Following Hardrock Dreams: an Interview with Ryan Meulemans, a Local Chattanooga Ultra Trail Runner

Hardrock 100 mile race is notoriously known as one of the hardest ultra-marathons in the United States. It attracts running legends like Kilian Jornet to race across the Colorado mountains. Runners can only enter Hardrock through a lottery. This year, one of our own Chattanooga Fast Breakers made it in and placed 33rd overall. We sat down with Ryan Meulemans to hear about his race.


I've always been into the outdoors and have enjoyed the outdoors in many ways, shapes, and forms. I originally started with hiking and backpacking. And then was really into fly fishing for a few years. It was an evolution of enjoying the outdoors. In my early 20’s, I smoked a pack of cigarettes a day, ate like #&^%, weighed 200 pounds. I got into exercising. I was like, I have to go to the gym and like bla, bla, blah. I quit smoking and all that. But the gym wasn't for me. It wasn't fun. So I started running on the road 2-3 miles, cause that's all I could do. But then a couple of buddies were like, "We go out and run trails." I hadn't been doing it much, but I liked hiking and backpacking in the Smokies. So that's just how I got into it. I wasn't really a runner until I became a trail runner. That was probably a little over 10 years ago.

Everything in my life is to the frickin extreme. It's just how I live, it's my personality. Everything is to the max. Running for me isn't any different. I got into it. I enjoyed the trails and it was one of those things, where I was having a conversation with some guys, and they were like, "Stump Jump is coming up." And I was like, "What's Stump Jump?" At that point I was really only comfortable with 10-12 miles. I thought about it for a few weeks, and decided that I was going to do it. I had 1 year to train for it. I did it and finished and liked it. And that was my first ultra.

I want to be in the woods. I want to be out there on the trails, and the cliffs and the streams and bluffs. That's why I do it. So I did Stump Jump a couple of years in a row. Then I started adding other races and 50ks became not that big of deal so I started doing 50 milers then 100’s.

Photo contributed by Ryan Meulemans


I kind of like those more mountainy races. I had always had it in my head that Hardrock was the pinnacle. If you look at the race course, you can make an argument that it's the hardest thing in North America and definitely one of the hardest things in the world.

I put my name into Hardrock for about 5 years. There is a short list of races that the Hardrock race directors deem worthing or hard enough to do Hardrock. The list used to be bigger but it has shrunk down. I would get a qualifier every other year, put my name into Hardrock every year, and wait and see. And I wouldn't get in. But last December, luck of the draw, I finally got in for 2017.

I was ecstatic. You find out over Twitter. You're sitting there watching the lottery hitting refresh, refresh, refresh. I was picked in the second batch of names. It was like a band-aid had been ripped off. The lottery started and 5 minutes later I was in! But I didn't have any fear. I knew what I was getting into. I definitely wanted the opportunity to do it. So my name got pulled and I was all in.



My last 3 years of running have been FatDog 120 [in British Columbia], Western States, and getting ready for Hardrock. So I went back and looked at FatDog, which was great, and looked at what I had done. Even though FatDog is longer, I knew I probably needed to dial it up for Hardrock. So I just went about my plan with a nice build up. Every other Saturday as [a race] gets closer is the really long run. I’ll go do a 45-50 mile run, then the next Saturday 12 miles, then the next Saturday 45-50. So for these types of races, like a Hardrock or FatDog, the only chance you have is to go to some place like the Smokies to find 5-6 mile climbs. With a race like HardRock, you have these really long climbs and descents to train for. And there's nothing like that around here. So I'd go up to the Smokies around Friday afternoon and camp and run.



I went out 2 weeks in advance. My sister lives in Denver, so I drove out. Got to Denver on Friday afternoon, camped in my truck. Got up Saturday morning, put in 18 miles up and down some 14ers. And I was beat. Elevation kicked me bad! I was like, “Ok, this isn't good. I'm really fit and I don't know how I could run 5 more miles.” So I was a little nervous. I went out again the next day for a shorter 15 miles or so. Took Monday off. Then my sister and I went out on July 4 and did 4 14ers in 1 day. It was up and down, up and down. It was pretty good. That day I felt better. That was Tuesday and I could feel it coming together.

I drove to Silverton on Wednesday. I went out on Thursday for a 20 miler, and I felt good. I went out again 1 week before the race and still felt good, elevation was good. I knew when I was going up 12 to 13 thousand feet and I was talking that things were going to be ok.


Photo contributed by Ryan Meulemans

I slept like a baby the night before. Not sure why. The race starts at 6am on Friday morning. I felt good. The race starts and everybody is in a group. You run through town and a couple miles in, the first thing you do is run through a creek crossing. So your feet are wet the entire time after that. That was probably one of my biggest fears, that my feet would be wet the entire time and, knowing how technical the course is, I was wondering if I'd just wear my feet out with blisters. Luckily, feet were solid. I changed my shoes and socks one time at the half way point and was good to go. I didn't glide my feet, bandaid my feet, nothing. I rarely have foot problems, so if I do, I don't understand why cause I rarely do. But feet were wet the entire time.

So you go up the big climb and everyone's together and all strung out in a huge train. And the day gets started. The thing about Hardrock is that you have to remember the whole entire time A) how hard you worked to be there and B) how long it took for you to get in. I would come to the top of climbs and look around and be like, 'Oh my god, this is awesome.' It's truly the most beautiful running course I've been on. I was totally engaged the entire time. Any hundred mile I've ever run, you get into these stretches where you're just like, “This stretch sucks. I can't wait for this to be over.” But at Hardrock, that never happened.

