Emphasis vs elimination: HOKA Athlete Kris Brown’s approach to running nutrition

Running nutrition is a hotly debated and multi-faceted topic in the ultrarunning community. As athletes attempting to push ourselves to our physical limits, it makes sense that we would want to focus a lot of attention on our diets, since the impact of diet on performance seems significant, although not entirely straightforward. As with most knowledge in ultrarunning, though, we’re working with a hybrid of science and good-old-fashioned lore, since the former is hard to execute well where there are so many variables present. That said, it doesn’t take a team of doctors to confirm that if you’re eating mustard packets on your long run then you’re doing it wrong.

But because we assume diet has a a significant impact on performance, a lot of runners in the sport get really specific about what they eat. There are runners who eat only plants, others who eat hardly any, still more who emphasize fat and protein consumption, and those who seem to think sugar is just fine. And most interestingly, there are multiple runners at the very highest level of the sport who practice each of these dietary approaches. I’m talking all-time greats. Scott Jurek, Tim Olson, Courtney Dauwalter, Jim Walmsley, Cat Bradley, Jeff Browning, Zach Bitter: all of them have non-ordinary diets, and some of them would eat almost nothing in common.

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There are more, of course, who don’t practice dietary restriction of any sort, and since I’ve always been a skeptic, the variety of diets that have proven effective in elite ultrarunning is evidence to me that, while food should be taken seriously, we shouldn’t get caught up in figuring out which particular eating style is the best. I mean this especially in regard to restriction. If we’re solely looking at performance (not morality), why avoid meat when it seems to work fine for many high level runners? The same could be said for carbohydrates, gluten, or just about anything else. Of course, plenty of people have dietary restrictions because of unique, personal reactions like allergies, but my point is that in the case of the bland runner who doesn’t notice any major negative response to any particular ingredient, there’s enough anecdotal evidence in support of every possible dietary direction that I’m hesitant to throw anything out as “unhealthy” when it comes to performance. Is most meat immoral? Kinda. Does beer ruin your sleep? Probably. Do GMOs give you cancer? We’ll see! But to the extent that we’re talking about diet as it relates to performance in the short to medium term, man, I’ve had a lot of great workouts after a lot of weird meals.

So I tend to avoid restriction, is the point, but I also think it’s important to focus on giving your body good fuel, too. In other words, I’m less about elimination, and more about emphasis. It’s kind of a positive way of looking at it, don’t you think? Get enough of the things you need, and then don’t overthink it after that. What I mean by “the things you need” is a pretty classic list, but it depends on the situation: vitamins and minerals, especially those closely associated with performance (iron, magnesium, vitamin B, etc.); protein for recovery; turmeric when you’re swollen; sugar when you’re hypoglycemic; coffee when you’re hungover; beer when you want to become hungover… Everyone is different in this regard, and context is huge! A lot of what I consider healthy comes down to intuition and reading my own body and my current needs, which ultrarunners tend to be relatively good at.

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Specifically around races I think the oldest wisdom in the book is still the best: don’t change anything around race day. If you eat McDonald’s every day you should probably eat McDonald’s the night before your race. I’m willing to make a bolder claim about in-race eating, though, which is that I think “real” foods are hugely overestimated. I always thought that you should eat gels in the first half of a race and then switch to real food in the second half, but then, inspired by hearing about Magda winning Western States on nothing but Roctane drink, I decided to commit to trying a 100-miler (San Diego, 2017) on pure sugar. My stomach and energy levels never felt better. Maybe there’s a point (24 hours plus?) at which this strategy fails — at which you need fat and protein to continue — but it sure isn’t inherent in a 100-miler. It’s kind of scary at first to think about running (or even living!) for that long while eating nothing but sugar, but seriously, your body doesn’t need any other form of calorie, it turns out, so cut it out with the quesadillas — they’re just going to take longer to hit your bloodstream.

Okay, you read this far so now I have a reward for you. Yes it’s a recipe, and no, you don’t usually actually make the recipes you read in blog posts, but this one is worth your time. Trust me on this. It’s really simple. It’s homemade coconut milk, and it’s really good for you, probably, for whatever reason. Just drink it.

