Spectathletes Guide to Cheering on a Tri

SPECTATHLETE (n.): A person who, without interfering, watches and cheers for athletic events of all levels with remarkable enthusiasm. Often found on the sides of roads employing numerous props such as horns, vuvuzulas, pom-poms, silly hats, silly children, face paint, cowbells, posters, or large foam hands. These fanatical spectators are often characterized by a determination to hit every spot to cheer on their athlete and hoarse voices from excessive yelling.

E.G. - "Those daggum Chattanooga spectathletes done bought up all the cowbells, and now we don't have any for old Bessie to wear!"

A local spectathlete in his natural habitat.

A local spectathlete in his natural habitat.

Spectating a long distance triathlon requires training, preparation, dedication, and energy. Your athlete might be swimming, biking, and running all in one day in a short period of time, but you have to be in all the right places at the right time saying the right things, balancing waving your foam finger, giant sign, pom-poms, and cowbells all at the same time, then yelling at the top of your lungs only to watch your athlete for twenty seconds or less. But without your support, your athlete could have a rough day. Your encouraging words could bring them out of a funk, they could lift their spirits to soar to the finish line. The stakes are high. Are YOU cut out to be a Spectathlete?

Here are our pro-tips for all aspiring Spectathletes:

WAKE UP EARLY. Beat the crowds. Offer to drive your athlete if they need it. This may mean rolling out of bed at 4:45 am and sherpa carrying his gear to the T1 or T2 (transition 1 or 2). Make some coffee, plaster a smile on your face, and embrace the experience!

KNOW THE COURSE. Take some time the week before to look at the race course and plan the spots you want to cheer from. Notice where roads are closed and where you can or can’t walk. You CANNOT move barricades, so plan before hand your method of movement. Know your athlete’s split time goals, then plan to arrive early and stay later at those spots to make sure you see them. For a half distance triathlon, add 15-20 minute windows. For a long distance triathlon, add 30 minutes.

PACK FOR THE DAY. Just like your triathlete has all her clothes, socks, bike, goggles, and food planned out, so must you. Create a checklist and pack the night before. You will need a costume, cowbells, tutus, pom-poms, air horns, electrolyte mix, water, food, chair, posters, beer, ice, music, speakers, and possibly a tandem bicycle. It’s going to be a long day and there will be lots of downtimes, so pack a book to read or cards to play as well.

spectathlete

CHEER FOR ANYONE AND EVERYONE. There will be lots of waiting for your triathlete. Don’t stand there quiet and still as the others zoom past. Cheer for everyone! All motivation is helpful! Pick out specific people and yell them on. “Hey dude in green, you’re doing great!” “Yellow shoe girl, keep at it!” “Look at that girl, she’s still smiling! You’ve got this!”

MAKE SIGNS. Words of encouragement whether on signs or posters or notes in your athletes shoes the morning of are a great way to show support. Holding up funny, large posters are a good idea, as long as they are nice. Sometimes humor can bring a good laugh during a long stretch of suffering. Posters like “Worst parade ever!” are a great idea. But avoid phrases like, “You look great.” No, they don’t. They’re covered in sweat and salt and working their hardest, but this isn’t their best look. Rather, encourage them with, “You are strong! You are brave!” or “Keep going! You’ve worked so hard for this!”  

A big no-no is signs and cheers that involve distances. You don’t want to write or yell, “One more mile to go!” when there’s actually 1.2795 miles to go. Athletes count down every foot of a race. Don’t lie or create false hope. Phrases like “you are almost there!” or “so close” are unhelpful. Use general positive affirmation instead.

triathlete

CHEER FROM THE SIDELINES. Don’t get into competitors’ faces. Don’t high five unless you know them well, and never jump in front of a competitor! Stay on the side of the road. If you want to be seen by your athlete, wear a big T-Rex costume. Such costumes are also helpful for life in general and receiving a maximal number of high fives. Embrace life. Be a T-Rex.

MAKE SOME NOISE. Pack those cowbells, bring out those loud speakers, buy a giant drum! Sometimes a fast beat is a perfect pick-me-up during the run when there’s more time to listen to it. During the bike, cowbells are a great option to be heard as the bikes whiz by.

TEND TO IMMEDIATE NEEDS POST RACE. When your athlete finishes, he may have temporarily digressed to baby hand signals and giant smiles. Help him up, give him a huge hug, walk him to a chair, hand him water (or a beer) and offer to get his gear. He will be smelly, salt-caked, sweaty, and generally not fit for human contact, but plaster a huge smile on your face (once again) and be excited that he finished!

BRACE YOURSELF FOR ALL THE EMOTIONS. Once words return to her brain, your athlete will want to walk through every single second of her day. Sit down, listen well. She just spent months training for an event that ended within hours. Her body is exhausted and depleted. There may be laughter, tears, snorts, and lots of snot. But stay by her side, listening and appreciating her story of conquering a race.

