Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Quote of the day

"If at first you don't suceed, you can always become an ultramarathoner" Bruce Fordyce

Apologies to Alyssa - but, that one was too funny to pass up. Fordyce is one of the most decorated ultramarathoners - having won the famous Comrades Marathon (90 km) 8 years in a row.

It made me think about how one becomes a distance runner in general. I was cut from my middle school baseball team in 7th grade - a friend of mine convinced me to run on the track team. Baseball was my favorite sport to watch - the Detroit Tigers won the World Series when I was seven years old - at that age it leaves an impression. But, I couldn't hit a baseball - that seventh grade year was when reality finally hit me.

I played soccer throughout grade school - I think I was actually pretty good - but, I wasn't into it enough to stand out. In basketball I just barely made the "A" team my 8th grade year - I also played volleyball and wrestled my 8th grade year. I was marginally good in all those sports except for wrestling - where I sucked. But, in 8th grade I ended up winning the mile in the Ann Arbor city wide meet in 5:08. That success pretty much sealed what I would do in high school and college.

In college I found that I needed to go all the way up to running 10k on the track (26 laps) before I could win anything. The odd thing about post-collegiate running is that the marathon is king - and it's not my race. Using my 10k time from college I should be able to run about 16 minutes faster than my PR in the marathon. Even if I had started training for the marathon right after college at 22 years old - I don't think I could have run that fast. My body just isn't made for it. So, what am I doing training this hard for something that's not really "my thing"?

For one - the major marathons are incredible events. People from all walks of life want to be a part of them - people will scream their heads of for hours on end for complete strangers. It can be transformative for people who never thought of themselves as athletes and yet find the way to finish one. As a runner, you are used to racing in front of family and friends - but, the New York or Boston marathon gives you the chance to be a part of a major sporting event. You can find 10k's or half-marathons with thousands of people - but, it's not the same.

After a few more marathons I'll probably focus more on 5k's to half-marathon's because that's where I could probably be the most successful. But, while I'm still at an age that I can run a decent marathon - I want to see what I can do. I'll never run a 5k or 10k faster than what I did in college - but, I can easily PR in the marathon. The question is how much?

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Phase Two: Week 4 of 5

I had a few rough patches this week - but, I'm feeling pretty good overall. I'm feeling strong at the end of my long runs - and I'm recovering well off of my easy days. Since I ran my long run on Sunday last week and Saturday this week I actually had a 7-day stretch where I reached 92 miles. At 88 miles next week will be my longest "standard" week since the fall of 2007. Since more than half of those miles will be in Key West I'm actually looking forward to it : )

Last week
Monday: 7.5 miles
Tuesday Morning: 10 miles- 4 mi warmup 4 miles threshold pace 22:20 5:43 (might have pushed mile marker out too far) 5:26 5:35 5:35 2 mi warmdown
Tuesday Evening: 4 mi easy
Wednesday: 13.5 miles
Thursday: 7 miles
Friday: 12 miles hills
Saturday: 19.5 miles
Sunday: 7.5 miles
Total: 81 miles

This week
Monday morning: 4 miles
Monday evening: 10 miles
Tuesday: 8 miles
Wednesday morning: 4 miles
Wednesday evening: 10 miles with 5 mi @ T pace (~5:35)
Thursday: 10 miles
Friday: 14 miles 10X100
Saturday: 7 miles
Sunday: 21 miles
Total: 88 miles

Friday, December 26, 2008

The seven deadly sins and running


As I was questioning why I was leaving my warm bed this morning at 6:20am for the icy roads of Ann Arbor, I decided to snap a picture of my parents' street to put on the blog. As soon as I had taken the shot the answer came; pride. I have to admit that's a major reason why I put myself through what many people would describe as torture. Although I wasn't raised Catholic, like my wife, I did have a fare amount of German Lutheran guilt as a child. I decided to think about what other of the seven deadly sins might be important factors in motivating me to run well in some way.

Sloth - This might seem the antithesis of most type-A runners. But, I think that a certain sloth like personality when you're away from running is important. If you have the go-go-go mentality then you'll probably not get the proper rest that you need.

Envy - Come on, admit it. If you're a runner there is another runner who you envy in terms of their pure talent or work ethic or ability to recover. Although we might say "running is a competition against the clock" there is always somebody who we'd love to knock down a level because we envy what they can do.

Glutonny - For the most part I think you need to have the appetite of rabbit to be a good runner. As Frank Shorter would say "the hungry wolf leads the pack" - but, from time to time it's good to be a glutton as a runner. Romans who visted the vomitoriums would not be uncomfortable at the pre-race pasta meal.

Lust - As with music many people get into sports to impress members of the opposite sex. Even as a married guy, lust plays a part in motivating my running. There are enough things that I screw-up on that it's good to have something that Kendra thinks is impressive about me. Like power - doing something well can be a great aphrodesiac.

Greed - For most runners this doesn't apply directly to money - but rather place. Wanting first place all for one's self might be thought as a type of greed - for some it is the most important sin to have in terms of being a good runner.

Wrath - This is probably the least connected to running - but, I guess it can be thought of as a certain form of the competitive mind-set. This is probably related to greed and envy - as it's usually better runners who usually beat me for whom I reserve my wrath.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Hurtin'


I don't want this blog to be a constant stream of whining and complaining. But, I think it is worthwhile to note when I've reached a red line and how my body is reacting to training now vs a few months from now. I had a hard time getting in my easy four miler last night and an even harder time with my medium long run this morning. My legs aren't completely trashed - but, they're feeling "dead". My whole body feels fatigued - and I just feel "out of it".


I think it's from a combination of factors. This will be my first week over 80 miles in awhile. I notice that I can recover pretty well at about 75 miles per week - but, anything above that my body seems to protest. Also, I ran my tempo run yesterday a little too fast - especially when it was just two days after a 19 mile run. Tomorrow will be easy - but, Friday I'm planning to do a hill workout in Ann Arbor with my old running group and a long run on Saturday. I don't know how in shape they all are - but, I'm sure someone will push the pace.


Although next week will be another high-mileage week - I will get three easy days in a row on Sunday, Monday, & Tuesday. Plus I'm hoping that a few days of warmth in FLA will make running outside feel like not such a chore.


But, the number one thing I need to do is focus on recovery activities - including elavating my legs and cold whirlpools. And of course nutrition - but, realistically that probably won't get better until after the holidays.

Monday, December 22, 2008

First Loser

Here is an interesting project by a photographer named Sandy Nicholson. It's called 2nd:The Face of Defeat. It is a collection of photographs of people moments after they got second place in competitions from spelling bees to pillow fights to rock/paper/scissors.

Quote of the Day

One of my favorite books is River Horse, by William Least Heat-Moon. It recounts the author's trip from New York City to the mouth of the Columbia River in the Pacific Ocean - all by boat. He does have a few dozen miles of portage - but, most of the time he travels the rivers, lakes, and canals of America - which gives him plenty of time to talk about history, geography, and ecology. I think what interests me most about the book is how a voyage like this is a very strong metaphor for life - especially a voyage on such a flowing and ever-changing thing as a river.

This quote is from a part of the book where he is on the Missouri River in South Dakota.

"I thought how far I was from where and when this journey began, how I was so distant from that fellow passing for me twenty months ago, the one so eager to learn the secrets of river passage. Could he - the me of that moment - and I sit down together, he would want to know what I knew and absorb what I had experienced, and he would regard me enviously, just as I do those men who have returned from the moon. But there would be forever a difference between him and me: I went and he did not. He set the voyage in motion, but he could not take it. Just as I, who lay on the Dakota hill, could not know whether Nikawa would reach the Pacific, he could never see the outcome of his preparations, unless somewhere, on some far other side, time permits us to meet our past selves, all those we have been. Our physical components change every seven years, so our brains are continuously passing along memories to a stranger; who we have been is only a ghostly fellow traveler. As for me, what might I learn from him who laid out the voyage or from all those others I once was." . . .
"What a report I might deliver to them about where they have sent me! And how they could remind me of first kisses and death, the Haitian mountains at sunset and the Ozark hills at night. They could redraw the faded lines of the long map of my journey here, point out clearly where it was I took a road other than the one they intended, and they could tell me whether they liked that divagation or not, whether they found it a good one or rankly stupid. Were human memory total and perfect, perhaps I'd be only one person from start to finish, but forgetfulness cuts me off from who I've been so that hourly I am reborn. To twist Santyana's words, I who cannot fully remember my past am condemned to proceed without it."

The last sentence seems to say that our imperfect memory is somehow a limitation - but, he's really saying that the fading of memories allow us to change - which is not only positive, but it's necessary if we are to adapt and thrive in a world that is ever-changing.

