The Runner Diaries — Michael Burke

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Inspired by Refinery29’s Money Diaries and The Cut’s Sex Diaries, welcome to The Runner Diaries, where we’re sharing a behind-the-scenes look into a week of training with runners of varying ages and abilities. We’re asking runners of every level, genre and distance (road vs. trail, endurance vs. speedsters, hobby joggers vs. elites) to share their workouts, training runs and nutritional choices during a seven-day period to get a glimpse into the inner struggles and tribulations of what it means to be a runner. 

This week, we have 36-year-old Michael Burke from Boise, Idaho — a former track and cross country runner for the University of Montana turned  middle school science teacher, trail runner and Community Outreach Manager for Dirtbag Runners

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The Rundown

Name: Michael Burke
Location: Boise, Idaho
Age: 36
Training For: Summer races and mountain adventures
Occupation: Middle School Science Teacher
Goal race? The Rut 28k (~17.6 miles) on September 2, 2017
Following a training plan? Jason Koop’s book is my guide
Part of any running communities, clubs or training programs? Dirtbag Runners
How long you’ve been ‘a runner:’ Since I was 8 years old!
Goal weekly mileage: 45+

Runner’s Statement:

I’ve been running ultras and shorter trail races since about 2003, right after my collegiate eligibility came to an end. I’m not as fast anymore, but can definitely log more miles nowadays. As I don’t plan on racing until the beginning of July, I’m just ramping up my miles and concentrating on shorter intervals. Right now I’m adding more miles each week and will be hoping for 45-to-60 miles per week over the next month and maybe peak at 80-to-85 early in the summer. I don’t have a real training plan other than putting some workouts together following the information I picked up from reading Jason Koop’s book, ‘Training Essentials for Ultrarunning.’ As much as I am interested in getting faster for races, I’m equally excited to get in shape to run in the mountains and bag some peaks this summer!

Wednesday 3/1 | Day One

6:50a.m. – Shut off the alarm clock, let my wife Sarah know it’s time to get up and promptly fall back asleep until about 7:40a.m., when she’s leaving for work. We’re both online public school teachers at INSPIRE Connections Academy (I teach Middle School Science & she’s a High School Biology teacher), but I’m lucky enough to work from home.

8:15a.m. – Breakfast

I’m drowsy this morning as I’m still fighting off a cold (roughly 10 days of not feeling the best). I make some coffee with a little cream and sugar. I slice up an asiago cheese bagel and spread on some lactose-free cream cheese. I add a banana, and that should be good enough for breakfast.

12:50p.m. – Lunch

Busy morning and I’m finally able to take a break from teaching to grab some lunch. It looks like I need to go to the grocery store, but I’m happy enough with a bowl of red pepper and tomato bisque.

At least, so I thought… I’m still hungry after, so I make myself a peanut butter and agave nectar sandwich.

5:15p.m. – Run

Got out a little later for my afternoon run, as I was helping a student at the end of the day. I don’t feel a lot of energy on today’s run, but I still manage an 8 easy miles with about 1,545’ of vertical gain. It’s easy to get on hilly routes in Boise as the mountains rise up straight from town. I’m breaking in a new pair of Topo Athletic Fli-Lytes and my initial thoughts: badass shoe. As the trails aren’t overly technical here, a road shoe can be a great substitute for a clunky trail shoe. The sunset was pretty awesome tonight, but they always seem to be here in the high desert.

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Starving and eating late. Had a gyro sandwich, a beef shawarma sandwich, some pita bread with baba ghanoush and a Lebanese salad. Everything was great especially the salad. The cucumbers, tomatoes and Kalamata olives were nice and fresh. I rinse it all down with some lemonade.

10p.m. – Fall asleep reading Maximilian Uriarte’s graphic novel The White Donkey: Terminal Lance.

Total Mileage: 8

Total Vertical Gain: 1,545’

Thursday 3/2 | Day Two

7:30a.m. – Woke up after a pretty decent night’s sleep, so I’m feeling good — but my throat is still a little sore this morning.

8:20a.m. Breakfast

Make myself a cup of coffee with a bit of cream & sugar. For breakfast this morning I grab a banana, a pack of fig bars and some breakfast biscuits to dunk in my coffee. Lots of carbs to start off my day, but not necessarily on purpose, it’s just the food that’s most convenient!

12:15p.m. Lunch

Had a Kurobuta Pork, black bean, rice, cheese, and pico de gallo burrito with a few tortilla chips. That hit the spot. I think eating a combination of a lot of different types of foods keep me the healthiest. I’ll never start a trendy diet or limit my intake. If I listen, I can usually tell what my body needs (proteins, sugars, fats). However, I’m also happy to get fast food periodically too!

