By: Veronica Gerhard, Rocky Mountain Road Warrior
Veronica Gerhard is a member of the Health Warrior Road Warrior team in the Rocky Mountains. She began running at age 18 as part of a rehabilitation regiment after knee surgery. In 2009, Veronica ran her first race, a half marathon. A half marathon led to trail marathon which led to Veronica being chosen in a lottery to participate in the Leadville 100, a notoriously challenging 100-mile footrace through the Rocky Mountains. Veronica is now 3 months out from tackling one of the toughest races known to man and is sharing her training tips for runners of all distances and experience levels.
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The best way to learn what does and doesn’t work for you as a runner is through trial and error. As you cover more ground you will become more in touch with your body and mind and what they need to keep going mile after mile. Every individual is different. That being said, there are a few tips and tricks that I have learned during my year of training for the Leadville 100 that may benefit your running journey, no matter the distance.
SIGN UP FOR A RACE, SET A GOAL
I was a casual runner for 5 years before I ran my first marathon. This wasn’t because I didn’t have the potential to run one sooner, but rather because I didn’t have the motivation to do so. Nothing was on the calendar that made me feel like I should go run more than 10 miles in an outing, so I didn’t. As soon as I signed up for my first one, my mileage increased.
If you aren’t into “the whole race scene” then try making a goal. Maybe the first step is to run around your local park without taking a rest. Or perhaps there is a time you would like to run 10 miles in; put a date on the calendar for when you want to test your speed and start training. I have a friend who purely wanted to try and run one of her favorite hiking trails instead of walking it. She enjoyed training on new, shorter trails until 4th of July when she celebrated her new freedom by completing her goal. Figuring out what your mountain is can help you start to climb. So make sure you find a goal that suits you, then lace up.
RUN WITH A BUDDY
Having a friend out with you on a run is a wonderful thing for so many reasons. Miles can wisp by as you exchange fruitful conversation. You gain an extra set of eyes for route directions. There is someone holding you accountable to run your intended route (be it a race or a fun, morning romp.) Carpooling becomes an option. Any time I am feeling in a bit of a training slump, I invite a friend out for a run and relish in sharing miles with someone.
NUTRITION IS JUST AS IMPORTANT AS MOVEMENT
Figuring out what food fueled me best was a huge process. I had to think about what was good for me to eat before a run, during a run and after a run. This is something that I believe varies so much person to person. From amount of miles being run to dietary restrictions to consistency issues… there are a million and a half options. I personally like to follow two rules of thumb: 1) comes from Michael Pollan “Eat Food. Mostly Plants. Not too much.” and 2) If you can’t pronounce it, don’t eat it. If I need a pick me up right before my run, I nosh on an Acai Health Warrior Chia Bar. During my long runs, I love sweet potatoes roasted with olive oil, salt, black pepper and turmeric. To fuel back up and get nourish my body afterwards I like to enjoy my favorite giant salad: lacinato kale, broccoli, quinoa, dried tart cherries, roasted pumpkin seeds, apple cider vinegar, Dijon mustard, and lemon juice. I always have a snack on me when I am out and about. It is most commonly either a banana, olives, walnuts or carrots and hummus. Anything light and nutritionally packed to keep temptation at bay.
TRAIN ON TERRAIN SIMILAR TO YOUR RACE TERRAIN
This one is self explanatory. Make sure that you have access to a training ground that will best help you prepare for your ultimate challenge. Consider the surface of the trail (ex: pavement, concrete, dirt, snow, sand), how technical the route is (ex: is the path hard to find, how many climbs/descents are there, are there water crossings, mud, roots, rocks?) and what elevation the race starts at.
TRAVEL AND TRAIN…IT’S MOTIVATING!
Travel for both leisure and business can be a part of life. I find being able to manage getting in my runs while I am traveling extremely motivating. I get to see new or less familiar things and I am reminded that If I can manage my training outside of my regular routine then doing it at home should be a breeze. Also worth noting, it can be awesome to travel somewhere in order to train. I recently took a trip to Utah just to do my long runs in the desert on similar terrain to an upcoming race. It was great practice and ultimately a memorable, fun trip.
WITNESS A SUNRISE, SUNSET OR SNOWFALL…IT’S WORTH IT!
This is just a gentle reminder that we easily make excuses to not get out there and bust out our miles. The most common one is that your day is just too busy. The answer to that excuse is to see a sunrise. Wake-up earlier and get those feet moving. Never have I ever regretted running before the sun was up. If you can’t wake up any earlier, you can still try and witness a sunset. Many times we dismiss the idea of working out post-dinner, when in reality that is a great option. It helps with digestion, it quiets your mind before bed and for many people it keeps them from over-eating pre-workout. Heck, if life is just too busy, try busting out a workout during your lunch break. It may even increase your productivity the second half of the day.
Also, running can be very weather dependent from one perspective, but It can also be totally freeing to throw on a rain jacket and run around in the puddles. Jog in the snow and it might be an awesome “first tracks” experience on a favorite, crowded route that’s now deserted. My best piece of advice for weather: wear a baseball cap.
LISTEN WHILE YOU TRAIN
I often can’t wait until my next run. Mostly, this is due to the fact that I listen to audio books while I run. Instead of being page-turners, books have become mile-burners. It also motivates me to run after dinner, rather than sitting and watching something on the tube. It might just turn out to be 10x better than Netflix for you, like it is for me. I also have about 10 podcasts that I subscribe to and listen to religiously; along with Spotify to turn my run into a dance.
CROSS TRAIN, CROSS TRAIN, CROSS TRAIN.
Find another form of fitness (or two or three) that you enjoy other than running. It will help to strengthen muscles that stabilize you during your runs and and keep others firing that you aren’t using during your runs. I incorporate yoga and weight lifting into my training routine about once a week and try to rock climb and ski as often as I can. I also think walking is an underrated form of active recovery that we could all utilize a bit more in our day-to-day. Cross training also is a great way to prevent burn-out.
IT WILL GET EASIER
Whether you are just introducing running into your life, or you are about to start averaging 80 mile training weeks, it will get easier. For me, the toughest part to committing to making a lifestyle change is the first three weeks. After three weeks, those adjustments I made are now a part of my daily schedule. They have become habit. It is amazing how after three weeks, I can look back at where I was prior and think: my potential is still so much more than I ever thought it could be. As Ken Choubler, the founder of the Leadville 100 often says,” You are stronger than you think you are. You are tougher than you realize.”
SAVE THE BEST FOR LAST.
One of my secret weapons for my training started by figuring out my favorite local trail system. I save that route for when I am feeling unmotivated or fatigued. As soon as I get to the trailhead, I get a rush of excitement and am ready to conquer my miles. Figure out your favorite trail. Save it for special times and run with a smile on your face.