Michael Brandt, who co-founded H.V.M.N. along with Geoffrey Woo, just came back from running the 2019 Boston Marathon. With Boston being Michael’s second ever marathon, everyone on the H.V.M.N. team was especially impressed & happy to hear of his 2:48 finish time.
A sub 3-hour marathon is not an easy feat. On average, Michael was completing each mile in 6 minutes and 24 minutes...for 26 miles straight.
Dr. Brianna Stubbs sits down with Michael to delve into his training structure and the running tips he’s picked up, his experience running the mother of marathons, and what motivates him to run nearly every day.
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Hey Mike, it's great to see you back from Boston. How are you feeling?
Hi, Brianna, it's good to be back. Feeling well.
Not too sore.
Not too sore. Although I haven't been able to go for another run just yet. I've been taking it easy.
I saw on Strava this morning, or was it yesterday, that you distravad a sauna session that had.
Yes. zero miles at 0.0 miles per hour. I mean, all of the elites, everyone who runs marathons, should take days off afterwards. And they elites, it's their job, their professional, they would do everything that they could to run faster if they could. If it was good for your training to run immediately off of a marathon, they'd be doing it. But everyone takes a break. You owe it to yourself.
Oh, I mean, mentally, as well as physically, but, as a scientist, I know all of the destruction that happens inside your body when you put it through this massive strain of running a marathon. So I think, I'm certainly not telling you off for taking a few days to regroup and look after your body, and fuel up, and stretch, and get in the sauna, or all that good stuff that you don't have time to do when you're training. You have to make sure you enjoy this before you crack on with the next thing.
But I do miss it. I think that at a certain ... I trained for a marathon 'cause I like running. It's not like a good riddance feeling. I miss it. It's like, "What do you do when you wake up?" And you can't go run 10 miles.
It's funny, 'cause you sent out a message to our group chat this morning asking what you're gonna do with the morning, and I was like, "Well, you'd have a lie in, you could have a nice pot of coffee, you could go and have breakfast with your partner, you could read a book, or catch up on the news, that ..." It's actually, I feel like, especially also having trained really hard for a long period of time, you can think of all these things that you could do, but then the alarm goes off and you need that fix, that little hit of being outside, and moving, and getting everything flowing. So, I empathize, but you do have to make sure that you take some downtime, so that you're super revitalized, ready to go again.
And try and think of some things that you wouldn't have had time to do when you were training, and you had to get up, and we had to rush down your coffee, or rush down your breakfast, or rush from training to work, 'cause these are precious times when you can just live a bit slower. I mean, we rewound back a couple years when I started working here, and you and I started doing a bit o' training together, I don't think you'd ever run a marathon at that point. You weren't seriously running, but you had done a bit of running back when you were in college. Where were you two years ago, and how did you end up where you are now?
I always had played soccer, and ultimate frisbee, and these sports that were very cardio based. And I was just curious what my benchmark would be for like, "Hey, I'm pretty in shape. Rewinding back to 21, 22 year old me. I'm pretty in shape. How fast can I run a mile?" SO I spent ... It seemed like a long time, but it's only like 10 weeks. I spent 10 weeks. I just ran every day. I'd my friend who is on the Stanford track team, who was a four oh something miler, very fast guy. And he wrote a training plan for me, and got me running every day. And I did it. I broke both five minute mile I ran 4.57 mile, and it was the hardest thing I ever done. But if there was something, I learned what it felt like to be a runner. I think what was cool about it is, over the course of that time, I ramped up to running pretty much every day, maybe six days a week.
And even realizing that that was possible, and then realizing that it takes a certain amount of fitness to even be able to train, you need to train in order to be at a spot where you can train. And, you have to be resilient to be able to run every day, and you need to be able to run every day in order to get in enough training. So, there's a couple o' levels to it I learned at that point. But once I hit my five minute mile, I just went back to playing some Ultimate Frisbee, and going for a run two, three times a week. My big run was around campus, which I look back on it, it was three and a half miles or something. That was my big ... That was what I would do is a big run in college.
But I think that's pretty typical of most people out there. The idea of going and running for an hour, or even longer than an hour, that's a significant amount of effort. And I think most people would go out and run for half an hour or 40 minutes, and feel like they'd had a good workout in. I think you're an interesting case in point, because you applied some diligent processes to running the mile as fast as you can. And then, having watched you train for the marathon, you've applied the similar kind of diligent processes. Now, The things that you need to do to run a mile fast is very different to the things that you would need to do to run a marathon for us. And really, anyone who's listening, the general principles of what you're saying, or the kind of approach that's relevant to whatever distance you're trying to run, and as you say, running a marathon isn't right for everyone, and it may be more practical, and more motivating for some people to run shorter distances like five K's. There's so many of those races, you can recover for a bit longer, and actually like myself, I would love to be able to run five K fast. I am not fast.
I can go for a long time, but I'm not fast. So actually, being fast would be a nice challenge for me. I mean, really, I think something that listeners can take away from this is, you have to pick a challenge where you're at, but really, then once you start that, you can just apply thoughtful training processes, and be methodical, and you can still have a good achievement with running. And running is something that everyone can do. You buy shoes and lace up, and then off you go. Most people can do running. So, I think that, and ... I mean, I would like to hand over to you here, 'cause you talk beautifully about how it feels to run, and how the kind of freedom that you get when you're out running first thing in the morning. I think you described in a way that's very motivating. I mean, talk us through how you're feeling when you're running across Crissy fields towards the Golden Gate Bridge, and you're just really getting into your stride.
