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UtahRunning.com: Well, hello, everybody. This is Ken Richardson with UtahRunning.com. We appreciate you listening to this interview that we’ve got today. We’re really excited to interview a renaissance man, Cory Johnson. He owns Old School Body Shop, he’s into ultra‑running, he’s great at metal artwork, and he also is an auctioneer. So he is a jack of all trades, but today our interview is going to focus on that ultra‑running piece, and he’s going to tell us a little bit about himself and will hopefully be able to share some tips with you out there in the UtahRunning.com community.
So, Cory, tell us a little bit about your running background.
Cory Johnson: Well, as far as my background, I’m going to maybe just gracefully hit on high school. I was a sprinter back in high school and went to state a couple years in a row in various events. After graduation from that, I kind of went into a slump of 18 years and never had any activity as far as physical activity. Then I guess you would say I woke up one day to sort of a midlife crisis, so to speak, and got into running. I actually did a 100‑miler before I’d ever run even a marathon. But I kind of jumped into that whole trail‑running thing approximately about eight years ago, and it just kind of went from there.
UtahRunning.com: OK. You say you ran a 100‑miler before you even ran a marathon?
Cory: Yes. I think that was back in 2004. A guy named Tim Olson kind of got me interested into it and was doing a training run one time, and he’d started talking about the Wasatch 100. I’d asked him a few questions about it and then kind of dropped the subject. And later on, a couple weeks later, I just figured I’d check into it, and all of a sudden, there I was, signing up for it and training for it. I actually failed my first attempt at Wasatch, made it to about mile 13 and had to shut it down. I actually went into the race injured, not knowing what the injury was, because I’d just been starting the running deal and I’m thinking, “How could a body break down like this? People don’t get injured running and doing activities like that.”
But I had my eyes opened. And apparently I tore my IT band, several months prior to the attempt at Wasatch, and didn’t even really know what was wrong until later that year, I went and had Jeff Harrison look at it, and he kind of put his tools in there, and sure enough it was tore.
So he loosely stitched it back together and sent me on my way. I signed up for the next race after that, and I’ve kind of been doing ultra‑running ever since.
UtahRunning.com: And you’ve had some great successes. I’ve heard that you’ve done some pretty incredible things, that, really, you have been able to stay healthy and train well and done some great things. What are some of your running successes, maybe some highlights over the past eight years?
Cory: Well, I don’t know if you’d consider them highlights, but I guess my second attempt at Wasatch, I finished that, and I think I’ve ran that one seven or eight times now. And back in 2007, I’d actually signed up for seven 100‑mile races in one year, and they call one of them the Rocky Mountain Grand Slam and the other one the Western Grand Slam. I think, looking back, logistics‑wise, to get those done, in itself, is a feat, let alone run them, because it kind of took you from one end of the state to the next.
So I kind of got lucky that year, as far as getting into the races. Several of them were lotteries, and I kind of got lucky there and was able to finish all of them.
And then there, from after 2007 on, I’ve ran approximately four or five of them a year. I average around 2,500 to 3,000 miles a year running, and about 99 percent of that’s all on trails.
And up until last year, I kind of changed my training program, got introduced to the CompuTrainer or a stationary‑bike program and started doing that, and actually reduced my mileage to about 1,500 miles a year and improved my running times two to four hours.
Cory: So a lot of junk miles were put in, and I just thought that’s what you did. I’m kind of getting smarter, I guess, as the years go on.
UtahRunning.com: So you spend a lot of time spinning as well, then.
Cory: Yeah, I like to do that Monday, Wednesday, Friday, in the mornings, up at a buddy’s house. And he’s kind of got a program going there, that max‑testing program. The guy that trained Lance Armstrong, he’s got kind of an online site, so we’re sending all of our results into him, and he’s critiquing them and giving us back our results and saying we’ve got to do this and this. The whole idea behind it is to get past that lactic‑threshold curve. And once you kind of tap into that zone and get past it, you can actually recover in a more intense effort, rather than having to stop and get your wind again, and kind of maintain that. So that’s helped out quite a bit.
UtahRunning.com: Yeah. Increasing that threshold that your body can take so that you can work at that level for longer.
Cory: Right. Right.
UtahRunning.com: That’s great.
Cory: Actually, this is the second year in doing it, and it’s kind of worked out quite well. Little easier on the joints.
UtahRunning.com: Have you done bike races as well?
Cory: Last year, I signed up for the Leadman Series in Leadville, Colorado. And I guess to answer the question, up until last year my bike experience was very little. I’d done several centuries just on the road over the years. The Leadman competition there in Leadville, it consists of going down four different times to Leadville and actually racing five, all in a period of a couple months. So it starts off with a mountain marathon. The next event’s a 50‑mile mountain‑bike race. After that, it goes to‑‑well, I’ve got to kind of think here‑‑a 10K the next day, and then it goes to a 100‑mile mountain‑bike race, and then it follows up a week later with a 100‑mile foot race. So I was able to actually get that done. And those two mountain‑bike races, the 50 and the 100, was my 8th, 10th time on a mountain bike, ever.
