The Winter Truth to Running

source: runnersworld.com

I sure I’ve said it before and I’ll probably say it again, but really the season just begs for it and there’s really no nice way to put it. Winter is the worst season for running and trying to get your training going. The younger folks would put it charmingly by saying: Winter sucks balls! So unrefined. But it certainly captures the feeling. If anything, it makes one’s New Year running goals that much harder to accomplish with the arctic hole that is February upon us.

Suffice it to say, January running has been hard in these parts. Sure we’ve seen worse, and while that’s not really helpful right now, we can only be thankful for small mercies; who knows what this month will bring. I get chills just thinking about it. Fear not though, all is not lost, it is possible for your running to survive and even thrive in these chilly temps. Here’s how:

  • Commit to start /stay running. No matter what happens outside (50° or -5°), you must determine where you stand and what your goal is. Only then can you go about with ways on how to get there come rain, snow or shine.
  • Come up with a training plan based on your goal, detailing how many days per week, the mileage, and type of runs (interval, tempo etc.) you’ll be doing. Stick to it as much as possible.
  • January is a good month to engage in a running challenge to keep you motivated, rack up some mileage, and to just get you out and running. It’s also pretty cold around that time and you’ll need reasons and motivation to get those miles in. Which leads to my next point about getting connected.
  • Whether online or physically, find a running group or running support to keep you accountable and help you out on those cold runs, long runs, and just-not-feeling-it runs. Group runs can help to harness your motivation and energy, and provide feedback and encouragement as many members share similar goals.
  • The gym is a great back-up plan for those days when you really can’t make it out. Additionally, it provides the opportunity to get in some cross training and work-out variety, which will only add to your running efficiency. Add to that the new year environment at these establishments, where everyone is actively involved in pursuing their fitness goals, and what you have is the perfect opportunity for running growth.
  • Lastly, sign up for a few races during these cold months. It’ll keep you running, motivated, and competitive, even if it’s just with yourself.

These strategies have worked for me in the past, and so this year I’ve recommitted to them and found that this past January has yielded the most miles since I started a few years ago. That is not to say I’m having a stellar winter, the night is still young as the saying goes, only that maybe, I’m finally perfecting the art of giving winter blues and frustrations a positive outlet. And, so can you!

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Life Happens; Incidentally there’s Training, Marathon Fever, Boston Registration and 9/11 Memorial Tributes

blisstree-911

blisstree.com

Last weekend after two weeks of endless pain from having oral surgery done, I ran away to Georgia. I’ve always been able to retreat to the peachy state to re-establish a measure of peace and some semblance of balance in my life. Why run? Well.. figuratively speaking of course, since it was all I could do to get my thoughts together and I was on the verge of freaking the hell out considering my Chicago run coming up early next month. I tell you, not being able to eat and run nor sleep is no fun, but especially sucks when you’re smack dab in the middle of training. So here I am freaking out, wasting away ( losing weight), and I take off to Georgia to primarily attend a wedding and get a run in during my short stay. Sunshine, peace and quiet, friends, big roads and less traffic, wide open spaces, the Savannah River and the blanket of nature provided the necessary salve to my aches and pain. Returning to New York I find myself in Marathon city in the thick of training, Boston registration looming and Sept 11 memorial tributes.

Not surprisingly I came back on the mend after discovering the miracle of wine – I’m of the view it preserved my sanity. Back home, back in running form, and really I just dive in, back to the gym and back to getting Chicago ready. I’m working on bumping up my diet even though my mouth is still tender and eating is such a pain; but a runner has to do what she has got to do. Quite a bit on my agenda in the next couple months, there’s the Chi marathon, registering for Boston 2017 and volunteering at NYC marathon and of course training doesn’t stop as.. hopefully Boston’s up. All this as the weather cools down and we enter the training period I like the least. I will try not to anticipate that at this time.

We’re sweltering a bit these days but I’m not complaining, I’m gonna squeeze as much sunshine as I can out of these last fall days with the hope that it’s not gonna be too bad moving forward. So steamy days aside, where I just hunker down at the gym, it’s good getting back in the game and enjoying the vibes of the city. This is Marathon season and no city does it like New York as New Yorkers prepare for the largest running event of the year. It’s an exciting time to be in the city and to be a part of the New York City Marathon. But before that, I run Chicago and past experience does not lie. It was a phenomenal run and I plan on making that happen again.

