Recovery

Meet our Running Guru, Elinor Fish

For those runners lucky enough to be coming to our running and yoga retreat in June, you'll get to be mentored by Elinor Fish for the entire weekend.  Here's a bit more information on this beautiful soul and fantastic runner.

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Where did you grow up?
I grew up in the little ski town of Rossland, British Columbia, though I spent a lot of my childhood in Nelson, sailing on Kootenay Lake and riding horses.  After many years of running, traveling and studying on three continents, I now live in Carbondale, Colorado, which is about 30 miles north of Aspen.

Why did you move to Colorado from Canada?
I moved here from Canmore, Alberta, in 2006 to join the editorial team at Trail Runner magazine. I met my husband soon after and we decided to raise our family here because it’s a fantastic outdoorsy mountain town ideal for raising active kids.

You’ve competed in events ranging from  track and cross country in University to 100-mile ultramarathons. What keeps you going?  
Over the course of my 25-year competitive career, my source of motivation has shifted dramatically. In the beginning, I thrived on the competitive aspect of the sport, and spent many years pushing myself to see how fast and how far I could go.

But more recently, running has become much more about managing stress and supporting my overall health. I have a chronic auto-immune disease that reacts to stress. I’m good at working myself to the bone and pushing myself to always do more (at work and in sports), but if I don’t take care of myself, I suffer immensely.

Not only does my condition flare, but I get exhausted to the point I can’t get out of bed.

Trail running puts me in beautiful mountain places and wipes the mental slate clean so I can do everything I want to do in life, and have the energy to show up for the people who rely on me.

Lots of people say that running is not a lifetime sport.  What do you say to that?  
I specifically wrote The Healthy Runner’s Manifesto, an e-book published last year, to dispel that misconception.

Running is one of the healthiest habits we can possibly have, and when you run for health above all, then you can do it well into old age. When I see stories about people running marathons in their 80’s, I see them not a physiological marvels, but people who’ve got it right: they not only place a high value on their physical well-being, they find immense joy in the experience of running.

Instead of running to achieve specific performance goals, when you run for the process of it, of being in your body and truly experience running’s meditative qualities, then you’ve just tapped into a bottomless source of motivation that can last a lifetime.

You do a lot of personal coaching; what inspired you to help other runners? 
Trail running helped me through dark periods of mourning, loss, deep sadness and discomfort during many transitions and disappointments in my life.

So I committed myself to understanding specifically how running makes us more resilient to stress. This led me to dive into a four-year research project (that’s still ongoing) to fully understand the science behind how running changes the mind as well as the body.

What I discovered blew my mind, and I want to share those lessons with other runners. My clients are runners who are broken, burned out, disillusioned, or desperate to have running in their life, but face many obstacles.

I help them get a clear picture of their total stress load (from all aspects of life) and how it  affects their health. Then we take specific action to reduce the stress and rebuild health. It’s customized to each person, but usually involves a combination of natural running form, nutritional habits, self-care and recovery, sleep habits and mindfulness.

That foundation of health becomes the basis for their running training, whether they run ultramarathons or run to socialize or whatever their goal.

Retreat participants are looking forward to your running technique sessions. What immediate improvements will they experience?
Yes, tweaking one’s running form can create immediate improvements in running economy (efficiency), endurance, comfort and post-run recovery.

At the retreat, we’ll talk about what is means to let gravity do more of the work. Instead of using muscular force to push them through the gait cycle, I’ll show runners how to align their posture to lessen the work load.

When you don’t have to work as hard, you can be more relaxed while running, which helps you not only decrease your chance of injury, but find more joy in the experience.

What are you most looking forward to running during the retreat? 
I’m really looking forward to Kristen Stuart’s yoga classes. As a mountain athlete herself, Kristen has a deep understanding of how we endurance junkies can benefit from the thoughtful, controlled movements of yoga. I began doing yoga with the intention of working on flexibility and core strength, but I’ve learned that it offers so much more. Yoga is great for teaching runners about how to find ease and relaxation in the face of discomfort or challenge. 

Broken Back? No Problem!