And so we kind of got it done, and it was quite fun and was fairly competitive with it all. I think I wore my brakes out quite a bit, more so than everybody else.
But I was able to do it and enjoy it. So I got introduced to that biking and mountain biking, so I’m kind of looking at mountain bikers a little bit different now when I get up there on the trail.
UtahRunning.com: Right. When you’re running, you’re a little more aware of those mountain bikers, huh?
Cory: Yeah. I kind of get off the trail for them, because I know what it’s like to fall.
UtahRunning.com: So you spend quite a bit of time on the bike, quite a bit of time out running. What would be a typical, longer Saturday run or a longer run during the week? About how much time…?
Cory: Leading up to the season, like this Saturday, I’ve got a couple buddies, we’re going to head down and do the Zion Traverse. I’ve never really been there, or don’t know a whole lot about it, but it’s kind of around Cedar City and heading south. So we’re going to run 50 miles Saturday. A couple weeks, we’re going to go down and do the rim‑to‑rim‑to‑rim. So we kind of pick a Saturday and do our long runs. It ranges from 20 to 50 on a Saturday. Of course, if you’re leading up to a 100‑mile race, we kind of back off a bit, don’t do as much running. But I’ve found myself doing a lot more recovery than actually running and biking, because you figure Monday, Wednesday, Friday on a bike and you’re trying to get your running in between. You’ve got to have some downtime. So I think the downtime is harder to do than the actual running and cycling.
UtahRunning.com: Right. But it’s just as important; to make sure you’re recovered and healthy.
Cory: Yeah, it’s huge. And to find that time and to adjust your thinking towards that’s kind of tough, because you’re just used to, “Oh, I’ve got to get out and do that and that and that.” But I guess, more or less this year, we’re trying to get more scientific and more schooled, than just putting in those junk miles and being more efficient and a little more quality workouts.
UtahRunning.com: Right. With that training and recovery, what do you do, as far as nutritionally, to help that recovery and to help healing when you’re doing those long trail runs? What nutritional strategies would you recommend or do you use yourself?
Cory: Well, what we’ve been doing the last couple years is kind of the school of hard knocks, over the years, trying to figure it out, because I’ve ran races before without any nutrition, and I don’t know what kind of gets me through it, just stupidity‑ness or whatever. Kind of what we’ve been doing now is, actually, it’s a website that we just came across, and it’s more for bodybuilders. So we’re actually using their product.
But to answer the question, every hour, races, logistics‑wise, and trying to map out eight stations and where you can put a drop bag, do you got to carry, or whatnot.
We try to take in about 250‑300 calories every hour, all in liquid form, and we will actually run a 100‑mile race ‑ whether it’s 24 hours or 40 hours ‑ and never eat anything solid.
Then we’re alternating a water bottle in between that hour. Try to get back those calories every hour is the key, I think. Now don’t quote me on this, because I’ve broken down plenty of times, but it appears to be working better than in years past.
Although, the beginning of this year, our first race was down there in Moab, the Red Hot 50. Even though I’ve improved my times, my calf muscle still locked up on me, somewhere around mile 23, so it was kind of a struggle to get in there.
Still, the nutrition, the strategy that we’ve been doing, far exceeds what I’ve been doing in the past. I kind of like it, and we’re trying it. Every now and then, I’ll take down a Power Bar gel or something like that, but it’s kind of rare that I’ll do that anymore.
UtahRunning.com: The thing is, really, you’re getting your calories consistently throughout the whole race, throughout the whole run.
UtahRunning.com: How about overall fluid intake?
Cory: Yeah, the powder drinks, if you’ve got 20 hours to make it through two scoops of powder, it’s probably down to about 16 ounces, so around 15‑16 ounces an hour. We’ll come into an aid station and I’ll drink that 250‑300 calories, then I’ll carry a water bottle and drink that. Then the next hour, I’ll slam another one and do that rotation throughout the whole event.
Towards around 70‑80 miles, at least last year, I had a tendency to not want that every hour. As you get slower, as the race gets longer, you don’t drink as much as what I’m speaking about, but you still get through it, and you know the recovery afterwards is very minimal.
There have been several 100‑milers that I’ve completed that I haven’t even had any recovery to speak of.
UtahRunning.com: It’s been because of your fueling strategy during the race.
Cory: That’s what I want to blame it on.
UtahRunning.com: It sounds like you’ve got some good experience under your belt and you’ve got good strategy. What races do you have planned for this year? What’s in the future for you? What future goals and plans do you have?
Cory: Well, we’re going to do these training runs, get them over with, and then we’ve already started our 50‑milers. The Buffalo was the first 50. We’re going to go and do Squaw Peak and Soho, then after that is going to start the 100s. The first 10 of the year is up there in Sheridan, Wyoming, the Bighorn 100, up there in the Bighorn mountain range.
That will start it in June, then in July I’ll go over to Silverton, Colorado. They call that the Hard Rock 100. I’ve actually completed that one five times, and raced it six.
Three years I went into the race and had an Achilles issue, it was really tight. Not giving much thought to the opposing tendon, or the muscle I guess you’d call it, the anterior tib, the lift of the foot. That took the brunt of the work, and that shut down on me about mile 82.
