Ultrarunner Liz Canty, 25, of Huntsville, Alabama, is a member of the inaugural, Instagram-based Pod/Saucony Virtual Running Team. Last year she married fellow ultrarunner Luke Hough.
Together, they find a way to balance demanding engineering jobs with a full schedule of (also demanding!) ultra races. Last year, Liz toed the line 9 times, including the Georgia Death Race (5th), two mountain stage races (2nd, 2nd), and huge wins at The Barkley Fall Classic (9:59:02) and Pinhoti 100 (22:04:09). Luke raced 7 ultras with a highlight of smashing his sub 24-hour goal twice – at the Rocky Raccoon 100 (19:19:13) and The Bear 100 (23:31:19).
Recently, we caught up with Liz and Luke to hear more about their ultra life, which truly exemplifies the subtitle of their personal blog: Love harder, eat better and explore further. Enjoy!
Milestone Sports: You both have super demanding jobs while training for 100 milers. What is your secret?
Liz: I am a full time nuclear engineer for the Tennessee Valley Authority. Unfortunately, I have a long commute to work at a nuclear power plant in northern Alabama. Fitting in runs often feels like putting together a jigsaw puzzle – some miles in the morning, a few more on my lunch break and back at it with a headlight when the sun goes down.
Luke is a manager in strategic engineering at a defense contractor in Huntsville (that’s about as specific as I’ll leave it, half the time I don’t understand what he does anyway). He has a bit more flexibility and does everything he can to get some miles in with me during the week.
MS: Tell us about #ultracouple
Liz: We’re not the first and not the only “ultracouple” to grace social media and the running world. In fact, we’re not nearly that fast, that competitive or really that good at social media. I like to think we use “ultra” not only in the distance-sense, regularly tackling 6-hour training runs and collecting a few 100-mile buckles, but also in the sense of doing things to the “ultra”- “to the extreme.” We had met (on a run, no less), moved in together and married, all within in nine months. We are regularly out of town, on a plane, on a 4-hour road trip or at a trail race somewhere in the world. Originally we were both conservative, quiet, hobby runners….I swear!
MS: You are Luke are both avid data lovers. How did you first hear about the MilestonePod?
Liz: I first heard of the Pod from the fascinating Jackie Merritt. I couldn’t have been more jealous of the speedster at the start line next to me, who had a simple Timex on her wrist rather than the bulky GPS watches most of us were slaves too. Data can be such a great thing to have, but during an ultra distance race I have found that distance and pace inaccuracy (or accuracy) can seriously impact my headspace.
Coming back from a rough spot during an ultra is hard enough, without being reminded by your wrist that you’re seriously sucking wind. With the running tracker clipped to my shoe, I could still have my data analysis (post-race) and leave my wrist unit for training days. I was hooked! Also, most of our racing is in the woods where GPS can be sketchy. The Pod does not need GPS, which is a big bonus. I’ve gotten Luke on board as well, who is even more data-obsessed than I am. He will usually wear the Pod along with his GPS watch to really cover all his bases.
MS: What gait metrics do you watch most?
Liz: On a daily basis I appreciate the cadence information, especially for speedier workouts to check on my turnover. I use cadence from my Pod in both real-time to my watch and post run. I also really watch rate of impact which will depend on some hill workouts or fatigue. Post-race or post hard run I really follow my leg swing. For me, leg swing is how I can easily track my recovery. After Pinhoti, getting my normally 100% high leg swing back took plenty of recovery and strength work (i.e. LOTS of lunges, squats and pistols).
I’ve studied running form (and listened to Dr. Jackie Merritt for some time now) and know that higher leg swing results in more efficient running and speed. I know if I want longevity in the sport (and remain competitive) I need that efficiency to keep me healthy. I love Jackie’s earlier blog post on increasing leg swing, and I refer back to it a lot.
MS: and Luke?
Luke: Seeing my 100 mile data from Rocky Raccoon (Liz: where he put down a 19 hour-ish hour 100 miles!) showed me how things kind of dissolve as I get tired and start to lose my form. Tracking my long runs and seeing my changes in leg swing and rate of impact helps me pinpoint when I get tired. The data helps me know when to run more intuitively and actively try and hold my stride, engage the glutes, etc.
MS: You both had a huge 2017. What are your 2018 goals?
Liz: In February we will both run the RunLOViT [Lake Ouachita Vista Trail] 100k in Arkansas. This will be a pretty fast 100k (hopefully) we’d both love to PR this distance and keep working on our long distance speed. By keeping our cadence high(ish) and our impact low should help us finish this with minimal shuffling!
In July, Beaverhead 100k. The opposite. A lot of walking and hiking needed in this bad boy. I have the course record there currently and would like the keep it!
Finally, the Bear 100 in September. Luke crushed this race last year and got sub-24 which is a big deal on this difficult course. I am built to suffer and I would love to match (best?) his time and do well on this Utah monstrosity.
Luke: For me, the Pinhoti 100. Liz and I both love taking on a yearly 100 miler now. I will train through the spring and summer and hopefully keep building on my first 100 miler performance and avoid injury.
Follow along on the adventures of #Ultracouple Liz and Luke!
Instagram: @runcantyrun and @Hugh.luke
Key image credit: Georgia Jewel
All others courtesy of Liz Canty and Luke Hugh