Olympian Deena Kastor, the US record holder in the marathon and half marathon, came to my little town yesterday to support both our Firecracker 4 race and the initiatives by our town to make Saratoga Springs a running destination.
I don’t know how likely the latter is, but I approve. The town is in the process of constructing running/bike paths to circle the town and it is already a very active community. I’m not sure how likely it will be for people to come here just to run, but, hey, people come here to watch horses race, so why not people too?
I was surprised more people didn’t show for this free event, but I chalk that up in part to the lack of publicity. The primary sponsor was our local Fleet Feet, and when I looked at their web page or Facebook, I didn’t see mention of the event. However, if you were already signed up for the Firecracker 4 race, you received several emails announcing Kastor’s visit. I’m not sure why Fleet Feet dropped the ball on this one. It looked like they had a table to sign people up for the race, but pretty much everyone there was already signed up for the race. Seems like a missed opportunity.
The Firecracker 4 race is a 4-miler that had over 3,000 finishers last year. It also is my worst race memory, although it was not the race’s fault, although some sort of pace corral system would’ve been a good idea for a race that size. There were walkers/run-walkers near the front of the line – just bad race etiquette and meant a bunch of dodging and weaving in the first mile. However, I simply had a terrible run that day. I ran the identical distance in a race exactly one week later and took 3 minutes off my time. I have to admit, I do want a little redemption at this year’s race.
Kastor spoke at the athletic facility on Skidmore College’s campus. I know her Wikipedia listing states she’s 5’4″ and 104 points, but if she’s 104, I’ll eat those 10 extra pounds that I swear she is not carrying. I weigh about 104 at 5’1″. I do not look like Deena Kastor. She does look healthy, but she’s all sinew and energy. She’s 95 lbs wet, if I were to estimate.
I didn’t do the best reporting job because I was too busy listening to write more than a few notes. To sum up some key points:
- She feels rest and nutrition are extremely important to performance. She cooks most of her meals and makes a point of getting quality, organic products.
- Related, Kastor says that nailing your nutrition is the key to not being defeated by the marathon. She uses Cytomax for her marathon fuel.
- Running should be “joyfully hard” and she dislikes the saying “no pain no gain”.
- At her peak, she was running 120-140 miles per week and doing two-a-days. Now that she is mother to a toddler, she runs in the morning and runs around 70 miles per week.
- Her race focus right now is on 10ks and 1/2 marathons.
- She not do much for crosstraining, but rather she believes that runners get better by running. However, she does go to the gym a couple times a week for some functional training and stretching, such as walking lunges with twists, leg swings, squats. What I found interesting about her not doing crosstraining is that it’s different than Shalane Flanagan (who I saw at the Runner’s World festival a few weeks ago), who advocates doing crosstraining and mentioned that she grew up doing a lot of different sports. Flanagan cited swimming as one of her personal favorite cross training activities.
- Kastor talked about breaking her foot during the 2008 Beijing Olympics. (She says she can still hear the sound of her bones feathering — ugh.) Despite being in what she said was the best shape of her life, she later discovered her body was depleted of Vitamin D and she was suffering from osteoporosis. It took her six months to turn around the issue, and she did it by revamping her diet. Hello kale and pickled herring, which apparently is rich in vitamin D.
- She shared about a fascinating study by a physiologist that looked at the effects of rest and nutrition on muscle recovery. Three groups were put through a tough workout, and their muscles were biopsies. One group was given a snack and took a 45 minute nap after the workout. The second group had only the snack. The third group had no snack and no nap. (I wonder if there wasn’t a nap only group she didn’t mention?) The results showed that the no nap, no snack group had muscles in even worse shape 3 hours post workout. The snack only group showed some improvement. The snack and nap group not only showed improvement, but their muscles had rebuilt and grown muscle fibers.
- She believes that each run should have a purpose, whether it’s speedwork or a recovery run.
- Her advice to all runners: make the choice to dig down into the greater effort and get the best out of yourself, whether it’s a stagger over the finish line or winning the race.
After the presentation, Kastor led the speed workout on the Skidmore track. I had thought she was going to run, but, alas, that was not the case. She did send off each pace group running 6x800s, and it was fun to hear her enthusiasm counting off and cheering the runners on. (I had done my workout earlier in the day, so I didn’t run.)
I was able to get a poster signed, courtesy Asics, and I was too star struck to say anything other than thank you. She seems like such a friendly, genuine person, and I saw her chit chatting with the regular folk and listening to them with interest. I have to say, the elites I’ve been fortunate enough to meet and observe in person have been incredible, gracious people with a glowing passion for running.
As for me, my biggest takeaway was that I need to take daily naps after my workouts. My son says I’m old and headed towards that trend anyway, so I might as well make the most of it when it might help my running.