To outsiders it might seem that running is about routine and familiarity. But, for me, running is addictive because it's about transformation. Whether it's a six-month marathon training cycle or an easy four miler - I run because I expect that the experience will change me - if not from who I am, than from who I might become. Thankfully, the painful memories of past marathons are only good enough to help me to change my methods - but, not so perfect to stop me from doing another one.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Phase Two: week 3 of 5

I changed up the titles for my weekly "This week and last week" posts. The numbering system didn't mean anything other than how many weeks I had been writing the blog - so, I'm using the phase and week of that phase for the titles. As a reminder, I'm using a five phase approach to train for Boston - with each phase lasting five weeks - except for the last phase which will last four weeks. For those of you wondering how this relates to Pfitzinger's or Daniels' four phase/mesocycle approach - my 3rd phase is basically the transition from phase/mesocycle two to three. Each of my phases is made up of four weeks of building up mileage/intensity and one week of "recovery" level mileage. For example the mileage progression for my current phase is 73, 77, 81, 88, 66.

Last week wasn't a perfect week. Although I made it out to the track on Tuesday for a decent workout - I didn't do hills on Friday because it was miserable outside and I was weak. The long run went pretty well today. The next few weeks will test my legs - 81 miles next week and 88 the week after. I'll also be running in some very different conditions. We're heading to Ann Arbor for Christmas where they just had 9 inches of snow - then we are headed to Key West on New Years Day where it should be in at least the mid-70's most days. Rough - I know.

Last week
Monday: 7 miles
Tuesday Morning: 9 miles- 5X1200 3:50-3:54 3 min rest
Tuesday Evening: 4 mi easy
Wednesday: 13 miles
Thursday: 8.5 miles
Friday: 10 miles
Saturday: 6.5 miles
Sunday: 19 miles
Total: 77 miles

This week
Monday: 7.5 miles
Tuesday Morning: 10 miles- 4 miles threshold pace (~5:35 per mile)
Tuesday Evening: 4 mi easy
Wednesday: 14 miles
Thursday: 7 miles
Friday: 12 miles hills
Saturday: 6.5 miles
Sunday: 20 miles
Total: 81 miles

Friday, December 19, 2008

Clarence DeMar - "Mr. de Marathon"


I might be wrong - but, I'm guessing that no one reading this blog has heard of "Mr. de Marathon" before. The only reason I know anything about him is that he is in Noakes' book "Lore of Running." But, he won the Boston marathon a record 7 times and ran it 33 times - the last time at the age of 65. Some of the years he won had some soft times, but he ran a 2:18 in 1922 - no easy jog. DeMar only won the Boston marathon once during the ages of 22-33 because he had been told he had a heart problem and that as a strict Baptist he believed that the desire for "selfish victory" was immoral. So, maybe there is some hope for us "old men."
The one quote I found for him was "Run like hell and get the agony over with."
His training doesn't seem to have consisted of much quality work - it was mostly 100 mile weeks with 20 mile runs as his main run for the week. Speed work mostly came from 10 mile races.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

My second marathon (Frankfurt), post-race in Milan and pumpkin bread recipe

A few weeks ago I posted some pictures of my time in Europe leading up to the Frankfurt Marathon in 2002. I did actually do some training in the last month - but, it was mostly on a stationary bike because I messed up my knee falling off a motor scooter in Italy. I had put in quite a bit of training that summer - and it was the same year as my first marathon in LA. So, I had some "hay in the barn." However, I felt some fear on the starting line. I worried about finishing more than getting a PR.

But, there were about 6-8 of my fellow exchange students who had taken the 45 minute train ride from Mannheim to watch (more support than I was used to at home) - so, the pressure was on to not completely embarrass myself. The weather was on my side - it was in the 50's and about mid-way through the race started to gently rain. The course was pancake flat. And as the miles started to flow by, my knee didn't hurt, I started passing people and gained confidence. I did look at my watch - but, I was much more focused on how my body felt, my breathing, and going after runners in front of me. The result? A better than six minute PR which still stands today.

The next day we got on a plane for Milan. Most of my friends were Norwegian - and their Rosenberg team was playing Inter-Milano in a Champions League game. They all had a good laugh as I had to walk downstairs backwards - but, it was worth it to see one of the great stadiums in European football. I knew that European soccer fans were rabid - but, I didn't quite understand until I arrived in the visitors section at San Siro.


All the visitors were forced to sit behind one of the goals (pic above with my friend Kjetil - pronounced like it's spelled). On either side of us were 20 foot high fences - so that the Inter fans couldn't get at us should Rosenberg actually have the balls to attempt to win the game.
After Inter's first goal (luckily for us they scored a lot that day) I saw what looked like small fires breaking out in the stadium. Apparently the fans wave road flares in celebration. Also, as the game went on there was a growing presence of police dressed in riot gear in our section. I was ready to get out of there when the game ended. But, they forced us to stay in our seats for 30 minutes until the entire stadium was empty. They walked us back to the buses and we got a police escort back to our hotel. Yankees/Sox ain't nothin'.
As a reward for all those who read through my ramblings below is my family recipe for pumpkin bread, which was a success at Arjun, Melissa, and Brennan's Thanksgiving on Saturday.
3 cups white granulated sugar
4 eggs
2/3 c. water
3 1/3 c. flour
1 c. cooking oil
2 c. pumpkin
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. nutmeg
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. vanilla

Mix as add ingredients. You'll need a fairly large mixing bowl.

Grease baking pans heavily. Makes enough for two loaves. Fill each pan about half way. Bake at 350 degrees for 45-60 minutes until cooked through the center (use toothpicks to test for doneness).
Enjoy!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Phase Two: week 2 of 5

Way back in one of the first posts in this blog I said how important it was going to be to have a decent base and rest leading up to this last week. Well, I stayed on track and therefore my body handled the higher mileage and greater intensity pretty well this week. The long run was my hardest day - but, my legs actually felt decent on the run today. I'm headed to yoga tonight to push out all those toxins my body has been collecting all week. Next week I'll probably have my first track session - but, otherwise it will be pretty much a copy of last week.

Last week
Monday: 7 miles
Tuesday Morning: 10 miles- 3 mi easy 4 mi LT run (~5:35 pace) 3 mi easy
Tuesday Evening: 4 mi easy
Wednesday: 13 miles
Thursday: 4 miles
Friday: 9.5 miles hills
Saturday: 18 miles
Sunday: 8 miles
Total: 73.5 miles

This week
Monday: 6 miles
Tuesday Morning: 10 miles- 6X1200 ~3:50
Tuesday Evening: 4 mi easy
Wednesday: 13 miles
Thursday: 8 miles
Friday: 10 miles hills
Saturday: 7 miles
Sunday: 19 miles
Total: 77 miles

Friday, December 12, 2008

Hills

Hill workouts mean different things to different people. Pfitzinger writes about them in his section about resistence/weight training. He views hills as a way to strengthen the legs without using weights. Daniels agrees with this view to a point - but he also views hills as a rep workout in that it can greatly increase your heart rate over a shorter distance/slower speed than on a track.

For most people who have been on XC/track teams hills mean pain. Usually the name of the street where your coach had you do hill workouts can bring a chill to the spine many years later. At my high school we had "5th street." Our coach marked out 400 meter and 800 meter "options". University of Michigan has Harvard Street - which is shorter, but steeper. At Loyola in Chicago we were forced to go to a sledding hill in Evanston that had once been a dump - it was too short - so we did a LOT of them.

The worst thing about hill workouts is the last 25 meters when it feels like you're standing still, and yet your legs are burning and you feel like you might hyperventilate. But, they make you stronger.
In preperation for Boston I'm going to do hills on most weeks when I have just one other "hard" workout. I may even do some downhill training as I've heard that the Boston downhills near the end are more challenging on dead legs than you might think.
This morning was my first hill workout in Druid Hill Park (pic above). I tried to take it a little easy on myself - but, I still got a good burn going.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

LT workout, first double, and six words you don't want to hear on a run alone, at night, in Baltimore

I'm not going to detail every hard workout between now and Boston - but, I'll probably write at least one post on every type of run - how the experts suggest approaching it and how it worked out for me.

As I wrote in a post last week - lactate threshold is somewhat of a misnomer, but I'm going to use it for these kinds of workouts because everybody else does. Regardless of what you call it the point of these runs is to increase the percent of V02 max, and more importantly the pace, at which bad stuff like acidosis and reduced muscle contraction takes place. To do this most experts suggest running at 15k-half-marathon pace for 20-40 minutes. You can also do LT repeats (usually 1-2 miles) with short rest.

