Second Wind

Second Wind
"Run With Purpose!"

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Ultras! part 2

This is the second part of the 2 part series on Ultras that follows ultra marathoner Zane Smith (of TN).
Please see "Ultras!  part 1"

The last race Zane ran was just a few weeks ago, the most iconic 100 mile race in the continental United States (made even more so by its prominent place in Christopher McDougall’s “Born to Run” book), the Leadville100.

The Leadville100 is a big race.  For ultras, it gets no bigger.  For a "normal" ultra (hard to call any ultra "normal") you might see anywhere from 50 - 200 participants.  In the Leadville100, typically over 700 register to run the event, and this year was no different.  
The tale of the tape of this monumental course begins with the simple fact that the 100 miles stretch across the Rocky Mountains in Colorado.  The "lowest" part of the course is a towering 9,200ft -- which, to provide some reference, the highest peak in the Smoky Mountains is Clingman's dome at a mere 6,643.
That's not all.
The highest peak of the course comes at the cruelly named "Hope's Pass" (which would be more accurately described as "Where Hope Comes to Die" Pass) at a staggering 12,600ft.  This is a land where outsiders struggle to breathe just while walking around and runners routinely suffer altitude sickness that requires hospitalization and This is the land that hosts these runners on a grueling 100 mile trail run.  It's no wonder that of the nearly 700 super athletes who participate (who must first qualify to even register for this event), nearly 1/2 do not make it to the finish line.

Zane Smith, however, did finish.  Zane, who ran (I intentionally did not use "competed" there - this is a group based so intently on comradery that truly the competition lies within oneself) in the 30-39M division, took 48th in his division and 112th overall, finishing the race in 26.27 (well under the 30 hour time limit).  If you do the math, that means that over the course of 100 miles, at 9,200-12,600 ft of elevation, up and down the Rocky Mountains, he averaged a pace of under 16 minutes a mile.  
Backpacking this course with a few overnight camp outs would be a fantastic feat - - for a down to earth, married father of 2, full time employed insurance salesman from a town with an elevation of 637 ft to run it straight through at a 15.52 min/mile pace is nothing short of astonishing.


Zane was kind enough to take a few minutes to answer a few questions for all of us here at SecondWind and I'd like to take this opportunity to share those bits of information:

