Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Haters Are Gonna Hate

I always love those days where weak people seem to try to bring others down to their miserable level.  During a recent tempo run, I encountered one of those such moments.  I was just getting through my first 15 minutes of a warm up run, when a truck of some company that probably does a crappy job, slows down a bit as it passes by me while I run along the trail that parallels the road.  A middle aged man leans out of the window with a smirk on his face and yells something at me.  To be honest, I never heard what he said.  But I do not think he was wishing me good luck on my tempo run! 

All I could think about was what prompted him to do that.  Not only what prompted HIM to do that, but he was in the passenger side, so the driver was also implicit in the action.  Did I forget to put on pants?  Did I have a hole in them?  Did I have poop on me?  Was I doing something I shouldn't?  While I continued warming up, I did a full body check.  Everything was "secured" and nothing seemed out of the ordinary.  But then, I started thinking - was it because I was wearing running tights?  I mean, it was 38F and drizzling - of course I'm going to wear running tights!  So the only thing I can come up with was that this grown man (and his driver) didn't like that I was wearing running tights, as if that is a crime.

It kind of reminds me of this, recently posted on Steve's blog:

I mean, I'd be lying if I thought that wearing them was supposed to be sexy for other people.  But for anyone who is actually a runner, you'd understand that running tights (without shorts over them) is what REAL runners wear because it is the most functional outfit.  Similar to cyclists - we wear spandex because it is aerodynamic and functionally perfect for cycling.  It's always the non-runners or cyclists that are so quick to judge.  Trust me - try it once and you'll never go back to wearing baggy stuff again.  Also note - baggy clothes get very heavy when they get wet.  See previous note regarding functionality.

Some people may be self conscious about that and I understand that, but if you are actually secure with your manhood, then I really don't think it should ever be an issue.  In fact, when I typically see runners wearing shorts over tights, I can identify them as either newbie runners, or people that simply aren't confident enough to just rock tights.  My only true exception to the rule is when it is bitterly cold and you need that extra "protection" against the elements.  Otherwise, man up and wear the tights.

So going back to my story now, I think it is pretty sad that this grown man and his driver thought it would be funny to yell something at someone who is actually off their butt and getting exercise.  As I'm sure you would assume, this guy did not appear to be of the "athletic" build.  So was he jealous that there are actually people who care about exercise and taking care of their bodies?  Or was he so lacking in self confidence that he resorts to yelling at people who are different than his self loathing life?

Rebecca and I were recently watching a documentary called Parking Lot Movie, which if you haven't seen yet, is hilarious.  A line in that movie struck a cord with me during this exchange with my not so friendly truck driver.  A guy in the movie observed:

"What is it about people when they are in their big cars that makes them feel like they are of a higher class or better than people who aren't in cars?  They don't treat people like that otherwise, but once they get into their cars, they honk and flip people off like they have some rights granted to them for car drivers only."

I think this hits on some of the issue.  Would this guy have said anything if I simply ran past him on the trail?  Probably not.  But when he is in his big truck, moving at 40 mph, he has all the power in the world to behave how he wants.  Call it a type of small man complex, where someone tries to overcompensate for something they are lacking, whatever it may be.  

I'll never know why he and the driver decided to yell at me.  But what I do know, is that I ended up having what I consider one of my best runs of any kind during this marathon build up.  Maybe part of it was fueled with anger and motivation, but you can't fudge the stats.  I was holding sub-6:30 pace on rolling hills at a perceived effort (and HR), comparable to just under half marathon pace.  And this alone makes me happy to forget the incident ever happened, because it confirmed to me that  I am fitter than I ever have been  and I have PRs that will be going down in the near future.

Let the haters hate - because it only makes me a stronger person (and runner) from it. 

Monday, February 21, 2011

Being The Kite

Some days your workouts are so effortless that you  feel like your flying.  Others are a struggle.  But on this weekend's long run, I felt like I was flying...literally!

Similar to this post not too long ago, I was faced with another dilemma - winds.  Not just any windy day, mind you.  No - the weather man said so!  They issued a Wind Warning, with the potential for gusts over 50 mph!  On a long run day!  So when I describe my run, I can only describe it as the tale of 2 directions.  But before I get into my story, check out this video of some struggling cyclists in the wind, especially around 45s in!

Into the Wind

We purposely set sail headed west to start, because it is always better to run into a stiff wind when you are fresh and you mind in sound.  Otherwise, if you run with the wind to start, that little devil on your shoulder starts talking to you that a) you should go out at race pace, because you don't realize that running with the wind is like having someone constantly pushing you from behind; and b) as your form slips when you get tired, running into the wind is only going to make it more difficult to maintain proper form.  At this stage in the game in our marathon training, putting in the miles is hard enough - no reason to add additional unnecessary stress.  So with a 14 miler planned, we headed off into the wind.  