One of the amazing things about the ultra running community is that every runner has their own story of why they run and how they began. Our next scholarship recipient we want to introduce has an incredible story of injury, recovery and success. We look so forward to seeing Chantal Warriner in Golden this September and dare you to read her story and not be inspired.

How did your running journey begin? How did you get into ultra running?

My father says I started running as a small child.  We lived in a small town in Northern Ontario, and one day, when I couldn’t be found around the house, he drove down the streets to look for me.  When he pulled up beside me, asking me what I was doing, I answered “running”.    

I can’t remember my life without running.  Even when running wasn’t the focus, such as when I played high school sports, I always ran to keep in shape.  Prior to having children, I competed in triathlon.  After my oldest was born, almost 6 years ago, I started competing in local trail races.  I got hooked and the race distance just kept growing.  I’m now training for the Golden Ultra and my first 100 miler.

10 years ago you were critically injured in a trampoline accident, which do you think is harder - recovering and rehabbing from a serious back injury or training for and running ultra marathons?

I can’t believe the accident was already 10 years ago!  I learnt so much about myself after the accident.  There are so many similarities between the ‘recovery’ and ultra marathons.  The biggest, in my opinion, is focusing on ‘relentless forward progress’.  No matter how slow, or how much pain I’m experiencing, it’s important to just keep pushing through.   

I believed in my ability and my inner strength.  Don’t get me wrong, I had many tears, many pains, and many days were the end goal seemed so far away, but with small, sure steps, I did it. I have that same mentality when I an ultra distance.  I treat every race or training session in the same matter.  I accept the fact that I will be running a long time, and know that at one moment or another, my legs will want me to stop.  But like my injury, I believe in myself and push through, accept the pain as a reality and know I could get through it.  I use a lot of positive self-talk! 

What are the biggest lessons you’ve learned from your injury/recovery experiences and how have those helped you with your running?

The biggest lesson that I’ve learned is that there will be pain.  Life is full of it.  There is good pain and bad pain.  My body knows the difference and I have learnt to listen well.  Oh and I can’t forget to mention my secret to my success: I’m consistent.  I don’t miss workouts!  No matter how busy life gets, I make time to train. I can get pretty creative!  This consistency helped me recover from my injury, and it’s helped me win races.

I also learnt that success is a team effort.  I couldn’t recover without the help, love and support from my family, friends and doctors/therapists. I have the same approach with running.  The never ending support from friends and family inspires me.  They are always behind me, no matter what my next goal is.  My coach, Mike Coughlin @ Discomfort Zone and I have been working together for a long time.  I see physio and chiro regularly.  And I have the greatest pleasure to represent some pretty cool companies: Runningskirts, Ultimate Direction, Brooks, and Icespike.    

Tell us about your local running scene? How will you be preparing for Golden?

I live in Barrie, Ontario.  Barrie itself isn’t a very large city but I’m within driving distance to some very cool running spots.  Simcoe County forest and Copeland Forest hold a dear spot in my heart.  They are the closest to me so I spend many hours training on those trails.  When time allows, I drive to Collingwood, Algonquin Park or Hockley Valley to get hill training.  I love technical, single track with lots of climbing. I’ll be preparing for Golden by running as much as I can on that type of terrain. 

What are you most excited about at Golden? Do you foresee any challenges in this unique race format? 

I’m very excited to give stage racing a try.  Stage racing has been on my bucket list for a while.  I love visiting British Columbia and look forward to the beautiful climbs and sceneries during the race.  I have never been to Kicking Horse before.  I look forward to seeing where my coffee comes from! 

The challenges I foresee is muscle soreness. For example, I can’t imagine waking up Sunday morning feeling fresh.  Hydration, caloric intake, foam rolling, ice baths will all be carefully executed over the weekend. 

Do you have any advice for runners who have big dreams but are facing physical issues or challenges?

My biggest advice would be to surround yourself with a good support system. You don’t need any negativity.  It will just bring you down and hold you back.  Our bodies can do some pretty amazing things.  There are stories and stories of people overcoming challenges.  Don’t give up on yourself! Believe you can do it and you will overcome the challenge.