Photo contributed by Ryan Meulemans

 A friend of mine had introduced me to my friend Joel whom I had never met before Hardrock training. My friend said we ran the same style and pace and we might want to run together, so we did. We did some training runs in Tennessee together and really hit it off. We had talked about it at the beginning that we should share some miles together since we're a similar pace, with the complete understanding that if either one of us hits a low point the other one is leaving and that's the end of that. There's not going to be any "we got to stay together type deal." So I caught up to Joel at about 12ish miles into the race. Him and I started rolling together. Just enjoying the day, just a beautiful Friday morning, just having a great time. And as with any Colorado afternoon, it starts to get dark, and the skies go black, and we look over at this mountain range, and we're like, "Oh $%*&! That doesn't look good!" So the temperature drops and a huge hail storm comes in, pea-sized hail. I have a hood on but it's killing my ears where it's hitting. Of course I had my Fast Break trucker on, but regardless, we were getting pummeled. I looked back and Joel's legs were bleeding. I finally yelled, ”Dude, we need to take cover." It started thundering and lightning. So we got into the willows and hunkered down for probably 10 minutes. It seemed to be moving out, and I was getting really cold, so we had to start running again just for that purpose. Fortunately, the storm was moving out, but the streams were now all flooded. It was intense, but that's part of the Hardrock deal! Joel and I rolled together through the night from 12 miles to the town of Telluride, which is at mile 72.

A great part of the race is an aid station section called Kroger’s Canteen. It's a very famous aid station. It's up on the top of a mountain in a nook. They built platforms there. Scott Jurek’s up there serving something to eat. We knew going into it, that one side of it was still completely snowed in. So in pitch blackness, we start up these snow pitches that was just like climbing a ladder. You put your feet in and use your trekking poles, and you've got your head lamp and you're just climbing into nothing. Straight up. It would go and pitch out, and then keep going. There's 3 pitches to the top, then you can see the aid station, and they're all yelling at you to climb. I was like, "Dude, don't fall. It's not going to be good." So super cool, but definitely one of the sketchier things I've done in my running, and I've done some pretty crazy spots.
In the middle of the night, we started down to the next descent and got into the town of Telluride, and grabbed what we needed at the aid station. It's 4:30 in the morning. It's getting close to sun up but not quite there yet. It's mile 70 and everything feels good. So we start out of Telluride, me, Joel and his pacer. And I don't know what happened, but I could not get out of first gear. They were leaving me in the dust. I lost all my momentum. I was really struggling to keep up with them. So finally I said, "This is it. It's that spot. You've got to go. I can't keep up."

Photo contributed by Ryan Meulemans

Looking back, I think I got a little low on calories. There's definitely something with altitude. I don't think I ate that much for 100 miles. I never had a gel. I don't like gels. I ate Shot Bloks. I'd ate quesadillas and burritos at aid stations. I think Joel was at a really good pace for probably 20 miles prior and it burned me just a little bit, so it hit later. It probably would have been better to back off, but I didn't. But there's no regrets. It was all still fine. It was a very difficult climb. It was a section of the course I had not seen. And looking at the profile, I think mentally I thought it wasn't going to be that bad, and then it was really bad. It was one of those ones where you're just going and there's 3-4 false summits and you think you're there, and it's not the top, and you get to another peak, and it’s still not the top. And I had all that going on mentally of my buddy leaving me and my pacer not keeping up (that’s another story). It was a lot. I think if you run 100 miles and don't have one low energy spot, you're really good. I felt low for a couple of hours, but once I got to the top of the climb, the sun was up, I was good. I bombed down into an aid station. I ate, had a cup of coffee, had a breakfast burrito and it was golden after that.

So I finally got to the top of that climb. The sun came up, and that's always a boost. That's a thing about 100 milers. There's always that time around 4:30-5:30 in the morning where you're tired and then the sun comes up, and I always get a huge boost. So after that, it was good. It was still a grind and very difficult. I was on my own all the way to the finish. Joel was always just ahead of me. He ended up finishing nearly an hour ahead of me.

I had seen the final 20 something miles of the course. We had done the final 20 miles the week before. So I knew after that low moment, everything else I had seen. I knew exactly where I was. I knew every climb that I had to do, which is both a blessing and a curse, to get the finish.

I got to the top of another climb, which is super hard, straight up. I'm digging, climbing, rocks are sliding right under me. When I got to the top of that climb which I knew would be really hard, I was like, "Ok I got this. Lets finish." I was at 85, had 15 to go. It was 10 in the morning on Saturday. I was golden. I had waited a long time for this. And the race had been great. I was in and out of the last couple of aid stations and then on to the finish. When you get to the finish at Hardrock, you kiss the rock. It felt great. I didn't feel destroyed at all. I felt really, really good about it.

Photo contributed by Ryan Meulemans


Hardrock is definitely a race I could see myself doing multiple times. I've done it one direction, now I have to do it the other way, since they reverse it every other year. I will probably put in every year. There's so much about it. Silverton shuts down the week before the race. It's a serene atmosphere leading up to such a big event.