 

Nectar of the Gods:

Ingredients:

1 young coconut

1 blender

1 machete

Instructions:

1) Take a young coconut. Hack off the top by making about five cuts in a pentagon shape on the top using a machete. You’ll get used to it. It’s all in the wrist.

2) Pour the coconut water into a blender

3) Scrape the soft meat out and put that in the blender, too.

4) Blend.

5) You’re welcome.

 

Kris will be running the Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run the EVO Mafate 2.

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Respecting the race: How 5 time finisher Kaci Lickteig approaches Western States

HOKA ONE ONE Athlete Kaci Lickteig is no stranger to The Western States ® 100-Mile Endurance Run. Having run the race every year since 2014 and won it in 2016, she now returns for her sixth race from Squaw Valley to Auburn. The course is everything she enjoys about trail running and the 2016 Western States Champion hasn’t lost any love for the race.

After a 10th place finish at UTMB last fall and a win at the 2019 Black Canyon 100K, she is looking forward to another opportunity to challenge herself. We sat down with Kaci to discover what drives her to compete year after year.

Photo credit: Chris Perlberg
Photo credit: Chris Perlberg

HOKA: What do you love about Western States?

Lickteig: That’s hard to answer because I love everything about it. I love the people whom I’ve come to know since my first experience in 2014. I love the community and atmosphere surrounding the race throughout the week leading up to the race. Everyone walking around seems so starry-eyed, excited, and grateful to be there. Seeing the veterans, the first-time runners, and all the legends that have made Western States what it is today. When you set foot on the Auburn track and hear your name being announced over the loudspeaker, that is the best feeling in the world, regardless of your placing. That is why I keep coming back.

HOKA: Your consistency in training volume and comeback after races on Strava is impressive; how do you do it?

Lickteig: The key is consistency. I’ve been running for about 16 years and the key to my health is being consistent and listening to my body. I know to keep 80% of my runs very easy and 20% at a higher effort, depending on my training cycle. I’ve also learned to take recovery days when needed and I never push myself out the door if I know I will not enjoy the run at all or if it risks injury. And I just love running! It is part of my life and I joke about being married to it!

HOKA: What motivates you the most to run through the harsh winter months?

Lickteig: I can’t see myself not running. It really is something I look forward to doing and when I miss a few days I feel like part of me is missing. I enjoy, as silly as that sounds, embracing the elements and getting out the door. I need fresh air, to feel my body move, and to get the rush of endorphins running through my body.

HOKA: What gives you confidence before big races?

Lickteig: What gives me confidence is feeling both physically and mentally fit. When my body feels strong and has no lingering niggles and I know I put in all the work possible I feel mentally ready to take on the race. I want to be at the start line knowing I did everything right in training to make me capable of being my best.

HOKA: 100 miles is a long way, what do you focus on while you’re out on the course?

Lickteig: What I focus on during a 100 miles is not focusing on 100 miles. I break the race up into aid station to aid station – that way, it doesn’t seem so overwhelming. I look forward to when I get to see my crew, the next section of trail that I will run, and then when I get to pick up my pacer. I like to focus on the scenery and embrace the moment that I am in. It makes the time fly by and soon enough the finish will be there.

HOKA: What lessons did you learn from your previous adventures at Western?

Lickteig: I’ve learned to respect the race, the distance, and the terrain. The quad punishment from the downhills made me suffer during my first experience. The next year I was more patient and had a better day. Then everything seemed to click in 2016 and I was able to have the best day ever. In 2017 I had too much emotion going into the race with my grandma fighting cancer, and when you have those kinds of feelings going into a big race it can lead to a massive blow up. Then in 2018, I had only 3-4 months worth of training for the race due to breaking my pelvis in October of 2017. So each year has given me a different experience and they have changed my life for the better.

HOKA: How will that knowledge affect the way you approach this year?

Lickteig: I will approach this year with the same respect and patience as I did in the past. I know how the course flows and what I need to do to make sure I run my own race. I am really looking forward to this year and what kind of day and story I will have from it.

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HOKA: You seem to have Western States dialed. What advice would you have for someone trying to complete their first Western States Endurance Run?

