“If you can approach a race, just totally not thinking about times or anything, just saying that ‘I’m going to enjoy the race’, how much better you perform.” – Bill Callahan
In our recent conversation, Julianne Dickerson, Bill Callahan and Andy Hooks, who are no strangers to a challenge, discuss how 2020 has been for them; how the pandemic has impacted their plans, what adaptations have been made as a result of cancelled events and what possibilities that have opened up, too. We consider what the future might look like for training and racing, as well as any learnings or new perspectives our guests may take with them. We also talk about:
- dealing with injury, working towards goals and finding other activities when training is inhibited or not possible.
- reacting to cancelled or postponed events and maintaining consistency.
- Julianne directing her first race, a Boston qualifier in Anchorage, Alaska.
- Andy’s experiments with fasting, junk food and 100% low heart rate training.
- Bill reflects on what this period has done for him and his running. He talks about the importance of support, from family and friends, as well as choosing what type of runner you want to be.
I hope you enjoy this conversation with Julianne, Bill and Andy!
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Links and tools mentioned:
- AbbottWMM Wanda Age Group World Rankings
- Bigfoot 200 Endurance Run (206 mile footrace)
- Boilermaker 2020 Virtual
- Nike Alphafly
- Rim to Rim – Grand Canyon
- Zion Traverse
- Julianne Dickerson Strava | Instagram | Facebook
- Bill Callahan Strava
- Andy Hooks Strava | Instagram
- Extramilest interview – How to Run Fast and Reach Big Goals with Julianne Dickerson
- Extramilest interview – How to Run a Faster Marathon with Bill Callahan
- Extramilest interview – MAF training and nutrition with Andy Hooks
- Floris begins the show by saying he has never had multiple guests on a video call before, for the Extramilest Show. He goes on to say it that 2020 has been a different running year for everybody, with cancelled marathons, ultras, etc. [2:50]
- Starting with Julianne, Floris asks how her goals have shifted with the advent of COVID and how her training has been. Julianne talks about a mountain running series in Alaska, which she likes to focus on in Summer, also a half Ironman which was scheduled for April. As each event got cancelled, Julianne felt like she was re-writing her training plan every other week. [3:57]
- Floris asks about Julianne’s cycling and then return to running training. Julianne talks about a training camp with a triathlon group, in Arizona. This was right before everything started getting shut down or cancelled. [4:57]
- Floris asks if Julianne did any racing in the last 4-6 months. Julianne has raced virtually and remarks that this has been the Summer of new grass-roots races. Friends of Julianne’s did virtual races up mountains, such as Wolverine just outside of Anchorage. Another friend directed a race and Julianne went on to direct a road race herself. Julianne really liked running virtual races up mountains where she wouldn’t normally do a full hard effort. She also notes, that being a non-standard or prescribed race route without competition to spur her on, she did not have to make any comparison there. [5:32]
- Floris notes the elevation around Anchorage being around 100 feet per mile, to which Julianne casually answers “that’s typical”. Floris replies, “that’s insane” and goes on to ask about the race Julianne directed. She responds by saying that there are two races in Anchorage where you can qualify for Boston, but they were both cancelled. She and her friends aspired for a good contingent of Alaskans at Boston Marathon in 2021, so they thought about creating a “mini Boston qualifier”. They had the course certified. Anchorage has a really wonderful system of bike paths and as such, no road closures of traffic control were required. Regulations at the time allowed groups of 50 with social distancing. They divided 80 entrants into three waves. The event saw 16 people qualify for Boston and quite a few PR’s. Julianne spoke to many runners afterwards, for whom this was their first marathon or half marathon, which for her was just as rewarding as those who qualified for Boston. [6:52]
- Floris asks Julianne to talk about some of things she learned from race directing. She references a guy from the local running store, who kept asking questions like “did you get this permit?.. What’s you COVID mitigation plan”, etc. She was glad to have help from people with experience. [10:07]
- Floris asks Bill about what his plans were for the year, such as completing his 6th Marathon Major, in London. Bill says it’s been a rollercoaster of a ride! He takes us back to 2019 for some context. In 2019, he broke a bunch of PR’s. Everything was going well, in Autumn he’d become a father again, running was good and then a close friend of Bill’s died. Running was his outlet in the wake of this and he was training for the New York City Marathon, in November. In October there was a race in Albany, a half marathon. His wife ran it and he just ran it, relaxed and got a PR at 01:15. He was feeling good about that and the forthcoming NYC marathon. He adds that if you can approach a race, totally not thinking about times or anything, just saying that “I’m going to enjoy the race”, then how much better you perform. [11:22]
