Blog Archives

LA Marathon Training Sessions on the AlterG Anti-Gravity Treadmill at Athletico in Chicago

Since November, I’ve been training very intensely for the LA Marathon on March 9th, 2014. It will be my third running at LA and special for a number of reasons, namely because 1) LA was my first marathon back in 2009, 2) It falls exactly on my birthday this year and 3) I’ll be raising money for The White Heart Foundation in honor of my grandfather who is a WWII Vet and all other veterans, especially those injured in the line of fire. I’ve also had the best marathon build-up for this one, despite numerous polar vortices in Chicago! 

 

Not only have I been able to train almost like a professional athlete, thanks to the incredible studio I’m apart of at Sweat on State, I actually had the opportunity to do some Anti-Gravity training down the street at Athletico. For the past two weeks, I’ve worked with the manager of the Gold Coast Athletico, Adam Wille, PT, MSPT, to train on the facility’s AlterG G-Trainer. To use the G-Trainer, athletes or recovering patients put on a pair of shortie wetsuit bottoms which seal their lower body into an inflatable pod on top of a Woodway treadmill. The treadmill then calibrates the athlete’s weight and gradually inflates the bubble. Once calibrated, athletes can use the onscreen controls to select a certain percentage of their body weight at which to run, from 100% down to 20%. For example, a 200-lb. person could choose to run at 80% of their body weight to see what it would feel like to race at 160-lbs. When combined with an HR monitor, power output and rate of perceived exertion (RPE), the machine is very useful in determining ideal racing weight and power-to-weight ratio.

 

At my first session on Friday, February 14th, I spent about 10-15-minutes warming up once I was inside the pod and experimenting at different percentages, taking it all the way down to 50 or 60% of my body weight, which feels like you’re running on the moon! I decided to run a 4-mile time trial at 92% of my body weight (in my case about 180-lbs). My goal was to gauge how running at nearly race-pace intensity would feel at a slightly lighter weight, with the ultimate goal of determining my racing weight. I was able to average nearly 6:30/mile pace for the duration of the time trial and felt pretty good. My rate of perceived exertion on a scale of  1-7 was about a 6 so I was very close to if not right at race pace.

 

AlterG training session #2 was this past Friday, February 21st, and after a 2-mile warmup, I did a 10K time trial (6.2-miles), again at 92% of my body weight. I ran my fastest 10K, with a time of 40:45. I began the TT at a 7:20/mile pace and dialed down my pace to below 6:30/mile pace during the first 2-3-miles. By mile 4 I was running at 6:22/mile and mile 5 was nearly 6:15/mile. I closed the last 1/4- to 1/2-mile of the TT at close to 6:00/mile pace! My heart rate was almost 190bpm by the end of it and I was extremely close to my threshold. This session was at the end of a very heavy week and two days before doing Clovis Hero WOD (10-mile Run + 150 Burpee Pull-ups).

 

Athletico and Adam Wille work with the Chicago Bears and Bulls and just about every other professional sports team in this city, dancers, endurance athletes and have helped thousands of other Chicagoans rehab injuries and get back on their feet as fast as possible! I’m grateful to partner with them during my training for the LA Marathon and appreciate their support. Thanks, Adam and your Team at Athletico Gold Coast! I’m looking forward to working with you in the future.

 

Follow these links if you’d like to learn more about the G-TRAINER or anything else that Athletico offers. Or email me and I’d be happy to make a personal introduction.

 

If you don’t already, make sure to follow and learn with Athletico on TwitterFacebookBlog and YouTube for consistent updates on everything fitness, health, injury prevention, and more.

IRONMAN LOUISVILLE 2013: The Marathon is Always at the End

Oh, that run. That run. The thing about the Ironman run is that you are never not thinking about it; analyzing it; dreading it; anticipating it. And if you think you aren’t, it’s there in your subconscious. It’s all about the run. ALWAYS. It’s like an uber-sensitive gauge for any kind of weakness or deficiency. You could be like a fish in the water. Cycling could be your strength. But if you’re not 100% ready for that 26.2-mile conclusion, it will bite you in the heel like an asp in the desert. Like a scorpion to its unsuspecting prey, the marathon will sneak up on you and stab you in the face.

It doesn’t have to be that way, but it will be that way if you’re unprepared or underprepared. It will always hurt–and that part we know–but it’s a matter of how long and how much it will hurt. And therein lies the most common question posed to endurance athletes: “Why do you do it, if it’s as painful and awful as you say, why?” Because we can; humans can. Because I believe that deep within every one of us is a desire to test ourselves, and discover our limits. In some, it manifests itself in their artistic talents. In others, it’s expressed by scientific pursuits, business acumen or reasoning abilities. In still other individuals, that desire lies dormant or has yet to be awakened. And yet, it is there.