Photo contributed by Ryan Meulemans


I think one of the biggest things that hit me at Hardrock was during the pre-race briefing, the race director, Dale Garland, announced who has done this five times, ten times, etc.  One guy had done it twenty-five times. Then he said that only 700 something individual people have only finished this race in the whole world. When tomorrow's race is done, there will be 780 or whatever. But only 750 or so people in the world have completed Hardrock. And I was like, I have to be one. I have to be 1 of those 750, that's why I'm here.

Tips to Train for Your First 5k

Runners start off strong at the Cam Run Memorial 5k 2016 Photo by Emily Lester

Runners start off strong at the Cam Run Memorial 5k 2016 Photo by Emily Lester

For something that seems so simple to do (you only need legs and 2 shoes…), running can be a hard sport to get into. There are so many questions when starting out: How far do I run? Where do I run? Why does my body feel like trash after 3 days of running?! It can be a bit intimidating and daunting.

The 5k distance is many people’s first step into the running world. The 3.1 miles may seem like a giant snow capped mountain that is impossible to summit, but we have faith in you (and a some pro-tips)! 

We talked with local Chattanooga coach Kevin Huwe and a few of our Fast Breakers about how to embark into the running world and train for a 5k. Hopefully these tips will clear the way for you to start running and finish a 5k! 

I’m a total newb. How do I start running? 

Just go for a run! It’s perfectly ok if you can only run for 3, 4, 5 minutes and then have to walk. The first step is to get out there. If you can’t run very long, run 1 minute, walk 2 minutes. As you progress, you will be able to run longer and walk less. You got this!

Properly fitted shoes are an essential part of running! Here, runners line up at the Cam Run Memorial 5k Photo by Kajsa Swanson

Properly fitted shoes are an essential part of running! Here, runners line up at the Cam Run Memorial 5k Photo by Kajsa Swanson

What gear do I need? 

The main component is good fitting shoes and sweat wicking socks. We have both at Fast Break with experts who will find a shoe that fits your foot properly. Not sure if you need new shoes? Read this. 

How do I avoid burn out? 

Many people jump into working out by running 2-3 miles a day, every day, all out. They “train” by running till they drop. After a few days of wearing themselves out, they decide “running isn’t for me.” Don’t fall into this trap! 

When you first get into running, start slow and gradually build up the duration of your runs. Pick a few days a week, or whatever your body and schedule will allow, and run at a pace that you can have a conversation at (aka, a conversational pace), even if this means walking multiple times throughout the run to get your heart rate down. Set a time that’s one minute longer than you think you can run. Run that amount of time 3-4 times a week, then increase the time the next week. Rest a few days between runs so your body can adapt. Lactic acid builds up in your legs when you run, and active rest, like yoga or easy walking, breaks it up and allows your body to recover and heal.  

I’ve been running for a week and my body hurts, why? 

You’re asking your body to do something new. Give it some TLC. Rest after you runs. Stretch and foam roll to ease the lactic acid that’s built up in your legs. 

Another aspect of training is your hydration and nutrition. You body can’t recover if it does not have enough protein, carbs, and water. Drink 4-6 oz. of water before you run and 16-24 oz. of water after. Remember to stay hydrated throughout the day. Eat well balanced diets of fats, proteins, and carbs to help your muscles recover before the next run. 

And lastly, how old are your shoes? Shoes are the base of your legs. Bad shoes can cause bad problems. Get fitted for a pair of shoes that will support your feet and body as you run.

What are the elements of a good training plan?

Photo by Emily Lester

Photo by Emily Lester

Once you’ve been running a few days each week for several weeks, you might want to set a goal, like training for a 5k. Coach Kevin likes to break his training into three general categories: easy runs, tempo runs, and intervals. 

Easy runs are at a conversational pace. This might feel too slow. But easy runs help your body to recover from the harder workouts while still putting in miles and training.

People have a lot of different definitions of tempo runs, but to keep it simple, find a pace that is hard but still controlled. This isn’t your race-across-the-playground-to-the-swing pace. This is a pace that you could hold for 15, 20, 30 minutes (depending your fitness level at this point). Then, at that pace, run for for 5 to 10 minutes followed by 1 to 2 minutes of jogging at an easy pace. Repeat this segment 2-3 more times. Another type of tempo run is to run for 15-25 minutes at a sustained harder effort.  

For intervals, run harder for a duration anywhere between 30 seconds to 5 minutes. If the interval segments are under 2 minutes, then run at a pace that could be held all out for around 5-6 minutes. For intervals between 2-5 minutes, run at a pace that could be held for 10-12 minutes all-out. Jog slowly for 1-2 minutes between each interval. 

Start by trying 3-4 intervals of faster running and slow jogging. Then as you get stronger, increase the amount of time you run hard and the number of intervals you do. 

Should I train for speed or endurance?

What is your goal for your first 5k? If your goal is to finish, then running easy paced runs while gradually increasing the duration of the runs will help you finish a 5k. But if your goal is to finish under a certain time frame, then speed and endurance workouts are important. 

Endurance runs train your body to run for longer periods of time before breaking down. They also strengthen your heart and your aerobic system. 

Faster runs, or speed workouts such as intervals, improve your body’s ability to utilize oxygen at a higher rate of exercise, which is one of the key contributors to being able to hold a faster pace. Speed workouts also improve form, and your body’s ability to remove lactic acid which is what causes your legs to feel heavy and stiff near the end of a hard run. 

How many days should I rest? 

