Listener Q&A: June 2019

In case you weren’t paying attention, we are now at the midpoint of 2019.


It’s true.

6 months down, 6 months to go and 2019 will be history.

Crazy, isn’t it?

But before we shoot off fireworks and flip the calendar to July, let’s do a little Q&A, eh?

You Ask, I Answer

In case you’re new to these parts, here’s what’s going on.

At the end of every month, I do an episode dedicated to you and your questions.

Want to get a question answered in future Q&A episode? Come join our FB group, watch for the post asking for Qs, and put your query in the comments.

Basically, whatever you ask I try to answer!

Sometimes, the answers aren’t worth a whole lot. But every once in a while, I like to think (or at least hope!) that I hit the nail on the head!

When it comes to free advice, there are no guarantees that you won’t get any more than what you paid for it.

That said, I promise to do my best!

And if nothing else, there are usually at least a few decent memes/GIFs to make it worth your while.

Let’s get into this month’s questions, shall we?

Your Questions

What do you think about racing shorter distance races while training for a longer race?

I’m more or less ok with it.*

Depending on where you are in your training cycle, what your goals are for the longer race, and the distance of the shorter race, you may not really have the luxury of “just” racing the short race.

Meaning, you might have to use the shorter run as part of your long run.

Ergo, the odds of PRing in the 5k when you’re running it as the last 3.1 of an 18 miler are pretty low.

What are the advantages/disadvantages of doing speed work on the treadmill?

Other than the obvious fact that you’re on the treadmill, right?


I think the only advantage would be speed control if you’re trying to hit specific paces for your hard intervals.

This is maybe most advantageous for a tempo run, where the goal is to stay in a tight pace window for multiple miles which can be a struggle when you’re out on the road.

The biggest disadvantage, in my mind, is that many treadmills simply don’t go fast enough for runners doing high-speed intervals.

I also don’t trust the display on a treadmill at all, so there’s that.

If you don’t have access to a track, I’d say you’re better off doing your speed work outside on a road, paved trail, or another environment than just jumping on the treadmill.

Of course, I may have a bit of bias against the treadmill in general, so there’s that…

What do you recommend regarding consuming adult beverages post race?
Cheers Mate!

Cheers Mate!

For the most part, I say you do you.

If a beer sounds good to you, go for it.

If not, no worries.

Pretty simple, really.

Any advice for being a marathon pacer?

First, if you haven’t listened to the episodes with Ben Wachter or Angie Whitworth Pace yet, listen to those episodes. They have both paced multiple races, and we talked about pacing for major chunks of both episodes.

Secondly, remember that pacing isn’t for you but for the people you’re pacing.

In essence, that means you are there to do a job.

Hit your splits and cross the finish line at the time you’re assigned.

Over 26.2 miles? That’s easier said than done.

But it’s your job, so make it happen.

What should I use for nutrition during my first 50k?

The first rule of ultra running, at least according to me, is to never say no to potato chips on race day!

Maybe a better rule is to make sure you’re “practice” your fueling while you’re training for your race.

Meaning, try some different types of fuels and find what works best for you.

As for me, you know I’m a high fat, low carb kind of guy.

So I definitely stay away from all the gels and gus and crap like that.

But for an ultra? I’ll cut myself a bit of slack.

A few M&Ms. Some gummy bears. Definitely a few bottles of Tailwind and, probably, a few shots of ginger ale.

The aid stations at a good ultra are buffets, and I’m not afraid to try a bit of this and a little of that.

Just make sure you don’t overdo it, because remember that digesting food requires energy. And, obviously, during a 50k, energy is at a premium.

How do you maintain any sense of a base when life gets flipped, turned upside down?

Usually, when I’m talking about life happening I’m meaning the little inconveniences that life throws our way fairly regularly.

The sick kid. Minor work crisis. Social obligations. Extended family.

Occasionally, life really acts up and all you can do is hold on for dear life.

When that happens, my only suggestion is to use running as a life preserver and not an albatross.

Not following the metaphor?

When the proverbial shit hits the proverbial fan, trying to maintain militant discipline in adhering to your training schedule is probably not going to help at all.

Instead, run when you can. As fast as you want. As much, or as little, as you want. Run to blow off steam and release the pent up emotions that are boiling below the surface.

I know I’m not usually one to say “just go out and hammer” every run, but if that’s what you need to do to help you get through the storm that is raging, then go out there and drop the fucking hammer.

Whatever you need on that day from your running, that’s what you need to do.

Nothing more. Nothing less.

What are your thoughts on support shoes and overpronation?

Overprescribed, on both fronts.

There is a percentage of runners that truly need shoes to combat excessive pronation.

That percentage? Is really small.

When it comes to pronation of the foot, it’s a natural part of the running motion. Meaning, our foot is designed to pronate as we walk/run.

Trying to combat that, in all but the most extreme cases, with a stability shoe is going to (likely) cause you problems farther up the chain.

In most cases, our bodies know best.

Stick with a neutral shoe and let your body do what it does instead of trying to force the issue with a stability shoe/insert.