Daniels has a more exact way of determining LT pace by what he calls your V-DOT score (I'll get into that in another post). Using Daniels method and what I thought I was capable of currently running for a half-marathon, I thought 5:35 pace would be about right. But, LT runs you want to do more on feel than anything - it should be "comfortably hard" and you shouldn't have much muscle soreness during or after. You're not looking to smash the wall with a sledge hammer, but rather use the Andy Dufrain principle of "pressure and time."

Luckily I was able to find some other members of TWSS who didn't mind running a difficult workout at 7am this morning. Arjun, Brennan, Zero, and Eileen showed up on time and ready to go - unfortunately, I didn't leave myself enough time - so I was late. They were about a quarter mile into the run when we passed each other. So, I ran it alone - which wasn't really all that bad.

There isn't a whole lot to say about the workout. I may have run a little too fast in sections and too slow in others - but I ended up at 22:30 (~5:37 pace). So, not so bad.

Today was also my first double in awhile. I try to limit doubles - but, when you get around 70 miles a week it's hard to avoid them. I prefer to run doubles on days when I have a hard run - it helps to warm up the muscles and gives you a chance to run less miles on recovery days. Although usually I run easy in the morning and hard in the evening -but, today we ran hard in the morning to get a little daylight. I'm not going to kid you - it was tough getting out the door tonight. But, after about 10 minutes I felt a little less of the aches & pains. I think that it will overall help me recover from this morning.

As I was trying to pry myself off the couch - I made a choice about which 4 mile route I'd take. My "usual" 4 mile route goes north-west through Mt. Vernon to Bolton Hill to Reservoir Hill(between North Ave and Druid Hill Park) and back - my other route is down to Riverside Park in Fed Hill and back. I had never run my usual route at night - and Reservoir Hill is a little sketchy - but, I had run in Fed Hill this morning. Plus I reasoned that I always run on Monument between Johns Hopkins Hospital and the JFX expressway at night, which has a bad reputation, and never have any problems. Well, the difference is that Monument is very well traveled, exposed, and you see cops pretty frequently.

About 2 blocks north of North Ave. on Park Ave. I passed some kids on who were on the other side of the street. There was some commotion and I didn't really pay attention until I heard a kid clearly say "shoot the dumbass in the back." Now, he could have been talking about some other dumbass - but, I was the only dumbass in their immediate vicinity. Going to college in Chicago I have some street smarts (although obviously not enough to stay out of this neighborhood at night) which told me I should just keep looking ahead and run at the same pace. Look back and they might think you're confronting them - run away fast and they might think you have a reason to run. The point is to communicate "I'm just a guy going about my business - I'm not going to cause any trouble." They most definitely could have been screwing with me. But, I'm guessing that they were doing something illegal, didn't want to get caught, and so one of the kids said something they thought would scare me off. It worked and next time I need to run 4 miles at night I'll be running down to the Inner Harbor and Fed Hill.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Phase Two: week 1 of 5

Time to put some logs on the fire.


The last five weeks I've averaged 54 miles per week - the next five weeks I'm planning to average 77.5 miles per week. Plus, I'll be adding a LT workout and a hills workout each week. So, it will be a relatively major change to what my body has been handling lately. The basic structure of the next 5 weeks will be 4 relatively difficult days (LT workout, 90+ min run, Hills, 2+ hour run) and three recovery days (6-8 miles). My next day off will be January 8th. The good news is that my legs feel pretty lively and other than the normal aches and pains I'm pretty healthy.


This is a good a time to look at the overall structure of my plan for the next 19 weeks leading up to Boston. The next 15 weeks will be split into three 5-week cycles - 4 weeks of building mileage and/or intensity and one week of "recovery." The next cycle, starting on January 12th, I plan on averaging 86.5 miles per week adding some marathon paced runs and higher intensity LT runs. The last intense cycle, starting on February 16th, I'll run 90 miles per week with a tune-up half marathon at the end of that cycle. The last four-week cycle will include LT, marathon pace training and strides - with a significant taper the last two weeks.


Last week
Monday: 9 miles
Tuesday: 7 miles 8X150m strides
Wednesday: 11 miles
Thursday: 0 miles
Friday: 6 miles
Saturday: 17 miles
Sunday: 6 miles
Total: 56 miles


This week
Monday: 6 miles
Tuesday Morning: 10 miles- 3 mi easy 4 mi LT run (~5:35 pace) 3 mi easy
Tuesday Evening: 4 mi easy
Wednesday: 13 miles
Thursday: 6 miles
Friday: 11 miles hills
Saturday: 7 miles
Sunday: 18 miles
Total: 75 miles





Thursday, December 4, 2008

Quote for the day #2

I feel a little bad for that other quote, and I started volunteering one-on-one at a literacy center today - which made me think of an inspriational quote that actually does mean a lot to me. It's from Pema Chodron - a Shambala Buddhist monk/nun who has written some great books on being fully awake and living a compassionate life. This is one of those quotes that you need to read several times - and try to think of how it applies to your own life before it rings true.

"We already have everything we need. There is no need for self-improvement. All these trips that we lay on ourselves-the heavy-duty fearing that we're bad and hoping that we're good, the identities that we so dearly cling to, the rage, the jealousy and the addictions of all kinds-never touch our basic wealth. They are like clouds that temporarily block the sun. But all the time our warmth and brilliance are right here. This is who we really are. We are one blink of an eye away from being fully awake." Pema Chodron, Start Where You Are

First, I think there is a lot to the idea that we are all Dorothy, wearing red shoes that can always get us home. That doesn't mean that we don't need to take some long trips to discover that fact - but, we already have everything we need within us right now. Also, I like the idea that we don't only cling to good feelings about ourselves - but, that many times we cling even more fevorishly to negative feelings about ourselves - because it somehow feels "comfortable."

We grow used to putting ourselve down in someway - and it's easier to maintain that view than to look at ourselves in a more positive way. Addictions aren't just to drugs - but more often feelings. And finally that all this negativity that we surround ourselves with is imperminent. It is as permiable as clouds - only the light of the sun is permenant and we only have to let the clouds disappate to experience the light that we all have within ourselves.

What does this have to do with running? Everything and nothing.

Quotes

"Hopes and dreams are just hopes and dreams until you learn how to achieve them and grant yourself permission to aggresively implement what you've learned." - Marshall Burt

To read more of this thought leader's knowledge droppings go to this link.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Lactate Threshold: What does it mean? Does it even exist?

Very early on in most runner's careers they hear how the build up of lactic acid causes them to run slower and feel sore. Well, it turns out that lactic acid isn't produced in exercise and that lactate, which is produced during exercise, doesn't cause any pain or soreness in our muscles (Noakes). In fact, lactate might be a good thing for us - we just don't know. That should show you how insanely complex our bodies are when you consider that in 2008 we don't entirely understand what happens when we propell ourselves forward.

However, both Daniels and Pfitzinger talk about lactate threshold as if it still means something. Why? Well, for one we seem to be able to predict race times most reliably based on the pace at which lactate starts accumilating more rapidly in the blood. Lactate accumilation is correlated with the build-up of hydrogen ions which lowers pH (acidosis). Hydrogen ions can also block the uptake of calcium - which restricts muscle contraction.

So, what does all this mean? Running around the "lactate threshold" (LT) point (usually 75-80% of V02 max or 15k-20k race pace) does seem to improve running ability. And runners with lactate thresholds at a higher percentage of V02 max race faster. The most popular LT workout is to run at LT pace for 20-40 minutes. Another LT workout is to run mile repeats at LT pace with 1-2 minutes rest.

So, a week from today when I run my first LT workout - I'll try to not confuse myself with the details and just run controlled and strong - because that's what I want to do on 4/20.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Phase One: week 5 of 5

Today is like a lot of days will be in the next 20 weeks. If I had any sense I'd just put on my robe, put on some tea, and listen to some Johnny Hartman & John Coltrane with Kendra. Instead I tried to find some clothes that would protect me from temps in the high 30's and rain. At least it wasn't windy.

The best protection against nasty weather that I've found is a feeling of superiority and a contempt for the weakness of others. In college, when we'd be running along the Chicago lakefront in January with temps below zero and hurricane force winds we'd pump our fists at the high-rise condos in fury - yelling "where are all you F@#%'s who clogged the running paths in July now?!! F$%#&*@ P*$$!*$!!" Not that anyone could hear us - but, it somehow made us feel a little less miserable.

Last week
Monday: 9 miles
Tuesday: 7 miles 8X150m strides
Wednesday: 9.5 miles
Thursday: 6 miles
Friday: 8 miles
Saturday: 17 miles
Sunday: 7.5 miles
Total: 64 miles

This week
Monday: 9 miles
Tuesday: 7 miles 8X150m strides
Wednesday: 11 miles
Thursday: 0 miles
Friday: 8 miles
Saturday: 6 miles
Sunday: 15 miles
Total: 56 miles

Friday, November 28, 2008

Past Marathon Training: Frankfurt

Dedication: When studying abroad it's easy to be distracted from scholastic and personal goals. One must wake up with a sense of purpose and dedication - keeping your eyes on the prize.





