How not to succeed when racing: The Survival Shuffle!

As my athletes know I love race reports. I mean I LOVE race reports!! I want all the gory and not so gory details. So RED athlete Josh Nordell sent me a little blog report about his latest marathon race. Read it over and learn form his mistakes so they don’t become yours…Thanks Josh!

While the Survival Shuffle is memorable, the Survival Shuffle is not a life and death situation.  If you are looking for Sebastian Junger style survival this is the wrong place to look.

The Survival Shuffle is a dance routine.  It starts and finishes usually in two different locations and only some get to participate. Participation is optional, but you never know when the dance actually starts.  Of course, at the end of the dance you know why you danced.

Napa Valley Marathon 2017 was when I got to dance, I finely tuned all conditions to enter the dance floor. Here is a guide to help you enter the dance too:


Step 1: Convince yourself after a rough winter of snow covered landscapes and frigid temperatures you are actually in shape.  It helps to put screws in your shoes* and endure long slow runs on the road.

Step 2:  Eat copious amounts of food all winter.  Do this to survive the ice and snow.  The extra layering helps, add beer to negate the negative emotions of weight gain. Make sure to add pounds.

Step 3:  Do no tempo runs and very little speed work.  Make sure the track is covered in multiple feet of snow.

Race Day: These steps are also important. Be sure to make decisions and assumptions without research.

Step 1: Wear shoes that you have only worn on the treadmill. Because the race flats are white.  You don’t want to get them dirty.

Step 2: Carry one gel, plan to eat it at mile 13, hope for more gel on the course.

Step 3: Begin with a nice warm up, realize the gel in your pocket is bugging you.  Eat gel 10 minutes before race starts.

Step 4: Feel thirsty at the start of the race.  Ask the dude next to you standing in a kilt for some water and drink from his water bottle.

Step 5: Don’t wear a watch.

Actual race:

Stick to your strategy, go out with the pace you think you should be running, even though you actually have no idea what the pace is because you don’t have a watch.  Be sure to ask the person next to you what pace you are running and then decide if you are going the proper pace.  Also, don’t look at the profile too closely prior to  the race.  Instead, live in the moment and wonder where the hell all these hills came from. Remember, in order to do a proper Survival Shuffle you must never adjust your pace . . . ever.

The Dance:

So once the conditions are correct and optimal you can begin. To make them perfect when you come through the halfway point of the marathon, accelerate trying to negative split. Do not take in consideration other factors, stick with the strategy and hit the gas.  Most importantly only sip water from small aid station cups.  Do NOT eat! The realization that this might be getting rough came for when I began thinking I was at mile 17 and then the next mileage sign says mile 14.

“Okay keep pushing  . . .”

Actual mile 17:  This is the part of the race where you start to see the people you passed about 10 miles before.

Mile 18:  Start meeting new groups of runners you have never seen before, try to keep up. Look for food at aid stations. Don’t see any; keep running!

Mile 20:  Try to think of it as counting sheep, but try counting runners passing you …  say hello to each one.  You will finally lose count.  Look for gel someone may have dropped.

Mile 22: Look down and don’t see your shoes, just see you knees and pavement.  As you run make sure your heel goes nowhere near you butt. Barely let you feet leave the ground … shuffle.

Mile 24: Start the frantic search for food, settle for gatorade.  That definitely will take care of the calories.

Mile 26: Search desperately for the finish line and make sure the last .2 is the longest .2 of your entire life.

Finish: Make sure your splits are at least 10 to 15 minutes slower the second half.

Post Race: Discuss race with friend… have friend state, “that wasn’t a marathon, it was a buffet.”

Look at friend strangely as he explains that you just had to ask …

So that is my most recent “How to Guide for the Survival Shuffle.””

In all seriousness, while I didn’t race well, I had a wonderful weekend in Napa.  I traveled with my good friend, Winter Lewis, and stayed with his brother’s wonderful family.  I felt thankful for my friend and the new friends I made,which is truly what is most meaningful. We were also the only people driving around Napa with studded tires**,  which makes us way more cool.


*I realize many of you are reading this in Southern California, so let me explain … when the world is a winter wonderland, runners take small flat head screws and drill them into shoes to create traction.  The head of the screw then provides traction so you don’t slip.

**Studded tires have little metal spike sticking out of the tire tread to grip snow and ice.  They are allowed only during the winter.  Yes, many of us get to have tires for the winter and summer! We are so lucky!

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