I was asked a few questions, and I thought I'd share them, and the answers, with you.
Jennifer: Does anyone write your running plan or has anyone ever written it, if not, then how do you know what to run?
Jonathan: I have used a number of marathon training plans when I was racing marathons. My favorite was Jack Daniel’s Running Formula, which I still think is one of the best out there. When I changed to running ultras, there are no established plans available, so I found a few guidelines and made up my own plans. Since then I’ve looked at other runner’s programs, studied some sports science and come up with my own approach. I believe in taking far more days off, so that my easy days are actually complete rest, and my hard days are hard. That means I do a lot of quality work.
Jennifer: Do you worry about what you eat before races?
Jonathan: Yes, what you eat before the race is critical on a number of levels. If you get it wrong, you can be depleted of energy, or worse, have an upset stomach. It’s not just the morning of the race that impacts you, but at least the day before as well. I have found that eating a high fat meal the night before a race works much better for me than a high carbohydrate meal. The morning of the race I make sure I am up early to hydrate, eaten and taken care of the other end of digestion, so to speak. Before a race is the one time I do eat junk food - something easily digested, like Pop Tarts, seems to work well.
Jennifer: What are your thoughts on all the products out there on the market, gels, endurance drinks, and candy? Also if you use these items, do you have a schedule you follow while you train and race?
Jonathan: When I’m on training runs I generally take little in the way of gels, drinks or candy. I am prone to weight gain, and I also think I benefit from forcing my body to burn fat. So for runs up to 4 hours, I generally rely on water with added salt. On some longer training runs (4+ hours) I may use Gatorade with extra salt, sometimes gels or M&Ms.
For shorter races (50K or less), I think Gels are great. They are very quickly digested and easily carried. It’s important to ‘sip’ Gels, mixing them with saliva. Simply swallowing them fast can cause problems. My favorite is Gu, and my least favorite is Clif.
On a race I eat whatever appeals at the time. I don’t plan what to eat on a race at all; I believe that the appetite is the result of the body’s analysis of its needs. Sometimes I’ll come into an aid station and want salty cheezeits, sometimes cookies; it all depends on what appeals. I also let my hunger direct my intake. When I’m not actually running, I avoid sports drinks, gels and candy, even candy marketed as ‘protein bars’.
Jennifer: Why running, I know why you started to exercise, but why running?
Jonathan: It was not what I expected. I started off doing aerobics with my next door neighbor and had a blast. I was intending to add in some cycling, as I’d always thought of myself as a cyclist, not a runner. However, I started doing a little bit of running (a mile), and even though it was tough, I just found myself hooked.
Jennifer: Do you ever want to throw in the towel and what motivates you to keep pushing if you feel yourself start to drag?
Jonathan: I’ve never seriously considered giving up. I’ve been at the “I’m never doing this again” stage, and the “why do I do this” stage many times. I’ve decided that I’m not cut out for ultra running a few times, but always licked my wounds and come back for more. Motivation is a very tough question; I don’t think I am self aware enough to know the answer, but if pushed I would say it’s because it’s who I am. I am a runner.
On a more day to day basis, having a race to train for keeps me focused. I know that if I don’t get out the door, I will suffer that much worse on the race. Generally, I don’t have a problem with motivation to run, though actually getting out of the door can be tough.
Jennifer: What is your favorite, I cannot leave the house, running product? I.e. brand of sock, gear, Garmin etc.
Jonathan: I’ve blogged on a number of products that I like, but the one thing that has been my constant companion is my Polar Heart Rate Monitor. I don’t think I’ve run without it in well over 10 years. I don’t always look at on my runs, but I rely on it to create a training log on the PC. It allows me to look back at races in previous years and see what training I did, and how the race went. It also tells me how I’m training now compared with last month, or last year.
Jennifer: Where would your perfect place to run be?
Jonathan: The English Lake District without a doubt. There are few trees in the Lake District, so you can see for miles. It is a beautiful part of the world, and the landscape changes as you travel. A lot of the south east is ‘the long green tunnel’ – you’re in the woods the whole time.
Jennifer: Do you do any other sports?
Jonathan: No. If I had the time, I would like to do a little Yoga. Not for the flexibility, but for the mediation and peace it brings.