An interview with the creator of Kathy Runs, and co-creator of Run Talk Radio.
tips4running.com welcomes Kathy Simpson. Kathy Runs is Kathy’s blog about running. She also works with two other runners on the website Run Talk Radio. Both sites are entertaining and very informative. Kathy started running three years ago and has already completed five marathons. Right now she is training for a marathon in the fall of 2010.
David Tiefenthaler – Hello Kathy, Thanks for the interview. When did you first start your site Kathy Runs?
Kathy Simpson – I started it about 3 years ago. It’s actually the first blog that I’ve done, and now I manage three of them. Guess it got me hooked!
DT – When did you first start running seriously? Were you a runner in high school or college?
KS – My first race was a 5k in Alaska when I was in college. I was a skier/swimmer growing up, and I always avoided running. I think I finished the 5k in over 30 minutes? After that I didn’t run a race until after school. I was living in Sewanee, TN, and my friend, Sarah asked if I wanted to run a 1/2 marathon with her that weekend. I had always been active, and thought I was in good shape, so I said, “yes!” I didn’t know anything about running, not even that you’re supposed to eat carbs the night before a big race, but I ran the 1/2 in 2:08 and change. Half way through the race I saw an orange stain on my shoes and thought that someone had gotten highlighter on them… nope, that was blood from a blister that had popped!
DT – You grew up in Alaska, but exactly where in Alaska? Did you ever cross country ski there, and do you miss it there?
KS – I grew up in Palmer, Alaska–it’s about 50 miles north of Anchorage. I did do lots of XC skiing there. My mom and dad loved skiing, and I remember going to Barney’s Ski Shack when I was very young to get my first pair of classic skis. My parents would take us out on the frozen lake (I grew up on a lake), and we would ski in the shadows of the snow mobile tracks. I did a bit of XC skiing on the team in high school, and entered some local races around town and in Anchorage.
DT – Now you are living in San Francisco. Are most of the running routes really hilly in San Francisco?
KS – Surprisingly, as hilly as SF is, I can avoid the hills if need be. I’d say that living here has taught me how to appreciate the hills, though, more than avoid them. I live near Bernail Heights, so I frequent that hill–it’s about a mile an a 1/2 to the top from the base, and decently steep. The hills in the city provide an amazing challenge for my training.
DT – About how much do you run a week right now?
KS – It totally depends, but I’m doing between 40-60 miles per week. My coach updates my training plan weekly, so I never get too much of a glimpse into the future, but I don’t think he’ll go over a 70 mile week for me. He’s very good at keeping things mentally paletteable!
DT – How many marathons have you ran, and are you training for any specific races in the future?
KS – So far I’ve done five marathons. My first was the Nike Women’s, which I’ve run twice. I’ve done the California International Marathon twice, and the New York City marathon. Right now I’m training for the Portland Marathon in October. It’s the only marathon I’m running this year, although I may run the Nike Women’s in November, depending on whether or not I get in.
DT – In addition to KathyRuns, you also are a part of another website called RunTalkRadio. Yourself and two other runners formed this website. What information do you share with your visitors on RunTalkRadio?
KS – RunTalkRadio is so much fun! My co-hosts, Caleb and Daniel, and I have so much fun together sharing information about running, and just trying to keep things silly and interesting. We try to span a variety of topics, from very tactical advice, to things that are more abstract like motivation, running for charity, or being married to a non-runner. I met Caleb and Daniel through Dailymile.com and we got to know each other on Twitter. We started the show before any of us had met in person! I feel so lucky to be able to work with such quality runners, and friends.
DT – One of the contributors to RunTalkRadio is Caleb. Is this the same Caleb Masland that you have for your running coach right now?
KS – Yes, Caleb is my coach. His dream is to become a running coach, and he’s testing out his theories this year on a few different people. So far so good! Caleb got me to an 8 min PR at the Kaiser 1/2 marathon last year in just a month and a half. We’re working through the rest of the year until Portland, and then hopefully after that. He’s extremely knowledgeable, and fun to work with. He coaches me remotely, and I never feel like he’s absent. He IM’s me daily to talk about how I’m feeling about the workout I just did, and what I think about the upcoming workout I’m about to do. So far, I’m completely impressed with Caleb’s coaching abilities.
DT – Can you describe a typical week of training when you are getting ready for a marathon?
KS – Right now I have a long time before my target marathon in October. So I’m segmenting my year with a target 1/2 in June. I’m going for a fast marathon in 2010, so the strategy is to run a couple of 1/2 marathons at a very specific pace throughout the year, and focus on achieving small goals. I just did my first one, the Kaiser, in Feb. The next 1/2 marathon is the See Jane Run in June. After that I’ll probably run some smaller races, but the main objective is to use the training from the first 6 months of the year as a base to go into pace and endurance training for October. So right now, I’m doing one or two key speed-focused workouts a week, and a long run. I usually get a good rest in between speed work and after long runs. The goal with the rest/recovery runs is to avoid injury–I also try to get some protein at least 15 minutes after I’ve finished a hard effort, it’s seemed to really help!
