Eric Orton's Posts (87)

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Let's talk about shoes, because they’re the culprits for many running issues I encounter - or at least the development of them. It’s time to realize that your shoes with the high stack height and nice cushy foam, all that “comfort” is breaking you down as a runner even as they likely advertise that they’re helping you keep from breaking down.

If you were a rock climber, would you climb in big puffy insulated winter ski gloves to protect your fingers from the rock?  Of course not.  As a climber your lifeline is your fingers, not only to feel the rock in a precise way, but also, how you use your fingers directly helps engage your forearm and shoulders for strength.  So it would be silly to use gloves, as you would not be able to grasp the rock and perform without the risk of a fall. This is very similar to how our feet stabilize our body and help activate other important muscles when running, like our glutes.  Yes, our feet dictate how well we use our glutes.  And putting on big cushion pillows as shoes has a similar effect to our running as it does climbing with gloves.  The super shoes, the cushion, the stack height, take away our foot’s ability to feel the ground and stabilize, which is our lifeline as runners. 

Our Feet Are Our Super Shoes

I’m not a barefoot and minimal running purist who believes that you should run this way twenty-four/seven.  Barefoot - or what I call natural running - has its purpose, particularly in strength exercises and run form practice - and for the purpose of this article, run strength.  Running naturally is a great way to feel how your toes and arch stabilize our feet and our body as we run.  It’s also a great way to build strength and muscle endurance that can be the most functional type of conditioning we do as runners.

But I am a coach, one who helps runners perform well in races in mountains and very long distances on road and trail.  Most runners are not strong enough to run in minimal or natural shoes for longer than 15-20 minutes before breaking down.  And it's very hard to train and perform appropriately without adequate protection for your feet.  The Tarahumara Indian runners know to wear some kind of protection while traversing their rugged terrain over hundreds of miles.  


Photo Credit: Luis Escobar

There is protection; then there is the kind of shoes that have gargantuan heels and stack height.  They might feel comfortable, but they are problematic for lots of reasons: They inhibit the natural movement of your foot; they don’t allow you to engage your foot for stability or proper muscle activation up through the leg; and they elevate the heel.  By taking away all of your proprioception and feel of the ground, the big shoes make it difficult to execute proper foot strike form, you have to almost force yourself to have a good forefoot strike, and even then, it is hard for your feet to stabilize and your calves aren’t engaged completely because your heel hits the ground too soon.  

This means you’re not getting the stability and muscle activation you need from your forefoot to your knees to the glutes.  This is a vicious cycle when tens of thousands of steps are involved in training and racing.  Equally bad, when you heel strike, the calves do not fire as they should, which translates into a loss of power, elasticity, and an overstressing of the quads.  You know the drill, tight hips flexors, tight IT Band, a speed or improvement plateau, and all the muscle tightness we have been brainwashed to think is normal - all from our inability to use our feet well.


Photo Credit: Eric Orton

Our calves act as loaded springs, storing and releasing energy as we jump or run.  The calves need to be loaded (or what I call “on stretch”) to release this energy, giving us a springy feeling.  This can’t take place in high, off the ground shoes.  With the invasion of the super foam in today’s super shoes, the shoe industry is trying to manufacture this elastic energy with the use of carbon plats and very responsive foamed midsoles. And guess what, from all indications, they work and are making runners faster. It's no mistake that these companies are putting the carbon, propulsion plates into the forefoot of the shoe - which if you don’t believe in forefoot strike run form, this should convince you, as they do not engineer them into the heel.  Records are being broken, but there is some indication that the performance gains are only real at very fast speeds.  And if you wonder what destruction they are causing to your body, checkout many of the video clips on Youtube of the elites racing in the super shoes and notice the excessive pronation that occurs. This shuts down our glutes and over-stresses the quads and hip flexors, causing all sorts of muscle tightness.  

Cushion Vs. Stability

Is there a perfect shoe? I’m not so sure, but I do know that if we begin to view our shoes as “tools” our perspective changes and that our shoe choice doesn't have to be an all or nothing approach.  Furthermore, if we embrace the idea that our run health begins with the strength of our feet (link to foot strength article), we can then use a natural shoe as a strength tool to enhance our performance, strength and health.  A natural shoe has a very thin, low to the ground sole that is flexible, with a zero drop, where there is no difference in height between the heel and toe.  This kind of “performance” shoe allows for proper forefoot engagement with the ground, awareness of form, stability through the toes and foot, and the lengthening of the calves to act as a spring.  By running in them, you foster foot strength and muscle equilibrium through the body, because you are able to use your feet and body better.

Look again at the Tarahumara runners.  They run hundreds of miles in old tire treads cut to fit their feet, nothing more securing them than a leather strap between their toes and around their ankle.  They have run this way from childhood, but you can benefit just the same by using a natural shoe as a strength based tool.  The Kenyan runners start out running barefoot as a child, that develops foundational strength in their feet and legs that is no less important as their speed development as they mature.


Photo Credit: Eric Orton

Ultra Strength

Many of my ultra running athletes use this strength approach.  I have coached Margot for almost 20 years. She was a triathlete who had some pesky injuries when we first started working together. We attacked her foundation by training her feet and infusing the use of a minimal, low to the ground, natural shoe for some of her runs.  Every step can be an opportunity for strength.

The strategy is to use a natural shoe for some runs and use a more protective shoe for longer and faster runs. And then through time, as the athletes develop more and more strength and capacity for lower to the ground shoes, they are able to run their longer runs and races in a more natural shoe, based on the protection and their tolerance needed for the terrain and distance. Ideally, this process is never ending, you just get stronger and stronger, and lower to the ground.

We know strength training is beneficial for runners. And you might also realize the importance of speed training to improve your running performance. But we don’t have to go to the gym or the track every day to achieve these benefits. The approach here is no different with a natural shoe. A little bit of running in them goes a very long way towards improving strength in a very potent way.

This was my goal for Margot.  Through our natural shoe strength development approach, she was eventually able to race the Tor des Geants 200 mile mountain race in Europe.  She went into the race much stronger and injury free, and was able to race in a low to the ground, 4mm drop shoe that gave her great performance agility and feel of the ground.  And this course was no joke, with 100,000 feet of elevation gain over the 200 miles.  As a 50 year old athlete, Margot placed 17th overall female and 2nd women US finisher.


