How To Take Your Running to the Next Level with Aliza Lapierre

With this lockdown period leaving athletes chomping at the bit to get back to action, we thought it made sense to go back to basics with our ultra-runner in-residence, Aliza Lapierre. Welcome to part two of How-To Run with Aliza. 

For part one of the series suggested for people new to running, visit here. Now moving onto more experienced runners, part two is aimed at veteran runners taking their sport to the next level. 

What advice do you have for committed runners who find themselves without their usual partners or without goals to train for as countless events are on hold?

Simply stated, remember your “WHY”. Everyone runs for their own personal reasons and this “why” might be fluid and evolving. I started running after college to help work on my health and fitness, but now in addition to doing it for the physical benefits I also do it for the mental ones. I also have discovered that I really like exploring on my own two feet because I can go to more remote places and see things that are off the beaten track. Plain and simply I love it!

It’s been well over two months since I have run with my training partners, and that has tested my “why”. In the month of May I woke up to snow and had a three hour run on the schedule. I was not amused and just wanted to remain in bed as all my races on the calendar have been cancelled, but I reminded myself of the reasons I run.

One of my coaches always recommended that on days I did not want to run, that at minimum go out and try. If you run for twenty minutes to a half an hour and then you still are not into it then be done. I have always taken this advice and find that once I am out there moving I am grateful that I made it out.

I have also found it important to still check in with training partners and friends and see how their running is going and share about mine. We can share the triumphs and obstacles and support each other from a distance. There are also a growing number of virtual events and challenges that can help with motivation.

Who has inspired you in the down time during the COVID-19 crisis and what have you done personally to keep your running going (or to find mental strength elsewhere)?

Essential Workers have really inspired me. From the doctors and nurses to the mail/package carriers and grocery store workers they all have continued to press on during this uncertain time. Despite taking precautions they are all putting themselves at risk for the greater good and I admire that and find inspiration in their efforts.

I have needed inspiration as my race calendar is empty! I have some side projects lurking in my mind, but those can only come to fruition if/when restrictions are lifted. When people ask me what I am training for I respond with “Life!” There is a lot to be learned from running about yourself, society, nature, etc. Over the years I have figured out that I like the structure of training, I like the methodical nature of cadence and I like nature so for now I still have plenty of motivation to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Returning to higher mileage or big events after a period may be tricky. Any insights on how best to make that happen?

I am a big proponent of listening to your body. Pay attention to everything from the obvious like your energy levels and muscle soreness to abnormal appetite or irregular sleep. Recovery is part of the process and so important in the short and long term so it should be taken seriously to help in avoiding injury or burn out.

Unfortunately there does not seem to be a blanket strategy that works for everyone. I always recommend that in returning to higher mileage or after a big event if you have consecutive “bad runs” then you need to evaluate things before they escalate.

In general maintaining a training log with notes can help you not only keep track of mileage, but also energy levels, mood and any niggles that might be creeping up. Reading over your notes each week or having someone else read over them can help bright light to minor hiccups before they become issues.

You’ve run some insane distances and posted incredible results. What drew you to the type of running you do now and how did it evolve over time to be where you are in your career?

I grew up playing team sports and only started running after college because I need an inexpensive way to stay active. I started with running to the local traffic light and back, which round trip turned out to be a 5k. This turned into running around the ‘big block’ on the weekends and that was just over 6 miles. That felt huge and I remember how big I would smile when people asked me how far I ran.

Then things just started to snowball and I trained for a road marathon and then heard about these events called ultramarathons and figured why not try a 50 miler and just see how far I could get. I got to the finish line and completely was in love with the sport. I got to run through pastures, up and over mountains and along the most idyllic Vermont dirt roads that were lined with the most impressive stonewalls and each step of the way volunteers and participants were cheering me along. It truly felt like a community and I undoubtedly wanted to be a part of it.

Fast forward 20 years and I have been blessed with the opportunity to race in countries across the world at distances from 50 miles to 104 miles. I am not the fastest, the smoothest or a natural talent, but I have a lot of grit and determination.

Best mix of UnTapped products? How do you fuel?

I cannot name a favorite syrup as each day it seems to change because they are all so great. When I run mountains early in the morning to catch a sunrise I always treat myself to a Coffee UnTapped at the top. On days where I am feeling the need to replace some electrolytes I really like reaching for the Salted Raspberry UnTapped. And on warm days nothing beats sipping on Lemon Mapleaid or mix it up going half and half, combining Lemon Tea with Ginger Mapleaid.

When I finish up a run I like aiding in recovery by having a glass of unsweetened oat milk with a single Maple UnTapped in for an awesome treat!

Anything to add?

I can't wait for the gluten free UnTapped waffles!