DT – Do you follow a specific marathon training plan, like Marius Bakken’s 100 Day Marathon Plan, or Jeff Galloways Marathon Plan?
KS – Caleb calls his training approach, “Bonkproof.” It’s based on the advice from a couple of elite coaches. The main idea is to test yourself physically and mentally, go to the limit, and then push harder. This means that when you’re racing, you can trust that you’ll be able to kick over the last few miles. It helped at the Kaiser 1/2! It’s mixed with a lot of smart response to the hard effort it takes to complete a bonkproof workout, however. Caleb is big on making sure I have the correct amount of recovery without sacrificing fitness. I do a lot of cross training–everything from yoga, to swimming, to hours on the elliptical, to hiking, biking, etc.
DT – You are a design engineer. Does this professional background help you with building your websites?
KS – It does. These days I’m known as a Technical Strategist. I’d say that it’s nice to know how to build the websites that I maintain, but there’s more to it than that. Understanding the social media space is key. Just being able to build a blog is nice, but if you’re going to be successful at it, you’ve really got to understand how to engage the community, and know the web that’s cast from one person to the next. In the training world of social media, there are certainly heroes, but what I’m noticing these days is that as more and more people become comfortable with twitter, Facebook, and online social training logs, those heros are becoming the every day voice, making people like Lance, and Ryan much more human and accessible. Pretty cool, if you ask me.
DT – On your site, part of the reason you stay motivated to run is because of DailyMile. I have used RunningAHEAD and the log on Runners World. How is Daily Mile different than a typical online running log?
KS – I’ve used a lot of different logs online and off to try and keep up with my training. I was knee deep in the log on runners world, and posting to the forums almost hourly (don’t tell my boss!) when I found dailymile.com. I think the reason why I switched from the RunnersWorld training log to dailymile.com was ultimately the UI (user interface) of dailymile’s training log. It’s simple, and only asks for the bells and whistles if I really want them. I’m concerned with keeping track of my week to week miles and pace, which was a hard thing to do on RunnersWorld because of all the extra inputs. When I made the switch, though, I noticed so much more about dailymile.com that RunnersWorld, or even Nike Training (I use a Nike+ from time to time), was lacking–the social aspect of training. There’s something incredibly motivating about having other people around you (even though they exist digitally) that understand what it’s like to go through training for races, eat for performance, and obsess over certain pieces of running gear. Running is one of those nerdy sports, but on dailymile.com, you can be a cool kid! There’s not much more motivation that I need than that!
DT – Let’s say I am just getting into the sport of running. How would keeping a running log on DailyMile help me out?
KS – Well, there’s the tactical part of dailymile–the personal motivation that you get from logging your runs. It’s easy to do, so you don’t have to stress over keeping a training journalk. And then dailymile.com comes with a network of real runners who have been in your same shoes. There’s even a dailymile team now, made up of a group of knowledgeable dailymile members) that’s dedicated to helping out new runners/cyclists/triathletes. These people win marathons, have competed in multiple iron man triathlons, and are excited about the sport, dailymile, and newbies. If you want access to knowledgeable people, this is a pretty good place to get started. I remember when I first got into running I was posting questions on the RunnersWorld forums, and there’s a general sense of aggression towards newcomers on that site. I was impressed with the friendliness of dailymile (I even started a group for women on dailymile that I “stole” from runnersworld! I think we have over 400 members now).
DT – You said that 2009 was a “stressful and unfocused training year” for you. What happened that slowed you down, and what changes are you going to try in 2010?
KS – Ahhhh, Asking the personal questions! 😉 I had a lot happen in 2009 that just threw off my training. I ended a 7 year relationship, stepped it up at my work and welcomed way too many stressors into my life, moved from one neighborhood to the next in SF trying to find the perfect house (I settled after moving my things 3 times!), and then I was dealing with a couple of leftover injuries from 2008 (ITBS, a torn abdominal muscle that landed me in the ER, and tendinitis in both feet). When 2010 hit, I knew life was going to be different, and it has. Training couldn’t be better, I’ve already begun to see plenty of rewards. Work is still stressful, but I’m in an incredible relationship with a loving man who is also a runner–he’s a tech entrepreneur, so he understands the work stress that comes with being in tech in SF! I’ve been helping Ryan and Sara Hall enhance the Steps Foundation by producing their website and acting as the technical lead while their foundation starts taking its first “steps” (sorry… had to).
DT – Good luck this year. I hope you have a successful running season.
KS – Thanks, David!