I think, overly glazing over things to say that every run is beautiful, it's not. I think that I realized is that your memory makes things look very beautiful, but then in that moment they're very, sometimes, very tough. Doing it on the toughest days, there's a way to find some beauty to it. I think that even as you're going through the pain, there's something cool that you can witness about yourself, that you're putting yourself through this. And you have the option to stop, and just go home. No one's watching, no one cares, but then, the fact that you, on your own accord, are deciding to lean into the pain, it's just self generated source of pride and confidence. You can just generate a better sense of feeling good about yourself, and it's free. And all you had to do is buy a pair of shoes, and you can have this profound sense of progress, and self development and then that can easily ... It lends its way into other areas of your life. It's like, you get this confidence in this one area, and then it contributes to your overall confidence. I come to the office and I feel good. I already did something great with the day. The momentum's already there. And the rest of the day keeps going like dominoes from that.
How did you fit in all of the training that you needed to do around pretty demanding full time job?
I've structured it though. It's very satisfying to me. Work is very satisfying, gratifying to do. Running is very satisfying, gratifying to do. I don't really care about all the things that I'm not doing. I think some of the best advice I ever had, I think it's from Warren Buffett, he said, "Make a list of the top 25 things you wanna do in your life, and then cross out number six through 25, 'cause those are the biggest distractions." For me, I've been able to find successes with running, with work, and in my close relationships, because, I just don't really cry ... It doesn't really bother me that I can't do all these other things.
There's a million things going on in the world, in every city, and every whatever. There's all these things going on, and you can't really worry about it. And so, I think it took for me a certain level of maturity, to be able to do one thing, or a couple things and put the blinders on, and just just find satisfaction in those instead of wondering what else I could be doing with my time, or what am I missing out on? That FOMO.I don't have any FOMO. I like running, I like working, and that's great for me where I am right now.
It sounds like you got to a point where you realized that running was something that you really wanted to invest in. I mean, did that mean that, day to day, you were very, very motivated? Did you struggle with motivation at all, 'cause you sound pretty chipper about it right now? When was it difficult to get up and out of bed?
Yeah, that's a good question, 'cause I always wondered that, "What motivates me?" And, I think the answer is complicated. It changes. Different things motivate me on different days. And even, different things will motivate me on training versus on race day. It's not just one thing. Some days what motivates me is, it's beautiful, and the birds are chirping, and it's a perfect day, and it feels great to run. Your lungs are full of air, you're stretching it out full stride, you're feeling strong and amazing. But that's definitely not every day. But, sometimes that runner's high, or the pursuit of the runner's high is very motivating. Other times it's like, it's not wanting to quit, it's like, it might be horrible to run, you might not wanna run, but it's gonna feel even worse to not run.
There's gonna be a disappointment. There's a sense of indebtedness to your past self. If you've been running every day for the past two months every day, except for planned rest days, you owe it to that past self to get out there and run today. Otherwise, you're letting that past self down. That can be motivated, that sense of, "I don't want that to all be for nothing." It's like compounding, and say, "I don't wanna break the combo streak. If I break the combo streak, then that's all like, it was all for nothing."
I definitely think that's super powerful. When I'm racing myself, you think about all of the work that you put in, in training, and you just wanna do yourself justice. But it's the same in training as well. You start to put so much money in the bank with the training bank that you wanna keep putting in those deposits, and not letting it wither away.
One little mind trick ... And running is all about mind tricks. Running is not really about running. Running is about mind tricks. When the last couple o' miles are really hard of a run, you tell yourself that everything else was just a warm up. You're going a 20 mile run, it's like, well, miles one through 18 were just to get you tired, 19 and 20 are really where the real workout is at. And then you can extend that out to life. It's like, you wake up today and you're tired, because you've been running 70, 80 miles for the past week, and you have 70, 80 miles for the week in front of you. Well, you better run today, because the past week you spent making your legs tired, so that on the run today, you'd be getting some really good benefit by running on tired legs. So, if you miss your chance today, and your legs get fresh, you're not gonna be able to get that same training benefit. So you gotta go today.
I just try to have more reasons why I need to run, than why I shouldn't run. And, I just go through them with like, "Is it a beautiful day? No. Maybe it is, maybe it's not. Well, then I need to do it for a sense of what I owe to myself. And if not then, I need to do it just because it's better for training." I just have a list of mental checklist I go through of all the reasons why I should run today.
Is it always that complicated or sometimes you just get out and run?
Sometimes you get out and run. I think that one of the things that's really helpful too, I just like to stop the thinking.
I find that too. Just-
Just go. I think that having this job is, I have to be in the office at a certain time, which means I have to be out the door at a certain time, which means I have to have eaten breakfast and showered by a certain time, which means I've to be back from my run at a certain time, which means I need to leave the house by a certain time. It's actually funny, 'cause on a weekend, a lot of times I do my long runs on Saturdays, and that run can flow throughout the day. it's something I'm working on, because that can end up consuming the day. Well, I wake, I sleep in, I go to the café, I hang out, I take a phone call. It's 2:00, 3:00, 4:00, 5:00 PM, and I gotta go for this run. But I've been thinking about it all day, and I haven't gone anywhere either, because I haven't done the main thing I need to do today. And so the run can consume the day whereas on weekdays, I just know I need to be out the door at a certain point. There's no negotiating with the alarm clock. It's like, it goes off, I just gotta go. And that simplicity is actually really helpful. I gotta go by a certain point. This isn't some major decision. You know you're running today, just get out there.
