Interview with Nicole Lowe, Yes that’s me, by Mike King from the podcast and YouTube Channel “Profiling Evil.” It’s about my memoir, Never Let Me Go.
Nicole Lowe McBride lived on the streets from ages thirteen to sixteen. She faced many of the challenges homeless youth still face today including dropping out of school, drugs, inappropriate sexual advances, hunger, cold, and physical violence. Never Let Me Go is the story of how she went from vagrant to attorney. Nicole became addicted to hallucinogenic drugs and found herself tangled in gothic cult on the streets of Salt Lake City, Utah. She escaped phyiscal and sexual violence when she fled Salt Lake with another runaway teen ending up on the streets of San Franscico. Nicole’s belief in her fantasy world, propagated by the gothic cult, was upended as she hitchhiked with her new companions selling and using drugs and trying to survive.
At age sixteen, Nicole found herself back in Salt Lake and pregnant without much of a future for herself or her unborn child. When she first held her son, it changed her life and with his love she reclaimed her determination and will to survive. With only three credits toward her high school diploma, she returned to school and began to dream about the future they could have together.
As a single parent, Nicole graduated high school and entered college ultimately receiving her law degree from the S.J. Quinney College of Law at the University of Utah in 2008. Throughout her story, Nicole interlaces her experience as an assistant attorney general in the child protection division representing the Division of Child and Family Services in child welfare cases. Nicole’s experiences as a teen parallels many of the struggles she sees in the lives of parents in the child welfare system. As an attorney, she has dedicated her career to helping these families and her book is a testament to the tenacity of the human spirit.
Shuffle…shuffle…I’ve been tired, cold, hungry and alone. Shuffle… shuffle the difference now is that’s the beginning rather than the end. As a teen, I ran away from home, started using LSD, got sexually and physically assaulted. Some days I wanted it all to stop; most days I was able to convince myself to shuffle along. Head down, so no one would see me. Shoulders hunched, wanting to disappear into the night. When my son was born, I started picking up my feet a little higher, and didn’t trip on so may rocks. When I finished high school, I straightened my spine. When I graduated law school, I held up my head. The trail before me still had mountains, boulders and rivers to cross. I knew beyond the trees were the scorching depths of the canyons. Others were out there, continuing their shuffle tired, cold, hungry, but I wouldn’t let them do it alone. Others can learn from the miles I had spent on my fee; the ones begging on street and the ones celebrating the single track. The results of my miles are my story. It’s my greatest gift to myself and others. Shuffle…shuffle… tired, cold, hungry, and alone? That’s just mile seventy-five of a one hundred. It’s the beginning of the last marathon. It’s when I choose to dig deep. It’s where the real story starts. It’s when I write a blogpost. It’s when I write a novel. It’s when I rewrote my end, Never Let Me Go, a memoir.
What type of training plan do you work from? As runners gain more experience many shift to a cloud plan where there is no hardcopy or physical paper plan. The only plan is in their own head. I have done this and had great success. I have also had written plans and had great success.
Having a plan is critical for less experienced runners because it gives them a map to follow to get to their goal. It puts in place incremental steps that are more likely to avoid injury than just running. It keeps them accountable while they are reaching new goals. You also get to check off each box as you complete each workout which is quiet satisfying. You could even use a gold star or other sticker if you would like.
Another thing you can do with a hardcopy is create a line below each week that allows you to put in comments after each workout. This makes your training plan your training log as well. Keeping notes about how you feel and anything else you think might be important in the future, is very helpful the longer you run.
You can go back and look at what you have done in the past and then create new plans using that information. You may find that you get the most adaptation when you do hills rather than speed work. You may find that you really only need to do back to back long runs every other weekend to get the same benefits come race day.
The one thing you want to be aware of when you have a hardcopy plan is that it is still adjustable. If you feel like you are stretching yourself too thin or a certain workout is needs to move to a different day once or even permanently do it. Don’t be afraid to adjust things. You want to keep all the same elements and the progression but workouts can move around.
When you are using a cloud training plan, you are basically working off your experience as a runner and creating the plan as you go. This gives you a huge amount of flexibility. The biggest drawback, is you may not remember what you did when you are successful or feel that it was a great training block or you may not remember what you did when you found yourself injured.
