Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Interview Tuesday: Meet Texan Runner Eric Lancaster

This week I talk to Eric Lancaster of Texas who I met on line via a couple FB groups that deal with the MAF training and Ketogenic/LCHF diets as well as connecting on Strava.  Get to know Eric as he works to fit running into a hectic life.

Tell us a little about yourself not necessarily related to running: age, where born, education, area you live in, etc…..
I was born in Iowa but grew up in Nebraska until 1993.  My father worked for Strategic Air Command at an Air Force Base in Omaha.  Once the cold war ended, the military dispersed much of their satellite intelligence and we moved to Colorado Springs.  I went to college at Colorado State University where I finished a B.S. in Health and Exercise Science.  During my last year, I caught the firefighter bug and wanted to be a firefighter/EMT.  I moved to the Washington DC area where I was an intern firefighter/EMT and completed a B.S. in Fire Science then Paramedic school.  In 2006, I was hired as a Paramedic in Texas and have lived there ever since.  I work 3-5 12-hour shifts a week on an ambulance.  I have three daughters, Mika (age 9), Avery (age 8), and Quinn (age 2).  I have been married to my wonderful wife for 3 years.

What is your profession?
I’m a Paramedic for a large EMS service in Central Texas.  I also work in some capacity in disaster response, so I got the incredible opportunity to help with the Hurricane Harvey response.

How did you start running and what prompted you to do so?
I have been running, off and on, since 2000.  Previously, I mostly ran as a tool to maintain fitness for my job.  Due to my hectic work and school schedule, I was very inconsistent.  Starting in 2015, I developed more consistent healthy habits and started enjoying running much more.  Once I discovered trails, I truly fell in love.  I can run on the trails for hours and lose track of time.  I have actually been late to appointments because I was on the trail and just forgot.

Did you participate in any other sports over the years and do you still do so?
In high school, I played football, wrestled, and threw discus for the track team.  In college, I played nearly every intramural sport.  I don’t really play any sports anymore due to lack of time.

Did you run in grade school, High School or College?
In college, I had a crush on a girl that ran by my dorm every morning.  I didn’t run at the time, but because of her, I started to run. I hoped that I would find an excuse to start talking to her.  After a few weeks, I worked up the nerve to talk to her.  She was very kind and beautiful and I thought that we were perfect for each other.  We ran together on a couple of mornings.  I promised myself that the next time I saw her, I would ask her on a real date.  I even practiced in front of the mirror.  One morning, she was so happy to tell me that she was now engaged to her boyfriend!  I was not aware that she had a boyfriend.  I was shocked but tried to appear happy for her.  That was my college running career.

So we get an idea of where you have been with running can you share your PR’s for: 5K, 10K marathon and any other distance you may have run in the past.
I don’t normally keep track of exact PRs, so I had to go look this up on my Strava and Smashrun profile.
  • 1 mile = 7:05
  • 5k = 25:30
  • 10k = 54:22
  • 25k (trail) = 3:45
What is your most memorable race or races and share a little about at least one of them ?
My most memorable race thus far was my first long-ish trail race, the 2017 Tejas Trails J&J Trail Reunion 25k .

I had been training off an on for three months before the race, but it was interrupted as I was deployed to Hurricane Harvey a month before the race.  I stayed active during the deployment but worked long hours and night shifts, which really left me with low energy in the weeks before the race.  I was also nervous as I had never run longer than 2.5 hours, I had never run on rocky and hilly trails, and I didn’t know what to expect.  In fact, I didn’t even have trail running shoes!  I was dipping my toes into trail running and didn’t want to spend $100 if it turned out that I wasn’t interested.

I told myself that I would find another friendly runner and chat with them for the first half to keep myself from going out too fast.  In the first two miles, a decent climb separated the front of the pack from the rest of us and I found a friendly woman from Dallas.  We talked about running, kids, cooking, and being single parents (which we both formerly were).  We stopped at an aid station when I realized that we were nearly halfway through.  I felt full of energy and my legs felt great.  After filling my bottle, she wanted to rest and I wanted to run, so I took off.

Remember when I said I didn’t have trail shoes?  I was running in Altra Escalante, which are great shoes, but not really made for big rocks, scree, and mud.  It had rained off an on for the two weeks leading up to the race.  The mud on the bottom of my shoes made a thick layer that weighed me down and made traction down the scree very difficult.  No matter, I was having a great time and couldn’t stop smiling.

Around 20k in, I noticed that my quads were starting to cramp up.  I had never experienced this before, and it wasn’t particularly fun.  In retrospect, the poor grip on the rocks from my road shoes and low cushioning on the descents was not helping me.  I was forced to slow down, but I knew I was close to the finish so I kept hammering.

The last km of the race runs next to the Nueces river, then turns right and the runner goes up about 50 wooden railroad tie steps.  At the top of the steps, I looked left and could see the finish line about 300m away.  I looked right and saw another runner who looked to be a decade older than me.  We both looked at each other and knew that the race was on.  It was a sprint to the finish!  I firmly believe that I crossed first, but the chip timing had us tied at the exact same finish time.