Everybody’s probably a bit different, but taking at least one day of rest a week is important. Your body actually improves while recovering. You will feel tired after a workout, but when you feel like you can’t roll out of bed to slam the alarm clock off or like your legs have turned into cement blocks, then you probably should take a day off. Swim laps in the pool, do some yoga, foam roll, or take long walks on the beach at sunset. Learn from the start to train by the way your body feels, not only by a schedule or training program. If you are exhausted, you will do your body more good to rest than run. 

How long does it take to train for a 5k? 

This all depends on your current level of fitness and what your goals are. Training cycles for races are generally 18 to 24 weeks long, but many 5k training plans last 12-16 weeks. 

If you don’t have that long, it certainly doesn’t mean you can’t complete a 5k. Take an assessment of where you’re at physically and be realistic with your goals. If you only have a few weeks to train and have never run a 5k before, then go out for a run and see if you can complete 3.1 miles. If you’re close but not quite there, then try to build up to that distance.

After your test run, if a 5k seems unmanageable then look for a race further down the calendar and start training! 

Do I do anything different the week of the race? 

Slow down, take a deep breathe, you’ve almost made it! This is not the week to pack in extra training. Go on some easy, shorter runs a few days before the race. Most importantly, don’t exhaust your body right before your race! 

What should I expect on the morning of the race? 

Coach Kevin suggests eating something small a couple of hours before the race. Maybe try a piece of toast or a banana, but ultimately, stick with foods that you’re comfortable with and won’t upset your stomach. Drink a little water the morning of, but hydration is most important the day before. If you drink too much the morning of, the water will slosh in your stomach. 

The start of the Cam Run Memorial 5k 2016 Photo by Emily Lester

The start of the Cam Run Memorial 5k 2016 Photo by Emily Lester

I’m on the starting line, now what!? 

Hoooray! You’ve made it! All your training is about to pay off. With the crowd around you and nerves rising, you will want to start off fast when you hear the gun go off. However, try to maintain control through the first half of the race. Your breathing may be faster than your weekly runs and that’s ok, but if you’re 5 minutes in and gasping for air, then you need to slow it down. Runners like to say, “Run YOUR race.” Don’t be tricked into running someone else’s pace and burn out. 

Welcome to the running world and good luck with all your training! We are very passionate about sharing our love and knowledge of all things running relating at Fast Break, so stop on by and bring us all your questions! We hope to see you at the starting line (and finish line) soon! 

Trail Shoes or Hiking Boots?

When hiking or backpacking you need hiking boots, right? Because, as we all know, hikers need extra ankle support, water protection, and foot protection from the tough terrain. Plus, it helps to have the extra weight on your foot when you need to kick a bear in the face.

We aren’t buying it. From the runner’s perspective, hiking boots are heavy and hot! Many outdoor enthusiasts, including thru-hikers, are switching to wearing trail running shoes instead of a traditional boot for their outdoor pursuits. The tread on trail running shoes provides grip on rock and dirt surfaces, but without the extra 2-3 lbs of a boot. We were curious about the difference ourselves, so our very own Fast Breaker Varina put both boots and trail running shoes to the test!

Varina’s been rehabbing a messed-up ankle for the past few months, so she was very curious what the differences would be between boots and runnings shoes while hiking, especially regarding ankle support. To make a proper judgement, Varina hiked short hikes (3-4 miles) to longer day hikes (up to 18 miles), in cold weather, in rain storms, in sunshine, and up large mountains! Here are her thoughts on hiking in trail running shoes:

Varina backpacking on the Appalachian Trail in Shenandoah National Park, wearing trail shoes.

Varina backpacking on the Appalachian Trail in Shenandoah National Park, wearing trail shoes.

Varina and her husband, Andrew, hiking on the snowy peaks of Colorado, wearing hiking boots.

Varina and her husband, Andrew, hiking on the snowy peaks of Colorado, wearing hiking boots.


It’s probably an obvious observation, but hiking boots are much heavier than trail running shoes! I was using a lower ankle boot, and I still felt like they were bricks on my feet. Ok, that might be an exaggeration, but trail shoes are definitely 1-3 lbs lighter. I can’t say I necessarily hiked faster in the trail shoes than the boots, but I did feel lighter on my feet and able to go much further. I hiked 14+ miles in both shoes, and felt better in my trail running shoes. It could have been due to the fit of that specific boot or not. Who knows?


Trail shoes definitely breathe better than boots. In the south’s summer heat, my feet sweat! Thick boots, no matter how broken in they are, can rub blisters on feet because water from sweat sloshes around inside the boot causing friction. I found that trail shoes allowed moisture to wick outside of the shoes, allowing my feet to dry out.


Trail shoes are not waterproof. So if you need a shoe to get you through snow or creek crossings with low water levels, then boots are for you! The downside is that waterproof boots keep the water out and in. If a downpour hits, you are going to get soaked. Boots become heavier when wet and they take a long time to dry. Trail shoes, on the other hand, drain the water and dry out quickly. Personally, I wear my boots when hiking through snow in Colorado, but when I'm in the southeast, I prefer to wear trail shoes. When there are creeks or puddles, I embrace the water and splash my way through! (I do wear sweat wicking socks which help.)

Ankle Support

The reason I tried out boots in the first place was to find more ankle support as I recovered from an injury. Having a weak ankle, I knew hiking on uneven trails was taking a risk. I found that the boots provided a little extra support and allowed me to enjoy the outdoors as I was healing. As my ankle grew stronger, I began taking short hikes in the running shoes progressing the miles each week. With time, I was able to switch over to only using the lighter trail shoes.