Photo Credit: Margot Watters

Strong From The Ground Up

But if you’re still not sure, just try it.  Experiment with a zero drop, low profile shoe.  Feel how much easier it is to feel the ground and use your feet for stability and how much stronger you become as a runner.

But don’t just toss out your old shoes.  Remember the minimal shoe is a strength tool and you will have to take the transition slowly because you’ll be firing and using muscles you are not used to using - which is the point.  The shoes will feel GOOD, and that is where runners get into trouble, they do too much too soon because it feels so good.

Here are a few ways to incorporate a natural shoe into your weekly running to help with the transition:


Improve Your Natural Running

What to look for in a natural shoe:

  • Zero drop platform.  

*Not every zero drop shoe is created equal. There are some very high stack height, cushioned shoes that are zero drop but are not minimal or natural in performance.

  • Flexible Midsole/Outsole with a stack height of approx 10mm or less.


Natural Running Goal:

  • Build up to 1-2 days of short, easy natural strength running.
  • As your strength capacity improves, look to reduce the stack height and drop of your “everyday” shoe. As your feet get stronger, they will prefer more natural movement and your everyday shoe might start feeling uncomfortable, this is your signal to choose an everyday shoe that has more natural shoe qualities, like less cushion and stack height. 
  • Use a casual natural shoe for work and walking about your day. Now you are adding strength all day long.

Run strong, to run long.





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Train Speed First

Many of us run and race for the daily challenge of waking, putting two feet on the floor and heading out the door.  The daily task that gives us purpose independent of anything else in our life.  That one thing we have control over, that never disappoints.  That dopamine hit with each step that creates self-discovery and the belief that we can strive and achieve, and that challenge makes us human.  As endurance runners, challenge is our middle name and I am going to challenge what you think is important about endurance training.


Photo Credit: Eric Orton

We need more than endurance to run well for long distances. In fact, I would argue that developing speed FIRST is the ideal approach to catapulting your ability to new heights as a long distance runner or ultra marathoner.  The elite marathoners and ultra runners develop this way, whether it is Eliud Kipchoge or Jim Walsmley, both considered one of the greatest marathoners and ultra distance athletes of today.  

Before Eliud began his marathon career, he specialized in the 5,000 meter distance, winning gold at the 2003 World Championship.  Jim got his start at the 1,500 meter distance with a 3:48 PR.  Jim often races on road and trail, which helps him keep his speed and leg turnover for longer trail races.  This variety is important.

Kilian Jornet, considered the greatest ultra athlete of all time has won some of the most challenging 100 mile mountain races AND has won the World Championships at the much shorter vertical kilometer distance that takes just under 30 minutes to complete.  Kilian would not be the athlete he is at the ultra distance without his short course ability.  In 2020, Kilian set out to improve his 10k road time and then went on to have his best ultra running season.  I do not think this was a coincidence, he improved his speed to help his mountain running and long distance abilities.


Photo Credit: Eric Orton

Let's take these examples to the typical path a collegiate distance runner might take, where they start in high school with track and cross country. In track, they might build up to running the 2 mile and in cross country the 4-5k distance.  This speed development prepares them for college where they might continue to compete at these distances or bump up to the 10,000 meter distance. Eventually, some of these runners will have post collegiate running careers that might lead to the marathon distance as they reach their late twenties and early thirties. 

 With the growing popularity and career opportunities in ultra running, we are seeing more and more of these collegiate speedsters take the speed they have developed since high school and apply it to the ultra distance races, starting out with a 50k and incrementally building in ultra race distance through time.  The point being, they are developing speed first, and then applying this to racing longer later.  It is this speed that is directing their potential and ability for running longer, well.  

I’ve already written a lot about how the Tarahumara (link to first article) Indian’s lifestyle helps them to be the natural-born ultramarathon runners they are.  What is a mystery to many - how to train to maximize our running ability and performance - the Tarahumara do as part of their daily life.  Yes, they have great strength and form (link to form article), but they also have a lifestyle from childhood forward that gives them a natural base of speed.  


Photo Credit: Luis Escobar

From the time Tarahumara children take their first steps, they’re walking a lot, all of the time, up and down hills. No horses, no cars, no buses, no bikes.  If they want to get somewhere, they hoof it.  If you had to call one thing they do the “secret weapon” of their culture, it would have to be the game rarajipari.  Children play as soon as they can (though at shorter distances than adults).  Here’s the game: Take eight to ten players per team and an agreed-upon distance for the race, usually 5-10k for their kids on an out-and-back course (so the villagers can watch).  

The object is to be the first team to kick and flip a baseball-size wooden ball over the race distance.  Some players carry a short stick to roll the ball on top of their foot to flick  it really high, but otherwise it's a ball and some very fast feet moving all the time over hilly, uneven terrain. With short, fast runs up and down the canyons, chasing after a ball, Tarahumara children develop incredible speed and have fun doing it.


Photo Credit: Luis Escobar

By adulthood, the Tarahumara easily transition to the longer fifty-to-a-hundred-mile version of the game.  At this point, they need very little, if any, additional training to compete at the much advanced adult race distance.

Speed dictates your potential!

With the growth and popularity of ultras marathons, many runners are jumping right to these longer trail races, without this speed development or much racing at shorter distances. This is great, but if their raw speed is not fast enough, they will not have the ability to run easily enough at an appropriate pace for the distance, missing race cutoffs. In other words, their appropriate pace for an ultra distance is hiking.  And then the common mistake is to add in longer and longer runs and increase total volume in an effort to improve, when they actually need to improve their “raw” speed and potential first, and then apply it to endurance training to truly improve their endurance ability.  

Let me tell you what I consider raw speed: the time it takes you to run one mile. This raw speed dictates your ability, potential, and is a great race predictor.  The faster your one mile, the faster you’ll be across the board in race distances.  

A few years back, I began coaching a female ultra runner who had hit a plateau and wanted my coaching help.  I told her that for her to improve and reach her goal of becoming a professional ultra runner, we need to improve her speed and spend more time on the track to improve her speed endurance in the mountains.  