 If you make the common analogy of running with the wind (aka a tailwind) is like someone gently pushing you from behind, running into the wind feels more like someone drop kicking you to the face.  When the gust hits, it is so forceful that I was blown off balance a number of times.  My avg pace fell by about 40s/mile into the wind when it kicked up, but even that effort was yielding a much higher HR than my long run pace.  After about 45 minutes or so of struggling, I hit the turnaround.  The glorious turnaround!

With the Wind
Instead of a gentle push from behind like a typical tailwind, this wind felt like it had been working out at the gym recently.  There was occasionally a gentle push, but more often than not, it was more like a shove.  But here's the thing - the wind was never directly at your back.  So even when you had a tailwind, it was more toward the side.  Sure it gives you some push, but it also throws you off balance, forcing you to use extra energy to maintain pace.  

All this is great for a training day - let's just hope I don't see anything like it on race day!  At the very least, I CAN say that I've run in this kind of weather.  And having gone through similar conditions in training always makes it that much more possible to accept whatever race day brings you.  Heck - we've had ice, snow, blustery winds, persistent rain, and who can forget the 1 mile game of pong!  I think I'm ready.  4 weeks to go!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Birthday Marathon Simulation Run

Like previous years, I really enjoy using my birthday as a excuse to celebrate the life that endurance training provides.  Though unlike some past years, my workout this year was prescribed based on my training plan, not necessarily by choice ;)  In this case, it was the marathon race simulation run.

Most marathon plans don't really tell you to do much else other than run long and slower for your long runs.  The basic concept in those plans is that you are strictly getting in time on your feet and building your aerobic capacity.  But what puzzled me was always the great unknown of what pace do you run in your race?  Nobody really tells you that.  Most of those same plans tell you to run some of your shorter stuff at or faster than your "goal" pace and the long runs to be somewhere between 60s-90s slower than goal pace.  This approach is fine for most people, except for the one aspect of what to do in the actual race.  How did you determine that "goal" pace?  Just because I want to run 4:00/mile, doesn't mean I can train for it as my goal pace. 

Plus, if all your long runs are at a much slower pace, your muscles won't be able to handle the stress of going harder AND longer on race day without some significant breakdown (ie crampage).  This is where the marathon race simulation run comes into play.  It allows you to run closer to race day paces over a long distance to ensure your pacing is accurate, nutrition is solid, and muscles are able to sustain longer, harder efforts.  Inside Marathon Nation, we include some faster pacing (based on our current fitness, not an arbitrary "goal" number!) in each of our long runs, but the Race Simulation is the key workout building up to the race.

There are several varieties of ways to execute the Race Simulation (see Race Sim link above), but mine was broken into 18 miles of:

- 6 miles @ 30s slower than goal pace
- 9 miles @ goal pace
- 3 miles @ faster than goal pace

By the end of the run, I was feeling pretty confident.  I nailed my pacing by running pretty consistently over the course of the whole run, which included quite a few hills, whereas my race will be primarily flat.  I couldn't help but just think that other than doing a long distance race, there aren't too many other great ways to celebrate your birthday.  For me, this is simply an expression of the endurance lifestyle that I live.

Oh and don't worry...I did also find time to actually celebrate my birthday too.  After some time focusing on recovery and getting cleaned up, Rebecca took me over to the VA Wine Showcase, where we proceeded to celebrate in a more traditional way!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Things I won't Be Buying For Valentines Day

Hopefully most people don't fall into the marketing trap that is Valentines Day.  Yes, I think it is important to recognize that significant other in your life, but I've gotten to the point where I have to draw the line.  This year it seems is far worse than any previous year.  I can't even begin to fathom the vast amounts of emails I've deleted in the past 2 weeks that were trying to get me to sell something.  Afterall, nothing says "I love you" like a new set of race wheels.

Despite thinking to yourself, "I'd love it if my significant other bought me a set of race wheels", how about that happen on another occasion.  If you are going to fall into the whole Valentine's day trap, at least make it romantic.  Though we endurance athletes tend to look at equipment as sexy (bike porn anyone?), I don't quite think that's the idea of this holiday.  But you get points for trying ;)

I mean, if I'm a business, it never hurts to try and capitalize on another marketing opportunity.  It costs minimal dollars to send out a massive email to a distribution list.  But here is where people like me start to turn that low cost for the business into a high cost.  I'm not stupid.  I don't need to be reminded daily that this is my last chance to buy a new hard drive to back up and save all those memories we have stored on our computers.  Seriously.  I got an email telling me this.

So I'm going to close this rant with a message - When I see businesses trying to cheaply go after consumers to capitalize on opportunities completely unrelated to the occasion, it saddens me that they are that desperate.  If you run a business that sells a good that people want, they'll buy it.  They shouldn't need to be fooled into it as a sucker.  Consumers don't need to be reminded and constantly spammed about your product.  Doing so makes people like me frustrated and less likely to ever come back and buy a product from your business.

