How To Run a 2:31 Marathon with Chris V.

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*This is the start of a new series, where I will be featuring different runners & athletes on the blog! Enjoy!

Today I have a special post for you! I was very excited recently to befriend Chris Vargo via social media. Chris and I are from the same hometown and have many mutual friends but I actually didn’t know who he was until I started seeing his awesome running photos via Instagram! When I realized what an amazingly talented, passionate and fast runner Chris was, I knew I wanted to interview him for The Sweet Life.

He recently ran his first 50-mile race and demonstrated that he could actually win one of these things some day. I really relate to his passion for running and was excited when he agreed to answer all my nosy questions! Also, he lives in the beautiful state of Colorado so his photos are always amazing! Without further ado, here we go: 

Marathon PR: 2:31 (2012 Chicago Marathon)
Half-Marathon PR: 1:08 (2012 Houston Half Marathon)
50k PR: 4:00 (2012 Bootlegger Trail 50k)
50-miler time: 6:23 (2012 North Face Endurance Challenge Trail 50 mile Championship)

When do you begin running and when did it become something you started to love?

-I started really getting serious about running in 2010, although I picked up running after getting burned out racing bikes in 2007.  
   
What got you started doing longer distances?
-I absolutely love trail running so it was only a matter of time before I transitioned to the ultra distance.  The longer I can be out on the trails the happier I am!

What do you love/hate about training?
-I’m addicted to training, so it’s hard to hate anything about it!  It helps that I live in the beautiful state of Colorado!  I find happiness and peace in running.  Although, I’m not a huge fan of track workouts.  Speed work is incredibly difficult when you live at 6300 feet above sea level!

What do you love most about the marathon? Is it your favorite distance?
-I’d have to say I love the energy that the marathon exudes!  I’m a huge fan of the Chicago Marathon purely because the streets are lined with over 1.5 million screaming people!  Unlike trail racing, the marathon gives you a chance to break PR’s, so I definitely love that about the distance.  It’s fun going out there and getting after it!  Some times you blow up, some times you kill it!  It’s definitely my favorite distance on the road!
How do you see running as tying into the larger part or picture of your life?
-It’s a huge part of my life.  Living a healthy life and pushing myself to become the fittest I can possibly be is my goal every day I wake up!

What is your favorite marathon or race? Why?
-My favorite road race is Chicago Marathon.  My favorite trail race, as of now, is the North Face 50 miler in San Francisco.  This years NF50 was my first 50 miler and I ended up mixing it up with some of the best ultra runners in the World.  Placing 17th in a race that is considered the most competitive 50 mile trail race on US soil was a big accomplishment for me.  Not bad considering I played it conservative being that it was my first 50.  I’ll start winning them next year :)

What’s your best advice for new marathon runners training for their first or second race?
-Trust your training and treat your body like a temple.  Eat healthy and listen to your body.  If you feel like you need a little more recovery, then take some time off.  Getting injured can be quite depressing, so body work such as stretching and massage should be added to your daily routine in order to thwart the onset of injury!  Most importantly, have fun!  If you aren’t having fun then you need to find something else to do!

What’s your diet like regularly? How about the week of a race?
-I’m a vegetarian, so I eat tons of fruits, veggies, beans, and pasta!  Although, I’m thinking about adding fish back in to my diet.  I miss it!  The week before a race I eat things I’m use to eating and I stay super hydrated.  Products such as NUUN are awesome for staying hydrated.  Also, I’ll bring my own pasta when traveling to races, so I know my stomach won’t give me any flak on race day!

What’s your marathon training schedule like? What is your peak mileage? How important is hill work, speed work, track work, etc. for you?

-My weekly schedule usually consists of easy mileage on Monday, speed work (track, tempo, hill repeats) on Tuesday and Thursday, medium long run on Wednesday, easy mileage on Friday and Saturday, and long runs (steady state or fast finish at a certain pace) on Sunday.  Speed work is huge when it comes to marathon training and hill repeats are a kick ass way to increase VO2 and strength.  All in all, I’ll peak out around 110+ miles a week for marathon training.  I also ride my mountain and/or road bike at least 4 to 5 times a week, plus 1.5 hours of core/strength training 4 to 5 times a week.  Swimming use to be a part of my weekly routine, and I’m thinking about bringing it back to the schedule.

On race day, what’s your game plan? How do you run through the pain? What gets you to that amazingly fast time?
-My plan differs depending on the type of race I’m competing in.  The most important part of my marathon plan is being patient.  Going out too fast in the marathon will lead you deep in to the pain cave.  No one wants to death march it in to the finish!  Regardless, you just have to dig deep and get in to a rhythm!  The only thoughts in your head should be positive!

You have mentioned that you have been sober for some time now. How has running has played a part in helping you stay sober?

 -I love talking about my sobriety!  Running, coupled with incredible family and friends, helped save my life. I have life and racing goals that would be next to impossible to achieve in the horrible state I was in.  Sure, when I was in college I could go out, get ripped until 3am, and still wake up early on a sunday to knock out a 100 mile training ride with my team.  That kind of stuff doesn’t fly in the real world.  December 9, 2011 was when I had my last drink, so I consider December 10 as my “Birthday”.  All in all, right now I’m the fittest I’ve ever been and I continue to get stronger with each day.  I absolutely love my life.  Hell, I get to run and ride in the mountains every day of my life.  Can’t really complain about that!!  

Do you have any race day habits or superstitions – like having to wear a certain shirt, eat a certain breakfast, etc.?
-It usually takes me 30 minutes to tie my shoes correctly.  They have to be JUST right!  Also, I always eat fruit and toast with almond butter as my morning breakfast.  If I’m racing an ultra I’ll take down more calories.

What’s your favorite running shoe brand?
-Adidas on the road and Salomon on the trails.  Although, the Adidas Adios makes for a killer trail racing shoe!  Super stiff!
What’s your dream marathon? Other running goals in the future? Tell us!
-Berlin.  I’ve wanted to race there for quite some time!
-My main road racing goal is to qualify for the Olympic Trials in the marathon.  Hopefully I can knock out at least a 2:21-2:23 marathon in 2013, and hopefully down to sub 2:18 in 2014! -As for ultras, my goal is to pick up some big sponsors.  I’m racing Way Too Cool 50k in Cool, CA in March and Lake Sonoma 50 mile in Healdsburg, CA in April.  Both HIGHLY competitive ultras.  I’m hoping to win or place at least top 3 in both races. 
Interested in getting to Chris better? You can find him via social media here:
Twitter: @TheVargo
Instagram: chris_vargo

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