Eat & Run, the 2012 book from ultrarunner Scott Jurek had me hooked from page one, as he takes the reader straight to the woozy lows of Death Valley and the Badwater Ultra Run: 135 miles of over heating, black tarmac and dehydration.
But as I kept reading what really caught my attention was the mention of yoga, and not just on one occasion. Jurek discusses in depth the importance of two aspects of yoga: core strength and breathing. But most significantly Jurek admits that he struggled with yoga: “…until I understood it was a practice, not a competition.”
It is difficult for runners to switch off that competitive drive (it took me years to figure it out), and when to turn it on – but Jurek has it down – and with seven Western State 100mile titles to his name I think we can say he is doing something right?! Yoga exists as a practice that for runners can allow us to relax, really focus on our breathing and find out which areas of the body are tight and need stretching. The ‘added extras’ are increased focus and concentration – but let’s focus for now on the areas that Jurek mentions.
Starting with the core, Jurek makes two statements that stand out:
“Any yoga position will be of tremendous value to the runner if you make sure to focus on and engage your core…. If you practice yoga, concentrate on backbend moves like the locust, the bridge and the boat.”
Doing core work two or three times a week (for the front and the back of the body) will pay dividends in the long run. With a strong core we are better equipped to move ourselves forward – in a sense pushing ourselves forward rather than pulling. Jurek also recommends Pilates, conditioning work that integrates planks, and if you go to the gym: pull downs and rows. Additionally finding a yoga class to take once (or twice if you have time) a week will help with leg and hip strength, and the stretching may even help to ease issues such as IT band complications down the road.
When it comes to yogic breathing, Jurek dedicates a short instructional section to the practice in the book on page 120. The form of yogic breathing that Jurek has found most beneficial is diaphragm breathing using only the nose – where an inhale expands the abdomen and allows a deeper breath to be drawn in. Jurek goes on to suggest that eventually runners might be able to breathe only through the nose into the abdomen on easy runs. In a short exert Jurek describes how he practiced breathing only through his nose on a run:
“I experimented… I didn’t worry about speed or form… I focused only on breathing in and out through my nose. It was like when I was a kid, teaching myself to relax… I trained myself to breathe from my diaphragm, to ‘belly breathe,’ rather than breathe from my chest.”
Armed with insights from Eat & Run, personally I feel more informed going into the next few months of training as I prepare for a 55k ultra run through a canyon. Ultra running is not just about the miles – that’s a given – it’s also about the ‘little things’: core strengthening, how to breathe, what to consider eating and drinking and how to be ready mentally. And at the end of the book Jurek talks about one of the most important aspects of running that we all sometimes forget:
“We strive toward a goal, and whether we achieve it or not is important, but it’s not what’s most important. What matters is how we move toward that goal.”
In an effort to move towards my goal of running strongly in Arizona I am currently including a variety of cross training in an average week to build an aerobic base fitness – which includes swimming and cycling. As an extension of that last weekend I took part in my first open water sea swim in Hawaii. The 1.5 mile Popoia Swim organised by the Kailua Masters Club had a record number of entrants, and was a blast from start to finish. The course took swimmers into the swell to start with, out towards Popoia/ Flat Island (site of a former Hawaiian fishing shrine, now home to wedge-tailed shearwaters). As we swam around the island the incoming surf kept it ‘real’. I smiled at the waves and tried to stay relaxed. We then headed back towards the beach with the swell now pushing us home, over grazing turtles and the cruising fish. After the race pancakes, presentations and a raffle kept everyone chatting, and one lady generously donated her prize to me: a free body piercing?! I haven’t quite decided which part of my body to pierce – watch the instagram space for an update…
Overall – if we just keep practicing, whether it be yoga or running, whatever you choose, the competing part of it will just become an added way for us to hone our chosen exercise – to do what we do with integrity and passion, just like Scott Jurek.
To end this post, I’d like to direct you to the pages of a Welsh clothing company called howies, and a lovely post on their blog that I think Scott Jurek would give a nod to: READ HERE.
