Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Getting Ready for Ragnar!

Unfortunately, I told my family I would create a training program for the Wasatch Back Relay this June. Having done this race like 5 times I figured it would be no big deal. Turns out, it was a big deal. Trying to make a concise running schedule for 12 very different routes and 24 different people is quite a challenge. So prepare yourselves, people. While this post is informative, awesome and mind-blowing, it's actually pretty lenghty (how else was I supposed to get in all the awesomeness?). I hope you're in for the long haul.

Side note: I'm fully aware that I'm NOT the only Lifferth out there who's done this race before. Those of you who have done it, be sure to comment with your own tips, ideas, and know-how. Also, consider this my training post. Once we get a little closer to game day, I'll write a post on how to survive the race. Cause that's really where the help is needed.

First thing's first.


Your Ragnar Training Schedule

I went to Ragnar's website and found that they already have a training program posted. Click here to see the beginner training program. On the same page you can click "Intermediate" and see the more advanced training.

Honestly, it's a pretty solid schedule...but I still had some beef with it. My biggest problems were:
1. They give a billion rest days.
2. They make you do 3-a-days. Yikes!
3. And, if you are "intermediate," they expect you to get your mileage up to a long 18 miles. I'm sorry people, but that is called marathon training. And this isn't a marathon. Even those running the longer legs (18-21 miles) should NOT have to put in this many miles in one get go.

So, definitely check it out. But don't trust it entirely.

I tried to come up with a day to day schedule, but I felt like I was doing a disservice. This race is so individual. Everyone runs a different distance. Not only that, but every leg is different. You really can't summarize what everyone should be doing in ONE training program.

And so, I present to you my version of the training schedule. A much less clear, but much more helpful training schedule:

This Week Be  Your Shortest Run Your Longest Run Your Total Mileage
Sure to Include: Should Be: Should Be: Should Be:
Apr 1-6 Easy Day 2 (Beginner)-3 miles 3-6 miles 12-24 mi.
Apr 7-13 Hills*/Easy Day 2-4 miles 3-6 miles 14-24 mi.
Apr 14-20 Hills/Speed* 3-4 miles 4-7 miles  18-26 mi.
Apr 21-27 Hills 3-4 miles 5-7 miles 20-28 mi.
Apr 28-May 4 Hills/Speed 3-4 miles 5-8 miles 22-28 mi.
May 5-11 Hills 3-4 miles 6-8 miles 22-30 mi.
May 12-18 Hills/MNM Run* 3-4 miles 7-10 miles 24-32 mi.
May 19-25 Hills/Speed 3-4 miles 7-12 miles 26-34 mi.
May 26-Ju 1 Hills/MNM Run 4 miles 8-14 miles 26-36 mi.
June 2-8  Hills/Peak*  4 miles 80% of total* 28-40 mi.
June 9-15  Hills/Taper* 3-4 miles 6-8 miles 20-26 mi.
June 16-22  Strides*/Easy/RACE!!!! 2 miles 4-5 miles 12-16 mi.

As you can see, I'm being lazy and just giving rough suggestions. But trust me! Everyone really needs to adapt their training to their specific legs. Here's the break down:

Rest Days

Okay...here's where you get to hear my opinion on rest days. I fully recognize that I'm a bit OCD about my running habits. I run every day (minus Sunday) whether is gorgeous outside or blizzarding. This is not necessary (the first step is admitting it, right?). Having said that, I will admit that in Running World it is acceptable to have 3 rest days a week (sometimes even 4) whilst training. I'm only saying this because I don't want you guys to get discouraged if you can only fit 3 or 4 days of running in. That's okay. Life happens.

But I would like to remind all of you, that I'm completely confident that each of you can run a mile in at least 15 minutes or less. And who can really say that they can't squeeze a quick 1 mile run into their schedule? It's only 1 mile...but then again it's ONE WHOLE MILE. Trust me, it makes a difference. So I'm making all you guys mentally agree to only have 1 or 2 rest days a week. If it happens to be more, we'll forgive. But really try for just 1 or 2 and then give yourself some easy days (just because I didn't specify to include easy days, doesn't mean you can't include them. Do!)


Everyone needs to do hill workouts. I'm sorry, but that is going to be the one thing that will help you not die come race day. Some of you guys have some crazy hard uphills. If you don't train for it, you'll be walking/huffing/and puffing your way to the exchange. It won't be a pretty picture.

If you have one of the harder/steeper legs, you might even want to drive to a canyon or something. Just make sure you are getting some good uphill running in. Those of you doing Avon Pass, Pre-Ragnar, and Ragnar (and ones like it) will especially need to find a route that give you an incline for the majority of the trail.

