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Wife, Dr. Amy Hildreth; twin sons, Simon and Max, 9
Why I run, swim and cycle
"I really enjoy all the activities. My background is cycling. I was a professional cyclist in the '80s, mid '80s. I also raced bikes as a kid. But I've always run. So those things came first and swimming was kind of the last thing. I always knew how to swim, but swimming had always been my weakness. And when I moved to the United States (from Germany) in 1987, I was introduced to triathlon, but I stank in swimming. I really was a pretty poor swimmer. To be competitive, I was not good enough. A friend introduced me to mountain bike racing, and I won my very first race. Maybe that's my sport, because there's some running involved as well. Sometimes when you go in muddy sections, you have to run. I've always enjoyed individual sports. I was never a team sports person. As a kid, I played team handball and I played basketball. But I was never good at any of them. I've never played baseball or softball. And I played some soccer as a kid. But I like sports where you are responsible for yourself. And so what's kind of funny is that I'm doing SwimRun, where it is a team of two, but a team of two is very different than a team of 10 or 12."
My runner's high
"Mostly by running on the trail. Cycling has gotten much more dangerous because everyone is driving distracted. I mostly ride at home now. I still ride about 6,000, 7,000 miles a year on the bike but mostly at home. I have the perfect trainer up here. This is a specifically built pain-cave that we set up here. And running is just easier, so I've started to run more. And I've always been a fairly decent runner, but I've never pushed it; it was always a side gig to cycling. I've focused a little bit more on running, because I want to do more trail runs, unique trail runs. And I've used Zwift; it's a cycling app but it's also a running app. You can run with other people. A lot of people hate treadmills; I think the treadmill running has made me a much better runner because you can practice pacing and I practice negative-split pacing all the time. Outside that's super-difficult to do. I prepped for my Boston qualification here, mostly on the treadmill. And then I did my Boston qualifier in Washington state and ran the first half and 1:43 and the second half in 1:34. When I was a younger runner, I would be like all the men are, basically going out like gonzo the first five minutes and then limping home and being passed by everybody in the last five 5K of a half marathon. And that's not the case anymore. I very rarely get passed by anybody in the latter parts of the race. And I just catch people. I've been more patient and more willing to, early on, just slow down. That has given me more joy in running. I ran a sub-five-minute mile in the last couple of months. I ran a 16:47 5K on the treadmill.”
What I'm doing when I'm not running
“I'm eating a lot of food. And so I better keep running. Like a lot of European foods. pastas, bread.”
The running tribe
“My neighbor James Glick and my friend Rob Van Houten, who lives closer to Pilot Mountain.”
"I just finished third in a six-hour race last weekend (Black Mountain Monster); there's no one close to my age in the top 10. They were all in their early 30s to mid-30s, and I'm 56. I'm super-competitive. I qualified for Boston 17 minutes under my bracket. And I've been able to do well in all kinds of races recently, which is not only because I have a certain genetic gift but also because I know I'm lucky that I have more time to train than most people have time to train.”
When I run
“Whenever I can get it in; I'm really not limited. When the kids have school, I can do more during the day. When they don't have school, I have to adapt a little more.”
Where I run
“Trails for sure. I really avoid road running as much as I can. My plan is to do the Boston Marathon and then not do any long road races anymore.”
Workout I love
“I really love progression runs where I get faster and faster and faster and faster and faster and faster.”
“Probably ’80s music.”
"In the morning, eggs, avocado and bread. Maybe a yogurt as well. I mean, I can eat a ton. And the night before I can eat pretty much anything. I wouldn't try something new that I wouldn't usually eat, but it could be Mexican food. It could be Chinese food. It could be Thai food. I would eat anything like that before a race, but most common it's probably Italian-type food."
“I have a sweet tooth. So anything – doughtnut, ice cream, chocolate – anything will find me well.”
My worst running mistake
“When I was younger was always to go too hard early on, and I have well-remedied that now.”
My next race
“In two weeks in Oregon, the Old Cascadia 50-miler with 12,500 feet of elevation gain, and it has UTMB points and I want to collect some.”
