Open Mic Friday: Blaine Moore
Welcome to Blaine Moore!
A self described student of the sport, Blaine has been running most of his life. He runs all different distances at various competitive levels. Through his site and newsletter, RuntoWin, he offers tips and advice on running.
You have already been running for 20 years, and you are not yet 30. What do you enjoy the most about running?
I've been running on an organized team since I was in 7th grade, with my middle school cross country team. I have memories from when I was young enough that my mother would have yelled at me had she known what I was doing, though, where I would run down a dead end street that hooked behind our house and then cut through the woods to our back yard and pretend that I'd been there the whole time. If I had been older and wiser when I was in elementary school, I probably would have seen the writing on the wall!
I think that what I enjoy most about running is the competitive aspect. I like to test myself, even if all I have available to race against is my wrist watch. Throw in some runners that are better than me, though, and it just becomes a very enjoyable experience. Having people to chase and trying to find ways to beat your rivals and teammates to the finish line has to be what I enjoy most.
That said, running is a lifestyle choice for me. Just getting out there and going for a run every day does not give me the same immediate pleasure and enjoyment as racing against others does, but it certainly lends an overall contentment to my life that would not be there if I didn't run. At times when I am forced to take excessive time off, I can physically feel the difference in my life from when I am able to train.
What are your current running goals?
This past Summer, my goal was to finally go under 16 minutes in a 5k. My training went a little off track, though, and none of my goal races were in ideal conditions for me, so I fell about half a minute short. I was not really invested in it by the end of the season, which is probably why I failed.
Right now I am training for a 50 mile race at the beginning of January, so my main goal is to use that as a good base of training to go back to the Cox Sports Marathon next May and break my course record. I think that it is important to plan out your major goals for 6 months to a year. The specific training programs that I come up with don't usually have a lot of detail past a month or two, but I have benchmark goals along the way to my next major goal and I can keep in mind what I want to do after that. This helps lend structure to everything that I do.
You run and race at different distances. What is your favorite distance to train for? To race?
My favorite distance to train for has to be the marathon. I love long runs, and with the great running community here in Maine I get a good mix of solo and group long runs, sometimes within the same run. When I'm training for a marathon, I also have ample opportunity to do speed work, which I'm not currently doing while training for the 50 miler.
As for what my favorite distance to race is, I think that would have to be the half marathon. It is long enough to require you to call on your reserves, but the recovery time is probably less than 1/3 of what is required from a marathon at full race effort. I don't run half marathons nearly as often as I would like to, though.
What are your secrets/tips for running healthy and uninjured?
Well, I could go on for hours about tips on how to stay healthy and uninjured, but here is my best tip: Find the best shoe for your foot, and when in doubt, go minimal.
Injuries are caused through a combination of 3 things:
All running injuries can usually be traced down to one of those problems.
Trauma is simple; if you get hit by a car, or you trip over a rock, something is going to hurt.
Over training is not quite as simple. Stress fractures are one of the more common ways to know when you are over training, and they happen most often in elite athletes that are running 100-150 miles per week and in new runners that are just getting started and are only running 10 to 20 miles per week. Average runners with a few years of experience that are running 20-60 miles per week don't get stress fractures quite as often. For the elite athlete, it is pretty easy to look at their training log and see that they were over training; they are almost doing that on purpose. For the novice, though, their cardiopulmonary systems adapt much faster than their musculoskeletal systems. What this means, is that when a novice runner is training too hard, their heart starts beating really fast and they run out of breath. But once they've done that for 5 or 6 weeks, their heart rate and lung capacity adapts to the level of stress they are putting themselves under and no longer serves to slow them down. Unfortunately, adaptations to our muscles and bones take 7 to 9 weeks to happen, and for somebody that hasn't gotten to know their body really well it can be difficult to tell when you are ready to increase your mileage or intensity. So when a novice runner finds they are capable of running harder and longer, they jump right into it and get over training injuries.
Which brings us back to poor biomechanics. We have evolved to run barefoot. It's what we are good at. Unfortunately, almost everybody in the developed world has atrophied muscles in their feet from wearing shoes their entire lives. All of the motion control and stability shoes are great for preventing injuries to your feet, but they mess around with our running gait and send the shock of impact away from our feet and up into our knees, hips and back, which are not really prepared to deal with that kind of stress.