P.s. Talking of Badwater… read more about Hawaii ultra runner Hannah Roberts and her trip to the ultra this year on her blog: Run Sea Legs Run.
In the world of running events, there are those that fit into the ‘grand & sophisticated’ category (think mass participation city marathon), or those that fall under ‘low-key and laid-back’ (think local, running over your backyard trails). And I’m not insinuating that one is better than another, no sir, that would be very un-yogic of me and plus, I like a marathon just as much as the next distance junkie! No, I’m saying there are ‘different courses for different horses’, and how awesome is that!
And then there are HURT races. You never really know what’s going to happen in a trail race in Hawaii, but maybe that’s a good thing. However, people still sign up in such numbers that the race organisers have had to limit entries to 150 people. Take Saturday for example. The fourth race in the HURT trail running series was a ten miler, Mango Madness. It winds around the Makiki trails of Oahu – part of the course for the HURT 100. Nearly everyone who ran Mango Madness last year made the mistake of assuming the course would be more or less the same, which it almost was, just with an additional hill. And this hill is nothing to be scoffed at (no photo can do it justice) – it’s concrete, steep, long, green & slippery in places, and has cattle guards?! From my own perspective I use the cattle guards to help break up the ‘never-ending-ness’ of the hill, and find myself counting strides after each cattle guard to help find a running/ fast-striding-uphill rhythm again. It seems to help!
The course was a mixture of mainly climbs and descents over rocky, and heavily rooted trails. There are a couple of fun, rolling sections along which you can pick up some speed, and feel like you’re flying down a single track – but it’s not advisable to pick up too much velocity because before you know it, there will be a sharp bend around a densely vegetated corner, and if you swerve too much to dodge the branches you risk toppling off the edge, and down a cliff into the valley below. Yes, I’ve nearly done it a couple of times.
The best part of yesterday’s race was the final section. As runners made the last turn towards the finish, they had to spin three times around a pole, and then run with a ‘mango & spoon’ to the finishing line! Brilliant. People’s reactions were indicative of energy levels – those who were totally spent just walked their mango home, but those with an extra something kept trying to run – all with comic effect! Overall it was another great trail running event put on by the HURT gang.
After the race I attended a World Ocean’s Day event, organised by the awesome Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii. And I think I’ve found a new great cool down: Zumba. I’d never been to a Zumba class before, and it sure does work on, and work out tight hips! The teacher Suelang Watson moved like someone who had just shimmied her way down from a carnival float in Rio, and no matter how hard I tried, the steps were beyond me. I can definitely say Zumba is fun, and an excellent way to work up a sweat but Shakira is right, hips don’t lie – and no matter how much yoga I do, I’m still a white girl, and a runner…
In other news, I was extremely happy to feature as a guest writer on the wonderful Jesica Cockerham’s blog: Run On Organic, created to “spread knowledge, inspiration, and incredible products that contribute to an organic & healthy way of living.” I first connected with Jes Cockerham via Instagram, thanks to the Further Faster Forever online community, and starting reading about Aubrey Organics on her website. Since then I have tried & tested two fantastic hair products, which you can read more about here: GUEST POST.
Next up – more reviews, and previews of up and coming races, including my preparations for the Canyon de Chelly Ultra…
As weekends go, this last one was a blast! The sport calendar in Hawaii was absolutely jam-packed full of events, and it was hard to pick and choose what to do?!
Luckily I had already signed up for Sunday’s Honolulu Ekiden with a group of local running-girls (team name Speedy Wahines), and decided not to run in Saturday morning’s HURT ‘Run With A View’ trail race, but volunteer at the event instead.
HURT trail races are so low-key they are almost relaxing, and it’s basically like going to hang-out with some of your best running buddies! There were lots of familiar faces at the race, and some new people showed up too! For a great insight to a triathlete’s first HURT trail run, read Rachel Ross’s post here: Run Like A Mother.