One of her greatest abilities was trusting the process and being coachable in what might sound like a counter-intuitive approach.  Once we attacked her speed, she had a breakout year, placing second at the UTMB TDS ultra in Chamonix France, which helped her obtain sponsorship and become a full time ultra runner.


Photo Credit: Eric Orton

It's a little easier to describe this with marathon racing. If the one mile time is a great marathon predictor, to run a 3 hour marathon, your one mile time needs to be well under 6 minutes for you to have the ability to consider training to run 26.2 miles at a 6:51 minutes per mile pace that is required for a 3 hour race time.  If you want to break the 4 hour marathon barrier, look to improve your one mile time to approximately 7:00.


The keys to improving your one mile time:

  1. Carve out a period of time in the early season that you can devote to this specific training without worrying you need to be running a lot higher volume. 
  2. Perform a One Mile test: A timed one-mile run, executed as fast and as steady as you can. 
  3. The test is best done on a track for consistency.
  4. Record your time to measure improvement and to use for training.


6-8 Week Training Schedule:

Day 1 = Easy run at 65% of your one mile test pace.

Day 2 = *5-10 X 90 second intervals at your one mile test pace.

Day 3 = Recovery run at 60% of your one mile test pace or Day Off.

Day 4 = *4-6 X 2-3 minute intervals at 95% of your one mile test pace.

Day 5 = *5-10 X 30 second intervals at 105% of your one mile test pace.

Day 6 = Easy run at 65% of your one mile test pace.

Day 7 = Off Day

*Increase the number of intervals each week based on your ability and experience.

Run Fast, To Run Long.




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Our Feet Are Our Super Shoes


The majority of runners do not have the strength they need to become the runners they want to be.  They have been brainwashed into thinking muscle tightness, poor mobility, pain and discomfort are just “part” of being a runner. The more we run, the more we hurt.  I was recently at a 2-day run relay event and the longest line at the race expo led to the injury management tent.

This is the norm, but it doesn’t have to be this way and what you are about to read could transform your running, if you let it.   

But let me first tell you a story.


I stood at the starting line of a fifty-mile race, the culmination of a week-long dream journey for me as a runner and a coach. Save for my shirt and shorts, my hydration backpack and fuel in my pockets, this was no ordinary race. Far, far from it. First, I was in the tiny remote village of Urique, tucked between steep cliffs and a river, in the Copper Canyons of northwestern Mexico. There was no grand race gate, no timer microchip on my shoes, no firing of a gun, and no massed swell of athletes tripping over each other to get ahead. In fact, we had to recite the words ‘lost and die’ as a possibility, that would be “my own damn fault.”

There were only a couple dozen runners, a simple, foot drawn mark on the dirt road in the center of town to indicate a starting point, and a tall, sun-bleached blond American nicknamed Caballo Blanco to shout ‘Go!’.

The runners that day were not my usual competitors either, and that was the point, really. This was a race to bring together two cultures, one old, one new, both with a devout love of running, and running at the extreme, over very long distances. In today’s race, we faced 50 miles in the stark, hilly landscape of the Copper Canyons. Those of the new culture were among America’s best ultramarathoners, including the dynamos Scott Jurek and Jenn Shelton. Those of the older culture were the Tarahumara Indians. Dark and tawny-skinned, their legs rippling with muscle, they wore loincloths and brightly-colored, long sleeve shirts that billowed when they ran. Their shoes, or more appropriately huaraches, were simply a flattened, foot-shaped cut-out of tire tread lashed to their feet with leather straps. 


Photo Credit: Luis Escobar

The Tarahumara, whose true name was the Raramuri (or, “Running People”), came from a collection of isolated, secret tribes who lived in the Copper Canyons, surviving not much differently than they had for hundreds of years. They were known, most of all, for their amazing feats of endurance running, able to seemingly journey forever over parched and rocky trails amid some of the most forbidding landscape on Earth. I had known of their legendary feats for over a decade, but to be with them in the flesh, as I had been for several days now, remained a wonder.

While in Urique the days before the Copper Canyon race, I spent every possible moment watching and interacting with the Tarahumara.  I wanted to know how they’d become such amazing endurance runners. What gave them the ability to run a hundred miles, more, in a single day over such extreme terrain, into their fifties, sixties, seventies. 

I found their special, secret “sauce.” It’s not some extra muscle or anatomical advantage.  It’s many ingredients blended together: running early and a lot as children, their diet, their terrain, their shoes, the games they play running, a whole lifestyle built around movement.  But this sauce isn’t magical or surprising.  Much of what I observed in the Tarahumara I had already come to learn was essential for my athletes and something YOU can have too.  Rather than being revelatory, my time in Mexico that became part of the best selling book Born To Run, was more affirming of the new “sauce” I had developed in my own coaching.  In the field of coaching runners, one that is both an art and a science, affirmation is a beautiful thing.

In terms of strength, the Tarahumara have it in all the right ways for endurance running.  This first became clear to me when Manuel Luna, who was kind of the grandfather of the tribe of indians, offered to make Barefoot Ted his own pair of huaraches.  In his late fifties, sporting a Yankees baseball cap over his jet-black hair, Manuel had run in the first Leadville 100 ultra race featuring the Tarahumara.

While making Ted’s pair of huaraches, he remained in a squat on the side of the main street in Urique.  With his butt sitting low, almost touching the ground, he sawed away at the old tire tread with his knife that would soon become the sole of Ted’s huaraches. Not a big deal, you say.  Attempt a simple deep squat on your own; see how close you can bring your butt to the floor in a squat without your knees going inward.  Or maybe your squat is more of a lean at the waist.  Manuel’s ability to remain in a squat for close to an hour while working with his hands demonstrates remarkable stability, mobility, and muscle equilibrium. 


Photo Credit: Luis Escobar

In the following days, as we ran the same trails that Manuel and the other Tarahumara ran, there was no doubt where he had developed this strength, stability - muscle equilibrium - and it reinforces the central role our feet play in running health and performance.


Stop. Reach down and take your shoes and socks off and balance on one foot.  Not too hard, yeah, but notice how hard your big toe and arch has to work to just stabilize your balance.  Now try lifting your heel slightly off the ground and stabilize on your forefoot only. Not so easy, actually very challenging, yet every running step we take we are asking our leg and foot to be stable in this position.  An amateur runner will take between 1,500-2,500 steps per mile. That is 39,300-65,000 steps for a marathon.  Foot strength is the ‘true strength’ we need.