But I might be wrong. That’s why I do it anyway, generally speaking. Since I get this question or a variant of it quite often, rarely does a week go by that I don’t ponder it at some point. In endurance sports, the one who wins is the one who can suffer the most and push the hardest until the end. That’s what it comes down to when it’s all said and done. 

I didn’t want to get up from that chair. At that moment, it was the most comfortable object I could imagine to be sitting on. A volunteer helped me take off my bike shoes and slip on my Inov-8 runners. I decided to forgo my hat and just don my classic white sunglasses. My feet hurt. Like really hurt. I was hoping it was just the normal ache from being in hard bike shoes for six hours. I’m sure my feet had swelled somewhat as a result of the heat and in so doing, jammed against the inside of the hard shoes even more severely. The only hopeful thought was that they would loosen up as I started to jog.

My Transition 2 time was over 13-minutes. That should tell you all you need to know about how excited I was to start that run. I had a strong feeling that it was not going to be one of my fastest marathons but I don’t think I imagined in that moment how long it would actually take to finish.

I started out feeling like death warmed over, with the only bright spots being my family and some good friends who came to support me. The day was about as hot as it was going to get, which was close to 90 degrees, and it was humid with little wind just after 2:00 p.m. I’d forgotten what the run course map looked like but I knew it was around downtown and then straight out for a while. Despite feeling like a pile of manure, I maintained a positive outlook. I was in the middle of a grand experiment and racing an Ironman! I had had a great swim and decent bike with no mechanical issues or flats and was a mere 25 miles to go before the finish. I tried to only think about the next mile at a time and just getting to that marker. The crowd support was pretty decent for how hot of a day it was; I was having trouble understanding why quite a few people had told me that the Louisville residents really hated Ironman and how it disrupted their way of life for the few days before and during the race. I’d also read many reviews saying the same thing. Interesting, because there seemed to be nothing but love lining that entire course! Whenever I needed a little energy boost, I just stuck out me hand and got some great high-fives.

For that entire 26.2-mile run, I experienced the most horrible pain in my feet. I will try to describe that pain and what I think it resulted from as this particular detail highlighted my run (obviously not a good kind of highlight). As I briefly mentioned toward the end of my commentary on the bike leg, my feet started to ache around mile 85 and following. In training, you’ll remember that my longest ride had been 65 miles, equaling about 3.5-4 hours of saddle time. When my feet started to hurt during the race, it was right around 4.5-5 hours. This sensation caused me to have an “Ah-ha” moment as I remembered what it used to feel like when I’d been in bike shoes on my 6-7-hour training rides in years past or in previous Ironmans.

It felt like I was running in track spikes, only the shoes had been turned inside out and the spikes were pointed into the bottoms of my feet and stabbing me with each plodding step. I was speculating internally as to the cause of this severe pain during the run and have formed a rough theory over the past few weeks after the race. Since March, I’ve been reinventing my running form with the Pose method, which is a more efficient form of running that makes more sense, biomechanically-speaking. It involves 1) harnessing gravity to move across the ground by leaning forward, 2) pulling each foot off the ground by utilizing the hamstrings and 3) landing on the forefoot with each foot directly under the general center of mass (GCM). This is in contrast to the heel-strike/toe-push-off style that came into vogue during the ’70s running boom when Nike released their waffle plate shoe. This design encouraged runners to land on their heel and engage in a plethora of other cringe-worthy running techniques that have persisted to this day. Having so much padding in the shoe also weakens the foot muscles and lower leg muscles and then the arch supports and other foot remedies simply “put a cast” on the foot, instead of addressing the weaknesses and imbalances.

But I digress. To Pose run, one should gradually transition to a minimalist shoe. Minimalist shoes allow your feet to become stronger and to perform the function they were designed to perform. My feet have been getting stronger over the past five months and most likely gained a marginal amount of muscle, making them slightly wider. Wider feet + some swelling due to high temperatures + six hours in hard bike shoes + minimalist running shoes = SIX. HOUR. MARATHON. My finance background definitely helped me solve that equation!

