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An All New Adventure: Volunteering at Racing the Planet’s 250k Gobi March

Mars-Scape-a-competitor-racing-in-the-Gobi-Desert-1-583x388

Boxing, running hundos, back-to-back marathons

And now for something completely different, yet equally exhilarating:

I’m going to western China to serve as race volunteer for Racing the Planet’s 250k Gobi March stage race across the desert.

While my exact duties won’t be totally clear until I arrive in the middle of nowhere, approximately 10 days from now, I do know that I will be participating in one of the world’s premier ultrarunning events and that I’m in for one hell of an adventure. Luckily, I won’t be alone.

Gobi_OmnogoviLandscapeMy fiancée, Edna — (aka “La Diosa de la Ultramaratón”) (English version) — is competing in the event; and after hearing her vivid description of her successful Atacama Crossing in 2013, lending my services to a race that features human heroics from around the globe was an easy sell. This time I get a front row seat!

Over much of the last year I have been busy helping Edna train, and while we were both disappointed that the Sahara Crossing was cancelled due to civil unrest, the 2015 Gobi March offers an opportunity for us to experience this event together, even if on different sides. As most readers of mine know, I enjoy volunteering and giving back to the running community as pacer/crew/cheerleader just as much as I do competing. The stories I bring back are always as motivating as they are thrilling.

I can’t wait to share more with you!

 

When I get back, there will be a 24-Hour race to run… the Ringside World Championships to fight… and a 100 mile run… or two?

But first… 我们 到中国 去 啊!

***
Are YOU ready to train like a champion? Do you want lose weight? Get stronger? Do you want to build that dream body, improve your race times or qualify for Boston? Go to Iron Lung Fitness and start training with me today!

 

 

 

 

“The Champ Is Here!”

Jeff Lung 2015 Golden Gloves Final

(Image courtesy of Tomba Images)

I did it! I really, truly DID IT!

Six months after crossing the finish line of my first 100 mile-race, I held up my first Chicago Golden Gloves Championship trophy!

(with cornerman Melvin Miller, Jr.)

(with corner-man Melvin Miller, Jr.)

I’m not sure how many endurance athletes make the successful transition from all-day runners to amateur boxing champs, but I’m glad to say I can (and did!) do it.

15- Lung vs Yano-01

(Image courtesy of Tomba Images)

(image courtesy of Tomba Images)

(Image courtesy of Tomba Images)

(Image courtesy of Tomba Images)

(Image courtesy of Tomba Images)

Of course, I got some much needed encouragement from this raucous crowd of Iron Lung Fitness enthusiasts!

IMG_3160With a conscious effort to avoid hyperbole, I cannot help but admit: that was one of the greatest nights of my life. I was lucky to share it with so many awesome people. Special thanks to my family, to my fiancée, to my corner-man and to my hardworking Iron Lung Fitness athletes, all of whom motivate and inspire me to be the best ME I can be.

Every. Single. Day.

I wish I could give a detailed report of the championship bout, but to be honest, I only remember a few key moments: the standing eight counts and the first round knockdown. All the rest is a blur — an all-out, instinctual, anaerobic apex of a blur.

Luckily, we have the video:

 

And from a different angle, in the crowd:

 




At the end of the fight I took a deep look inward and asked myself: what’s harder, running a hundred miles or fighting for six minutes?

I still don’t know. A hundred miles hurts like hell, for a loooooong time. A boxing match only hurts for a little bit (one hopes), if at all, but then again, you have to deal with the fact that someone is trying to hit you in the face as hard as he can.

So while I may not know which one is the tougher test, the good news is I have plenty of time to keep up the experiment.

And you know I will.

More details to come…

2015-04-10 23.04.51

***
Are YOU ready to train like a champion? Do you want lose weight? Get stronger? Do you want to build that dream body, improve your race times or qualify for Boston? Go to Iron Lung Fitness and start training with me today!

Road Work: Long Distance Running as Ultimate Primer for Boxing

jeffery the iron lung boxingThose who choose to participate are subject to pain — acute and otherwise — a pain that must be faced, must be endured. They must stand up against bouts of adversity, must learn to think on the fly.

They must always stay in the moment.

They must face their greatest fears.

With all of the above, I could be talking about the long distance runner.

