Simply engaging in the act of running is commendable. We have nothing but respect for anyone who chooses to run on a regular basis. But, there are a handful of runners out there who command more than our respect. They command our reverence.
This special breed of runner logs nearly 100 (or more) miles a week. They jockey for position near the front of the pack at every race. They qualify for the Olympic Trials. These runners flirt with greatness every time they toe the line.
They are often referred to as 'elite'. Most of them are a perfect storm of passion, innate talent, and dogged determination. We had the great fortune to catch up with YiOu Wang recently who personifies this perfect storm.
YiOu is a double threat elite having achieved success on the road and on the trail. YiOu punched her ticket to the women's Olympic Marathon Trials in 2012 with a qualifying time of 2:38:46 (6:03/mile). As if this wasn't enough of an accomplishment, YiOu's made her mark on the trail as well.
Read on for a little insight into YiOu's journey towards becoming an elite runner and some of what she does to keep herself jockeying for position at the front of the pack.
-Have you always been a runner? How did you get into the sport?
I was a terribly unmotivated runner as a kid and hated it. I think PE was the only class I ever got a B in. I swam and played tennis throughout middle and high school. My freshman year at MIT I experienced the atmosphere of the Boston Marathon and I got hooked. I loved it!
I decided to try and qualify to run the Boston Marathon. When I started running I couldn't make it the whole way across Harvard Bridge without stopping, but I worked my way up to taking on marathon training and qualifying for Boston.
-What does a 'typical' week of training look like for you?
A typical week of training consists of 3 key sessions: speedwork, tempo effort, and long run. All other days are easy running with different specifications on terrain according to what kind of race I am training for. I generally run between 80 and 90 miles per week.
The speedwork sessions I do on Tuesday nights in Mill Valley with the San Francisco Running Company training group. We do the workouts on the track, bike path or trail hills. The workouts consist of shorter intervals like 800s or mile repeats, or 60 second uphill intervals. I like to go to the Saturday morning group runs at San Francisco Running Company as much as possible.
I can always get a good effort in with a lot of climbing. Sometimes, I will do tempo intervals on Saturdays. On Sundays, I do a long run on trails.
-You've had success on the road AND trail, which do you prefer?
Currently I prefer running trails to road. I enjoy being out in nature, exploring the landscape and avoiding traffic. I find it more relaxing, mind clearing and euphoric to run on trails. I set a lot of goals for myself in the marathon and once I completed my goal of running an Olympic Trials qualifying time I started looking for new challenges.
The trail world offers so many options and different kinds of races, everything from fast and short to long treks in the mountains. I also live close to the Mt. Tam trail system and I love taking advantage of the hundreds of miles of trails I can access from my house.
I probably should do a lot more of the "little" things! I make it a priority to work on my core at least 2 times a week. I've also incorporated more routines before and after running, especially workouts, including drills, leg swings and gentle stretches. I also have lots of lacrosse balls at home and at work that I use to massage my glutes and hamstrings whenever I am sitting down for a period of time.
Sleep and diet are other important recovery tools. I am very strict about going to bed on time especially during the workweek and when I am leading up to a race even my weekend nights end early. I stick to a mostly whole foods diet and try to eat as well and as much as possible.
-Do you have any special tips/tricks you'd like to share with us?
A self motivation trick I employ is to talk to myself in the third person. Instead of saying to myself "I can do this," I say "You can do this" or even better "YiOu can do this!" I read about this technique last year and started utilizing it in my races.