What didn’t help the situation was the fact that the run course was a two loop out-and-back on the same road. 6.5-miles out, 6.5-miles back and then do it again. But before you hit the halfway point, they make you run straight at the finishing chute. It’s a hard slap in the face and I’ve never figured out why so many races insist on designing the courses this way. It would be so easy to route it a few blocks one way or the other and spare us the anguish of staring down the finishing straightaway with 13+ miles left to run! 

What always makes the the second lap better is knowing that it’s the last lap. But since you’ve already logged so many miles beforehand, it is so much harder to get through. I did get to see my family and friends at the turnaround and my friend, April, got an awesome shot of me going in for a high-five  (See Facebook). My dad ran a few miles with me on the second loop, which was so awesome. He’s run the last miles of my first two Ironmans with me and it was great to see him out there–even if I was in tremendous pain and didn’t act like it! I saw my friend, Sammy, out there, who was racing his first Ironman. My good buddy, Trey, who was in the Pepperdine Triathlon Club with me, was racing his first Ironman and he lapped me on the first run loop and ended up finishing in 10:03! Stellar performance for him and just missed qualifying for Kona by five spots. Last year, that kind of time would’ve gotten him there…

The second lap was just about getting there and triaging. Hopes for any of my time goals were gone and I just wanted to finish. Well, honestly, it was hard to even want to finish. I was partially joking with my dad as we were running together about why I do these things. I realized that it brings me such great joy to train for, plan and think about raceday and what my times will be based on certain training markers in each of the sports. I love it! And then when you get to the latter miles of the bike and especially the run, I’m just like, “What the heck?! What is wrong with me??” I was literally thinking about not finishing, The pain in my feet had me thinking that I might be causing some damage that just wouldn’t make the finish worth it. 

I’ve finished a couple of Ironmans before this one. I know that feeling of relief and elation when announcer Mike Reilly shouts over the loudspeaker, “Jonathan Hippensteel from Chicago, Illinois, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!” It is one of the greatest feelings in the world. But I’ve felt that before. It was going to be my slowest Ironman by quite a bit, so I was struggling with the purpose of it all right then.

This one was different, though. I almost wanted to smack myself after I started thinking those thoughts of dropping out. After all the support my friends and family had given me and all the money we’d raised for the Louisville community, how could I even consider dropping out unless I was lying in the medical tent? I knew I could finish. It wouldn’t be pretty, but I was going to get this thing done for every last person who’d supported me and for every charity we were supporting together in Louisville. I was doing this for you.

I forced myself to start jogging with three miles to go and April was coming out to find me with two miles left. It’s much easier mentally, when you are that close to the end, to have a familiar face alongside. I probably ran 8-8:30/mile for the last few miles but it felt like an all out sprint. I crossed the line in 13:26:18, just before 8:30 p.m. The sun had set long before, but as the volunteer placed the finisher’s medal over my neck and I stumbled over to the smiling faces of Mom, Dad, Troy and Joelle, all I could hear in my mind were the last words of Mike Reilly as I stopped the clock by crossing that finish line: “Jonathan Hippensteel, from Chicago, Illinois, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN.” 

And it was worth it. Thank you all for getting me through that one. I couldn’t have done it without you. 

The End…until the next one, that is.

IRONMAN LOUISVILLE 2013: The Marathon is Always at the End

Oh, that run. That run. The thing about the Ironman run is that you are never not thinking about it; analyzing it; dreading it; anticipating it. And if you think you aren’t, it’s there in your subconscious. It’s all about the run. ALWAYS. It’s like an uber-sensitive gauge for any kind of weakness or deficiency. You could be like a fish in the water. Cycling could be your strength. But if you’re not 100% ready for that 26.2-mile conclusion, it will bite you in the heel like an asp in the desert. Like a scorpion to its unsuspecting prey, the marathon will sneak up on you and stab you in the face.

It doesn’t have to be that way, but it will be that way if you’re unprepared or underprepared. It will always hurt–and that part we know–but it’s a matter of how long and how much it will hurt. And therein lies the most common question posed to endurance athletes: “Why do you do it, if it’s as painful and awful as you say, why?” Because we can; humans can. Because I believe that deep within every one of us is a desire to test ourselves, and discover our limits. In some, it manifests itself in their artistic talents. In others, it’s expressed by scientific pursuits, business acumen or reasoning abilities. In still other individuals, that desire lies dormant or has yet to be awakened. And yet, it is there.

But I might be wrong. That’s why I do it anyway, generally speaking. Since I get this question or a variant of it quite often, rarely does a week go by that I don’t ponder it at some point. In endurance sports, the one who wins is the one who can suffer the most and push the hardest until the end. That’s what it comes down to when it’s all said and done. 

