Cut It Short?

There is a time and place when we have to cut our runs short. This can be a very difficult choice for many runners, especially, those who have a busy scheduled with little flexibility. So what do you do when, you reach a point in your run and begin to think it might be best to cut it short?

I’ve had this thought a bunch of times out on the trail. The struggle is deciding whether or not this is a real reason to cut a run or if this is a day where you need to push through a tough spot in a run. We all have tough spots in runs and as ultrarunners, it’s very important to learn how to push through those.

There are a few things to take into consideration when making the choice to either push through a training run or to cut is short. Start by asking yourself just how weak and tired you actually feel? If you are exhausted and have nothing to give-cut it short. If it feels more like a time when your energy has just bottomed out but will come back with a snack-get a snack and push on through.

What about the middle? If you’re some where in the middle you have to ask more questions: First, what do you have planned the rest of the day? If you have a jam packed schedule requiring concentration and focus, cut the run short. If you have a day of other physical activities, cut the run short. If you have a day free from mental and physical strain and think you can spend that time recovering on the couch with a good book or movie, go ahead and finish the run.

Second, what has your sleep and rest looked like over the last week? what does your future schedule hold for sleep and rest? If you’ve had little rest and no high quality sleep for the past few days and you’re looking at more of the same, cut the run short. If you’ve had horrible sleep, but this will improve beginning with the next day, go ahead and finish the run.

Third, are you nursing any injuries? if you have that telltale twinge from your ankle, hamstring or hip flexor that says you’re pushing the limit, cut the run short. Running when you feel weak and tired coupled with a problematic area feeling twingy is not a good combination. You could end up taking a week or more off if you make a poor choice in your foot plant or just push the muscle/tendon beyond what it can do that day.

Fourth,  what does your running schedule look like the rest of the week? if you have another hard run in 48 hours, cut your run short. If you have a few easy days or are willing to adjust them to easy days, go ahead and finish the run. BUT you have to be able to stick to the easy days.

Cutting a run short is a difficult decision. You have to learn to listen to your body and know when it’s a head game and when it’s time to rest.


Don’t Become Stagnant


Do you run the same routes and distances every week? I hope not, especially, if your goal is to improve your running. It’s important to change things up and challenge your body in new ways. The body learns to run the same old stuff very efficiently. Once it does this, you stop getting gains in your running.

Most training programs include a couple of easy runs, one speed work, and then a long run on the weekend. This is pretty much true regardless of distance.

Having a couple of easy days is important for your body to recover and I don’t think you need to mess with these. Easy days should be at conversation pace. The distance depends on the distance of the race you’re training for and if you’re not training for an event, it would be based upon the distance you like to run on the weekends.

Speed work is a wonderful way to work on your leg turnover even if your focus is not speed but endurance. Being able to move your feet quickly is helpful for steep descents and technical terrain. There are many different types of speed work including intervals, ladders, and tempo runs.

Interval runs consist of a specific distance of a mile or less run at a 90% effort and then either a 200 meter or 400 meter cool down. Then you repeat them. The number of repeats again is tied to the distance of your long run on the weekend.

Ladders are when you increase the distance with each interval. You still have the 200 or 400 meter rest, but the first interval would be 400, the second would be 800, the third one mile, and the fourth a mile and a half. You can create a pyramid by coming back down, one mile, 800 and 400 with the mile and half being the apex.

Tempo runs are when you run a 800 to one mile warm up (actually you should be running a warm up with all speed work) and then run 4 or 5 miles at about 80% effort or race pace.

Of course these are just a few examples, and if you google you will find a ton more. When doing speed work make sure you are not putting it back to back with another hard workout such as a long run. Speed work is hard on your body and it needs an easy run or rest day to follow.

Another way to mix up speed work is not to run speed at all, but hills. You can find a long gradual climb of a few miles or you can do hill repeats (gag). With hill repeats, your rest is on the downhill. So run hard up and then slow down, repeat.

Long runs are another essential part of training, but there are options here as well. You can add in Fartleks. Fartlek means, “speed play.” What you do is pick a point in front of you during a long run. It doesn’t have to be very far out. And then run it hard. You can do this as many times as you’d like and change up the distance each time. This is also good for those who get bored during long runs.

Change up your route for your long runs too. Add some hills, some trails, or run through a park or two. If you run through a park with a playground you can stop and do some pull ups or go down the slide (why not?).