While Marathon fever is in the air, New Yorkers are very somber this weekend with remembering the attacks on the World Trade Center and the City of New York 15 years ago. It’s a sad but also strong time for the city that will go down in history as a time when the state of New York rallied together to foster hope, community and support to all those affected that tragic day. We remember and pay tribute to all those who lost their lives then and subsequently in relation to those events. While all this is going down this weekend, I have my long run planned for later, which I always do in remembrance of the victims of 9/11. I’m reminded that I have the opportunity to run, which is more than they will ever have. I am thankful.

Aerobic Running

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source: ic.studyhealth.com

I’ve been running for a number of years and have never given much thought to the science of aerobic running and its counterpart anaerobic running. Sure I’ve heard the term, and translated it to mean, that if I can hold a short conversation while running then that’s aerobic and it’ll do. Besides, I’m not much of a fan of running and talking, as I prefer to dial-in to what’s happening in and around me, thus silence please has always been my motto. Thing is, all this time with my limited understanding of the term, its application and ability to improve my running, I may have inadvertently put myself at a disadvantage in the PR department.
As it is, after my last race, I’ve been pretty sensitive and receptive to any information that could help shed some light on my performance that day, hence the topic today. According to runneracademy.com, aerobic running is the state of exercise where your body has enough oxygen for your muscles to produce the energy they need to perform. See I wasn’t too far off; if you’re running and you’re able to maintain a short conversation as when you’re doing an easy run, you’re engaging in aerobic respiration. Science has it, that this state of running is extremely important to runners and will allow your body to become stronger while recovering from harder bouts of exercise (underarmour.com, Health & Technology blog).
The case is made for spending at least 80% of your running in an aerobic state to become a faster runner. Some coaches  even argue that aerobic base training is integral to a successful runner’s training plan. This type of training, championed by Matt Ross USAT, USATF, USAC coach, is a period of reduced volume and intensity, working in the presence of oxygen – slowing it down in order to get faster. Matt argues that it is impossible to train hard year round, without taking regular periods of reduced intensity as this is sure to affect your performance negatively even if you don’t fall suspect to overtraining, injury or just plain burn out. In an article on active.com, Aerobic Base Training: Going Slower, to get Faster, he says,  “the idea behind base training is to train your aerobic energy system specifically and solely. Prolonged aerobic training produces muscular adaptations that improve oxygen transport to the muscles, reduces the rate of lactate formation, improves the rate of lactate removal and increases energy production and utilization. These adaptations occur slowly over time.” From my understanding, this period of base training teaches your body to utilize fat more efficiently as its main source of energy as it is the primary source of fuel for the aerobic energy system as oppose to carbohydrates, which is mainly what drives anaerobic running. As you would have guessed by now, Anaerobic running is the out-of-breath, all-out, over-your-threshhold kind of running, when your body does not have sufficient oxygen and therefore will be unable to sustain the current pace for a long period of time.
A lot has been written about how the body utilizes and expels carbon dioxide and water natrually while we run aerobically and produces lactic acid when we switch to anaerobic respiration. The danger lies where there becomes a build-up of lactic acid and therefore a byproduct of its production – hydrogen – because of a low supply of oxygen in our system. This leads to extreme fatigue and thus the inability to sustain such a state. We can see how that is a problem for a marathoner or long distance runner. Ideally you want to utilize aerobic running for the most part of the marathon, switching to anaerobic running to finish off or finish strong, as we like to say. What that will look like for each runner will differ as we all have different fitness levels. For this reason coaches recommend performance testing to determine accurate individual zones which leads to a better understanding of one’s lactate threshold and thus one’s aerobic fitness level. 
I suspect I’ve only scratched the surface on this important area of running performance and only just begun to grasp its significance in training for the marathon in particular. Even the tevhnical jargon (LTHR, VO2 max, heart rate/ individual zones) isn’t Greek anymore and true to form, I’ve made a concentrated effort to apply its wisdom in training for my next big one coming up in July. I expect there won’t be results as immediate as I would like and maybe not even in July, but I figure to give it a start and in the words of Coach Matt, “the sooner you get started, the faster you’ll be.” I’m hoping anyway.

Carbs and I go Running

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Carbohydrates are the sugars, starches and fibers found in fruits, grains, vegetables and milk products. Though often maligned in trendy diets, carbohydrates — one of the basic food groups — are important to a healthy diet (livescience.com). They are to runners what crack is to an addict. We crave it..we need it..we can’t run without it – not efficiently anyway. Bad analogy I know but you get the point. While many diet fads are trying their darnest to get folks out there to quit the carbs as a requirement for weight loss, so not true by the way, we pack it on in the name of running; and so what if we actually enjoy it.

