I have ‘met’ some really incredible, inspiring, motivating and passionate runners through blogging and I can’t wait to share with you one of the greatest today. Jake is a fellow Utahn and writes a blog full of his training, ice cream, everything you ever need to know about running and the coolest race reports at Wasatch and Beyond. He sets course records and runs 140 miles a week while working full time as a Clinical Research Coordinator at the Huntsman Cancer Institute. He also has the cutest girlfriend ever (who is also an amazing runner and will be doing a Q & A also for me). You will love his blog because he eats almost as much ice cream as I do;) I am telling you….ice cream clearly creates champions.
I was stoked when he said he would answer a few questions for the blog so that we could all learn from an ELITE runner. ENJOY!
1. Why did you start running?
I started running XC as a sophomore in high school to get improve my conditioning for basketball. I realized pretty quickly that I had some talent, but I didn’t completely focus on running until my senior year. That year I ran 4:17 for 1600m and 9:16 for 3200m at the NY State Track & Field Championships.
I went on to run for a few years in college, but didn’t really accomplish much. I got into a frustrating injury cycle and over time began to lose my passion for competition. After doing some road racing sporadically during the first couple years after college, and then not racing at all for over two years while I was living in Colorado, I re-invested myself in 2010/2011 after moving to Utah.
2. What KEEPS you running?
I’ll always be a runner – I love the sport, I love the feeling of pushing the body, of covering ground by my own power. Even when I wasn’t competitive for several years, I still ran almost every day. And when my racing days are over, I can guarantee you that I’ll be the really old guy out on the roads wearing fluorescent spandex at 5 o’clock in the morning. Its a huge part of who I am!
Looking back (hindsight is always 20/20), for several years (after college) I was trying so hard to lead a more “balanced” life that I lost sight of the fact that running is really what gives me balance, even (or especially) when I’m laser-focused and running 140 miles a week. It sounds like a complete contradiction, but its true. There’s nothing wrong with being really passionate about something and giving it everything that you have. In fact, I think fully investing yourself in what you love to do is an amazing thing – regardless of whether its running or anything else. I truly believe that it makes you appreciate the other things happening in your life on a higher level.
When its all said and done, I realize that I’m never going to run in the olympics or make a living in athletics… but that isn’t why I do this. I want to find out how good I can be… what my limits are. I don’t think many people realize how high their “ceiling” is – whether its in sports, work, family – most of us are capable of a lot more than we give ourselves credit for. Hopefully I can inspire and motivate others to live their lives to the fullest and test their own limits. That is the ultimate reward for me… to know that I have made a positive impact on someone else.
And last but certainly not least, I think running is the best way to stay fit and healthy (at least in terms of most bang for you buck). Your overall physical and mental health is probably the most important thing you have – take ownership of it and don’t take it for granted!
3. What is your biggest advice for new runners? What about intermediate runners hoping to take it to the next level?
Start slow and try not to get discouraged by setbacks or plateaus. They are unfortunately part of the process – rites of passage. If you stay committed, you’ll improve. As you build up your miles, make sure you are staying healthy and having FUN! Take advantage of social networking and find other people to run with… those things make it a lot easier to stay motivated and be accountable for what you are doing.
Keeping a training log is really beneficial, especially when you are trying to take your performances to the next level. You can look back on what has worked and what has not… the information is priceless. Reach out to other runners and coaches in the area and ask for advice. Don’t be afraid to work hard and put in a lot of miles – if you really want to be get the most out of yourself, you have to take some risks once in a while. Believe in yourself and your goals.
4. Who are some of your biggest running idols?
When I first started following distance running in high school, Alan Webb, Ryan Hall, and Dathan Ritzenhein were the “Big 3” superstars. I’ve always been big fans of those three guys.