Cloud training plans still follow a basic outline or structure. The runner knows what types of workouts need to be completed for the week. They have them planned out in the mind early in the week and then make it happen from there.
I have used both types of plans and had a lot of success. It is very freeing to use a cloud plan. It is also very satisfying to check off boxes and to not have to constantly make decisions about what to do each run or each week. It’s all there. You have all the elements required to be successful.
Runners new and runners old, use training programs. I think the big difference is that more experienced (old) runners know how to tweak theirs to make it the most beneficial for where they are at and where do you want to go. These are both big questions to ask yourself when you are either looking for a training program someone else has put together or building one for yourself. It takes a little honesty and a lot of introspection. Some runners like to have a written plan and others have a mental plan. Both are useful at certain times but I’ll cover that in a different post.
Where are you?
To create an effective training program for yourself you need to know where you are starting from. Do you have any injuries? this could be a current injury that you are recovering from or it can be something that is a reoccurring issue for you. What are you doing now to train? This takes into account your current fitness including your strength, aerobic fitness, and what you are running now. What is your life like? Think about how much time you have to train, what stressors you have or will have, and also other obligations you have to the world around you. These questions are not in any particular order and I could go on and on but these are essential things to know to build a training program that is going to start you off right.
Current and past injuries are relevant when creating a plan. The current injury is obvious because you need to continue to allow it to heal before you put too much stress on it. I’m a firm believer in active recovery, but it should be gentle. You should not be doing so much training that you leave your body without enough energy to heal.
Past injuries should be taken into account because you don’t want to repeat them. These could be things that have happened one time or they could be an issue that pops up every so often. It could also be a mild chronic issue rather than a acute injury you are healing from. If you have injured yourself doing certain types of training or by building your miles too fast, you know you should build slower or avoid some types of training.
If it’s something you can’t avoid, you need to do a better job preparing your body for it by building a foundation. To build a foundation thing about the different elements that you need to successfully complete the skill. Do you need some extra flexibility in a muscle or tendon? do you need more strength in supporting muscles? There might be a workaround as well. Some runners get injured every time they do speed training. If this is you, instead of doing 800s on the track, find a hill that is steep enough and long enough for you to do hill repeats.
Before you begin creating a plan, don’t change anything you are doing and really get to know where you are during your training. How do you feel? is it challenging? is it fun? are there things you think are missing from your training? What you are presently doing is where you want to begin unless you are already over doing it. If you are tired all the time, lack motivation and are grumpy, you may want to reduce your load for a couple weeks before you begin to build.
What your life is like has a huge impact on your training program. It places time constraints on you and it uses up energy. You may need to reduce training at times when you know that it’s going to be a stressful week. This can’t always be planned for but for things you know about, take them into account and reduce your training that week. By being proactive, you will make reaching your goal fitness easier. If you just push through everything, you will decrease your gains because you will either get injured or be too energy depleted.
Where do you want to go?
Many runners are training for something. Most often, it is a particular event. It can also be to reach a certain level of fitness such as be able to run continuously for one hour or run a 6 minute mile. Whatever your goal is, you need to build up to it.
If your goal is a certain fitness level, begin by thinking about the steps needed to improve what you are working on. Possibilities are strength, endurance, agility, and speed. Once you know specifically the elements you need to consider to reach your goal, start thinking about each one in both incremental and approaches terms. The key is to build up at a rate your body can handle. If you don’t know, keep it easy at first and then push a little more as you get to know your body. As far as approaches, this just means that there are different ways to approach a mountain (goal).
To build strength, you can go to the gym and lift heavy but low repetitions or light and high repetitions. You can also use your body weight. Are you going for overall strength or do you want to have fabulous biceps or glutes? The type of weigh you use changes the way your body builds muscle. Do some research and make sure you are doing what is going to get you where you want to go.
Endurance can also be hit using different types of exercises. Your passion may be running but sometimes it is good to cross train to reduce the impact and still build endurance. You can choose things that will enhance your running: elliptical, stair master, hiking, walking. You can also choose things that will give you a break from running such as swimming, rowing, and cycling.
If you are a trail runner, agility should be something you think about. I would encourage you to add some form of agility training to your program. For agility training, you can use real experience by finding a rocky section of trail and doing some repeats. Start with something flat before you add in the downhill. An agility ladder is also a great way to improve your foot work. Another, less well know strategy, is leg turnover. This really focuses on quickly picking up and putting down your feet. Spinning can be a good way to increase your leg turn over.