Zane, tell me a little bit about your training?  What's your typical way to train?
First off, I want to say that I'm no expert - I just love to run!  All I can do is share what works for me, and for that, I'm happy to tell.
On the training, honestly, I think one of the best ways (and funnest ways) to train is to just train through races.  
What about gaps in race season, time preparing for said races, etc. - do you just take off and run?  What's your plan?
I find it works best for me to split it up and use varied training approaches to keep everything fresh while training your muscles for whatever the course may bring:  slow and easy run days, intervals, hills, speed work, and, of course, your long runs.
Speaking of "long runs", how many miles do you put in a week and how many days a week are you running?  Do you run 100 miles for a long run in training?
No, not at all.  I do usually run 6 days a week, always giving my body a day for rest and recovery.  But even at running 6 days a week, leading up a 100 mile race I'm (usually) logging 50-60 miles per Week.
Over the course of a 100 mile run, what do you think is most important?
Eating.  Many ultra runners joke, very truthfully, that the 100 mile races are more of an eating contest than a running contest.  Your body requires sustenance and the runners are really separated by who figures out what their body needs, when they need it, what, and how to consume it.
The most important thing is to practice it.
Yeah, practice eating (I like the sound of that...) - you need to know how your body is going to react.  Some foods wont sit well on the stomach, what will cause cramps, what can your body process quickly and efficiently, how much, how often, etc.  There's questions about (Zane repeatedly encourages people to listen to their body and learn what works for Them - not necessarily what works for so-and-so) salt tabs (or not), solid food vs. gels, "synthetic" vs. natural, etc.  No one can know what will (or wont) work for them until they try them out in race-like situations.
Anything else?  Other than eating, what other piece of advice would you give to someone as they register for a big run?
Know the course - make sure you understand what's going to be required of you.  What's the elevation, what's the elevation change, will you cross through water (as different ultras do), what are the different surfaces of the course (packed gravel, loose gravel, paved road, dirt, rock, mud, "gnarly", etc.) - learn your terrain, and then practice for it.
What do you think the best way to learn the ins-and-outs of a course are?  
Well, I mean, obviously if you can get on the course that's the best way (most runners who finish the Leadville100 go to Leadville, CO for at least a week prior to the race to get their bodies acclimated to the elevation).  But I find other runner's race reports to be extremely valuable.  Read what they thought about the course, from them you can find out terrain, rough spots, distances (both real and felt) between aid stations, etc.  One of the most valuable parts of a honestly written race report is to see 'when did this person want to quit?'  Find out the challenging (mentally and physically) parts of the course so you can prepare for them.  I once read a race report where I noted that every time they felt like quitting was on a long uphill, and every time they said the course "didn't feel so bad" was on a down hill stretch.  Seems silly, but that's an excellent point to remember.  So now, whenever I start thinking "is this hill Ever going to end!?", I remember that guy's race report, get a quick chuckle at myself, and push on.
The other thing you really want to practice that lots of new people leave out is walking/hiking.  There are going to be times, over the course of 100 miles, that you're going to have to walk up some of the hills (it's more efficient), so practice that.  Walking/hiking uses different muscles than running and you need to train them as well.
Ever do any weight training or cross training?  What does that look like?  Do you lift heavy with short reps, or go light weight and long rep sets?
I definitely work out a lot for these runs.  I try to get to the gym when I can, but I also have some weights at home so that I don't have to be away from the family anymore than I have to.  I generally do a very traditional (muscle building) workout with 3 sets of 10 reps with pretty heavy weight.  I focus on legs obviously, but it's important to learn your body's weakness and try to work it (Zane goes on to point out that most people have a muscular imbalance between their quads and their hamstrings - recognize which one is weaker for you and give it extra attention).  Goblet squats are a great exercise, he adds, and stretching.  Lots of stretching.
The other important thing to work on all of the time is your core.  Your core plays a big role in keeping you up and keeping you going over 100 miles!
Do you ever use any of the 'programs' out there?
I use cross-fit and enjoy it a lot.  The important thing to remember about cross-fit is that, as competitors we all want to do the biggest, best, fastest - scale cross-fit according to your abilities.  I'm a runner - I use working out and cross-fit (etc.) to supplement my running.
If someone was just starting out, what would be your 1 piece of advice to get them on the path of their first ultra?
Sign up!  Find a 30 miler and sign up for one, surround yourself with friends to support you, talk to others who have done it, and just go.  Don't wait until you're "sure you're ready", pick a date, sign up for one, and try it out.  If the bug bites you, then before the week is out after that 30 you'll be signing up for a 50, and so on.


Thanks to Zane Smith for the very candid interview, for the time, for the advice, and for a rare glimpse into this extraordinary group.  Thanks also to Ray Smith (Zane's father) for the photos used.

You heard the man - get out there and get running!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Dear Ready to Run group:

Guys... You did it!

I am so proud of all of you for this fantastic accomplishment!  Over the course of 7 weeks we saw over 90 different individuals come out, with a "core" group of about 35 - about 80-90% of you had Never run a 5k before in your life.  You were scared, resistant, and doubtful... and committed!
You committed to the process, trusted your crazy coach, and exceeded all of your expectations!

Watching the 'light bulb moments' week after week were so exciting, and in the end, 100% of you finished the 5k, and 100% of you made it in under your individual goal times!!

I am so unbelievably proud of every one of you!  I can See the difference in you, and I'm not talking about your running ability (though that certainly did change!)
The BELIEF in yourself is so powerful, your pride, and joy, and sense of accomplishment is written all over you, and and your excitement that comes from your new outlook on your abilities is intoxicating!

