Runner of Austin: Part VIII

An update on our special series featuring four Austin runners and their journey as they reflect on the 3M Half Marathon and prepare for the Austin Marathon. Brought to you by CLIF Bar & Company, the Official Sports Nutrition of the 2017 Austin Marathon presented by NXP.

Name – Jason

Club – Rogue Running

2017 started off with a return to running. I had a few challenges at the end of 2016 race season including hernia surgery at the end of November and several weeks of playing single parent while my wife was out of the country.

After the operation I had to take it easy for 40 days; no lifting, running, cycling or much of anything. I was given medical release on January 4 to resume normal activities. First thing I did was head to the Barton Springs Greenbelt for a hike. I packed up my backpack with water and some Clif Nut Butters and headed out on a four hour hike, longest I’d done in weeks. I felt pretty good so I continued with some easy training for the 3M Half Marathon. Race day weather was good, wind was to our backs most of the time and I was feeling strong. I settled into an easy pace early on and had my standby Mocha Clif Shot gels to keep me fueled through the race. To my surprise I actually ran the entire race instead of a run/walk I expected it to be; my time was 2:07.

Jason – 2017 3M Half Marathon

As fun as 3M was, I now turn my focus to the Austin Half Marathon. I changed my plan from the full to the half after the surgery, but I am actually looking forward to it as I’ve never ran the half course before. With less than two weeks to go until race day, all I can do is trust my years of training and listen to my body to get me through this one and ready for the next. Fuel the adventure!

Runner of Austin: Part VII

An update on our special series featuring four Austin runners and their journey as they reflect on the 3M Half Marathon and prepare for the Austin Marathon. Brought to you by CLIF Bar & Company, the Official Sports Nutrition of the 2017 Austin Marathon presented by NXP.

Name – Cressida

Club – Gilbert’s Gazelles

2017 was the third time I ran 3M. It was the second time I ran it just for fun as part of my training for Austin. I’ve only raced in once, and it’s where I got my PR.  This year I incorporated it into my final 20-miler. 2017 was without doubt the most fun I’ve had! I ran with three of my favorite friends from the Gazelles. We didn’t warm up, started in the back, and stopped for bathroom and water breaks. These are things I never do at a race! Even though I wasn’t racing, I did use my Clif shots along the way (mocha is my favorite). Because we went at an easy pace, I was able to appreciate the spectators and great support out there on the course. My favorite part was the turn at Bob Bullock museum when my coach, Gilbert Tuhabonye, cheered us on. Seconds later, my husband and boys were ringing their cowbells!

After the race, we went for brunch with a group of Gazelles and their families, which completed a perfect Sunday! Training overall is going great. Yesterday I did my last hard long run, which included 10 miles at MGP. The conditions were great, so I can only hope that will also be the case on marathon day. Nutrition can be a challenge for me as I work as a clinical psychologist, have two kids, and eat vegan 90 percent of the time (I sneak pizza in occasionally!). I also insist on eating organic and only feeding my children organic food. Unfortunately, many convenient foods that are also kid friendly are not organic. This is why Clif Bar products are a staple in our house. The Coconut Almond Butter Nut Butter Filled bars are my favorite and I eat them after workouts and at work if I need a snack. My kids are huge fans of the kids protein bars and of course the z bars are always a favorite. The Gazelle training has a couple hard workouts left, I know I will be fueled up and ready to give my all!

An Athlete’s Perspective – Issue 3

An Athlete’s Perspective is a blog series of event and/or training experiences written firsthand by the athlete themselves. An Athlete’s Perspective is a completely unscripted and raw look into the mind and daily life of an athlete as they prepare for their next race. Readers will discover training regimens, eating tips, gear recommendations, and an uncut perspective into the lives of people like you and me.

Putting Trail Running Into Your Marathon Plans

by: Rio Reina

Reina: 2017 Austin Marathon Elite Athlete

When I first started training for the marathon in 2010, I would have not considered adding a high percentage of mileage on the uneven dirt paths. One reason I stuck to roads for training was to hit my certain paces. Another reason was to avoid the challenging terrain and agility that came with it. But most importantly, at the time, I did not fully appreciate the experience of a traverse through a great trail. I had been used to high rhythm running, where I could turn my brain off and just push through an 18-mile road run. Roads fit the rhythm profile, while trail running was more cumbersome. After moving to the Bay Area in October 2016, trail running has been a big part of my training for the Austin Marathon.  