As part of the build up, can you just describe roughly what a training week would look like? What type of sessions do you do? And roughly, how did that change over the block that you were training? I think it was a 12 week training program, right?
I should start by saying that, even for elite marathon runners, 80% of the miles that they run in training are slower than marathon race pace. You're putting in a lot of miles at first, just getting up, getting comfortable. For me, I was getting up to 80, 90 miles I think, was the peak week for me. And then, towards the middle of the training block, you're working in more speed work. So, you're starting to do some stuff that's faster. You do a couple of 10 K runs, or you'll do intervals where in the middle of a run, you're going at race pace, or you're going faster than race pace, and then all the way through to towards the end, then you're really starting to focus on some speed work. You start doing mile repeats at max effort. And then, a couple weeks before, you start really winding it down, and tapering it, and just saving up all your beans for race day. Maybe another thing that's been obvious is, most runs aren't that hard. Only two or three runs in a week are super hard. You're running every day,...
Which is hard.
...which is hard in itself, and it's important to say that, but sometimes, they're very easy, just recovery. You literally go as slow as you want, as long as you go. And then, some days are kinda medium, and then, two or three days will be hard. Some will be hard 'cause they're long, some will be hard 'cause they're faster. But, not every day is the same. Each week has its own variety to it. And if you go too hard on your easy days, then you're not gonna be able to go hard enough on your hard day. So, it's important to respect the rest. Put your effort in when the days are hard, and don't waste it on the days that aren't meant to be hard.
How did you monitor your effort? Did you use heart rate monitor, or anything like that?
Yeah, I'm big fan of heart rate monitoring, and the training plan I had went off of heart rate monitoring. So they say, "Do this run at X percent of your maximum heart rate." It's nice to have a smartwatch heart rate monitor, and just know, "I really shouldn't be going above 155.", or whatever it is for that run." On recovery run, it's like, I should really be staying under 120. And being able to keep yourself honest with that is helpful. And sometimes, you gotta pick it up a little bit too, 'cause it might feel like you're going hard, but well, you're actually not going hard.
I mean, you're using the guidance from that, and learning how your body feels. And, in this training block, did you have to manage any illness or injury at all, and how does one cope with that?
Yeah, that's a good question. I was talking about it, 'cause I think that it's easy to be overly confident especially when you're newish to running, to where you haven't had any super bad injuries. Thankfully, I haven't, but I'm always aware that it's around the corner, it could happen. When you get to a certain level of any sport, you're just using, reusing the body parts so much you're like, you can injure it. I've had some minor things here or there. I did something, I think I was running on my pair of shoes kind of ran out of steam, and I hadn't replaced yet, and I got a twinge on my ankle, and figured it out, but I had to ramp it down for a week and chill out. And so-
Is that frustrating?
It's very frustrating. Yeah, because you wanna be tough, and you wanna ... I mean, you know you need to run, and you wanna throw some toughness at it, but that's not necessarily the answer, and you gotta sometimes lose the battle to win the war. You gotta take a week off, or maybe this marathon training block, maybe it's compromised 'cause you got injured. Thankfully for me, it wasn't that bad, but it was a good sobering wake up call that, don't overdo it, 'cause you wanna be able to run. If you wanna really get good at this, it's a long play. You gotta be doing it for years. And so, it's not worth hurting yourself in a permanent way just 'cause you pushed it too hard.
And I think it's challenging because you're ramping up the miles, so that's taking more and more time, and more and more energy, but actually also, as you do that, you need to start doing things like stretching, or making making time to actually look after your body, because it's taking this battering, and that gets more and more important as you have less and less time. So I think that, that's challenging, and I think that you hit the nail on the head, we need to know where to back off in order to salvage long term progress, but also prevention in terms of, as I said, stretching, but for me, one o' the biggest things that affected when my marathon training was chafing and rubbing, and it's like, well, you can do things to prevent that, so that you're not really, really uncomfortable the next time that you go and run, because if you end up with blisters ... I mean, one time, I had a huge ass blister on my big toe, and I had to buy a proper cover for it, because I could hardly walk, let alone run. I think a really important point to take away would be to look after your body.
And I would say, the art of running is the art of injury prevention. 'Cause in a sense, it's like, the running part is easy, but how do you run without getting injured? You have to have, I think, a very high degree of body awareness, which I think you have a much longer history than I do, and I think most people ... I mean, there are very few people who have hit a gold standard in a world stage like you have. And I think that you can't be greedy in the short term outcomes of just trying to run faster today, 'cause you're frustrated at your splits. It's like, back off. You gotta back off a second, and maybe you need to be doing more yoga. Maybe you need to spend some time in the sauna, and maybe the way to run faster is to run slower for a little while, and then the speed will come if you're a little bit more patient with it.
You used the sauna, was there anything else that you did during training that helped?
