Howdy Partners, and hello from Phoenix, AZ. I'm stationed here for the month of January: living with Julie Culley, focusing in on the upcoming season, and slurping up as much knowledge as I can from a slew of Olympians. It's a pretty ideal setup. And like many happenings this year, a completely new situation for me. To pass forward this great opportunity, I wanted to share a bit about what I'm doing here to start off the year (the calm before the storm).


Things I've learned (or re-learned. or already knew, but had to be reminded):

Runner's fly south, too. As most of you know, I’m a newbie in the world of professional running. So when I hear training camp, I think... isn’t that kind of what we do all year? Au contraire. After a long fall of competing responsibilities, and not many high stakes races, it can be easy to fall into a training rut. This is a time to reset and refocus on the season to come. And get out of the cold. If I doubted before, two weeks home battling frigid temps and all forms of precip, and I am a complete convert.

No one is too good for a long, slow warm-up before the workout. If anything, the warm-up only takes on more importance with each higher level of training. Over my year with NJ*NY Track Club, I keep learning new techniques to add to my routine. And the best thing about a trip like this: there is no excuse for skimping on the details. The current checklist starts with active isolated stretching, followed by a 20-minute jog, then some foam rolling for problem areas. On the track we go through a progression of dynamic drills, moving from slower hip openers, to more fast-twitch work. Our strength coach, Rich Agnello, recently tweaked our final stride work, adding some super-quick, super-short sprints for glute activation. I love the feeling of accelerating into top-end speed, even for 30 meters.

Resting is serious. This best thing about a trip designated for training, is that it takes away the guilt of rest. Seems a major dilemma with runners and recovery, is the stereotypical runner's personality is driven and motivated, antithetical to indulging in downtime. At least, that's my deal. And it is amazing to be reminded (as any Runner's World article can tell), of the difference an extra hour of sleep gives. Same goes for naps. Or even just getting off my feet.

Me in Park City before the jump. Cold. Wearing-a-ski-mask-because-otherwise-my-nose-and-lips-would-freeze-off cold.

Our lovely abode. Don’t you just want to post up on that couch?

Our box of PT goodies. We commiserated upon arriving at the troubles of traveling with gear. TSA should update their security signs: please remove all liquids, laptops, and DUMBBELLS, and place in a separate container. Otherwise, they get ya every time.

The other benefits of being here with Julie:
She is a veteran on this trip, and knows her way around town. Plus, she rolls deep with a nice crew of elite runners and run buddies. I have been able to pick her brain on runs. Need to start coming up with my own stories soon, to pay her back for all of hers.

Girl can cook. We have been trading off making food each night, and I can’t even call my attempts a competition, her stuff is just so good. Favorite was a chicken slow cooker deal with a sweetness to drool for. It took her maybe 5-minutes to whip together before we went for our shakeout.


Super easy Honey BBQ Pulled chicken recipe:

Into crockpot put 2-3 chicken breasts, 1 cup (or more) BBQ sauce, 1.5 apples sliced, 3 cloves garlic minced, olive oil and vinegar, and drizzle of honey. Let go on high for 4-5 hours. 


HGTV. Always a drama-buff, Julie has introduced me to the wonderful world of HGTV renovation shows. Looks like my childhood dream to be an architect/designer still lives in there somewhere. It’s just so fun to watch the space transform! Like the ultimate affirmation of possibility and progress. Watch out, I’ll start quoting “Property Brothers” in my pre-race talks.

So, maybe my food photography makes it look a bit like poop. Or maybe, it looked like poop in real life. Either way, *mwuah* magnifique.

Places around town:

I'm a child of avid travelers, and love getting to know a new city. Though the fact that I can only now write about only running trails and coffee shops shows where my focus has been this week.

Tempe Town Lake. There is a “lake” right out our back door, with a convenient, dirt path circumventing it. Not sure how the water got there, but it makes for a perfect shakeout, and entry point to the trails leading north into Scottsdale.

Path along the lake. Where is everybody?

Mill Ave. We are two blocks from Mill Ave, the place to be in Tempe. This street is insane. It would be perfect if I were in college on spring break, with bars every other storefront. But as is, I get both Starbucks, and FroYo, within a five-minute walk, so I’m happy. And supposedly the happy hour deals are killer.

Mill Ave like I’ve never seen it (in bed at this hour, clearly). *photo credit*

Cartel. Speaking of coffee, Cartel Coffee Lab is possibly the hippest shop I've ever been to. A renovated space in a would-be vintage motel room, the open concept (my HGTV lingo coming through!) allows patrons to see all the coffee roasting in the back. For all I can tell, they are adding drugs back there as well - The stuff is beyond strong.

The coffee reminds me of my first time. Drinking coffee.

On my wish list:

To buff up that last section, some fun things I hope to do in the coming two weeks.

The Barrett-Jackson Car Auction Read about this in the airplane magazine, of all places. Supposedly a historic auction with all manner of swanky (and old) vehicle.

Taliesin West Frank Lloyd Wright house located just north of us. They give guided tours. This can go in the HGTV category of interest.

Oiselle Meet-up Allison and I have been chatting about run or brunch in the coming weeks, and I know there are a few other athletes in the area. Then, sales director extraordinaire, Christy Slye, will be in town for a quick trip at end of the month. (Hopefully I have more restaurant knowledge by then). Who knows, maybe a special guest or two in between.

Until then, I’ll be here, working to get ready for a fun indoor season, and learning more moves to keep the body primed and strong. Let me know if there is anything you would like to know about my time here, or tricks of the trade. And, any suggestions on the city!

Me, being wistful, looking ahead. (wearing distance shorts… swear!)

Atsuko Tamara