For anyone worried about ankle support, I suggest, first off, doing regular ankle exercises (like calf raises with your heel in line with your leg) to strengthen your ankles. Stretching and strengthening will protect your ankles more than any boot. Second, try trail running shoes on short, less technical hikes before taking on 8-12 miles up a technical mountain.


A thick soled boot is going to offer a firmer surface and more protection from sharp rocks than a trail shoe. But many trail shoes include rock plates in the forefoot to protect your foot. While wearing my boots, I felt like I could walk over anything and be fine. The trail shoes I hiked in did not have a rock plate, but I did not have any issues.  

So if I have convinced you to try out trail running shoes, here are a few pro-tips to get you started: One, go to Fast Break Athletics (it’s on Cherokee Boulevard). They know everything. Two, ask about rock plates and different levels of cushion. There are many different types and styles of trail running shoes, so find one that fits the kinds of terrain you walk on. Three, make sure your shoes have plenty of space in the toe box. With all the ups and downs a trail brings, you need room for your feet to swell and move around some.

Trail running shoes are not for everyone, since every hiker’s preferences and terrain vary. But if you think that a lighter weight, breathable trail shoe is for you, give them a try!

5 Tips for Running in the Heat

Whether you’re training for a summer race or just trying to survive till a fall marathon, running in the south east summer is draining and exhausting! After just a loop around the block, your clothes look like you’ve jumped into a swimming pool! An afternoon run can easily turn into a dangerous suffer fest if you are not prepared. So before you put on that sweat band and take off that shirt to get a nice bronzed look during your afternoon tempo run, brush up on these 5 heat training tips to prevent heat exhaustion or worse.

1. Adjust to the Heat

Heat training can be beneficial for your running as it can expand blood plasma volume, but one cannot just jump into a full training schedule in high heat. First, you must acclimate your body with incremental improvements over 2 to 4 weeks. Be patient with your runs as the temperature rises. Slowly increase the length of time and effort of workouts as you feel your body adjusting. Rushing into heat training can cause heat cramps or heat exhaustion. Listen to what your body is telling you and adjust. But if you absolutely can’t stand the heat, run in the early mornings or late evenings.

2. Correct Hydration

Re-hydrate after last night’s beer! Drinking at least eight cups of water a day is always important, but your body needs more water in the summer. An average human sweats 1 liter of water per hour of exercise. To stayed fueled (and alive), hydrate with an electrolyte drink 1-1.5 hours before your workout. Run with a hand held water bottle or hydration pack, and continue to drink 16-28 oz of fluid per hour as you workout (or 4 to 8 ounces per mile). If you have to, set an alarm to go off every 20 minutes to remind you to drink or take a gulp whenever your GPS watch beeps.

Electrolytes increase your water absorption rate and replenish the nutrients you sweat out. Drinking gallons of plain water can actually hurt you in a process called hyponatremia where too much water intake dilutes blood-sodium levels. While this usually occurs more often for long distance runners or hikers, it can be easily avoided by adding a Nuun tablet or a scoop or two of Tailwind into your water bottle to properly refuel your body. The electrolytes will also prevent heat cramps and dizziness from heat exhaustion. Remember to continue drinking water or an electrolyte drink post workout so that your body can restore itself before the next day’s run.

3. Slow Down

Running in the heat is exhausting. The body is working double time to push blood and oxygen to muscles and skin to keep from overheating. Since the heat causes an additional stress, times and intervals have to give. Slow down your pace and even take a break for a moment to get fresh oxygen and blood flowing through your muscles and skin.

Don’t panic, your training doesn't have to give. Try running hard workouts early in the morning (time to work on that bed time…), and less intense runs in the afternoon with hotter conditions. Not everyone responds to heat in the same way, so be kind to yourself, listen to your body, and don’t push it! For best recovery, treat your recovery days with extra love. Run on a treadmill in cooler air, run early in the morning, or even deep water fun. To run in the pool or a lake, wear a flotation belt and pump your knees and arms up and down, much like a high knees warm up drill, but with a slight forward lean.

4. Proper Attire

In the hot sun, light weight, bright colored, synthetic clothing that’s loose enough to promote airflow is ideal. Even though it’s outrageously hot, it’s still important to cover up to prevent sunburn which can affect your body’s ability to regulate heat. Wear a hat to create your own shade over your face and sunglasses so that you can still enjoy the scenery without getting a headache from squinting. The extra sweat can sometimes produce blisters, so make sure your shoes are sized and fit correctly, as your feet will swell some, and wear cotton-free socks. Cotton soaks up water, just like a bathroom towel, and keeps it in your shoes. Socks with a synthetic blend wick the water outside of the shoe.

5. Don’t Lay Down

If heat exhaustion does happen, you will probably feel dizzy and overwhelming need to lay down will rush upon you. Resist!!! Pavement and concrete absorbs and stores heat making the pavement hotter than the temperature at head height. If you are feeling sick, try to find shade and slowly walk around, sipping your electrolyte drink. If the suffer fest has progressed to a dangerous level, you or a friend call 9-1-1 (and on that note, run with a phone for moments like this!).

As summer begins, remember these training tips as you embrace the south’s hot, humid hug! Good luck, Fast Breakers!

Ironman 70.3 Chattanooga: Tips and Tricks

Ironman 70.3 Chattanooga is in less than a week! We talked with our very own, in-house tri-dork Seth Ruhling and asked him for a few tips for a smooth and fast race day! Check out the videos and tips below. Good luck, all triathletes! ! We will be cheering for you!