Speed training is something I love to hate. There are so many different types of speed training. You can do intervals of different distances. The most common are 400, 800 and one mile. You will want to take a recover lap or 2 minutes between each repeat. You can do random time sprints by adding in 30 second or 1 minute of fast running randomly through a run. You can do a pyramid by starting with an 400 then you go up and down: 400 rest 800 rest 1 mile rest 800 rest, 400 cool down. You can do a ladder by starting with 400 then you go up, 800 rest, 1 mile rest 1.5 miles. Another fun one is diagonals. Find a square or rectangle field. Run along one side at an easy pace and when you reach a corner you sprint diagonally to the opposite corner. Run/jog/walk along the side as a rest and when you reach the corner, sprint diagonally to the opposite corner. Here are some links to my prior posts on speed.
If your goal is a particular event, you will need to break it down into elements or the particular skills you will need to complete it successfully. It may have so many elements that you can only choose one or two as focus points. If you try to incorporate too many things into your training program you will plateau or over train or get injured. None of which you want. Possible elements to events are distance, ascents, descents, heat, cold, eating and mental training. All of these could be it’s own post. Lucky for you I have written them and linked them here for your enjoyment.
Dem bones, dem bones, den dancing bones; The foot bone’s connected to the leg bone, the leg bone’s connected to the knee bone, the knee bone’s connected to the thigh bone, Doin’ the skeleton dance.
When soft tissue issues crop up, it can be hard to tell where it is coming from. Most often this occurs in the lower leg and feet. You may have plantar fasciitis and then the worse that gets the more issues you have with your Achilles tendon and then your calf, perhaps your hamstrings. It could also be that you have tight hamstrings, which pull on your glutes or your knee or or calf, which then moves to your achilles and down to your toes.
For long time runners, it can be difficult to remember where it started. Was it upstream or downstream? who knows at this point. It can be very frustrating because you think you have one issue under control and then something else starts hurting.
Lower leg and foot issues are often exacerbated and even caused by weak hip and core issues. It’s all the kenetic chain effect. So how do you fix it? You have to work on it all at once because typically you can’t remember where it started and even if you know where the pain started that doesn’t mean that’s where the issue originated.
Core and hip stabilization and strength exercises are key to keeping your lower legs and feet happy. I’ve actually done a whole series of posts about strength training various parts of the body specific for running. If you are having an issue with a specific area, I recommend using that routine in conjunction with the Complete Strength Workout (all linked below). By doing that, you will repair and strengthen the area that is problematic and also prevent the injury from spreading and also prevent future injuries.
My other big big recommendation is foam rolling. I love foam rolling. I spend about 20 to 25 minutes every day foam rolling. Between the strength training and the foam rolling I have been able to prevent injuries and also to stop niggles from getting worse. I have linked my post about foam rolling below.
How do I know this is what is helping? because when I stop doing one or the other, it’s never at the same time, problems start to pop up and when I begin again, the problems go away. Yes I know that there is very mixed research on foam rolling. Research is great but personal experience is better.
I’m going to keep this post short because I really want you to click the links below and figure out which ones will help you. If you’re not having any issues currently I am strongly recommending that you look at both the Foam Rolling and the Complete Strength Workout.
There are as many reasons to run ultras as there are ultra runners. But I doubt anyone does it just for the buckles. Yeah, they’re pretty cool. Some people may even display them. Many marathon runners display their metals. All of my buckles are in a wooden box and my metals are in a sturdy plastic container. Both are on the top shelf of my closet.
For me, the metal or the buckle is just a bonus. I run ultradistance for the challenge, the community, the chance to be in my mountains, the freedom, to breath and to live. I love ultrarunning for the experiences, thoughts, insight, ideas, soul searching, and the understanding. I love the questioning, self doubt, fear, disappointment and failures.
I love it all in the end, but I may hate it in the moment. Ultrarunning takes a deep love and some serious determination. It is not for every runner. It is for the growing few.