Even though I had 16 hours to complete a fairly respectable run, it took me three hours to get down to the next aid station, which was only a good mile. I blew it there.
The Hard Rock 100, to me, that’s kind of my favorite race. It’s considered one of the toughest races in the world. You’ll go somewhere around 13‑plus thousand foot, 12 different times. You start at around 9,000‑foot elevation, you’ll be in that elevation that whole race. They give you 48 hours to complete it.
Cory: I ran that in 33 hours to 40 hours in times past. It makes you figure out what you’re made of, and what you really want to be doing out there, by the time you get down to that race.
UtahRunning.com: You usually have 36 hours for most 100‑milers, right?
UtahRunning.com: Now, when you’ve got 48, it’s because you’re at such a high elevation and the…
UtahRunning.com: The range, it sounds like.
Cory: I’m assuming it’s because of the difficulty and whatnot. After that race in July, we’ll have a downtime in August, and I actually signed up for the Leadville 100 mile mountain bike race again, but after that the next 100 is going to be the Wasatch 100 which, kind of ironically, even though I’m an automatic entrant for the race, I forgot to sign up for that race.
That would have been my eighth attempt. I can’t figure out what happened there, but I called the race director and he doesn’t want to break no rules or nothing, so I was still left holding the bag. Now I’m going to help run an aid station, Brighton at mile 75, instead of do the run.
But I’m sure I’ll end up pacing a buddy at some point there, too. After the Wasatch, after that gets over with in September ‑ it’s like the first, second weekend in September ‑ I’m going to go back to Colorado. They’ve got a race over there, and it’s a new course called the Run Rabbit Run.
There’s about a $20,000 purse, and it’s drawing the big boys to that area. A lot of the elite runners are going to be there, so I may see what it’s like to see them up ahead, and may get a chance to chase them all night long.
UtahRunning.com: That sounds like fun.
Cory: Yeah. A week after I get that one done, if I get it done, then I’m going to come back here and do the Bear 100, and that’ll start in Logan and end up in Bear Lake. Then that’s going to complete the 100s that I’ve got signed up, unless of course I go and do one more in California, but I don’t like to think of them until I’m done with one race.
UtahRunning.com: Take them one at a time, huh?
Cory: Yeah. That’s what I have lined up for the year. Of course the training, keep that going, and the recovery and nutrition‑wise.
UtahRunning.com: That sounds like fun. Definitely, I’ll be interested to see how the year goes for you. I’m curious how that Run Rabbit Run ends up.
Cory: Yeah, I’m kind of curious, myself. I belong to a mountain racing team called the Wasatch Speed Goats. Speed Goat mountain racing team. There are about nine nannies and 17 billies on the team. Between all of us, from one end of the state to the next, in any given year we’ve probably completed… somebody’s done the math on it, and don’t quote me on this 100 percent, but they say you can go around the world a time or two, with all the miles that all of them have been putting in over the years.
That sounds kind of impressive. I don’t know if all of that’s true or not, but I’m going to run with it.
UtahRunning.com: Yeah, well I believe it. That’s a whole bunch of people running a lot of miles, and if you put it all together, I could see it.
Cory: Yeah. I got a lot of good people around here, that help me and that I train with. There’s a lot around in the area that are clearly faster than I am, but I can definitely get the races done, with their help. We go out of state, no matter where it is. I’ve been to France and done the du Mont‑Blanc over there. People outside of the state, they know that Ogden, Utah has some good ultra runners. We always call ourselves the Ogden Boys, and we’re kind of well‑known in different parts of the state. Whenever we go there, they say, “Here come the Ogden Boys.”
Last year, there were three of us that went to that Bighorn. Tom Remkes, he’s been a 30‑plus year ultra runner, and Bryce Warren and me. We all finished that race together, pretty much came in together. Me and Tom were together, and Bryce was just a couple minutes behind, but there the Ogden Boys were.
I like that, when we get away from Ogden and away from Utah, you get a smile when you see the Ogden Boys roll up to the line.
UtahRunning.com: That’s cool. That’s a lot of fun. What advice would you give, from the Ogden Boys? If you had to give advice to aspiring runners, or maybe even somebody who was considering diving into ultra running, what advice would you give to them?
Cory: I’d probably say, “You’re probably going to get into something that you really don’t know what you’re getting into yet, but really just take it slow. Hit the trails. “There’s a lot of information on them trails. You’ll hook up with a lot of people, whether you’re on the Shoreline or you go to Salt Lake, or wherever. You’re going to see some good people on that trail, and a lot of them have good advice.”
I’d just say, “Ask them questions. Listen to them. Follow their advice and go into the whole thing slow. Don’t go in there and jump into a 100‑miler before you get a marathon done.”
UtahRunning.com: That’s sage advice.
UtahRunning.com: We appreciate you taking the time, Cory, and we’re excited to see what people have to say about your experiences, and to share your advice with them as well. Thanks again for your time.
Cory: OK, I appreciate it. Tell your wife that I appreciate her efforts.
UtahRunning.com: All right, I will.