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Endurance runners train despite elements

By: Sara Seyydin Journal Staff Writer
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“Who da man? You da man!” shouts Auburn resident, Aaron Kopp, as he pushes through the finish of a 5:30 a.m. run. Kopp recently completed the Pine to Palm 100 Mile Endurance Race in Ashland, Ore., and is training for the Western States 100 mile Endurance Run that ends in Auburn. Positive self-talk is just one way that he stays strong as he battles the elements on dark winter mornings. Kopp has endured running in the rain, encounters with rattlesnakes and sounds from nearby mountain lions in pursuit of the legendary runner’s high. Early on weekday mornings he drives out to the dam overlook to log 10 miles on the trails before work. “I just like to be free,” Kopp said. “I used to be a big mountain biker, but I was sick of getting flat tires and dealing with equipment. Now I just strap on a pair of shoes and go.” In high school he was a sprinter on the track team, but walked on long distance runs when his coach wasn’t looking. In the past six years though, Kopp has grown addicted to the sport and learned invaluable lessons for those just starting out. Kopp says that success in running is about learning to control your mind beyond what you may feel. A fellow runner once gave him a piece of advice that he still abides by each run. “On my way up to Michigan Bluff one day I just couldn’t stop thinking about how tired I was,” Kopp said. “A guy ran by me and yelled ‘Don’t think about it!’” Sometimes he listens to melodic music to get the feeling he is floating as he descends a hill. Kopp advises new runners to focus on the next aid station or finish line, rather than feelings of discouragement. Some, such as Placer High School cross-country coach, Randall Fee, find running in the winter to be less of a challenge than running in the heat. He said some of his best runs were in the pouring rain. This year, under Fee’s leadership, all four of Placer’s JV and varsity teams swept the Pioneer Valley League Cross Country Championships. He was also five-time Western States 100 champion, Tim Tweitmeyer’s, pacer for six years. “During the last 25% of a race a pacer comes in to provide companionship for a runner who has been alone for a lot of miles,” Fee said. His years of experience have taught him what works and what does not. For winter training Fee recommends dressing in layers, especially with gloves and ear protectors. As you run on a trail it is acceptable to shed these layers and pick them up on your way back. He also continually stresses the importance of staying properly hydrated and fueled to his student athletes. He is so dedicated to this that he installed a water fountain in his front yard for their use on runs around Randall’s Loop, a practice run that passes by his home. He advises those new to distance running to start off slow and gradually increase their capacity. “When you are first starting out don’t run to the point where you so fatigued that you don’t want to go out and do it again the next day,” Fee said. “It is important to keep your fire lit.” He has found that keeping a running log that tracks mileage, weather conditions and diet can also be a helpful tool in identifying patterns to improve runs. Like Kopp, Fee says that after you break past mental barriers endorphins will take care of the rest. “When I am running I am on such a natural high,” Fee said. “If you are having a bad day go for a run and it will put you in a good mood.” There are many runs in the foothill region coming up at distances for every level, from 5K to ultramarathons. Whether you are just beginning or looking to surmount a new challenge you can visit www.runnersworld.com for resources on finding races, training and injury prevention. Reach Sara Seyydin at saras@goldcountrymedia.com. ------------------------------------- 11 Cold Weather Runners Info Box Upcoming Local Runs for Every Level 5K: Whole Foods Running School 01/23/11 Roseville Elk Grove 5K Fun Run 01/30/11 Elk Grove Snow Shoe Social and Race 02/12/11 Northstar-at-Tahoe Go Red 04/02/11 Sacramento Run Rocklin 04/03/11 Rocklin 10K: Whole Foods Running School 01/23/11 Roseville Snow Shoe Social and Race 02/12/11 Northstar-at-Tahoe Super Bowl Run II 02/06/11 Folsom Go Red 04/02/11 Sacramento Run Rocklin 04/03/11 Rocklin Half Marathon: Tahoe Rim Tour Race Snow Shoe Social and Race 01/23/11 Northstar-at-Tahoe Shamrock’n Half Marathon 03/13/11 Sacramento 2011 River City Marathon and Half Marathon 3/27/11 Sacramento Marathon and More: Way Too Cool 50K 03/12/11 Cool Rucky Chucky Roundabout 50K 3/19/11 Foresthill 2011 River City Marathon 3/27/11 Sacramento American River 50M 04/09/11 Sac-Auburn Western States 100 06/25/11 Squaw Valley-Auburn