Good Carbs                                                                                                                                        Carbs are good, scratch that, carbs are great for you. They are a necessary ingredient to your diet and a main source of energy for runners. In fact, tired, fatigued, listless, unable to complete your running workouts of late? It could well mean your diet is low in this primary fuel source. Numerous studies and information by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics particularly support a diet rich in whole grains and protein for athletes. While I am well aware that we are all in the days of counting calories, it is important to note that the emphasis is on simple carbs with naturally  occurring sugars like those found in dairy, fruit, vegetables, legumes and some whole grains (these provide more of a quick bursts of energy) and your more complex carbs or starchy foods like potatoes, corn and other whole grains. These provide more sustained energy levels needed to carry you through your workouts and runs.

Carbing Up with Power Carbs                                                                                                      Most runners readily agree that carbing up is all part of the marathon training plan and should come into play just around the same time as tapering does – 2 weeks out from the big day.  The truth is carbs are a steady part of my diet throughout the year; all I do different now that race day is fast approaching is be a bit more focused in my selections, which just means eating more carbs as I tone down my running and thus storing up on my energy level, as much as possible, for the marathons. Some of the best carbs, which can be taken pre, post and during workouts to boost up and recover include: bananas, berries, old-fashioned oats, whole wheat pasta, tomato sauce, whole grain bread, energy bars, Gatorade, brown rice and low-fat yogurt (competitor.com).

An Evolving World not so much an Evolving Diet                                                                 The world has evolved from diets  once thought of as either vegan or omnivore as most of us were. Changing times have seen the advance of gluten-free, paleo and other types of diets, most with the aim of getting you to eat healthier, which is a laudable thought if only it is wholesome and sustainable. While each person is different and may respond differently to different foods, a proper and healthy diet consist of carbohydrates. All things in moderation being the watch words. As such, I’m having a guilt-free, carb-enhanced two weeks and have only two words for you,  simply decadent😜.

Why a Tune-Up Race Is Important

irish

Four weeks out and I figure now is as good a time as any to gauge how I’m holding up in a half marathon – my practice run – and hopefully I get the pot of gold aka a PR.

While there are many reasons for running a tune-up race when training for a marathon, chief among them is the opportunity to ascertain one’s state of preparedness for the big event. This can be done by running a simulation race of sorts to mirror the actual goal race or as close to it as possible given the difference in distance and course. The idea is to practice pacing, breathing and fueling so as to work out any kinks that may arise. I have already decided I may have to adjust my marathon goal pace with the discovery of my recent condition; however, I’ll wait and see how this run goes before making a decision.

Hence my dress-rehearsal tomorrow at the St. Pat’s Rockaway Half Marathon. Thirteen miles along the broadwalk with the ocean stretching into infinity might turn out to be just what I need heading into Boston – at least I’m hoping. While there are no shortage of races to choose from around this time in these parts, I chose an unknown course and a relatively minor half in order to have a quiet and focused run. I will have a slight strain going in, even so, I’m hoping for a PR to satisfy my training thus far and build my confidence as I head into a final week of full-out running before slowing it down in the two weeks before the marathon. With that in mind, I’m testing out my racing strategy of starting out with a moderate pace and slowly building to a fast finish.

That being said, we all know things rarely work out as planned and there’s still the uncertainty of the weather to contend with; be that as it may, I plan on only concerning myself with the things within my control. Even though God’s got those as well, He especially holds the unknown in His more-than-capable hands. Wish me the luck o’ the irish or even better.. I’ll take your prayers.

            🍀💚😜💚🍀

March like a Superhero

Jeremyleerenner.com

Source: jeremyleerenner.com

Somewhere in the near future there are warm sunshine and happy skies and green trees and daffodils and birds singing and enjoying running and picnics and bike rides and nature walks and photography and smiling families and noisy parks and dogs chasing frisbees and children chasing dogs and single layers and shorts and new running shoes… somewhere.

The days are flying , I am running and Boston is seven weeks in coming. In essence, time is marching on. I live for warmer weather, warmer people, warmer smiles, warmer runs – life all stretched out, warm and wonderful – and to rejoice in the advent of Spring and the promise it brings; the promise of new life, hope, new growth, new opportunities and endless running possibilities.

For now I’ll just continue my relentless cycle of training: late-evening, cold weekday runs/drills and weekend long runs requiring twice the effort with some gym work and cross training tossed in for good measure. Seems even running can be a bitch at times but I’m reassured that even that too shall pass. Just like a superhero, March has saved the day.

All I Need to Get Up and Keep Going

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ricepirate.tumblr.com

They say a promise is a comfort to a fool. Hmm… I don’t know, maybe it depends on the promise? And the fool? All I know is the promise of Spring keeps me running. These winter days are numbered and so are all the layers that go with them. So in-between time, I focus on keeping myself motivated and getting in tip-top shape for the glory days.. heck yeah!