My final suggestion to mix it up and prevent that stagnation is to throw in some other exercises every mile or so during a long run. Stop and do some pushups, burpees, or jumping jacks. Run with high knees or butt kicks.

Changing things up forces your body to adapt in new ways. This means it gets stronger, which is what you want.

What do you mean easy days?

track run

“These are hard,” Spongebunny said breathless.

“Only three more, you’re halfway.” I smiled and kept pushing the six minute pace.

Running is never easy, right? Wrong. Many beginning and experienced runners run too hard on their easy run days. Each of your runs should serve a specific purpose. Running too hard on easy days compromises your ability to benefit from your quality workouts.

Easy run means run at a pace where you can hold a conversation of about three sentences at a time with another runner. The goal of an easy run is to keep your muscles loose and to work on your aerobic system. You are increasing the efficiency of blood flow to your lungs, heart, and blood vessels.  You are teaching your body to metabolize and uptake oxygen faster and more efficiently.

Anaerobic on the other hand increases your power, strength, and speed. This is what you are doing when you run hills and speed work. Running hard is expected and desired. Push to your body to its limit and then do one more.

“This will get easier right?” Spongebunny asked.

I laughed. “Yes, but then you just add more repetitions.”

“Why are we doing this?”

“If you want to get faster, you have to train to run fast. Teach your body what it can do,” I said, my breathing regaining the slow rhythm of the recovery lap.

“So, I should be running all my runs harder?”

I shook my head back and forth. “Nope. Respect the easy days. The reason I can put up numbers like 7:00 minute miles for a six miles after swimming and cycling, is because I respect my easy days. If I push hard on all of my runs, my body cannot recover and the quality of my hill training and speed work will seriously decline.”

My easy days are done at whatever pace my body needs. Most days that is a 9-930 minute per mile pace. But, some days it is a 10-10:30 pace and that’s okay. In fact, it’s great because it reminds me that I need my easy days. I don’t worry about the pace of the run, I focus on how I feel during the run. There should be no burning muscles or lungs. No wheezing or gulping air and definitely no vomiting.

Respecting the easy days, allows you to be at the top of your game on the hard days. This really applies to all aspects of life work, parenting, and socializing. Life is full of ups and downs. Enjoy those recovery days because you’re going to have to dig deep sometimes sooner than you realize.


Wolf Moon Weekend


The glaring light pierced my eye through the crack in the window curtains at 3:00 in the morning. Incoherent and blinded, I peered out to see what or who was in my backyard with a spotlight. It was the moon. Comforted, my head hit the pillow for another hour.

At 4:30 am, I stepped out the front door, clicked on my Garmin, and began putting one foot in front of the other going west along toward the farms on the outskirts of the city. Once I was out among the fields of amber waiving grain, I turned to look at the purple mountains to see if the sun was lighting up the canyons yet. Not quiet.

In the west was the Great Salt Lake and Antelope Island. Above the island was the moon. It was huge hanging there in the early morning sky watching the world go to sleep on one side and come to life on the other.

After ten miles, I met up with my friend Jeff, and we went south beginning a twelve-mile loop of long steady hills. We strategized our next relay race. Jeff will be my co-captain at Epic Relay, and we’ve never run a relay with time cut offs. We discussed nutrition, the Spudman triathlon, and Pony Express 100.

We began our last long climb along highway 89. Highway 89 has a speed limit of 55 mph. It is four lanes across and has a center turning lane. We pulled in behind another runner plodding along in our direction. I paused in our conversation and then said, “Was that what I think it was?”

The runner in front of us continued along the road, head down, so the wind from the traffic didn’t grab ahold of the bill of her hat.

“What?” he asked.

I stopped, turned around, and pointed to something on the edge of the highway. Just off the pavement, in the weeds and scattered gravel, lay what appeared to be a body. Black shoes stuck out the bottom of a thin grey blanket. Jeff stared. I stared. We stared at each other.

“Should I call?” I asked.


“Let’s see if the person is alive first.”

Jeff nodded.

We took a few steps, and then a few more.  Now we could see the person was rocking back and forth a little. About two feet from the body, Jeff said, “Are you alright? Do you need some help?”

No response.

“Excuse me. Hello. Are you alright?” I said.

No response.

