Racing at altitude: another ECS race complete

This past weekend was November Project’s annual “Summit” where racers from all across the US and Canada (in the 26 cities NP exists in, plus a few others) meet for a weekend of craziness. We started with a pop up workout in Salt Lake City on Friday morning, with about 400 people. Everybody except the Denver tribe was gassed within the first 30 seconds of the workout due to the elevation. We did a 20 minute circuit workout around the state capitol building, finishing with a “burnout” where all the girls raced each other first, and then the guys raced. Basically an all out sprint of 10 burpees, then a race up the stairs to the Capitol’s door, then back down to the bottom.

Photo credit: November Project

Photo credit: November Project

We took some (many) photos, then went to breakfast and began exploring Salt Lake City and then made our way back to Park City. The drive back was incredible – we’d made the mountain ridge filled trip from SLC to Park City the night before, and then from Park City to SLC in the morning, but it was dark both times. The views from the highway of the nearby mountains were incredible.

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I did a little shakeout run after we got back to hit a time goal for the day, which helped get used to the elevation change a bit more, as we were now at nearly 7000 ft. I started out about 2 minutes slower than normal to maintain the samPhoto: Alex Burkee easy effort… My first thought was that if an 8:30 mile on the road was that difficult, the race should be an absolute treat.

We had incredibly delicious (local) bison burgers for lunch (highly recommended at 501 on Main St, Park City) and then wandered around the downtown area, stopping every so often to laugh at the fact that we were tired from just walking up hill. Friday night consisted of the usual pre race dinner: salmon, sweet potato and steamed vegetables.

Saturday brought a deceptively cool morning. I was planning on running the 4th leg of the marathon relay (4 legs total) so I wouldn’t be starting for another 5 or so hours, when it would be hot.


Saturday morning in Park City

Our first 3 teammates ran their legs in between 47-51 minutes, putting us in 5th place when it came time for me to run. The first 2.5 miles were entirely uphill, which I ended up taking a couple of brief walk breaks during. I tried to hang on with the guy who was in 4th place, as he started the leg about a minute before me, and I could see him for the first quarter of the race or so, until he ended up pulling away. The next 1.5 miles or so were somewhat rolling hills as we continued to climb a bit more. There was an aid station at mile 4 (meant more for the marathon, 50k and 50 mile distances), and I knew it was totally downhill after that. Those next 2 miles consisted of some razor sharp switchbacks, finishing in an all out sprint to a downhill finishing shoot, which was awesome. I ran straight through the finish line and couldn’t stop until I ran straight into a fence about 30 feet beyond the finish.

Sub 4:00/mile pace at the end... I'll take it!

Sub 4:00/mile pace at the end… I’ll take it!

There were many times during the race where I wanted to stop or slow down (even more than the pace chart indicates…). The best part of the marathon relay is that you know your teammates are counting on you to push it. Knowing that we had a chance to be top 5 based on the first 3 legs kept me going stronger than had it been an individual race. The North Face puts on an absolutely incredible race series in Park City, UT, Washington DC, Bear Mountain in NY, the Blue Mountains in Ontario, Madison WI and San Francisco, CA. If you haven’t had a chance to go to one of the events yet, I definitely recommend it – especially the marathon relay which is a blast. November Project brings a big crew to all of the races, and I guarantee it’ll be the weirdest but most awesome pre race warmup you’ll ever experience.

5th place out of 130+ teams, 3:19 marathon pace overall

5th place out of 130+ teams, 3:19 marathon pace overall

After the majority of the other teams had finished, there was an awards ceremony hosted by Dean Karnazes. November Project teams swept the podium for the relay as we’ve done at most of The North Face Endurance Challenge races in the last year or two. The winning team was made up of the two November Project San Francisco leaders, and one of them ran 3 of the 4 legs (including the first two) with negative splits. They ran something close to a sub 3:05 marathon, with 4000+ ft of climbing in total, while starting at 7000 feet. Pretty damn impressive. After the Marathon Relay winners were announced, they brought up the marathon, 50k and 50 mile male and female winners, all of whom ended up getting crowd surfed. Totally normal.

As Emily Saul said... "We make everything better."