- Bill talks about his massage experience and the resultant damage to his leg. A chiropractor friend tried to help and told Bill he was 13lbs off balance. He managed to get that to 6lbs, through alignment exercises. Bill says he stubbornly decided to go and see what happens with the marathon. He had a singlet with his friend Joe’s name on it and was trying to raise money for Joe’s family. He still did a sub-3 which is all he wanted to do, timewise. After that, he couldn’t run for a couple of weeks. Depression started to kick in. He saw his chiropractor friend again and another friend, a pain specialist who performed some trigger-point injections. There was a further period of recovery and indeed, depression. [13:27]
- In December, Bill got some good news. Based on his time from Berlin in 2018 and Boston in 2019, he was invited to compete in the Wanda world championships. The invitation pointed to London and he already had Tokyo lined up so now it was a question whether doing these races would be compatible with family life. Bill gives thanks to his wife, without whom, he says, he wouldn’t be in the position he is in today. She supports him, allows him to train, she was a runner before and gets it. There was only a five-week window between the races, but he resolved to go ahead. [15:27]
- Bill talks about a 30K he and some friends took part in, keeping it somewhat conversational in the race but also wanting to run in under 2 hours. Overall, training and preparation is going really well, but then in February 2020 Tokyo is cancelled. There was still a chance with London, so he kept training and waited for word on the event, which was of course, eventually postponed. [16:52]
- From here, Bill decided to maintain his fitness but cut back a little bit, still doing 50-60 miles per week. Again, he was awaiting word on London’s new date, though the announcement kept getting pushed back and then cancelled. Bill is still keeping the miles up, so he doesn’t have to start over when it comes to a new race. [18:12]
- Bill aims to stay consistent in his training, though cut out intervals and any workouts which might stress the body out. He has had a blast doing other things, with his club, virtual races and a scavenger hunt for a month, finding and posting different items from around town, amongst other activities including fundraising for COVID first responders. Bill says he hasn’t missed racing that much. He doesn’t miss the pressure. He says, “I’ve enjoyed running more this year than I’ve enjoyed running before.” [19:17]
- Bill talks about how we can become fixed on one thing such as running events and the advent of COVID has highlighted what else is available. He recently enjoyed hiking with his wife and said he had much more fun doing that, than he would have done at a half marathon. As such, he is re-evaluating his racing season. In 2021, he says one race per month is more than enough. [21:02]
- Floris talks about the phases of cancellation, where at first you have to accept the news, quite possibly with some frustration and disappointment. He was talking with someone who works for the London Marathon, who said they were trying anything they could to get the race to happen in whatever way, shape, form or capacity and so, some of the backlash probably came from the time taken with that exhaustive approach. Floris relates back to Bill’s point about getting outside with the family and other enjoyable activities, including virtual or adventure races too. [21:37]
- Bill talks about his eldest son’s P.E. class, where a half mile loop around the neighborhood became Bill’s favorite race! Additionally, when Bill was finishing some milestone distance targets, his children would join his at the last bit. Bill prefers pictures from that, much more than of him finishing solo in a race. [22:55]
- Floris relates his own family runs and activities, including trying to teach his 3-year-old about low heart rate training. “Not happening”, he says! Bill adds that you set the foundation early and they’ll get it, later on! [23:47]
- Floris asks Andy what his experiences have been like over the past months. Andy says, “to put it in one word.. experiments”. He did the Berlin Marathon in September 2019 and had been dealing with a tendonitis issue for around 3 years. He has been seeing an orthopedic surgeon on one approach they tried was a steroid injection, which meant being out of training for about 4 weeks (the month of October). The plan was then, was to get ready for a January marathon in Houston. Because MAF had received some criticism over YouTube, Andy set out to prove this wrong so during October he purposefully gained 10lbs. He thought eating a load of junk food would kind of be ok, but he said it was horrible and he felt so miserable for the whole entire month. From Berlin until January, he planned to do nothing but MAF runs and no speed work. January rolled around and he’d improved his time by 5 minutes (he ran 02:50 in Berlin and 02:45 at Houston). [24:22]
- Floris asks about nutrition, after the junk food period. Andy answers in the affirmative, he went back to a lean diet and lost the weight again. [26:22]
- Floris asks what Andy’s training volume was, training with no speedwork. Andy replies that in October 2019 is was around 70 miles per week and in November up to 90. In December, it was a little over 100 miles per week, with one week at 130 miles plus (the peak week). The steroid injection helped throughout that period. [26:37]