In the Bay Area running community, trails are king. And how can you blame them? There are single-track trails with epic views that overlook the Golden Gate Bridge within a 15-20 minute drive of San Francisco. Also, there’s a support of races that explore distances of 50K to 100 miles and running stores with trail training groups. After moving out here, I couldn’t help but put in my miles on the trails and start eyeing ultra trail races as well. I do have passion for the roads still and want to achieve a 26.2 personal best in the Austin Marathon, so I decided to do a hybrid road/trail marathon program. I’d like to share some tips with you.   

Here are some of the ways to add trail running into training

Do some long runs on trails, focus on lengthening the duration (total time) and practicing nutrition, forget about mileage

Trails tend to be more technical and challenging than roads, so your pace won’t be the same. This is not a bad thing! This will help more with fat burning and practicing your nutrition plan. If your road long runs are two hours in duration, go for a 2:30 – 3 hour run at an easier effort on the trail. Ensure you have some nutrition and proper hydration. Carry a hand-held or a hydration belt on these runs! I usually low-ball my fuel on these efforts since I’m trying to deplete energy stores, but keep hydration consistent. For 2:30 – 3 hour runs, I’ll take 1-2 gels and 16 -20 ounces of water per hour. 

Use elevation to your advantage

In trail running, elevation is a metric that is often discussed. Trail runners would ask, “How much vert was in the race?”  In fact, the trail runners thrive on a challenging course, while marathoners tend to want a flatter, faster course. With elevation comes the opportunity to work on different running techniques that will help your overall fitness. With long uphills, I tend to find much more stress on my oxygen intake. Long uphills, even at a moderate pace, start to stress the system aerobically like a tempo run.  With the downhill, I practice high turnover and efficient landing. I try to not stomp or brake on downhills, as running downhill is a skill itself, so I try not to disrupt the free energy! My advice is to say yes to hilly trail runs! 

Shredding bark #saytwowords

A photo posted by Christopher DeNucci (@thedenuch) on

Recover on trails

Steve Sisson, coach of Team Rogue, used to tell us, “Hit the Greenbelt!  The muscles get a different workout!” I try to take my recovery runs into trails mainly to give my body a change in surface. I feel like it helps combat overuse injuries by making you change your running mechanics and softening up the impact. Trail running tends to need more agility as well, so the stride is not as linear as road running. While road running takes a toll on quads and calves, trail running tends to use more mobility in the ankles and hips. I would advise recovery runs on trails after hitting a challenging workout on the road.  

Sign up for a trail race!!

I did my first ultra in December at the Woodside Ramble 50K, which was a blast! I enjoyed the race and thought it was a great effort for my first off-road event. The Inside Trail team put on a great event and the trail community is very welcoming. I placed 2nd in 3:42 after running in first for 24 miles; I hit the wall and was passed. I learned a lesson about how trail racing is about patience, fueling, and pacing. The overall benefit from doing this race was that it was a great fitness boost and helped teach my body to burn fat more efficiently. Also, it allowed me to run further than 26.2 miles, which was the first time in my career. To top it all off, the softer trails were much more forgiving than roads, so my legs were recovered within 2-3 days. My advice would be to sign up for a trail race, 30-35K are great and for those looking for a greater distance challenge, look into 50Ks.  They are a fun way to meet new people and break up the monotony of training!

Reina (blue top) on the roads.

Keep the pace and road work in the program

Although I do love a run through the woods, I would advise to still keep some faster runs in the program consistently. I do my tempo runs and half my long runs still on roads to keep my pace dialed down. Road running is still a unique stress on the body and needs to be practiced for a road race. Pick certain pace workouts, like a 12-mile marathon-paced run, to do on a road or bike path course. Also, do a few long runs on the roads as well.

Additional Advice from a National Champ

Lastly, I chatted with Jorge Maravillia, two-time USATF Trail Champion and 2:21 marathoner. Jorge’s advice was that he feels like there’s value that is transferable from trail to road racing. His points were that speed work from road racing tends to help with form while running trails. As for trails, the grit and patience tends to play nicely into marathon training, especially when you are out there for hours. He tends to say road racing is about chasing splits and pushing the pace, while running trails is about enjoying the experience and scenery as you push yourself.  They are different, but he enjoys the challenges in both!

Runners of Austin: Part VI

An update on our special series featuring four Austin runners and their journey as they reflect on the 3M Half Marathon and prepare for the Austin Marathon. Brought to you by CLIF Bar & Company, the Official Sports Nutrition of the 2017 Austin Marathon presented by NXP.