Gear Checklist

First things first, before race day, make sure you have everything you need! Here is a gear checklist to help you prep. If you need to pick up some last minute supplies, stop by Fast Break Athletics!

  • Goggles
  • Swim Cap
  • Tri Kit, shorts and top
  • Body Glide
  • Garmin watch
  • Towel


  • Bike
  • Bike shoes
  • Rubber bands
  • Helmet
  • Sunglasses
  • Water bottles
  • Energy drink mixes
  • Energy gels
  • Running shoes
  • Quick Laces
  • Race bib number belt
  • Running hat
  • Energy gels
  • Hydration belt

SWIM - 1.2 miles 

Before entering the water, survey the buoys and course direction. Then jump right in! This is the start to an awesome adventure! Stay calm and relaxed during the chaotic early moments of the swim. Create space for yourself to swim as soon as possible, so that you're not battling with other competitors. Pace yourself in order to finish strong and to have energy left for the other elements of the race. Watch where you're going; sight often and make adjustments.

T1 - Swim to Bike

Prep for TI (before the race):

  • Clean your bike - a clean bike is a fast bike!
  • Keep it simple, don't bring more than what you absolutely need. 
  • Place your helmet and sunglasses on your bike. 
  • Put your shoes on the bike and attach to the bike with rubber bands
  • Fill water bottles and place in bottle cages

During the race:

  • Use the time to relax and recover from the swim.
  • Be clean, don't take off your swim gear and throw it into someone's space. This could pentalize you.
  • Put your helmet on FIRST then you take your bike off the rack.

BIKE - 56 miles

The Chattanooga 70.3 Ironman bike portion is largely a non-technical course on beautiful rolling country roads. Preview the bike course either in person or via the course maps provided. On race day, use the first 15 minutes of the bike to "warm up" and find your pace. Stick to your pre-race pacing plan. Remember to drink fluids and take in nutrition regularly. Again, watch where you're going; be careful of cones, potholes, and other competitors. Stay on the right side of the road unless passing. Be cautious of the drafting zone, you don't want to snag a penalty!


Prep for T2 (before the race): 

  • Again, don't bring more than you need. 
  • Lace your running shoes with quick laces, for fast and easy shoe tying. 
  • Lay out your running shoes, running hat, race number belt, and energy gels

During the race:

  • Dismount before the dismount line! You don't want a penalty. 
  • Keep your helmet on until your bike is racked.
  • Slip on your running shoes, race belt, hat, and you're off! You can put on your hat and belt while your running through the transition.

RUN - 13.1 miles

When you get to the run section, you will be tired, but views of the scenic city and the cheering crowds should perk you up! The Chattanooga run course consists of 2 loops through downtown. Start easy and build into your goal pace. Use the aid stations to your advantage: hydrate, cool yourself down with water cups, take in nutrition, etc. Take one mile at a time. Keep a positive mind, and stay focused.

FINISH - 70.3!

You did it! Now go get yourself a well deserved burger and a drink, and give yourself a pat on the back! 

Run for the Hills: Workouts to Train for a Hilly Race

The Chattanooga Chase 8k is just around the corner on Monday, May 29. Established in 1969, the race is the area’s oldest active competitive road race, featuring a HILLY 8k and a fast 1-mile race through Chattanooga’s North Shore. Rock/Creek will be awarding a premium to the first male and female to reach the water station atop Minnekahda Avenue, the race’s most challenging climb! 

To help get your legs in shape to survive, I mean run, this historic 8k, we asked a few noteworthy, and fast, runners to give us their favorite hill workouts and tips on how to run them. Add these workouts into your weekly routine to prepare yourself for the Chase!

Daniel Goetz, local runner and coach

Workout 1:

This is a 10 mile run total. Run 5 miles uphill, then turn around and go back down. The distance is not as important as long as you're challenging yourself.

I like to do this every other week instead of a long run. I would suggest having at least one easy day after and before doing a workout. I like this workout simply because it's tough.

Because you're running uphill, you don't have to run fast to work hard. You don't have to push, just let the hill do the work. You will be breathing hard and your legs will be burning, and all you have to focus on is to keep moving and make it to the top. Once you’re at the top, stop and check out the view for a second then turn around and head back down.

Going down will feel different at first because you're not having to produce as much power to get your body up the hill. Instead, your body is working hard to reduce the shock of fighting gravity's pull. Again don't push. Just relax, lean forward, and let gravity do its job. You'll likely come down a few minutes faster than your pace on the way up.

Since there’s so much downhill, I recommend doing this workout on a dirt road, wide trail, or flat terrain.

Workout 2:

Start with a 10-15 minute light tempo run. Then run 3-5 sets of :30 seconds, :45 seconds, :30 seconds hill sprints with a walk/jog recovery on the downhill and 3-4 minutes between sets. The hill should be moderately steep, nothing crazy (a great hill is Whitehall Road).

The light tempo run at the beginning of the workout has two functions. First, it helps warm up your legs before you hit the hills. Then when you start the hill repeats, your legs will already have a good amount of work in them, so they have to push harder during the workout.

The effort on the hills should be pretty high. As you try this hill workout, you'll have to learn how to distribute effort throughout the sets. When the effort is high and it becomes harder to push, focus on being tall, using your arms, and lifting your legs quickly.

