An interesting read from RADrabbit Eric Oliva who is a shoe fit specialist at St. Pete Running Company as well as a firefighter for the City of Seminole. Eric developed this guide to help new store employees help customers find the right shoes for their needs.
For communication to work, there must be “sender” and a “receiver.” However, if the receiver can’t translate the message or simply interprets the meanings of the words differently, then it is not effective. Just as countries around the world have developed unique languages throughout their history, sub communities within them such as social groups, career fields, and sports teams have also developed a unique way to communicate. Their methods are often characterized by using slang terms or alternate meanings for words also used in their native tongue.
Running has certainly developed its own language, but instead of explaining terms like “fartlek,” “Bonk,” or “LSD Run,” I’d like to make the shoe wall at the store seem a little less intimidating…and maybe more understandable.
First off, no single brand of shoe is better than any of the others, I assure you that each is just as capable and durable as the next. We have personally run in and researched every shoe before it makes an appearance on the wall at St. Pete Running Company. A higher price does not necessarily mean a better shoe. What is “better” for you will be determined by things like your mechanics, the fit and your goals rather than the price or color scheme. We will circle back to this later…Within each brand, you will see, generally, each a premium neutral and premium stability model, each a standard neutral and standard stability model, and a responsive lightweight model.
Premium vs. Standard: “The more expensive one must be a better shoe…right?”
Besides price, the difference between a standard model and a premium model is that the premium models are outfitted with all the latest and greatest technology that the brand has released. New features like this will often debut on their premium models and then trickle down to lower priced models in the following year's update. There is another side of this coin though; while you get all the new tech, extra attention to comfort and more cushioning, it comes along with an added weight penalty. Somebody who is running a lot of miles, just getting back into running, has previous injuries, or is trying to correct some mechanics may benefit from these features and not care about he added weight. Others might favor a standard model where the company pics and chooses which features to trickle down in order to find the right balance of effectiveness, comfort, and weight.
Neutral vs. Stability: “I don’t need a stability shoe to get arch support?”
Probably the most important sub-categories to recognize within each brand are the neutral models and the stability models. Most simply, a neutral shoe will have little to no effect on your natural stride while a stability shoe is constructed in such a way to prevent your foot/ankle from crashing inwards on your arch when you bear weight on it in stride. I say that this is the most important category to distinguish between because it has the most direct impact on the prevention or causation of several running injuries. Before digging any deeper here, it is important to note that you are not a better or worse runner for falling into either of these two categories and just because you are fitted for a stability shoe one time doesn’t mean you won’t be fitted for a neutral shoe down the line, or vice versa. Many things will affect this such as running form, body mechanics, injuries, physical traits and sometimes even the pace you are running.
A neutral runner’s foot will tend to stay relatively flat on the running surface or may roll to the outside edge which would be called underpronation, or supination. If a neutral runner who already tends to favor a supinated foot motion were to run in a stability shoe, it could push them further to the outside edge causing pain on the outside of the foot, knee, or IT band.
The opposite of underpronation is overpronation which is when ankle and foot tend to roll inwards towards the runner’s arch as they bear weight on it through their stride. Often, the outside edge of the shoe is lifted from the running surface. Each of the brands accomplish this somewhat differently, but a stability model shoe will use a more dense foam, plastic support, or a combination of the two on the arch side of the midsole in order to prevent the inward rolling of the ankle, thus keeping the runner’s foot flat on the running surface.
Remember, overpronation or underpronation does not refer to the orientation of the toes from the body (duck-footed, or pigeon-toed), but rather the relationship of the entire foot and ankle relative to the running surface. In addition, other features a runner may desire in a shoe such as arch support, level of cushioning or a wide/narrow toe box can be found in both a neutral or a stability type shoe.
Responsive & Lightweight: “What is heel-toe-drop and does it even matter?”
While it is nice to have the added protection and softer under-foot feeling of a standard or premium daily trainer, there are shoes designed to be lighter weight, feel more “springy” and facilitate a faster running pace. This level of “springiness” is called responsiveness referring to the shoe's response to your toe off and forward motion as you pick up the pace. When running faster, you don’t want to lose any of your effort sinking into the enjoyable cushioning of your daily trainer so these shoes react any effort you exert maximizing rebound and forward motion. This translates to less required effort to go faster! It is a good idea to own this type of shoe as a second shoe rotated into your training for speedwork, tempo runs and race day.
These responsive, lightweight models may also be referred to as a performance or up-tempo running shoe. Same as stability features, what makes a shoe more responsive is slightly different across the brands, but in general, there is a lesser amount of foam between your foot and the ground, a different, more firm or springy foam is used instead. Manufactures can also achieve a snappier feeling by cutting the flex grooves on the bottom shallower or utilizing a polymer insert as part of the midsole. While some are built on a platform made to feel familiar to a daily trainer, most will have a heel-toe-drop 1/3 to 1/2 that of your daily trainer. Heel-toe-drop (or “drop”) is measured in millimeters and describes the difference in elevation from the ground between your heel and forefoot. For example, if you stood barefoot, they would both be equal in elevation from the ground and measured as a 0mm drop. In most cases, a daily trainer will range between 10-12mm and a responsive lightweight model will range between 4-6mm. A lower drop shoe will be lighter and can facilitate better running form, but a higher drop shoe will protect those who have a history of chronic calf tightness, achilles injuries or even plantar fasciitis.
How do I know which shoe I need?
At St. Pete Running Company we use a unique process called StrideSmart to find the shoe with perfect fit for you on an individual, on a case-by-case basis. Just through conversation we will key in on information you provide regarding your medical history, past running accomplishments, current training and future goals to kickstart the fit process. You then will have the opportunity to see yourself, in slow-motion video, perform a few movements on the store floor and run/walk on a treadmill from multiple angles. Together, we will review this to offer advice on running form and to identify muscle imbalances, tightness or pronation. The combination of our conversation and what we see in the video translates to that overwhelming shoe wall being reduced to a handful of models matched perfectly to you. The last step is trying them on, choosing the best fit and then accomplishing your goals!
One of our incredibly talented rabbitELITE team members, Ericka Charles, shares the inspiring story of her excellent high school running career, how that turned into a disappointing college career, but how she overcame that to reveal a very bright post-collegiate future ahead!