I didn’t want to get up from that chair. At that moment, it was the most comfortable object I could imagine to be sitting on. A volunteer helped me take off my bike shoes and slip on my Inov-8 runners. I decided to forgo my hat and just don my classic white sunglasses. My feet hurt. Like really hurt. I was hoping it was just the normal ache from being in hard bike shoes for six hours. I’m sure my feet had swelled somewhat as a result of the heat and in so doing, jammed against the inside of the hard shoes even more severely. The only hopeful thought was that they would loosen up as I started to jog.

My Transition 2 time was over 13-minutes. That should tell you all you need to know about how excited I was to start that run. I had a strong feeling that it was not going to be one of my fastest marathons but I don’t think I imagined in that moment how long it would actually take to finish.

I started out feeling like death warmed over, with the only bright spots being my family and some good friends who came to support me. The day was about as hot as it was going to get, which was close to 90 degrees, and it was humid with little wind just after 2:00 p.m. I’d forgotten what the run course map looked like but I knew it was around downtown and then straight out for a while. Despite feeling like a pile of manure, I maintained a positive outlook. I was in the middle of a grand experiment and racing an Ironman! I had had a great swim and decent bike with no mechanical issues or flats and was a mere 25 miles to go before the finish. I tried to only think about the next mile at a time and just getting to that marker. The crowd support was pretty decent for how hot of a day it was; I was having trouble understanding why quite a few people had told me that the Louisville residents really hated Ironman and how it disrupted their way of life for the few days before and during the race. I’d also read many reviews saying the same thing. Interesting, because there seemed to be nothing but love lining that entire course! Whenever I needed a little energy boost, I just stuck out me hand and got some great high-fives.

For that entire 26.2-mile run, I experienced the most horrible pain in my feet. I will try to describe that pain and what I think it resulted from as this particular detail highlighted my run (obviously not a good kind of highlight). As I briefly mentioned toward the end of my commentary on the bike leg, my feet started to ache around mile 85 and following. In training, you’ll remember that my longest ride had been 65 miles, equaling about 3.5-4 hours of saddle time. When my feet started to hurt during the race, it was right around 4.5-5 hours. This sensation caused me to have an “Ah-ha” moment as I remembered what it used to feel like when I’d been in bike shoes on my 6-7-hour training rides in years past or in previous Ironmans.

It felt like I was running in track spikes, only the shoes had been turned inside out and the spikes were pointed into the bottoms of my feet and stabbing me with each plodding step. I was speculating internally as to the cause of this severe pain during the run and have formed a rough theory over the past few weeks after the race. Since March, I’ve been reinventing my running form with the Pose method, which is a more efficient form of running that makes more sense, biomechanically-speaking. It involves 1) harnessing gravity to move across the ground by leaning forward, 2) pulling each foot off the ground by utilizing the hamstrings and 3) landing on the forefoot with each foot directly under the general center of mass (GCM). This is in contrast to the heel-strike/toe-push-off style that came into vogue during the ’70s running boom when Nike released their waffle plate shoe. This design encouraged runners to land on their heel and engage in a plethora of other cringe-worthy running techniques that have persisted to this day. Having so much padding in the shoe also weakens the foot muscles and lower leg muscles and then the arch supports and other foot remedies simply “put a cast” on the foot, instead of addressing the weaknesses and imbalances.

But I digress. To Pose run, one should gradually transition to a minimalist shoe. Minimalist shoes allow your feet to become stronger and to perform the function they were designed to perform. My feet have been getting stronger over the past five months and most likely gained a marginal amount of muscle, making them slightly wider. Wider feet + some swelling due to high temperatures + six hours in hard bike shoes + minimalist running shoes = SIX. HOUR. MARATHON. My finance background definitely helped me solve that equation!

What didn’t help the situation was the fact that the run course was a two loop out-and-back on the same road. 6.5-miles out, 6.5-miles back and then do it again. But before you hit the halfway point, they make you run straight at the finishing chute. It’s a hard slap in the face and I’ve never figured out why so many races insist on designing the courses this way. It would be so easy to route it a few blocks one way or the other and spare us the anguish of staring down the finishing straightaway with 13+ miles left to run! 

