A Runner’s Case Study in Courage

A Runner’s Case Study in Courage

As told by Colleen Clarson – At first glance, it was only a daunting fitness challenge.  At second glance, it was terrifying…if not seemingly impossible.

Known as “One of the most scenic trail races in the country,” the Golden Leaf Half Marathon was clearly not meant for Florida flatlanders.  Starting at Colorado’s Snowmass Ski Mountain at 8,500 feet elevation, quickly ascending to 9,500 feet, them plummeting 1,700 feet on trails into Aspen, it was impossible to truly prepare for this terrain from sea level Florida.

“I Need Your Help”

And with only 2½ weeks notice to train, it was tempting to let this rare opportunity pass by.  BUT, after bravely sending out an S.O.S. to Mike Ryan, whose fantastic advice for severe plantar fasciitis got me to the Boston Marathon finish a couple of years ago, I gained confidence knowing Mike could relate to this scary challenge and provide priceless advice.  And because Mike said ‘You can do this,” I decided to take that to the bank.

Advice For Off-Road Hill Management

His advice for preparation was spot on:

  • Shorter “baby steps” on the ascent and descent
  • Think “calves to butt” when running downhill
  • Lean forward into the hill and increase elbow bend to keep forearms parallel to the hill when climbing
  • Calf stretches every mile
  • Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate
  • Aggressive “down dog” stretches for the posterior chain stretches before and after the event.

Happy Ending

Somehow I managed to finish the 13.1 miles, but I’m sure it wasn’t pretty!  While I was worried about being booted off the course for not achieving the course-required time checks, somehow I managed to keep pushing forward with Mike’s advice and encouragement running on a loop in my head, and made it in time to the descending finish into a beautiful golden leaf Aspen park.

What stays with me today is what I tell my personal training clients: you don’t really know what you’re made of until you push yourself out of your comfort zone.  Even though I’ve run numerous half marathons and marathons, I’ve never run a trail half marathon at lung-busting elevation.  And I took confidence in Mike’s encouragement, knowing that his advice was based on years of personal experience, professional expertise and an eternally optimistic coaching style.  I never could have embraced this event so out of my comfort zone without his fundamental support and coaching.

Jacksonville athletes are so very fortunate to have Mike Ryan’s unselfish sports medicine expertise and coaching, THANK YOU MIKE!

by Colleen Clarson

Inside the Mud Run

This weekend’s mud run race is a big deal in Jacksonville.  Organized and run by the Northeast Florida Chapter of the National MS Society, the local mud run is an extremely popular race for many reasons.  From the raising of the much-needed money to combat Multiple Sclerosis to the physical challenge of a brutal 6.2 mile race through the mud and challenging obstacle to the bonding opportunities involved with such a unique event, the MuckRuckus MS Jacksonville is special.

Yesterday at work, one of my co-workers told me that he was thinking about not racing in the race and “waiting until next year.”  “Don’t even think about it” I said firmly.  Explaining how much fun it is, the fellowship associated with the event and the ability to raise $$ for a crippling disease was much more important than a few nervous butterflies.  He’s in.

This will be my 4th time I’ve competed in this event.  The first year I raced on a 5 man team with 4 local firefighter friends.  I was hooked 2 miles into the race.  I love running off-road and I’m a huge fan of total body challenges that include mental toughness to do well.  Hence the reason why compete in multi-sport events and why I don’t work in a cubicle in a high-rise office building downtown.

The Fun in the Mud

The sport of mud running is one of the fastest growing sports in the world.  Everyone talks about the popularity growth of mixed martial arts (MMA).  Mudders will tell you that they are very different sports for obvious reasons.  MMA is a sport that people watch dudes getting kicked in the head where mud running gets you off the couch and into the sport.  We have no shortage of reasons to keep people sitting on their butts.  We need more activities to get all of us off the couch and back into enhancing our health.