I strongly recommend that people visit a specialty running shop and talk to somebody with experience that can help them find the right shoe for them. A good store will watching you walk around barefoot from both the front and the back, watch you run on a track or sidewalk or treadmill, and will suggest different shoes for you to try on to see how they feel. If a shoe isn't comfortable in the first few seconds of you wearing it, then don't buy it. If you need shoes with more stability, spend the extra $10-$30 on the shoes; if you don't, then don't be afraid to buy the cheaper or more neutral shoes. As you get into better shape, experiment with different brands and get reassessed. Your body is going to change due to the natural aging process and because of the training that you do.
If you can get away with it, try to go with as minimal of a shoe as you can. There are a lot of people who train full time in training flats because it allows them to run more naturally due to the lighter weight of the shoe and the lack of a raised heel. Some people even go as far as to train in aqua socks or vibram five fingers, or run barefoot most of the time.
How do you balance running/training with other demands?
That is always the biggest challenge. Right now I have it relatively easy because I don't have to try to schedule around children yet. The easiest way to balance everything is to be flexible. I can usually get about 5 miles in on my lunch break at work by running from a local elementary school with a pool and a locker room, and will often combine that with a run in the morning and/or a run in the evening. This week, for example, I wanted to get a 20+ mile day in, but didn't have 2½ hour span of time that I could run without getting up earlier than I wanted or pushing dinner back later than I wanted. So, I got in a pair of 1 hour runs before and after work and got in my 5 miles at lunch time. I very rarely run 3 times a day, but doing so allowed me to get a little work on my blog done in the morning, get my full day of work in at my job, and gave me a few hours in the evening to work on a CD that I'm publishing next week while still getting my miles in.
What are some of your favorite activities outside of running?
When I was young, I wanted to be an author. Then I discovered computers and realized I could actually make enough to live on by learning about them. A technology degree later, and I'm back to enjoying my writing again and I am trying to structure my life around that.
I enjoy being outdoors, so when I'm not actually out running, I still go for hikes and spend at least a few hours per month doing volunteer trail maintenance.
One of my favorite activities every day is playing with my 6 year old cat, Freja. She is still very kittenish, and we enjoy chasing each other around the house until the cat decides that it is time to help my wife study for her law school classes by curling up on her legs.
What are your tips for running through the cold Maine winters?
My best tip for running in a cold Maine Winter is to be willing to run in the dark. My office at work has no windows, so if I don't go outside to run at lunch time there can be days where I never see the sun. A good headlamp can be a relatively cheap investment, and can help make you more visible to passing traffic even when there is plenty of ambient light to see by. At least once per week, I run at night on some local trails, so a headlamp is definitely necessary out there since the trees can block most of the light from the moon even on a clear night.
My next best tip is to make yourself at least 1 pair of screw shoes. Get some sheet metal screws and screw them right into the bottom of your shoes (point towards your foot) so that the head of the screw can bite into the ice as you run along. Around here, I could get onto a snowmobile transfer and run to Canada if I wanted to. The great thing about the snowmobiles are that they pack the snow down really well, so even with over 150 inches of snow that we got last year I was still able to get my long runs in and not have to deal with traffic. And since most of my long runs were before the snowmobilers rolled out of bed, I rarely saw more than 1 or 2 of them out while I was running.
Apart from the usual tips of layering up, I do have one general rule about when I will or won't run outside or continue my run. If I blink and my eyes freeze shut, I count that as a sign that my run is finished. That usually doesn't happen on the trails, but when I run along the ocean and it is less than 5° out and there's a lot of wind, it can be a little chilly.
This week our forum topic is 'surviving the holidays'. What are your tips for successful running through the holidays?
I love holidays. I get to visit and spend time with family, there's always a lot of good food (not that my house ever lacks good food) and my family is used to me getting up before everyone else to get out for my run. I don't worry about what I do or don't eat; my diet is pretty regular throughout the year and my weight hasn't moved outside of a 5 pound range for more than a day or so for the last 3 years. (I weigh myself daily so that I can get an early warning when I am over training or beginning to get sick.)
Just like with balancing running with life, you need to be flexible. Be willing to find alternative ways to work out, or be willing to schedule your weeks around the holidays in such a way that you can take some time off. Thanksgiving and Christmas weeks are ideal for cutback weeks where you are running fewer miles and recovering a little since there is usually traveling time or preparation time if you everybody is traveling to see you.
