HillRunner.com https://www.hillrunner.com The site for everyone who loves running. Wed, 23 Sep 2020 22:04:33 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.5.1 https://www.hillrunner.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/hr-icon-100x100.png HillRunner.com https://www.hillrunner.com 32 32 Enjoy the special moments https://www.hillrunner.com/enjoy-the-special-moments/ https://www.hillrunner.com/enjoy-the-special-moments/#respond Thu, 24 Sep 2020 15:00:00 +0000 https://www.hillrunner.com/?p=69087 Continue reading "Enjoy the special moments"

This year, I’ve had a lot of opportunities to share runs with my daughter

Taking a little break from the usual training posts. I’m not sure what to think of this but I’m apparently feeling a little philosophical.

This year, we’ve had a lot of bad moments to get through. However, largely due to at least some of what’s been going on, I’ve also found some very special moments I’ve been able to enjoy, nothing more so than running with my daughter.

Normally, the schedule just doesn’t work out well and I don’t have many opportunities to get out for a run with her. This year, because I’ve been working from home, I was able at any time to ask her if she wanted to join me for a run. It was a regular thing, happening about 3 times a week on average, for her to join me for the first mile or so of my run before I would set out for the remainder on my own.

I can’t even express how much I enjoyed these runs. It was so great to connect with her by doing something we both enjoy doing. As difficult as this year has been and as terrible as the circumstances leading to me working from home have been, I feel truly blessed to have had the opportunity to connect with her in this way.

Maybe it’s running with someone special to you, maybe something else. Whatever the case, find those moments that mean more than just the run itself. Enjoy them to the fullest and hang on to them. These are the moments that make your running and your life in general greater than the individual acts.

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Health first https://www.hillrunner.com/health-first/ https://www.hillrunner.com/health-first/#respond Thu, 17 Sep 2020 15:00:00 +0000 https://www.hillrunner.com/?p=69065 Continue reading "Health first"


I’ve been hearing from a few people recently with health concerns. Either people who are getting COVID-19 tests because they are showing symptoms after being exposed (thankfully, nobody I’ve heard from has had a positive test yet) or those of you who live in the areas where air quality is affected by the wildfires.

My message for these individuals has been the same: health first, then fitness.

Essentially, I’m telling them to think of their health when deciding whether to run. If you are placing your health at risk, no training benefit is worth it. Your health should always be your first priority but, even if you want to think of it this way, your running isn’t going to go well if you don’t take care of your health first.

We know high pollution levels, like many in the west are experiencing now with smoke from the wildfires, can do serious damage to the lungs and cardiovascular system of even the most healthy people. We are also discovering that working out with COVID-19 could be a serious long term health risk.

Whether you’re dealing with poor air quality, COVID-19 or something completely different, please take care of your health first. You can always come back to running once these concerns are dealt with.

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Even this year, don’t short recovery https://www.hillrunner.com/even-this-year-dont-short-recovery/ https://www.hillrunner.com/even-this-year-dont-short-recovery/#respond Thu, 10 Sep 2020 15:00:00 +0000 https://www.hillrunner.com/?p=69048 Continue reading "Even this year, don’t short recovery"

I may be doing more “jogging and giggling” than racing this year but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to take time to recover

My last planned “race” of the year is coming up this weekend. I’ll have run a total of two races this year, both virtual, and I did a stair climb very early in the year.

Meanwhile, my training also wasn’t up to the level it has been in past years.

So what will I be doing as next week starts? I’ll be recovering.

That’s right. Even though I’m doing less of what one would expect to wear on the body, I’m still prioritizing a recovery period after my racing is done for the year.

Why? Because it still matters.

Just because I haven’t placed the same level of stress on my body doesn’t mean I have placed no stress on it. I’ve trained pretty hard and pretty consistently throughout the year. I can still feel that my body is being taxed. Most importantly, I want my body to feel refreshed as I head into hopefully more training and racing next year.

It’s true that my recovery period this year will look different than it has in past years. I’m probably going to take fewer days completely off of running than I did last year during my recovery period. In the interest of not locking myself up in the house and turning completely sedentary, I’m also going to make sure I do something every day. However, for the coming weeks, my focus will be 100% on recovery.

I would strongly encourage you to do the same. Just because this year may be different doesn’t mean you haven’t pushed your body in some way this year. Make sure you still prioritize recovery at the end of your season. Give your body the rest it needs so it can be ready for the demands you want to place on it next year.