I graduated from the College of Health and Human Performance at East Carolina University in 2011 where I learned to love biomechanics; everything about body's movement and the different muscle groups. Believe it or not, I do 500 crunches a night to keep my six-pack shredded and so I can earn my favorite food, pizza, in the off-season. For fun, while on long runs, I calculate splits in my head - I have this thing for research and crunching numbers which makes me a better runner.
I started my track and field career in 8th grade under the tutelage of my teacher, Cheryl Bowden. During class, after our warm-up and stretching, the class was asked to run two laps around the gym bleachers. I was very fast and would sprint, instead of jogging. I caught and passed everyone, including the boys. Coach Bowden was also the head coach for the middle school girls' track team. Sometimes, she would give the class a head start running and then release me to catch up to everyone. It was fun for me to chase the class. Almost every day after that, Coach Bowden asked me to join the track team. So, in the Spring of 2003, I cut my baby track teeth in the sprints. I ran the 100m and 200m, and ran on both the 4x100m and 4x200m relays.
In 2004, I joined my high school’s track team under Coach Dexter Mitchell. He recognized me from middle school and asked me if I had planned on coming out for track in high school. Indoor track was new to me. I ran the 60m dash and 300m run. The only race I ran was the High School Eastern Challenge. Our head coach, Ralph France, had me racing the sprints during the 2004 outdoor track season. I was fortunate to make it to the State Championships, but did not win any medals in my individual events, only in the relays. Although disappointed with my individual efforts, I was ecstatic with the team's efforts and felt inspired to improve my own times.
During the summer of 2004, I joined the Durham Striders Youth Track Club. I made a ton of friends from different high schools in Durham and traveled to a few new competition venues. It was during this time I was introduced to the 400m. The Quarter Mile is a BEAST!!!! I was not quite sure how to run the race as I was only accustomed to running shorter distances, so there was a bit of a learning curve my first year.
During my sophomore year, Coach France insisted I run on the cross-country team to build up my endurance. In my first race, when I heard the gun go off, I took off sprinting; sprinters do not understand what it means to “pace”. During the season, after each race I got stronger and smarter. As I learned how to hold a reasonable pace, my fast track “kick” at the end of my race paid dividends. With 400m left, I would “put on the jets” and sprint past many opponents. That year I earned the Gatorade Rookie of the Year and won the Most Improved Athlete awards.
I worked very hard while in high school and won many medals in my new signature events the 200m and 400m, as well as 4x100m, 4x200m and 4x400m relays. I even earned Track Athlete of the Year during my junior year.
Senior year was special to me as I did exceptionally well in the conference and regional finals earning all-conference and all-regional accolades. I remember sitting at the breakfast table the morning of the state meet, eating my standard big bowl of farina and feeling something heavy on my heart. My mom could see there was something bothering me and asked what was the matter. I remember taking a long pause, and saying, “I wonder what it feels like to make the top ten and stand on the stage?” Without missing a beat, my mom said, “There’s only one way to find out”.
I had to find out how it felt.
There I was, a natural sprinter, at the cross-country state meet, with approximately 100 middle and long-distance girls who also wanted a shot at the top ten. I was shaking like a nervous Chihuahua. The gun went off and so did I, staying in a good position, somewhere in the middle of the pack. Then, something inside of me said, “Ericka, you've got this”. I picked up the pace and passed several girls, continuing to run faster and passing more girls. The crowd was cheering and screaming. I knew I was at the end of the race, so, I turned on the jets and flew through the forest finishing in 9th place and running a solid 19:26. It was an awesome feeling entering the indoor season on a new high. With newfound confidence, I took on the 500m and won my very first state title, with my time ranked 4th fourth fastest ever in the state!
My success running in high school earned me a scholarship to East Carolina University. Unfortunately, things did not work out well for me in college as I grew more and more discouraged with each performance. For four years, I came in determined, but left the season feeling humiliated and upset with myself.
Then during the 1983 National Basketball Championship when NC State defeated Houston by a dunk in the final seconds by Lorenzo Charles, my Uncle Lo as I affectionately called him, was killed in a bus crash in 2011.
He meant the world to me and we shared a special bond. One of my fondest moments was dancing the father-daughter waltz with my uncle in the Delta Sigma Theta Jabberwock Cotillion. I realized, after Uncle Lo’s death, life is too short and I should not let an unsuccessfully collegiate season stop me from pursuing my dreams in track.
My mom has always been supportive of my goals so she helped coach me and supported my post-collegiate meets. I felt my 400m time was not getting any faster, so it made sense to move up in distance and focus on the 800m.
A year later, I met Coach Richard Anderson from Missouri. Coach Rich specialized in distance training. Under his coaching, I continued to improve my 800m time. I remained with Coach Rich for three years, but unfortunately did not make it to the USATF National Championships. My races just didn’t seem to unfold the way I had envisioned and I wasn’t sure if I should continue with the sport.
In 2016, I made the decision to start with a new coach. I contacted well-renowned Coach George “Pup” Williams and joined his team of Elites and the G.W. Express Track Club. where I got the opportunity to train with some of the best in the world. They welcomed me with open arms and it was the change I needed to reinvigorate my love for the track.
We have fun, but it is no-nonsense and everyone works hard. Coach Williams and Coach Sandy Chapman broke me down. They had to fix EVERYTHING about how I executed the daily drills and my racing strategy. They did it with discipline and with care. As a result, I broke my own PRs in the 800m (2:06.11), 1000m (2:47.93), and 400m (56.88). I broke several meet records and currently have the facility record in the 1K at Liberty University.
I am looking forward to the upcoming 2017/2018 Indoor/Outdoor track season as a rabbitELITE! The best is yet to come!
rabbitELITE teammates Dan Nestor, Paul Yak and Jarrett LeBlanc teamed up to run the inaugural FORTitude Pro Chase 10k this past weekend. A unique handicapped race leveling the mixed gender playing field with an added team competition element! Check out this race report from Dan Nestor. It's important to remember that not every race is perfect, but every race is a perfect opportunity to learn and grow!
Leading up to the race
About a month ago, I finished a 6 mile tempo averaging 5:05 pace. By far one of the best tempo runs I’ve had in my 10 year long running career.
During the 3 easy cool-down miles, time typically spent decompressing and analyzing all those hards steps you just completed, I thought to myself, “Wow I think I could really do well in a 10k!” And for those that know me that is a thought I have never had before.
These thoughts quickly turned into a reality when I heard about The Fortitude 10k, a local race being held by the prestigious BoulderBolder.
