Tips, Tricks & Truths- Get To Know Odlo Athlete Henry Howard
Henry is a distance runner and running coach, but he hasn't always been a runner. Henry has worked really hard to accomplish what he's accomplished in the running world. He developed a passion for running that lead him to commit himself to the sport. Henry has qualified for and completed the Boston Marathon as well as many other marathons and ultramarathons where he's accomplished podium results and age-group awards. Learn more about Henry below!
When you are traveling and away from home for extended periods of time (for competition, training, etc) what meal do you crave the most?
I eat a lot of the same things on the road as I do at home. I try to prepare a lot of my own meals. One thing I can’t prepare is my wife's really good gluten-free homemade bread, all different varieties, since my family is all celiac. That’s something that is difficult to transport but I look forward to coming home and having the gingerbread, pumpkin bread, banana bread, or whatever she’s made recently.
If you could have any three people (dead or alive) over for dinner who would they be?
That would be pretty awesome, I think the three I would want would be people who are leaders in different fields and I could pick their brain on different things. My three would be former U.S. president Bill Clinton, New York Yankees baseball star Derek Jeter, and Apple creator Steve Jobs.
How do you relax? Do you have any favourite hobbies that help you winddown?
That’s a great question, a lot of times what I do when the day is winding down is I check-in with my athletes. I’m a running coach, and have fifteen or so clients and I get a lot of joy out of seeing how well they progress and helping them along. I haven’t watched TV in years except for a few Netflix shows that have been of interest to me, so once in a while I’ll do that, but on a more regular basis it’s checking in with my athletes.
How have things changed for you and your training during this pandemic?
You know, I’m going to have a really different answer to that because for my real job I commute an hour each way and we’ve been working from home, almost exclusively, since the middle of March. Getting that two hours back has been great, I’m able to walk downstairs to my desk in 30 seconds instead of an hour commute. I’ve been able to train really well and I haven’t had to schedule that hour commute into my morning run so I’ve been able to progress as an athlete during this time. When I’m actually out running, I’m being mindful of keeping distance from people. I live in an area that is fairly quiet, even on the trails, but I have either a buff that I wear and that I’m able to pull up if I pass someone. Or, if I know I’m going on a weekend and the trail is going to be more crowded then I have a mask with a filter that is better protection and I’m sure to wear that when I come across other people.
Has the pandemic impacted how you can prepare for your sport? Will/Is your competition/race/etc schedule being impacted?
Yeah, I had big plans this year, my big goal was to get into the Western States and so I had one ticket in the drawing and that was roughly a year ago and I was going to try and get in another race. Of course, everything shifted and the race that was going to be my qualifier this year was cancelled/postponed until next year. But, Western States basically rolled everything over so I’ll still have the opportunity to get into the drawing again and keep that going. I am very fortunate that I got in what I’ll call “bookend trail races” and I had one in March just as everything was starting to close and shut down. That race was the same race I had done three years earlier and it was a great test of my fitness, they also had a lot of social distancing already at that time. Three years ago, I finished 10th overall and I was hoping to do that again and I actually came in 4th overall, 45 minutes faster than three years ago, so I was really happy about that. At the end of September, I entered another trail race, this was a short ultra, just over marathon distance. This race changed its start line, instead of bussing people to the start line they’ve used eight years previously, they just had us all start at the finish line which meant it was about 28 miles, and I finished 2nd overall in that one and was really happy with that. Over the summer there were no races I was comfortable in doing so I did a couple FKT’s (Fastest Known Time), one of them was successful and one was not, so I have another one that I’m looking at here in a couple weeks.
What do you love most about Odlo? What sets Odlo apart from other brands?
I came across Odlo a year or two ago and really liked what I saw about them. I work with several brands, and I look for brands that I really embrace the company and their values and Odlo has been around for seventy-something years. There are other brands that are interested in the environment and sustainable practices like Odlo but the other ones haven’t been around that long and it’s great what they’re doing and I appreciate that but having that long history of being environmentally-friendly and working towards 100% sustainability is amazing and I truly support that. Their gear, the shirts that I wear, the boxers that I wear, the jackets that I wear are amazing. I’ve been lucky recently because I’m generally a morning runner and if it’s raining in the morning I go out in the rain, usually I don’t have time to do a workout later in the day, and there have been times where I'm going to bed and it’s been like, “well, I know I’m going to get wet tomorrow,” and for some reason the forecast was incorrect. Well, on Saturday I had a long run and the reverse happened, it was not supposed to rain but it rained for the first two hours of a two and a half hour run. I had my Odlo rain jacket on and when I was done my shirt underneath was not wet, it kept my core completely dry the entire time. It was proof that it’s not only a company that has sustainable measures in mind, but also their products are comfortable and they do their job really well.