Name – Jillian

Club – Twenty-Six Two

Training has been going well so far! I have had a recent tendon strain, but with careful planning I have been able to keep up with my training schedule. Running the 3M Half Marathon provided a great perspective on how I need to plan for race day for the Austin Marathon. I used the Clif Strawberry Blok Chews around Mile 9 and they gave me that extra push to finish the race. I have been alternating between using the chews and the gels during my training runs and I feel both give me the energy I need to finish the workout. I like both, so my 20 mile run this weekend will determine which one I use for Austin. I felt I ran a great race and I plan on running the 3M Half again next year with a PR goal!

I have also been eating the Peanut Butter Clif Bars (the chocolate peanut butter are my favorite!) before my weekly runs and they have helped in boosting my pre-run snack with the energy I need to get through my workout. My weekday runs are always in the evening since I work very early in the morning and after a long day of work, they really help!

Runners of Austin: Part V

An update on our special series featuring four Austin runners and their journey as they train for the upcoming 3M Half Marathon and the Austin Marathon. Brought to you by CLIF Bar & Company, the Official Sports Nutrition of the 2017 Austin Marathon presented by NXP.

Name – Abi

Club – Austin Runners Club

Abi – 2016 Houston Half Marathon

Training has been difficult (with graduate school, work, injury, and life), but that’s why I love to run. I love the challenges and even the set backs. They prove to me that I am a strong individual and can conquer anything with hard work and dedication.

In September, I pulled my hamstring and had to really cut back on my running. In October/November, I was running about 20-30 miles weekly. During those weeks, I tried to focus on having one tempo, one medium run, and a long run. In December, I ramped up my mileage to 40 miles and ended up getting Achilles Tendinitis. Since then, I have had to focus on cycling to help maintain my endurance and have started to incorporate weight lifting in the hopes that it will help to prevent any further injury.

I ran Run for the Water (1:19), Decker Challenge (1:43) and the Houston Half (1:49— gosh I lost my speed) and used those to gauge my capabilities. I’m hoping to run at least a 1:40 at 3M, but will adjust my goal and pace during the race as needed. This type of adjustment during my races has helped to keep me positive, helps to further drive my passion for racing, and and has been key to not allowing myself to give in to negative thinking.

Nut Butter Filled CLIF Bars.

CLIF has helped to fuel me during all forms of exercise. I love the CLIF Shot Energy Gel and use that 30 minutes prior to my activity. The Mocha is my favorite and I love the extra boost of energy that the caffeine gives me! I then follow up at 30 minutes with the CLIF Bloks and continue those based on the length of my run/activity. The Strawberry is my favorite! I’ve have also fallen in love with the scrumptious Nut Butter Filled bars and snack on them often. The CLIF bars are great when I need a snack at school. They help keep me full and provide me with a healthy organic snack option.

Staying Vertical with Desiree Ficker Berry

On Thursday, November 10th, William Dyson, of High Five Events, sat down with Desiree Ficker Berry (see extensive recognition list below) to discuss her acceptance into the Austin Marathon’s Elite Athlete Program, her ability to balance family life and training, and what her goals are for the future.

Follow Desiree’s journey to the Austin Marathon start line on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

William Dyson – You were one of the first runners selected for the Austin Marathon’s Elite Athlete Program. Congrats! Why are you running Austin in 2017? 

The Austin Marathon presented by NXP

The Austin Marathon presented by NXP.

Desiree Ficker Berry – Thank you. I’m excited to be a part of the revitalized Elite Athlete Program! I’ve been cheering for or running the Austin Marathon and Half Marathon since 2004. It is sacred to me and it’s always an enjoyable race. Unlike most, I absolutely love the hills. I train on the hills and live close to the course. I’m honored to be a part of High Five Events first year producing the marathon and want to help support your efforts. I’m at a point where my training miles can be increased because my kids are a little older (daughter Beau, 3 years old and son Bear, 14 months). When I see my kids on the course cheering for me, when I see the look on my daughter’s face, I know I’m inspiring her the way my parents inspired me.

WD – What are your thoughts on the Austin Marathon bringing back a prize purse/elite field?

DFB – It’s absolutely fantastic. Any time you introduce a prize purse/elite field it makes it more interesting for everyone. It enhances the race for the other elites because they know they’re competing against the best. Every participant gets to share the same course as the elites; it adds a little more motivation for them. In what other event can you participate with the top athletes in that sport? Lastly, it’s thrilling for the spectators. I grew up watching races and it’s a spectacle to watch athletes give everything they have on race day.