Those of you who have been blessed to not do any of the previously mentioned legs (or ones like it) still need to include hills. It's cool if you just want to throw 2 or 3 hills in one of your regular loops.

Hill Repeats: these are pretty self explanatory. Do a bit of a warm up (1-2 miles) to a hill. When you run up the hill, you should be sprinting. When you first start doing these, start out with 2 or 3. Towards the end of training you should be doing 4-6 repeats. It totally counts if you walk down the hill in between. Make sure you cool down too.

Downhill: Honestly, not being prepared for downhill can hurt just as much as uphill. You just won't feel it until later. If you have a leg that goes on a steep decline, train for it! Go down the canyon instead of up! Nothing will make you more sore than flying down a hill (without having gotten your muscles used to it) and then sitting in a car for 3 hours.


You'll see that I didn't include speed as much in my training plan. Maybe you'll be able to make the connection between my speed workout habits and my training plan making habits.

I have a hard time with speed because I'm lazy. And honestly, I don't know what type of competitors you all are. If you are looking to get a ton of kills (for you first timers, that's what they call it when you pass someone. And yes, we do count) you'll want to do speed every week. My brother Kyle is a good example of this (he's hardcore). But that's not for everyone. Unfortunately, I'm more competitive than I like to admit. So here are some speed workouts for all competition types:
This was for the Red Rock Relay...but it's the same idea.
You count your kills. It's for bragging rights, I guess...

Intervals: Go to a track and time intervals. The first time you go, start out with something easier, like one set of 800m-400m-400m. Next time you go, do two sets, and then three. Try to keep all of your times consistent. If you get 90 seconds for your first 400m (once around the track) shoot for it on your second one. Only allow yourself a 30-60 second break in between each interval. But in between sets you can give yourself a 3-5 minute break. Interval work is so hard. But it's also the most rewarding workout. Feel free to come up with your own sets. Longer will get you ready to do your legs in high gear, shorter will give you a good kick for passing.

Tempo: The problem I have with intervals is the fact that I'm not nearly as fast as I was in high school. So I usually opt for tempo runs. First do a good warm up (10-15 minutes). Then kick it into high gear for 5 minutes (make sure you've got a watch for this). Really push yourself. After the 5 minutes is up, switch back to your normal pace for 4 minutes. Then go 4 minutes hard. Work your way down to 1 minute. The point is that you are get faster for each minute you drop. Follow up with a cool down.

Fartleks: The good thing about this workout, is that you don't have to have a watch. As always, do a warm up. I like doing this workout on country roads because you sprint at every other telephone pole. And in the country, it's just more recognizable. So sprint the first length, jog or walk the next and so forth. Do 2-3 miles of it. Cool down.


This stands for Morning-Night-Morning Run. It is imperative that you do this while training for Ragnar. Nothing else will get you used to the schedule of Ragnar better. Of course, you could follow Ragnar's own schedule and do a 3-a-day. But really, that's not necessary. The first day run 3 or 4 miles in the morning, and then 4-5 miles in the evening. The next morning run 3-5 miles. Feel free to adjust the mileage. I would suggest doing a MNM run 2 or 3 times before the race. It really helps your body to get in the swing of things.


Peak/80% of Total

Okay. This might be confusing. Two weeks before the race, you should peak. Your longest run during each week should be getting steadily longer. And 2 weeks before the race, you should hit your peak, which in this case, is going to be 75-80% of your total mileage. I took the liberty of computing everyone's so you don't have to.

Total Miles  75-80% of Total
Runner 1 21.1 16 miles
Runner 2 13.7 10 miles
Runner 3 19.4 15 miles
Runner 4 14.6 11 miles
Runner 5 14.8 11 miles
Runner 6  17.2 13 miles
Runner 7  11.7 9 miles
Runner 8 15.9 12 miles
Runner 9 17.6 13 miles
Runner 10 15.3 12 miles
Runner 11 19.8 15 miles
Runner 12 15.9 12 miles

So Runner 5 totals 14.8 miles in the race. But for training, his longest run should be 11 miles. And honestly, feel free to give this some leeway. Cut it down by a couple miles if you don't feel ready for it two weeks before the race.


After that long run, you should start to taper. Cut back on all of your runs and don't go as far as you have been. Especially the week of the race, take advantage of the fact that you ought to be laying off the running. I still run every day, but I never go more than 5 miles the week of a race.

The Day Before the Race: Lots of runnesr choose not to run the day before a race, which is totally acceptable. I like to run the day before. I'm sure mostly it's psychological, but I like to keep my muscles loose. If you do run, include strides. Go to a football field, a track, or a road with telephone poles. Run about 100 meters, focusing on stretching your legs and going fast. It's not quite a sprint. Doing strides is honestly like bounding. You feel a bit dumb, but the point is to loosen your muscles and get them ready for going fast/going uphill/going downhill etc.