4:40p.m. – Run

Out the door for a quick run, as my parents are in town for dinner, so if I want to run, I have to go now. Started my Suunto Ambit 3 and got out a bit faster running on the streets for the first couple of miles before heading up a steep route into the foothills. Ran a short loop, back down and then back home. Added 6×20 second strides. I do these 2-3 times per week. It helps with mechanics and efficiency. Plus, it’s always good to add a bit of speed! Only negative side effect from my run is that I got some pretty good heartburn from my lunch.

I get home and upload my data to Strava.


Out for Boise’s First Thursday event (a way for downtown Boise to draw people in for arts, entertainment and food once per month). I have several beer and wine tastings along with chocolate, nuts, etc. Heartburn is not going away.

7:10p.m. Dinner

Made our way to the Basque Market for a variety of pintxos. I ate at least 6 meatballs, a couple meat and cheese mini-sandwiches, a bunch of olives and a glass of Tempranillo. I absolutely love Basque food.


Last stop for the night and I have a piece of apple cake with cream cheese frosting. Yum.

11:30p.m. – Finally back home, and I’m ready to crash almost immediately.

Total Mileage: 6.2

Total Vertical Gain: 750’

Friday 3/3 | Day Three

7:40a.m. – Up and feeling mostly rested. Not all that hungry yet.


Same breakfast as yesterday: coffee, breakfast biscuits, banana and a couple of fig bars. My routine is relatively boring, but it gives me some steady energy throughout the morning.

1p.m. – Late lunch today. Busy trying to get a hold of numerous students before the weekend. I make myself a bowl of chicken noodle soup with some crackers. Not a lot of calories, but shouldn’t be too harsh on my stomach.

4p.m. – I plan on running at a medium effort today and decide to bring my dog Barley along for a little canicross (we both wear harnesses with a bungee line connecting us). He’s a Brittany and has a lot of energy. Needless to say, I ran a bit faster today dropping a couple sub-6 minute miles trying to keep up with him. It mostly felt good though.

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6:30p.m. – Took down 2/3’s of a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store and made a salad. Pretty hungry tonight.

8p.m. – Grab a Ballast Point Sculpin IPA from the fridge and watch some Netflix. I don’t stretch, foam roll or anything like that so my evenings are all about relaxing.

9:45p.m. – Bed time. Getting up earlier than normal to meet a group of my fellow Dirtbag Runners for a medium-longish run.

Total Daily Mileage: 6.0

Total Vertical Gain: 990’

Saturday 3/4  | Day Four


Wake up and know I better get some food in my tummy before heading out for a 10-12 miler this morning. I start with a couple fig bars, big glass of water and a banana. When I get into longer runs (20+ miles), I’ll wake up at least 2 hours beforehand and eat quite a bit more (usually oatmeal with honey and some fruit).


Meet up with three of my fellow Dirtbag Runners at Camel’s Back Park and we set off for an easy run. My legs are tired and not really feeling all that great today. A few of the steeper climbs make me feel weak, but I try to ignore it and keep cranking along. About halfway through (mile 6) it starts pouring rain. We make good time back down the muddy, slippery trail and end up with 12 miles on the nose. As I’m not running all that long yet, I don’t carry any water or gels. When runs start getting up to 3+ hours, I’ll carry a handheld water bottle and pack some Huma Gels.

11a.m. – Lunch & Libations

After getting home and showered up, my wife Sarah and I hit up one of our favorite spots in Boise: a German mini-chain restaurant called Prost. I order and consume a traditional meat and cheese sandwich along with a half-liter of Hofbräu Delicator. It’s always good to get in some protein and beer after a longer run!

2p.m. – Libations & snacks!

Pick up Barley from home and proceed over to Meriwether Cider Company to meet friends for drinks and board games. I may have overindulged a bit here, but three ciders were consumed along with some maple bacon cashews.

6p.m. – Indecision about what to eat for dinner, we head over to the grocery store and promptly pick out fried chicken, frozen pizza rolls, more beer and a Red Box movie.


Fried chicken is so good. Seriously. I eat 5 total pieces from wings to legs and one breast. The pizza rolls are exactly what I remember from my college days. There’s a reason people don’t really eat these very often. Bad choice, they taste terrible.

9p.m. – One more drink, a Ballast Point Sculpin IPA.

10:15p.m. – Not actually all that tired, but my legs are a little sore from the run this morning. Head to bed reading Jason Koop’s book Training Essentials for Ultrarunning. I especially enjoy the part where he discusses ketogenic diets (high fat, low carb). I agree with the author and think this type of diet can be limiting. I’m not against it, but until the science can prove that it will improve my performances, I won’t be partaking!

Total Mileage: 12.1 miles

Total Vertical Gain: 1,515’

Sunday 3/5 | Day Five

8:30a.m. – I’m still a little sore as I get out of bed this morning. However, it mostly goes away as I mosey around the house.

8:45a.m. – Breakfast

Not really hungry after devouring so much fried chicken last night, so I just eat a banana along with a protein shake.