Yeah. I'm a little bit of a fanatic about shoes. I have a lot o' pairs of shoes in rotation when it's ... Some o' the best advice I've gotten is, it's good to have multiple pairs of shoes, so that you're not over-training to just one pair. You don't wanna just have leg muscles that are really well built for this one pair of shoes, and the specific geometry and foam type, and the heel toe drop, and the rise, just for this one pair of shoes. You wanna have strong legs, period, and so you gotta rotate through. And then, there's also just personal preferences. Some people have different issues, or ... It almost gets philosophical.
Was things like arch high, and whether you pronate or supernate, so you can get different pairs of shoes that will work with your particular body shape.
There are different pairs of shoes that'll work with you, and then there's different pairs of shoes that you might think it's a good idea to use a really minimal pair of shoes, and you're gonna have to maybe adjust your former, when you use those shoes on that day, you're gonna have to go a little bit slower. And that might be a personal choice that you make, 'cause you read somewhere. You read Born to Run and how the Tarahumara run barefoot, and you know that, that if you subtract all the shoe technology that, your body's gonna do this really natural neutral form. And, that might not be the way you wanna race your marathon, or that might not be the way that you run every single day, but incorporating that into your training might be something that you wanna do.
One thing you just touched on a little, that I'd love to hear your take on a little more is form and technique. I know you spent some time watching YouTube videos, and all of that, and personally, my running technique is really bad. I mean, what would be your top three tips, or top three things that you think about that you think it would help people run better?
Yeah. The number one thing I think to run better is cadence. I think that ... And cadence is the number of times your feet hit the ground in a minute. And cadence is really easy to practice, because you can just count it. It's easier than your heart rate even, 'cause you just run for 15 seconds, and you count how many times your feet hit the ground, and you multiply by four. And, general good cadence is around 180, 190 times per minute. And the reason cadence is good, the whole reason that cadence is important is because, if you think about trying to go a certain speed, that speed is gonna be equal to the number of times your foot hits the ground, multiplied by your average stride length. If you hit the ground more times, then you can go the same speed with a shorter stride length. If you hit the ground too little, but you're trying to go fast, if your cadence is slow and you're trying to go fast, I mean, it's gonna really stretch out your stride length. You're gonna be taking too long strides. That's a huge source of injury.
What you never wanna be doing as runner is stretching far out in front o' you, to grab the ground in front of you. That's not the way that the propulsion works. Your foot needs to be hitting the ground right underneath your center of gravity, and then pushing backwards. And, it can feel like you're taking shorter strides than maybe what we're used to, but the way to get comfortable with that is to keep your cadence up, just to keep yourself honest. Make sure that you're you're taking those shorter strides, and not overly reaching. 'Cause again, it's like, when people get shin splints, people get all sorts of issues from over striding, from reaching in front of you. The second you start reaching in front of you with your foot, your foot's hitting the ground before you get there, and then you end up ... It has its breaking effect. Your foot hits the ground, and you're not there yet, and you're at a breaking, and then you end up having like, speed up again once your center of gravity passes over that point o' contact that your foot has made with the ground. And then, what the really good elite people do, is they just have high cadence and high stride length, but they're still all behind you. All of your energy as a runner needs to be going towards forward propulsion. You need to be throwing the ground behind you at all points. Everything else is a waste.
Talked a bit about training, and injuries, and form. Let's go back to Boston specifically. How long ago did you qualify for Boston, and how did you qualify? How does that work?
Boston was my second marathon. My first marathon was San Francisco marathon last year, last summer. To qualify for Boston for my age, I'm 30, so to qualify for Boston you need to hit three hours, and that's the highest standard. There's no different ... Men versus women, or different ages, there's different levels o' handicap to make it an equal playing field, but no handicap for being a 30 year old male. And-
So that's the fastest qualifying time.
Yeah. That's right. I need to hit three hours. That was my goal. And then, in San Francisco, I had a great day out. I always say, with marathon running, there's really two parts of it. There's, you're mechanic, and you're a pilot, and you spend all the time in training as a mechanic, really building the ship. And every day when you're running, you're building your body. And then, you show up on the start line, and now it's time to pilot this ship. And you have some given level of fitness on that day, and the only so well you can do given that level of fitness, but you can definitely pilot it wrong. You'd have really good fitness, and not be a good pilot on that day.
And, I think that, for San Francisco, I didn't have crazy good fitness. That was my first marathon, and I trained a little off ward, but, I think that it worked well for me, because I probably did it ... Well, I didn't keep overly excited. There were a couple moments where I wanted to go faster, but I held some restraint, and just kept really even in like road ... I think I ran it really well, given what my level of fitness was. If I were to like save and reload that point, I don't think I could have done it that much better.
And so, that gave you the qualifying time for Boston, and so you finished that San Francisco looking ahead to Boston. Did you wanna tweak your strategy, or how did you tweak your goals? What was the thought processes there, in to how you're gonna get faster, other than training? You're gonna do the training, but where did you wanna get to?
One part of me is like, "Maybe it's good enough just to keep breaking three hours. It's respectable. Maybe I just wanna break three hours in a bunch o' different marathons. Just keep that standard, and hold that standard for a while and do it in a bunch of fun places." And then part of me was like, "You know what? No." It's like, "I wanna run faster. I wanna know what it feels like." There's something really fun in just letting her rip. Again, if you're a mechanic, it's fun to build the Ferrari, build the best possible vehicle, but then it's also fun on the race day to just let her rip. It's a indescribable feeling that I think a lot o' athletes share, but especially in running, and maybe similar sports where ... It just fun to let her rip. There's just this one thing that you've designed your body for, and you're just taking it out, and you're doing it, and ...