I’ve finished in 2nd place the last two years in the MS Society mud run’s individual race.  Each race has been very challenging, lots of fun and extremely competitive.  All three reasons are why I keep coming back.

Tips to Get the Most Out of the Mud

If you’re new to the sport and you’re nervous, it simply means that you’re human.  Here are a few tips to help make this race less stressful and more fun.  As the  Sports Medicine Advisor to the National MS Society, I enjoy sharing sports medicine tips to help the racers to stay safe and avoid running injuries.

Sports Medicine Tips for the MuckRuckus MS

 Last Tip

Have fun.  Having a healthy mindset is the best place to start for these type of races.  Enjoy the challenge, laugh with your fellow racers, thank the volunteers, acknowledge the fans cheering for you and be proud of what you’re accomplishing.  You’re stepping out of your comfort zone to make your body stronger, your mind dream bigger and the quality of life for those stricken with MS so much better!  I’m proud of you and you should be proud of yourself.

Let’s get dirty!!

The Benefits of Running in Cold Weather [mademen.com]


I can hear you now: “What’s a guy from Florida know about running in cold weather?!”

The answer:  Too much.

Growing up in the Berkshire Mountains of Massachusetts and being an indoor/outdoor collegiate miler in Connecticut at a college with no indoor track, I’ve run thousands of miles in sub-freezing temperatures.  At Central Connecticut State University, out interval training took place from December to May either in a parking lot, on a local steep street hill, in a parking garage, or on the cinder track when the snow was melted.  There was no plush 70 degree indoor track complex to make us soft.

My skiing buddies still think I’m nuts when I bundle up for a run after a long day of skiing during our annual “Guys Ski Adventure” out west each year.

Running in the cold weather is not easy but it sure is fun.  Forget about your pace.  Forget about your perfect running technique.  Forget about your exact mileage.  Just focus on enhancing your fitness level and being outside when everyone else is more worried about their ears getting too cold!

Here are 5 benefits to running in the cold weather.  Get out there and enjoy the simple facts that you are healthy enough to enjoy your own adventure!

From mademen.com

Every athlete needs to know these 5 benefits of running in the cold. While many prefer to run in ideal conditions, running in the cold has the potential to give some significant benefits and boost future performance.

  1. Running in the cold trains your body to operate in adverse conditions. Running in the cold feels tough, and it takes special motivation to get out the door. The cold, like all adverse weather conditions, trains your body to function during difficult times—much like the later stages of a race will be. Increasing your stamina by running in the cold and adverse weather conditions of winter will increase your race performance.
  2. Running in the cold enhances mental toughness. Just as your body benefits from running in adverse conditions, your mind benefits as well. The mental fortitude gained by running in the cold can propel you to the finish line of a race when the going gets tough.
  3. Running in the cold prepares you for cold-weather races. If you live somewhere that sees cold weather for a significant part of the year, running in the cold is inevitable. Just as inevitable, if you are an avid racer, is running a race in the cold. Training in the cold mimics race-time conditions, allowing your body to become used to what it will experience during a race and increasing race day performance.
  4. Running in the cold prepares you for a more productive spring running season. Most cold weather running takes place during the winter months, when many armchair athletes remain dormant. Bucking this trend and running in the cold prepares you for increased performance come springtime. Maintaining a base level of fitness throughout the winter months results in faster runs and better endurance during the following spring and summer running seasons.
  5. Running in the cold is less difficult than running when it is hot. While running, the body generates excess heat that is exhausted through the skin. Running in the cold keeps the body cool, allowing heat to escape more readily. With proper cold weather gear, running in the cold can be easier than running on a hot summer day.

Be aware that running in the cold has its dangers. Increased risk of hypothermia and frostbite necessitate appropriate cold weather gear. Dress properly, however, and running in the cold can have a significant benefit to your running performance. Dress in layers, avoid the wind and protect yourself from the sun to keep your cold weather workouts safe.