What always makes the the second lap better is knowing that it’s the last lap. But since you’ve already logged so many miles beforehand, it is so much harder to get through. I did get to see my family and friends at the turnaround and my friend, April, got an awesome shot of me going in for a high-five  (See Facebook). My dad ran a few miles with me on the second loop, which was so awesome. He’s run the last miles of my first two Ironmans with me and it was great to see him out there–even if I was in tremendous pain and didn’t act like it! I saw my friend, Sammy, out there, who was racing his first Ironman. My good buddy, Trey, who was in the Pepperdine Triathlon Club with me, was racing his first Ironman and he lapped me on the first run loop and ended up finishing in 10:03! Stellar performance for him and just missed qualifying for Kona by five spots. Last year, that kind of time would’ve gotten him there…

The second lap was just about getting there and triaging. Hopes for any of my time goals were gone and I just wanted to finish. Well, honestly, it was hard to even want to finish. I was partially joking with my dad as we were running together about why I do these things. I realized that it brings me such great joy to train for, plan and think about raceday and what my times will be based on certain training markers in each of the sports. I love it! And then when you get to the latter miles of the bike and especially the run, I’m just like, “What the heck?! What is wrong with me??” I was literally thinking about not finishing, The pain in my feet had me thinking that I might be causing some damage that just wouldn’t make the finish worth it. 

I’ve finished a couple of Ironmans before this one. I know that feeling of relief and elation when announcer Mike Reilly shouts over the loudspeaker, “Jonathan Hippensteel from Chicago, Illinois, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!” It is one of the greatest feelings in the world. But I’ve felt that before. It was going to be my slowest Ironman by quite a bit, so I was struggling with the purpose of it all right then.

This one was different, though. I almost wanted to smack myself after I started thinking those thoughts of dropping out. After all the support my friends and family had given me and all the money we’d raised for the Louisville community, how could I even consider dropping out unless I was lying in the medical tent? I knew I could finish. It wouldn’t be pretty, but I was going to get this thing done for every last person who’d supported me and for every charity we were supporting together in Louisville. I was doing this for you.

I forced myself to start jogging with three miles to go and April was coming out to find me with two miles left. It’s much easier mentally, when you are that close to the end, to have a familiar face alongside. I probably ran 8-8:30/mile for the last few miles but it felt like an all out sprint. I crossed the line in 13:26:18, just before 8:30 p.m. The sun had set long before, but as the volunteer placed the finisher’s medal over my neck and I stumbled over to the smiling faces of Mom, Dad, Troy and Joelle, all I could hear in my mind were the last words of Mike Reilly as I stopped the clock by crossing that finish line: “Jonathan Hippensteel, from Chicago, Illinois, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN.” 

And it was worth it. Thank you all for getting me through that one. I couldn’t have done it without you. 

The End…until the next one, that is.

Country Music Marathon, Part 2: Raceday, Raining, Posing and Fueling

People say that you shouldn’t try anything new during a race but I must have broken that rule more than half a dozen times in this marathon. My running form has completely changed from six months ago and my cadence is much higher, closer to the optimal 180 steps per minute (or 90 strides) that is needed for proper Pose Running technique to be effective. I also ran with my iPod and music for the first time and tried to listen to songs that were generally in the 90 BPM range to help me maintain the cadence I needed. This helped tremendously and I want to dial this in even more. I also used the RunKeeper app for iPhone and so every five minutes a pleasant female voice alerted me to my total time, total distance and average pace, which was excellent because I didn’t have to wear or look at a watch at all.

In terms of nutrition and race fueling, I completely changed that as well. For the first 17 miles of the race, the only nutrition I took in was a mixture of organic whole coconut milk, honey and Chia seeds plus 6-8 ounces of water at every aid station. Starting at mile 18, I began using Hüma Gel, a brand new all natural/real food energy gel that is very easy on the stomach and tastes amazing. I had never used Hüma before but met the founder/creator at the race expo and was intrigued by the natural energy and claims that athletes using the gels had never experienced any stomach or GI issues. He is also a fellow Pepperdine alum so that was a plus. Being in the experimentation mode that I was, I was excited to give the gels a try, even testing them during the race. I had three gels between miles 18-22 and that worked incredibly well. Look for a future post detailing more about my first experience with Hüma and why I am excited to be working with them. In the meantime, check out their website (www.humagel.com) and Facebook Page (https://www.facebook.com/humagel). I will definitely be using their products in future races. For the last 5K, I fueled with two CLIF Shot gels (Citrus flavor and Double Shot Espresso) for that extra kick of caffeine to help me finish strong. 