I follow the sport at the elite level, but I enjoy following people I know personally just as much. Whether someone is running their first marathon and just wants to finish, or they are trying to win a big competitive race, there are inspiring stories everywhere. I try to keep my eyes and ears open and soak as much of it in as possible. That is one of the cool things about running – there is opportunity for people to reach huge personal goals regardless of what level of athlete they are or how long they’ve been participating in the sport.
5. What are your PR’s and what are your biggest dreams as far as running goes? What is your favorite distance to race?
In 2011 I ran 1:05:40 for the half-marathon and 2:21:46 in my debut marathon.
My long-term goal is to qualify for the 2016 Olympic Trials Marathon. I came up short of making the 2012 trials, which were held in January. I’ll probably have to run around 2:17, depending on what USA Track & Field sets as the new qualifying standard. Ultimately – I see myself as a guy who can run 2:15 if I continue to work hard for the next couple years. In 2012, in addition to running a fast marathon or two, I want to get my half-marathon PR down to 1:04 and run some 5Ks in the 14s.
My biggest dream is that Andrea and I both qualify for and run at the 2016 trials. Sharing the experience would make it a million times more special.
I really like the 15K to Half-Marathon distance – its “comfortably hard” and you can bounce back from those races really quickly. But there is just something about the marathon – the unpredictability of it, the way it can absolutely humble you even if your fitness is razor sharp after months and months of preparation, and the overwhelming feeling of awesomeness when it does go well. The challenge of it is addicting.
5a. What are your goals for BOSTON? What are you doing in your training during this cycle to prepare you for the course?
I’m approaching Boston knowing that I’ll be in the best shape of my life; mentally I’ll be ready for whatever weather conditions we face on race day, and therefore I have a “goal range” in mind instead of a specific time. A personal best time would be nice – but my fitness level is a lot higher than 2:21. Sub 2:20 is my “A” goal, and if we get a nice day, I think it is possible to run 2:17-2:18… that would be an “A+” and a big jump to the next level.
I’ve been running a lot of miles (as always) to get ready. I’m out the door twice a day, seven days a week. Since Christmas, I’ve been averaging about 135 miles per week, with a high week of 150 and a low week of 110. My workouts are a mix of tempo runs at marathon goal pace (5:10-5:20 / mile) and track workouts (or fartleks) where I’ll run everything from 200m to 1 mile repeats. My long runs are 20-25 miles, and I usually close out those long runs with a final mile around 5:00 or faster. Most weeks I’ll do 2-3 harder efforts… sometimes even stacking an afternoon track workout on top of a morning tempo run. On those days, I am TIRED and HUNGRY by dinner time! The rest of the mileage is easy – I run as slow as my body needs to in order to recover.
I have some key “indicator” workouts planned for the next couple weeks (such as several 10-13 mile tempo runs at goal marathon pace, and 2 x 10K at faster than marathon pace) on courses I’ve mapped out that mimic the Boston course – downhill to start, then rolling hills to finish. I’m also running a very competitive 15K race in Arizona on March 11.
I have a printout of the Boston elevation profile taped to my computer monitor at work – so I stare at it all day as well!
6. What are some things that helped you to take your running to the next level?
Consistency plays a huge role. I think I’ve only missed one day of running in the last 18 months. In the past, injuries were my downfall. Now, for whatever reason (probably a combination of a lot of things), my body has hardened up to the point where I can train at a high level and recover quickly. I ran almost 6000 miles in 2011. I don’t think I had ever logged more than 3000 miles before this past year.
I run SLOW on most of my easy runs. A lot of recovery runs never get faster than 7:30-8:00 / mile. Some mornings I’m barely cracking 9-10 minutes for the first couple miles. I’ve found if I don’t force the issue on the easy days, I’m able to run faster on my hard days, and stay healthy.
The most important thing, though, is SELF-BELIEF. Over the past year I’ve just continued to set the bar higher and higher for myself, without fear of failure. And I keep running faster and faster. I have faith and confidence in what I am doing and what I am capable of. The mind plays such a huge role in distance running – if you believe its possible to do great things, and you are having FUN while doing it, then there is nothing to stop you!