Spectathlete

You're all set! Gear up and get out here this weekend to cheer on Worlds IRONMAN 70.3 in Chattanooga! Cheer for our own Fast Breaker Seth as he competes! Pull out them cow bells!

Chasing Olympic Dreams: One Runner's Battle for Olympic Glory and Life Itself

CHASING CHILDHOOD DREAMS

Childhood dreams start with a flame of inspiration. Sometimes the flame is fanned and pushed into a fire that drives an entire life. For Brandon Hudgins, that childhood dream was to compete in track in the Olympic games. Back in high school, Brandon had sat in front of the TV and watched Alan Webb break the four-minute mile with his stunning time of 3:53. One day, he knew, that would be him. His dream led him to run track and cross country at Winthrop University. But during his sophomore year, at age 21, barely into a promising college running career, Brandon started suffering from debilitating “joint pain, breathing problems, hearing loss, extreme fatigue, sinus infections, bloody noses, night sweats, circulation problems, and kidney issues.” It took a team of doctors six months to diagnose the autoimmune disease known as Vasculitis, or more specifically Granulomatosis with Polyangiitis. In short, Brandon’s immune system attacks some of his own organs. The disease halted his running and threatened his life, but it didn’t stop him.

Brandon Hudgins

At the present, Vasculitis does not have a known cure. When he was first diagnosed, Brandon went through numerous rounds of chemotherapy and injections. “They’re basically trying to reset my immune system. They destroy all my B cells, where my problem is. But since it’s not perfect, [the medicine] kills a lot of other cells in the process… so then I’m on drugs cause I’m on drugs,” said Brandon.

LIFE’S HURDLES AND HELPERS

Brandon was forced to stop running the rest of his college career to treat the disease. He described his early twenties battle with Vasculitis as “an emotional roller coaster.” However, his body was eventually able to recover enough to allow him to complete his remaining two years of NCAA eligibility running for Appalachian State in Boone, N.C. while gaining his graduate degree. It was in Boone that Brandon first ran into, or technically against, the late Chattanooga pro-runner, Cameron Bean, who was running for Samford University at the time.

Cameron was known by his friends and family as having a good heart, pushing people to live healthy lives, follow their dreams, and “just go for a run.” But Brandon’s relationship with Cameron did not start out so smoothly.

“We hated Cameron because he was who he was,” said Brandon. “When that guy is on the other side of the fence, kind of like dogs, you're barking at the each other.”

But when Cameron eventually moved from Chattanooga to Boone to join the professional running team Zap Fitness, Brandon and Cameron realized they had a lot in common and became fast friends.

“I actually got some grief from the older guys [on my team] who said, ‘I can't believe you're hanging out with him!’ And I was like, ‘Sorry he's actually cool!’” Brandon said. “Of course, he eventually, always, won everyone over who he came into contact with.”

Cameron’s enthusiasm for life and perpetual encouragement to everyone to always be their best played an influential role in Brandon’s life as he was becoming a faster, stronger runner.

Before finishing grad school, Brandon ran a 3:45 in the 1500 meters, pushing him closer than ever before to his Olympic dreams. But soon after graduating and returning home to work, Vasculitis struck again. Brandon struggled through back to back relapses in 2012 and 2013. Hardly able to get out of bed on his own, his running dreams seemed to have finally come to an end. At one point, in total despair, he threw all his running gear in the trash can.

“It’s humbling,” Brandon says. “I didn't always handle it very well. I've gotten a lot of diseased induced anxiety and depression problems from it.”

After his third total relapse in April 2013, still weak but feeling better, Brandon decided to return to Boone. Life had been good there, maybe the disease’s relapses were environmentally induced. Cameron and friends helped him get a job at a resort where Brandon worked as a valet while figuring out what was next in life.

His body was returning to health, but beside short, recreational run, Brandon was no longer training, no longer chasing the dream. He was at a crossroads in life. Did he move on and coach high school track, or leave the running scene completely? Then, one morning, Cameron and an old teammate from Appalachian State invited Brandon on a run that would change his life’s course.

The three young men started out at a decent pace, but soon they had kicked it up a notch to a speed that Brandon had not tapped into in months.

“It was the first time in so long that I could remember not just enjoying the run, but feeling like a real runner again,” Brandon said. “I wasn't running with a shitty engine or feeling closed off. It was probably one of the most pure runs I have done my entire life.” They closed up in the last five miles, pushing the pace, stretching Brandon’s physical limits. But he was able to hang with them. His body had not forgotten was it was like to push hard and open up. And it was at the end of that run with Cameron that Brandon realized he missed it. He couldn’t desert his lifelong dream to break four minutes in the mile and chase the Olympics. So he decided to give it his all.