- Andy experienced perfect conditions for his marathon in Houston. It worked well for him. He knew after that he’d have to stop with the marathons because he wanted to go for the Bigfoot 200. Andy did a 50-miler (placed 3rd) in February 2020 and a 100K (placed 1st) in March. In late July, confirmation came that Bigfoot was cancelled. He looked on the positive, that he could work on getting his achilles fixed. He had a PRP injection, which Andy describes as a “unique experience to feel”. He says that when you can’t do anything and have to set out for a while, depression does set in. So, he made a point to challenge himself by fasting. He says fasting for a week wasn’t bad until the last hour. [27:32]
- Floris asks what Andy’s main reason for fasting was and how Andy dealt with it. Andy responds by saying that endurance events are tough mentally and so he wanted an exercise which was mentally taxing. He also wanted to see how his body would react. He had mineral water, electrolytes and black coffee. Andy says that after the first 24 hours it was real easy, that you become calm, where everything is in a slow motion and sort of Zen-like. [30:12]
- Floris checks that Andy was in recovery mode at this point and doing no workouts. Indeed, Andy was in a walking boot, so the only thing he could do was stretching or walking around in a boot. Once out of the boot, he was able to go on some hikes and also, bike rides if able. He also wanted to get into more yoga and stretching routines. Andy didn’t realize he had “no hip flexors” and had “no hamstrings”. Andy has also taken up Jiu Jitsu. He was surprised how much that helps with the physical and mental aspects of endurance running, in that you have to remain calm when you’re in a tight spot! He sums up by saying 2020 has been about weird experiments, seeing how far he can push himself. He is on a 4 day fast at the time of interview. [31:57]
- Floris asks Julianne if she has found other ways to keep herself motivated during this time. She refers to Bills comments about staying consistent. Julianne has been doing a lot of adventuring. She says there is a mountain range just outside of Anchorage and she wanted to complete 40 peaks there and has about 8 left. She says there is a 50K race this weekend (at time of interview) though she fell off her bike and fractured the head of her humerus, in her shoulder, so she can’t do it. It also puts a pause on the “peak-bagging”. She is in a sling for 4-6 weeks. She echoes Andy’s earlier comments that one race per month is enough (without injury) and she has been doing that, virtually. Julianne adds that 2020 has been a good experiment. She has enjoyed some less-focused, adventure runs with friends. [34:32]
- Floris says, from seeing photos of the mountain ranges Julianne runs and hikes, that he can imagine just going for a hike there would feel really energizing. Julianne says she feels blessed of a place to have to socially-distance. [38:42]
- Floris asks Bill if he has any further thoughts about motivation or dealing with these times and a lack of racing, etc. A big thing for Bill has been running as part of group. Bill says two things have come out of this: i) if you’ve been consistently racing for past years, this has been your year to heal-up. ii) if you’re newer to running, maybe with a MAF approach, it’s been your year to catch up to other people because there hasn’t been any racing going on. [39:27]
- Bill talks about a Boilermaker race, in July. A group of them went out and wanted to do 15K in under an hour, not “killing” themselves. He now has virtual Boston coming up and had run 22 miles in training, on the morning of this interview. Other than that, he has been using running as an escape from what’s really going on: Bill works in Sales, so he’s usually not at home but out seeing people. An hour run per day, out of the house, has been very beneficial. One issue has been the heat, because it has been very hot in the North East. He has been running early in the morning or at night because of this. [41:27]
- Floris asks Bill to tell us more about the shoes and whether they have “massive springs in them”. Bill says he got the Alphafly’s “yesterday” and has yet to try them out. He tried some Adidas shoes for tempo runs, though says he’s gone back to Nike and that he is a creature of habit. Bill sums up that this period has allowed more time for things like family evening walks and not being so focused on races and the like. [43:47]
- Floris asks Andy if he has anything in addition, regarding motivation. Andy says there’s a lot. He wants to continue pulling that string, regards what he can do. He references going “rim to rim to rim”, at the Grand Canyon. Another thing he’d like to do is the highest peak in New Mexico, on the border of Texas (where he lives) and Colorado’s highest peak (Mt. Elbert), on consecutive days if possible. Floris says, “rim to rim to rim”, at the Grand Canyon, is also on his bucket list, as well as Zion Traverse. Julianne adds that she and friends had planned to do Zion Traverse in April this year (2020), before it was cancelled. [45:17]