How we use our feet directly relates to how we stabilize and use our running muscles.  Simply put, we are only as strong as our feet.  Yes, your feet.  It’s rare for people to talk about endurance runners needing to be athletic - and the strength that comes with that.  It’s rarer still for foot strength to be in the conversation.  Bizarre, really, since the design of our feet, from toes, to arch, to heel, is integral to our ability to run.  You could argue that they are our lifeline as runners, just like finger strength is a rock climber’s lifeline. Climbers train their finger strength all of the time, why don’t runners train their feet with the same vigor?


Photo Credit: Luis Escobar

Our feet, with their many bones, joints and muscles, tendons, and ligaments, are key to run strength and equilibrium.  Most runners don't think - it’s simply not in our consciousness - that we can train our feet, but we can, and we should think about doing so with the same level of purposefulness that we pay to “the core.”  For runners, the feet are more than a key part of our strength. Everything starts with them.  They set the stage, good or bad, for the whole leg, and we want to set a very, very good stage.

A lack of foot strength reduces our stability, and stability is the foundation you need to propel yourself forward efficiently and in a healthy way.  Without it, you are no different from a house with a weak structure with a welcome mat inviting in IT Band syndrome, tight hip flexors, achilles issues, shin splints, and general aches and tightness.  Overtime, things will collapse and this points to how foot strength sets the stage for everything else.  It does so because of its interconnectedness to the rest of your lower body, from ankles, calves, and knees to your glutes.  


Photo Credit: Dillon Deloge

As runners, this interconnectedness makes it impossible to separate foot strength from leg strength and stability.  Utilizing the foot properly helps you activate and fire muscles all the way up your body that helps create muscle equilibrium and takes away the tug and pull of dominant and weaker muscles that cause tightness and dysfunction that lead to a parade of problems that most runners deal with and lead to standing in the injury management line at the race. 

This is not a function of being a runner, but a function of not using your body well.  It doesn’t have to be this way and using your body well, starts at the feet.

Here are a few simple but POTENT foot core exercises to help you get started and rebuild your foundation from the ground up.  


One-Leg Barefoot Balance:

  • Balance barefoot on one foot on a hard surface with your heel a little elevated off the floor to stabilize only with your forefoot.
  • Use a chair or poles or the wall to help you stabilize when needed. 
  • How Many: 2-4 sets of 30-90 seconds per foot or until fatigue.  2-3 times per week and/or done as a run warm up before you head out the door.
  • Awareness: You will feel it where you need it. Some might struggle with strength in their feet, others might be stronger in their feet and feel more fatigue in their calves and glutes. 
  • Note: This is not a calf raise exercise, with up and down movement of the foot. There is no movement, just stabilization.
  • Video: Watch Eric’s coaching demonstration.   

One-Leg Side Lift:

  • Balance barefoot on your right forefoot using a chair, poles, or wall to help stabilize. DO NOT try and do it without this balancing help.
  • Keep your right leg straight, raise your left leg sideways.
  • Raise your left leg only as high as you can while maintaining level hips, and then go back to start position.
  • How Many: 2-4 sets of 15-20 reps with both legs or until fatigue. 2-3 times per week and/or done as a run warm up before you head out the door.
  • Awareness: This is a stabilizing exercise for the stance leg, not a range-of-motion exercise for the moving leg.
  • Video: Watch Eric’s coaching demonstration.

One-Leg Knee Lift:

  • Balance barefoot on your right forefoot using a chair, poles, or wall to help stabilize. DO NOT try and do it without this balancing help.
  • Keep your right leg straight, lift your left knee in front of you as high as you can, and then back to the start position.  Keep your movements slow and controlled.
  • How Many: 2-4 sets of 15-20 reps with both legs or until fatigue.  2-3 times per week and/or done as a run warm up before you head out the door.
  • Awareness: This is a stabilizing exercise for the stance leg, not a range-of-motion exercise for the moving leg.
  • Video: Watch Eric’s coaching demonstration.

Run Strong to Run Free!




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The carbon plate has become the star of the Olympic Trial build up and all of the rage in shoes these days. For good reason as it increases propulsion and energy return.

The idea behind the plate AND the new innovative mid sole foam is to create more STIFFNESS that creates more energy return. Just like our muscles, tendons, and ligaments are meant to coil energy and then release it - elastic energy!

Stiffness, tightness, force production, all of this is necessary to improve run performance AND for heathly, strong longevity in the sport.

Here is my "DON'T DO THIS, DO THIS" list to help train this way:

-> DON'T underestimate how crucial it is to train the feet. They are your foundation of stability, force production, power, and energy return.

DO train your feet as YOUR MAIN focus of strength. You are only as strong as your feet.  For those of you who have my book, The Cool Impossible, you know how potent my foot strength program is.

Using the FREO Slant Board trains the feet to engage the big toe and arch, which in turn activates the calves for superior muscle elasticity - or your body's own CARBON PLATE. HOW we train the feet, dictates how we fire our muscles and create stability at our knee and glutes/hips. And this is the holy grail for running performance and health.

-> DON'T rely on gravity or leaning when running.

DO focus on providing force into the ground to propel yourself forward.

-> DON'T continue to rely on stretching and group classes that focus on hyper mobility that deflates elastic energy, stability and strength.

DO focus on power metric drills to create more force, elastic return, and stiffness to improve health and speed.

-> DON'T focus on developing strength in the gym thru heavy and slow lifting or high rep, low weight.

DO focus on developing proper run strength by doing power metric drills, short, fast sprints, eccentric and isometric training.

-> DON'T stop focusing on foot strike and resist that their is a proper way to run.

DO be patient when transitioning to a forefoot to heel strike technique. How we use our feet and strike the ground dictates everything.

-> DON'T consistently rely on tempo and long easy runs for ongoing improvement. This is no different than relying on the above gym strength.

DO incorporate short sprints, short uphill AND downhill intervals, and VO2max workouts, regardless of the type of runner you are.