I mean, I know why you don't do that in training ever, 'cause now you're just absolutely demolished. They say not to run fast or long for a month after running a marathon. It's not the most economical training. In training you're doing slower miles, you're doing less miles, but you're doing it every day. But there's something so sublime about just letting her rip. You don't have to worry about, "Am I gonna be sore for this Thursday's intervals, and blah, blah?" It's like, "Nope, just let her rip." Don't get injured. If you get injured, you gotta really tap the brakes, but, your quads hurt, boohoo, let her rip. It's fun to be doing that in your own bias, like riding a motorcycle, but somehow you are the motorcycle. The motorcycle's you.
How much faster did you wanna go? What was the new target time?
From San Francisco, I had a 2:55, and then I thought I could do 2:45 in Boston. It's a big step up, and it's big objective time. I ended up doing 2:48 in Boston. I'm not horribly disappointed. I mean, I hit my own personal silver goal, and I hit a standard that's gonna make it a lot easier to qualify I knew in a lot of other marathons. And, I don't know. It's an objectively fast time for a second go around. And I think with my own psychology, now my gold standard just got a little bit faster too.
I hear you. You should be really pleased at the time.
If I was to redo it, I would do a full 18 week block. There's just no substitute for time spent in serious training. I think also, I could have probably, if I spent a little longer, I mean, we could have chilled out a little bit, and not been pushing it as hard on each individual run. I might have been over-training a little bit at points, but I think if I stretched it out a little bit, I could've run a little bit slower, a little bit ...
You probably would have had time to have micro cycles with the training, like mini peaks as whereas I think maybe with 12 weeks, you've got to keep building until them big taper. I mean, I think, it must be good knowing that there's things that you can try, and do differently, 'cause I think if you felt like you'd really done everything, and left it all out there, and then it might be a bit of a loss as to what you do next. But it sounds like you have some good constructive points for your next one. But, I still wanna talk more about Boston.
What was the atmosphere like when you got into town?
Boston's really special. This was the 123rd year of Boston. I believe it's America's oldest marathon, and it's always had a competitive standard where you have to hit a certain time to get in, and therefore, it attracts a certain level of crowd. Everyone who's there is a semi serious runner on up, and then a lot of the elites come there too. So, you're running on the same course just right after them, chasing after the Super League guys and girls. Boston's not a huge city, even compared to San Francisco, which is also not a huge city. Boston is not that big, and so when you have all these 30,000 runners, and their families, and they're walking around with their Boston Marathon hoodies, and track jackets, and baseball caps, it really takes over the city. The city goes ... It goes nuts. Marathon Monday, there's no parking anywhere, the whole route is just shut down.
Everyone's excited. I've had some family members who have lived in Boston at different points, and they watch the race, they've cheered on. The whole city just goes crazy. The whole city has the day off, and there's just a lot of fanfare when you're there. The buzz, and you get this sense is like, everyone else there is also run a marathon of marathons, and training, or more. And you're all there for this one day. We could have all stayed home and run 26.2 miles in our whatever, in our own hometown, but we all got on a plane, flew out there, and we're there to all do this thing together. It hangs in the air. There's something special.
I think you're right. I think nowadays, in a world where we do so much business remotely, getting people together, like minded people who've all got the same goal for that day, and as you said, you've been on a journey in the run up to, and everyone will have had a different journey, that kind of pregnancy in the atmosphere must be heavy and present, and give you a whole other gear to unlock and really pilot the ship, as fast as you can let it rip, as you kind of been saying. It's pretty inspiring. I mean, how did the race go? I mean, did you get hung up, bit carried away, and go off to hard, or did you pace it? Well, how did the race unfold after all of that training?
Yeah, the race went well, and, I should say, one of the aspects that makes marathoning so tough, and I've said this, is that, you never run the full race distance with the full intensity in training. You're always doing ... You're triangulating out. You're doing more miles over the course of the week. You're doing a couple 10 K races all out, which 10 K is a lot shorter distance. And you'd using that to extrapolate out how well you will pace for the whole marathon, but you never really know, so you show up a day or two before, and especially for someone like me, it's only my second marathon. I've only piloted it a couple o' times, and I'm just wondering, "How fast can I go? Is my goal realistic? If I go out at that speed, am I gonna burn up?" 'Cause there's a certain point where if you try to go a little bit faster, you end up burning exponentially more fuel. You get exponentially tired.
If you try to shave 10 seconds, 20 seconds off a mile, it starts being very expensive to do that. You're gonna crash hard. You don't wanna be going off too fast, but then I thought about it, and said, "You know what? I don't wanna completely miss the opportunity either." If you start out too slow, then you're just giving up at the start line. You're never gonna hit your goal pace. I thought it was reasonable. I could hit my goal. I thought I could do it. And I also just know what it should feel like. I gave myself permission, dialed in, and I said, "You know what? The real goal is to run at ..." I know what it feels like to be running hard, but in a way that I can sustain for a few hours. So I was like, "All right, I'm gonna go off a feel. I'm gonna give myself permission to back off if need to, but I'm gonna hit those splits. I'm not hanging on to it. And if I'm still feeling good around 10, 13 miles then I'm gonna go for broke."