Lickteig: I would recommend staying patient early in the high country and not overloading your quads and legs too early. You want to be able to come into Foresthill able to run. Then once you get across the river and up to Green Gate you will want to keep moving forward because that section can feel very long if you have to walk. There are only a few big climbs left so this is where you can make up the time you saved back in the high country.

Once you hit No Hands Bridge, give it one last push up to Robie Point and know there is still a good climb up to the final mile sign…then it’s relatively all downhill from there! Follow those red footprints closely and make sure you don’t make a wrong turn as you head towards the Auburn Track, where your friends, fans, and buckle are waiting for your arrival!

HOKA: What model of HOKA will you be racing in?

Lickteig: My favorite HOKA for the trails is the Torrent. I love the fit and feel of this shoe. The Torrent is lightweight and has adequate traction for the trails. I have used these shoes in snow, mud, dirt, and rocks and they make me feel confident in their ability to grip the trail when I am running.

HOKA: What do you look forward to when it’s all over?

Lickteig: I look forward to sitting down, going back to the hotel for a nice shower and sleeping. Then waking up to go out and cheer on the people coming in at the Golden Hour, the last hour of the race. For me, knowing people are giving it their absolute all to get under 30 hours and seeing how hard they are still pushing is so inspiring to me. I love to help bring them in with encouraging words and if possible to trot beside them as they make their way to the track. That is probably one of my most favorite moments of the race.

After a solid block of training, Kaci is ready to toe the line. Follow the HOKA Instagram Story and Twitter for updates on Kaci’s 100-mile race this Saturday, June 29th.

Want to hit the trails like Kaci? Check out the HOKA Torrent.

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Tear down, build back up, repeat: Bringing diversity to the outdoors with Jose Gonzalez

Tear down. Build back up. Repeat.

Some of us like to work out, whether it’s hitting the gym, pursuing a sport with discipline, or some other physical activity for process or outcome, be it indoors or outdoors. This is not dependent on body size even if we may desire a certain fitness level—to look a certain way, feel a certain way, perform a certain way.

For me, I like to run, especially hitting the trail for a trail run. I do it for spiritual, mental and physical health.

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One thing about working out is that it is you agreeing to put yourself in a physical state of discomfort. We likely don’t say, “OK, time for me to go put myself in a state of physical discomfort,” and yet that is the reality of what is happening as we put our bodies through the stress of building muscle by breaking it down and then regenerating it to be stronger, faster, nimbler, etc. We place stress and demands on our physiological systems to adapt.

We can go on a trail run, a long hike, climb, or engage in another activity that we may enjoy and have fun doing, while we can still be putting our body in a state of discomfort, especially if we are training.

I see a comparison to work we do on diversity, equity, and inclusion in the outdoors and overall in the environmental and conservation field, where discomfort is also part of the process and some of us actively do not engage in the work to avoid that discomfort. We may think first about the discomfort rather than the goal and work that goes in for any desired outcome. We fear the training. We fear the experience.

Furthermore, when working out we do not simply go and lift the heaviest weights in the gym, climb the hardest mountain, run the most technical trail, ski down the steepest slope and so on—especially if we are doing it for the first time.

That is one of many ways we can get hurt.

We need some type of plan, goal, support system and a look at what feeds us, literally and figuratively speaking. Maybe we need a coach. Maybe a way to check progress. Maybe we need a new diet.

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We also need to look at self-care and restoration, how and when you rest and take care of yourself in order to keep going and not give up. Checking in with yourself to address harm, to heal and get back on track or reassess your goal.

I share all that because “diversity work” in the outdoors is critical, for a host of reasons that include closing equity gaps, honoring all of our unique and diverse connections to the land and addressing the reality that the communities of today are the audiences and stewards of the outdoors where we play and a public lands system that provides a wealth of benefits.

That is an important reality to acknowledge: the present and future of nation is one of difference, diversity and plurality — and we need to honor, respect and value that for the health of the outdoor industry and our public lands.

Yet many may fear doing this work for the discomfort that is part of the work. We cannot let fear dictate how this work needs to be done.

