Spokane to Sandpoint 2019

The Spokane to Sandpoint Relay turned out to be the perfect capstone on Summer Training. For weeks on end, these kids work so hard on their running goals and this is the perfect reward for their dedication, discipline, and commitment. I am already looking forward to S2S 2020 and perhaps even bringing another team with us comprised of Whisper runners! For now, I hope you enjoy this video, which summarizes the Spokane to Sandpoint experience.

All it took was a text...

In the spring of 2011 I set out to begin my training as a marathon runner.  The agenda for the day: run home from Clark College, taking Airport Way, which wound up being a 22-mile, dreadful experience.  Just after crossing the 205 bridge, around mile 15, I wound up walking until I came upon an abandoned home along the Old Evergreen Highway.  Being in dire need of water and cautiously optimistic, I approached the home and turned the spigot clockwise.  I was in luck.  No longer parched but still with weary legs, I continued slogging eastward.  With 3-miles to home, this was by far the most difficult hill I had ever experienced at the time, yet it was assuredly due to the combination of being undertrained, undernourished, and quite simply, underprepared.  This 22-mile trek was a learning experience – 7 mile runs are easy, but marathon training is going to take smarter planning.

This topic hit me this morning when I received a text from a Whisper runner, Maddie, which said, “That wasn’t fun.”  A day earlier, Maddie texted to inquire about the workout of the day because she wasn’t going to be able to make it to practice and she wanted to perform the workout on her own.  The workout was a ladder – 200m, 400m, 600m, 800m, 1-mile, and a few 250m’s to finish.  This was the first time in a long time that I had prescribed a mile interval – generally intervals are under 1k – but I had to try it out.  For the most part, the workout did indeed suck.  And Maddie was spot-on when she said, “That wasn’t fun.” 

Years ago it was the long runs that I dreaded the most.  Anything over 15-miles and I knew I had to prepare well, including hydration and fuel for the road.  In time, I began to enjoy runs over 10-miles because they are the ones that provide the physical and emotional challenge I need, and they are also where I feel most alive. I suppose that’s why the marathon is so intoxicating.  You’re going to a place of wonder, a place of curiosity, a place of vulnerability, a place of playfulness, and being in my mid-40’s, a place of continuous questioning of my own abilities.  Going to these places, the challenges, is essential in training.  They are places I aim to get my runners to arrive, so they are ready when it arrives to them during their race.

These places and feelings haunt me both in my training and in my racing.  It’s been the midweek runs, the runs between 6 and 9 miles, the runs on Monday through Friday, that have challenged me the most over the last few years.  Hampered by an Achilles issue, or both Achilles for that matter, injuries have wreaked havoc on my confidence and my ability to train consistently fast and consistently well for the last few years. But there was a place, a moment in the race last weekend when I felt the familiarity of the suck, yet harmoniously a place of strength, both which could be traced back to my midweek runs.  It was a place I have been many times over the last few years.  Being in that place provided a sense of, “I have felt this before.  I have been here before.  I can do this.”  At that moment, I knew that if I could manage my splits well, which for the most part were similar to that of my midweek runs, I could still break 3-hours in the marathon at 44-years old.

Maddie‘s text this morning was a reminder that even during the times of difficulty when training, particularly when training alone, that it’s okay to have physically and emotionally challenging workouts.  It’s even okay to question your skill set.  It’s natural to question your ability.  It’s natural to have self-doubt.  But what’s important to remember is that there’s always tomorrow. There’s always the hope for a better run tomorrow.  And that’s perhaps why runners run.  Maddie’s text wasn’t about any foreseen self-doubt of her own skills as a runner, but the reality we all face when running.  When we have a challenge ahead of us, how do we respond?  I know how Maddie will respond – I’ll see her tomorrow.  But how will you respond?

Finally, the word “hope” makes me think about The Boston marathon logo, or mascot, which is a unicorn. Jack Fleming of the Boston Athletic Association, which hosts the Boston Marathon, says, “The unicorn is a mythological figure that is meant to be pursued, but, in that pursuit, you never catch it.  So it inspires you to continue to try – to race harder in the case of running – and though it may be elusive, it really is the pursuit of the unicorn that makes you better and better and better.”  I fully believe that this is why we keep coming back to this place of misery in the sport of competitive running.  This dark place of questioning and self-doubt.  Because though it may be a place of familiarity, it’s also a place that we know we can go when we need a dose of self-confidence. Though time and time again our results might not be there, there is still hope for a better race, a better run, and a dose of self-confidence that all of us need, because running has provided this sense of success before.