I ran in my Inov8 F-lite 230 shoes which have been a great starting point in my transition to minimalist running. They have a 6mm heel-to-toe differential and 3mm footbed to allow your feet to start to strengthen and perform their natural function. I’ve been transitioning to minimalist shoes since February and these Inov8’s are the only shoes that I’ve run or trained in since that time. I’m definitely taking the transition slowly and I’ll be writing more about minimalist running in the future here. Read an interview I did with Dirtbag Darling, my good friend Johnie’s community dedicated to girls who like to explore and adventure in the great outdoors: http://www.dirtbagdarling.com/2013/04/dirtbagging-101-intro-to-minimalist.html.

During the actual race, I felt very strong for the first 12 miles, averaging about an 7:45-8:10/mile pace with my cadence at 180+ steps per minute. Things were still going well through about mile 16 but it was around that point in the race that my new running technique started to break down and I had to revert to some heel striking with a slower cadence. I still knew that I could finish but my pace and form were deteriorating. It was now just a question of how long it would take me. I will be tweaking quite a few things in my training for the next marathon, including racing a few half marathons and incorporating some training days of 3-4x 5K intervals with adequate rest. The last 10K of my race was extremely difficult, especially around miles 22-24, and I had to stop a couple times to stretch. My legs were in a lot of pain and it became a mental challenge to get one foot in front of the other.

I didn’t mind the rain very much and I think it actually helped keep me nice and cool during the race; the puddles and flooding were the main issue because that meant my feet and shoes were completely water-logged during the whole race. This race was just about as painful as the other marathons I’ve run but definitely in a different way. First of all, the balls of my feet, calves and knees and hips were very sore. This definitely makes sense and is typical for athletes transitioning into Pose Running. I had absolutely no stomach issues, however. This was encouraging and I’m now excited to perfect my Coconut Milk/Honey/Chia mixture and also supplement with more Hüma Gels! Overall, the race was an absolutely fantastic tour of Nashville and the fans were amazing. I saw so many signs that kept me going and took my mind off the pain. The rain even seemed to bring out more enthusiasm from all the fans!

I finished in a time of 3:49:56, which is nothing to brag about by any means, but I was pleased with that performance given how many things I changed up and based on a long run of only 8-miles. 

I know I’ve just scratched the surface. This is only the beginning of my journey into CrossFit Endurance and re-wiring my nutrition so stay tuned for much, much more!

Country Music Marathon, Part 1: Testing the Grand Experiment

It was a marathon of many firsts, not the least of which was the fact that my longest training run was 8 miles. The past six months have held a lot of changes for me including moving home to Tennessee from LA, changing my career and switching my training style. After overtraining and peaking too soon for Hawai’i Ironman last year, I knew I needed to change something, especially my running. As soon as I moved home in December I looked into running Nashville’s Country Music Marathon in late April. I also began to dabble in CrossFit training at the encouragement of my dad and sister who are very competitively involved in the sport. When I ran a 1:33 half marathon at LA 13.1 in January with only a couple weeks of CrossFit training under my belt, I knew I was onto something. And so it began. 

I was rebuilding my body from the volume-based, long-slow-distance-training accustomed body that I’d been inhabiting since leaving the gym years ago to focus on endurance sports. The American model of endurance sports is that an athlete starts with volume (be that running, biking, swimming or rowing, etc.), then adds intensity (via track intervals or sprints) and only looks at technique at the end (if at all). Most endurance sports are not looked at as technique-based activities so learning “how to run” before adding volume, for example, is largely overlooked. There is also virtually no focus is on weight training or full range of motion flexibility. With nothing to lose, I was determined to experiment.

I began doing CrossFit workouts 4-5x per week and running just 3x per week. The CF workouts were constantly varied and some days they included building up to heavy back squat, deadlift or clean & jerk. The run workouts were solo time trials, hard tempo runs, intervals and Tabata runs (20s hard/10s easy for 4min). Despite the low volume, my 10K times stayed about the same (42-43 minutes for a solo TT) and I PR’d my 5K in 19:46. I also felt as strong as I ever have with my mile times.

I got my CrossFit Level 1 Trainer Certificate in early March and then took the CrossFit Endurance course a week later (taught by BMack himself, Brian Mackenzie, the founder of CrossFit Endurance!), which increased my confidence that I could actually CrossFit my way to running a marathon in a respectable time.  I also began to implement Pose Running, which is a more efficient way to run, used by elite runners from Usain Bolt to Haile Gebrselassie (Olympic marathon and distance runner). [I’ll discuss Pose Running in a future post.]

