RunBlogRun Goes Inside: Hudson Training Systems Elite
By: Cait Chock
This is the first in a very special series I will be contributing exclusive to RunBlogRun: "RunBlogRun Goes Inside..." An image slideshow will accompany your reading so you can truly see just what goes on in the daily lives of these athletes running and racing for their dreams. Enjoy!
Coach Brad Hudson is a man connected and on the pulse of everything distance running. He's established himself as one of the most esteemed marathon coaches out there, but what's most marked about Hudson is his genuine passion for the sport and his athletes.
He's awake at 4am getting things orchestrated for the workouts and long runs, then up long into the night finalizing training plans. He meticulously lays out the fueling supplies needed mid-workout, then drives alongside his runners blasting music, another item he's come to be known for. That, and his penchant for snapping pictures of his runners doing work. He looks after his team like a proud father.
His knowledge of the sport indeed matches that passion; he is a regular go-to source for all of the most prominent running periodicals, he's authored "Run Faster From the 5k to the Marathon," and is often fielding training related questions from other athletes and coaches.
Results speak louder than anything this journalist could explain: Hudson led Shayne Culpepper to her win at the 2004 US Olympic Trials 5k and ushered Dathan Ritzenhein to his first marathon Olympic berth in 2008, where
Ritzenhein then was the first American to cross the line at the Games. Hudson brought Benita Willis to her 4th Olympic Team in 2012. At the 2012 US Olympic Trials he peaked three of his men just right, as, Fernando Cabada (2:11), James Carney (2:12), and Patrick Rizzo (2:13) all had massive PR's.
"There have been so many memorable moments but one recently was this spring when we had big improvement across the board at Payton Jordan," shares Hudson. "We had all four women that competed, Addie Bracy and Maggie Callahan in the steeplechase and Kara Lubieniecki and Alia Gray in the 10k, run huge PR's and qualify for the USA Track and Field Championships."
The Hudson Training Systems Elite is Born
With coaching in his blood, Boulder an epicenter of endurance enthusiasts, Hudson set his sights on expanding on the number of big-name athletes in his stable. He started recruiting, "I was one of the first ones to make the move out to Boulder to work with Brad and seeing the growth in the group over the last 2 years has been amazing," says Addie Bracy. At the time, Bracy had graduated a stand-out at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill in 2009 and continued to improve, hitting marks that qualified her for the USA Olympic Trials in three events. "Brad's experience and knowledge are obvious and when he expressed interest in coaching me, I couldn't say no. I was living in Chapel Hill, but had spent time training in Boulder the previous year. The time I spent there was some of my best training. Given the opportunity to return to such a running mecca as Boulder and to be guided by one of the best distance coaches in the country, I packed my bags and moved within the month."
Other runners followed suit and the beginning of Hudson Training Systems Elite, or HTS Elite, were laid down. Along the way, Team USA's were made, Olympic Trials were qualified for, PR's amassed, and some runners rediscovered their passion for running. Such is the case for one of HTS Elite's more recent members, Whitney Bevins-Lazzara who, after not running in college and then another 6 years after, took back up with the sport after the sudden loss of her father. With the time-stamp on a running career she sought to go all-in, running in honor of her dad. Relocating from Indiana to Boulder, Colorado, ""It has been a dream to work with Brad Hudson. His knowledge of the sport and his willingness to adjust training plans for each athlete is unlike any coach I have ever known. His passion for the sport, and for his team, make it easy to trust in his workouts and in his plan. Brad would do, and does go, above and beyond for all of his athletes regardless of event or ability. It is an honor to be coached by him and a blessing to have such amazing training partners every day." Bevins-Lazzara just ran a PR at the 2014 Chicago Marathon, 2:40:12. Though a PR, both she and Hudson agree she's capable of much more, workouts indicate she's capable of 2:37, they look forward to another PR quite soon.
What makes HTS Elite quite distinct is the collection of individual stories. Not one of these professional-level harriers are, in fact, truly sponsored. Each live a dual working life alongside, or rather to support, their running life. "I like to think we are a little bit of a blue-collar running group," states Bracy. "Most of the groups get a little bit of gear from various sponsors, but for the most part we are all unsponsored. In addition, everyone in the group works full-time or have very hefty part-time jobs. We pay our own way to races most of the time and we have to be kind of scrappy to get by." That means most of those miles are run pre-dawn, then again after work as the sun is setting. As an engineer, Zach Hine, is no stranger to the sunrise coming up only after he's finished his run.
The onus task of pulling oneself out of bed pre-dawn is dulled knowing there are others there waiting to meet you. "We all encourage one another to overcome all of the challenges that we are faced on our journey. As well as we celebrate each others' triumphs," explains Carlos Trujillo. "We don't see one person's victory as their own but more-so a victory as a whole." Running is unique in that it will ultimately come down to a test of personal will; however, with the right environment and network of support, each personal battle is never fought alone.
The Next Chapter
With the results of these past two years, part of that looks to change for the HTS Elite. "I am really enjoying taking this group from being good distance runners to being in the mix at the 2016 Olympic Marathon Trials," speaks Hudson of the success of his group. Now, runners are seeking him out, and HTS Elite runners are on the radar for more lucrative sponsorship contracts. Keeping pace, their goals keep looking higher.
"We have a vision to become recognized as one of the best and deepest distance training groups in the country," affirms Bracy. "With the progress we have made in the last year, we are all well on our way. In the coming year it is our goal to attract and gain some more support and funding for our athletes to make training and competing just a bit easier." But, catching herself, HTS Elite will always retain a part of their scrappy nature, no amount of additional funds will change that...it's in their personality. "I think there will always be just a little bit of ruggedness to the group. We work hard and get the job done, but we also like to goof off and there's no denying that we are a little rough around the edges." Her recent 3rd place finish at the San Jose Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon in 1:14:43 secured her a 2016 US Olympic Marathon Qualifying mark; her eyes will be on a big PR at the California International Marathon this December 7th.
Kara Lubieniecki echoes how much of a difference the personality of the team has impacted her performances, "I cannot possibly express how grateful I am to have the people to run with that I do. Mentally and physically I would not be the runner I am today without these training partners...This work wouldn't be worth it if it wasn't for these women."
Carlos Trujillo was a walk-on at the University of Oregon, ultimately working his way up to a PAC-10 Title in 2008. Upon moving to Boulder to join the HTS Elite he had major breakthroughs. Now boasting a 2:14 marathon PR, an integral part of his progression has been the strength he draws from the support of this group, "It's just fantastic when we have a wonderful coach who is out there with all of us for hours in cold or hot weather, to provide our fluids. It motivates me to see what people are willing to do to help each other improve as an athlete and person."
And, for the man leading the charge, Hudson is grateful, "I have truly enjoyed every moment. Just helping athletes get faster is what I am passionate about."
And so, they run on. Through mountainous trails, around tracks with the Flatirons slicing the horizon, before much of the world is even out of bed yet. They are runners on a mission, each with something to prove to themselves: that they have more to give, can dig deeper, and belong on the Team destined for Rio.
For further information on the HTS Elite Altitude Camp shown contact them at: http://htselite.org/contact/
To sponsor and support these athletes, please visit: http://htselite.org/support/
Caitlin Chock (caitchock.com) set the then National High School 5k Record (15:52.88) in 2004. A freelance writer, artist, and designer she writes about all things running and founded Ezzere, her own line of running shirts (www.ezzere.com). You can read more, see her running comics, and her shirts at her website.