Commitment: Any wavering on the daily chores leading up to a difficult challenge will certainly be punished. If not felt the day of - then certainly the morning after.


Sense of Purpose: The gratifying part of all this hard work is that one develops a strong sense of self - an identity that is always with you regardless of the trials and tribulations of life.




Connection to history: Finally, when it's all said and done - you feel a brotherhood with all those in the past who have put a challenge in front of themselves and attacked it with gusto.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Deerfoot


In the chapter entitled "Training with Experts", Tim Noakes (Lore of Running) profiled 29 of the greatest runners of all-time. The first is Deerfoot - a Native American born near Buffalo, NY who lived and raced in England from 1861-1883. He was already a known professional runner in the U.S. before he went to the U.K. - but, he became a legend across the pond. Thousands of spectators would come to watch him run. He would play up the public's curiosity with his Seneca background by screaming war chants as he crossed the finish line and even staging a fake scalping.

His most impressive accomplishment was in 1863 when he ran a world record 11 miles 970 yards in 1 hour, which wouldn't be beaten for 90 years later until Jim Peters ran 11 yards longer in 1958. More impressive than his times was the fact that he basically founded a professional sport. Although you wouldn't know it these days the Brits were the studs of distance running for most of the 20th century. Most of them could trace their tradition back to interest created by an Indian from America.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Phase One: week 4 of 5

Another big week for our Baltimore running group (TWSS) - with several people running the Philadelphia marathon and Alyssa getting an awesome (no abbreviations on BBB) 3rd place female at the JFK 50 miler. Will had a great premier marathon at just over 2:30 - the results don't seem to be up yet, so I'm not sure how everybody else did - but, just getting to the start line was an act of bravery with the temps below freezing this morning. This week felt more like Christmas weather than pre-Thanksgiving - I guess we're in for a long winter.

This weather is making me think about how many miserable cold weather miles I'm going to put in before April 20th. To top it off I just found out that I'll probably be in Minnesota for work the 3rd week in February, which just happens to be my biggest mileage before Boston at 100 miles for the week. I'll be lucky if the high is above 0 in Minneapolis at that time of year.

The mysterious knee pain disappeared and the long run went pretty well last week - so, I'm happy. Even though this next week will be almost a 20% increase in mileage and my first 2 hour+ run in 9 weeks - I'm not too worried about it. Happy Thanksgiving everybody!

Last week
Monday: 0 miles
Tuesday: 8 miles 8X100m strides
Wednesday: 7 miles
Thursday: 10 miles
Friday: 7 miles
Saturday: 6 miles
Sunday: 16 miles
Total: 54 miles

This week
Monday: 6 miles
Tuesday: 8 miles 8X150m strides
Wednesday: 10 miles
Thursday: 7 miles
Friday: 10 miles
Saturday: 6 miles
Sunday: 17 miles
Total: 64 miles

Friday, November 21, 2008

It’s always brightest before the dusk: Injuries


I’ve been pretty lucky with injuries during my time as a runner. But, I’ve had a few experiences like yesterday – I was walking down the hallway when suddenly there was a sharp pain in my knee. I didn’t fall or twist my knee – I was walking straight ahead and all of a sudden it felt like someone had stuck a knife in my knee. The first thought is that it’s just some weird thing that will go away after a few paces. But, when I got up from my cube it was still there – when I got out of the rental car it was still there – and when I slowly made my way onto the plane it was still there. I’m now sitting in the airplane – and it might disappear after 2 ½ hours of sitting down or it might be worse. (Update: It’s still here) This type of pain is kind of like feeling the first rumbles of an earthquake – your start thinking, is this going to be “the One”?

Most running injuries are just from overuse – we don’t know when to stop. Something must be in the water this week. My friend Ryan finally had to call it quits for awhile after he noticed a “bone protruding” from his ankle – probably caused by pushing his body too hard in the NYC marathon followed by a XC race a few weeks later – not to mention the just under 30 races he’s run this year. Gold medal winner Kenenisa Bekele apparently ran with a possible stress fracture in a race this last week which caused him to run a “pedestrian” 15:46 for the last 5k of his race.

There are also those injuries caused by non-running accidents that keep you off your feet as well. Olympian Paul McMullen famously severed his own toe while mowing the lawn. The above picture of Positano, Italy was taken about 30 minutes before I fell off a rented scooter in Italy – a month before I was going to run the Frankfurt Marathon. I messed up my knee so bad that 80% of my training was on a stationary bike leading up the marathon.

My worst injury was my sophomore in high school - I was cruising through a great XC season when I started having knee problems shortly before the state meet. I basically limped through the state meet – and then went on crutches for 6 weeks after learning I had Osgood Schlatters – an overuse injury that affects the growth plate in the knee.

Most injuries aren’t so dramatic – the last two summers I’ve had issues that haven’t forced me to stop running – but, they’ve made it much less enjoyable. Summer of 2007 I had a problem with “runner’s knee” and last summer I had plantar fasciitis for the first time in my life.

Over the next few months I’m going to write some posts about what the experts have to say about dealing with injuries and preventing them. If anybody has some interesting injury stories let me know. Injuries are a part of the sport - even after I listed my injuries above I still feel like I've been lucky.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Staying motivated

In the nine years since I graduated from college i've found that there are four keys to staying in good running shape.
1) Run with a group at least twice a week.
2) Find cool races to run.
3) Have goals.
4) Plan your training around these cool races and your goals.

It's pretty simple - but, when i've strayed from any of these goals my motivation drops big time.

It's also important to sprinkle some less important races in your training for the "big race."

For instance - this is my schedule for races up until Boston:

1/25 - very tentatively the Miami half-marathon. Either way I'm planning on running 12-13 miles that day at marathon race pace.
2/7 - USATF XC championship - with it being in Maryland this year there is really no excuse.
2/21 - Club Challenge 10 miler - I'm planning on treating this as a workout - but, I must beat my time from last year.
3/21 - National half-marathon in DC - This will be my main tune-up for Boston. My time here will give me a good idea of what I should shoot for on 4/20.
4/4 - I haven't found a race yet - but, I need to run 15 miles at marathon pace that weekend. Let me know if anybody has any suggestions.

Longer term plans: I've decided that I don't want to run a marathon more often than every 18 months - with goal races every 6 months.
Fall of 2009 I'm looking at maybe the Twin Cities 10 miler which is the same day as the Twin Cities Marathon.

Spring of 2010 I'd like to run some fast 5k/10k's on the track/road (Carlsbad 5000, random college track races). Making it into Penn would be my dream goal that spring.

Fall of 2010 - run a marathon on a fast course - maybe go back to Chicago or run the Steamtown marathon in my wife's hometown. And up my mileage 20% from what I'm planning for Boston.

Past that point who knows - but, I would like to run a few marathons in Europe (Berlin, London, Paris, Rome, Rotterdam). I haven't completely ruled out an ultra - but, i don't think it's my thing. My zone seems to be from 5k-half marathon - with 10k-10 mile being my special sweet spot. I would probably be happier and more comfortable just running those shorter races - but, running isn't about being comfortable - it's about being comfortable about being uncomfortable.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Phase One: week 3 of 5


Running while traveling is one of my favorite things. Yes, you can get lost - or wander into a really bad neighborhood - but, i don't think there's a faster way to get to know a city or a place than running in it. The plan was to run in the Smokies on Friday - but, a delayed plane messed that up - fortunately I found a pretty cool trail just a little ways off of I-85 on my way to Charlotte from ATL. It was a surreal scene of bright colored fall leaves muted by a cover of fog in the foothills of South Carolina. The last two days I've run in Atlanta - which is a cooler/funkier city than I remembered. Once you get away from the city center there are plenty of leafy residential neighborhoods to run through. The topography is slightly gentler than Baltimore - but, there are plenty of hills if you look for them.

About 12 hours after I get home tonight - I get on a plane for Minneapolis. Our company headquarters is on the west side of the city, which has plenty of parks connected by a series of bike paths. Of course the problem this time of year is the weather. It's only supposed to get down to the mid-20's this week - but, there was the same forecast when I was there last November and I woke up to single digits one morning. This time I'm going to be prepared for anything.

This week is about the same mileage as last week except I'm taking a day off.