What is your favorite product? Why?
This hat is something I wear on probably 95% of my runs. It’s one I got earlier this year, it wicks the sweat away, it helps shield the sun from my eyes, it fits great and looks great. It’s a staple, the only thing I wear more often when I run is my watch.
What is the best advice you can give to younger athletes or aspiring distance runners?
The number one piece of advice would be- consistency. To be a long-distance runner, endurance runner, we want to have that consistency because we’re going to improve over time. The general marathon training plan is going to be 12 or 16 weeks and if your goal is to run a marathon and never run again, or never run that distance again, that is totally fine but to commit yourself to that 12 or 16 weeks is great to accomplish that goal but what is beyond that? I find a lot of times, even athletes I coach, they want to do the marathon and then once they do it they say, “well, maybe I’ll do a second one,” and really the success that I’ve seen in my athletes and in myself was to be able to be successful in whatever success means to you is the consistency. The athletes I have who are the most successful are the ones who do the training day in and day out, and everyone needs a break once in a while, but the ones who hit their workouts consistently are the ones who are going to find that success. Having a year-round training plan broken down into segments where maybe you have a race or an FKT, or something you’re aiming for and you have that three-month buildup, ease back, take a break, repeat. That consistency day in and day out, and not taking off for a month or longer, that’s going to build your running up even more than anything else. Mile by mile, five miles at a time, one day at a time and the growth will come.
Do you have any tips for finding motivation to push through tough days?
Finding your “why.” Everyone has to have their own “why,” for some of my athletes it’s that shiny medal when they’re done, and that’s fine, other athletes want to do a new distance or have a new time and some just need a goal. It’s just finding what works for you, some people it’s the shiny medal, some people it’s a time goal, but when it’s hard and it’s raining out and you don’t want to go out or you just feel like sleeping longer, or if you’re a runner at night and you’ve had a hard day at work just think about what your “why” is, and what that goal is, and how that half an hour or hour is going to help you achieve that.
Have you learned any travelling tips or tricks through your experiences?
I actually travel a lot for my job when we’re not in the middle of a pandemic and I’ve been able to combine some of that traveling with races, and of course I travel myself as well, I think the biggest one when traveling by plane for a race is whatever you want for race day you should pack in your carry-on. I’ve been fortunate that I’ve only had one bag temporarily lost in all the traveling I’ve done and it wasn’t related to a race, but you don’t want to get to your destination and have that bag that you need somewhere between your home city and where you’re racing. So, I just take that caution and take that stuff on with me, I would much rather do that than have to go find a running store with everything I need in a new town or city. That’s my biggest piece of advice.
How do you prepare for your event? Do you have any tips for handling the stress or performance anxiety?
I think the best advice is, and it’s hard now with the pandemic, but the more races you experience the less anxiety or pre-race stress you’re going to have. In the race I had in September, I didn’t feel any stress whatsoever before the race. The hotel I stayed at was a mile away from the race, and I kind of knew the race directors because I’d been communicating with them on social media, so I was chatting with them before the race, and I felt good about my training, I had that confidence, and I felt really good about knowing the course from their descriptions and the communications they sent out before the race. I knew what to expect, so just having that confidence and that experience definitely paid off. It’s hard in the pandemic, but the more races you do the more comfortable you’re going to be with races. And just know that when you do line up at the start line that you’ve done the training, and even in the days before the race you’ve done the training, there’s nothing you can do that’s going to help you at that point, so just be confident that you did the work, that you know what to expect, and that everything is going to be cool.
What is your least favourite type of music?
Do you snore?
Yes, I do
What did you eat for breakfast?
Gluten-free bread with banana and almond butter
What is your favourite movie?
Coffee or tea?
What is your favourite season?
Dark chocolate or milk chocolate?
Would you go to a movie alone?
Yes, I have
Window or aisle seat?
Always the aisle
Favourite ice cream flavour?
(ed. note: interview has been edited for length and clarity)