Staying focused, happy, confident and motivated is a lot of work; It demands many self-lectures and constant support mentally, spiritually and physically. Aside from that, there are a few things I just can’t go without, especially during this time. I find comfort, speed and my get-up-and-go attitude in these running must-haves:

Faith: in God and in myself. One depends on the other and I depend on both. I find strength and hope in the One who runs with me every day. His quiet presence and constant care helps me to rely on and trust in His love for me through all seasons and all things.        

My Running Group: this is how I get the majority of my speedwork in. Since the importance of speedwork to the competitive runner cannot be overestimated, I swear by these speedies, they’ve made me question the term “limits” time and again.      

Running shoes: my Mizunos are my road babies while on the trails Saucony gives me wings.                                                       

GU gels: for anything over 10 miles these gels have become a necessity for running efficiency. Half the time, I suspect age is the culprit. I never needed these things till recently.

Head/Ear band:  I only don’t wear these in the summer, in every other season they provide comfort from the cold and acts as a buffer from the noisiness of my surroundings.                                               

My Gamin/Phone: used to be a time not so long ago when I wouldn’t hesitate to leave either of these behind but it turns out I’m often competing with myself out there and they act as my time keepers.

My Nike Rain/Wind Jacket: I am the real deal and I even have a talisman to prove it. Lol. Really, since the cold has started, I have not been a day without it. Indeed I shudder to think of running without my second skin, I would not survive..I mean that.

As they are, they may seem a pithy list but in truth I don’t need much and I like to keep it simple as there’s only so much keeping up I can do – at least in this instance I’m a minimalist. On the other hand, what’s on this list actually have a big responsibility: getting me to Boston and beyond. So far they’re doing a darn good job of keeping me focused. My faith expects nothing less of course.

The Tempo Run: the key to your fastest marathon

Source: strengthrunning.com

Source: strengthrunning.com

If you’re anything like me you’ve probably asked yourself a time or few what you need to do to improve your time – your 26.2 time that is – and if you have, chances are you’ve tried a thing or two and it has either worked or not-so-much. Well, since we’re always on the look-out for new and improved ways to up our running game I figure this is a must share. Elite and competitive athletes and coaches agree that the tempo run is the best indicator of your marathon time. For my part, I swear by it as a significant if not the most important aspect of half marathon and marathon training. While the long run is essential to build endurance, the tempo run is critical to racing success as it trains your body to sustain speed over distance (Former Elite Athlete and Coach, Toby Tanser)

A tempo run is a faster paced run also known as lactate-threshold (the point at which your body fatigues at a certain pace ), LT or threshold run. It is running at a hard but somewhat comfortable pace where you you can answer a question but conversing would be difficult. A classic tempo run would be running at this sustained pace for about 2-4 miles. The idea is to run hard but not going all out as though racing, you can go this way for a while but you would be happy to slow down the pace as well.

Tempo runs improve our metabolic fitness by teaching the body to use oxygen for metabolism more efficiently by increasing your lactate-threshold. Carwyn Sharp, Ph.D., an exercise scientist and marathoner claims that lactate and hydrogen ions, which are by-products of metabolism, are released into the muscles during tempo runs. These ions make the muscles acidic, leading to fatigue. It follows that the better trained you are, the higher your threshold as your muscles become better at using lactate and hydrogen ions resulting in less acid in your muscles, which keep on contracting thus allowing you to run faster.

The tempo run will vary for different runners with varying goals and differing thresholds. But the result will remain the same, a definite increase in your ability to maintain your speed over longer distances. While it seems then that the tempo run is beneficial primarily for longer runs such as a 10 miler to the marathon, as it is run somewhere between 15k and half marathon pace, the 5k runner too can benefit to a smaller degree. The key here for runners is consistency and intensity; running regularly as often as once per week during peak training time and at a consistent pace (your threshold) will improve your running and put you in the best position to run your fastest marathon.

This is going to be a key component of my training for Boston 2016. I’ve discovered in my running that boundaries are there to be pushed, obstacles to overcome and benchmarks to be reached. We will only ever know what we are capable of when we push ourselves beyond our perceived limits. I figure the tempo run is one way of discovering the dormant Kenyan in me. LOL

Reference: runnersworld.com

Embracing what’s left of Fall and Running On

Source: runnersworld.com

Source: runnersworld.com

I often wonder what I would do with myself if I weren’t always training for a race, how would I keep my very active self motivated to stay running; then I think I’d probably divide my time equally between running and hiking – my next great love. As it is, training for a race or two at a time keeps me pretty much in a marathon frame of mind year round with an endless wish list of races to run with the only thing impeding my characteristic jovial attitude being the winter weather.