And just for humility's sake - here are a few of those email ads I consider inappropriate for Valentine's Day:

- Race wheels
- New his and her's running shoes
- A new hard drive to store our memories
- The perfect base layer for staying warm with your significant other
- Prescription drugs to ensure your significant other is pleased on Valentines Day
- New kitchen appliances for her (men cook too btw)
- 25% off newspaper subsciptions
- 50% off his and her's wetsuits

Ok, I think that's good enough.  You get the idea.  Got any funny ones?

Monday, February 7, 2011

Did Anyone See That Sketchers Super Bowl Ad?

Like most people last night, I tuned in for the Super Bowl.  Being a hardcore football fan, watching the Superbowl is no different than any other Sunday during the regular season.  However, the extra element of joy comes in the form of commercials.  I always look forward to the creative things companies come up with. 

For example, this year, some of my highlights were the Detroit-based Eminem commercial for Chrysler, the VW Darth Vader commercial, and several of the Doritos commercials.  Each of these commercials brought creativity and not just another rehash of something else we've seen before.  I appreciate those companies that strive for impactful commercials.

On the other hand, there were the Sketchers commercials.  One with Joe Montana and the other with Kim Kardashian.  Both claiming that the shoes essentially solve your problems without you actually needing to do anything.  All you have to do is wear them.  To quote the commercial, "Bye bye trainer, Hello Shape Ups".  Right...

Most people see these kinds of products and jump at them, because they see them as quick fixes.  It's scary to look around these days and see how many people forked over money to buy these with the hopes that it will make you in better shape.  Not to be rude, but when was the last time you actually saw someone in shape actually wearing them out in public?  I almost always see people of the opposite category as the ones who are wearing them.

But before dismissing them based on that fact alone, I wanted to take a closer look at the technology behind it. 

- "Shape Ups are designed to help improve your life by changing the way you walk". 

- The shoe does this through the use of wedge, that "creates natural instability, forcing your body to constantly adjust to maintain proper balance and positioning".

- But the shoe also claims "lower impact on joints", because "Shape Ups were designed to simulate a more natural walking surface".

Hmmm.... Let me see if I get this straight.  Our bodies weren't designed correctly, so we need to develop shoes that change the way we walk?  The shoe corrects our poorly designed bodies by creating instability UNNATURALLY through the use of a wedge, which then simulates a more natural walking surface?

Well call me confused!  Seems to be there is a whole lot of contradiction in those statements!  Wouldn't the best way to simulate a natural walking surface be to, you know....walk.  On a surface.  Naturally.

One other fun thing I'd like to point out is that nearly every claim on the site contains the word "may" in it.  So and so "may result in" a stronger back.  Oh, they also use the old "studies have shown" trick.  Really?  What studies?  A quick search yielded a number of class action lawsuits over the past year.  Don't want to do the work and search for them?  Fine - here is a link to one, and an excerpt from it below:

You can thank me by sending your $80-$100, which you would have spent to "get in shape" with these stupid shoes, directly to me.  I accept cash, credit, whatever ;)

Ouch!  Findings like those kinda hurt the street cred.  But what shocks me is that this was back in August 2010!  Here were are, more than 5 months later, and they are still promoting the darn things!  The lesson here is that there are no short cuts to anything.  If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Running Intervals in the Wind

For many people training for a race, intervals become one of several key workouts they tackle each week. I'm a routine kinda person, and I like to do my interval workouts at a certain point in my week. So when I realized that interval day was on a day when we were experiencing 25+ mph winds, I knew it was going to be interesting. Sure, I could have ventured inside for the warm, controlled confines of a gym and a treadmill, but I love the track. It takes me back to the good old days of my life as a sprinter in high school, so I try to run on it whenever a workout calls for it. Plus, it is easier for me to dial in my pace on a track, since you can be sure of the exact distance and time and use the distance markers along the way to gauge progress to adjust pacing.

On this particular day, it seemed as though there was pretty close to a 50/50 split of headwind vs tailwind combination, so I knew at least that I'd even out in my pacing in the end. However, it was figuring out exactly how that would play out that was the fun part. For this workout, which was 6 x 800m, my goal was to average right about 6:00/mile pace splits.

The winning combination of pacing that seemed to work out was something along the lines of 5:45 with the wind and 6:25 against the wind. Unscientifically, this just goes to show that the impact of a headwind is significantly more hurtful, than the benefits of a tailwind. Oddly enough, last night I was just perusing the topic of weather conditions in Daniel's Running Formula, where he found that you lose about 15-20% in a stiff headwind, but only gain 7-9% in a similar tailwind. Pretty darn close to what I found in my unscientific study! (cue bad news music)

Ultimately, I still managed to finish each interval within 4 seconds of each other, which I think it pretty impressive. Not only was I able to keep them close in that weather, but all successful interval workouts should be run such that your 1st interval is no faster (give or take a few seconds) than your last. In this case, my 1st and my last happened to be my fastest, with the others falling within that 4s range. Pretty sweet!


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