Two Tales of One Race

The LCMSAA Championship 800m Race, as told by Hanna Bailey

To be entirely honest, my 800 at districts felt like the longest 800 meters of my life. From the beginning, I planned to pace off Elle, then beat her in the final stretch. I wasn’t entirely confident in this plan, but being my last race running for my middle school, I figured it was worth a shot. Before the race, I was nervous because I knew that I was going to have to work through a lot of pain if I wanted to succeed. I was also excited, though, because I had been waiting for this opportunity all season. The day of the meet I did everything I could trying not to overthink the race, but by the time I was warming up, I was kind of freaking out. I got in my lane and stepped to the line. In a final attempt to calm myself, I closed my eyes and mentally reassured myself that it was only two laps of suffering. The gun went off, and the butterflies went away. Everything went pretty smoothly until it was time to cut in. Two girls cut in between Elle and me, and I knew that if I let Elle get too far ahead of me, I would never be able to close the gap. In a desperate attempt, I sprinted ahead of the two girls before the straight ended and cut in right behind Elle.

Hanna (left) and Elle (right) after an epic 800m district race.

Hanna (left) and Elle (right) after an epic 800m district race.

About 300 meters in, I was already tiring out. I was beginning to think: maybe I can’t do this; maybe she is too fast. I reminded myself, though, of how frustrated I would be over the next few days if I quit, knowing that this was my last meet, and I still had more to give before the finish. I stayed with her. At the end of my first lap I considered it a tiny victory that I only had one more lap to go, and I was still right on pace. With 300 meters left, all I could think was, “If I could only get to the last 200 meters, I could still win this.” Sure enough, by the time I made it to the final curve, I forgot all about how miserable the last 600 meters had been. At that point, I was anticipating when we’d reach the final straight, where I would pass her. I got too excited, though, and as soon as I saw the finish line I started to sprint. As I passed her, I though for sure that I was going to win. Then, in the last twenty meters, I felt her coming up on me. All I could think was, “Oh crap, oh crap, oh crap!” We finished right beside each other, and I honestly had no idea who’d won.

Regardless of that, though, I made my way off the track and tried to catch my breath. It literally felt like I was dying. After a moment, Elle came up, put her arm around me, and said, “Good job!”

All I could think was, “How is she still talking right now?”

The LCMSAA Championship 800m Race, as told by Elle Thomas

During the track season, I noticed the difference between my mental state before, during, and after the race. No matter how much you plan or prepare before a race, you really have to be able to adapt to the situation since every race can give you a different challenge.

—Before Districts

 After church, and before a very nice Cinco de Mayo dinner, me and my dad had the “what’s your plan talk”. While sitting in our camping chairs in the backyard, my dad asked me the routine question before any race, “Hey, Elle. What is your plan for districts?” I answered with my classic response, “I wanna go fast!” This led to a more “in depth” conversation about the purpose of my training this far was for opportunities like this. This made me nervous; however, I trusted my training and coaches which have taught me to do my best. I knew as long as I left everything on the track I would be happy with my performance.


 While sitting on the bus, I did prepare for what was coming. I felt really good about the 1600 and my nerves were calm. When I thought of the 800, I really got nervous. Based on the previous race, I knew Hanna Bailey was going to push me and I would be in pain. 

 After fighting the wind and winning the 1600, I really started to focus on the 800. I got really nervous, but what calmed me was the thought of, “Hey, everyone is supposed to be nervous. You’ve trained hard for this so, it is going to be great.” While jogging to the check-in table, I felt really confident and was excited to run. I was prepared for the 800.

 During the race, I felt like my mind went blank. Everything was pretty routine until the last 100 where Hanna Bailey snuck up on me. When she passed me, I kind of panicked. With about 50 to go, I got my thoughts together and thought, “Hey! This is districts! I’m going to give it all I got.” I fought to catch up to her and match her speed. I put in all the effort I could give and lost by just .01 seconds. 

—After Districts

 After the race, I was so proud of my performance. I was able to be pushed further than I ever had before in a race. The result was a second place; however, I knew I did my best. I was able to PR. During this track season I’ve learned a lot about me and what the body can do. I realized that our body can go further and harder than our mind tells us they can. You have to be positive and believe in yourself. This particular race at Districts definitely has given me the experience to recognize what I can do. I’m just excited to compete more with Whisper and be pushed by the team and other competitions in the coming weeks.


Time for New Kicks?

One day you’re pounding the pavement, putting in the miles, and the next, you’re feeling more than usual pain in the areas that absorb the typical impacts caused by running.  Running related injuries typically start from the ground and work their way up through the body.  Ankles, shins, knees, hips, and the lower back are all common and problematic areas that absorb the impact from our attempt to plodding along.  No matter the age, gender, or running style, nobody is immune to these running-related injuries, making it even more important to listen to pay attention to your shoes, especially as they, your shoes, age.

