Mike Caron is 43, works as a software developer and lives on Cape Cod, MA with his wife Patricia and his three children Matthew (11), Celia (9), and Audrey (7). Mike has been running for two years.
How did you start running?
I was always a fit and active guy until I started my own business and a family at the same time in my early 30's. I got into some bad habits and gained a bunch of weight during my wife's pregnancy. She gave birth & dropped 20 lbs in the operating room while I just continued to gain! I found myself obsessed with being overweight and was feeling awful about myself so I started exercising and eating better. I lost a bunch of weight initially but plateaued and yo-yo'd for a few years. When I started working with a personal trainer and told him I wanted to lose more weight, he told me that running was a great way to do that. I proceeded to tell him all the reasons why I did not consider myself a runner. To that, he said "You are not a runner, because you don't run." Ah-ha! That was my Buddha moment. That simple statement made so much sense to me. I started a training program that same week that included some light running and just progressed from there. It wasn't long before I was obsessed with running and feeling great.
What's your favorite terrain to run on?
I don't even have to think about this one: trails, specifically singletrack trails, are my favorite by far. Trail running is so much easier on my body and my mind. The time flies by when I'm running through the woods. When I'm running singletrack, I feel like I'm flying because the path is so narrow and there are so many obstacles to watch for. I run on the road during the week because of convenience but I so look forward to my trail runs on the weekends.
You have a family and a job. How do you fit running into your life?
When I started running, I would run 2-3 miles every other day before work so it wasn't hard to squeeze it in without much effort. As my training volume has progressed, so has the amount of time it takes to run. I'm generally running between 50 and 75 miles per week. I borrow most of that time from my sleep during the week. I typically start at 4:00AM so that I can get my run in before work and before the family wakes up. My wife has been very understanding and supportive of my running. Probably because she knows what I'm like when I don't get my "fix."
You ran quite a series of races in fall 2010. You are a seriously durable and robust athlete! Can you share how you spent last autumn?
In September I ran the Vermont 50k in Ascutney. I loved this race and can't wait to run it again. Running 50k with 8,000 ft of elevation didn't sound scary until I got to VT the day before the race and saw the mountains first-hand. This was 3 weeks before my first marathon so I treated the race like a training run and my goal was to finish and finish healthy with no problems. I managed to finish in 6:05 and was thoroughly worn out but feeling good.
Then I ran the Harwich Cranberry Harvest Half Marathon in Harwich, MA and I finished in 1:36:44. This was my first half marathon and I signed up on a whim to run with friends. It was 1 week after my 50k, so I wasn't expecting much. I ran the second half 2 minutes faster than the first half and surprised myself with a big surge and a strong finish. I was happy with the result and it left me feeling like I could probably do better in my next one.
I planned to end my autumn season with my first marathon at the Baltimore Marathon in October which I finished in 3:35:29. My private goal was a 3:20 Boston qualifying time and I was looking good. Then my calf seized up at mile 19. The last 7 miles were painful in more ways than one. I was disappointed but I learned a lot from this race.
After reflecting on the Baltimore race I signed up for the Cape Cod Marathon in Falmouth, MA on October 31st. I had decided that improper fueling might have lead to my cramping problems at Baltimore. My focus for Cape Cod was to focus on fueling well and seeing if that would make a difference in the outcome. While it was exhilarating to PR in a small town 5k the day before the Cape Cod race, I probably would have been better served by resting. I managed to get through the marathon without cramping but the slow time left me feeling a little disappointed.
What races are you currently training for?
I don't really "train" for specific races per se. I like to think of it more like preparing my body for anything that might come along. Signing up for a race and then following a training plan to prepare especially for it feels too much like work to me. As soon as that happens, I lose interest. When I do feel like running a race, I try to find one that matches my fitness level at that time. For example, in 2009 I ran a bunch of 5K's because that was all I felt my body could handle at the time. 2010, my fitness was improved and I ran a 50k, a half marathon and two marathons. My goal for any race is to have fun and be injury-free at the end. I use races only as "interesting" training runs.
2010 was your first year at Craftsbury. Why did you decide to come?
I was sidelined with an IT band injury for 4 months in winter 09-10. It was a very difficult time for me. While I was rehabbing, I devoured everything I could about proper form, workouts and anything else about running in general. In the process, I stumbled upon Craftsbury on the web somewhere and thought it sounded perfect for me. I signed up in February in the deepest, darkest days of my injury to help give me something to look forward to.