Who is/are your running hero(s)?
In college, my running heros were probably the standard icons in the sport such as Pre or Bill Rodgers and such. Since then, however, my running heros have changed. I've met more of the world class runners over the past few years than I ever did in college, and I've gotten to know some great local talent that has really inspired me. Here are a few of the people that I now know personally that give me a lot of the inspiration and motivation that I need to get out and train and to compete:
Joan Benoit Samuelson » she's an ideal classic running icon. She was the first female Olympic gold medalist in the Marathon, she is still setting records in her 50s, and she does a lot of great work in the running community both locally and nationally. Plus, how many people can claim that they were punched by an Olympic Gold Medalist during a race? (Obviously, it was accidental and she immediately apologized.) I do have to say, though, that it can make you feel very small to race next to her and every single person is cheering on the person running right beside you and completely ignoring you.
Tom Ryan » Tom is a teammate of mine who took 15 years off from running, came back in his mid-40s, and in his 50s is only running a minute slower than he did when he was my age. I think that anybody that can run a low/mid 16 minute 5k is impressive, and it can sometimes be a real challenge to hold him off.
Sheri Piers, Kristin Barry, Emily LeVan » Sheri and Kristin are also teammates of mine, and they ran with Emily and Joanie at the Olympic Trials this past April. Sheri and Kristin ran 2:45 marathons a couple weeks after I ran a PR 2:47, which gave me the motivation to run faster at the Cox Sports Marathon last year. Sheri managed to run a 2:38 at the Trials, a time that I still have yet to beat. Both Kristin and Sheri both work and both have kids, and still manage to run really impressive times from the 5k through the marathon. Emily was another local runner, who has competed at the Trials and in the World Championships before. This year, though, her daughter was diagnosed with cancer. She put on a fundraiser called Two Trials, which followed her progress to get ready for the Trials and Maddie's progress through her fight with cancer.
Matt Lane, Louie Luchini, Pat Tarpy, Jeff Caron » These guys all grew up in Maine are are current or former elite runners. I just look up to their work ethics and their performances, and try as hard as I can to keep up with them whenever I see them in a race. Matt is the only one I've managed to actually do that with, though. (Sometimes he runs a race alongside his wife.)
What has been your largest accomplishment with your running?
If you consider running in general and not me running specifically, I think the largest accomplishment was at the end of this year's Beach to Beacon 10k. I started as an assistent coach at a local running store (Maine Running Company) this past March with a program to get people ready for that race. After the race, every single person from that group that I spoke with had run faster than they thought that they would. Most of them ran about 2 minutes faster, and one person ran a 10 minute PR, and that just made me feel really good. I had trained through the race and still had a great performance for myself, so getting all the great feedback from the folks that I helped prepare for the race just made it a great day.
For individual accomplishments, I think that I'd have to point at the Cox Sports Marathon this past May. I put together a training program in November/December of 2007, complete with benchmark races from February through the marathon itself. I ran a 10 miler, a half marathon, and a marathon as training races before hand, all of which were exactly on the pace that I had set forth, and I felt strong going into Providence. It never occurred to me that I might win until the night before the race when I was chatting with some folks involved in putting it on. Within about 2 miles of the start, I knew that I was going to win. I just had the confidence that I had a strong race plan, I was in great shape, and I just knew that I'd be pulling people in. Of the 20 people ahead of me at that point, 2 were marathoners, and I caught them around miles 15 and 19 before running the rest of the race on my own. The course record and the win were great accomplishments in and of themselves, but the best part of it all was the training and planning ahead of time that led to the execution of that plan during the race.
What has been the hardest lesson learned with your running?
The hardest lesson I had to learn was that I'm not invincible and that I can get injured. I've had enough close calls with death as a kid that I knew I wasn't immortal and that I could get hurt. In middle school, the one day I didn't get a ride home from my brother, his car got totaled and there was nothing left but the drivers seat. A year later, I got hit by a car when I was running. In high school, I fell down the side of a mountain during a race and broke my ankle. But I never got overuse injuries. In college, it took 2 years of averaging over 85 miles per week (including off seasons) before I got hurt, but now I'm much healthier and am not afraid to shut down a workout if things are not going well. I pay much closer attention to my body and any time something starts to hurt I go into recovery mode. One season isn't worth having to take a few years off for therapy.