I immediately contacted the race directors and a few days later I was all set to race the inaugural event.
This race had quite a different race structure than most races I’ve grown accustomed to running. They were staggering the start based off your recent performances and previous 10k times.
Being traditionally more of a miler, I was very excited to hear this news. I thought, “I could pull this off, I’m in great shape, and the stagger will favor me greatly.”
As the field and start times were announced, my previous thoughts were immediately erased. My start time would put myself surrounded by guys who were true 10k runners. Although, I’d like to believe my current fitness indicates I can run with many of these talented athletes, I quickly started to dig myself a dangerous hole of self-doubt.
These daunting thoughts haunted me the day before the race, “How on earth am I going to catch guys who are faster than me?”
I tried my best to calm-down and reassure myself I was starting where I belonged, that I could pull this off and make up a 30 second stagger on guys without being caught by those who were starting behind me.
Although, once that hole of self-doubt has been dug, it’s much harder to climb out.
Race day always rolls around quicker than expected. It’s funny how for so long a race seems so far away in the distance, but it always creeps up on you quicker than expected.
I go about my normal race routine, wake up, drink coffee, eat a light breakfast, drink more coffee, relax, then head to the race.
My start-time was seven minutes and twenty five seconds after the first competitor was on course. As I watched 38 people cross the start line before my call up I grew anxious and nervous.
Alas, my start time came and just like that, I was racing. I went through my first mile in about 4:50ish attempting to catch those who started ahead of me while trying to hold off the 13 athletes that started behind me.
Now for my first 10k being at at altitude, hot temperatures, and a thick layer of smoke in the air coming from forest fires of neighboring states, I knew a conservative start was in my best interest.
Based off my workouts, I thought anywhere from 4:50-5 minute pace should feel relatively easy, a pace I could maintain for the entirety of the race, but my confidence in that effort quickly faded as I crossed through the 3k mark. I barely made up any ground on the other competitors as I watched the majority of them extend their already established leads on me.
I was feeling demoralized, but I did my best to calm down and think positively, “They will eventually slow down, and I will catch them.” It wasn’t too much longer into the race where the athletes behind me had made up the stagger and ran by. My plan for when this happened was to latch on to a group and hopefully be carried along at a faster pace. This didn’t quite happen. When the runners caught and proceeded to pass me, my energy was depleted.
I finally reached the 5k mark, completely demoralized, exhausted and hopeless. I couldn’t fathom running another 5k.
I came to a halt, fixed my shoelaces that were bothering me, took a deep, calming breath and continued running.
At this point, I took myself completely out of the race, out of the prize money, out of the chance to PR and to compete with great athletes.
The next 3.1 miles felt like an eternity, but I wanted to finish no matter the outcome. As I was able to catch some athletes and pass them, the 1k marks seemed to come by quicker and quicker. I passed through the 9k mark and Colorado State University’s brand new football stadium, the home of the finish line was finally in my sight. I could hear the roar of the crowd as they cheered on each and every runner who came through to the finish. I did my best to pick up my pace and finish strong.
I feel like these next few moments following the finish are critical in displaying an athlete's true colors. Despite having one of the worst races I’ve had in awhile and being incredibly disappointed in myself, I tried my best to congratulate others and keep a smile on my face. It is true, no one likes a sore loser.
I’m now about 24 hours removed from the race and have had quite some time to contemplate what went wrong and figure out how to move forward.
My ultimate conclusion is that I had a bad day. Bad days happen to everyone no matter how fit, how fast or how seasoned they may be. Perhaps I could have been mentally tougher but when a bad day happens it’s hard to change it. Never let a bad day define who you are or what you are capable of doing.
There’s day where the sun shines and days where it doesn’t. The athletes that roll on through the not so sunny days seem to come out on top and I plan to be one of those athletes.
I look forward to my next race and am always grateful for the opportunity to compete in a professional field. Hopefully I can race this amazing event next year and I hope I have a sunny day.
- Dan Nestor, rabbitELITE
Race walking is a sport few people know too much about, but it's actually contested at all levels of track and field, from youth athletics to the Olympic games. Although technically a foot race like it's running event counterparts, it differs in that a competitor must have at least one foot on the ground at all times.
Our rabbitELITE team is happy to have first year member Alex Bellavance on the squad. We recently asked him to tell us a little more about his history with the sport of race walking and how he got to where he is today - we think even runners can get a little motivation from Alex's story!
We all have dreams, big and small; however, sometimes our lives are destined for more than we could ever hope, or imagine.
My athletic career started in the beginning of high school as a cross-country runner whose ultimate desire was to stay fit and make friends. Upon joining cross-country, I was unaware that the team raced at meets throughout the season. In my eyes, I thought that the team only met for a few hours each day and that was the end of it. After a short time period, the aspect of competition was introduced to me as the only way I could remain on the team was to compete. In an effort to continue my desire of running for the social aspects, I respected the decisions of my high school coaches to compete. Every race was treated as just another easy training session, jogging in the back.
A new desire was implanted in my heart my second year, after watching my teammates receive medals the previous year. Who doesn't want a shiny piece of medal around their neck? With a change in motivation, I transitioned from an average junior varsity finisher, to a competitive varsity runner on one of the best teams in my high school's history. By senior year, I was one of the top runners on my team, in the conference and city. Let’s just say, receiving a medal was no longer a problem.
Unlike running cross- country, running track was a dreadful sport for me. Coaches pointed me out to be a 3200-meter runner and the thought of doing 8 laps on the track sounded as boring as can be. There was no spark of motivation until my junior year of high school when I was told I couldn’t even make it past our conference preliminaries. As a 4:53 1600 meter runner at the time, it is easy to see why others lacked the confidence in me. However, it was that lack of confidence that flipped the switch in my brain - it was time to put in an all out effort. In two weeks time, I broke my personal best by 22 seconds (4:31) and had made it three meets further than what I originally expected of myself.
Going into my senior year of high school, my goals for track had changed tremendously. Two of my biggest goals were to achieve a school record and to run at the California state meet. Being that the majority of my athletic goals had been fulfilled so far, I was unable to envision failure in these goals. Just when I thought I had it all figured out, these goals started to shift.