I have found myself deep in the pain cave staring at my feet as I drag them along the trail only to glance up and meet the eyes of a serene doe watching from back in the trees, ears forward facing, just watching and that is enough for me. That one momentary connection with another soul, another heart that loves the mountains, the crisp pine and sage scented morning air, and the strange blue yellow light of the early clean dawn.
I’ve written about training partners in the past, but feel it is a good time to do so again. As the scientist are learning more and more about the Covid-19 virus and how it spreads, in addition to the vaccine being available to everyone over the age of 16, the time has come to start venturing out of our homes and associating with others again. Although for many, including myself, this will cause some anxiety and there will be hesitation in expanding one’s social circle.
My understanding of the CDC guidelines is that people who are vaccinated can gather in small groups without masks when outdoors. This means getting back in touch with our running groups and partners. Running with others can add a level of enjoyment and challenge to your running. You don’t always have to run with others, in fact, I recommend you spend some time, even some long runs, without anyone else.
If you are going to run with others, how do you make sure it is a healthy and supportive running relationship? For me the most important thing is supportive rather than competitive. Sure there can be some competition but it should never cross the line to the point that you would sacrifice the friendship or make someone feel less than good enough. I feel like the ultrarunning community and trail runners more generally tend to be more supportive. Not less competitive. It goes back to the supportive piece is the most important.
The second thing when running with a group or another person on a consistent basis, is to set the ground rules from the beginning. What happens during races? What happens when someone is injured? What happens when someone isn’t up to the scheduled workout for the day?
My rule about training and racing is train together don’t race together. This doesn’t mean you can’t run side by side or support each other or even hang back a bit for your training partner at times. It means you have to know when to run your own race and not try to keep pace with someone who is having an amazing day if you’re not and it means you have to let them go when you can’t keep up. Every race is different. You learn this the hard way when you’ve run 3 or 4 100s. You can have amazing training results and then fall flat or worse on race day for some unknown reason. If this happens you need to either let your partner go ahead and tell them to do so and if you are the one having a great day, give your slower friend a high five and tell them you will see them at the finish line no matter how long it takes them.
What if one of you gets injured during a race? Don’t drop out because your friend is unless you need to in order to assist your friend in getting medical care right away. During training, don’t skip training because your friend can’t go and the injured friend needs to encourage the other person to get out there and keep with the program. This can be hard if you are injured, especially when it is something that is going to keep you out for longer than a few days. It is easy to just not want to be around others who are finding joy and success in something that you can’t do and was (is) a big part of your life. At times like these it is important to remember you’re still a runner. You’re just an injured runner healing so you can come back stronger. There have been some amazing runners who have been out for a month or more due to injury who come back late in the season stronger than ever.
What happens if your partner isn’t up for the scheduled workout? it won’t hurt you to take an extra easy day. It will likely be good for you. Just don’t make it a routine. Try going to a track where you can do your speed work while your partner goes at a slower pace. You can chat on your recovery laps, your warm up and your cool down. You can also go to the gym and run side by side on treadmills set at different paces. There are options and it’s okay to stick with your friend at times. It becomes a problem if you are missing critical workouts on a routine basis.
Should you choose a partner who is faster or slower than you? Ideally you will find someone who is close to the same fitness level as you, but if you don’t, you can do easy or hard workouts together and then the opposite on your own. Don’t forget I said running alone is necessary as an ultrarunner.
As great as training partners are, running alone is a critical skill for an ultrarunner. One hundred miles is a long way, and one hundred mile events don’t typically have more than a few hundred runners. This means you are going to be alone. You could be alone for hours at a time. You need to be okay spending time in your own head and dealing with the mental challenges that come with ultrarunning when you are on your own. You have to master the mental game, which is a topic for another time (or you can look back on previous posts).
So many runners have an issue with taking “rest” days. I know I do. The purpose for taking rest days is to recover and rebuild your muscles so they are stronger and can withstand more rigorous training. It allows you to build your miles and increase your speed. It is the foundation to making running a life long sport and not just an “in the good old days” sport or “when I was younger…”
My goal is to run a 100 on my 100th birthday. Maybe it will happen maybe it won’t. One thing is for sure, I will be slower and I will need a full time pacer and crew. Something I have had to reconcile is this whole concept of rest. I have read books on rest and why it is important. I’ve heard pod cast after podcast and seen many videos and articles on rest.