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Virtual Racing https://www.hillrunner.com/virtual-racing/ https://www.hillrunner.com/virtual-racing/#respond Thu, 03 Sep 2020 15:00:00 +0000 https://www.hillrunner.com/?p=69015 Continue reading "Virtual Racing"

My first virtual race!

This past weekend, I ran my first “virtual” race. However, it wasn’t my first run of this type. Back before virtual races were a thing, we called what I did Saturday a solo time trial.

Whatever you want to call these efforts, some of you have been doing these events this summer already and I suspect many more of you will be doing so this fall. It’s the nature of the world we live in right now. I just wanted to offer some thoughts and advice on how to handle the virtual races you might be racing this fall or how to think about ones you have run after they are over.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of advice and it’s not meant to be the final word on the topic. But it is a short list of thoughts I have on how to get most of your virtual racing this fall and how to handle the results, given the fact that virtual racing may be the only racing you do this year (it’s looking like that will be the case for me).

Pre race thoughts:

  • Treat it like a normal race. Go through your normal race week routine, your night before race routine, your regular warmup and everything. Wear your regular race uniform if you have one.
  • While treating it like a normal race, this is also an opportunity to try something you might have wanted to try in a race setting but haven’t. If you don’t have a few cues to think about when times get tough, I suggest that. This past weekend, I was focusing on my stride rate and keeping the effort consistently high (“quick steps” and “every step counts” were my cues).
  • If you can, get some people out there to support you. Even if you don’t have a loud cheering section, just having a supportive face out there instead of neighbors who just think you’re crazy can give you a nice boost.

Post race thoughts:

  • Adjust your expectations. You treated it like a race but it was missing one critical factor: real, live competition. Running “against yourself” or “against the clock” just isn’t the same for most of us as seeing someone out there to chase down or knowing someone is right behind you trying to chase you down. This affects different people differently but I know from experience I am a minute or a little more slower in a 5K in a time trial or virtual race than in a real race. So I factor that in when thinking about what my time means.
  • Recover like you would after a normal race. Even if you didn’t perform up to the level you would have in a race, you still put forth a big effort, more than that of a normal run or even hard workout.

Most important, have some fun with these opportunities. Racing is supposed to be fun, why else would we do it? This isn’t racing but it’s as close as most of us will be able to get. A lot of what makes racing fun is missing in these settings but find ways to make it fun.

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Team HillRunner.com: 2020 Virtual Al’s Run https://www.hillrunner.com/team-hillrunner-com-2020-virtual-als-run/ https://www.hillrunner.com/team-hillrunner-com-2020-virtual-als-run/#respond Sun, 23 Aug 2020 21:32:24 +0000 https://www.hillrunner.com/?p=68998 Continue reading "Team HillRunner.com: 2020 Virtual Al’s Run"

Team HillRunner.com
Unfortunately, things won’t be quite like this in 2020

Team HillRunner.com: I’m sorry for the delay in getting this together. It’s been a crazy year, hasn’t it?

While we won’t have an in person Al’s Run this year, I’d still like to have an appropriately distanced Team HillRunner.com virtual Al’s Run if at all possible. Here’s what I’m thinking, though of course I’m open to ideas:

First, the good news: you can definitely sign up as a member of Team HillRunner.com for the virtual Al’s Run this year. In fact, for the one benefit of this setup, if you don’t live in the Milwaukee area but want to be a member of the team, you can! Just sign up here!

If you’re not in the Milwaukee area, you can do the virtual event on your own or with your friends. Just pick out an 8K course and run it on your own.

If you are in the Milwaukee area, I would still like to do a properly distanced team run and social. What I’m thinking of right now is taking advantage of the Bugline in Sussex for the run and using Village Park in Sussex for a team social. I’m still very open to ideas but this is what I’m coming up with right now. We can work out the details as a team later.

Just a reminder, Al’s Run is scheduled for September 12th. I’d love to see you then if you can make it!

This is, needless to say, a strange year but, when things like this are happening, it’s more important than ever when can be done safely to keep our social connections alive. I think getting the team together in a safe manner would be a great way to do that and good for the runner’s soul.

Again, whether local or remote, whether you can make it to the team event or not, you’re welcome to join Team HillRunner.com! I’m always grateful to everyone who is willing to represent this site.

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Don’t fear neck gaiters https://www.hillrunner.com/dont-fear-neck-gaiters/ https://www.hillrunner.com/dont-fear-neck-gaiters/#respond Thu, 20 Aug 2020 15:00:00 +0000 https://www.hillrunner.com/?p=68991 Continue reading "Don’t fear neck gaiters"

You probably saw the headlines: neck gaiters, commonly used by runners, are worse than not covering your face at all for preventing the spread of COVID-19. Well, the headlines didn’t really get the story right.