I stepped back and dialed 911.

I gave the dispatcher our location and explained that there was a person lying on the side of the highway wrapped in a blanket.

The man stood up. He was six feet tall. He didn’t look that big while lying there, I thought. His grey stubble on his chin was in high contrast to his milk chocolate skin. His eyes were bloodshot. His jeans were coated in black. The light brown jacket was worn white at the elbows. He turned and looked at me.

“Hold on, he just got up,” I told the dispatcher.

“Does he look alright?” she asked. The cars and sixteen-wheel diesel’s continued whipping by us.

“He looks okay. He’s walking south along the highway.”

“Should we send someone?”

“I think someone ought to check on him,” I said. He bent down and picked up two plastic grocery store bags caught in the yellow weeds. He again turned and looked at me with dim eyes.

“Alright we’ll send someone.”

“Thank you.” I hung up the phone.

Jeff and I continued and turned down a neighborhood street to finish our loop.

Back at home, I told Jasper (17) what happened and he said, “Probably a werewolf mom. Did you see the moon?”

Dirt, Rocks, and Rivers

The Wasatch 100 is my ultimate goal race. I know that it is probably still a few years away for me because of the training time commitment due to the 26,000 feet of elevation gain and time cutoffs. The starting line for Wasatch is less than five miles from my house. I ran four miles on the trail (Bonneville Shoreline Trail) this morning. I have missed trail running throughout the winter, and I’m excited to be able to get up there and train on the BST again. Nothing compares to running the single track. It ignites an unbounded joy within me. My fingers brush the leaves as I pass. I skip through the river, splashing water with childlike enthusiasm. I laugh out loud because I feel so free and fortunate to be able to connect with the earth one foot at a time.

I was surprised to see so many other women runners on the trail this morning. Usually, all I see are dudes on mountain bikes and male runners. I love to see other women out there, becoming stronger and playing in the dirt.

Trail running takes practice. The more you jump rocks and descend crazy slopes the better you are going to get. That being said, there are some things you can start with. When you are running uphill don’t tip your hips forward or back too much. Try to keep things straight up and down, keeping your chest up and open. Shorten your stride and pump your arms. Stay up on your toes as much as you can. Sometimes the mountain is so steep it is faster to walk. If that is the case, don’t waste all the energy trying to run it, you look silly anyway as hikers pass you as you try to power up the hill.

Going down can be more difficult in some ways. You want to lean into the forward momentum. You will slip out less if you keep your weight on your toes on steep descents. Landing on your heel is like putting the brakes on. It causes jarring all the way up your body. Keep your stride short and fast. If there are a lot of rocks, keep them really short and fast. Put your arms or elbows out for balance. I try to keep my hands empty on crazy descents. That way if I fall I don’t have to search for whatever I chucked or replace what I break.

Whenever you are trail running you want to watch the ground in front of you about two feet and then farther down about 10-15 feet, so you know what is coming. Make sure and give yourself enough time to get your run in. Trail running takes longer because of the climbs and more technical terrain, especially when you are first starting out.
Road shoes work fine on non-technical trails, but if you are going to be doing a lot of trail running or there are steep climbs or descents you may want to invest in some trail shoes. Always tell others where you will be and what time you intend to be back.
If you run trails, you are going to run into animals and bugs. There will be other runners with dogs, horses, deer, foxes, moose, buffalo, snakes, and possibly more dangerous animals such as mountain lions and bears. Mountain bikers probably fit in here somewhere too.

Best advice I can give is to be aware of what could be out there and then to pay attention. Make some noise out there on the trail, talking, and bells if bears are a serious risk, or sing. Occasionally I will just say something aloud just to hear my voice. It’s kind of weird. I also carry pepper spray, extra flashlight and a whistle when I am on the trail. Most of the time you are going to scare off whatever is lurking and only see its tail end, if anything. If you do see something and don’t scare it away, immediately slow down. If it is a predator, make yourself look big, make loud noises, get the pepper spray out, and look around for a big stick. Do not run. Back away slowly from the animal, get off the trail, and warn any other person you see going up there.

It is good to have someone with you, but I know this is not always possible and you still want to be out there. Just do what you can to protect yourself and be prepared. Not having a running partner prevented me from running trails for a while, but I realized that the roads pose just as much risk if not more than the trails.

Be smart and run happy!