Meet a couple different guys from my Dirtbag Runners group for an easy run. I just want to get some decent elevation gain in today, but keep the pace easy. We head up into the foothills and hit a couple of my favorite trails: Sidewinder and Fat Tire. With 90+ miles of trails, the options are nearly endless in Boise! My running mates are taking it quite a bit easier than I am, so I do a few little mini-loops to add in a little extra mileage. Trails are a little muddy, but my Topo Athletic MT-2’s do a great job. Good run, but my legs feel pretty tired by the end.

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Showered up and I heat up some broccoli cheese soup for lunch. It hits the spot. The rest of the day will be made for vegging out on the couch.

4:15p.m. – Snacks!

Kind of hungry so I have a few Girl Scout cookies along with some tortilla chips and queso dip. Just some good healthy snacking right there.


Grilled cheese sandwich along with some more soup for dinner. Polished off half of a bottle of Gatorade too.

9:30p.m. – I’m worn out from the weekend. Bedtime is early tonight, and I’m out quick.

Total Mileage: 9.5

Total Vertical Gain: 1,600’

Monday 3/6 | Day Six

7:30a.m. – Up and lying in bed. Not sure I want to get out from under the covers just yet.

8:20a.m. Breakfast

My usual breakfast of a couple fig bars, breakfast biscuit and some coffee are on tap this morning.


Not really into making a sandwich today, so I search around and find a pot pie in the freezer.  Perfect. Nearly 1000 calories and delicious.

5:15p.m. Run

Set out for my run this evening, and my legs are noticeably tired. Not a big deal though, I run on tired legs a lot and have planned recovery days once every 10-15 days or so. It’s also snowy with 30mph winds. I crank away on a hilly route through the wind and snow. Not a fabulous run by any means, but rather one of those “glad I got it done” kind of runs. Not every run is going to be outstanding.

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Made taco bowls tonight. Crunched up some tostadas, added seasoned lean beef, green chiles, cheese, sour cream, a variety of greens and a bit of salsa. Add a glass of chocolate milk, and that’s dinner.

10:40p.m. – Head for bed. No reading tonight, it’s late and I’m pooped.

Total Mileage: 6.3

Total Vertical Gain: 1,625’

Tuesday 3/7 | Day Seven

7:35a.m. – The sore throat I’ve had for the last couple weeks is finally starting to go away. It’s always worse in the morning, but feels much better today.


Yep, it’s the same typical breakfast: couple fig bars, breakfast biscuits, banana and some coffee.

12:10p.m. – Lunch

Cooked some long-grain brown rice and topped it with a batch of Madras Lentils for lunch today. We’ll see if I regret this decision later on today during my run.

4:50p.m.Run/Interval Workout

It’s raining and windy, but still above 45 degrees. I throw on a light jacket and a hat. I get out for a 2+ mile warm-up followed by 4 x 20-second strides. I’m doing an interval workout today: 6 repeats of 2 minutes on 2 minutes jogging rest, all uphill at a high intensity. As it’s early season for me, it’s important to work on VO2 Max right out of the block. These workouts will give me the greatest and quickest improvement to my cardiovascular system. It sounds backwards compared with many traditional training programs, but the science behind it is proven. I’ll work on more race-specific training later. The workout mostly goes well. It’s early in the season, so my speed is lacking, but I worked hard.


Feeling lazy tonight and ordered a pizza. I feel like if I can have a cheat meal once or twice a week I’ll mostly eat well all of the other times. The pizza was good, and I’m full.

10:15p.m. – Before I fall asleep, I’m taking a look at Jason Koop’s book again trying to put together a season-long plan for training. I’ve got a pretty good idea of what to do, but nothing will be concrete. If I need to rest I will. If life gets in the way, that’s okay, I’ll adjust. However, it’s fun to think about races and mountain adventures…

Total Mileage: 9.1

Total Vertical Gain: 630’

Total Miles for the Week: 57.2

Total Vertical Gain for the Week: 8,655’

A Look Back – Thoughts on the Week:

One of the things I noticed was that I need to start eating sooner after finishing a run. I know it’s important to refuel within the first 30 minutes and I rarely hit that. Maybe having some protein shakes or bars available would be an easy solution.

Otherwise, I’m happy with the training this week, more miles than I thought. I’ll begin hitting at least 2 shorter interval workouts per week for the next 3-4 weeks and transition into longer, slower speed days over the next few months. I think I’m off to a good start!

About Michael Burke
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Michael Burke has been running since he was 8 years old, first starting out with his parent’s local running group. He earned scholarships to run in college and was a member of the University of Montana Cross Country and Track teams racing the mile and steeplechase. Nowadays, he runs mountain ultramarathons and shorter trail races as well as canicross, with his dog Barley.

He has support from Topo Athletic, Meriwether Cider Company and Rafter Hilltop Ranch. He is also the Community Outreach Manager for Dirtbag Runners.

You can connect with Michael on Facebook, Instagram (@mburke.ultratrail), Twitter (@mburkeruns), and Strava

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