That patience aspect of it, it's definitely challenging, when you're excited, and you put so much work into it. That patience to wait until you really push on, but also, as you said nicely that, I permission to go with what you have on the day, and not be too self judgmental, if it's not quite panning out. It's a very interesting mental game. Were there any points where you had to be really on your mental game, where it was maybe a little bit on the edge of going to plan or not? How did that will pan out?
Yeah, there were different challenges at different points. It was generally going well. In the first half, there's a lot o' people around, so you wanna zigzag around them, and you're gonna cover more distance by doing these little micro zigzags to get past people, or do you just slow down a little bit, you end up trying to do something like optimal path that's not too much, but letting you keep your splits. Boston is a really challenging course. It's rolling hills. You'll gain some seconds on this part of the course, you'll lose some seconds on this part of the course. It's really nice to have a smartwatch, and be really comfortable with it, and just know, "Well. I'm five seconds ahead, I'm 10 seconds ahead, I'm five seconds behind." The one number I keep track of is just the cumulative amount I am ahead or behind of my goal. I say, "I'm three seconds ahead on this mile, and then the next mile you're five seconds behind, plus two." And then, you just keep track o' this one number, and you just go, and then ... 'Cause generally, you don't wanna dig too deep of a hole for yourself. Some miles are harder than others, because they're hillier, or whatever, but my philosophy is generally, try to earn it back as quickly as possible. You don't wanna borrow too much from future miles. You don't wanna dig yourself a little hole, and then be like, "Oh, I'll make up for that later." 'Cause, you know what? You're not gonna get any less tired later. I try to keep the bank account at right at even, if not, try to be a little bit ahead. But, you don't wanna be too much ahead. That's always the calculus, like, "Is it here, should I go a little bit faster now, or should I keep my speed, and save some beans for later?"
Did you stop falling behind time, and have to deal with that?
Yeah, yeah. I started falling behind time. There's part o' the Boston's metropolitan area, there's a little city called Newton, and there's these four hills and anyone who's run the course knows this well. I think a lot of us have unfinished business in Newton. It's a series of four hills, and they all come back, to back, to back, and they say at mile 18, 19, 20-
Is one of these, Heartbreak Hill?
Yeah, it's four hills, the fourth which is called Heartbreak Hill, and ... I mean, it's deceiving, 'cause Boston on the whole is net downhill course. It's about 1000 feet. Sorry, it's about 500 feet net downhill, but within that is ... It's actually 1000 feet downhill, with 500 feet of climb. Nets out to ... It's this nice, minus 500, but you've also got this really chunky plus 500 that's right in the middle. I mean, the downhills not easy either, 'cause downhill just like rips your legs up in a different way. All things being equal, I'd rather run downhill, but it's a little bit different form.
It's not easy.
Yeah. If you haven't trained for it, you'd be surprised how much it can tear you up, even though it seems like, "Oh, it's downhill. It's an advantage." It can really tear up your quads if you're not ready for it.
What happened to you in Newton?
It just got hard to run. It was just hard to move the legs fast enough, I think. And then you start trying to throw more coal on the fire, then you realize it's not productive, because you're not supposed to be out of breath in mile 18 on a marathon. You're not supposed to be ... There's certain level of exertion you need to control yourself. You can't go there. Just because you're not hitting the splits, you can try to throw a little bit more at it, but it's gonna self destruct if you throw too much at it. If all of a sudden you're outta energy in running this, and keeping your split, feels like an all out effort, then guess what? The next mile, the next, next mile is gonna feel like ... It's not gonna feel very good. You're gonna end up completely falling apart. Again, you gotta give yourself permission. you gotta go off a field like, "We're slipping a little bit here. These hills are not nice, when we're gonna give ourselves permission to slip a little bit, and we're gonna do everything we can to bounce back." I think it's really easy to go on tilts. I think it's really easy, when you start losing a little to start losing a lot. You go 10 seconds off your split, and then it's like, "What's another 10 seconds? What's another 20 seconds? Who cares anymore? I'm not gonna hit my goal."
It's very easy to get discouraged, frustrated, especially if your start was throwing yourself out and getting even more tired and frustrated. But I think you gotta just keep it ... For me, it's just keep it cool, like, "A little bit slower than I woulda liked on this one, but I'm gonna bounce right back on the next one, and try to recover." And I think I knew a little bit from training. I think that's one of the fun things about marathoning is like, you're going at a speed where, in theory, you can recover, even while keeping a pretty decent clip.
Someone told me before I ran my first marathon that you were gonna have peaks and troughs, and it was about how you rode the peaks and troughs, and if it felt really rubbish you could realistically get yourself back out the other side as long as you were smart about it. I mean, one thing I think that we haven't talked about yet, that probably plays a huge part in how you get to that point in the race is, fueling and hydration. And I mean, this is me. If this you, I can't believe we haven't talked about this yet. How did you approach the race day nutrition strategy?
I think it even started before race days, is very mindful of my nutrition throughout all of the training. It's been very careful to make sure I'm eating enough, make sure I'm eating high quality stuff, as well as doing certain runs intentionally in a fasted state. Waking up and not having any calories, and going for a run has its own training benefit. And really dependent on what the run was for that day. And without going into too much details, some runs I would go fasted to have that metabolic flexibility. You're running on low glycogen stores, maybe it's a 50 mile midweek run-
Woof, 15 miles fasted. That's ...
