are short and the scenery is great.

How’s the Swag?

As is typical of Destination Trail races the swag is legit.

The Overall Score – How many stars do you give this race and do you recommend that others run it?

I give the race 4 stars and highly recommend it for those looking for a shorter early-season race.

Paul Sage is a coach with Team RunRun. To learn more about him or to work with him, check out his coach profile.