Along those lines, I rediscovered trail running and it has really helped to keep me healthy. The constantly varying terrain helps to keep overuse to a minimum because your legs aren't falling into that exact same pattern with each stride that you get when you run on a road.
Any quirky running habits? Race superstitions?
I've got plenty of quirk habits, and it probably seems like I have a lot of superstitions. The one that I get called on the most, though, is probably due to my race bibs. When I register for a race and pick up my bib, I immieidately do 2 things that draws attention to me. First, I write down my name and an emergency contact number so that if something happens to me on the course that info will be immediately available. Second, I crumple up the bib into a little ball.
Having been hit by a car and having had other maladies while running, I don't want to be unconscious or unaware of my surroundings when an EMT is trying to treat me. The ICOE on my bib is an easy way to ensure that at least they know who I am and my wife will know if something has happened.
As for crumpling up the bib, that has nothing to do with superstitions even though I've been accused of it. When I flatten the bib out again and pin it to my shirt, it doesn't swing as much as I run than if it were flat and smooth. That means that it won't annoy me during a race and distract me from the task at hand.
Tell us about Runtowin.com and your newsletters.
There's a local club called Run to Win that I used to run with, and I thought that would be a cool name for a website. My original intent was to create training log software, but after sitting in front of a computer programming all day the last thing I wanted to do was come home and program some more. So instead, I threw a blog up there temporarily so that at least there'd be something on the site, and that reminded me that I still want to be a writer when I grow up.
Fast forward a few years, and I have no plans of making training log software. There are so many good solutions out there already that I just don't see the need. The blog gets a fair amount of traffic, and now that I have a newsletter I get a lot of feedback that people just weren't comfortable putting in comments on my site.
My newsletter usually gets first access to any new products or special reports I write, and they send me a lot of great feedback that I can then use to guide where future articles and newsletters come from. I usually put short training tips on my blog, as well as any news in the running community that I find relevant. Just last night I got an email from a subscriber that thanked me for writing about the news, since they don't have the time or inclination to look for it themselves and they like the way that I filter what stories I write about.
Last December, I put together my first real special report, which I let people download when they join my newsletter, that gives a bird's eye view of how food, rest and training work together to determine the sort of results you are going to see (or not see.) Most people don't pay enough attention to all 3 components, and only concentrate on the training. Training is probably the least important of the 3, though.
I also have a book that I sell digital downloads of, which is a nuts and bolts how to guide for preparing for (and recovering from) a marathon. I've run over a dozen marathons at this point, and I've made a lot of mistakes. Thankfully, I keep very detailed training logs and have a big list of lessons I've learned from each race which went into that ebook. It's been off of the market for the past few months, but it will be available again by Monday at the latest. I have a new product coming out next week about how to maintain your competitive edge as you age, which has given me the motivation to set up a new payment processor so that I can offer the book again.
If you were going to host a unique running event for your friends, what would it be?
A Fat Ass, probably. Those "races" are so much fun...No Fees, No Awards, No Wimps. Some friends of mine put one on last Winter, with a course that consisted of a 10½ mile loop, the back of a pickup truck to serve as an aid station (stocked with goodies supplied by the runners) and a stop watch for people to write their times down after each loop. Most of the people only ran 1 loop, a few of us ran 2, and 3 people ran all 3 loops.
A friend of mine is going to put one on this weekend, and once the snow comes down and the snowmobiles come out I'm going to put one together on some snowmobile trails that I discovered a little north of Portland that the trail group I train with hasn't done much running on.
A few years ago, I was involved with the New England Mile, which was a lot of fun. It was a downhill point to point 1 mile race through downtown Portland on Father's Day. The last year we put the race on, we got to award a $1500 bonus for the first sub-4 mile on Maine soil by a native Mainer.
What is the best running advice you ever received?
The best advice I've ever received is to be mindful of how you refuel yourself. It is really important to eat something after you exercise, because otherwise you may have just wasted your time. If possible, I like to go well fueled into workouts as well. I tend to eat a lot and food is often on my mind, so that's probably why it is some of the best advice that I ever got.