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Croakies® Teams up with Born to Run Coach, Eric Orton and a Collection of Industry-Leading Brands for a Unique October Trail Running Adventure in Jackson Hole, WY


PLAINVILLE, Mass., September 3, 2019Croakies, the original manufacturer of industry-leading outdoor retention products, today announces the launch of its biggest Not your Everyday Adventurecampaign to date. The campaign features a grand prize of a trip for two to Jackson Hole, WY to experience the trails of the Tetons with acclaimed running coach, Eric Orton and an assortment of the latest gear to inspire your fall running adventures from Croakies and partners, Smartwool, Suunto, Skinny Skis, NATIVE Eyewear, and more.



Conceptualized as a means of celebrating Croakies’ mission to utilize its best-in-class retention products as a vehicle for inspiring everyday adventure, over the course of the past two years, Croakies’ Not your Everyday Adventure campaigns have become a pivotal and recurring component of the brand’s quarterly marketing efforts.



 Croakies’ latest Not your Everyday Adventure campaign deploys today and seeks to blend a true mountain town adventure with the goal of demystifying trail running as something only the die-hard running community can enjoy. Winners will be announced the last week of September and then flown out to Jackson Hole on October 4thfor an unforgettable 3-day weekend in the mountains with Eric and Croakies.


“Through Jackson’s diverse trail system and varied mountainous terrain, alongside Eric’s unique coaching style and approach to running, we’re aiming to show just how inclusive and accessible trail running can be as a form of daily adventure, whatever your experience level” explains Chris McCullough, Croakies Director of Marketing.

 With a total prize package of over $5,000, don’t miss out on a rare opportunity to experience Jackson Hole without the crowds, decked out in the latest gear by some of the most sought-after brands, and your very own celebrity running coach and Jackson local showing you the ropes. Head over to a chance to win this unique 3-day adventure in the Tetons.


Full prize details include:


"I am often asked where my favorite place to run is in the World; my answer is always the same, ‘Jackson Hole!,’” states Born to Run Coach, Eric Orton.  “Jackson has extensive world class running, and I am extremely excited to be working with Croakies to create a one-of-a-kind, running experience right here in my hometown.”


To learn more about Croakies’ latest collection of outdoor retention products and to stay up to date on upcoming events and campaigns, please visit Complete details and guidelines for the Not Your Everyday Adventure contest can be found at



About Croakies

Often imitated but never duplicated, the original Croakies were invented in 1977 by a local ski patrolman from Jackson Hole Mountain Resort in Wyoming. Today, Croakies products are still proudly designed amidst the mountains of the American West, with most of its production in Bozeman, Montana. With Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks as a backyard, the brand’s inspiration remains unchanged: to create best-in-class retention products that inspire everyday adventure and provide comfort, style, durability, and functionality to active people of all ages. For more information about Croakies and its latest product line, please visit or follow the brand on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter using @croakies. Croakies is part of the Hilco Vision portfolio of brands.



Media Contact:

Chris McCullough

(206) 450-7028

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The Trails Are Open. But how's your IT Band?

What goes up, must come down. And for the most part, run form should not change relative to speed, or in my case today, terrain. Especially footstrike.
It is fairly easy to have goog forefoot to heel strike going up, and challenging to have good foot placement coming down, as gravity will try to pull you into mistakes.


Every Spring I get calls from local athletes complaining of IT Band issues. Because as the trails open, more and more runners are doing more and more descending.
Poor footstrike places a lot of stress on the quads and a huge demand for stability that is hard to have with bad form.
This all can create IT Band issues, and eventually tight hip flexors.

The simple, long term remedy is to use the early season to develop eccentric loading strength and stability. This is done by slowing down on the descents so you can have ideal forefoot to flat foot strike under you.
The key is to be patient with your speed and practice "good" so you can have good muscle equilibrium and the ability to go faster later. This all goes in concert with the foot/leg strength program you are doing in my book.
More is not better, better is better.

Today's Session:
MS1: 1,000 ft climb at threshold watts.
MS2: downhill easy for foot strike practice and strength.

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Downhills Are GOOD For You - Strength Running


Too many strength programs focus soley on building concentric strength, with full range of motion exercises.
These movements are loaded and usually too slow to be very functional for running. And target building muscle fiber MASS/DENSITY rather than utilizing MORE muscle fibers. More fiber mass just requires more oxygen and energy - not efficient. Creating more muscle fibers allows you to use more mitochondria, which is the muscles energy powerhouse!

And most times these slow, heavy, massive range of motion exercises do not target tendon strength, elastic rebound, and the stretch shorting cycling in the running gait.

In running, the range of motion is not very great and therefore tendon strength and stability come into play, and why the strength program in The Cool Impossible focuses so much on foot, leg, glute isometric and stabilization strength. It's not sexy, but very potent and works very quickly.

Bottom line, if your concentric strength over powers your eccentric strength and isometric transition, your running will suffer in many ways.

Today's Second Run Session after morning track:
WU: 10' easy.
5 X 60" fast downhills with a focus on good foot strike, quick knee drive and relaxed propeltion downhill.
After each, a very easy 90" run back up with a focus on forefoot strike and very quick cadence.

》Downhills = train my eccentric and isometric abilities, the landing. This is tremendous strength training BUT foot strike must be a focus.
》Uphills = this trains my elastic properties in my arch creating a better "spring or rubber band" to help propel me forward.

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How Sprinting Can Improve Your Endurance


Spring time. Sprint time.

Sprinting plays a tremendous roll in endurance development for ALL distances.

Here's how:
- improves isometric strength, one of the key strength factors in cadence and forward propeltion.
- trains precise and efficient use of the reflex muscle tension during eccentric landing. This helps your down hill and prevents injury.
- improves economy, helping your cruising speed feel much easier.
- increases your ability to store and release elastic energy in your muscles. This improves endurance efficiency.

- trains absolute strength which actually improves your ability to run well for a prolonged period.
- improves tendon health and strength, due to the short range of motion during the concentric running movement. Squats are not functional, running is your strength and resistance training!

Today's set:
MS1: 5 X 100m building
MS2: 2 X (400/300/200)
MS3: 5 X 100m descending

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Speed Up Your Race Pace


Spring is in my step.

The great Grete Waitz ran 19 marathons in her career, winning 13 of them.
She was the first woman to break the 2:30 barrier, eventually lowering the world record to 2:25:42.
She believed that speed training was imparative for all runners of all distances and abilities.
Her marathon training reflected that of her 3,000 - 10,000 meter race training.