Last week
Monday: 6 miles
Tuesday: 7 miles 6X100m strides
Wednesday: 10 miles
Thursday: 4 miles
Friday: 14 miles
Saturday: 6 miles
Sunday: 9 miles
Total: 56 miles

This week
Monday: 0 miles
Tuesday: 8 miles 8X100m strides
Wednesday: 10 miles
Thursday: 7 miles
Friday: 7 miles
Saturday: 6 miles
Sunday: 16 miles
Total: 54 miles

Thursday, November 13, 2008

old man discusses his favorite websites about running

I'm old school - or maybe just old. I didn't have an e-mail address until I was in college (even then I don't think I used it much), I didn't get a cell phone until I was a year into grad school, I remember playing "pong" - I'm even so old that I remember thinking pong was cool. My first video game system was an Atari 2400 - it was brand new. We didn't have a computer at home until I was in middle school. When I think how completely dependent I am on technology that has been developed since I was 18 - it's a little horrifying.

I click on Letsrun if I want to see what's going on in the running world or just see where "flagpole willy" thinks I should invest my money, I use marathonguide.com for the easy to use pace calculator, I pop onto washington running report for the local running calender and results, I head over to USATF running routes if I'm in a new city and want to see where the locals run or want to measure a route, and of course I go to twss to find out the local workout - or see what the latest post is from a growing list of bloggers like myself. Of course I keep all of this surfing to non-work hours only.

One website that's kind of cool and was started by the local running store in my hometown is half2run - it challenges people to run half marathons in half the states. they have a pretty good list of half marathons from all over the country - and a place to keep track of where you've run.

I probably look at Letsrun more than anything - the front page has a pretty good list of world-wide results with commentary from the sites founders wejo & rojo (the johnson brothers). Lost like diamonds in a haystack are some pretty good posts from the message board (Brian Sell once famously said of the Letsrun message board, "if I wanted to know the opinion of a 18:30 5k runner I'd ask my wife") . They've saved the best in the 4th sticky down on the message board - anything by renato canova (Italian coach of many Kenyans), Hadd, or John Kellogg are my favorites. Jack Daniels will sometimes post as "jtupper" - and all runners should know about the "summer of malmo". And there are plenty of characters such as the aforementioned flagpole willy, the 4:30 miler, meyerhoff, etc.

Instead of post-modern - they should call our age "post-boredom".

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Science of the easy run

We tend to discount the easy run as "junk mileage" - is it just about having a big number at the end of the week? Or do those easy days actually contribute to our ability to run fast?

By my count >70% of my training days before Boston will be "easy". So, I hope it's important, otherwise I'm wasting a lot of time - but, how will these miles make me faster on April 20th?

Here are some specific physiological improvements that are made during easy runs.

Stroke volume: The heart is really just a pump sending oxygen & other nutrients carried by the blood to organs and systems that need those nutrients to function. Stroke volume is the amount of blood that is pumped with every beat of the heart. Higher stroke volume means that the heart doesn't need to beat as quickly - and studies have shown that stroke volume is improved due to time spent running/exercising rather than intensity of training (Daniels, 2005). So, even if you were to train harder - you wouldn't necessarily increase your stroke volume.

Muscle development: Easy runs increase the "number, size and distribution of the mitochondria" (Daniels, 2005). Mitochondria are the "only part of your muscle fibers in which energy can be produced aerobically" (Pfitzinger & Douglas, 2001) - they are basically little energy plants that use oxygen to produce energy for the cells they inhabit. Since 99% of energy is produced aerobically in a marathon it's important to have a lot of these little buggers. Exercise also increases the rate at which oxygen can be processed. And third there is an increase in blood vessels in the muscle - basically improving the distribution of oxygen to all parts of the muscle. Finally muscles get better at conserving glycogen, using fat for energy, and dealing with lactic acid through easy runs (Daniels, 2005).

Running economy: Although there are many ways to increase running economy - some researchers believe that the most important factor for improved running economy (both biomechanics and cellular economy) is by the amount of accumulated miles rather than the types of workouts that you do (Pfitzinger & Douglas, 2001).

There are certainly other components that are important for marathon performance that require more intense training (lactate threshold, overall speed, VO2 max) - but, we'll get to them later. For now, all I want or need are some nice easy runs (except for when Fed Hill gets out of control of course).

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Phase One: week 2 of 5

Not a whole lot going on racing wise this week. Just a bunch of foolish people on bikes - not that I would ever participate in anything like that.

Anyways - although last week was "week 1" of the 24 week plan this week is the first real step up in mileage - and I add in both strides and a longer run. But, the legs feel very fresh and relaxed - it will feel good to take it up a small notch. I'm going to be in Georgia and North Carolina this week for a wedding and to see my sister and brother-in-law respectively. I'm taking Friday off with the hope to run a little on the Appalachian Trail in the Smoky Mountains. Last time I went there I saw a bear just off the path. It's a pretty incredible place.

Last week
Monday: 7 miles
Tuesday: 6 miles
Wednesday: 4 miles
Thursday: 8 miles
Friday: 0 miles
Saturday: 6 miles
Sunday: 9 miles
Total: 40 miles

This week
Monday: 6 miles
Tuesday: 7 miles 6X100m strides
Wednesday: 10 miles
Thursday: 4 miles
Friday: 14 miles
Saturday: 6 miles
Sunday: 9 miles
Total: 56 miles

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Greatest running related movie of all time


There are some decent non-fiction films that show the running spirit out there - "The Billy Mills Story", "Endurance" and on a lower level the Pre movies. But, the greatest movie about running of all-time is "The Jericho Mile". I don't expect the younger generation to know "The Jericho Mile". It was a made for TV movie made only 2 years after I was born. But, someone on my high school team discovered it and the movie became a ritual on the nights before a big race.

The story is about Rain Murphy (Peter Strauss) a man in prison for a murder that, although brutal, is forgivable. He's put in a large Calfornia prison with the worst of the worst. The prisoners are split up according to race - with Brian Dennehy playing the evil white leader. The director was Michael Mann - an in executive producer for Miami Vice, director of Ali, etc.

Anyways - Rain uses running as his escape from the crushing reality of prison life. The prison "sports reporter" realizes he's actually really good - and they try to set up some real training and maybe get him to the olympic trials.

Here is a youtube of the final scene - the greatest scene dedicated to running in the history of cinema. It doesn't really give away any of the plot - but, it does give you an idea of how dated the movie is - which of course is part of the fun.

Here is a youtube from the first scene - which kind of sets up the setting of the film. The only reason that I post it is in the last few seconds Rain's buddy yells "kick! - kick! - kick!". If i yell that to any of my former teammates they would immediately know what I was talking about. The black guys call Rain "lickety split" - when i was in college a random guy in Chicago called me that - it may have been the greatest day of my life (other than the day i got married of course ; ).

Thursday, November 6, 2008

What's so special about Boston?

As most people know - the Boston marathon is the oldest annual marathon in the world. It was first run in 1897 - one year after the innagural Olympics. Given the popularity of marathons these days, you might be suprised to know that of the four other "major" marathons (New York, Berlin, London, Chicago) the earliest is New York, which started in 1970. Before the running boom of the 1970's marathoning was not very popular - Boston survived based on tradition.

To get more of an idea of how a non-runner Bostonian views the marathon - this "idiot's guide to the Boston Marathon" by ESPN's the Sports Guy is pretty good. It's not my favorite column of his - but, there are some good lines like - "Any athletic activity that causes you to pee on yourself, justify it and have the justification actually make sense is something I don't want to be doing under any circumstances."

Basically he says that the Boston Marathon is an event (~500,000 people spectate) because people get the day off from work (Patriots Day), it gives people an excuse to be outside when the weather is finally getting good, get drunk, and make fun of other people. Four things that Bostonians love to do apparently.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Phase One: week 1 of 5

Good job to Jake and Ryan on the NYC marathon today. Jake ran a very even paced race off of a great summer of training. I'm guessing Ryan was a little disappointed - but, the good news is that I'm sure he can drop a bunch of time with a little more marathon centered training. The guy has raced 20+ times this year - parties like an animal the last few weeks - organizes our crazy group - and has hardly run a long distance run in the last few months. It was a tough day - but, there's no reason he can't come back to run a qualifying time for Boston in the next few months.

UPDATE: The Boston qualifier is actually 59 seconds slower than I thought. So, Ryan made it in by the skin of his teeth (8 sec). I can't imagine how hard those last few miles were.

Big news from back in my home state of Michigan. My high school team took the state XC meet title on saturday. My old coach, Don Sleeman is still the head coach at 70 years old. When I was a freshman he was still running sub 16 min 5k's - not sure if that says more about my age or his. My senior year (1995) was his last state championship. We were state champs my junior and senior year - one of those years we were ranked #3 in the country. I was fifth man my senior year and got 17th in the state. It was a pretty cool thing to be a part of - and taught me that with a lot of commitment and a little talent you can accomplish a lot - especially if you are surrounded with good people.