Due to a number of conflicts, the last semester of my senior year in high school was to be spent in Tennessee, over 2,000 miles away from San Diego, California where I grew up. I was devastated that my dreams of becoming an El Capitan school record holder were crushed. Trying to stay as optimistic as possible, my family urged me to run a last season with a team in Tennessee. My new high school had only a small track team and did not have a distance coach, or many runners at my level. On top of that, we had to take a 30-minute bus ride from school to the nearest track to train each day. With the small bit of motivation I had left, I coached myself and another individual on my team.
Week after week, I would come out on top in races, often lapping a majority of the field. To put it into comparison, in San Diego, I was ranked 20th in the city; In Tennessee I was ranked 3rd in the state. However, I no longer had the same happiness that I had as a California runner. This season awakened my love for track and field, with an urge to find that drive and happiness again.
After declining multiple athletic scholarships, I decided to pursue my education and athletic career as a walk-on runner at Cuyamaca College, a 2-year institution in San Diego. It took myself an entire season until I got back into the shape I was in before I left San Diego, and by that time, it felt too late.
On a chilly November evening, Coach Tim Seaman (2-Time Olympic race walker), invited the cross-country team to the track. We were given the instructions to give our best impression of what we thought good race walking technique looks like. We all messed around jokingly while we tried it out, but Coach Tim’s race walker athletes found my form to be peculiarly good. After warming up a bit, we were informed that we would be partaking in a 400-meter time trial.
Those were the most brutal 400-meters of my life. My shins, hamstrings, and glutes were on fire. However, impressed with my performance, Coach Tim and the rest of his race walking team approached me afterward. The words that came out of his mouth next would change my life.
“How would you like the chance of trying to make an Olympic team one day?”
From that moment, I transferred all of my athletic endeavors from running to race walking.
In my first year as a race walker, the event carried endless new challenges including, but not limited to, injuries, financial struggles, and learning new rules. But with every mountain, there is a view.
That year I made two USA teams. The first trip was to Rome, Italy, where I competed at the IAAF World Race Walking Team Championships. The second trip was to Edmonton, Canada, in a dual-match against Canada’s national team.
On top of that, I was able to compete at the USATF Junior Outdoor Championships where I placed 3rd in the 10km Race Walk.
In 2017, I moved up in my age group from juniors to open. As a result, I knew it would be difficult to match my first year success, especially since open division athletes race 20km at the elite level, twice as far as the juniors.
Despite the major changes, I was able to compete at the USATF Indoor Championships in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and the USATF Outdoor Championships in Sacramento, California, where I was able to finish 5th on both occasions.
On the road ahead, some of my many goals include making Team USA twice in 2018, having a podium finish at the 2020 Olympic Trials, and ultimately becoming an Olympian.
They say that if you shoot for the moon, you’re bound to land on a star. After examining my athletic career this far, I urge you to shoot for the stars, but don’t be afraid when your arrow continues through the star and straight to the moon.
- Alex Bellavance, rabbitELITE
rabbitELITE Branden Bollweg tackled the brutal Angeles Crest 100 mile endurance race just over a week ago, flying through the course in hot and unseasonably humid conditions to beat nearly everyone in the field, coming in 2nd place overall and first place solo. Below is his recount of the memorable day high above Los Angeles!
August 7th 2016 - On an early Sunday morning, I had finally come to Loma Alta Park in Altadena to finish the 2016 Angeles Crest 100 mile endurance race. I was thankful I had gotten the finish, but that finish was bittersweet as it was my worst performance thus far in my ultrarunning career. I could go on and on about what went wrong and what I could have done better that race, but suffice to say that shortly after I crossed the finish line I wanted revenge.
This year would be different. At the start of this year I essentially started getting back to the basics again. Track work, hill work, incorporating more body weight exercises and whatnot. I did some prep races in increasing intervals and by the time the real meat and potatoes AC 100 training came, I felt good. This has been an excellent year and I have been extremely lucky. A month before 2017 AC100 I got married to my soulmate in a wedding that I could only dream of, job prospects were changing and race results were my best yet! I had carefully planned my training for AC the best I could (I will write a blog on the training later) and had even incorporated my wedding as a rest week! Things were feeling really good.
As my close friends could tell you, I had really high goals for AC this year...one may say unrealistic. I had gotten 23rd last year, I hadn’t run sub 24 in a year, and I was running it solo again. For those of you unfamiliar what running “solo” is for AC here you go: You don’t get a crew or a pacer for the entirety of the race. Why would anyone do this? To me, I personally like the challenge of being self sufficient and responsible. With crews and pacers there are just too many moving parts….I just wanna run! I also like the mental challenge, being alone with your thoughts. To me ultrarunning is a very personal and sacred experience for me, so most the times I like to run alone because let’s be honest ...in a 100 milers...it’s all up to you for the most part.
The training before the race went amazing and was very structured. My friends and I ran at some very crazy hours. This year I had become an ambassador to rabbit running apparel and that really helped my confidence. I re-ignited the flame in me. I was excited to represent a company that I believed in going into the race, and to be honest I didn’t want to let them down on my first race wearing their gear!
Onto the race! Last year I stayed at an airbnb two days before with my friends and we dropped my car off at the finish and drove back on the HWY 2. I got pretty car sick and felt like crap all the way up until the race started. So this year I figured I will just drive up to the start line in Wrightwood the morning of the race. My wife and mother-in-law piled into my car and we left at 3 am. Once again I had a ton of friends running the race and wished them all good luck and before we knew it the race started. To note, the ultra community lost a giant, Hal Winton (Co-RD of the AC100) earlier this year and we all miss him immensely. Gary Hilliard (another ultra giant!) took over Hal’s helm with such respect, class, and humility that it makes me a little teary eyed just thinking of the whole thing.
Back to the race! I knew from last year that the climb up Acorn trail is steep and narrow, sometimes it can get really crowded and hard to pass people. I decided to get out into the front early to avoid this. I’m unsure what place I was at, but I knew I was good to climb Acorn without slowing down too much. The climb went beautifully and by the time we got to the PCT I just let gravity do the work all the way to Baden Powell. At Inspiration point I filled up on some water and kept the calories coming in. I was planning on using GU Roctane for the whole race, but when I had a cup of the Carbopro, I was so shocked how it just tasted like cold water! I decided I would cut some weight and just use Carbopro the rest of the race. Some of you may remember my bad experience with Carbopro at Chimera 2015 but they totally redeemed themselves in my eyes after this race.