Many marathoners and ultra runners do not have the requisite raw speed to match their desired race pace speed, yet they continue to try and train their race pace speed and endurance.

Speed dictates endurance capability and potential.

Here is one of my Raw Speed practices on a soccer or football field:


WU: 10' easy.
Drills: quick feet, quick skip, skip for height/distance, one leg hop, standing jump, one leg high hop. (Watch Drills)
MS1: 10 X 15" moderate sprints.
MS2: 20 yards longer than MS1 - 10 sprints faster than 15".
MS3: 10 diagonals at 4:30 pace, (run what is fast for you) with easy jog on horizontals.
CD: easy

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Kick for Gold or Stumble to Fourth


Sometimes you have to HOLD YOURSELF BACK:
Today was a recovery run. After taking the day off yesterday to heal a mild cough in the lungs, my legs felt great!
I stayed patient, with my sights on the upcoming week.

Patience + Practice = Performance

At the 1972 Olympics, all of the pre-game buzz was on rock star USA 5,000m runner Steve Prefontaine. The anticipation was high to see how he would do against an international field. Would his front running style hold up?

And then there was the 800m race, featuring American Dave Wottle. Recently married he was written off as having got "soft" in his training build up and wedding bells.

Well, since I am writing this you can guess what happened. Prefontaine faided, stumbling to 4th.
Wottle was in last for most of the 1st lap, and then out kicked everyone for Gold.

Running Takes Patience

This weekend I have several athletes racing: La Marathon, 6 hour ultra, and a training run 5k.

Their race strategies employ being patient to perform.
》the marathoners are looking to stay patient during the first 20 and then "race" the last 10k.
》The 6 hour ultra strategy is to run in zone 1-2 for the first 4 hours and then run trail marathon pace for the last 2 hours.
》the 5k strategy is to hold back the 1st mile about 15 seconds slower than 5k pace to avoid going too fast, and then building to the finish. 

I believe there is always a way to improve our running, regardless of age, experience, ability, and goals. And this path to improvement usually includes patience and practicing something new.

Run Strong and demand the impossible.


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Home Grown Adventure: Cache Peak

10059098875?profile=originalWith Teton National Park 30 minutes up the road from my house, this usually gets most of my attention for running.  But this Fall I decided to change things up and look to create some run projects that are even closer to home and focus on exploring more vertical gain, peaks, and off-trail ridge line link ups (My Training).  So I have spent the last month exploring to develop some of these adventures for the future, either leaving directly from home or after a very short drive approach.

My first reconnaissance project was to run Cache Peak.  The trail head is a five mile drive from home, with a 5 mile dirt road/double track trail approach to the Gros Ventre Wilderness Boundary.  So I decided to ride my snow bike up this 5 mile, 1,000 ft elevation gain, section and ditch the bike at the start of the Wilderness line that marks the beginning of the climb to Cache Peak.

I am very blessed to live here in the Jackson Hole area, but it is a choice and more importantly, I feel adventures begin with a mindset and rely on originality and creativity.

creative: characterized by originality and imagination.

creator: one that creates.

We all have this ability, regardless of where we live.  Any location can provide stimulus for doing something different and creating something original for your running. 

Here is my adventure, Five Mile Drive from Home.  What can you create, five miles from your home?


Ditching the bike at The Gros Ventre Wilderness Boundary


Cache Peak in the distance: The Start of the Run 


Heading towards the Divide Looking back at the trail 

10059100296?profile=originalCache Peak Approach: right side ridge

10059100901?profile=originalThe Ridge line Route to Cache Peak - 10,167 ft


Western view of Jackson Hole heading up the Ridge

10059101664?profile=originalView from south end of Cache Peak Summit: looking at the next project


Date - October 25, 2014

Mtn Bike Ride Approach/return - 10 miles total, 994 ft elevation gain, 80 min total

Run Moving time - 2:30

Run Distance - 8.7 miles

Run Elevation Gain - 2,992 ft


Shorts/shirt - Marmot

Shoes - older pair of La Sportiva X Country.  Great sticky rubber good for rock scramble.

Snow Bike - Surley Pugsley 

Compression Socks - CEP

Hydration Pack - Marmot Kompressor

Hydration - 1 bottle SOS Hydration + 1 bottle water

Fuel -  Coconut Taos Mountain Energy Bar

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10059102696?profile=originalI stood high on this peak during the Fall season in the Tetons, enjoying the reward of magnificent views that come from 6,000+ feet of running and climbing.  I took the below winter photo during a ten mile run.  These two photos grasp the beauty of the Tetons in different ways, BUT also show the SAME peak in both shots.  Two ways of looking at the same thing - two different perspectives.

You could agrue that they are both stunning in their own right, and maybe even the winter landscape is more beautiful in many eyes.  It depends on your perspective.  To look at the first photo, you get a dramatic look at the rough, jagged rock, and an intimate feel.  But the second landscape photo actually brings the first photo into perspective and gives the context of the effort required to be on top of one of those peaks in the distance.  Both photos, independent of each other, are beautiful, but you need both of the photos to put the experience and effort into perspective.

Many times, our running represents just one photo.  We get stuck doing what we always do, running that same route or loop each morning.  Or, our long run sub-consciously has morphed into always 12 miles, or one long hill is enough.  

But what if you start creating another photo and challenge your personal perspective - giving way to an elevated sense of ability and performance.  All of a sudden with two photos, you experience things differently.  You "up" the ante and set a new bar for yourself that creates new motivation and ultimately you begin to see that you are capable of much more than you think.

And more importantly, you begin to seek more photos and more perspectives that allow you to understand that we now have an infinite process and way to improve.


Get up earlier and do two loops, do that long hill 2 or 3 times.  Add more miles to your week by doing some night running and make it an adventure.  Run twice a day to get in more miles or get a group together and run to breakfast and continue running until it is time for lunch.  

Create your own personal challenges and adventures using a bit of creativity or  what I call a home grown adventure.  Go run the Grand Canyon and experience what it is like to run DOWN first, and then UP, after a long day.