I was not able to build up to as long of a run as I wanted to before the race, but I was confident that I would at least be able to finish. I kept thinking of a good friend of mine who had run a 4-hour marathon just off of CrossFit training. But, I did my best to go into the race with no expectations and simply be my own guinea pig in this experiment. 

I can’t say that I was very nervous in the weeks before the race, just excited to see what would happen. I was feeling a little pressure because I was very keen to see this strategy show signs that it was working so I could feel a bit more confident and continue building upon it for future races.

I generally try to get in my last hard workout about 9-10 days out from a race so I worked up to a heavy back squat on Thursday, April 18 and then did a pretty intense 20-minute WOD consisting of 6 movements at a 21-15-9 rep scheme (HSPU, Power Clean @ 135#, Sit-up, Front Squat @ 135#, C2B Pull-up). After that day until the race I began my taper and did not do anything more than about a 10-minute workout and I included two or three rest days as well.

I was feeling kind of tired and rundown for two or three days before the marathon and that’s when I did start to get a little anxious about whether I’d be able to do this. I got pretty fired up again when I went to the expo on Thursday afternoon and was also partially relieved because the weather looked like it would be nice and cool, albeit raining, on the Saturday of the race. I definitely much prefer cold and rainy over hot sun and 80°+ with humidity, though, as this race has been known to be in years past.

I got over nine hours of sleep on Thursday night and then Friday afternoon was spent relaxing and taking a short nap. I really could not sleep very well on Friday night and don’t think I got more than 4 to 5 hours of sleep before my alarm went off at 4:15 AM. After a breakfast of five eggs on a bed of spinach, an avocado and a banana, I hit the road in the midst of a torrential downpour by 5:15!! pre-race jitters were in full force at this point but I was excited to see what my body and mind could do today. Stay tuned for Part 2 with the race recap.

Los Angeles 13.1 Half Marathon Race Report

Just when everyone thought I moved out of LA (including me), I came back to race the LA 13.1 half marathon from Venice to Manhattan Beach to Playa del Rey. Technically, this was a rebound race because I registered for it the week after I got back from Ironman in Hawai’i and so I was already signed up before I decided to move home to Tennessee. I was debating whether to follow through and run it but then I found a cheap flight and there I was at the starting line ready to go with the temperature in the high-30s…wait, WHAT?! Yes, the week I came back to LA was the coldest in about a decade. In fact, it was warmer back in Nashville and my family and friends there were enjoying 60+ degree weather! 

At 7:05 in the morning, the gun fired and we began running along the boardwalk in Venice as the sun rose to light the ocean and set the sky on fire. Despite the cold, it was such a beautiful day in LA. I was at the race with my friends, Curry, Tori and Garrett and had started near the front with Garrett. Garrett ran 1:19 in his first  and only half marathon (which was hilly) but he’d had the flu for the last week so we were going to pace together–my best time was a 1:31. I had been running a lot since November but wasn’t planning on actually doing this race in LA until about three weeks prior. I’ve started dabbling in CrossFit though, so I was keen to see how I would feel at this distance even after a week and a half of doing official Crossfit workouts.

We went out at a 6:40/mi pace for the first three miles, probably too hard, and felt pretty good. My pace gradually slowed but Garrett was feeling fine so he took off at mile 6 or 7. i went by 10K in just over 42 minutes and was just trying to focus on keeping my cadence at 180 steps per minute and landing on my forefoot. I’ve been researching the Pose running technique (similar to Chi Running, taught by Danny Drier), which emphasizes higher cadence and forefoot striking with your heel just kissing the ground. 

There were a few unexpected rollers at miles 7 and 8 and then a steady and very gradual rise up to the turnaround at mile 9 1/2. I’d seen my friend, Ken, aka DJ Sleeper, the night before and he said that he’d be performing somewhere on the course–Awesome! I heard some turntablism going on at the turnaround and that got me really fired up because it’s always encouraging to see familiar faces when you’re in pain. I opened up my legs into mile 10 and saw Curry as I got to the bottom of the hill I’d just climbed. 

Although my pace had slowed to around 7:15/mi, my legs and glutes were feeling stronger than I thought they should be at this point in a race (It seems even the short period of CrossFit and strength work was paying off already).

At mile 12, some guy with no shoes went sprinting by me. He was holding a pair of Vibrams in one hand and his feet looked like they had clearly developed muscles. That got me going a bit faster and then over my shoulder I saw a girl running up on me, which always lights my feet on fire–I’d already been chicked a few times today and didn’t want to let it happen again a half mile from the finish line. #justbeingreal

I hit the last mile in about 6:55/mi pace and crossed the line in 1:33:17, 14/96 in M25-29 and 86/1,904 overall. http://results.active.com/events/2013-allstate-life-insurancesm-los-angeles-13-1-marathon/half-marathon/jonathan-hippensteel.