Running shoes, also known as trainers, are governed for approximately 300 miles of use per pair.  This estimate is based on a 150-pound body, so the aging of your shoes might change if you are lighter, in which your shoes will last longer, or heavier, in which they won’t last quite as long.  A quick inspection of your shoe might be telling – is the tread over-worn and/or has the shoe lost its cushion? 

Typically, the bottom of the shoe is most worn on the heal and lateral (outside) side of the shoe.  Comparing with the medial (inside) side of the shoe might raise further awareness and insight as to how your foot strikes the ground, and how much mileage you might have left on your pair of shoes, if any at all.  A general rule of thumb is if the tread is level with the sole of the shoe at any part of its surface, it’s time for a new set of kicks.

Another way that a shoe may lose its integrity is if the cushion becomes rigid through 24/7 use.  If your shoes are only used for running, then the cushion may outlast the tread.  However, if the shoes are worn more frequently (i.e., to school, practice, leisure play, around the house, etc.), then the cushioning of the shoe could become more rigid than your feet prefer, leading to potential issues, or injuries that trickle through the feet/foot and up through the body.

Personally, when my shoes lose their tread, they go into retirement.  Because they’ll have plenty of cushion left, I’ll then use the worn shoes for school and leisure activities.  My rule of thumb: my running shoes are for running and my retired shoes are for everything else.  It might drive you bananas seeing multiple sets of shoes scattered throughout the house, but chalk it up to one of two things: 1) feel blessed to have active, healthy children, and 2) you, or the person(s) with the dispersed shoes has a greater chance of a healthier body.  


Hug Mother Earth

With my first bite of quinoa, Laura says, “Your cells are thanking you one bite at a time.”  She is the same person who introduced me to Marion Nestle’s book, What to Eat, who says two consistent phrases near the end of almost every chapter, 1) we vote with our fork, and 2) if we don’t like our food system, take action by purchasing only ethically and sustainably raised foods.  The statement about voting with our fork resonates across many areas of life.  From choosing to purchase combustion engine vehicles versus battery operated, or a veggie patty versus a hamburger patty, we all make decisions that have a butterfly effect of sorts on the environment.  It’s our vote.

Having a tree-hugging bone in my body, I decided to Google some ways we can reduce our carbon footprint and share these tips in the present newsletter.  Certainly many parents at Whisper make an effort to carpool and send their children to practice with a reusable water bottle, which is very much appreciated.  Here are some additional goals we can set to reduce our impact on the environment:

  • Choose sunscreens that are ocean and eco-friendly.

  • Use reusable bags (avoid plastic)

  • Be mindful of over consumption or unnecessary consumption.

  • Turn off lights.Turn off water when not in use.

  • When traveling less than a few miles, consider biking instead.

  • Use mass transit.

The World Wildlife Foundation takes this topic to another level by highlighting ideas around environmental awareness, social norms, living sustainably, and more.  Also, Racing Extinction, is a modern documentary film around the extinction of animals and also our carbon footprint.  Whether it something as simple as turning off a light or eating a conventional meal, we are casting our planetary vote, and she is listening.


More than Nutrients

Topics such as Nutrient Density, Iron Rich Foods, and Organic Eating are always popular with runners, but perhaps the topic of Food Proximity should play an equal role when making our food choices considering the carbon footprint foods have on the environment and climate change. 

Instructor Garret Hoyt of Clark College says it best: "The growth of food plays a direct role on the health of the planet. To put it simply, the food industry emits ridiculous quantities of CO2 and other emissions because of its complexity.  It used to be that you went to the farm and picked up your food and that was it.  Now if you look at the farm, they're driving big tractors over the fields several times to seed, fertilize, spray for bugs and weeds, and then again to harvest.  Now look at where the seeds came from, they were likely purchased and imported.  Farmers aren't saving seeds like they used to.  The fertilizer used to be manure, but now they use different nitrogen sources which are a massive source of nitrous oxide emissions which is a potent greenhouse gas.  Add in the fact that the fertilizer was produced in a factory somewhere and had to be transported to the farm for application, that all contributes to the emissions of our food.  Pesticides and herbicides are also produced, transported and applied using fossil fuels that are part of the emissions produced by food.  Foods are then harvested and transported.  Rarely are they transported directly to a consumer, first they have to be processed, packaged, transported to a distribution center before shipped to a local grocery store where you drive your SUV to pick up dinner that traveled about 1500 miles on average to get from the farm to your plate.  And then there is the other side of things: while not technically 'emissions', our CO2 emissions wouldn't be as impactful if we had more trees to absorb the CO2...  But agriculture is the leading cause for deforestation.  Primarily we are cutting down trees to grow the crops that feed our beef addiction.  Here is another source that could be insightful."

 In addition to seeking the nutrient contents within a food produce when shopping, consider an effort to seek locally grown foods as well.  Happy shopping!



