Fast food

Sushi—and science—propel runner Dylan Capwell.

Before he made a name for himself on the national scene, Dylan Capwell was just a kid who liked to run. And eat raw fish.

Capwell, the national runner-up in the 800 meters at the 2015 indoor NCAA Championships, says his routine of eating sushi the night before meets started back in fourth grade after he and his dad sampled some at an Asian market. Nowadays, sushi is reserved for nights before big races—“it’s a bit pricey,” says Capwell—but there’s another element to his training routine that likely plays a larger part in his success: exercise science.

Since 2014, Capwell has been working with physiologist Shannon Grady. Every eight to 10 weeks, Capwell gets tested running repeat 800s, starting off with an interval of 2:50 before repeating the run, with each subsequent interval decreasing by 10 seconds. Between runs, Grady takes a drop of blood from Capwell’s finger and measures how much lactic acid his body has built up and is processing. With those results, Grady designs workouts and velocities that Capwell should hit during training and relays that will get his heart rate into optimal zones to allow his body to better process the lactic acid.

Capwell’s work with Grady also led to a new pre-race warmup routine—one specifically designed for him. It includes a 15-minute walk; joint mobility training through ankle, knee, and hip spins; sprints; and a set of drills that includes static stretching, squats, and leg swings. Altogether, it takes him about an hour. When he’s done, only two steps remain to his pre-race ritual: clear his mind and step to the line.