The weather was super nice and next up was the dreaded Baden Powell climb to the highest point on the course. As everyone might know this climb is steep and has an ungodly amount of switchbacks. I caught up with my friend and eventual winner Jerry Garcia and noticed he was going particularly slow. Not the usual Jerry Garcia way, I thought either he may not be feeling good or I am going out way too fast. I felt great climbing Baden Powell, ran most of it and then the fun part started. From there it was a beautiful descent to the Islip saddle aid station where I caught up to Jorge Pacheco. Jorge is an ultrarunning legend (4x AC champ) and has one of the most impressive records in the game. I have a tremendous respect for him. He kept ahead of me as we went into the Islip aid station. Some others caught up to me, but since I was solo I had to really make sure I piled on the calories and felt good at aid stations. I donned my second Buff and filled it up with ice around my neck. Then I made off onto the HWY 2.
I like to break the AC100 course up into three sections. The first part is survive and feel good at altitude. The second is learn to cope with the heat and beat it. The third is just to try to run the dreaded last 25 or so miles. I was entering the second section at this moment and I knew it was time to get into how my friend Peter Brennan describes it “full desert mode”. I tired to stay as cool as possible. Heat for me really kills my stomach. Last year I had run this next section a little too fast….just forcing myself to run. This year I ran all of it with barely any hiking. I was feeling great. I kept thinking to myself when is it gonna start getting hard? Everyone knows that the dark places always await in a 100 miler. My knee was giving me a little issue but other than that I just kept running, not really thinking of much. Just one foot in front of the other Branden...at all costs. Pretty soon I caught up to Jorge and 2X AC champ Dominic Grossman (another legend) at Cloudburst aid station. I had no idea that I was that high up in the race. I was worried a little bit as these guys are experts at this course and I thought I may have been going well beyond what my engine could give me and later I might blow up. I had to trust in my training and just believe in myself.
I loaded up the ice again, made my way to three points aid station feeling pretty good. Jerry came up as I was leaving the aid station. I thought for sure he was gonna pass me but it never came. As I made my way to Mt. Hillyer took a really good fall. I flew face first and twisted on my side after catching a rock. I was all dirty and cuts and bruises everywhere. Much to my wife's chagrin my butt was pretty badly scraped up. I just got up, stayed positive and kept going. My neck buff was doing an excellent job at distributing cold water around my body and am not just plugging them because I represent them, but my rabbit apparel was doing an amazing job of staying cold and wet with absolutely no chafing issues. I got up to Mt. Hillyer and got some medical spray on my hip/butt area and Jerry was catching up. I thought he would pass, but still it never came. As we started the descent down to Chilao aid station I saw my friend and 2016 AC champ Guilluame Calmettes. He was super positive and had some really encouraging words! To note, Guilluame was actually a huge inspiration for me. If you watch his hilarious video of his 2016 win he stayed super positive during the entire race. I made that a priority for this race, so thank you Guilluame! Anyone who knows me knows I can get too into my own head and snowball a little.
We got to Chilao and my friend and fellow mountain man Vincent Juarez was there and all he had to say was “Branden what are you doing man?!”, I replied “ No clue!”. Vince was crewing for his runner Sergio Medina (who also finished the race, congrats!!!). I loaded up on watermelon and carbopro. Jerry had picked up his pacer and passed me. Next up was the really hot part.
The trail to shortcut saddle is technical and very hot. If it wasn’t 50 miles into the race I would love the trail...but it’s not. I felt a blister forming and my feet started to hurt just a bit, but I remembered to stay positive. Soon enough I got to shortcut and sat down for a little. Last year this was the place I had gotten the closest to a DNF. I’m not gonna lie, I was nervous going into this race as it had completely destroyed me in a way that no course had and now I was at that point where I had hit my lowest last year. I knew I had to take my time at this aid station. On top of this, the course itself had changed from last year and we were heading into a section in which I had never ran before. I had no idea what was in store. (Supposedly it was harder than last year as it had anywhere from 20-21k of gain) I saw Jorge and Jerry take off, but I still took some time. After getting some sunscreen and feeling a tad better I made off into the unknown.
The descent to the bottom of the canyon was amazing. I was starting to gain ground on Jerry and Jorge but I needed to take a pee break. Believe it or not but pee breaks are an extremely important health indicator for ultras. I took my time...all clear! I was feeling better and caught Jorge going down. I was super respectful and positive. We got to the bottom of the canyon and I’m glad I got lost on a Tenaja canyon run a few months before because it was almost the exact same terrain! I caught Jerry and his pacer and they let me go right ahead. Once again, uncharacteristic of Jerry. I knew Jerry was working with the legendary Tom Nielsen before the race, could this be a strategy? I wasn’t sure, but I had to run my own race and I was feeling pretty good. The climb is where I hit the pain cave….that dreaded damn point in a race in which there seems to be no out. Also it was about 9.1 miles between shortcut aid station to red box. After running a 200 miler last year I really have learned how to run with minimal supplies between long distances (some aid stations in those races are 25 miles apart), so that wasn’t the problem. The problem was my lower back was really starting to hurt. Soon enough I was really getting scared of Rhabdomyolysis, an ultrarunners biggest fear. I started thinking about my wife and what she would do if I died (you really go to dark places in ultras). I knew if I had coffee colored pee it would be the end of my race (hey it happened to AJW during this race). I kept looking down at my wedding band and kept thinking of my wife. It was like she was with me. Soon enough I slogged my way to the red box aid station where I could barely speak. Once again Vince was there and was stoked to see me. Since they had a gong being rung whenever a runner would come in and I had lost my voice, Vince started telling the aid station workers what I needed. He told me I was in first.I spoke to Vince that I was worried about Rhabdo and he just said well if it happens it happens and it’s probably your vest hurting your back, not your kidneys. Turns out he was right! I asked what happened to Dom? And he pointed to Dom laying down on a blanket. Pretty soon Jerry came into the aid station and first,second and third were just all pretty wrecked. Vince looked at me and said hey you might as well go and too be honest I did not want to. I was hoping Dom or Jerry would go. I was feeling it and I knew the Newcomb climb was coming.