Well, for me, I'm able to do it, and I know that I'm getting some benefit from doing that, but then, on another run where it's like, "Hey, you really wanna be hitting your numbers. You really want to be spending a certain amount of time at a certain quality, a certain speed.", then by all means, you gotta prepare like it's a race day, like eat well starting 24, even more hours, ahead o' time. Going out with that. When you're really trying to peak your nutrition for running performance, well, it starts a week ahead o' time. I stopped drinking caffeine a week ahead o' time to regain just caffeine sensitivity. I wanted it to work for me on race day. That's no big deal. And then 48 hours ahead o' time, stopped eating vegetables. There's no fiber. The last thing you wanna be doing is having to use the restroom during the race. It's totally solvable. You totally can eliminate the need to have to use bathroom. You just gotta know what to avoid.
No vegetables for 48 hours. Then the day before, just loading up on water and electrolytes. I'm a big fan of these salt tabs you just eat. They help you hold on to the water. It's cool, 'cause you're eating these tabs, they taste kinda nice, and you're drinking water, but you're not really going pee, which is cool. You're holding onto it. And then race day morning, I always have a plain bagel and some coffee. And then, on my way, 45, 30 minutes before the race, I'll have some carb drink. There's a lot o' good ones out there. I think for Boston I had Morton's. I really like it. And then I have a full bottle of ketones at that same time, and just get double loaded up on ketones and carbs. Getting this really good position around half an hour for. And then with me, for Boston, I had six GU packs with me, 100 calories of carbs, a mix of types of sugars, so they can be digested in parallel. And then, I had a little pouch for a bottle o' ketone at the halfway mark.
Oh, so you took another one halfway through.
Yeah, which is great. I'm really glad I did that.
It's quite hard to do that on the run.
It's hard to do that on the run, but ... I mean, it was fine. I kept in this pouch. I got a nice little pouch that-
It's actually for the ketones.
It's like a belt. It's literally special for ketones. It's like a belt that has little pouch on it, and ... I forgot about it. It doesn't feel like anything.
It's better to carry your food than be grabbing it from aid stations, 'cause often you don't know what's gonna be on the aid station whether it's gonna agree with you, or whether you miss it or something, and, I think-
Or whether they run out of it. I just wouldn't ... You're paying all this time and money and stuff to be there, I wouldn't-
Carry your own stuff.
Yeah, I would definitely carry your own stuff. Use other stuff as last resort. And then I would say, just have a plan. For me, it was, every four miles I was gonna hit it a GU regardless of whether you want to or not. And I always ... I mean, I know well enough to know you gotta do it early and often. So I actually I had a GU, just a loose one that I had right at the start line. And then, every four miles, regardless if you want it ... Four miles, you better not feel tired if you're a marathoner, but you also better have the GU, and you better be grabbing water at every water station.
I think by the time you feel yourself starting to bonk, or you feel thirsty, you're in big trouble. You gotta ... Even four miles in, you're already burning it faster than you're taking it in. You gotta start fighting back against it. Get some carbohydrates in your system. You're already losing water fast than you're taking it in. I don't know. I shouldn't say stop. I'd say grab water at every water station. That'd be my one advice. Don't wait till you're tired or thirsty or anything.
It's hard to be taking water on, because each time that you're trying to drink from, they give it to you in cups mostly, and it is difficult to get as much in as you want. I mean, when I run a marathon, my first marathon, I carried a plastic bottle with me for the first hour, so that I knew that I'd have drunk at least that much, but someone gave me a great tip, which was to crush the cup that, they give you, so that you've got just a smaller spout, because always you're trying to drink, and it's going everywhere, and it's very difficult. And that's something that, again, you already get a chance to practice in training, and it's a bit of a faff to be like, "Oh, well, I'm gonna go and I'm gonna get some cups, and I'm gonna run and pick up the cup." I mean, maybe it's worth doing for people, depending on how much effort you wanna put in, but it is...
I've heard of that.
...probably not worth trying it for the first time in a full marathon. Maybe at least have done it on a half marathon, or something like that. It sounds like so much thought went into so many of the details of this race, and had been one of the things getting you out of bed every morning since San Francisco. You qualified, and it's on your back of your mind, you're gonna go to Boston. All of that said and done, how did it feel to cross the finish Line?
It felt really gratifying. It was a sweet release, 'cause I was in a lot of pain the last few miles, where it is extremely painful. I couldn't believe it. It's like, in the beginning of the marathon, I was like, "Oh wow, they're just giving these mile markers away." It's like, you look up, and it's, "Oh, wow, mile seven, mile eight, mile nine." Its just happening very quickly. And then towards the end, it's like, "Oh my God, there's three miles between mile 21 and 22." And you know that four miles is nothing, but that last four miles, it stretches on for so long, it's hard to explain. And, there's so many people watching the fanfare along the course, and all Boston marathons is just next level, and especially once you get into the city, you're just a ... It's just a complete sensory overload. Both sides of the street, there's just a line packed with a wall o' people just screaming, and, you pick up the speed a little bit, and the audience is clapping with applause. Everyone's rooting for you.
You clap a little bit above your head, and everyone will just go crazy. Everyone's enjoying sharing the moment with you. They know that you tried really hard to be there, and they ... I think it's inspiring at some level o' the people, and it was just this wave of enthusiasm. It felt very special, I felt very lucky to be there. I knew that, not everyone gets to do that, and I knew that I was there because of, a lot of hard work on my part, but a lot of things that have happened had to happen right along the way for me to even be able to train like this, to even be able to have that time in the morning, and that stability in the home life, and the work life, and all the aspects of my life taken care of so that I'm able to do this activity. It's a lot o' gratitude I felt as I was coming down the homestretch. I really wouldn't be there without lot o' people who have helped in a lot of ways.