Hills are God's gift to runners. Any variation of these workouts are beneficial. Make sure to stretch well, foam roll, and whatever else to take care of your muscles and joints afterward!

Patrick Reagan, 100k American record holder, U.S. Olympic Qualifier

One of my favorite hill workouts is uphill, downhill 2 mile repeats. If you have a bridge or hill that is around a mile up and a mile down, I suggest a structure similar to this session:

Start with a 2-3 mile warmup. Then perform 3-5 x 2 mile repeats at your trail marathon effort (If you have never run a marathon, let alone a trail marathon, think of this as slower than your 5k or 10k race pace but still a quick and sustainable speed.) Rest for 3 minutes and 30 seconds. Don’t stop moving completely. Practice active recovery like walking around or slow, easy jogging.

A pace example for this workout is running uphill at a 6:35 minutes/mile pace and downhill at a 5:25 minutes/mile pace.  At the end of the workout run a 1-2 mile cool down.

Alan Outlaw, our beloved owner of Fast Break Athletics

Find a gradual grade hill that is not too steep. Run 8-10 repetitions of uphill sprints for 20 seconds. The 20 seconds helps to create better running form and glute strength. Focus on running with good, total body form. Pump your arms to increase your leg turnover. Pick up your feet, and push hard in the last few seconds.

Another great workout is to run a continuous steady effort on a hilly course. Pick an area of town with numerous hills to run you mid-week tempo run. Be aware of each hill and resist slowing your pace. Keep it steady.

Add one of these workouts into your weekly training and you will be ready to tackle the hills in the Chattanooga Chase! Sign up today to stay motivated! See you at the start line!

Chattanooga Takes on Boston

Currently, about 25 runners from Chattanooga and its surrounding cities are packing their gels, racing shoes, and singlets to travel to Boston, Massachusetts to run in one of the most famous marathons in the world. On April 17th, these men and women will line their toes with the starting line along with thousands of others to run a race that has taken hours of sweat, tears, miles, failures, triumphs and pure grit to qualify for. We wanted to recognize and cheer on our local athletes as they embark on the final leg of their 2017 Boston Marathon journey. We asked of few of them to share their stories in hopes that they will inspire Chattanooga’s local running community to dream big and set their goals high!

Ryan Shrum, age 49

This will be my 8th Boston and 53rd marathon overall.

I first got into running while at Rossville Junior High School School at the urging of the track coach there. I ran the mile in 8th, 9th and 10th grade before giving it up for twenty years. I got back into it to lose weight and to kick alcohol/drugs.

I was getting ready for my 3rd marathon, Chickamauga Battlefield in 2007, when local running legend Flash Cunningham asked me if I was going to try to qualify for Boston. I had no idea what he was talking about, so I did a little research. I needed a 3:20:59 to qualify. I thought that was impossible since my previous 2 marathons were in the 3:40's. When I got to twenty miles, I realized that I had a chance if I could pick up the pace a little. I ran a 3:19:51 with an almost 3 minute negative split and went to my first Boston in 2008.

I'm always trying new things in my training for Boston. The course is a hard one to master. This year I have backed off of the high mileage a little bit and focused more on quality workouts. For me, something bad almost always happens during my training for Boston. I've had freak injuries (broken toe, sprained ankle) and normal injuries (IT band syndrome, pulled hamstring, Achilles tendonitis). I was laid off from a job once during Boston training. I've had relationships end twice. The absolute worst though was when my Mother passed away in 2014, five days before Boston. She had been in the hospital for 3 months so it wasn't a totally unexpected, but still very tough for me to train for and go and run the race. That was what she wanted me to do though. She always loved to talk about the Boston Marathon.

My goal is 2:55 with a slight negative split, provided the weather is good. Good weather for me would be overcast with temps in the mid 40's.

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Morgan Olson, age 25

This is my first time going to Boston. I chose to run this race because I wanted a race to look forward to during a challenging time in my life. In training for Boston, I have had time to think and enjoy the life God has given me. Don’t get me wrong, the runs hurt and are hard, but I cherish the time I get to spend outside remembering all the blessings that have been poured out on me by those around me.

Although training has not gone as planned, I am coming up on my first marathon that I am injury free, which is a HUGE accomplishment. The biggest challenge for me is to remember that my body is different from others’, and what works for some doesn’t always work for me. The more marathons I run, the better I am at understanding this. If I can encourage anybody, I hope it is to do what works for you and enjoy doing it. Life is too short to be stressed out about running!

I want to look back at the 2017 Boston Marathon and know I gave it everything I had, whether that’s running fast; being helpful, encouraging and kind to those around; or accepting if the race does not go as planned. A lot can happen in 26.2 miles.  I hope whatever runs my way, I can find true joy and hope that my fellow Chattanooga runners, at Boston and here at home, can do the same!

Andy Highlander, age 29

I started running in 3rd grade when Cameron Bean got me to try out for the cross country team and track team. In high school, I knew I wanted to run all 6 major marathons. This is my first time running the Boston Marathon and my first time going to Boston! I'm excited for both! I qualified at the 2015 Chicago Marathon a few months after Cameron died. It was the hardest race of my life. I sat on a bench in Grant Park and cried after the race.

My goal for Boston 2017 is to average 6-minute miles. It's an ambitious goal, and I'll be happy with anything under 2:45, but if everything goes right, I should be able to run that pace.