I have to give a lot of credit to Andrea. I wouldn’t be running at this level if I didn’t have the good luck of meeting her 3 years ago. She didn’t necessarily push me back into running, but being around her on a daily basis has inspired me to be “GREAT” instead of settling for “pretty good.”
7. What gear do you prefer?
I’m a huge Saucony fan – and while that may seemed like a biased statement because I’m sponsored by them, the truth is that I was wearing Saucony long before they sent me any shoes! I was fortunate enough to work on a research project with some people from Saucony a few years ago, and from that experience I realized how much the people at the company really love running and care about making great products. They are not about the bottom line in terms of dollars and cents. Their mission is to help people run farther and faster.
My favorite shoes for training are the Mirage and Kinvara. For tempo runs and marathons, I wear the Fastwitch. And for track workouts and shorter races, I like the Type A series. I have a lot of shoes and alternate between them all on a day to day basis. Its important to rotate shoes to prevent overuse injuries.
Saucony makes great apparel – functional running clothing that looks great… especially if you like really bright colors (which I do)! Since I do a lot of running in the dark (early mornings), I’m always decked out head to toe in their orange ViZiPRO line – from shoes to tights/pants, jackets, gloves, and hats. They even make USB LED lights which help me be seen by cars! I’m usually lit up like a christmas tree when I’m out in the dark.
Recently Saucony also launched a line of recovery / compression products that incorporate a material called Celliant, which helps stimulate blood flow to your extremities, and therefore enhances recovery. I wear the calf sleeves after running, and I sleep in the AMP Pro2 tights.
8. Favorite ice cream flavor? What else do you use to FUEL your running?
I eat ice cream (or frozen yogurt) every single night – even before races. The night before my first marathon, Andrea and I downed a bunch of moose tracks – and that ended up working out pretty well! Honestly, my favorite flavors are primarily from the Kroger brand – Cookie Dough, Fun Munch Cookies & Cream, and French Silk. Safeway (which sadly we don’t have in Utah) has the best Moose Tracks, in case you were wondering. I’m also famous for adding in whatever other candy, cookies, and sprinkles that are lying around. I like toppings almost more than the ice cream itself! Crafting my cups of ice cream with all the layers of different toppings is a form of art! So of course I love the fact that Fro-Yo places have popped up all over the country in the past couple years.
Aside from the ice cream addiction I try to eat pretty healthy. Lots of fresh vegetables and lean protein. I try to eat a good amount of red meat to help keep my iron levels up. I’ve found that adding additional protein to my diet helps me recover quickly on a day to day basis. We make a really nutritious breakfast casserole that gets the day started off right.
During training sessions, I don’t really eat or drink anything, even on long runs. In the summer, when it is warmer outside, I’ll sometimes stash a bottle of Gatorade along the route I’m running. At the Utah Valley Marathon last year I choked down one and half packs of GU, and that ended up being enough. At Boston this year I will probably be able to have my own drink bottles on the course, in which case I’ll get my calories and electrolytes through some form of Gatorade. The fueling aspect of the marathon is something I am still trying to fine tune for optimal performance. I realize how important it is, and how it is a seemingly “little” thing that can really make or break a race.
9. Do you have mental battles during your races and training runs? How do you fight these battles? Do you ever have days you just don’t want to run….what do you do about that?
Oh yeah, for sure. Anytime I’m racing 10K or shorter its a constant mental battle to keep the gas on the pedal. I think that especially in shorter races, you almost always have an “extra gear” that you are physically capable of using, but the trick is to mentally be able to push yourself hard enough to get as close to a 100% effort as possible.
Luckily, I really enjoy running – so its not usually a problem for me to get motivated. Sometimes it takes some work to get psyched up for the harder workouts where you know going into it that you are going to suffer a little bit… but I like the rigors of training and feeling after I’ve finished those runs. I also love just going out and run slow for miles and miles. Its fun for me. On my easy / recovery days I usually run back and forth to work, so that means on those days the decision is already made; if I want to get to work and get paid, I need to run… and if I want to go home in the evenings, that means I need to run again!