Looking ahead to what’s next now that New York’s behind me, for this year at least, I’m filled with nervous energy as it pertains to Boston 2016. My track record this year has been anything but stellar though I began with a PR at the New Jersey Marathon in March, my performance took a dive thereafter, finally succumbing to injury a month ago and it’s been pretty much “bleh” since then. Given all that, I have reason to be antsy though I’m one for not dwelling too much on things out of my control. What is needed is a quick plan of action to get me up and ready for Boston in April and so I’ve been getting some feedback from some of my “groupies” aka my running group with the sole intent of tailoring my training and diet from here on (or as soon as my ankle allows) so as to maximize strength, efficiency and distance.

While all this is in the works, there’s still the holidays and winter to get through. The holidays present it’s own challenges with eating and drinking, family, travel and then there’s winter: an even bigger challenge for me. Where, how and what to run becomes a very real dilemma that has very little hope of being worked out or planned for in advance. It becomes a sorta wait-and-see season, which cannot be good for runners planning a big race in early spring. Now we know where we are and where we’re heading, all that’s left is finding the best way to get there – the easy half. Haha not really, but definitely doable. That’s my running mantra these days.

In spite of all that’s gone down so far, I remain encouraged by the running community and the various inspirational stories that come out of all the dedicated training and sacrifices that many runners subscribe to in order to achieve their goals. It’s that kind of spirit that drives me and provides the impetus for subsequent runs. The variances in running also keeps me on my toes; despite all the training and plans, one can never be quite sure what will give as time progresses. This can prove to be a good thing more often than not as hard work often brings rewards. That being said, I will try not to dwell too much on the upcoming season but remain solidly rooted in Fall, enjoying these rainy, sometimes chill, sometimes humid, sometimes perfect, pretty, falling-leaves days when running outside is still very much a treat.

Tapering’s the Word

source: runnersworld.co.uk

source: runnersworld.co.uk

All the fuss about Tapering. What is it? How is it done and why it is and can be beneficial to you the marathoner are some of the questions I’ll attempt to to shed some light on while I try to get you, “Speedy,” – that would be me – to slow it down some in order to bring it home on marathon day.

To Taper or Tapering, with respect to marathon training,  is the process whereby runners reduce their weekly mileage and effort in the final two to three weeks before the marathon so as to be completely recovered from previous workouts and be rested for the big day. Sucessful runners across the board swear by this as a vital part of training and preparation while it’s aim is to secure your marathon goal; even that of first-time marathoners.

The Tapering Phrase usually consists of the two weeks (sometimes three) prior to race day. During this time a concentrated effort is made to ease up on the long and hard runs, usually reducing workouts by as much as 25-50% leading up to race day. For example, for a two-week period, long runs which generally consisted of 20-24 miles should be reduced to 14-16 miles in the first week with two rest days while the second week should ideally be an easy running week with -say- one 10 mile run with three leg-rest days. Reduce weekly mileage so that runs average between 5-7 miles on other running days with the week leading up to the marathon consisting of less mileage than the week prior. One may be tempted to push it a bit, since with the cut back you might be feeling stronger and think you can go faster and longer, but coaches stress that this is where it is important to stick to method over ability so as to avoid injury and compromise on optimal muscle repair. It is wise to note that there is nothing you can do in those two weeks leading up to the marathon that will make you perform better on race day. You’ve already done it all so resist the urge to add anything new or do any more than – just enough.

Benefits of Tapering

1. Provides ample opportunity for muscle restoration and repair while allowing you to get some much needed rest from a rigorous training routine.

2. Decreases the risk of injury and setbacks.

3.  Encourages a sustainable training methodology that secures your race day plan and increases your chances at goal realization due to optimal performance.

4. Allows you time and energy to listen to and care for your body, which time may not have allowed for before.

5. Allows you to place yourself in a total state of preparedness for marathon day. Here the focus is on proper nutrition, sleep, rest and getting the necessities together for the event.

While tapering is no exact science and largely depends on the individual, their needs and the distance of the event; it is a fact that some measure of this process can benefit you the runner. Be open to making the method work for you by tailoring it to suit your needs. For example, instead of long, hard runs, consider short sprints to regulate speed and bursts of energy. Given that this is my sixth time around, I’d say you have it on good authority that it works to maximize your marathon day performance and in every instance makes you an all-round better runner. So talk aside, let’s taper on!

References: Runner’s World, MarathonTraining.com

 

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