Author Source:http://www.mademan.com/mm/5-benefits-running-cold.html

Sports Medicine Tips for Fun in the Mud Run

This weekend may prove to be the dirtiest, most fatiguing, most fun and most rewarding time that you’ve had since your were a kid at summer camp.  More importantly, this weekend’s event is for a great cause to help others who need our support.

This Saturday is the 3rd annual National Multiple Sclerosis Society’s Mud Run here in Jacksonville.

I’ve run in the past two Mud Runs here in Jacksonville, finishing in 2nd place in last year’s individual division.  I’m thrilled to be crawling in the mud again this weekend to raise both money and awareness for this chronically disabling disease.

A Mud Run is unlike any race that I’ve had the pleasure to compete in.  As an athletic trainer, physical therapist and an endurance athlete, I’ve learned a few tricks that I want to share with my fellow racers.

To help my readers to have a successful Mud Run and a healthy finish, I’ve put together my sports medicine tips to share with you.

Race Day “To Do’s”

Breath – The “butterflies” in your stomach will wake up before you will.  Breath and relax.  It’s time to get the calories and fluids in you as you double check your racing supplies.

Carbs are Your Friend – Push the carbs because they are the best source of fuel to get you through today’s race.  Toast, bagels, whole-grain cereals, non-citrus fruits and pasta are all smart options.  Today is not the day to try any new foods or drinks, even if that guy at the gym “swears that it’ll make you run like the wind”!

Drink Early & Often – It’s going to be hot so you will need fluids early & often.  A smart plan which I recommend to our professional football players is:

  • Consistently drinking 50% water / 50% sports drink before, during and after the race will keep you fast and safe.

Grease Up – Blisters can quickly make the race seem twice as long.  Your feet will be WET so plan on it.  A generous coating of Vaseline or petroleum jelly on toes, heels, ankles, inner thighs and anywhere you may experience chaffing will help improve your comfort level during the race.

Don’t Be a Sponge – You will be spending a lot of time in the mud and water on Saturday so avoid bring it home with you.  What you wear is the key.  Wearing thin socks, water-friendly boots, non-cotton pants, and DryFit-type shirts can literally save you from carrying an extra 4-5 lbs for the 6 mile race!

Lighter Attitude – While you lighten up the weight of your clothing do the same with your attitude.  Having fun, interacting with your fellow racers and expressing gratitude towards the race volunteers will make your Mud Run a wonderful experience.

Recovering From the Mud Run

Your recovery starts the minute you cross the finish line.  Here are a few tips to help you avoid complications and to feel like a champ quickly.

It’s Happy Hour – Sure, you just consumed more muddy water than you care to think about but getting clean fluids in you is very important.   Using the “50/50 Rule” noted earlier, will safely replenish your fluids, calories and the ever-important electrolytes.  Heat Illness is always a concern and the 50/50 Rule is your best defense for all strenuous activities.

Push the Carbs – Carbohydrates have gotten a bad wrap in the weight-loss world but after any hard race or cardio workout, they are your best friend.

Walk it Out – When you finish the race, the sudden urge to flop on the ground will be strong.  To allow your body time to properly cool down, 10 minutes of walking and rehydrate is the smart thing to do before you get off your feet in the shade to reflect upon your amazing accomplishment.

Dry & Clean – Getting your feet dry as soon as possible will help you avoid complications that can happen with wet and dirty feet.  Any cuts, blisters or abrasions should be cleaned thoroughly for obvious reasons.

Massage and Stretch – Get your legs, feet and hips massaged and/or stretched as soon as possible will help minimize the post-race soreness and discomfort associated with any difficult physical endeavor.

Ice and Compression Sure ICE hurts but it’s a needed tool if you’re training and racing hard.  If your legs hurt, ICE them for 15 minutes and follow up with a compression sleeve when you’re walking or running for the next few days.  This is a great way to control extremity edema and accelerate your recovery.

I hope these sports medicine tips from Mike Ryan Fitness help you to have a fun and safe Mud Run with a fast recovery.  Stay Healthy & Happy!