I read an article last night and this line jumped out at me: “Pain cannot be ignored; it has be to be conquered, and when it inevitably returns, it has to be conquered again.” 

Looking forward to the next race!

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“Endurance Inspiration” Icebreaker Speech

The following passage is a speech I gave today at the Toastmasters chapter I recently joined at City National Bank where I work in Los Angeles. This chapter was just started a few weeks ago and I’m serving as the VP of Public Relations. This was the first speech I gave and was called the Icebreaker.

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Today, I want to share a little bit of my story and give you some insight into what drives me. But for me to do that, I want to invite you to use your imagination and take a walk in my shoes. Are you ready? Alright, let’s begin. Please close your eyes. Now, I’d like for each of you to imagine yourselves just waking up in a hotel room to an alarm that you set the night before. The clock on the alarm reads 3:45 a.m. The purpose of this early morning wakeup call is to give you adequate time to prepare for a day-long experience that will commence in three hours and fifteen minutes at exactly 7:00 a.m. At that time, you will embark on a journey that will altogether inspire you, challenge you, scare you, excite you and cause you to feel every emotion you’ve ever felt before and some that you have never felt.

You’ve been awake in the darkness preparing for the day for over three hours now and the sun is finally beginning to rise. Open your eyes. You haven’t spoken very much, if at all, since awaking, to conserve every potential drop of energy. At this very moment you are wearing a wetsuit and treading water in a lake with over 2,500 other people, male and female, ranging in age from 18 all the way up to 80 years old. There’s a nervous tension in the air as the MC’s voice blares over the loudspeakers. And then, at exactly 7:00 a.m., the cannon fires and the once calm lake turns into a raging river as the thousands of athletes at once begin flailing their arms and legs and swimming in the same direction, starting the journey 140.6 miles. This journey is called the IRONMAN Triathlon.

How many of you know what the Ironman triathlon is? Does anyone know what the distances of the race are?

My opening remarks above actually came from a personal experience. I raced my first Ironman in Arizona this past November and was fortunate to qualify for the Age Group World Championships in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. That race is approximately 241 days away. Yes, I’m counting.

The reason I chose to give my Icebreaker speech about Ironman is because triathlons have taught me a lot about life and who I’ve been created to be. I am drawn to Ironman and other extreme feats of endurance for three reasons.

#1: I have a compelling desire to test my physical, mental, emotional and spiritual limits. Obviously, undertaking a feat like Ironman requires a great deal of physical endurance. The mental component becomes very important once you reach the point when your body wants to shut down–and you WILL reach that point. the emotional and spiritual aspects come into play because you will have to dig deep and look deep inside and ask yourself, “Can I do this? Am I capable of finishing this race?” as the famous runner and Olympian, Steve Prefontaine, once said, “The real reason to run a race isn’t to win the race but to test the limits of the human heart.”

#2: It gives me a platform to speak with people individually and collectively from a place of authenticity. Saying I want to be an Ironman and actually doing an Ironman are entirely different. To paraphrase an old poem I learned recently, “You’re writing a story, a chapter each day, by the deeds that you do and the words that you say. And men read what you write, distorted or true, so what is your story according to you?” Before people will take you seriously, you need to prove by your actions and words that you’re truly living the way that you say you are. Why do we rake people like Billy Graham or Tony Robbins seriously? Because they’ve demonstrated by their actions, by the millions of loves they’ve touched, that they are authentic.

#3: And most importantly, I believe my purpose in life is to inspire people, to lift them out of their current situation and open their eyes to see the unique potential they have. That is why I did Ironman. When I got home after the race and could finally reflect, I was overwhelmed by all of the support I had received via Facebook posts, emails, texts and calls. Tears just started flowing because I was so humbled and blessed when I saw the kind of impact I had made and the people I’d inspired. .

I know that wherever I go, someone is always going to see what I do. I have no idea what they may be going through at the moment when our lives intersect but I do know that my life and my actions have the power to impact them either positively or negatively. At the end of the day, that is why I do my best to live authentically in each and every moment. I don’t always succeed but I give it my best shot. And I truly believe that each of you are impacting lives everywhere you go, whether or not you realize it. So today I want to issue a challenge to you: What is your story according to you? Thank you.

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