Editor's note: SwimRun NC is scheduled for 8 a.m. Nov. 7 at Hanging Rock State Park near Danbury.
“It's a project basically to see, ‘How can you run a race that's really well-done that has no shortcuts because of budget. No ‘how can we dumb this down where people are not offended, but we make more money?’ We don’t have to do that. If we need more port-a-loos, we just get them. How many do we need? We need a tent? It may rain? Let’s get a tent. We hire ace photographers to fly in from other parts of the country. We pay them upfront, and then all the photos go for free to all the people. Same thing with registration fees; all the fees are included, there’s no extra registration fee.
“Last time we had Brunson (Elementary) and The Downtown School; (students) write personal notes to each team. If we were a team, it would be, ‘Hi, Herbert and Eddie, Good for you to represent Winston Salem, and we look forward to seeing you race.’ Whatever the fourth-graders write, we want them to be fourth-graders. I go to schools and do show-and-tell. I show them the gear and show them pictures. They're super-excited. They're like sponges, and at that age, most of them … are only exposed to baseball, basketball, football, tennis and hockey, or maybe golf, and nothing else. So running and swimming are really not common to them.
“You do it in teams of two. And you have to always stay together within 10 meters because the other person is your safety. It's not a relay, and you swim in your running shoes and you run in your wetsuit. There's no transition; as you are, you jump in the water. You can use pull buoys and paddles so you don't have to kick in those shoes that you're swimming with. And save your legs for all the running that you do.
“In SwimRun, you have to be together all the time. And you have to learn to adapt. So you're forced to work together, and you balance each other's weaknesses out. And we also make people help each other out. The message we give at the pre-race meeting the day before is if you come up on a team in trouble, this is not your chance to move up a spot, you help them out. You don't run past them. Because this is not how you pay your mortgage. I want you to help them out. If you're a jerk to any volunteers or other racers, we will kick you out of the race.
“And people like it; people appreciate all of those messages. We have a lot of repeat customers. We have people come from Sweden. We have people from California, from Texas, from Maine, from Washington state. People come from everywhere to run this race.
“What makes this unique, or why people like it, is often races or race courses are forced onto the land. If I started a cool race here in town, had a really cool course, and it's 11.2 kilometers, people will be like, 'I'm not doing that race.' Have you seen the course? 'I'm not doing that race because it's an odd distance.' That’s what people want: a 10K, a 5K, one mile, a half marathon, no distances in between. In SwimRun, we're going to go from here to there to there to there to there to there. And what's the distance? Oh, it's this distance. And what's the water distance? Oh, it's that distance. The land dictates the distance.”
What the pandemic took away, what the pandemic gave me
“The pandemic has really not taken a lot away from me because I already had a treadmill and a bike setup. I didn't have to go to the gym; some other people missed that more. We were really bummed that we couldn't host our race. We've lost all kinds of teams who could not just move forward. But in terms of my own training and my own racing, I was able to do races that I've never dreamed of. I did like the 100K across Tennessee. I did 9:24 (nine hours, 24 minutes) moving time, 9:38 race time. I wouldn't have done that had there been more races.”
What I've learned about myself through running
"If you're patient, you'll be rewarded. Patience is a key in most running races. If you're overzealous, that going to cost you. I know some people here in town or in the area that are super-talented and have never come to that potential because they are going too hard early on. Patience is my key finding."
Words to the wise
"When people are new to running, they often do too much. It's better to do less and more often. Frequency is better than volume. It's better to run three times a week, a mile and a half, than to run one time a week, four and a half. Often what happens, someone sees a neighbor, 'Oh, the neighbor is a marathoner.' So they want to run out and run six miles, and then they're cooked, they can't run for another 10 days. And I actually walk a ton. I've averaged, since the beginning of this year, about 77 miles a week of running. But when I have really heavy weeks, like 108 or 110 miles, I walk probably 10 to 15 of those miles. Really hard-paced walking and very determined walking, not looking at my phone, not doing anything else but listening to music, just going to work on my glutes and strengthening other parts of the body that don't get engagement in running. And to take a little bit of stress off the body by not putting so many miles running on it."