Our minds have a tendency to get stale, that gives way to a comfortable sense of belief and truth that is just an illusion and our worse enemy.  Don't believe your thoughts, believe your experiences!  Reality is not how you look at it, reality is how you see it.

We don't need mountains, everyone has the potential for new perspectives and new ways to improve, regardless of location, age or ability.

BONUS: Using the second photo, who can guess which peak I am on the summit of in the first photo?  Let me know below.

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Time Chart for Improving your Marathon Potential

In this Vlog post, I discuss how to improve your marathon time and the importance of getting faster at a One Mile time trial.  Here is a simple chart to help you compare your One Mile test time with an equivalent marathon potential time.

Your Cool Impossible Marathon speed training zone is SP Zone 2.

One Mile Test Time          Marathon Potential Time              

          5:15                                         2:45      

          5:45                                         3:00

          6:13                                         3:15

          6:40                                         3:30

          7:10                                         3:45

          7:38                                         4:00

          8:06                                         4:15

          8:35                                         4:30

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How Balanced Are You: Speed vs. Endurance

10059108655?profile=originalHow Balanced Are You?

When I start working with a new athlete, I analyze how balanced they are between their speed and endurance. 

Just like the program in The Cool Impossible, at start up, I have my athletes perform two field tests:

  • 1 mile test
  • 20 min test.

This helps me design their speed and Heart Rate training zones for their coaching program, AND helps me detect strengths and weaknesses that will become a target in their training.  

For example:

one of my new runners from London clocked a 5:15 mile test and held an average pace of 5:50 for his 20 min test.  I then compare the two.

For a good balance between speed and endurance, based on his mile time, I would like to see his 20 min avg pace between 5:30-5:40 pace or approximately 92-95% of the one mile test time.

So he is almost there and a great starting point for us to improve on this with coaching.

November is a good time to check where your balance is.  

You are coming off the year fit, and now going into maybe some recovery before 2018.  So doing your field tests now will allow you to take advantage of all the run fitness you have built up thru the year, and also give you a benchmark for 2018 training.

Bring on a balanced 2018!

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Knee Pain and Hip Tightness: Leg Extension

10059106660?profile=originalIf you are experiencing "runners Knee" with discomfort on top of knee, under knee, or on the medial side of the knee, you might be keeping your legs too bent.

If your legs remain too bent throughout the running gait, you are prone to stressing your quads too much and 'turning off' or not using crucial muscles very well - all leading to a vicious cycle of dysfunction:

  • Tight quads
  • Tight IT band
  • Over used bio flexor (psoas)
  • Under used glutes (medius)


Common knee issues can result, due to the tight quads pulling on the knee, causing poor tracking - the pain!

This also causes the hip flexors to over work, causing tightness and the inability to utilize your glutes for strength AND stability. You can be the strongest in the weight room, but if you are not firing and using muscles appropriately, this strength goes for not and will continue to cause imbalances.


We have been brainwashed into thinking the more we run the tighter we get or the more unhealthy it is. This is wrong.  As runners, we do not have to be chronically tight, with aches and pains.  Every running step "can be" an opportunity for strength and health.


One way to help turn this around is to include short, steep, powerful hill repeats into your weekly program. These intervals should be no longer than one minute, so you can maintain a strong and powerful gait.

I call this "strength running." The key is to focus on getting good leg extension with your stance leg like I have in the photo above.

If you do not have access to a steep hill, improvise by using a set of stairs, skipping every other step or even every two steps to get power and extension. Or simply use a treadmill and jack up the incline.


To help with the knee discomfort while you are working on the solution, foam roll or preferably do some self-massage on your quads.  Then lightly stretch the quads, holding for 1-2 minutes at a time.  Remember, this will only help relieve the pain, but will not rectify the problem.


  • 10 X 1 min repeats at 15% grade at Snow King Resort.
  • My rest interval was long, 2-3min, which is very important. The rest allows you to recover well, so you can run each one well. This is NOT a cardiovascular workout, so take the rest.

Hope this helps - E

Author of The Cool Impossible

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Fall in Love With Digging Dirt

10059066475?profile=originalThere is this misconception out there that if you want to pursue your dreams and cool impossibles, you have to know exactly what you’re doing. Just look around at all those other, more successful people out there. They move through life with a crisp smile and no body fat, and you ask them, “how’s it going”, they always say the same thing, “GREAT!” It’s actually kind of nauseating.

But the truth is that none of us ever fully know what we’re doing. We make projections, lists, and plans, but things seldom go as we wish. Life is unfortunately unplannable; it is a fluid, random conglomeration of stuff, people, conditions, attitudes, needs, ideas, and circumstances that careens down the trail like an overloaded ultra runner, ready to mow down anything in its path. So you have to be ready to leap out of its way at any time and pull your dream to safety along with you.

That’s when you wind up by the side of the trail, licking your wounds and cursing your decision to have a dream in the first place. Then you remember how little you know and there is stuff that YOU DON’T KNOW YOU DON’T KNOW!!

And then you think about how much all those other people seem to know. Finally, you remember how insecure this whole situation feels. And then, well hell, why not just quit? After all, if you want to realize your dreams, you have to know what you are doing. Right?

Absolutely, categorically, unequivocally wrong.

The very nature of creating your cool impossible is that you almost NEVER know what you’re doing. Sure, you know most of the steps involved. That’s the easy part. But the real meat of the creative process, the inspiration that will set your dream on a path of its own, is far more complex and elusive than that.

The popular belief is that inspiration “strikes” us like a lightning bolt from the sky. Actually, it’s the other way around. In reality, we strike inspiration much the way miners strike gold. By ceaselessly working, reworking and reworking the old territory, sooner or later we’ll run into a little nugget of something wonderful, something better. The more we dig, the more we’ll find until – if we are patient and very persistent – we hit the mother load. In reality, creating dreams is no different from swinging a pick. For every day of incredible divine intervention, there are probably ten spent sifting through dirt.

This is the bad, boring news about going after what you want: just like any job, there are many times when the work is unexceptional, difficult, and downright demanding. Yet these are also the days when you hunker down and keep on going because there simply isn’t any other way to get where you’re going. And herein lies the difference between the average dreamer and the person who goes after their dreams. The successful person is willing to put up with the hard work because inside of it he/she finds a joy like nothing else on earth. But the average dreamer does not know this joy yet. The average dreamer finds his/her joy in tangible rewards (results) and gets stopped when he/she realizes all that hard work may ultimately “be for nothing.”