Congratulations, to you all, I loved every minute of it and couldn't be happier for all of you!



Friday, September 23, 2011

'Dormant to Dominant' program in the news:

Hey all, as many of you know, I was presented with an awesome opportunity recently that I would like to share with everyone:
I lead a 7 week (1 day a week) running clinic (1/2 seminar 1/2 training each night) in Knoxville, TN in partnership with a local 5k there (Volunteer Ministry Center).  Participating in this clinic were a prominent local news anchor (Lori Tucker for ABC's WATE channel 6) and the star of the areas largest radio morning show (Kim Hansard on Star 102.1).

Through them, the story got a lot of air time and they would actually bring a camera crew out to each run and then show interview clips as a story every Thursday for 7 weeks.  As it's not live (only 1 was), you never know what they'll keep and what they'll edit out obviously, but my "naked" feet did get some air time and they let me talk about this "crazy new running style" as it was affectionately dubbed.  
Over the 7 weeks we had over 80 different people come out with a core group of about 30-35 that made it to all 7.  For about 80% of the group, this will be their first 5k ever, and then about 20% of the group were already accomplished distance runners looking to improve efficiency, prevent injuries, shave time, etc.

I offer personal training and group training for running and my biggest program is 'Dormant to Dominant' which is a 'my first 5k' program where I can take Anyone and have them ready to successfully run a 5k in 9 weeks (my newest version of the program - the program this group went through - does it in just 3 days a week, less than 30 minutes each of those 3 days, and in only 6 weeks!).
For more information on how this group did, personal training, group training, speaking engagements, or general questions - please just shoot me an email and I'll be in touch.
The links to the videos/articles are below for anyone who may be interested/find them helpful - the very last one received the most instructional air time:

(The main page that has links to all of the articles/videos can be found here:

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Ultras! part 1

This is the first of a 2 part series on Ultra Marathons.  Today’s, the first entry, will focus on the personal story of accomplished ultra runner Zane Smith, and the second entry will tell the tale of his most recent race, the Leadville 100, and focus on a Q&A session I had with Zane on training, getting into Ultras, etc.

This past week I got to catch up with ultra-runner Zane Smith.  Zane is from Oak Ridge, TN and now lives in Columbia, TN. 

One of the things I want to stress about Zane is what he would like to stress.  He is not a runner.  Not in the sense that running is solely what defines him and what he identifies his life as being based on – not by a long shot.  
Zane is a Christian, a dedicated husband, and a loving father, who just so happens to run…. A lot.

Zane didn’t grow up as someone who enjoyed running for a hobby, he was no track star or cross country runner, but he grew up very active and always enjoyed hiking with his dad (Ray Smith) – hiking with his father was his first connection to the trails that would later in life become the place where he would spend a large amount of his time. 

Zane really only began running just a few short years ago (mid 2005) and he started out like most other runners, training for his first 5k and seeing running as a good hobby to help him stay in shape.  After completing his first 5k, again as with most of us, he got bit.  A friend asked Zane if he’d like to train for a ½ marathon which he eagerly jumped into and completed.  The disease was really setting in now.  After feeling good after his ½ marathon and wanting to see what else his body was capable of, Zane set out to find a marathon to try, only, he couldn’t find one.  Now, here’s the first departure from the norm.  As I stated, Zane started running like most of us, wanted to bump up mileage like most of us, and got bit by the running bug like all of us, but here’s where the story takes a twist:  when Zane couldn’t find a marathon he didn’t keep looking, he didn’t simply keep training until one came around, he didn’t even drive to another state to find one.  Instead, Zane skipped the marathon entirely and decided to, after just completing his first half marathon, go for his first Ultra; a 50k.