Last week
Monday: 6 miles
Tuesday: 0 miles
Wednesday: 6 miles
Thursday: 0 miles
Friday: 8 miles
Saturday: 6 miles
Sunday: 10 miles
Total: 36 miles

This week
Monday: 7 miles
Tuesday: 6 miles
Wednesday: 4 miles
Thursday: 8 miles
Friday: 0 miles
Saturday: 6 miles
Sunday: 9 miles
Total: 40 miles

Friday, October 31, 2008

When ya gotta go

As a part of its series of articles leading up to the NYC marathon that talk about all things tangential to the actual race, emphasizing the odd customs and traditions of marathoners, the New York Times has published an article today on porta johns. Of course the main purpose of this article is to provide an opportunity to a NYT reporter to draw upon his ability to bring poetry to any topic - as in "Their mismatched colors create a snaking kaleidoscope through the parking lots and roadways of leafy Fort Wadsworth." It also provides an opportunity to remind readers that not only do these marathoners run themselves until they almost collapse - but, they are so focused on this challenge that normal rules of polite society in regards to relieving one's self in public are thrown out the window (or pissed off the bridge - depending on the prevailing winds).

For most experienced runners it's a tradition - my college coach used to call it "shaking the dew off the lilly pad." My friend and high school teammate Todd had a very nervous bladder. There were several times where he would be MIA minutes before a big race. The closest he came to missing a race was an indoor meet at Eastern Michigan our senior year. Todd had won three individual state championships by that time. The starter was Kermit Ambrose, a legend in michigan high school coaching - the meet was actually named after him. By the time we were in high school Kermit was 90+ and didn't seem to care much what people thought. He called Todd's name to line up - and when I said he was in the bathroom and that i'd check on him - annoyed, he said, "tell him if he shakes it more than twice he's doing something else."

At big races like NYC there is a certain strategy involved to finding the shortest lines. Runners are unexpectedly lazy. Sometimes you just need to venture out a few blocks to find a public restroom that is shockingly vacant. You also need to know the lay of the land - usually there is a clump of trees/bushes where you might be somewhat "exposed" - but, people usually look the other way.

As we were waiting for our friends to pass by at the Marine Corps marathon last weekend we witnessed a woman using the bushes method - the weird thing was that there was a row of unoccupied porta john's just on the other side of the road. Apparently some people just prefer nature.

The article brought up an instance where Paula Radcliffe popped a squat right to the side of the course en route to a victory at London. The article calls it "the most memorable moment in that race's history" - I hope the author isn't serious, but then again, it isn't all that often that you get to see someone drop their pants on live TV without paying for it.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

quote - running and sanity

"If any psychologist will take the trouble to trace out the history of each of our prominent pedestrians (long distance runners/walkers back in the day) he will discover that a very large proportion of them have been subject to some form of madness."
Sir Adolphe Abrahams (1961)

I had to look this up, but Abrahams was a doctor for the British Olympic team for several decades.

On the twss blog (the group I run with) someone posted a New York Times story that made training for a marathon look like more of a challenge for co-workers and spouses than for the runner. Now, they did manage to find some especially crazy runners, who I don't think qualify as the "typical" runner. One guy seemed to think it was more important to buy a $900 gadget to help him recover from long runs than to keep his family on a budget. The same guy (i think) also took his finishing medal to work the week after the race to show his already annoyed co-workers. A female runner used her commute as her training run - and then didn't shower for work.

So, are runners crazier than the average person? If so, is it because crazy people are attracted to running or is it because running develops a slightly eccentric perspective - or both? Most of the comments on the twss blog denied that runners were more self centered, selfish, or crazy than the general public. Most people thought that the crazy people the Times found were that way before they were runners - and would have been the same way regardless of whether they ever took up running. Another point made on the blog was that runners are just like any person who is obsessive about a sport or hobby. That's possible - but, I'm not sure it's healthy to be obsessed about anything.

Here is what I think based on my own experiences. Generally, I feel much better psychologically when I'm training for something. Part of it is probably the endorphins, part pride in accomplishing something unique, part of it is setting aside a part of my day for myself, part of it is the social connections through running (they might be crazy, but they're my kind of crazy), and part of it is just the positive feeling of being in shape.

But, there are traps that I fall into - sometimes my pride or competitiveness turn me into a bit of jerk. Many times I expect family and friends to modify their schedules to fit my training - luckily my wife seems to understand that it's important to me and so she doesn't take offense - but, that doesn't mean that it's a reasonable expectation. I can be very irratable and cranky before a big race - and sometimes after if things don't go well.

That being said - all in all - i think running is a very positive thing in my life. But, I know that balance is important. That's why I was a little ambivalent about starting this blog - I'm a little afraid that it's the "dark" side of running that's leading me to write it. So far, it's been fun and helped me to focus on what I want to do this winter - so, until i feel something different, I'll keep it up.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The beginning of modern training: Arthur Newton

A book I've mentioned before, Lore of Running, dedicates an entire chapter to the contributions of Arthur Newton, who raced in the 1920's and 30's. Newton was what we would call today an ultra-marathoner. He ran a large number of races between 60-100 miles - but, his ideas helped to modernize training for all distance runners. In Lore of Running, Tim Noakes identifies 9 "rules" of Newton's training that have have become "common sense" in long distance training.

1) Train frequently year-round: Before Newton most world class runners trained only part of the year - and not very strenuously by today's standards. In fact many books of the time suggested walking as good training.

2) Start Gradually and Train Gently: Since many runners didn't train all year long - they tried to get back into training too quickly. Newton praised the benefits of what we would now call long slow distance (LSD). Which Noakes defines as 20-25% slower than race pace.

3) Train first for distance (only later for speed): I would say that's the major feature of my training for Boston. I'll be doing quite a bit of distance before I ever hit the track.

4) Don't set a daily schedule: Well, I've kind of messed up on this one. My days are scheduled for the next 25 weeks. However, I know I need to be flexible. If something comes up or I'm too tired or the weather is crazy on a "quality" day - I have no problem postponing the workout.

5) Don't race when you are training, and run time trials and races longer than 16 km only infrequently: This basically relates to the idea of "periodization" discussed earlier. Set aside a good chunk of time that's just for training - not racing. Now, his idea of "infrequently" is a little different than mine. He suggested that marathoners should not race more frequently than every two months - running a marathon about every 2 years is enough for me!

6) Specialize: Noakes interprets this as make sure that you train for a specific distance. Training for a 5k is very different than training for a marathon. Another way to think about it is to concentrate on the distance that you are most talented at - although, i'll admit that if that was the case I'd never run a marathon.

7) Don't overtrain: This is a pretty simple one - of course it's sometimes hard to tell when you've crossed the line. Marathon training is so difficult that simply being tired might not be a sign to ease up your training. But, on the other hand, you can't ignore what you're body is telling you. If your pace is way off in workouts - or you're getting sick constantly you should probably back off.

8) Train the mind: People probably don't appreciate the importance of training your mind to overcome pain. Many runners who don't start until they are adults train at the same pace that they race. Of course, part of that is they are not necessarily competing - but, another part of it is that their minds are used to pushing their bodies as hard as someone who has been competing since they were a kid.

9) Rest before the race: As I said before, the taper is very important. Noakes argues that no other running writer seems to have said anything about tapering before Newton. In fact, many would run time trials just days before big competitions.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Recovery week 3 of 3

First of all - congrats to Jeff, Kris, David, and Alyssa! Everybody did a great job today in the Marine Corps Marathon. Watching all the people come in at mile 25 though reminded me of the pain of the marathon. With all the aches, cramps, etc you basically feel sick - and you just want it to stop.

This week is a slight increase in mileage as I'm still in my "recovery" phase of training. I'm going to try to get in at least two sessions of yoga and two weight sessions this week as well.

Last week
Monday: 6 miles
Tuesday: 0 miles
Wednesday: 5 miles
Thursday: 0 miles
Friday: 10 miles
Saturday: 5 miles
Sunday: 4 miles
Total: 30 miles

This week
Monday: 6 miles
Tuesday: 0 miles
Wednesday: 6 miles
Thursday: 0 miles
Friday: 8 miles
Saturday: 6 miles
Sunday: 10 miles
Total: 36 miles

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Periodization by mesocycles

Don’t fall off your seats folks - I know this sounds exciting. Periodization is basically the concept that to run our best we need to have different types of training throughout the year (including rest). Both Pfitzinger (Advanced Marathoning) and Daniels (Daniels’ Running Formula) prefer 24 week “macro cycles” to best prepare for a goal race. Both authors break the 24 weeks down into 4 training mesocycles (Pfitzinger’s term) or phases (Daniels’ term). This is not completely ground breaking - everyone who has run on a track or cross country team has trained using some version of these cycles. I’m going to quickly summarize each of these cycles today - at some later date I’ll go into each one in more depth.