And this may go without saying, but it’s especially true for those that aren’t currently having any issues.

If you’re running in neutral shoes, everything feels good, and you go to get a new pair of shoes and they try to sell you some support shoes because of your “pronation issues,” I’d strongly urge you to say thanks but no thanks.

Any thoughts for slower runners struggling with imposter syndrome, aka “I’m not a real runner because…”?

Seriously, tell that voice in your head that is telling you that you’re not good enough to shut the fuck up.

If you run, you’re a runner. Period.

You may not be as fast as someone else, but I guarantee you’re not the slowest runner in the world.

So please, stop telling yourself that you’re not fast enough to be a real runner.

You’re absolutely enough, and you’re absolutely a real runner.

Should I get surgery for a torn meniscus?

Honestly, it depends on the location and severity of the tear.

There are some meniscal tears that really don’t require surgery. The tear itself will not heal, but it won’t be much of a factor in daily life nor in your running.

There are others that are only going to be a thorn in your side, or in this case your knee, until you get it fixed.

Any advice for racing on a budget?

Running races can get expensive pretty quickly if you’re not careful.

That said, there are ways to soften the financial blow of running all the races.

One of the best things you can do is volunteer.

Depending on how your local races work, if you volunteer for one/some of the local races in your area, you may very well be able to be comped a race entry or two as a way of saying thank you.

I know there are a few races down here, trail races typically, where if you have a family member that volunteers at the race you can run for free. So maybe that would be an option to make race day more of a family affair?

Speaking of trails, trail racing is typically a little cheaper than road racing because there isn’t a need for road closures, police presence, and things of that nature.

You can also look for smaller races, as they typically have a much lower entry fee than the big/fancy races.

This requires a little leg work because those real grass-roots races don’t have the kind of advertising budget where they will show up in your FB feed.

You may also look up some fat ass events in your area. While fat asses aren’t technically races, they are typically free and have a vibe that can be similar to what you’ll find at a race as well.

What is causing my HR to fluctuate dramatically from one day to the next?

There’s no shortage of factors that could be at play here.

Sleep. Weather. Hydration. Life stress. Caffeine. Fatigue. Diet. Margin of error with your HR monitor.

The list is long and distinguished.

The key, if you’re focusing on training at an easy level of effort, is to adjust your pace so that you’re not exceeding the limit you have set for yourself.

One thing I do to try and keep my HR from having wild swings is to predominately run first thing in the morning.

No caffeine. Well rested. No life crazy to deal with.

There are still some swings, but they are typically pretty small/manageable.

Do you run when you’re on a family vacation?

Family vacations are for the entire family, right? And you’re part of the family, right?

So if you want to run on vacation, I don’t see the issue with that!

That said, you may need to be flexible with your training to accomodate everyone.

Also, since you’re out of your normal routine, you may need to cut yourself a little slack on that front too.

The plan may have been to get up and get your miles in early before whatever adventures the family has planned for the rest of the day.

But, as may happen on vacation, a couple of bottles of wine the night before made getting up and running pre-dawn a non-starter.

Roll with it. If you can get a run in later, great. If not, just stick to the vacation rules of running and move on.

What are your recommendations for coming back from a major running injury?

Start with the blankest slate possible!

Too often, runners coming back from injury are so focused on getting back to what they used to do and try to speed up the recovery process.

If you’ve been out for awhile, you are basically starting from square one.

And if you’re constantly comparing what you used to be able to do with what you can currently do, you’re going to drive yourself crazy!

As much as you can forget about your previous paces and distances and just focus on where you are right now, and building back up the right way, the better.

What is stopping you from entering the NYC lottery?

Honestly, it’s probably the money factor.

Not only is race entry expensive, but all the extra costs associated with the race are beyond my budget right now.

I know the odds of me getting picked aren’t great, but my luck if I put my name in the hat hoping to not get picked I’d get picked.

Once I’m in a bit better place financially, I’ll start putting my name in the hat.

Of course, at that point, I won’t get picked because I’m actually wanting to get picked!

What are your suggestions for training for a downhill marathon?

As much as you can, practice running downhill!

I can’t think of anything that will have you more prepared for running down hills than running down hills!

And to be clear, I’m not talking about a leisurely stroll down the hill either.

Get comfortable bombing down the hills, and you’ll be just fine on race day.

When you run with your dog and she stops to go to the bathroom, do you pause your watch?

When I’m out for a run, I don’t pause my watch.


If I stop for a drink, it keeps rolling. If my dog stops to pee, it keeps rolling.

I mean, on race day, the clock doesn’t stop, right?

But more importantly, who cares if your pace for your workout is a touch slower due to stopping to pick up after your dog?

If you’re that worried about your average overall pace, then leave the dog home.

And if you’re that worried about your average pace on a long run, I’d encourage you to reassess your priorities.

What about a water break for the dog? Necessary?

It depends on the distance of the run, the weather conditions, and how the dog is doing.

When I run with Bailey, we don’t typically stop for water on runs shorter than an hour.

Going longer than an hour? We are more likely to stop as needed.