A Word About Heat

Sorry I just keep talking! I'm only giving you information I think is important. The unfortunate thing about Ragnar is that you will likely have at least one leg that's in the heat of the day. If you don't get ready for it, it's gonna getcha. One year that I did Ragnar, I was working 8am-5pm all summer in an air conditioned building. I went on my runs at 6 am. I never got outside when it was hottest. When I got to the race day I had one leg that hit right around 2:30 or 3 in the afternoon. It was burning hot and I wasn't used to it at all. It was only a 4 mile leg, but I had to walk like 5 times because the heat was killing me.

In the weeks leading up to the race, try to get some time outside when it's H.O.T. If you can, plan a couple of runs during the afternoon. Choose easier and shorter runs, and take water if you think it's necessary. When I worked as an assistant cross country coach, I ran with the kids every afternoon and my body totally got used to the heat. Even if you can't plan a run in the heat, try to go outside. Your body will get used to the heat and you'll be glad when, come race day, you have to run 6 miles uphill in 90 degree weather. Drink lots of water when you do these runs!

Finally, Shoes

I know most of you are seasoned runners who know how important shoes are. But for you newbies, please, please, please BUY GOOD SHOES. My favorite place is Runner's Corner in Orem. I'm a freak (I already told you...) and when I go to Runner's Corner, I'm there for 1 or 2 hours picking out my shoes. They have a track there in the store where you actually get to try out the shoes and compare them (so wear workout clothes when you go). It's awesome. Really try to get a shoe that's right for you. I could write a whole post on running shoes, pronation and supronation...but I won't. Just buy good shoes. Please.

You're going to be wearing these nearly every day for the next 3-4 months (at least), so you'll get your money's worth. And the way I see it, it's better to spend a hundred dollars on good shoes now, than to pay thousands of dollars down the road when you need knee surgery because of your crappy running shoes. Got it? Good.

Whew. We made it! Hopefully your training won't seem as long as this post! Feel free to add your own thoughts and let me know if you have any questions!

Go Teams Wandering Wanda and Oh-Henry's!

Friday, March 22, 2013

The Story of How We Decided to Go to China

Like, for real.

Once upon a time, Ben and I were killing time on campus. I grabbed a newspaper and started browsing. (On a completely unrelated side note-Rexburg has got to be one of the most boring cities as far as news goes. I read a 3 page article about college age men creating a club to watch My Little Ponies together. Not kidding. Another favorite was the woman who called the cops because her 3 year old was missing. Cops arrived and found the kid fast asleep underneath some pillows. Sheesh.)


The newspaper had an insert advertising a FREE five dollar bill AND dinner. The catch? You had to come listen to a 15 minute spiel on the International Language Program.

Who doesn't want free money? We were in.

So we went and listened. Basically, the International Language Program (or ILP) sends its volunteers to several different countries (although, they only send married couples to China). The volunteers work at schools and teach English for a couple hours every day. When they're not teaching, they can travel and experience the culture. Cool, right? Honestly, it's pretty affordable, as far as a study abroad type program goes.

And as we left ($10 richer between the two of us, mind you) we felt like crazies because we were like, "What if...?"

And let's be real. It was a huge "What if...?" I mean, both of us are currently unemployed and have been for 3 months. Unfortunately, that doesn't usually equate to gobs of money to spend on flippant travel.

But the more we thought about it, the more we realized that not only could we make this a reality, it would actually be beneficial too. We realized it would help Ben's schooling in so many ways.

Problem: Ben has always wanted to become multilingual. However, he's always told me that he wouldn't be able to call himself fluent in another language unless he lived in the country where they spoke that language.
Solution: The cost of ILP includes language and cultural classes. Ben would be able to learn Chinese and then go right out and practice it. (I'm not as ambitious, so I'll probably just stick to learning tai chi and call it good).

Problem: Ben has been looking at a master's program (called Master of Second Language Teaching--how appropriate is that??) that he's really interested in. However, the program requires all applicants to have taught in a classroom setting for 6 months.
Solution: Teaching in China will totally count for that! He'll get 3 months from student teaching (someday) and 3 months from ILP.

Problem: Before I went to college, I always wanted to do some sort of study abroad. But I didn't because I'm too darn focused. I graduated and got married...so....
Solution: ILP actually gives a discount to married couples. Cha-ching!

So we have been going forward with this, and with all crazy set aside, we have really felt like this is the right thing to do. It seems like the Lord has got our back on this one-what with how everything has worked out (we've even found a way to pay for it!).

China has always been the last place on my To Travel list. Mostly because the culture is so incredibly foreign to me. But I have been getting so excited for this little adventure that we're going to go on.

Especially because I heard the shopping in China is super cheap.