The first thing to note is that the study only tested one person with a gaiter. With only one person and only one test on that person, no result would be statistically significant. Many variables could have played a role in the result.

The second thing to note is that the study wasn’t testing the performance of masks. It was testing the performance of the test being used. It was to determine if an easy, low cost test works.

It’s worth noting that other tests, including one noted at the link above, show that gaiters do in fact work. Single layer gaiters like most running types don’t work as well as multi-later ones but they still do work.

So, if a single layer gaiter is what you have available and you’re in a place where you’re around people, use it. It does help.

The debate about the performance benefits of low carb, high fat (LCHF) diets continues. A new study shows basically what we’ve seen before. I will still say the same thing: it might be beneficial for ultra marathoners but the evidence is overwhelming that, for the marathon and shorter, it’s going to do more harm than good performance wise.

What’s the best posture for recovery? So many of us were told stand upright and place our hands on our heads. But most of us naturally want to bend over and put our hands on our knees. It turns out nature has it right.

It’s been a while since I’ve shared any research on beet juice. Well, let’s take care of that. In this study, in “recreationally active” (no definition of what this means) males, no statistically significant performance benefit was found in several measures, including muscular endurance.

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Fitness is always changing https://www.hillrunner.com/fitness-is-always-changing/ https://www.hillrunner.com/fitness-is-always-changing/#respond Thu, 06 Aug 2020 15:00:00 +0000 https://www.hillrunner.com/?p=68735 Continue reading "Fitness is always changing"


Did you feel different on today’s run than yesterday’s run? Do you generally feel different today than yesterday?

If you answered no to either, I’d ask you to think more deeply about how you feel today and how you felt yesterday.

I say that not because I’m trying to be hard on you but because I want to be a realist. Our fitness is always changing. I’m not just talking about the fact that, as we train, there are slight shifts in our fitness and hopefully we’re generally getting a little more fit each day.

Fitness is an all encompassing term. It can refer to not just your VO2max or your lactate threshold. It’s also how fatigued you are, how well fueled you are, how well hydrated you are, as well as any number of other variables.

As such, fitness is also extremely dynamic. On Monday, I ran in probably a slightly dehydrated and somewhat fatigued state. I needed a very easy run. On Tuesday, I wanted to get in a workout so I made sure I went into my run more well hydrated and more rested.

As you go through your training, you will experience days when everything is right and you will experience days when everything is wrong. Much more frequently, you will experience a mixed bag.

I would like to encourage you to consider this fact and do two things with your training.

  1. Don’t fight the bad days. They will happen. Accept them, figure out what went wrong, know you’re just off, then live to fight another day.
  2. When it comes down to the important runs, especially race day, do everything you can to make sure everything you have control over is going right.

Just like you train to raise your VO2max and lactate threshold for race day, you need to prepare to ensure all other aspects of your fitness are maximized on race day and, as much as possible, on other days. These other factors are often written off as outside factors but they can have just as much of an influence on your running as the more commonly discussed fitness measures.

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Relax and win https://www.hillrunner.com/relax-and-win/ https://www.hillrunner.com/relax-and-win/#comments Thu, 30 Jul 2020 15:00:00 +0000 https://www.hillrunner.com/?p=53365 Continue reading "Relax and win"

Staying relaxed late in a race helps you finish faster

What do you do late in a race? When you need to go a little faster, how do you respond?

If you’re like most runners, you dig deep. You push yourself and strain for that last possible bit of effort. It makes sense. Run faster by exerting more effort.

Is this the best way to run faster, though?

When we start to dig, we strain. We tense up and fight against ourselves. Our muscles tighten up and work against each other instead of working in coordination with each other, one muscle relaxing as the opposing muscle tenses.

This causes us to work harder for no gain or even our own detriment. Instead, we would be better served to stay relaxed and focus on adjustments in our mechanics. Focus on pushing off a little harder to lengthen your stride. Focus on increasing your stride rate. Don’t just strain and work against yourself.

I know how hard this advice is to practice. I’ve known this is what we should be doing but I still fall victim in races to straining for every last bit of effort. I’m a work in progress. I hope you will also consider making yourself a work in progress. But how? When you’re fatigued late in a race, it’s hard to think clearly. You’re on autopilot. The last thing I want you thinking about is a blog post I wrote.

So what do you do then? Like most things you want to do on race day, you need to practice this in training. You need to practice it so much that it just becomes automatic.