Well...then I found myself in a position that in a million years I never thought I would be in. I was first place at the Angeles Crest 100. It was kind of surreal. I kept running the downhill and was amazed no one passed me. Last year the climb up to Newcomb was a sufferfest, so I knew it was going to be slow going for me. What I did not know was that we would be climbing the shorter way up to Newcomb saddle. I kept wondering why the landscape looked differently and I actually started slowing down to see if any runners were coming up on me. I thought I may have gotten lost (I’ve done it in the past), but the yellow ribbons kept coming. Pretty soon Dom caught me on the climb and I asked are we on the right trail. He said we were and he proceeded to run up at a great pace while blasting some Lionel Richie! It was kinda funny. I was expecting to get passed on this uphill and the flies were dreadful on this climb, but pretty soon I saw the aid station. What the hell? It came sooner then last year! I told the aid station workers I was super stoked because I thought we were going to have to climb up the last years route. They all laughed and I gained a second wind. Dom took off and I sat there for just a tad to enjoy the view and get my legs back. The next section was my favorite section of the race and I would get to do it in the daytime!
If anyone has not ran the Chantry to Newcomb route I would highly recommend it. It is some of the most beautiful running that I have ever ran on. I started the descent feeling good as someone was just coming in. As I descended I actually got a bug or leaf in my nose. I couldn’t get it out and could feel it vibrating in my sinus cavity. I kinda got worried, but then it just went away. Pretty soon I caught Dom and his pacer. Dom and I really got after it on the downhill. I knew from Chantry on it would tough so I just let Dom do his thing. Pretty soon we caught up to the Chantry tarmac and we walked it together. Dom and I had raced a few events together and never had never gotten a chance to talk and we finally got that chance. I’m honored to have shared that moment with him. For a small while we were just friends talking and pretty soon we got to the Chantry aid station.
For you that have not run the race, Chantry represents the brutal last 25 ish miles of the race. From Chantry on it would be a 2700 ft climb up Mt. Wilson trail with a cameo by the grim reaper (Larry Gassan) and his bench, a descent into the poison oak riddled Idlehour, a 1800 ft climb up to Sam Merrill aid station, and the last 10 miles of highly technical descent to the finish.
I knew Jorge, Dom, Jerry, and whoever else was coming could climb this section pretty fast. Last year this section destroyed my friend Matt Kafka and I. We were puking and just doing a death march all the way up...it was terrible. I will admit that climbing is not my strong suit, but if I could just get as much time and distance on these guys on the climbs I could really hammer the downhills. Knowing that the next few sections would suck anyways I spent barely anytime at the aid stations. Also Gary Hilliard gave me great advice the previous year and really got me out of Chantry really fast. I refilled on carbopro and told Dom I would see him on the trail. I proceeded to hike/run the entirety of the Mt. Wilson trail and much to my surprise I did really well and felt really good! Once again I was in first, it was crazy.
Looked out through the darkness of the woods and as I got higher I could see Los Angeles. It was beautiful. Pretty soon I saw lights...then the feet….I knew it was the Grim Reaper and his bench. For those of you that don’t know Larry Gassan (another ultra icon) has his photo gig set up every year at something called Dead Man’s Bench (and I put that in caps out of respect for that bench) where he photographs people at the moment they lose their soul to the bench. I would highly recommend looking at the photos as they are hilarious and harrowing at the same time! “Welcome....take a load off” he said tempting me. The previous year I had given my soul to that damn bench. This year...no way! I proceeded to give the double bird to the bench as Larry took a picture. He then said “ this is your gimme section, you’re going to have to book it!” I didn’t know what he had meant at the time. Pretty soon Mt. Wilson trail ended and still no one had passed me. This was better than I had expected. I booked it down to Idlehour aid station, got my carbopro and went. By the way, I did not need a jack or anything as once again my Rabbit gear had dried perfectly with once again no chafing. I proceeded to bushwack through the poison oak and started the climb up to Sam Merrill. As I climbed I saw some lights wading through the Idlehour bottom. I booked it up Sam Merrill at a respectable clip and got to the aid station without being caught by anyone. They gave me carbopro and had some awesome words of encouragement. I proceeded to book it down some of my favorite downhill.
At this point the rails kind of came off a little. My feet were really starting to hurt from the technical downhill and I was starting to catch my feet on the rocks. I didn’t want to have to go to the hospital this late in the race. It was really hard to gauge the terrain depth. It was dusty and a little bit slippery. My body was starting to really ache and hurt. I kept hearing voices but I thought it may have been hallucinations. Pretty soon a saw a headlamp. I hate racing this late, I thought it must be Dom and Dom knows this race really well. I kept booking it, but pretty soon my knee and feet were pretty wrecked. I caught my foot and fell again covering me in some dirt, luckily not as bad as my fall at mile 30-ish. Pretty soon I heard the sound of footsteps. To my surprise it was Jerry and his pacer and friend of mine Jon Clark! They were moving at a blistering pace! Turns out Jerry was holding back most the race! They both told me how far Dom was and had some great words of encouragement.
A lot of people have been commenting how bummed I must’ve been at that moment. I can honestly say I was 100% without a doubt not bummed out in the least bit! In fact, I was inspired by Jerry to not get third! Also I was extremely happy for Jerry and I couldn’t imagine a better person to pass me this late. Jerry and I have raced a few races together and have done a few training runs a few years back together with Vince. I am honored to call him a friend and couldn't be more happy for him. I cannot help but think back to Western States when Anton Krupicka got passed by Geoff Roes so late in the race. Even I thought “How could someone let that happen?”. Now I know. I had hiked only about 20% of this race and mile 95 ish and solo…my body was ready for this race to end.
After seeing Jerry and Jon going at the pace they were I would give it my best, but I knew I couldn't go at the pace they were. I booked it the best I could and before I knew it I was at JPL-NASA, as sign that you’re pretty much done. Usually I get teary eyed around this moment in races, but I literally had given it my all. I got to the finish line and hugged my wife like I never hugged her before! My official result was a new 100 mile PR for me at 20:13:49 for 2nd place overall first place solo! I congratulated Dom and Jerry once we were all finished. I am honored to have shared such a fun and amazing race together. I gave Gary Hilliard a big hug thanking him for the advice he gave me last year at Chantry. He was wearing Hal’s shirt so every finisher got to hug Hal again! What a class act Gary Hilliard is! After that I went home for some sleep and then came back for the awards ceremony! I feel had gotten my revenge on the course!
There are way too many thanks and I apologize in advance if I forgot to include someone. First and foremost I would like to thank my wife Andrea Bollweg. It really killed her not to be crewing me and I really missed her presence.I am so lucky and honored that you have decided to pick me as your husband! I look forward to all the crazy adventures we have to look forward to for the rest of our lives. I love you!