Sometimes when you get special moments like that, you have to really make a real effort to hold on to them.
Yeah. And I think that's part of why I do it, is the creating o' memories, the deliberate act of doing something so that it will create a good memory, that will create a tent pole moment that you can reflect back on, and be like, "That's who I was when I was 30." I'm not gonna remember every day of the year, but I'll remember that day for a very long time. And that's deliberate. It's like, you're packing all these hours into this one event to make that one day just very, very standout, very special. And, I don't know. We talk a lot about self actualization or hard work being this beautiful thing that you can do, is like, "What is the purpose of life?" Think about, "What even motivates us, us, as a company to make the products that we make, and educate people about them, and get the word out." It's like, we want everyone to be the best version of themselves, and I think in a lot o' ways, in our back o' our own minds, we always think ...
I think a lot of people with a healthy sense of common sense, you think you're special in some way, and you think that you can do great things. So, it's good to actually go out there and do 'em, and get 'em on the permanent record, so that you have something tangible you can look at, and feel good about. And I think that that carries over. 'Cause I feel pretty good at marathoning right now. I mean, there's a lot o' room to grow too. I don't wanna be overconfident, but I feel pretty good at it, and that contributes to this general sense of confidence, which acts as this starter fuel to anything new. I don't know. I'm like, if I took up golf, or took up ... I don't know.
Rowing or Japanese calligraphy or anything, there's a certain sense of confidence of, "This is gonna be hard, but I can like stick through it." I have seen myself stick through it. I can look at my own self as a role model. My own self in this other area can be a role model for myself as I approach this new area. I didn't use o know anything about marathoning and I figured it out, so how hard can this whatever new thing be? The answer is, it can be quite hard, but you're gonna be able to figure it out. And it's nice to have those things save, lie, you know you're good, because you did the thing.
I mean, I would say that, watching your journey not last two years has been one of the most rewarding things for me as just part of the company, just the diligence, and the way that you've actually achieved the things that you've set out to do. It's been really cool to work with someone who's had that sort of ethos, and just super articulate, and a thoughtful way of keeping everything in context as well. We really appreciate you, everyone here really appreciate you, and I guess, a great question to end on will be, what's next? If we were sitting down in 12 months time, what would you wanna be reflecting on next time?
I've been kinda pendulum swinging between running in triathlon, and I think triathlons a great ... It's funny I called it a break, but it's ...
It's okay. I'll do a trade. I'll do the marathon training, you can trade for my Iron Man.
Especially when you Iron Man training in the marathon just a sub part.
Run a marathon, then I'll try 112 miles on the bike.
I just wanna work a little bit on my speed. I think it'd be fun to do half marathons for a while.
Well, I mean, you run a 1:22 half in the first part of that marathon, so that's like ...
Like a PR for the half marathon.
On the front end of that, I think it'd be fun. Also just a little bit less just hours spent training to do a half. You do you faster miles, and you do less of 'em. I think that could be good to maybe get some key half marathons on the map. And then, I mean, I wanna keep running. There's something about it. I wanna run in London, in Berlin, in Tokyo, in Chicago, in New York. There's all the major marathons. One o' the great things about marathon ... This hasn't fit in yet, but tending to answer the questions, but, it's so cool they just shut down all the streets. When else did they do that? In the New York Marathon, you get to run, was it from Queens to Staten Island over the bridge there that's normally only for cars? You can never even walk that path. And in Chicago, there's a half marathon you run on Lakeshore Drive. I think that's one o' the coolest things about these, is like how cool is it sounds just like the streets of Tokyo are shut down, and you're running through it. There's nothing that compares to it. That's I think, a big part of why it's fun to pay and go to the place, and do the things. When else are you gonna run uninterrupted, no car traffic, through that world class city. I think it just sounds like a great way to see a place. I've never been to Berlin. I would love my first trip to Berlin to be just running the marathon there. It sounds really fun.
Wow. You made me wanna go out and run. Maybe not quite as far as a marathon right now, but ... I mean, I think, it's just so clear talking to you how much passion for, and energy you have for it. And so, I hope any of the listeners, they can find you on Twitter, and you often post about running. What's your Twitter handle?
It's bdm_tastemakers. And you can find me ... It's easy to find me. I'm easy to reach on H.V.M.N. website, easy to find me.
And also on Strava. I mean, if anyone's got any questions, I know I've been involved writing an awful lot of articles about running training, and running nutrition, so all of that's also on our blog. People can check that out as well. And, hopefully, if you've galvanized anyone or inspired anyone, which I'm sure you will have done, they can go out and run their first half marathon, or marathon. And, if anyone does that, we'd love to hear from you.
Absolutely. Love to hear from people.
Well, thanks so much, Michael. Happy running.
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© 2020 HVMN Inc. All Rights Reserved. H.V.M.N.®, Health Via Modern Nutrition™, Nootrobox®, Rise™, Sprint®, Yawn®, Kado™, and GO Cubes® are registered trademarks of HVMN Inc. ΔG® is a trademark of TΔS® and used under exclusive license by HVMN Inc.