[an “Ultra” is considered any distance greater than 30 miles with the most common distances being 30 miles, 50 miles, and 100 miles.  “Ultras” would also include your 12, 24, and 48 hour timed races]

After his first 50k (just a touch over 31 miles), Zane continued to wonder just what his limits were and soon pushed up to a 50 mile race, and then… 100 miles.  Zane’s first 100 mile Ultra was the MMT in Virginia (Massanutten Mountain Trail).

Since his first 100, Zane has continued to run numerous 100 mile races (including 3 of the most iconic in the United States:  Hardrock, Barkley, and Leadville).  
Zane has only failed to finish 1 race in the allotted time (which is 60 hours), and before you get too comfortable with the idea of that DNF, consider this:
since the Barkley race began in 1986, only 10 people (out of the over 700 who have attempted it) have ever finished it within the time limit. Ten. Yes, 10.  The unofficial slogan for Barkley is “No one finishes The Barkley”, and when you average just over 1 person finishing every 3 years… I’d say it’s a fitting slogan for this brutal behemoth located in Frozen Head State Park, right here in east TN.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Running Form 7: Posture

I apologize for the delay in posts, I've been out of town for about 10 days
and made that time a "technology free" zone!

I'm excited to be back, to hear how everyone's running has been the 
last week, and to share with you the 7th (and final) segment on our
Running Form series.  This 7th part of the series covers complete/overall
running posture and is taken from my book 

Running Posture

Keep your body in a straight line. Think of a rod
going straight through your body, from the center of
the top of your head down through your ankle. 
With that rod in place, every joint has to stay in line and your
back must remain perfectly straight. 
At the same time, lean your body ever-so-slightly forward.

Now, in remembering that your body has to be
straight (you can’t bend that rod), you know you
can’t lean forward at the waist.
Instead, you create your forward cant from the

By creating a lean forward (from the ankles),
you enlist gravity to assist you in your run. Instead of
running being work, it becomes controlled falling.
You aren’t pushing off into each stride, in fact, if you
don’t do anything but stand still, with your body
leaning forward at the ankles, you will fall flat on
your face. To keep yourself from falling, you simply
place one foot out to catch yourself – 'falling' into
your next stride with half the effort.

Remember that everything (head, shoulders, chest, hips, knees,
toes) points in the direction you are moving - forward!

Knees are bent (before you can even think in your head "but my knees are bent"
let me just go ahead and assure you they are not.  Bend them more.).
Your knees must be kept bent your entire stride, up and down, lift and landing.
In order to do this, bend your knees, then bend them a little more, then bend them
until you feel mildly ridiculous and at that point you're probably about half way there ;)

  • Posture straight
  • 'Lean' from the ankles
  • All things pointing straight ahead
  • Keep knees bent

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Running Form 6: Head

This is the 6th installment in the 7 part series on Running Form: From the feet up

Today's entry is a short excerpt on the head:

All excerpts are taken from my book, "Second Wind: the running coach you never had but always needed"


Your head should be still, fixed, straight ahead in the direction you are advancing.
That, obviously, is controlled largely by one’s eyes. So, unless you are admiring the scenery (which inadvertently you really should be doing from time to time), your eyes should be focused on the road ahead - straight ahead.

Your eyes, chin, shoulders, chest, hips, knees, your toes, everything should be pointing straight ahead.

The other issue with the head is “head bob”.
If you are running correctly, your head should remain flat (think of “finishing school” where they would make the children put books flat on their heads and walk around without them falling off).
If instead of lifting your foot off the ground and gliding (with your quads and hamstrings), you are pushing off and lunging your entire body in the air (with your calves), then your head will visibly bob up and down with each stride.

Stand in place and march (just march in place - right where you are).
You aren't using your calf muscles (your smallest leg muscles), you aren't pushing off - you're lifting each step (with your hamstrings and quads - you're biggest leg muscles) and, therefore, you're head stays perfectly flat.

How you march in place, in all regards, is how you should run. You are using the correct muscles, you are landing flat footed, your feet are landing directly underneath your hips, your standing tall, your head is still, etc - Marching in place mimics proper running form!