I would like to thank rabbit running apparel for giving me the opportunity to represent them. rabbit gear is honestly the best gear I have ran an ultra in. I have ran in tons of gear and usually have some sort of chafing issues, or breathability issues. I highly recommend them and I look forward to representing you guys even more! I would like to thank our families. They always have my back and am so happy that I have a bigger family now! I would like to my friend and training partner Aaron Ophaug, congrats on your first 100 miler and impressive 14th place at the race!
Another training partner Kris Jensen for helping me with advice for this race and all the hard training run we did. Kyle Fulmer for being a solid training partner, congrats on an unbelievable 9th place sub 24 hour finish! My fellow ultra besties Joe, Matt, Mike, and Mark, for all you inspiration and advice! The OC Trailies for giving great support and words of encouragement. Lastly I would like to give a special thanks to Ken Hamada, Jakob Hermann, and Gary Hilliard for putting on such an amazing event. Congratulations to everyone who earned their 100 mile finish!
One of our RADrabbits, Taylor Maltz of Washington D.C. gives us his favorite meal when he's gearing up for a big week of training. The best part about "Buddha" Bowl is the ability to swap different ingredients in and out to mix up the flavor profiles and keep you hungry for more goodness; enjoy Taylor's recipe below!
Farro, Sweet Potato, and Chickpea Buddha Bowl w/Avocado Basil Sauce
I’m heading into a couple big weeks of ultra training, and I can’t think of a better meal to start my week than a delicious, nutrient-rich “Buddha Bowl.” These colorful gain bowls have many variations, and are loved by vegetarians and meat-eaters alike. The below vegetarian recipe is my go-to, but there are many variations you can make - it’s hard to go wrong!
One thing to keep in mind, especially for all you rule followers out there! There are many variations of this dish, which is part of the reason it’s one of my main staples. If you have a specific way of cooking any of the below – go for it! You can substitute cans of beans for bags, replace oil with water, and even add a meat – you’ve got the freedom!
Recipe - Makes about three big bowls
The Avocado & Basil Sauce
Instructions - Cooking
3. Transfer to a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil, and spread evenly. Place in the oven for 25 minutes. Once the timer is up, check to see if they are crispy enough for you! If not, place in for five more minutes. Personally, I like mine super crispy.
Avocado and Basil Sauce
Instructions - Assembly
F U E L E D F R I D A Y: ok, we get it, we've all been hangry after a long run and it's not fun. So, avoid the drama and plan ahead! It's easy to either plan out a quick and easy recipe to make post-run or to even pre-make a meal and just pre-heat it when the time comes. This riced broccoli & sun-dried tomato post-workout frittata is the perfect easy recipe to whip up after a workout or long run and avoid that hangry self that no one likes!
Our recipe this week is brought to you from our friend Annmarie, the FitFoodieMama. You have to check our her awesome blog filled with amazing recipes perfect for runners!
Original recipe can be found here.
If you are a runner, you will get injured at some point. That is pretty much a scientific guarantee. Most of us have already been there at some point in our running career. And we know just how hard that can be. Being injured breaks your heart, your spirit, and your daily routine! The good news is that it doesn't last forever. Our incredibly talented and wonderful rabbitELITE team member Tara Warren shares with us her journey on overcoming a serious injury while still planning for the next big race. Tara, you rock.
"Six weeks?" My mind quickly scanned through the dates on the calendar and landed at the beginning of August. Visions of early morning sunrises and dusty brown post-run ankle tans interrupted anything else the doctor was telling me. I thought of the upcoming Ouray race that I would have to drop out of along with big question marks about racing the Bear in September. Wait, what else was he saying to me...
"Basically, it's just a clean fracture at the end of the lateral condyle of your femur. If you completely stay off it for six weeks, it will heal up just fine. There isn't any residual tendon or muscular damage. Just something that must have happened pretty abruptly, maybe a fall, and you hit it just right.”
The doctor looked up at me sideways and pointed to the outside of my right knee. His glance seemed like he was trying to see through my crazy ultra-running eyes with a “how-can-you-not-remember-crashing-and-breaking-your-leg” sort of stare.
We talked over a few scenarios (because sometimes trail running results in memory loss and a repressing of various large or small injuries) and narrowed it down to a simple eight mile run back in the middle of May. I recalled how I tripped on a rock and launched forward with my hands and bent knee into the ground. It knocked the wind out of me. It was impactful enough that I sat in the dirt cloud and took a few minutes to gather myself as my knee bled. That had to be it. Looking back at my Strava history, I can remember having to slow down each run considerably after that crash with strange knee or IT pain. But, all of this happened right around the time tapering began for the Bighorn 100. It’s strangely natural that near the end of a training cycle you have sore spots and your body is a little angry. I guess I just chalked it up to each of those things.
“Did you have any other questions before we are done here today?” Asked my kind and curious doctor.
“So, I have this race at the end of September. It’s a hundred miler up in the Logan area called the Bear. What do you think of my chances are for running it?” I asked with complete sincerity and maybe even batted my eyes a little for a sympathetic positive response from the gatekeeper’s mouth. Instead, I saw his mouth turn a little scowly and he let out a mild chuckle. Ugh, a chuckle.
Racing at the Bear 100 has been a goal of mine for three years. I've completed the race two times, but not really on my terms, or better said, racing how I had trained. In 2015, debilitating foot blisters at mile 4 put my racing into crawl mode. I literally lost large pieces of my feet and only survived because of my amazing pacers. If you didn't hear about the conditions at the Bear in the most recent edition, than I only have one word for it, apocalyptic. Snow, ice, rain and trails that were ice-water slip-n-slide mud disasters. I have unfinished business up in Logan Canyon and will be surprised if i’m physically able to make that happen this year.
He continued, “It’s more than likely that you’ll be fully recovered in the six week time frame. Again, granted you stay off that leg. As for racing, and as for racing in a hundred mile race, you should probably consider making other plans for that weekend.” At least he said it pleasantly. The problem is, I only heard the phrase “fully recovered” AND the hotel is already booked.
Fast forward to today. It has been four plus weeks since the MRI. My leg is healing and overall, I’m doing okay. Most of the pain is gone and I can walk (when necessary) without limping. I've been given the green light to start swimming and biking. Both of these options have been a tremendous boost to my spirit.