WD – You’re originally from Maryland. Tell me, in 60 seconds or less, how you got to Austin.

DFB – I grew up and went to school in Maryland. I then attended and ran for the Univ. of Alabama. Afterwards I became interested in and began competing in triathlons. I entered a triathlon training program in Colorado Springs, became pro, then moved to Boulder. I met some friends who needed a house sitter for four month in Austin. While in Austin I became friends with Jack Murray, swam with Longhorn Aquatics, ran with Gilbert’s Gazelles, and had my first taco in the red caboose at Juanita’s Tacos.

WD – Who was your inspiration/role model growing up?

DFB – I grew up in track and field. I’ve been competing in some form or fashion since I was four years old. We traveled as a family to international events as spectators. We went to Beijing, Italy, Seoul, France, Tokyo, and Atlanta to name a few. Those opportunities to see the sport allowed me to watch Jackie Joyner-Kersee. I’ve always admired her spirit. She’s always happy, smiling, and gracious. I loved the fact that she was capable of being successful at numerous events. I remember in an interview she said one of her keys to success was to surround yourself with positive people. I’ve strived to follow her lead, both as an athlete and as a human.

WD – What was the catalyst that launched running for you?

DFB – My first memories of running started around four. I remember feeling the speed and being in the moment. It felt like I was flying. I had so much fun and I wanted to keep that feeling going. My dad was a competitive masters runner. He was always training. In the winter he would take us to run at the Univ. of Maryland indoor facility. We would run stairs and I remember trying to beat my dad.

Crossing the Jack's Generic Tri finish - 8/7/16

Crossing the Jack’s Generic Tri finish – 8/7/16.

WD – You retired from triathlons in 2011, yet you have raced in several events, like Jack’s Generic Triathlon, since. What drew you back?

DFB – Basically, I missed the triathlon. From a physical standpoint, I was much healthier when I included swimming and biking in my training. I also missed the people, missed the relationships. I love the challenge of doing three events in one.

WD – How is life post-triathlon retirement treated you?

DFB – I’m way more relaxed about training. Having kids means I have less time for myself and training, so I’m now way more efficient with my time. I get my workout done and knock it out. I’ve learned to prioritize workouts and eliminate junk miles,


WD – You can choose one (race) distance to run the rest of your life. What’s the distance?

DFB – The marathon; no question. When you’re fit and in great running shape, there’s no better feeling than being out there for 26 miles. You cover so much distance, see the beauty around you, feed of the energy from the crowd, and then the inexplicable feeling you get when you cross the finish line. I’ve always loved running because all you need is shoes and heart.

WD – Do you run with a training group in Austin in preparation of the marathon?

DFB – Yes, Gilbert’s Gazelles. They were the first group that I ran with and I’ll keep running with them as long as they’re around and I’m fortunate enough to continue running. Gilbert helped with my first years in Austin. He created a community within the group. The Gazelles offer workouts for all speed and abilities. I truly feel his motto’s three words when I show up for workouts, “Run with Joy.”

WD – Most people give advice to their younger self. What piece of advice would you give your future self for race day on Feb. 19th?

DFB – Patience, grasshopper. With the crowd, the energy, the adrenaline, there’s always the inclination to begin quickly. Remain patient, take your time, take care of your body, take in hydration/nutrition, run your race. Most importantly,  take care of yourself at the beginning so you’ll be ready at the end.

WD – You’ve won or placed at all of the big Austin running and triathlon events. How does it feel to win or place where you live compared to winning or placing somewhere else?

DFB – There’s a sense of patriotism towards your town, like hometown pride. The cheers are much bigger and louder. Any athlete will tell you they want to win where they live. It’s that much sweeter.

desficker2

Training Partners Bear and Beau.

WD – How do you balance your family life, work life, and running life?

DFB – It’s a balancing act, but one that I wouldn’t trade for anything. When my husband is on the road it is more challenging to manage workouts and my kids, but when he’s home I can get it done a lot easier. My kids have wonderful school programs, there’s a mother’s day out, great babysitters, and I push them in the double bob (stroller). My kids love it! We go on adventures and we always end with breakfast and a smoothie.

WD – What advice do you have for mothers who want to run or are just starting to run?