Even with this information being spewed at runners from every media source available, we struggle. We fight taking rest days. We push through injuries and then our bodies make us stop. Doesn’t it make more sense to just take a day off here and there or to take a week of reduced miles every so often? yes but we’re ultrarunners and nothing in rest says ultra anything. Ultrarest? hmmmm questionable.
I’ve gotten better about taking rest. Some of that is from listening to Coaches David and Megan Roche from Some Work, All Play Running. Coach David Roche often says, taking three days off when you start to feel an issue is not going to hurt your training but it may save you from having a serious injury which can sideline you for a month or more. I’m paraphrasing and saying like I remember it, but it’s pretty much what he said.
I’ve tried to implement this in my running over the last six months and I believe it has prevented little issues from becoming big issues. So I would recommend this thinking to all other runners.
My other recommendation when it comes to “rest” days, is to not think about them as taking the day off or “resting” at all. Think of them as Rebuild days or Recovery days, which every you like. You can even double them up into Recovery and rebuild days.
Sometimes just a change in the language we use can totally change the way we view an idea or training concept. Do I always take a Rebuild day or week? Let’s just say it’s a work in progress.
So the pandemic got you down? or you just want a new adventure? plan your own 100 mile event. Plan it as a solo run or go out with some friends. Where do you begin? at the beginning, what route to take. Some of these things are things you have to do in every 100. Some are things particular to a solo/self planned 100.
The first thing you want to do when planning a solo 100 is to choose your route. Things to keep in mind when choosing your route: (1) crew access or places you can stash needed items, think aid stations, (2) how much elevation do you want? (3) is the route fully exposed or covered? (4) how long will it take you to finish this run?
You are most likely going to need to resupply, unless you want to carry a huge amount of stuff from the beginning weighing you down, and likely slowing you down. You can’t possibly carry enough water for the entire run. You can stash items along the route, if you have animal proof containers. You’ll have to get it to the location a day or two before. Think nonperishables. As for water, you can carry a filter and plan your route where there are lakes, rivers, or springs to refill. For me, I just ask my husband and adult children to meet me along the way with things I will need. The aid stations need to be accessible by car or hiking while carrying everything you will be needing. In planning aid stations, keep in mind how long it will take you to get from one place to the next. If there is a lot of elevation, it’s going to take more time. If it’s 10 miles between each stop, you will need less stuff each time compared to 20 miles between refills.
I have found it is easiest to just pack drop bags, write the “aid station” on some tape and stick it to the bag. I load them all in the car the night before so no one else has to figure out what needs to be taken to which spot. It’s all just there. As for food, pack a cooler the night before and load it into the car. Have a open box with other food items that can be easily accessed to refill.
Plan to use food that you can usually tolerate throughout a 100. You will likely have fewer options at each stop, so make sure there are things you can use on a regular basis and don’t get sick of. Have other supplies packed the night before as well, such as a blister kit, a bag with supplies to treat stomach issues or other chronic issues that may crop up during the run.
Give your crew a list of the aid stations that has the location, miles of your run, the earliest time you could arrive and then the latest time you could arrive. You don’t want to wait and you need them to resupply. At a 100 mile event, you can fill up with the aid station fare even if your crew misses you, in most cases, and just push on to the next meeting point.
People involved: (1) Will you have a crew? (2) If so, who is going to crew?, (3) who can be cheer leaders, (4) who can pace? If you are not going to have a crew, you should still prepare a chart of where you expect to be at certain times and give that to someone, or a couple of people. In the event you need to be found, or you don’t arrive at the finish when expected, they will have an idea of where and when you should have been.
Choose people who have crewed before if you can. Crewing for a 100 can be a bit of a challenge the first few times. Crewing a solo is more challenging, because you are all that your runner has. You are their motivation when it wanes. You are their doctor when their body is rebelling. You are the force feeder when they are not eating or drinking enough. You are the problem solver when shit comes up, and it will. Meet with your crew before the run and go over the plan, what you may need, and how to handle the unexpected.
Because you don’t have the excitement of running with a bunch of other people or the indirect support of all those who are out there suffering along side you, it is useful to have Cheer Leaders. People who come out just to tell you that you are doing a good job, to keep going, that you look good. You can also have your phone and just phone a friend when you need to. Another option is to put motivational quotes or letters from family/friends in your drop bags. Practice using a mantra.