The race organisers Rosie Warfield & Cheryl Loomis provided awesome ‘green’ prizes, and also a delicious spread of food for all the runners, including fruit kebabs! Refreshing & juicy post-race goodness. The full results of the race can be seen HERE – first man home was the fleet-of-foot Jimmy Davis and first lady was cool-as-a-cucumber Kelly Vandenberg.
When Sunday arrived, getting up to the 3:15am alarm was pretty difficult, but being part of a relay team is great motivation for getting out of bed so early! And so, I made my way down to Kapiolani Park for the start of the Honolulu Ekiden, to meet up with my fellow ‘wahines’. I arrived to quite a scene: lots of bright lights and runners milling about; a main stage and an inflatable arch over the road; Japanese pre-race banter over a microphone with music in the background; and a long line of buses. The course for the Ekiden was an out and back route, divided into six legs that covered a total distance of 26.2 miles. Shuttle buses had been arranged to move runners to all the different relay leg starting and finishing points, and by 4:45am everyone was herded to their relevant bus, and driven out to the course.
The race started at 5:30am, and I knew our first leg runner, Julia, wearing the special ekiden sash (complete with it’s timing chip) would set off at a quick pace, being surrounded by ‘the pack’! Next up was Jill who ran another quick leg, and then Christina took over, setting off into the wind towards Sandy’s Bay. Katie then took the sash, and ran back over the hill past Hanauma Bay to where I was waiting to run the 5th leg. With adrenaline pumping I set off at a crazy pace, but soon settled down knowing I had 9.62km to complete. When Kaimuki Middle school arrived I handed over to Eri, who crossed the finish line to bring our team home in 3rd place overall, with a time of 2:46:41. 1st place went to Team Hawaii Sport Mag, and 2nd to the Blue Shell Sea Warriors. Full results can be viewed HERE.
As anyone who has been part of a relay team can tell you, they are always awesome races to do. What made this extra special was the Japanese touch and the Ekiden element with it’s festival approach, the bright and colourful finishing touches, the enthusiasm, and the quirky, light-hearted sense of humor of the female sports commentator.
An Ekiden was traditionally a method of communicating a message in Japan. A series of messengers would relay news to a destination via a chain of people. But now that we have other means of slightly faster communication, the modern day celebration of this tradition is held at ‘Ekiden’ road running relays across Japan, and around the world. The major ekiden in Japan is the Hakone Ekiden, where University teams compete for the coveted title.
The mission of Sunday’s Honolulu Ekiden states:
“By introducing this sport to Hawaii, Honolulu Ekiden seeks to promote cultural exchange between Hawaii and Japan. Through sport and music, Honolulu Ekiden would like to “pass-on” the Ekiden tradition in hopes to strengthen bonds between the people of Japan, Hawaii, as well as the rest of the world by sharing part of Japan’s culture.”
Team Hawaii Sport Mag will be doing just that with their prize of a round-trip ticket to Japan with Hawaiian Airlines, for each team member! Maybe next year your team will challenge them for 1st place?
Overall the Honolulu Ekiden was definitely a cultural celebration. It was very different to the usual road race in Hawaii, but diversity is the spice of life, right?! And sport and music do bring people together, whatever the language – running and dancing, dancing and running – we can’t complain. What’s that quote again… “And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.” Now that I think of it, someone had even called us the “Crazy Wahines’…
In other news it’s only a few weeks until The Kukini Yoga Retreat on the North Shore of Oahu at Camp Erdman YMCA. It’s going to be an action packed two days of trail running, and yoga-for-runners, with lots of time to relax, go to the beach, swim and chill out inbetween. I will be delivering the retreat with Toney Avakova (Lanikai Juice Running Club Coach) and we are having fun making final adjustments to our plans for the weekend. Think trail-time with an added yogic element, and a twist of fun. Sign-up is still open, at the Kukini Yoga Retreat page on this website, and there are a limited number of spots stil available – so hurry!
Please feel free to email if you have any questions at all! Roll on May 31st!
Congrats everyone who ran, swam, biked or hiked this weekend!
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