THE TRAGEDY AND THE COMEBACK

Brandon remained working at the resort so that he could train with a coach. His health stayed strong, with only a “minor hernia surgery” that took him out for a few weeks, nothing compared to the years of non-running from Vasculitis. He trained mostly by himself for the 1500 meters distance. He eventually became the 448th American to break the four-minute mile barrier. Always supportive, Cameron was there to cheer him on, one of the last times the two would see each other.

Brandon Hudgins running a sub-four minute mile.

Brandon Hudgins running a sub-four minute mile.

That October, while at work, Brandon got the text from Cameron’s girlfriend that he had been hit by a car while running on Moccasin Bend Road in Chattanooga. “We had no idea how serious it was,” said Brandon. Two days later, they learned that Cameron had passed away. Brandon called Cameron’s Zap Fitness coach and fellow runners to give them the news.

Devastated by the loss of his friend, Brandon knew that Cameron, maybe more than anyone else, would have wanted him to continue trying for the Olympics. He raced several months later at the Furman Elite Meet and brought his 1500 meter time down to run 3:38, finally qualifying him for the 2016 Olympic trials.

“Cameron helped me to live my life better, after his death. He always kept things light and away from the anxiety,” recalls Brandon. “I probably would have done better at the trials if he had been there to keep my mind from being anxious.”

For as he got closer and closer to the trials, the depression, anxiety caused by his health issues during the past almost ten years started hitting Brandon, hard.

“Instead of that being an asset, instead of using that as a tool, I felt the weight of everything I had been through on the starting line,” remembers Brandon.

At the Olympic trials in Oregon, Brandon ran a 3:43 in the 1500 to progress him to Friday’s rainy semifinals. Runners were tumbling down on the wet track, forcing Hudgins and the other competitors to hurdle over them. In the semifinals, Brandon finished ninth in the first of two heats, ending his 2016 Olympic trials.

“I handled the trials so poorly emotionally,” Brandon says. “I wasn't able to super enjoy being there. I knew I was in much better shape than how I performed, and that happens to a lot of people on that stage. But that was also my first time ever on a big stage like that. I wasn't really mentally equipped to handle that pressure, plus all the self-imposed pressure that I had put on myself.”

With much disappointment but with his eyes already set on the 2020 Olympics, Brandon left Oregon to join the Bean family weeks later in Chattanooga to celebrate the life of his friend in the inaugural Cam Run 5k and Magnum Mile. After finishing second in the 5k, he circled back around to high five every runner through the finish line. Then later that night, he swept the field in the mile, the event Cameron had won just one year before.

 
Brandon Hudgins competing at the 2016 Olympic Trials in Oregon.

Brandon Hudgins competing at the 2016 Olympic Trials in Oregon.

 

STILL CHASING THE DREAM

This past January, Brandon experienced his fourth relapse of Vasculitis. But this time he was more prepared to fight the emotional and mental battle.

“I've learned a lot because of all that,” Brandon says. “I have to ride it out a little more and stuff, like being involved with the Vasculitis Foundation and having all these people invested in the journey, has helped keep me on solid mental ground.”

Recently sponsored by Skechers, who has supported him through the ups and downs of his disease these last few months, Brandon plans to resume training for the 2020 Olympics once his strength and health returns.

Brandon published his first book last Tuesday that covers the mental and emotional struggles he has faced and pushed through over the past ten years and continues to push through to achieve his childhood dream of Olympic glory.

Brandon Hudgins talking at a camp through the Vasculitis Foundation.

Brandon Hudgins talking at a camp through the Vasculitis Foundation.

“I want people to find their passionate desires in life that can lead them to be really dedicated to something and achieve a goal,” Brandon said. “I think when you have those things it makes all the other obstacles you go through easier to tackle and manage. Really at the end of the day, I want to inspire people to chase their dreams and don't let their circumstances dictate them.”

Brandon plans to resume training once his health has fully returned after this last relapse. The hurdles this time come in the form of injections of the drug Rituxan every six months to fight his B-cells. He will be done with the treatments and free of drugs for one and a half years before the 2020 Olympic trials. There are still times and goals that he wants to achieve before he ends his running career.

“I basically don’t want to grow up,” said Brandon. “I still have that childhood dream.”

 

Join us at Warehouse Row on Friday, August 25 from 5;00-9:00 p.m. for the Cam Run 5k packet pick-up and the chance to meet and talk to Brandon about his book.

 

 

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.

HOW DID YOU GET INTO RUNNING?

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

WHEN DID YOU START DREAMING OF HARDROCK?

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.

 

WHAT WAS YOUR TRAINING LIKE?

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.

 

HOW DID YOU HANDLE THE ELEVATION?

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.


WALK US THROUGH RACE DAY.

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

 YOU'VE FINISHED YOUR DREAM RACE. WHAT’S NEXT?

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

WHAT WAS YOUR BIGGEST TAKE AWAY FROM YOUR FIRST HARDROCK?

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.

Weight

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?

Breathable

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.

Waterproof

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.

Protection

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!

T2 - BIKE TO RUN

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!