DFB – Think about how inspiring it’ll be for your kids to see you set a goal, work towards it, and achieve it, Remember to take time for yourself. Reward yourself in a healthy way. Don’t forget the importance of goal setting. Having a race on the calendar helps. Running with a stroller can be difficult at first but you will  become stronger and more accustomed to it. But know, when you race without the stroller you’ll fly through the course!

WD – How often to your kids run with you? –

DFB – I’d say about 50% of the time. They love to see all the animals on the trail. As I alluded to in the previous questions, running with my kids in the stroller makes me stronger. My turnover is slow, so I’ll include a complimentary turnover workout, keeping my feet moving fast feet. The other half is for my hard workouts

WD – What has running given you?

DFB – So many gifts! Running has given me confidence and strength. Running has given me experiences that I would’ve never had, like traveling the world to watch competitions and races. Running has given me a lot of joy, which is why I, like Gilbert, run with joy. Running is my main stress relief. My pregnancies were stressful and running was an outlet that reduced stress and made me feel better.

Fit Fickers - Fit is Fun!

Fit Fickers – Fit is Fun!

WD – Give me an update on Fit Fickers. How is it coming along?

DFB – We have two week camps every summer at St. Stevens, In 2017 they’ll be the second and third weeks of July. On 11/6, we finished our Sunday evening training group. That’s a six-week program where kids swim, then run at Quarry Lake. I love seeing the kids’ improvement. There have been kids who’ve conquered their fear of open water and become excellent swimmers. There are normally 15-25 kids/week and their ages range from 7-15. Coaching the kids is special to me; I love it. I’m giving them skills for life.

WD – After the Austin Marathon, what’s next?

DFB – I’m going to look at tri schedule and pick out a couple 70.3s. I want to  get my pro card back, I want to get back to racing as a pro. I want to race NYC, California International Marathon, Texas Tri Series, and the Cap10K.

Scenic Drive

Scenic Drive.

WD – Favorite place to run in Austin?

DFB – Scenic Dr. The view of the Colorado River is something else. There’s something new every day. I have a mile loop that I love to run. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Town Lake trail, but Scenic takes the cake.

WD – Favorite non-running activity?

DFB – Hiking with the family, taking my kids to the park, being outside in general. We love the Greenbelt. We enjoy visiting the parks around town and Texas State parks. Our favorite park to visit is the Terrytown Triangle Park.

WD – Favorite Austin restaurant?

DFB – I’ve got to break this down into three categories. #1: breakfast tacos, Taco Deli; #2: weekend must, True Food Kitchen, Seaholm District; #3 old favorite, Galaxy Cafe.

WD – Friends or family come to visit. What’s the first Austin thing y’all do?

DFB – I’m glad I live in Austin because my dad wants to get BBQ and listen to live music. If my mother-in-law visits we go on a walk around Town Lake with the kids. It’s such an enjoyable place to be.

WD – Des, thanks again for taking the time to swing by High Five Events HQ and lend your time. I look forward to hearing about your Austin Marathon training leading up to race day! We’re excited to have you and look forward to an amazing day. Best of luck with your training. I think it’s safe to say you’re now a role model for many.

DFB – William, it was great to swing by HQ. I’m glad I finally got to see the new place! I’m glad y’all are bringing back the Austin Marathon’s Elite Athlete Program. I think it’s going to enhance the race and be a positive light for our sport. I’m sure all see High Five before race day, but if not, I’ll see y’all at the start line!

Staying Vertical is an interview session with various individuals within the endurance community hosted by William Dyson, High Five Events Communications Manager. Staying Vertical will showcase the perspective of runners, triathletes, sponsors, partners, event producers, and volunteers to understand what makes them tick. We will highlight their involvement and give the endurance community an inside look into the individuals that are just like you and me.

Desiree’s extensive recognition list:

2016 – 2nd place Run for the Water (1:04:46)

2016 – 1st place Austin 10/20 (1:04:40)

2011 – 1st place Austin Marathon (2:50:35)

2010 – 1st place Cap10K (35:36)

2010 – 1st place Austin Half Marathon (1:17:41)

2009 – 10th place New York City Marathon (2:39:30)

2009 – 2nd place Austin Half Marathon

2009 – 1st place Cap10K (34:56)

2008 – 1st place Cap10K 2007 (35:45)

2008 – qualified for Olympic Marathon Trials; finished in 2:48:11

2007 – 3rd place 3M Half Marathon (1:14:07)

2007 – 2nd place Austin Marathon (2:40:28)

2006 – 2nd place IRONMAN World Championship – Kona (9:28:02)