After I caught my breath, my minor cramps were now thoroughly seizing my quads and aching terribly.   Even in the throws of terrible quad cramping, I was filled with joy and elation.  I knew that I wanted to be a trail runner and plan my training around races.  From that moment on, I was addicted.

Do you have a favorite workout you do?
Favorite running workout: Any long trail run.  There is a greenbelt with rolling hills and shaded, rocky trails about 15 miles away from me.  I will load up my cooler with water, electrolytes, and snacks for afterward and just run for as long as my schedule permits.  I run without headphones and listen to my breath and nature around me.  It is my meditation.

Favorite non-running workout: I have a garage gym that I have set up to be always ready for a workout and optimized for the movements that I do.  I will often do a hybrid workout of several endurance movements, followed by core training.  All of the endurance movements will be at MAF heart rate.  For example:
  • Row 30 minutes (concept 2 row ergometer)
  • Weighted step-ups 30 minutes (13” step with 12kg kettlebell in one hand)
  • Step-ups 30 minutes (20” step without any weight)
  • Core circuit (usually with kettlebells or sandbags)
I will rotate in that template:  sled drags, walking with a sandbag or weighted vest, or riding my bicycle.

I also lift weights two to three times a week.  I follow Mountain Tactical programs for trail running and find them to be challenging but not overly stressful for my body.

How about a favorite route you like to run?
My favorite nearby route is Eisenhower Park in San Antonio.  There is a 8k loop that has about 500 feet of elevation and has a few steep, rocky sections.  I also enjoy the Town Lake hike and bike trail in Austin.  It is flat and groomed (or paved), but it is beautiful and I am motivated by seeing the fast runners in Austin.

What is your favorite distance to run and race?

That is hard to answer because I feel like I’m such a running newbie!  Thus far, I really have enjoyed the 25k distance.  Ask me again after I run a 50k!

Do you have any long-range plans?
My biggest long-range plan is always to stay happy and healthy.  This is what is important for myself, being a father, and for my career.  Regarding racing, I am running the Bandera 50k in January which will be my first 50k.  I’m also considering the Wildflower Trail Run in May, either 25k or 50k.

What do you like best about living and running where you are presently?
I have lived in my current city for 2.5 years and I have really grown to love it.  It is a small town but still close to parks, trails, and great schools.  I enjoy the mild weather 9 months out of the year.  During the other three months in the summer, I just have to make sure to get up early and within a few weeks, I am adapted to the heat.

What do you struggle with most with regards to running?
My biggest struggle is time management.  Working 50 hours a week, commuting 50 miles each way to my job, and raising three girls can really put a strain on my endurance training volume.  I have to schedule my workout training a week in advance to make sure that it is prioritized.  Also, I don’t stretch and mobilize enough to counteract the hours I spend on my commute.  I’m working on making that a more regular habit.

With regard to diet do you follow any specific plan and can you explain how it works and what benefits you have seen?
I have eaten some variation of a low carb diet for the past 18 months.  Initially, I counted calories and macros consistently.  Over time, I found the foods that made my body feel great and omitted the foods that don’t work for me.  My current iteration that I have found great success with is a diet of meat (mostly fresh beef), eggs, full fat yogurt and kefir, full fat cheese, heavy cream,  and fermented vegetables (kraut and kimchi).

I supplement with an electrolyte drink consisting of 1 liter water, 1/2tsp lite salt, ½ tsp salt, and 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar.  I drink this at least once a day, sometimes three times a day depending on my training volume and the heat and humidity.  I also take Magnesium Glycinate before bed.

The benefits have been tremendous for me.  I am able to stay fairly lean without counting calories.  I have been able to recover from workouts consistently.  I get up in the morning without stiffness or sore joints.  Even after long workouts, I am easily satiated by a meal of steak and eggs and have no cravings for hours afterward.  My energy levels during a long run or race have been very consistent.  I also find that I have consistent energy levels throughout the day while I’m working.  When I’m on the ambulance, you never really know when you will receive 10 minutes to eat!  I have coworkers who will get cranky if they haven’t eaten lunch by 2pm, but I feel just fine.

What do you see as a trend in running?
I’m not sure I can comment because I’m so new to the sport.

If you had one, well maybe two or three, things to say those that are running to encourage them what would it be?
Start slow and be kind to yourself.  Follow the MAF approach and stick to your MAF heart rate (180-age).  Train with no more volume and intensity than you can recover from.  Monitor your sleep and stress levels and don’t be afraid to skip a day when your body feels terrible (I use HRV to track this).

Do you have a website or other social media site you would like to share?
I’m not very consistent with social media as I rare find enough time for it, but I do occasionally post pictures on instagram @texasketoathlete.  I’m also on Strava .

As an aside here is another short interview with Eric.

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