Supporting diversity in the outdoor space is also not about being trendy or reactive. It is an outcome of intentional work that will include mistakes and hence planning on how to address that. We will trip and fall and skin our knees on the trail. It will hurt. We get back up and run again. But we also do not want to be careless about how we trip or hurt others, hurt ourselves or take others down with us. Hence the importance of situational awareness and support.

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We value diversity in our natural landscape. No one really says, “That’s a beautiful monotonous forest,” or “lovely homogenous ecosystem.” Yet we may stumble on recognizing or even verbalizing why that diversity should be seen, heard and valued in communities that recreate in those same landscapes, that work in outdoor industry brands, that design and create in the narrative of the outdoors, that lead companies and organizations.

The simplicity of why diversity is important is because it provides the beauty, complexity, expansion and strength we see in the natural world. That matters in public lands, our outdoor brands, our conferences, our marketing, our production and our leadership in the outdoors. It is the horizontal and vertical spectrum. That means the diversity of lived experiences and diversity of outdoor experiences connecting in the landscape. It is also moving beyond our communities as objects of programming and marketing and being part of the design, co-creation and leadership of the space.

It is needed.

And we need to engage in the workout of what that is. To evaluate what resources and support systems are needed to have it be successful, not merely relying on good intentions and wishful thinking. To experience discomfort while not getting hurt — or at least knowing how to respond with a first aid kid and healing.

I think we can do it, with a proper workout plan.

Diversity is strength, diversity is challenge, diversity is growth, diversity is valued, diversity is needed.

Happy, and safe, trail running.

 

Chasing your focus with HOKA Athlete Kyle Merber

As a runner, I’ve always equated success with running further, working harder, and doing more. Recently, I’ve learned it can be really difficult to recognize when your definition of success needs to change.

I blame social media among other things. Perhaps this is ironic because I am equally guilty to contributing to this issue as everyone else, but it is undoubtedly a factor. The life of a professional athlete is filled with many moments of peace and quiet, but our brains do not stop running between sessions. Following a morning of workouts there is ample time to lay on the couch with the legs up to recover and unwind. And this is when the phone comes out and we flip through our feeds to see what is keeping our peers occupied during their own busy lives. Rather than marinating in the success and exhaustion of my 18-mile long run, I see a friend, who doubles as my competitor, share his run—he went 20. The pride in my own accomplishment wanes and the doubt creeps in. I could have gone further.

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It is embedded into our DNA as distance runners to keep pushing until we find our limits, and then push some more. It is impressive to hear the tales of how fast and how long someone runs in practice. We place those individuals on a pedestal for doing what others were unwilling or unable to. Since being an overly eager high schooler sifting through the training logs of anyone quicker, I was obsessed with learning what it took to be the best. It broadened my horizon as to what was possible day in and day out. And weekly mileage has been the ultimate barometer by which runners measure training. But what if a single number isn’t the best way to measure hard work?

My body can’t handle what I want it to. After years of trying, I am finally beginning to accept this. I wish that I could run the high miles that I have been forcing for years. The issue is that part of me can handle it. There’s a rush of dopamine that hits my system when I see that big total at the end of the week. At the most basic level, I enjoy trudging along on the trails and so I want to spend more time doing what I am most passionate about. But I get addicted to the process rather than the results, and it’s a struggle to listen to my legs when they say they need to rest. While there have been injuries, there have also been countless times in which I step on the line with nerves and no confidence. My poise only stemmed logically from of a pretty journal. To me, it was an equation, ‘Work Hard = Race Fast.’ Except one of the main variables was flawed.

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It is easy to run more. It is not easy to slow down when feeling tired. That’s hard work. To trust in your talent when training has not been perfect, that’s tough. To accept that your body needs to replace miles run with miles biked, that’s grit. Redefining my concept of what it means to work hard is a process. Rather than deliberating if I am doing enough, the question must become, ‘Am I doing what’s right?’ And the first step to achieving that goal is to stop listening to all the noise.

My phone isn’t being thrown into the river, but I am starting to put it down. I am taking less of an investment in what others have chosen to show. Context is everything. One workout does not define my fitness and I should not let it define others. This year my goal is to focus on myself. If I trust my talent and work hard, then I don’t need the miles to tell me how good I am. I’ll let the races do that.