As for the logistics of said water stops, I try to keep it simple.

When we run in town, there are many water fountains that have the water for dogs option down toward the ground. So we stop at those if needed.

If we just have regular water fountains, I either pick her up or let her stand on her back legs to drink from the water fountain.

And if no public water options are available, I’ll tilt my bottle upside down and give it a soft squeeze so she can get a little water that way.

What is the etiquette when running with a group? Stay with the person who runs the slowest pace? Every man/woman for themself?

Different groups have different rules, but it’s important to make sure everyone is on the same page.

When the group is a bunch of regulars, yall do what you need to do.

But if/when there is a new runner joining the crew, I personally think that someone from the group needs to hold back and run with that person (assuming the new person can’t keep up with the group).

I mean, failing to do so is just plain rude.

Tell ’em, Steph.

How does taking care of all the little things really help you run faster? Which of the little things do you think is most important?

I mean, if you don’t have a weak link your chain is pretty strong, right?

That’s how the little things work together.

If you neglect one area, that immediately becomes your weakest link and the most likely cause of any issues that arise down the road.

But if you keep everything in check and work to improve all of the little things that support your running, the results can be pretty powerful.

As for which is the most important, the easy answer is that they are all important.

But if I had to pick one, I’d say improving your sleep quality/quantity.

Why? Sleep is arguably the best thing you can do for your overall health, and yet it’s something that many people, runners included, poo poo.

Not saying you need a solid 8 hrs every night, but if you aren’t making sure to get enough quality sleep each not you are starting every day behind the proverbial 8 ball.

Would you rather run 50k on the treadmill all in one shot or 1k a day for 50 days?

I’ll take 1k a day, I guess…

In order to keep my HR low, I have to do a lot of walking. When I race (using run/walk intervals), is that going to cause me problems because I haven’t practiced running in training?

You’ll be just fine!

As you continue training and building that aerobic base, you’re going to start to find that you can mix in some running intervals while keeping your HR below your training target.

Now, in the meantime, will you be sore after the races?

Since you’re not used to running motion and the extra pounding, you’ll be shocking your body a bit on race day for sure.

But I wouldn’t let that scenario dissuade you from staying the course with your HR training.

If you stick with it, it’s only a matter of time before you’re running just as much in training as you currently are on race day, all while keeping your HR nice and low.

If I’m playing with a new fueling option during my training, should I time my fuel intake by distance or time due to the fact that I’m running slower in training than I will on race day?

Definitely, use time and not distance.

Shoot, on race day the only reason to use distance as a guide for fueling is to keep it simple, but that should be based on your expected race pace.

So when your plan is to fuel every 45 minutes (or whatever your plan actually is), just figure out your pace and go from there. If your race pace is 9-minute miles, you fuel ever 5 miles since that’s easier to remember than fueling at 45 minutes, 90 minutes, etc.

Also, a couple of fueling reminders while we are on the subject.

It takes something in the neighborhood of 20-30 minutes for the fuel to actually kick in due to digestion time.

The more liquid the fuel source, the easier the digestion time.

Your body can’t handle digesting more than ~200 calories per hour while running, so there’s no need to go too crazy with the fuel or you’ll be giving yourself some other problems to deal with at some point!

How can I get better at activating my quads and glutes while I’m running?

This is a little tricky, but it’s doable!

Simply trying to will your muscles into firing while running doesn’t work too well. And consciously thinking about what your body is doing (or what you want it to do and it won’t do!) has a way of sapping the fun from the run pretty quickly.

So instead of trying to figure out how to fire specific muscles while you’re running, focus on a few tricks that are easier to do but will result in the desired outcome.

In this case, to activate your quads focus on picking up your feet a bit more while running.

To be clear, I’m not talking about some type of high knees marching drill while you’re running!

Just do what you’d do if you were running on the road and had to step up on the curb due to oncoming traffic. Work on picking up you feet, 4-6 inches, for each stride. As you’re swinging your leg forward, bend the knee and raise your thigh (which fires the quad/hip flexor) so that you could easily step up onto a curb or over a small branch on the trail without tripping.

Note, this isn’t a jumping motion to get over the curb or the branch! Just a smooth lifting of your foot, which is actually happening at your hip, and you then keep going without breaking stride.

To get your glutes firing curing your run, I want you to think about pressing the ground away from you (behing you) for as long as possible with each stride.

Don’t change your cadence or anything like that, but while you’re running just envision pushing the ground back behind you with each foot.

If you’re doing that, with your leg straight so the “push” is coming from your hip, you’ll get that glute going!

Another thing that can help is to wake up your glutes/quads BEFORE you start running with a good warm up.

If you get the muscles fired up and engaged before your run starts, they will be more likely to keep firing once you’re out there.

So whether you’re using the lunge matrix, the band routine that the Wahoo ladies suggested, or something else that works for you, don’t skip the warm up!


And I’m Spent…

Another month, another Q&A episode of the show.

As always, the answers in this post are the abridged versions. For a bit more, make sure you press play at the top of this post.

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