When you set out to undertake the work of your dreams, it is critical that you must understand something: the reason so many people abandon there dreams is because they EXPECTED it to be perpetually fun and EASY. “But this is my dream!” they think lustily. “It has to be fun.” Then the minute the dream gets challenging, which it inevitably does, they quit, as if it suddenly turned into the wrong dream, or more likely, as if there were something wrong with them – some weird defect all those other, more successful people going to happy hour never, ever suffer from. In fact, there isn’t a thing in the world wrong with any of these people; it’s just that they don’t understand that pursuing your dream takes effort and discipline. And just because it takes effort and discipline is no reason to abandon it.

Each day spent digging puts you that much closer to the gold. And over time, if you keep at it, a curious thing happens: you begin to love sifting through the dirt. Some of your happiest moments can come during the 20th mile of a long training run, when you are reinventing your character through a major BONK!! Happiness can come in the smallest forms, like being ok with someone passing you on your easy day, because you know tomorrow you will be running harder than anyone or just simply heading out the door when you don’t want to while everyone else is hung over. You head out and your stride becomes as smooth as silk and you begin the feel the rightness of what you set out to do. Finally, you can understand all those curious twists and turns you took and see the larger, greater picture that they form. And this is when all your doubts about your goal begins to blow away like so much dust in the winds.

This is also the point when you come close to sensing the divine in your dream. It does not arrive heralded by trumpet-blowing fan fare, or even in a seamless blast of nonstop inspiration. Rather, the divine steals over you in the small, humdrum hours of your undertaking – during the checking, evaluating, and refining. The divine creeps in during yet another unexceptional night in your dream world, exactly when you least expect it.

As you climb inside the fantastic nautilus of your dream, you begin to understand why Zen masters spend entire lifetimes perfecting the tea ceremony. It is the sheer poetry of creating something from nothing and working on it until it is truly and absolutely right that ultimately keeps you coming back.

This is the magic that can only be born of hard work, of digging dirt, and this, ultimately, is realizing your dream and living your Cool Impossible!

Demand the Impossible - E

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Born To Run - 10 Years On

Hi Everyone,

I hope your running is going strong and well.  This year marked the 10 year anniversary of my Born To Run adventure to the Copper Canyon.  In honor of this, I was invited to visit Oaxaca Mexico this past August for a 3 day run adventure.  The purpose of this was to explore the Oaxaca region, running from town to town.  This is a lawless state that operates independent of the Mexican government, with a focus on eco-tourism and harmony.

We ran 100k within the 3 day adventure and I wanted to share this short film documenting our run.


Secondly, I wanted to share this great podcast from Ultrarunner Podcast, interviewing one of my athletes Meredith Edwards AKA Merejune.  She came in second at UTMB - TDS.  This is one of the better podcasts I have heard and sheds light into Merejune's training and life here in Jackson Hole, and her pursuit of her Cool Impossible.

Mierejune Podcast - Skimo, Trail Running, and Massive Amounts of Vert

I hope you enjoy.



Author of The Cool Impossible

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10059084877?profile=originalI put in a nice and easy 10 miles today.  The trails and mountain canyons are still packed with snow, so this time of year we get days like today, snow, rain, hail, sleet, sunshine, calm, wind, etc.  So I used the radar to pick the best weather window and hit the bike path south of town and ran along the snake river for a while.

This is a fairly hilly course and the purpose of my run today was to get in a very easy "strength" run to build efficiency.  I kept my heart rate well within zone 1-3.  After a fun and fast SP5 run yesterday, my HR was really responsive today, so really needed to be aware to keep my effort in check.  I call this a strength run because I used the most natural platform shoes I could, focusing on really good form so every foot step is strength building.  My easy effort on all of the hills helps me develop crucial efficiency to prepare me for the mountains in the Summer and Fall.  

I need to be able to run long mountain climbs, like the above photo, as efficiently as I can.  Native American runners of the past would train this way by running up a hill and back with a mouth full of water.  The challenge was to arrive back at the start with the water still in their mouth, forcing them to be as efficient as possible running up the hill.  


Keeping my HR in check today accomplished the same thing over a long period of time over many hills.  This will improve my overall efficiency, bump up my speed endurance across the board, and allow me to better manage my efforts in the mountains.  This gives way to fatigue resistance and better energy and fueling efficiency on the really long runs.

Efficiency is the holy grail for ultra running - running faster, easier!

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Peak Fitness - Being Your Best

10059095864?profile=originalIf your run fitness was a one of these mountains, which one would you rather it be?  Either can have a good foundation, but one is very distinct - it draws you in.  You imagine what it is like at the top.  In some ways it looks impossible to climb, but if you look long and hard, you begin to see possible routes and a way to the top.

The other mountain can be much easier to get to and climb, as many people do.  Less preparation is involved, with less unknown.  And, it comes with a plateau.


The other, more impressive looking one is much more elusive and challenging, where most people observe from the base, snapping pictures, but very few attempt to take a "selfie" at the top.  To summit, it requires knowledge, a progressive plan, and an extreme enjoyment for the process.  A burning desire every morning, to wake while every one is still asleep, to train for the summit.

There is not enough room at the summit for everyone, but sometimes that is why we attempt to climb.  After all, we soon realize it is the process of becoming our best that we ultimately fall in love with, and that ultimately becomes the joy of running.

Being your best is just a choice, which mountain do you chose?


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Today's Thoughts: Real Performance

10059087652?profile=originalToday's Thoughts: Running Ultras is all about performing when everything goes wrong.

It is easy to perform when things are going well, but just like in life, 'real' performance is about how we act after we think, being aware, and continuing to perform when things "seem" to be wrong.

But in reality, the only thing that is wrong is this flawed thinking in the moment.

Can you perform when your thinking goes south?  

Can you be aware when thinking goes wrong?  

Can your mind perform when you want the current situation to be different?

What Can You Do?

I believe most of our thinking is just fear, and once we can understand this and have awareness of these thoughts, we can break the cycle, fear stops, and we can then create better thoughts to keep moving forward and perform extraordinary.

Race on!

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