Pacing, this is about the same as in any 100 event. Find someone who is entertaining to run along side you, to keep you on pace, to keep you on your route, and to keep you safe when you are tired. This person should probably know the route incase you are unable to navigate for some reason. Depending on the route you choose, they may not have route markings/flags to rely on. You can also use virtual pacers, if you have cell service along the route. You can call these people at all hours of the night, for someone to talk with or they can just talk with you as you run.
Supplies: (1) what is the temperature? (3) what is the weather likely to be? (3) what food will you need? (4) water or other liquids (5) blister kit (6) medical kit
Temperature impacts a lot of things during a 100. It changes what you wear, how much water and electrolytes you need, and how much food and what types of food you can tolerate. Pack your bags accordingly and have a few things to cover the spectrum of possibilities. Weather and temperature are often linked but not always. It can be rainy and hot. It can be sunny and cold. This changes what you will bring.
I mentioned a blister kit before, but am listing it again here. You have to be able to take care of your feet because no one is going to do it for you. The medical kit may contain medication for stomach issues, GI track problems, pain relievers, icy hot, athletic tape or kensieo tape, a knee or ankle brace.
Other things to consider: (1) when are you going to start your run? (2) where will you be at certain times during the day? (3) How can you motivate yourself without the excitement of the race and cut off times? (4) how to stop yourself from getting in the car.
When you start your run dictates when you will finish and what time you will be at various places. You may want to change your start time so you are able to reach certain locations at certain times of the day. Perhaps there is a narrow trail with a cliff on one side, or a technical descent and you may not want to do those at 2 or 3 in the morning when you are the most tired. Change your start time so you are unlikely to hit those points, if you can’t and still want to take the route, make sure you have a pacer.
Motivation to push hard when there is no finish line and no one to chase makes running a solo 100 an extra special challenge. Your crew can help you here and so can those cheer leaders I spoke about. Having a reason why you are doing it and a mantra can be enough to get you through. Remember that during any 100 there are good times and bad times. The bad times are always followed by good times. It will get easier and good again, you just have to keep going to get there.
It is easier to drop out of a solo 100 than a race. You need to have a crew that will push you out there more than normal. You need to give them specifics about what to do in various situations that may come up. Are there questions to ask to help you realize you’re fine to continue such as Have you worked through similar feelings in a race? Can you take a few minutes extra at a stop to recuperate? Can they meet you at the next stop with something extra special? Can they meet you an extra time at an unofficial cheering station?
Running a solo 100 is hard work. Let me know what you have done to make yours successful.
If ever I give advice to a person who wishes to improve their running or is just getting started the first thing is consistency. You have to be consistent in order to build a base, get stronger, become faster, and adapt to your training.
If you are not consistent, your body just doesn’t adjust and get stronger. Consistent doesn’t mean doing the same thing week in and week out. consistency means you are running on a regular basis multiple times a week. It’s getting out there when you don’t have the motivation to tie your shoes.
Running between four and six days a week is ideal for most runners. This gives you a rest day each week which reduces your chances of injury and gives your body total day to recover and rebuild. Tie those two words together, recover and rebuild, it makes taking a rest day much easier.
If you are constantly jumping around doing a run whenever you feel like it or going from running six days one week to two days the next, this isn’t going to help you reach goals. Sure you’ll be able to run a 5k without having to walk a bunch, but if you want to improve your time at a 5k or you want to run farther than a 5k, you must be consistent.
What happens if you’re not consistent? you get injured. You have to take time off to heal. Then you have to start over. That’s hard. It makes you not want to run anymore. Starting over Sucks.
If you don’t get injured, you are not going to improve. The older you get, the more true this becomes. Getting faster means you have to push yourself on a consistent basis, usually once or twice a week. You run speed drills and hill repeats. To go longer, you increase your miles in increments until you are able to run the distance you want.
Day by day, week by week, and month by month you get faster and your endurance, muscular and aerobic, improves. You are able to reach your goals and challenge yourself to new goals, a new distance or a faster time.
You’re going to have hard days. You’re going to have days you don’t want to get out and put in your miles. Is it okay to take an extra rest day when you’re tired and another aspect of your life has you stressed or overwhelmed? sure, just don’t make that a consistent practice.