And on those rare occasions that I really don’t feel like running (like when its pouring rain or minus 15 degrees outside), I just lace the shoes up and do it. I don’t even think about it. I’ve never finished a run and said “jeez, I wish I hadn’t done that.” It is inevitably, always, the other way around. Once you are out there for 5 minutes, it just becomes second nature.
10. Outside of actually running, what do you do that really helps your running?
I’m a firm believer in the Lydiard philosphy of “Miles make champions”… that is – if you want to be really good at running, than you should devote the vast majority of your exercise time to running. But that being said, I do incorporate some other things to help keep me healthy…
Using the stick, foam roller, and getting massages from Andrea (she makes me suffer, but the knots in my legs disappear) is something I have taken more seriously in the past year. At the very least, I try to use the stick on my legs every night.
I was a skeptic of compression gear for a long time… until I started wearing it. Now I’m a believer! I wear long compression socks or calf sleeves all day while at work. I have a desk job, and really notice the difference in how much better my legs feel for my afternoon run.
I have a garbage can that I fill up with cold water and ice cubes to soak my feet and lower legs a few times a week, after long runs or really hard workouts. This can be painful but it keeps my feet from falling apart.
I don’t do much strength training, but I do manage to fit in about 100 pushups and 25 pullups every day so my arms don’t get too scrawny!
Sleep! I sleep a lot… 8-9 hours every night… 10 hours when possible on the weekends. The key is to just turn off the TV / computer and go to bed early. Once you get in the routine of going to sleep at 8:30 most nights, you can’t even stay awake past 9pm anymore! Other than Modern Family and Jeopardy I don’t really watch that much TV, so its actually pretty easy to make this happen.
Its fun to have some other forms of exercise mixed in as well. Andrea and I are avid backcountry skiers (you can check out dozens of our trip reports on our blog, although we haven’t done it as much this winter due to scary avalanche conditions). We also like riding mountain bikes (uphill more than downhill) and hiking during the warmer months. In 2010 we did a 225 mile hike across the Sierra Nevada mountains in California (the John Muir Trail)… that was one of the best experiences of my life.
11. Favorite running memory?
The cool thing about this past year has been that Andrea and I have been on this journey together – we’ve both improved so much and had success that we couldn’t previously have even dreamed about before 2011. I feel like we were making new “favorite running memories” almost every month with every breakthrough in training and racing! There were a number of days when we’d get home after a race and say to each other “Did we really both run that fast today?!”
While the races themselves (at least afterwards) were very fun, what really stands out to me when I look back is some of the days of training. We run together a lot on easy runs, and on hard workouts (when we are obviously running different paces) we are usually on the track together or doing our tempo runs on the same roads. I remember one day driving home after a hard 10 mile tempo run – Andrea was passed out in the back seat of my jeep, and I couldn’t help but smile, thinking about how awesome it was that I have someone who really “gets it” to share this with on a daily basis. I’m lucky to have such a great support system – between Andrea, other runners and friends we’ve met in Utah, my family (my parents have always been my biggest fans), and Saucony – I never feel like I’m just running for myself… its a neat feeling to know you are a part of something much bigger… a community. Its more rewarding, regardless of how fast you run.
Since it is Sunday and I know you have plenty of free time;) take a second to head on over to the March of Dimes Auction- held March 1-March 11!
Kristina is fundraising for the Shamrock Marathon with Team in Training and needs our help! If she hits the goal she set for fundraising she will race with green dyed hair! Check out her blog HERE!!!
Any other questions for the amazing Jake?
Who else will be in Boston this year? Who has run Boston in the past and who has a goal to run Boston in the future?
How many hours do you sleep a night?
Is there a certain exercise that you do daily like Jakes daily push-ups and pull-ups?
Who else wears Saucony?