Phase one is simply running “easy” mileage to build an aerobic base. This base building is important so that you can increase mileage without increasing intensity. There are many benefits to easy running on the cardiovascular system and even a cellular level. I might do some strides during this phase as well, which helps with running economy.

Phase two introduces some quality training - but not too much and not too intense. Along with some threshold workouts, I’ll include strides after an easy run and hills.

Phase three is the most intense phase. It includes both intervals and threshold runs - as well as more marathon pace runs (if that’s your goal race). The goal is to stress the systems that will be tested in your goal race enough to strengthen them - without getting injured or burned out. It is this thin line that you have to play with - you have to really listen to your body and focus on hydration and nutrition to ensure that you are replacing the liquids, carbs, protein, and vitamins/minerals that your body is using at a high rate. There might be some racing during this phase as well.

Phase four is the last phase of quality training. You want this to be as specific to the event as possible. If your goal race is hilly than you want to train over hills - if it’s going to be warm then you want to train in the heat. This phase also includes the taper in the few weeks before the race. This is critical because your body is able to recover from the training without losing much fitness. Tapering is a tricky balance as well - but, usually it’s best to error on the side of too much rest. My PR marathon came after I hurt my knee a month before the marathon and mostly used a stationary bike for training. Rest is much more important that most people realize.

Speaking of rest - there is a rest phase, which I’m in the middle of right now. Rest doesn’t have to mean no running whatsoever - but, it does mean a major reduction in mileage and no hard running. The transition between my rest phase and phase one will be gradual - but, the basic length of each phase is as follows:

Rest phase: 4 weeks
Phase one: 4 weeks
Phase two: 5 weeks
Phase three: 9 weeks
Phase four: 5 weeks

So, it’s basically a 27 week plan with 23 weeks for the four main phases.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Recovery week 2 of 3

Last week was the lowest weekly total I have planned until after Boston. It's good to have some time off - but, I feel a little rudderless. I guess I just need to enjoy it and let my body rest.

Last week:
Monday: 0 miles
Tuesday: 0 miles
Wednesday: 4 miles
Thursday: 0 miles
Friday: 5 miles
Saturday: 0 miles
Sunday: 7 miles
Total: 16 miles

This week:
Monday: 6 miles
Tuesday: 0 miles
Wednesday: 5 miles
Thursday: 0 miles
Friday: 5 miles
Saturday: 4 miles
Sunday: 10 miles
Total: 30 miles

Yoga

If you would have asked me a few years ago about yoga - I would have said that it was a fad workout for people who don't want to "really" work out. Well - I was wrong. Kendra started me on yoga while we were dating - although I didn't start going regularly until this summer.

Here are the reasons that it's good for a runner to do yoga.

1) It's a full body workout. There are plenty of muscles that are not used while running. Overtime that can make you more susceptible to injuries. During a challenging yoga session you work pretty much every muscle group in your body.

2) It's a balance of strength and stretching. Heavy miles can make muscles shorter and less elastic. Yoga helps to keep muscles flexible - which again can help to prevent injuries.

3) Yoga helps the body rid itself of toxins. I'm not an expert here - but, some of the poses are supposed to help to force toxins out of your organs and muscles. "Hot" versions of yoga help with this even more because you are sweating constantly.

4) Focus on posture and breathing. When I'm running my best my mind usually flows between two thoughts - making sure that my breathing is full and relaxed - and making sure that my body is relaxed, upright, and that my stride is in a good rhythm (not too short or too long). Yoga is the same way - making sure that you are breathing correctly and that the postures are strong, but relaxed.

5) Being in the moment. Yoga helps to train the mind to focus on the moment rather than what happened earlier in the day or last week - or what you have to do tomorrow. It's hard to race well if you're stressing about something else.

6) It doesn't disrupt training. I've done 90 minute hot yoga sessions the same day as 2 hour runs. It's challenging, but you can still do the yoga - and it helps to flush out all the bad stuff you built up during the run.

Well - I'd write more - but, I gotta get running to the sunday night community yoga class at Charm City!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Quote - Zatopek

"We are different, in essence, from other men. If you want to win something, run 100 meters. If you want to experience something, run a marathon." Emil Zatopek

Zatopek was one who liked experiences and winning. In the 1952 Olympics he won both the 5,000 and 10,000m golds - and at the last minute he decided to run his first marathon as well. He got the gold medal in that too. As great as Bekele is - there is no way he could have won all three in Beijing. Part of that is how competitive all these races are these days - but, part of it is how incredible an accomplishment it was by Zatopek.

I'm not sure I completely trust his quote - because most of us who competed on any level ran long distance because we weren't fast enough for a more "sane" distance. But, the quote does illustrate why you have thousands of people lining up to run marathons - not 100 meter sprints. We are all looking for a unique experience. Something that is challenging and maybe even a little dangerous.

Monday, October 13, 2008

My first marathon

I was two weeks short of my 25th birthday on a bright March day in Los Angeles when I ran my first marathon. I was long in confidence and short in experience. I thought that running 25 laps in college on the track meant that I was tough enough for anything. I was wrong.

The first hitch wasn't really my fault. Somebody called in a bomb threat - so, I stood around with 20,000+ people as the sun steadily warmed the air for 45 minutes. I probably should have taken that as a sign that someone was telling me to reconsider my plans for the race - that maybe I should take it easy, given that I hadn't really run over 16 miles during training.

Once the gun went off I felt the exhilaration of running with thousands of people. I was only a few years out of college - and I hadn't really run a race with this many people. There is a release of energy that occurs at the start of a race this large - unfortunately I would need that energy later.

In the first few miles I just floated along - we started to enter South Central LA and I can remember slapping hands with kids - thinking how easy it was. Then I saw the lead female pack - I moved up to them pretty easily and then stayed in the pack for a little while. It was fun to think I might be on TV. Then for some reason I decided they were going too slowly - so, I opened up a gap on them. This was at about 10 miles and I still felt great.

Things changed soon - at around 14 miles I remember coming up over a rise from a bridge. I spit to my left only to realize that I had spit on the lead woman - who was overtaking me. I mumbled an apology - but, all I was thinking about is "I'm starting to hurt and I still have 12 miles to go - crap."

The wheels really started coming off around mile 16. I was completely overheated. The temp was around 70 degrees and the California sun was relentless. I don't remember what my water stop strategy was - but, I think it was probably the potentially life threatening "drink when you're thirsty."

I remember finally seeing a water stop like an oasis in the desert around mile 17. I was so thirsty that I stopped completely - I drank water and poured it all over myself for several minutes. I heard sirens in the distance - I was sure they were coming for me.

When I started up again I realized that stopping probably wasn't the best idea. Most of the muscles that I need for forward locomotion were completely cramped up. It was like learning to run all over again. My brain knew what my legs should do - but, they had other ideas.

There was one thought that kept spooling around in my head - "I really want to quit - but, I don't know how else to get to the finish line."

A few other memories stand out in my head - trying and failing to catch a guy who looked like he was pushing 200lbs; saluting an American flag (which was rather uncharacteristic of me); and generally cursing my own existence. It's amazing how quickly one can go from slapping hands with strangers - to feeling like a cripple. That's what the marathon does to you.

I finally did finish. Thank goodness that my parents were there - my mom had agreed to drive me back to San Diego. I'm glad she did - because I was in the back seat curled up in the fetal position for the 2 hours back to SD.

So, again - why am I doing this?

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Recovery week 1 of 3

As I was watching the Chicago marathon online this morning - there was a small part of me that thought maybe it might be "fun" to jump in the Marine Corps marathon in a few weeks. Falls Road has at least one free race number. But, I quickly regained my senses - the next few weeks should be all about rest. Soon enough I'll be running long miles - and putting in a marathon - no matter what the pace is not a good idea right now.

The Baltimore half was a little brutal yesterday. I placed well (4th dude) - but, it was a little slower than I had hoped (1:14:44). But, those hills are no joke - and I was basically alone (other than passing marathoners) for 11 of 13 miles. I'm not too sore today - but, I'm glad that next week will be basically off. I'm ready for the break mentally and physically. I'm going to do some more weight training and yoga in the next few weeks - so, even if I'm not running much I'll have some physical activity.