Or I could be talking about the boxer.

I’m talking about both.

For the last four years, boxing has been an integral tool in my long distance training kit. An all-body workout that requires combined leg and core strength paired with hand-eye coordination and mental toughness, the aerobic and anaerobic training potential boxing provides is as varied as its practitioner is creative.

And you don’t even have to take punches.

jeff lung boxing training 3In fact, most people who train in the sweet science don’t take punches. They train to be in shape, to burn calories, to de-stress. I love running long, no doubt, but I admit, there is no stress reliever quite like punching something. Walk into any boxing gym and you will find people of all sizes — all backgrounds and states of fitness — doing just that: enjoying their stress relieving workout.

For the long distance runner, boxing is a low impact cross trainer that takes advantage of strong, seasoned legs. With proper technique, it also builds upper body strength with a conscious core and allows for increased blood flow during those “off” days where one would need to rest from pounding pavement.

For many boxers, the hardest part of training is conditioning. Sustaining an elevated heart rate with sudden bursts of explosive movement can prove difficult, even for seasoned vets. Long distance runners tend to have a lock on this aspect of training, and therefore set themselves up for success.

At some point the long distance runner who boxes may decide he or she is ready to spar. It’s not for everyone, I admit. I remember the first time I was hit in the face. I didn’t like it very much. But I didn’t like the fire in my legs at mile 21 of my first marathon either, yet I keep coming back.

And so here I am, 36 years old, a seasoned distance runner with two Boston finishes, a 100-mile buckle and a 3:03 marathon PR, signed up and ready to fight in the Chicago Golden Gloves boxing tournament. It begins March 4.

I knew sometime last year, during my training for Pinhoti, that the next big challenge would be to test my might against other boxers. I had been enjoying my sparring sessions over the last couple years, seeing them both as mental chess matches and larger tests of anaerobic endurance. But around mile 80 of my 100-mile trek through the Talladega Forest — my master class on pain management — it became clear to me, that if I could withstand 100 miles of affliction, something that would take me 28+ hours to complete, then I could certainly handle 6 minutes in the squared circle.

So I will.

Indeed, I, Jeff “The Iron” Lung, will get in the ring and let my hands go.

Jeff Lung heavy bag

Training

My training for this event began in earnest on January 1st. I have to make weight (fighting at a maximum of 139 lbs), so I decided to cut out all alcohol and as much sugar as possible from my diet. I keep a close track of my food intake. I make an effort to eat as healthy as possible, staying within 1-2 pounds of fighting weight while all the time living my mantra: the better you eat, the better you feel, the better you train.

Running (what boxers call “road work”) is the crux of my conditioning. I run about 30-35 miles a week. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays I generally run 3-5 miles as a warm up to my concentrated boxing training. I hold 2 lbs weights in my hands as long as I can during these runs, usually for 20-30 minutes.

On Tuesday and Thursday mornings I run 6-7 miles, whatever I can accomplish in an hour, but I mix in three or four intervals of 5-8 minutes of speedwork. On Saturdays I run longer, about an hour and 15 minutes or 8 miles, whatever comes first. I avoid the traditional long runs of distance training. I need to maintain my endurance, but I can’t afford to waste energy on additional miles when I will need that energy in the ring. Just as it can be for the long distance runner, overtraining is a real threat to peak performance.

Jeff and Edna post trainingIn addition to the running, I do boxing-focused strength training on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays as well as technical boxing drills. I choose to work on different aspects of my game on different days. Like in any athletic discipline, variety in training is key.

On Tuesday and Thursday nights I spar.

On Sundays I rest. Completely.

I practice yoga. I get regular massage. I sleep a lot. I even take naps if I feel like it.

And I watch lots and lots and lots of fights, in person, on TV, on YouTube — wherever I can.

But like in my long distance training, perhaps the most integral portion of preparation occurs in my mind, usually just before I fall asleep. I envision myriad “if/than” scenarios in my head, calculating countermeasures for catastrophes and methodologies for exploiting weaknesses. Most of all, I try to embrace the nerves that I know are bound to come.