Once I was more mindful of when I ate, I did start to see some huge improvements in my training. I always make sure to have an apple, or a banana, or a granola bar or something like that for immediately following a workout, and usually within an hour I am having a larger meal such as lunch or dinner or a second breakfast.
I try to eat something every 2 to 4 hours throughout the day, starting with right after I wake up and weigh myself. If I workout in the morning, then that first breakfast is usually pretty light. I also drink a lot of water throughout the day. As a result, I always feel like I'm ready to go out and get something done, and its nice in a speed workout to have that reserve of fuel ready and available to be spent.
What advice would you give someone training for a marathon?
I have so much advice about how to train for a marathon that I wrote a book on it! One of the big things that I recommend to the athletes that I coach is to find out as much as you can about the course ahead of time, and to simulate that sort of terrain in your training. If you are going to run a local race, then get out on the course itself for your long runs and make use of your home course advantage.
If you are going to run on a hilly course, don't wait until the last week of training to incorporate hills in your training. If you are going to run on a flat course, then don't ignore hills during your workouts but don't worry if you spend most of the week running on even terrain. If you are going to run a trail marathon, do the bulk of your training on trails; if it is a road marathon, then make sure you get at least a few runs per week and a long run every couple of weeks on the roads.
Make a race plan for what you want to accomplish during the marathon. I think that one of the worst ideas that people have going into a race is that they just want to finish. Not having a solid goal to reach for doesn't give you something to guage your progress against as you progress through the race, which in my experience makes it easier for you to give up and dog the later miles when things aren't going so well. If you had a goal time when you feel like dogging it, then you could look at where you are, see you are ahead of that time and try to keep ahead, or you could see you were behind that time and do whatever you can to make up some lost ground.
In that vein, have multiple goals. You should have one goal that is going to be difficult to achieve, one goal that should be pretty realistic, and a minimal goal that constitutes success. For example, at the Cox Sports Marathon, my stretch goal was a 2:37, my realistic goal was 2:45, and my minimum goal was a personal best. If you have to have a "Just Finish" goal, then set that as your minimal goal. If you don't know what sort of times you are capable of, then go to a track and do a mile time trial and use one of the Jack Daniel's or McMillan calculators to extrapolate that into an equivalent effort marathon time. Those things can be scarily accurate.
Don't look at failure as a bad thing. It's okay to fail and to not make your goals. Treat it as a learning experience, look forward to the next goal, do whatever you can to achieve that. After I failed to make my 5k goals this Summer, people tried to console me by telling me that I still ran good times and had competitive races. And I did; I enjoyed the process and it was all worth doing. Still, the end result was a failure. The next time I try to run a fast 5k, I will have a better idea of what to do and what not to do.
Anything I haven't asked about.....
Those questions were pretty thorough. The only thing I'd like to leave off with is to make sure you give back. Racing is a lot of fun, but putting those races on is a lot of work and most of the people involved do it on a volunteer basis. Try to find at least one race per year that you can volunteer at instead of running, or at least that you can volunteer at before or after you run the race. Join a local club and get involved with the actual organization of a race.
I volunteer at half a dozen to a dozen races per year (and that's not counting the 18 week race series I sponsor) and I find the volunteering just as much fun as the racing. There are often ample opportunities to help out with set up and clean up that don't prevent you from participating, and if you aren't running then there's always a need for people at aid stations and the finish line. If you have kids and a spouse that runs, then see if there is anything that you can do where the kids can help out too and let your spouse concentrate on running his or her race. I've often seen kids handing out water at aid stations and helping to collect chips after a race, and they are always having a blast.
Here's some relevant links for topics I covered in the above questions, if you are interesed:
http://news.runtowin.com (the blog)
http://www.runtowin.com/newsletter.html (the newsletter signup page)
http://www.runtowin.com/tips/common-running-injuries.html (a sample newsletter about injuries)
http://news.runtowin.com/2008/03/02/trail-monster-running-fat-ass-50k-2008.html (a race report after a Fat Ass)
http://news.runtowin.com/2008/05/06/cox-marathon.html (my race report after the Cox Sports Marathon)
http://news.runtowin.com/2008/03/04/how-to-make-screw-shoes.html (video of how to make screw shoes - I'll be making a new one after we do a clinic this winter with the folks I coach once we have some good ice on the roads)