In your next workout, try something a little different. When you are late in the workout and want to pour on a little more effort to finish strong, don’t just think “run harder”. Think “quicker steps” or “push off a little harder”.

This won’t absolve you of running harder. You have to push harder to take those quicker steps or to push off a little harder to lengthen your stride. What it does is focus your effort. It points the extra effort you’re expending in a productive direction instead of letting that effort go wherever it may, which often means unproductive directions.

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There is room in the middle https://www.hillrunner.com/there-is-room-in-the-middle/ https://www.hillrunner.com/there-is-room-in-the-middle/#respond Thu, 23 Jul 2020 15:00:00 +0000 https://www.hillrunner.com/?p=68764 Continue reading "There is room in the middle"

This month, I’m going to bring up a couple topics and expand on them a little more than normal for a recap post. Then I’ll throw a bonus link or two at the end. Fewer links, a little more in depth this time.

To start, we all are familiar with hard/easy training. I’ve even written about it here. But isn’t there a value to the middle ground? Isn’t there sometimes a reason to venture off the ends of the spectrum?

Yes. I’ve personally always been a fan of sometimes going with moderate workouts. Especially right now, when we don’t know exactly when our next big race will be, I’ve become an even bigger fan.

Well, two sources I like to read both recently tackled this topic, from slightly different perspectives that I think are both very practical. I’ll let their perspectives stand and throw in a third perspective I don’t think either has fully addressed and I’ve found myself using personally.

When I was younger, it was no big deal to do 3 truly hard days a week. My primary workout would be on Tuesday, a secondary but still hard workout would be on Thursday, then the long run which I would make downright grueling at times would be on Saturday. As I get older, I just can’t do that anymore.

But I can still get in 2 truly hard days a week, the Tuesday primary workout and the Saturday long run. On Thursday, I find that I sometimes can do something but it can’t be another truly hard day. So a moderate day fits in there well. Maybe a tempo run at a quick but not hard effort, maybe something like 3-5 miles at around marathon effort. Maybe a few short repeats like 4×400 at 5K effort or even 4×160 at 3K effort, not a grueling 12×400. This is a case where that moderate day fits well and I’ve also used something similar with the runners I coach with a good amount of success.

I’m sure you remember the book Born to Run and all the attention it received about a decade ago. On the top of the list of topics it got attention for was minimalist or barefoot running. Well, a new paper (Alex Hutchinson’s review here) dispels some of the myths around the Tarahumara. Probably the biggest thing to note:

Their ability, the authors suggest, “derives from hard work, physically active lifestyles, determination, and the spiritual and social values they place on endurance running.”

In other words, there is no magic potion or silver bullet. Flimsy sandals, genes, nothing. There’s some value in the cultural importance to running but, beyond that, it’s a lot of hard work, the same pain and suffering any successful distance runner goes through and plenty of determination.

The timing of your meals matters. Regardless of overall calorie consumption, those who skip breakfast perform worse while feeling like they are working harder in the evening.

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Don’t borrow from someone else’s puzzle https://www.hillrunner.com/dont-borrow-from-someone-elses-puzzle/ https://www.hillrunner.com/dont-borrow-from-someone-elses-puzzle/#respond Thu, 09 Jul 2020 15:00:00 +0000 https://www.hillrunner.com/?p=68169 Continue reading "Don’t borrow from someone else’s puzzle"

Don’t steal those puzzle pieces!

These days, you can see a lot of workouts on social media, not to mention websites like Strava and Garmin Connect. Some of these workouts are impressive, maybe look interesting, or just look like something fun to try.

Have you ever thought of “borrowing” a workout you’ve seen online? While I won’t say never do so, I would like to urge you to use extreme caution if you do so.

What we can’t always see is the greater context these workouts fall in. Even if we’re following someone on Strava and can see every one of their workouts, we don’t know all of their context. We probably don’t remember the details of someone’s past month, let alone their past 1, 5, or 10 years. We also don’t fully know the aim of the workout or the outside of running circumstances that might have affected training decisions.

We also don’t know all the details of the runner’s strengths and weaknesses. If you’re not strong on tempo workouts but you borrow a workout from someone who is, you might end up doing too much. If you are strong on long runs and you borrow a long run idea from someone who isn’t, you might end up selling yourself short.

Building a good training plan is like putting together a puzzle. You need to put the right pieces in the right places. Taking pieces from someone else’s puzzle isn’t going to help you build your puzzle. Yes, sometimes you can see a workout and realize it will fit well into your training plan. Most of the time, though, trying to do this is like taking a piece from someone else’s puzzle and trying to force it into yours. It’s just not going to fit.

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