"Just keep truckin'"

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Kevin Huwe, 30

I first started running when I was about twelve. Both my older brothers did it, so I just assumed I could too. I beat my older brother in my first 5k, but my friend beat me by 2 seconds. From then on, I just wanted to keep running and keep getting faster.

I missed qualifying for Boston in my first marathon by about 2 minutes, so I took another shot the next year at the Louisville Marathon and got in. I ran Boston in 2013 with a time fast enough to qualify for 2014. After all the events with the Boston bombing, I decided that I wanted to come back in 2014 and run again. But in 2014 I did not run fast enough to get back in, and at that point, I was out of running regularly. But soon after, I started writing a workout schedule for my wife and started back running with her. After she ran her goal race, I decided to write my own schedule and have been building back ever since.

My most important aspect to training is consistency. Next is not overtraining, followed by knowing how my body responds to different workouts. All in all, if you train consistently without overtraining, you're going to do well. Also, nutrition and hydration are almost as important as fitness in a marathon.

My main goal for Boston 2017 is just to run to my ability, whatever that is. I think my training indicates that I can run under 2:40, so that's what I'll be pacing for, but I will just go with whatever the day brings.

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Katie Outlaw, age 36

I started running about 10-11 years ago, mainly as a form of escape and time alone in the woods. My father passed away suddenly in 2005, and I found a lot of peace and solitude in the woods. I always ran alone with my dogs and became pretty addicted to the way running made me feel. I mainly ran trails, so I started signing up for some trail races around town. I ran several trail marathons, 50k’s and a 50 miler at Mt. Hood. Over the past three years, I’ve transitioned off the trail to more road running. At first it was just to get faster on the trails, but now I’m hooked! Although I can’t wait to get back to the trails after Boston.

I love setting goals and achieving them. I’ve never run a big road race with so many people and so much history, so Boston seemed like the perfect goal. However, I’ve only run 2 road marathons: Battlefield and Missoula Marathon in Montana where I qualified.

It’s been really surprising how much harder road marathoning is compared to trail ultras. The hardest part of training has been the 4:20 a.m. alarm! Juggling a full-time job as a school psychologist, being a mom to a very active daughter, and coaching track and cross country for Normal Park has been challenging. So most of my runs happen before 6 a.m.! And I take recovery pretty seriously. Naps, epsom salt baths, and massages.

At Boston, I really want to relax and have a good time… and get just 1 good race photo! I’ve trained really hard, so if the weather is good and everything falls into place, I hope to have a good race (but I don’t like to say time goals out loud!).

Scott Hamby, age 46

Before 2009, I had never run more than 3 miles. That spring, I started running with a friend of mine that was training for the San Francisco Nike Women's Marathon. I told her I'd maybe work up to 12 miles but had no intention of going any further. However, I ended up running through the entire training cycle with her and running the Battlefield marathon in November. I've been running ever since.

My average marathon time for several years was around 4:15 - 4:45, so I never considered trying to qualify for Boston. In 2014, I decided to make some changes and ran a 3:50 for the first time at the Kentucky Derby Marathon in April. After that, I thought getting a BQ (Boston Qualifier) time might actually be possible. At that point, I'd run about 13 marathons, and though I had about 30 minutes to cut from my time, I decided to make Boston a goal. In December of 2014, I finally qualified at Rocket City Marathon in Huntsville. I've since qualified at New Orleans, Andrew Jackson, Kentucky Derby, Panama City, and St Louis.

But this year, I'm just happy to make it to the start line. I've had an injury since early January so will be running the race with about 4 weeks of training and  2 weeks of taper. I’d be overjoyed to qualify again but that's probably not realistic. I'll just enjoy the crowd, have fun, and try not to think too much about pace.

The blue Fast Break Race Team singlet has been the shirt of choice for most of my races last year...and probably will be for this year too!

Dianna Leun, age 45

I started running after having 4 kids. I needed to get back into shape. The Boston Marathon is such a highly recognized race, so I wanted to give it a go. This year will be my second Boston Marathon.

The hardest part for me is not the qualifying part but getting to Boston. I don’t like to fly, so the first time, I had to overcome the fear of getting back on a plane. Thank goodness for friends!

The Chattanooga running community is a group of phenomenal individuals that share their support, encouragement, and wisdom. I have developed some amazing friendships while training with people that inspire me daily with their own personal journeys as well tolerate my quirky and colorful personality. Extremely thankful for everyone!

My goal for Boston 2017 is to finish strong.

David Kieu, age 41

I got into running in 2010 for the camaraderie, challenge, and competition. When you get into running, you generally pick up a Runner's World magazine and read it from beginning to end. There's always some article with the mention of Boston. So I was like, "I want to do it!" This year will be my third Boston. I've done it in 2012 and 2015.

I had some epic failures back in 2008. I winged it trying to qualify running the 2008 Battlefield Marathon. I took a sabbatical from running for the next two years. In September 2010, I started talking to Joey from Fast Break and he helped me develop some structure to training. The Georgia Publix Marathon in March 2011 is where I finally qualified with a 3:13. It was incredibly painful and amazing at the same time. Mantras really do work, I kept telling my self from mile 18 and on, "just hang on, you've come too far to quit!" I got through it, and it took two weeks for me to recover. Worth it! I continued to build off that race and others along the way. This is gonna sound odd but I like to have a hamburger, fries and a coke for dinner before a marathon. This is my third Boston marathon and I'm just looking to have fun and make some new friends! Running is truly great sport!

Good luck to everyone from Chattanooga who is running the Boston Marathon!