When Max King, 36, noticed how his flexibility had diminished, he made a habit of massaging his back and legs with a therapeutic foam roller. Jeff Browning, 44, shocked by how much his legs swelled after 100-mile races, traded carbohydrates for a high-fat diet.
Both local ultra-distance runners, King and Browning knew they couldn’t outrun time’s toll on their bodies. While they’re both upper-echelon runners, they’re also past what is conventionally thought of as runner’s prime years. Yet by adopting respective changes to their recovery routine and diet, they were relieved to have answered their bodies’ aging pains. King remains nimble, and Browning said his diet has spared him painful post-race swelling and stiffness. After a recent 100-miler, he was running again in a week — days sooner than normal.
Deschutes County is one of the five healthiest counties in the state. Central Oregon not only offers elite runners miles of enticing trails the area is also a hub for physical therapists, coaches and running stores, which cater to elite and everyday runners alike.
Paul Lieto, editor of RaceCenter Northwest Magazine, places Bend in the top five American cities for a mix of nature and sports medicine.
Browning considers Central Oregon a runners mecca. It has a collection of elite ultra runners who call Bend home, there is a great running community and the elevation is considered a sweet spot for endurance athletes.
King and Browning rank high among Bend’s movers and shakers. King won this year’s Bend Marathon and placed 12th in the Olympic Trials marathon in February. This year alone, Browning has won two ultra-races: The Hawaiian Ultra Running Team’s Trail 100-Mile Endurance Run, and the Free State 100-kilometer race, where he set the course record.
The two runners, informed by years of battling miles and the residual aches and pains, are capable self-tinkerers, akin to race car drivers who know how to wrench under their hoods.
When they have questions, they’re also resourceful. While his former running coach at Cornell University is an adviser King returns to for tips on running hard, he seeks help with his stiffness and recovery at Rebound Physical Therapy. There specialists showed him how to knead mottled muscle tissue with a foam roller. King manages most of his trouble-shooting at home; he returns to the physical rehabilitation center when he can’t relieve a particular ache, fearing it may develop into a serious injury. It’s a routine that allows King to run seven days a week — a recovery run recently consisted of eight miles over varied terrain after a day hiking with family.
“(King) keeps making good decisions with his training,” said Ellie Meyrowitz, a Rebound therapist.
Aging runners’ aches and pains come from active lives lacking in preventive maintenance, said Scott White, co-owner of Fleet Feet Sports. He said the running world is paying more attention to recovery than it did 20 years ago. Of his own workouts, White, 45, said he does moderate strength training and a lot of foam rolling — like King — to stay as flexible as possible.
Browning enters six or seven ultra-marathons races annually; Since 2000, Browning has won 14 of them. To care for his body, the Bend resident utilizes the area’s wealth of physical therapists, spreading his business between Recharge Sport, Focus Physical Therapy and a couple masseuses.
Last year, when Browning developed metabolic problems, he turned online for help. An elite runner friend recommended the Primal Blueprint Diet, similar to the Paleo Diet. After spending time on a forum, Browning has sworn by the low-carb/high-fat diet for the past six months. Not only has the lack of carbohydrates starved his stomach’s Candida — a painful yeast overgrowth — but he said he greatly reduced his post-race recovery periods. The dietary change helped Browning make a faster return to operating his graphic design firm, coaching several runners and otherwise being present for his family. He’s preparing for two 100-mile races in the coming months.
“For me, to stay healthy at this level, it’s all about nutrition — which is all about recovery,” he said.
Less is more
Perhaps Bend’s foremost expert on running and longevity is Jim McLatchie, 74, a legendary runner and coach. A former Scottish national cross-country champion, McLatchie has coached seven world champions, which include his wife, Carol. Sitting alongside the Summit High School track one afternoon while directing practice as the assistant coach, McLatchie said many coaches still try to give workouts to older runners that are only appropriate for much younger runners.
“A lot of the older people still try to do them, but they’ll end up getting injured, or they’ll get soured from the sport,” he said. McLatchie presently coaches about 10 elder runners, whose ages range from over 80 to “a couple young ones in their 50s,” he said.
McLatchie’s training for elder runners emphasizes plenty of easy days between hard workouts, the latter of which he would prescribe only twice or sometimes only once weekly. He also recommends “dirty walks” — or off-road treks, usually up Pilot Butte.
“You tell some (elder runners) to go for a walk, they tend to look at you like, ‘A walk? Why do I have to go for a walk?’” he said. “Well, it’s recovery.”
A masterful comeback
Last weekend Sylvia Mosqueda, 50, one of McLatchie’s longtime proteges, set the national age group (50-54) record in the 1,500 meters in 4:50.12 at the Occidental Invite in Los Angeles. While her 1988 NCAA 10,000-meter record of 32:28.57 remains untouched, Mosqueda hadn’t raced in seven years.
Reached by phone in Las Vegas, Mosqueda said she was nervous when she told McLatchie she wanted to compete in this 1500-meter race. The training program he sent her surprised her. She joked that he was “sending her on vacation” between intervals. There was so much recovery time.
With McLatchie’s help, this summer Mosqueda aims to break the 1500-meter world record for her age group (4:40). She said it still frustrates her that she can’t run at the level she did as a younger woman, but racing against women in her age group has given her realistic expectations.
“It’s very easy for me to coach master runners, but it’s very difficult to coach yourself,” she said of the runners she mentors on Team Mosqueda. She said she’s upped her masters’ recovery time, per McLatchie’s recommendation.
Why exhaust yourself?
As for McLatchie, he ceased running at age 70 when he suffered a heart attack. To stay fit without troubling his heart, he assumes about half the exercise he used to — a combination of 90-minute dirty walks, stationary cycling and light weight-lifting. He doesn’t miss running.
“Why go out and thrash yourself and then come home knackered (tired) and have to rest yourself of a couple hours?” McLatchie said. “I feel as you get older, you need to back off a wee bit, and enjoy it.”
— Reporter: 541-617-7816, email@example.com