Video Analysis from Winter Training 2019

This video provides an assessment of form for most of the runners in Whisper’s Winter Training program. The video looks at runners, both from the side to assess lower body movement and the front to assess upper body movement. The videos were shot while doing up-tempo work, either intervals or strides, with the emphasis on foot strike during higher velocity work, which simulates racing paces and the bodily patterns during those intense times. We will watch this video at practice, then go to the track to apply what we have learned. We will aim to apply what we have gathered from the video analysis at each of the practices since watching ones self on the big screen can provide a profound learning opportunity.

"i need a friend."

Whisper staples, Kiley & Candi.

Running is a unique sport in that it requires a lot of self-inflicted misery, with the long-term desire of becoming faster.  Some people require a bit more patience in this pursuit than others, but in due time, improvement does happens.  If you delve deeper into why one would want to join a running program, or any program for that matter, there is reason to believe that most of the desire is rooted in the need for companionship and acceptance, more than the improvement of running itself.

An article from the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships on the brains capacity for friendship estimates that the neocortex part of the brain has the volume and capacity for up to 150 friends, 50 good friends, and 1-5 really, really good friends.  An article from Psychology Today estimates that it takes approximately 50 hours for friendship bonds to be created, and up to 200 hours for a friendship to enter into the “best friend” classification.

From left: Grayson, Michael, Lauren, Maddy, Charlie, Maddy and Abi. 2018 Ultimook Middle School Champions.

The best phone calls and text messages received are ones in which a parent relays updates, conveying the emotional progress their child is making through their hard work at Whisper.  Are they happy?  Are they enjoying the training?  Are they growing?  These are the questions that are most paramount, well ahead of “Are they becoming faster?” 

Winter training has approximately 30 and 45 hours of training for high school and middle school runners, respectively.  Since most of this time is spent in the trenches, this means any remaining time is spent socializing during the team warm-up, team drills, cool-down, or during cross-training.  The effort for cultivating a fun, challenging, safe, and stimulating environment for youth runners to train are essential ingredients for relationships to be formed organically. 

Purposefully teaming children into pairs or groups is solely to promote socializing while training, with the underlying reason of making a friend.  If your child needs a friend, it is our goal to help them grow a friend, organically.  Please feel free to let Coach Dave know how things are progressing with your child’s emotional growth in the area of friendship, specifically their happiness and their desire for companionship.


“If you think time goes by fast, try running a marathon.”

Undoubtedly, the best sign I have ever read while racing a marathon.

At 4am I awoke from a deep slumber to an ever growing list of realistically unrealistic expectations, yet there I found myself without the necessary time in the day to complete all of the days tasks, so I did what most people do and I picked up my phone and checked my Instagram.  While scrolling through the endless Seinfeld memes and Farside comics my mind drifted back to the list of tasks.  So much to do, yet so little time. 

Just yesterday, or so it seems, we were running into the middle of the street in Reno, Nevada to take this photo.

Just yesterday, or so it seems, we were running into the middle of the street in Reno, Nevada to take this photo.

Following my IG fix, I began sifting through a dose of light research on the perspective of time.  The “speed of time” theories abound, from the Holiday Paradox and Forward Telescoping, to the Proportional Theory and, interestingly, the Body Temperature Theory.  Theories aside, the stress remained: How am I going to get my first core group of freshman (Whisper runners) to college?  Hardly fair to bear the responsibility alone, yet there I lie, now in a sweat, knowing these kids must do what I needed to do right then and there – get shit done!

Just 30 months ago, sweet Kiley was in the 7th grade and together we prepared her for running at the high school level.  Now to the present date and sticking to the Proportional Theory of time, she is three years away from high school graduation, which means the ratio of time we have before college is brief, and together, we must get shit done if she has a shot to compete at the next level.

Kiley is not alone in this approach.  My role, as I have welcomed, is to prepare middle school runners for high school running, and high school runners for college running.  Realistically, I do not expect all of my Whispers runners to run at the next level, whatever level that may be, but if they desire to do so, then I desire to help them achieve that goal. 

To say “Winter Training is going to be loaded with a foundational curriculum and miles of trials and intervals” would be a major understatement.  Whisper is a team.  An organic, fun, genuine, hardworking team.  Though the time will go fast, our moments together will be impactful and savored.

Final note: the person holding that sign was a teenager.


Junior Olympics - Reno!

The day was cold (low-30's), wet, muddy, hilly, and slick, making for perfect, albeit slow, conditions for an old school feel of a cross country race.  Most participants were 1-2 minutes off their personal best times, so this race was a testament to their fortitude and composure, in which we very fared well. Click here to check out the results from Nationals!

The latest video takes you through the 2018 year, starting on December 8 at the USATF XC Junior Olympic National race. Please enjoy!