Even in the comfort of my own bed, I can close my eyes, hear the crowd, and feel the nausea that threatens to throw my concentration. It’s the same sick feeling I had before my first marathon, before my first ultra. It’s that same uneasiness I felt toeing the line for each PR attempt at 13.1 and 26.2 miles.

Pre-race jitters. Stage freight. Terrified of getting hit the face.

It all goes away once I’m in the moment.

And after all, that continues to be the thing that keeps bringing me back: living in the moment.

Whether it’s running for hours, working through a yoga practice or squaring off with someone trying to punch me in the face, the thing that keeps me coming back is the very real experience of the now. Nothing makes me feel more alive than being present.

And you can bet I will be present on March 4.

Hands up. Chin down. Mind focused.

***
Do you want lose weight and get stronger? Do you want to build that dream body, improve your race times or qualify for Boston? Go to Iron Lung Fitness and start training with me today!

 

 

 

 

“The Goddess of the Ultramarathon” by Alejandro Yanún

This article, by Alejandro Yanún, was originally published on February 9, 2015 in the Spanish language publication “Vívelo Hoy”.

Since it features my lovely fiancé, I wanted to make it accessible to the English reading ultrarunning community. Way to go, mi amor lindo! I am so proud of you!

Translation by Jeffery Lung

Edna Jackeline Vazquez 3

Edna Jackeline Vazquez‘s energy is so big and contagious that nobody was surprised when she announced her next challenge: in March she will attempt to run the ultramarathon of the Sahara Desert, a grueling seven-day competition across 250 kilometers.

Here it should be clarified. Those who think a marathon requires supreme effort may not know the special requirements of the ultramarathon. While the marathon is a race of “only” 26.2 miles (42 kilometers), an ultramarathon may be a competition of several days, usually falling within 50 to 250 kilometers. In other words, there can be multiple marathons in one single competition.

Vazquez, a Mexican ultramarathoner based in Romeoville, IL, is part of the highest global level of ultramarathons and competes in a circuit of races organized by Racing the Planet, where participants include, among others, some of the sports biggest icons like Dean Karnazes.

“I’ve been running for 17 years and half of my life has been lived as a runner,” says Vazquez, a 33 year-old from Monterrey, NL, Mexico, who besides being an athlete, also holds a degree in Human Resources with a post-grad MBA, and presently works in an American company that produces candies.

Edna Jackeline Vazquez 2Vazquez already conquered the Atacama Desert in Chile, the most arid place on the planet where total annual rainfall comes in at 15 millimeters, and over the next two years she intends to complete the feat of running all four of the world’s major deserts: in March she will run the Sahara, in June the Gobi Desert in China and in 2016, she expects to compete in Antarctica no less.

Throughout her career, Edna has overcome all sorts of obstacles. At Atacama, where she finished third in her category (women over 30 years of age), she ran 250 kilometers in seven days, living through extreme situations, like overcoming the elements while also suffering through that time of the month women must endure, five days into the competition, just as her energy began to disappear.

“I had to sit down, I could not get up. The pain and fatigue were so great… with blisters and all I could do was ask God, ‘give me strength’,” recalls Edna. “You take strength from anywhere, you realize the focus is mental. It’s more than physical. It’s mental.”

The Sahara competition will take place this year in Petra, a historical and archaeological city in Jordan, near Israel. The conditions will be extreme and Edna knows it: “They put in you in the desert and there begins the journey. You can’t forget anything. You don’t bathe for seven days, you bring all of your own food and supplies, weighing about 30 kilos,” says Edna. “There are cold nights and hot days. I’m afraid, but that doesn’t stop me.”

The training for competition is exhausting. There are days when the Monterrey native runs a marathon, or a half marathon. Her training sessions regularly take her to the Palos Hills trails near Bull Frog Lake, and she trains with Iron Lung Fitness in the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago.

Others days she trains on the Indiana dunes to acclimate herself to the sands of the Sahara. All of this comes alongside a system of methodical and precise nutrition habits, with swimming and yoga sessions included to keep the body together during the rigors of high competition.

Edna, who has a job just like anyone else, pays for her exotic, international athletic adventures all by herself, but says the economic factor is not a barrier.

“I work a lot. I save a lot. For me, money is not a limitation. When you have a clear dream in life, you go for it,” says Vazquez, who was once married but says now she is in love, more every day, with the ultramarathon. “I’m from an average, working class family. All my studies (University of Monterrey, Mexico; University of Sevilla, Spain) were done on scholarships.”