- Floris asks all three guests how they envisage 2021 racing events being; what Boston, New York, Tokyo, London will look like? Smaller races are starting to come back in. What about the bigger races? Julianne responds by saying it will happen, but the question is, how long will it take? Could be next year. Maybe it’s a couple of years. Bill adds, he thinks it depends when therapeutics and vaccines come out. He says, “Floris, if you can predict that, then I want your advice on everything in life.” He says that smaller races are indeed opening up and should continue to do so into 2021. However, when it comes to larger events or travelling, along with local quarantine rules, is where chaos can ensue. He considers how Major marathons might be clustered back to back due to postponement and how the uncertainty there makes it difficult to plan or train accordingly. He points to those who are elite and run as a career and how that would be hard to manage. Bill says he doesn’t think things will be back to what we deem as normal until 2022 / 2023. [48:17]
- Andy is thinking along similar lines to Bill, that 2021 will be a gradual process, where only local races will look more normal, but not beyond that. Floris remarks that approaches vary from country to country. He also mentions seeing pre-COVID footage, with zero social-distancing, how starkly different that is to right now. Floris says that if larger races do happen, it may be over multiple days, with appropriate measures taken with starting corrals, smaller entry numbers, etc. Bill adds that registration in person could be dragged out for days a week to accommodate everybody. Bill says, regarding travel, it’s been a learning experience for him, because it has taken a lot of time and effort to re-route things and get refunded, for what hasn’t happened, such as his Tokyo marathon. [50:22]
- Floris asks, in closing, if the guests have any thoughts regarding lower intensity training, which a lot of people seem to be getting into. Or, any suggestions in general, for athletes looking to improve. Andy dives in with the advice: “patience, persistence and consistency”. We’ve all had our downs and had our ups. No-one is going to be Eliud Kipchoge, no-one is going to be Jim Walmsley at the very get-go. He adds that it would be ridiculous to think that they became what they are as athletes, overnight. They have done this for their whole lives. You have to start small and build from there. MAF running is accessible and the more you get into it, the greater your goals can become. Andy’s curious to keep going with the low-intensity approach, to work with nasal breathing. You’re probably not going to be a sub 3-hour marathoner from the get-go. Just relax and keep getting better. [53:52]
- Julianne agrees and says that patience is huge. It takes years and in fact, the results speak for themselves in effect. Keeping consistent and not going hard all the time, watching friends learn to train well is wonderful. [55:07]
- Bills says, before you step out of the door, you need two things: i) support – we are going to run into a lot of physical and mental challenges. To have support from friends and family is amazing and helps you to be a better athlete overall. ii) you have to define what type of runner you’re going to be. Pick a couple of goals that are attainable and reasonable. Pick some smaller goals, to get you to consistency and give you the motivation to keep going and progress, you’re more likely to hit the bigger goals sooner than later. Bill mentions that the guests are all into low heart rate training. He says, if you’re going to pick and choose your runs in a week, don’t miss the long runs. It took Bill a couple of years, playing around with training to get to where he wanted to be. Monday is his MAF -10 day (super-easy), Tuesday – just under MAF, with strides, Wednesday – workout day, Thursday is his MAF -10 to -15 (super-easy), Friday is something small and at the weekends a long run or some break-out intervals on a long run. This is something that works for him and it took multiple years to get there. Now is a good time to go and figure out what works for you. Bill concludes by saying he wants strength all over, not just in his legs, so he does strength work and cycling, which should also reduce the possibility of injury. [56:22]
- Floris mentions that a lot of people talk largely about the running component of training, but not necessarily flexibility, mobility, mindset, personal stresses and adjusting training accordingly. Floris has also experimented with sleep, to see how that impacts. Andy adds that when things go more back to normal, people will be back at work, etc. and normal functions will resume and then, if races will come back and if you haven’t raced in a year and this in itself could become a source of stress. If you get into a routine and remain consistent, it won’t be such a shock to the system when everything starts back up. [01:00:07]
- Julianne says she has used her recent injury as an opportunity to dial in more sleep and nutrition, as well as nasal breathing exercises. She says that you can use this time to set the foundations and habits to help you when racing picks up again. [01:01:32]
- Floris talks about available training time during the week and what we can do with that i.e. should it all be running or can we mix in some strength and mobility work, for example. Bill adds that this is a good time, also, to look back at notes and data from past runs, training and races, to re-evaluate where you are now. You can look at what worked and what didn’t and use any takeaways, that you can begin working with immediately. [01:02:12]
- Floris mentions Andy’s stable footage on Instagram and Andy points to the GoPro 8 and he plans to use that if he does the rim to rim to rim at the Grand Canyon. [01:05:12]