Last Week
Monday: 8 miles
Tuesday: 4 miles morning; 2 mi warmup 4X1200 ~4:00 per - 8 miles
Wednesday: 0 miles
Thursday: 7 miles 8X100
Friday: 4 miles
Saturday: Baltimore half-marathon 1:14:44; 15 miles total
Sunday: 0 miles
Total: 46 miles

This week
Monday: 0 miles
Tuesday: 0 miles
Wednesday: 4 miles
Thursday: 0 miles
Friday: 5 miles
Saturday: 0 miles
Sunday: 7 miles
Total: 16 miles

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The cruel hand (foot) of fate

I was in my hometown of Ann Arbor this last weekend. I don’t get home much other than the holidays or a wedding/funeral - and then usually not for long. So, I tried to see as many people as possible. One friend who I was looking forward to seeing was my old high school friend Todd Snyder - not only because of his new six-week old girl, or because we don’t talk to each other as regularly as we should - but, because he was going to run the Chicago marathon next week - and I’d heard through the grapevine that his training with the Hanson’s was going incredibly well. The rumor was that he had been training for a 2:13 marathon. That’s pretty much within spitting distance of the Olympic team.

So, after making the obligatory comment on his new born (actually she is very cute of course) I asked him about whether the rumors were true. He said that training had been going great until last week - when he some pain that had been developing in his foot got so bad he couldn’t run. They hadn’t done a bone scan yet - but the doctor thought that it was a stress fracture of one of the bones in his foot. Todd was his usual positive self - saying that the training had given him a lot of confidence about what he could do in the future, but it had to hurt - to get so fit and then not be able to show it.

I have to admit that at first my disappointment was more about the fact that I was going to have to wait awhile before he was anointed as the next Brian Sell - and I got to brag about beating him in middle school. But, then it made me think how dedicated these Hanson guys are to run 130-140 miles a week - giving up their lives for several years to chase down a dream where so many things can go wrong. But, I guess the seemingly random cruelty of the marathon is, in a perverse way, what makes it alluring.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Last week of Baltimore Half-Marathon training

For the next 27 weeks I'm planning on posting a review of my training for the previous week and a preview for the coming week. Next Saturday I'm running the Baltimore Half-Marathon, which is my last race of the "season" - so, my mileage was down a little bit last week and will be even lower this week. I had one hard day last week (4X1600) - it was the first time I've run a sub-5:00 in a workout in awhile - so, that felt good.

Last Week
Monday: 9 miles
Tuesday: 4 miles morning
9 miles workout evening 4X1600 5:11; 5:04; 4:59; 4:55
Wednesday: 6 miles
Thursday: 4 miles (sick)
Friday: 8.5 miles
Saturday: 16 miles
Sunday: 0 miles
Total: 56.5 miles

Next Week
Monday: 7 miles
Tuesday 4 miles morning
8 miles workout evening 4-5X1200
Wednesday: 0 miles
Thursday: 8 miles 9X100
Friday: 4 miles
Saturday: Baltimore half-marathon; 17 miles with w-up & w-down
Sunday: 0 miles
Total: 48 miles

Friday, October 3, 2008

gods and mortals


Like Pheidippedes, most early distance runners were messengers. They were so important that even a god of Greek mythology, Hermes, was given the role of messenger. The need for messengers was mostly related to how bad the roads were in most parts of Europe. As any competitive person can imagine, races between messengers probably started with bragging by one or the other about their exploits. By the end of the 18th century the occupation of foot messenger had pretty much died out - but, foot races - especially in Britain went on.

The first races, in the 17th and 18th centuries, were usually sponsored by pubs. Like boxing, gambling, was the main draw for spectators. Also like boxing - the men who raced were mostly from the lower classes. However, by the mid-19th century schools as like Oxford and Cambridge were fielding cross-country teams - making it a "respectable" sport. However, there was a distinction between pro's who ran for money and amateurs who ran it for fun. This split is why the Olympics was only for amateurs at the beginning - they wanted the event to have a more "noble" atmosphere than could be found at most professional races. Given the doping issues that track has now - maybe they were on to something.

Most of this historical information I took from Lore of Running, by Tim Noakes, MD. At over 700 pages, it is the text book of running - as in, you wouldn't want to read the whole thing unless you were going to be tested on it.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Obsessed with training

I don't know if this is healthy or not - but, I've been obsessed lately with looking at my training schedule for the marathon. I've been trying to predict how certain training is going to make me feel based off past experiences. There is enough new training that I've never done before that it makes me a little nervous - but, I think I need to make these changes in my training to improve my time.

And yes, this means I have all of my daily runs planned out until Boston - I know it's a little sick.

What kind of changes?

1) More runs over 20 miles. Leading up to NYC in 2007 I had one run >= 20 miles. Now to be fair - I had 14 runs between 16-19 miles, but I don't think that was enough. For Boston I'm going to be running 9 runs 20-24 miles plus 12 runs between 16-19 miles.

2) More mid-week runs of 12-15 miles. I had about 4 of these in training for NYC. These are easy runs that aren't the long run of the week. I'll be doing 25 of these during training for Boston - so, some weeks I'll have 2 of these. What this means is that I'll have a lot days where I'll be beat up from hard/long running and trying to get out the door for 85+ min.

3) More marathon or faster training within runs >=16 miles. I did 3-4 of these in prep for NYC - I am planning on running 7 of these this winter/spring.

4) Less racing early on in training. During all of my training for NYC I never went more than 4 weeks without racing. For Boston I'm going to go about 13 weeks before the first time I toe the line in any race. What I'm worried about is boredom more than anything. The point is to put down a strong base of training without stressing my body too much early on, so that I can be stronger for the last few months before the marathon. I guess that's part of the reason for this blog - so that I have a reason to stay psychologically focused during this period.

5) Related to #4 is the transition time between my current training (my last race of the "season" is on 10/11) and Boston marathon training (the first relatively challenging week is the second week of December). It's a real trick to find out the best way to give one's body rest without losing too much fitness. I also tend to gain weight when I'm running low mileage - which can make coming back to training a rather miserable experience. So, I need to concentrate on nutrition and cross training while april will feel like a long ways away.

6) February 17-April 4: This might be the hardest 7 weeks of training that I've ever attempted. I'll be running an average of ~89 miles per week, with 5 runs over 20 miles, a half marathon, 9 threshold/marathon pace runs and no days off. This is why those 8 weeks between 10/11-12/7 are so important. I need to be both rested and have a decent base - so that I can handle the training and not get injured.

Monday, September 29, 2008

2:03:59!


Wow!

I kind of felt sorry for Geb at the Olympics last month. One of the greatest runners of all time was limited to basic pacing duties for his countrymen in the 10k. But, at the end of the race he had a big smile on his face even though he didn't medal. Maybe he knew something the rest of us didn't.

Gebrselassie is one of those mythic men of running - at the age of 35 he runs the first marathon under 2 hours and 4 minutes. His first world record was the 5,000 meters in 12:56 and change in 1994. Think of that - he's been setting world records for 14 years! That's incredible.

Also incredible is his range - the difference between 5k and 42k is quite a bit - and yet he's been the best in the world at both distances and everything between. The man has had a movie made about him (Endurance, 1999) which was actually pretty good.

He has two Olympic gold medals and 8 world championships for indoor and outdoor track. Pretty much an overall stud. In terms of range and length of career, he is probably the greatest distance runner of all time.

To put his marathon pace in perspective - there are only 15 Americans who have ever run faster than 1 hour 2 minutes for the HALF marathon. That's sick.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Marathon Quote #1

"You have to forget your last marathon before you try another. Your mind can't know what's coming."
- Frank Shorter

I completely agree. In 3 out of 4 marathons I've experienced complete physical breakdowns. I'll tell you a little more about those good times later.

Why am I doing this again?

Pheidippides

There aren't many sporting events that I can think of that are based on a story from a ancient Greco war and named after a battle. Pheidippides was, of course, a messenger for the Athenian army. The story goes that after the Athenians were victorious over the Persians at the battle of Marathon, Pheidippides ran the 26 miles back to Athens to announce the victory. He made it back, stated "we have won", and died on the spot.

Not exactly a story that one would think would lead thousands of people every year around the world to try and equal his feat. I did a little reading on the internets - and the factual history around his run is a little shaky. But, more historically firm is the fact that he ran to Sparta to request help in battling the Persians before the battle of Marathon. To reach the Spartans and get back to the battle he ran 150 miles in two days BEFORE the famous 26 miles. No wonder he died - he didn't taper properly.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The training plan


I'm going to use a combination of training plans from Pete Pfitzinger (Advanced Marathoning) and Jack Daniels (Daniels' Running Formula). They both have plans that have 4 phases. The Pfitzinger plan is a little simpler - but, I like some of the workouts in the Daniels book a little bit better.

I'm planning on writing extensively on what these books say about distance running training. I'll probably bring in some theory from a few other books I have laying around too.

The plan will run for 24 weeks. I'll get into the details in a later post.