As Emily Saul said… “We make things better every damn place we go.” #FunIsFun

To quote Emily from Monday’s NP Boston blog on “world takeover” via November Project: The power of this movement comes from epic, EPIC weekends like we just had in Utah–because there’s a large size and scale to the togetherness and energy that makes us pay attention and get freaking pumped up about how good this shit is.  There’s a surge of momentum from so many people being together, and the hype going into it, and the social media buzz about it for days, (FOMO included for those not there).  All that is really good.  AND (note, I didn’t say “but”…really, I mean and) the power of this movement comes from the very same togetherness and energy that we create every single time we have workouts.  The “little” workout here in Boston on Friday, and this morning are no less important, hype-worthy, and impactful than #NPSUMMIT in Utah.  The goodness of this shit is that we’re different when we come together to crawl in the dirt, sweat, and move our bodies–because we’re not doing it alone.  The important thing is that we are taking over the world with positivity, weirdness, and kindness with our fierce, fun, weekly workouts.

There’s really no other way to describe it than that. November Project now exists in 26 cities in the US and Canada, and if it’s not close to you yet, stay tuned. Or better yet, look into starting your own.

Screen Shot 2015-09-28 at 5.13.47 PMOn Sunday we did a group run with people from Boston, New York and San Francisco, and started out on the road until we found a little path leading up a pretty steep incline. We walked up the path which brought us to the top of a large hill which turned into the most perfect trail and exactly what we were hoping to find. We took a few photos overlooking where we raced the day before and headed back down the mountain for breakfast. Sunday afternoon brought us even further up in the mountains, where the views were even more incredible and breathtaking… as in, can barely breathe.

Utah and NP Summit was an incredible experience and hopefully somehow I’ll be able to spend some more time training at altitude and exploring those mountains.




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#LiterallyBreathtaking #CouldntBreathe


Screen Shot 2015-09-03 at 11.18.37 AMThe last few weeks have been brutally hot in Boston, which has made running feel even more difficult lately, especially as I get back into training. It’s extremely humbling to be struggling to maintain a pace that used to be close to an easy effort just a few months ago. I’ve been on a very loose program with my coach since the Boston Marathon, basically with the goal of maintaining some level of fitness, while also hitting Harvard Stadium stairs hard every week, as well as the other two weekly November Project workouts.

This past week has seem to have focused on pushing past what you think are your limits. Do crazy shit – forget “normal.” Monday’s workout included something we’ve done before: the “Sebastian” aka 7 minutes of burpees, all out. But then we did something we’d never done before… A second Sebastian. 14 minutes of all out burpees. Evan (one of the co-leaders) shared that the idea with this is to show people they’re capable of much more than they thought possible.

On Wednesday, we raced Harvard Stadium in a way that we’ve never done before – as a relay. We switched off every 5 sections, for essentially 2.5-4 minutes of work, with equal rest if you had a partner of similar speed. This was the 2nd hardest, if not hardest workout I’ve ever done at the stadium, again with the goal of getting outside your comfort zone. After (catching your breath) a workout like that, you feel pretty damn good. What’s one new/crazy thing you plan on doing in the next week? I want to hear about it! 

Screen Shot 2015-09-03 at 11.43.10 AMAs the training has been picking back up, I’ve refocused my nutrition on a couple of new areas. I’ve been spending a lot more time on the phone with athletes alongside our dietitian who often goes through the results of the pro athletes we work with. Time and time again she emphasizes adding more fiber into their routines through oatmeal and some other sources to help with glucose as well as other markers. After all these conversations and my 4th InsideTracker test

Oatmeal with a couple of my other "Focus Foods"

Oatmeal with a couple of my other “Focus Foods”

showed consistently elevated glucose, I finally decided to pay attention to it. What I’ve noticed is that my energy levels have increased, especially in the afternoons as well as by Friday evening after a long week of work and training. Another unexpected perk is that I’m the leanest I’ve been since high school, which has come as the result of nutritional tweaks, as my training has remained somewhat constant over the last 2 years.

This has happened alongside an increase in calories, in particular from protein, as a result of a high SHBG result (read more about why SHBG is important and how it’s linked to testosterone/recovery/performance here). I’ve added more quality sources of protein including much more fish, some beef and chicken, as well as a couple high protein and real food based bars. After speaking with Kimber Mattox, a pro runner who is one of the athletes InsideTracker is working with, I learned about Oatmega Bars. I had been asking Kimber about her progress after her second test and how she was able to make such great progress. The bars were one of the things she had added into her routine, which are made from grass-fed whey and a lot of other great, real ingredients. As someone with a dairy intolerance, I was very happy about not having any digestion issues with their bars. They’re high in protein and fiber, and low in sugar, while also containing a solid amount of healthy fats from fish, which is an interesting addition to a protein bar to say the least. Bonus: their chocolate mint chip flavor tastes identical to Thin Mint Girl Scout cookies.

Screen Shot 2015-09-03 at 11.45.35 AMI’ll be retesting again in the next two weeks, and am finally optimistic I’ll be able to get my InnerAge a bit closer to where it should be.

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