When the day finally came to go to camp, I was a bit nervous because I really had no idea what to expect. When I got there, I went out to the back porch of Cedar Lodge, met the coaches and my fellow campers and we were out for a run 10 minutes later. It was a great way to start camp. It didn't take more than a couple of hours before I knew that I had stumbled upon something very special.
When you were injured how did you mentally deal with being sidelined? What did you do to fix your injury?
UGH! In the autumn of 2009, I increased my mileage way too fast and found myself with what I thought to be a knee injury. I spent 3 months trying rest, massage, etc and nothing seemed to work. I finally broke down and went to see my doctor and she diagnosed me with iliotibial band syndrome. She sent me to physical therapy and within 3 weeks, I was back on the road without pain. I kicked myself for waiting so long. The time I spent with the injury was awful. I was feeling sorry for myself and, at times, wondered if I would ever be able to run again. It all seems a little silly now but when I was going through it, it was horrible. When I was able to run regularly again, I promised myself that I would stick to the 10% rule no matter what. So far, so good...
You mentioned doing lots of research prior to arriving at camp about running. What was it you hoped to learn at camp?
There is so much running jargon out there. Strides? Tempo runs? Drills? As a new runner, I had a difficult time understanding some of the terms and how they applied to me and my fitness. At camp, the terms were explained, the benefits of each were outlined, each exercise was demonstrated, and then applied to my individual workout and needs. I can now perform these workouts with the confidence that I am doing them correctly and benefiting my fitness.
Favorite memory from camp?
Running wise, as crazy as it sounds, even to me, I think I liked the hill repeat workout the best. I was pretty tired from the morning run followed by a surprisingly difficult circuit training session and was not looking forward to another tough workout. We ran repeats on a number of different hills right on the Craftsbury grounds with varying lengths & inclines. Lynn had us chasing each other up the hill so it made a typically tedious workout into something fun, interesting and even a little competitive. It was a blast!
My favorite memory from running camp though oddly has nothing to do with running. It was the fun at meals and downtime that I had with my fellow campers and coaches. It was always light and fun and everyone had a story or two to share with the group. It's amazing that you throw this group of people together from different places, backgrounds and age groups and by the end of the week, you're all best friends. It was heartbreaking to say goodbye.
Does that group feeling carry over to your training, that is, do you prefer running alone or with a group?
I definitely prefer running with a group. The time goes by faster and there is always new and interesting conversation. It's nice to know that on any day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, I can run with a friend. Having said that, I think it's important to run alone as well. I run half of my runs with the group and the other half on my own. The solitary runs allow me to think about things going on in my life and pay closer attention to my running form. I also tend to push myself a little harder when I run alone.
What do you say to yourself to get out the door on those days when you're running alone and maybe not as motivated as you could be?
I honestly can't remember the last time I was not motivated to run. After every run, I count the minutes until my next one. I would imagine that if I do wake up some morning and don't feel like running, I'll just make myself remember the heavy, unfit guy that used to stare back at me in the mirror. That would surely get me out the door!
Do you have a favorite food or drink after a tough long run?
I usually have my long run on Sunday morning and every so often, my wife will have some homemade, kick-ass, whole-grain pancakes waiting for me. They have nuts, flaxseed, blueberries and all kinds of great stuff. I'll devour a stack of those with a glass of soy milk. Definitely my favorite post-workout meal!
You've mentioned form and I know you are a Vibram Five Fingers shoe guy. Can you explain how the shoes are working? Have they affected your biomechanics noticeably?
I run with the Five Fingers about once per week to remind me how to run with proper form. The beauty of these and other minimalist shoes is that you can't cheat with your form. They require you to run with a soft forefoot strike and use all the bouncy muscles and tendons in your legs and feet the way they were meant to be used. I tend to run with better posture and alignment which, in turn, allows me to run more efficiently. Once you get used to running this way, it's easy to carry over into most any type of shoe.
Beyond it's physical benefits, running can be a personally transforming activity. We come home from a run a different person than when we stepped out the door to start our run. What does running give you that you don't get elsewhere?
Inner peace. There is nothing more peaceful and grounding in my life than the time I spend out on that dark road in the morning following the faint glow of the yellow center line. I may wake up with a few aches and pains or maybe dreading a certain task that I have on the day's schedule but, when my run is finished, I feel great and I'm ready for anything.