Shop the all new Clifton 6 here.

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Chasing your impossible with Latoya Shauntay Snell

For close to three decades, I grew comfortable with doing just enough to make it through life. And for five years, I challenged myself to change my norm. This year, I vowed to chase my impossible by jostling past my worries about my physical limitations and fears of the race clock.

During my quiet moments, I question why I still choose to run. My reasons don’t mirror most athletes. Some people run to chase a PR or attempt to do something dynamic for the first time. Last year, I attempted to ​run 247 miles within a two month period​ through events and even completed my highest distance to date— ​100K at the Javelina Jundred​, then venturing off to the​ NYC Marathon for the fourth year​ in a row merely six days later. If you indulge in enough social platforms or mainstream media about sports, there’s this invisible pressure to top the last thing that you did, or worse, you don’t allow others to see you fall short of your goals.

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Frankly, finisher medals are only intriguing to me these days because I can tell a story by looking at each one, but it’s not what motivates me to lace up at 5AM when the streets aren’t disturbed by morning commuters or even on race day. After months of dancing with my thoughts, I researched several events throughout the United States that I could stagger within a 30 day period. And though I chose races that thousands of people love and completed, each event forced me to face a different hurdle along the way.

I kickstarted my 100+ mile thirty day racing adventures at the ​Big Sur Marathon​ with my podcast partner ​Martinus Evans​. We proudly boast about being back of the pack runners and receive hundreds of personal messages about justified fears of being the last one on the course to tapping into harder scenarios— receiving a DNF. Martinus and I agreed that we would do our best but I knew there was a heavy possibility that I wouldn’t cross the finish line. The average marathon finishing time for most endurance runners is under 4:30:00 on a moderately difficult course. Most of my 2018 finisher times hovered closer to seven hours and I chose a race with a hard cut off of six.

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Big Sur Marathon is known for its enchanting views along Highway 1 and the 2000+ gut wrenching elevation gain. I’m rarely intimidated about chasing a new adventure but chasing what feels like the impossible for someone with an extensive amount of mobility, gastrointestinal and women’s health issues made me nervous. I anticipated the severe amount of pain that I would encounter on this course. Race day taught me that my imagination painted unnecessary anxiety on my body and mind; I chose to surrender to fear of the unknown early on.

The hardest part of any journey is taking the first step. As humans, we are all dreamers and what makes us beautifully complex and evolving creatures is our audacity to paint our desires through action. I haven’t stopped training for a marathon since late 2018 and realistically, it’s hard to work on speed when your body isn’t fully recovered from your last hard effort. Between my health issues and fervent discipline with running, I knew I would have to scale back my mileage and counter it with loads of stretching, cross training and even a running coach to keep me honest.

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Although the views were spectacular, fears from thousands of my followers and listeners came into fruition: I was pulled off the course at mile 21. As I walked onto the school bus joining two dozen athletes who race fell short, they clapped and cheered as I hobbled in pain onto the bus. As the driver pulled off picking up other runners who struggled on the brutal inclines, I could feel myself smiling from the inside. Being pulled from the course wasn’t as scary as I painted it and seeing others sporting their medals proudly didn’t fill me with disappointment or this burning desire for redemption. I earned a different sense of pride that day. Most people cannot fathom showing up for something that they know works against them and I felt invigorated from the opportunity to give myself the chance to see what I was capable of doing.

Visually, I didn’t have the opportunity to take a selfie or ​write a cool blurb on Instagram​ with another medal in my arsenal but I came back with colorful stories about seeing views from what I only pictured in a Bob Ross painting. I felt empowered to take on the next set of races.

Some people might view this as a failure. Taking a chance to pursue what I once viewed as impossible is more valuable than any finisher medal that anyone can give me. Instead, it gives me hope to push towards future goals of being a triathlete and a 100 mile finisher before the end of 2020. When you chase your amazing, the only goals that are impossible to accomplish are the ones where you place limitations on yourself. Be fearless and write your legacy.

Shop the all new Clifton 6 here.

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