Although I know that I’m getting better, the little voice in my head keeps asking these questions on repeat lately: So NOW what are you going to do? What’s next? Could I really pull this off? But really, how in the world am I going to prep to run a hundo in seven weeks? Where is my fitness level after I've had about ten weeks off? How long will I need to keep on the training wheels before I can fly? What if I hurt it again? Am I strong enough to race or would I be stronger not to race? What if I don’t like running anymore? Seems like there are so many unanswerable questions that will just hover there until I can get my HOKAs on and start testing things out.
This has been a true test of my patience and optimism. Aside from time off from pregnancies, I have not rested or taken time away from running in years. It’s been fantastic to create new routines that do not involve running. My kiddos are happy that I’m a bit more well-rested and energized. My heat training, or sunbathing, is on point. And, my laundry has definitely decreased.
I’m not sure what the next weeks will bring. The anticipation is growing and I am getting antsy. One can only hope for the best and work through what might come up. I’m hoping this broken femur experience is a once in a lifetime injury and moving on will be the next big story.
I’m sending all of you who are currently sidelined for whatever reason, all my best. Hang in there. Time will pass, wounds will heal. Our bodies and minds are more resilient than you think they are.
And most importantly, try not to trip on a rock while running on a flat trail!
- Tara Warren, rabbitELITE
So, it’s already been a week since USAs (ummm where did the time go?!). The weekend action up in Sacramento was smoking, both the performances and the heat, and we wanted to recap this special event.
As most of you know, we are talking about the USATF Outdoor National Championships that took place last Thursday through Sunday in Sacramento. This ain’t your average track meet. This is only for the best of the best, the cream of the crop, as the athletes competed to punch their ticket to London for the World Championships later this year. Not everyone gets to participate in USAs, but rather each athlete had to qualify for his or her respective event based upon a rigorous time standard, and then wait to get accepted into the meet. In other words, no Average Joes allowed.
We were unbelievably and indescribably proud to send five rabbitPROs, one rabbitELITE, and two other rabbit friends to USAs this year. Who dat you ask? From our rabbitPRO squad, we had:
It was such an honor to see rabbit represented in this top-notch event with rabbit athletes competing against the very best in the country. Anyone who followed along either on TV or online already knows how well these athletes performed and how incredible their races were. But, you may not really grasp the full extent of what they did.
So, you probably already heard… it was hot in Sacramento. How hot? It was fire-breathing dragon, I can’t move, the outside world feels like an oven, I’ve never sweat this much in my life, fry a 10lb steak on the sidewalk, hot. Between Thursday and Sunday, the daily high ranged from 90 degrees to 110 degrees. Yes, that’s right. On Thursday, when the steeplechase prelims and the 10k finals were run, Sacramento hit a high of 110 degrees. So, we can just say that the conditions were less than ideal.
USATF did a good job of moving race start times to avoid the hottest part of the day, and athletes were kept in an air-conditioned warm-up area, but, it was still just brutal. So, huge kudos to all the athletes, including all the junior athletes, who competed last weekend. Given those circumstances, the results were inevitably, a little strange. Some athletes suffered more than others, some seem unaffected, but everyone ended the weekend with a sunburn and dehydration.
But, despite the brutal heat, our athletes still crushed!! Of course, the athletes probably wished they had run a little faster or placed a little higher because people, it’s running and we all, always, wish we had run a little faster! That’s why we compete in the first place. Still, we are so impressed with how it all shook out and how amazing our athletes performed. So, let’s talk about them!
Sarah Pease took 7th overall in the final of the 3,000m steeplechase in a time of 9:47:41. The prelim was run on Thursday evening (the hottest day of the weekend), but the final was run at 2:30pm on Saturday in the blazing hot glare of the afternoon sun. I’m sure those water pits felt nicer than usual! Sarah had a great race, finishing smooth and strong amongst the greatest in the nation. Sarah, you are a stud!!
Rachel Schilkowsky, while not advancing to the finals in the steeple, had a very impressive race in the prelims. Rachel did not know that she got accepted into race until the last minute, and after battling through a few injuries and setbacks over the last few weeks, was stoked to make the starting line and have a successful race. You can read more of Rachel’s recap in her own blog post. We are so proud and happy for Rachel and excited to see her continue finish out her steeple season over the next few weeks.
Now, let’s talk about the 10k. So, the 10k was held on Thursday night and it was probably just about 90 degrees when the gun went off. Annnnd, the field was stacked. So, it was not going to be an easy day at the oval office for these ladies.
Nonetheless, Kaitlin Goodman battled strong and showed the grit of a true competitor and finished in an impressive 15th overall in the 10k.
Amy Schnittger also battled strong and did the best she could. Amy got super late notice that she got into the race and was actually enjoying a break when she found out (and was surfing in SoCal a few days prior to the race). But, she couldn’t miss the opportunity to race and she did her very best. Ultimately, the heat got to her and she had to pull out, but this lady is truly talented and she will be back on the big stage next year!
Alycia Cridebring also got relatively late notice that she made it into the women’s 5k, but luckily for her, she is a Sacramento resident and didn’t have to travel far! Alycia finished 15th overall with a very strong time of 15:47.40 given the intense heat. Just like the 10k, the 5k field was stacked, and Alycia raced smart, smooth and graceful (like always). She is just a beautiful runner to watch. Congrats Alycia!! We are so proud of you.
Our rabbitELITE team member, Alex Bellavance competed in the men’s 20k race walk, which was held early in the morning on Sunday. And Alex had a great race, set a huge PR, and finished 5th overall in the time of 1:32:39:35. Dude, Alex, you are a stud!!
Also, as mentioned above, Erika Barr of the SRA had a solid race in the steeplechase. Although not advancing to the finals, she raced strong and proud on her home turf. A rabbit friend, Allie Kiefer also raced the 10k, and had a very strong and impressive race. Allie finished 11th overall in the 10k, and she looked soooo smooth for the last mile or so, and was picking people off left and right. This lady is a freaking stud, who just ran the World Standard a few weeks ago at the Portland Track Festival. Allie is going to continue to do amazing things and we were honored to have her on the track repping rabbit. Congrats Allie!
USAs never disappoints, and it truly didn’t this year. We had such a blast cheering for our PROs on the track, and hanging out with them in the Sacramento heat. It’s such an honor for us to be a part of their journeys, through every up and down, during the ebbs and the flows. We are so proud of each of our athletes and simply cannot wait until next year! Go Team USA!!
PC: Rob Schanz and Michael Scott