Edna says she runs for two nations. “I am very proud to represent the Hispanic community, I run for both Mexico and the United States,” says the Mexican athlete, who believes it’s time to take down the stereotypes and stop with the ‘Latinos only come here to take jobs in America’. On the contrary, for Edna, “We are here to transcend.”

To end, she has a message: “The important thing is to be yourself. It’s important to show society that there are people who follow their dreams and aspirations,” says the ultramarathoner from Monterrey. “I know that someday someone will say, ‘If Edna can, so can I.”

Edna Jackeline Vazquez 1

Who Is Edna Jackeline Vazquez?

Born: Monterrey, Nuevo León, México

Resides: Romeoville, Illinois

Age: 33 years old

Notable Achievements: Atacama (Chile) 250 km, Torhout (Belgium) 100 km, Taipei (Taiwan) 100 Km, Pedestres Villa Madrid (Spain) 100 km, Mérida (Spain) 100 km, Madrid-Segovia (Spain) 101 km, among many other ultradistance finishes in Mexico and the United States

Upcoming Competitions: The Sahara Desert (Jordan) and the Gobi Desert (China) in 2015; Antarctica in 2016. (All three 250 km in length)

Rolling with the Punches and Conquering Dreams in 2015

Edna and I at the gym, "training selfie".

Edna and I at the gym, “training selfie”.

For someone who likes to plan things well in advance, 2015 is teaching me to live a bit more wildly. Generally, I like to begin the new year with a detailed race plan reflecting big picture goals and the individual steps I will take to achieve them.

Of course, real life ain’t always so uniform.

Edna, my partner, has taught me that. Running has taught me that. You can plan and plan and plan, but when you hit the 85-mile mark of a 100 mile race, you’re likely going to feel like shit. And when you do ache, when you are sleep deprived, when things really do just fall apart, you can either get upset and gripe about it, or soldier on with a smile, doing the best you can.

edna jackeline vazquez atacama crossing

Edna, soldiering on with a smile, doing the best she can during the 250k Atacama Desert crossing, 2013.

So this year, while there are some solid plans in place, the two of us are both ready to adapt as necessary.

First up, Edna is preparing to complete her second of four desert crossings from the Racing the Planet 4 Desert series when she heads to Jordan, making the 250k trek across the Sahara Desert in March. In 2013, she successfully completed the Atacama crossing in Chile. Once she completes the Sahara, she’ll have the Gobi Desert (June) and Antarctica (2016) to complete the series, a feat she dreams to conquer.

She will. She trains hard. She works hard. Her resolve is as tested as it is indomitable.

While Edna runs across the Sahara, I will be bobbing and weaving, heaving 1-2s, as I compete in the 2015 Chicago Golden Gloves boxing tournament. While en route to completing my first hundred mile race, I knew that my next big test of my body and mind would be to compete at a higher level of boxing. This year’s tournament, March 4 through April 11, allows me to train hard during the winter months, doing something I love, indoors.

Thus far, the change has been very good for my body. I feel fresh. Fast. Powerful. I’m running still, but not much over 30 miles a week, and the intensity varies. In the coming days, I will go into more detail about how I train as a pugilist. As you might guess, having a big endurance engine and the ability to run, to deal with adversity, to suck up the pain, is extremely valuable.

I plan to capitalize on it.

Jeff Lung heavy bag

Then, once the fight game is over, I plan to go back to ultra training. The only race I’m signed up for right now is a return trip to the Christmas in July 24 Hour Race. Having come just 10k shy of the century mark in 2014, this year my goal is to run a 100 miles… PLUS! With the eye of the tiger, I will get it done.

Besides that, in order to keep my Western States lottery hopes alive, I need to complete another qualifying 100 mile race before the end of November. That’s something I will get done as well, even if I don’t have a plan at this moment.

Of course, the real fun in this year will be seeing where it takes me — where it takes us. We’re in it to win it now, striving to be the best we can be, for ourselves and for each other. Living in the moment and trusting in our training, we will no doubt find joy along the way.

***
Do you want lose weight and get stronger? Do you want to build that dream body, improve your race times or qualify for Boston? Go to Iron Lung Fitness and start training with me today!

2014: Slowin’ My Roll, Runnin’ In Circles, Commitment

Jeff Lung 2014 Frozen Gnome 50k Butt Slide Hill

(Butt Slide Hill, Frozen Gnome 50k, 2014. Image by Scott Laudick, Runnerpics)

We did it! We made it through another year!

I started it out by sacrificing my footing in a frozen tundra.

A couple weeks later, I “ran” 21k through knee-deep snow, in the time it generally takes me to run twice that amount.

In the spring, I re-lived a dream to run the Boston Marathon, this time with no tragedies, floating atop the endless love and compassion from the good people of New England.

Not long after, I got cocky, raced a teenager and had to pull myself out of the game, flexing those mental muscles.

I recovered in time to run mad, around a .97 mile loop in a municipal park, setting a new personal distance record and fighting to stay on my feet for 24 hours straight.

In September, I experienced three distinct seasons over 50 glorious kilometers in the heart of my home state.

In October, I ran two marathons in consecutive days, and was back to work on Monday, walking around like nothing had happened.

And in November, I popped my century mark cherry by crossing the finish line of the Pinhoti 100, proving that through a sound, prepared and focused mind we can do anything we wish to do.

Throughout the year, I volunteered again at the Earth Day 50k/10k and the Des Plaines River Trail Races. I paced my good friend Siamak to a fierce finish at the Mohican 100 and Edna in her 100 miles at Potawatomi and 100k at Hallucination.

I also had the good fortune of getting another race report published in Ultrarunning Magazine (October issue).

I lived every moment, one footfall at a time, over mountainous trail and monotonous blacktop.

I ran. I laughed. I cried (more than you’d think).

I slowed down. I took it all in. I wrapped myself up in the trail, in the challenge of going far on foot, with pushing myself past any and all boundaries.

But perhaps most exciting of all: I got engaged! The thrill of sharing my life with the woman I love — a woman who shares my passion for adventure, for exploration, for making dreams come true — is more exciting than any race I’ve ever run. It’s a good thing we both love distance running, because life, my friends, is THE ultimate ultra run.

Happy New Year!

Jeff and Edna Powerade Maraton Monterrey 2014

(Un beso en la meta, Powerade Maraton Monterrey 2014)

 

 

RaceRaves: A One-Stop Spot for All Your Race Reviews

boston marathon 2014 finish photo on Boylston jeffery lung

Okay, run junkees, your days of time-suck-surfing the internets, piecemealing information from one site to another in order to form that perfect race calendar are over. No more do you have to check out Marathon Guide, scour the pages of UltraRunning Magazine and then Google “Frozen Gnome”, only hoping to find something relevant to a midwestern trail race rather than curiously incapacitated garden decor.

Reviews of all those races — 5ks, 10ks, 21ks, marathons, ultras, road, track and trail — can be found in one, central location: RaceRaves!

raceraves-screenshot-main-page

From site co-founder, Mike Sohaskey:

Our vision for RaceRaves is a dynamic, race-centric community where runners can share honest opinions on their race-day experiences, for the benefit of other runners and race directors. A place where all runners – road warriors, trail enthusiasts, triathletes, maximalism aficionados, barefoot loyalists and competitors of all sorts – can come together to discover their next race adventure, immortalize their race experiences (including those “excretory tract gone wild” horror stories that friends and family don’t seem to appreciate), and connect with other like-minded athletes and weekend warriors.

While I haven’t had to write about or seek out any “tract gone wild” stories yet, I appreciate the fact that if I need to know about one, I will find it here. In fact, the site has been live for a couple of weeks now, and as the community of runners taking part grows, I can see how valuable an asset this is for the running world. The plethora of information that exists on races across the globe is neatly organized here, in one easy-to-navigate, easy-to-use location.

From runners to race directors to bloggers and everyone in between, signing up and being a part of the review community is free, easy and fun! Share your blog posts, write that review that will steer someone to your favorite race, and voice your opinion on race-day protocols that need to be celebrated or addressed.

For more information on RaceRaves, poke around the site. You can also read Mike Sohaskey’s detailed post. In the meantime, find, research and share thousands of races of running events around the world!

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