Friday, April 29, 2011

The Return of

This morning, I discovered the return of a few things:

- First, a long run.  Not long by marathon standards, but 8 miles at this point is considered long.  Certainly the longest run I've had since the marathon.  And not all easy peasy running either - 4 miles @ long run pace, 1 mile @ tempo pace, 1 mile @ long run pace, 1 mile @ tempo pace, 1 mile @ long run pace.  A high quality run that left me knowing that I could give more.

- Second, a returned feeling of fitness.  Nearly all of my runs so far have felt either "meh" or off based on perceived exertion, not to mention my running paces had slowed.  Of course, with a few pounds added and more than a month of recovery workouts, that is to be expected.  Well on today's long run, my paces were pretty close to pre-marathon paces, both in terms of physically hitting the actual paces and perceived effort to do so.  So I'm pretty happy to have taken the post-marathon recovery so seriously.  My mental game is much sharper due to the break and my body has quickly come around, indicating that the fatigue has likely been flushed out and regular training can resume.  All solid indicators of a full recovery.  

- And third, the return of a morning run.  It's funny - besides my long runs during marathon training, I don't recall the last time I went out for a morning run.  (Actually, I just checked - December 2nd!  Wow it has been a while!)  This was probably due to it being darker during that time of year, but it used to be a staple of my training a long time ago.  I guess I started to enjoy my sleep a little more!  In any case, I put in a morning run today and it made me realize how refreshing it makes you feel.  Might need to do that some more.

So anyways, I thought I'd share how exciting it felt to get out there to put in a solid morning run in case you've forgotten about getting those in as well, and I feel like my fitness is coming right back to where I left it. 

And speaking of exciting - I've got an exciting giveaway next week, so come back and see what it is!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Goodbye Marathon Metabolism

Well that was fun while it lasted.  My post-marathon metabolism has officially taken over.  And you know what that means... gone is my ability to fight off the inevitable weight gain post race ;(

I'm actually surprised I managed to go a whole 5 weeks without things slowing down faster.  Typically, my body works in a 2 week cycle, where any changes in diet, nutrition, body comp, fitness, etc. take about 2 weeks to take hold.  The majority of my post marathon training has been light effort, but frequent, ranging from some cycling, focused core workouts, and light running.  Not exactly burning tons of calories per day, but not sitting on the couch either.  And my diet?  Well, I wouldn't say it fell off the deep end, but I did give up some slack where I had been holding off.  I am still eating much of the same foods I had been eating, it is just that with burning fewer calories, weight gain is inevitable.  I'm sure the weight gain will level off soon though, because post-race recovery is officially over...which means it will hopefully show within the next 2 weeks...or else I'm going to turn into an oopma loompa. 

The bottom line is this: it is unhealthy to stay a race weight year round, so some weight gain is healthy.  Like fitness, you have to let it slide a little each year, so you can build back up even stronger.  You also want your race weight to give you an edge, knowing that you are lighter than you trained at, which means free speed.  So starting at a slightly higher weight and ending at a lower weight helps add fuel to a positive attitude as race day approaches. 

Unfortunately, weight gain post race has the opposite effect of race weight - it makes you feel like a.sloth.  Here's hoping that trend turns around soon!

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Incredible Shrinking Tuna Can

We've seen it with tons of products lately - a cutback of 3-5% in the portion size we receive from products.  The most commonly reported one is the standard yogurt can - which used to be 8 oz and can be found anywhere from 5-6 oz these days.  But as a consumer, you don't really notice it.  It's the same product you've been buying at the same price.  Nothing has changed.  Until you purchase the changed product and notice the difference when you finish your meal and are left wondering why that last bite or three is missing.

One of the things we like to do is buy in bulk when items are on sale.  Who doesn't try to save a few bucks here and there?  We'll I recently bought some name brand tuna (I usually buy the store brand since it is cheaper and better quality IMHO) and took home about 10 cans.  When I went into the pantry to stack them like I normally do, I noticed that the new ones wouldn't stack on the 1 remaining store brand can I still had.  It was then that I took a closer look.

- Older store brand can = 6 oz
- New name brand can = 5 oz


(It is here that I need to disclose that I would have had my own picture, but I ummm...ate the evidence....ooops!)

I was duped!  And now that I've learned this, I've done some scouting and come to the conclusion that all the other competitor cans are also 5 oz. 

Seems kinda fishy, no?

 Well I'm glad at least that the brand I prefer still has maintained its 6 oz size, because we athletes get hungry and need that extra ounce!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Liquid Mountaineering

I came across this video and it was too good not to share.  Liquid mountaineering is a fancy way of saying running on water.  Part of me looks at this video and thinks of it like an April Fool's joke, but then when you actually watch it, you realize it is pretty bada$$.

Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A Brief Rant About Race Websites

I have noticed lately that a ton of new-ish races popping up around the area are seemingly omitting the one key detail of the race - THE COURSE!  I am excited and happy to see so many area programs are partnering with local businesses to create fundraising opportunities for truly noble causes and the fact that it involves running is even better.  For me, because as a runner, I'm always looking for a diverse range of opportunities to race, and for the general community because it gets people off their behinds to help fight this obesity epidemic!

But for the life of me, I can't figure out why a race website doesn't post the course.  I also understand that many courses are not finalized until it gets approved by USATF and the local jurisdiction for the race permit.  But to not even have a placeholder that says "pending approval"?  However, I am also seeing this on sites for races that are only 1-2 weeks from happening, so I'm pretty confident that last step has already been accomplished.  In some cases, a short description is provided, but in others, there is nothing.  Neither of these options do me any good as a potential participant in these races. 

You see, I like to create a race plan for any race I am running.  And it makes it virtually impossible to do this without a specific course.  At the very least, I want to know what I am actually signing up for. 

I want to know if your definition of "rolling" equals mine
I want to know if there are lots of turns (or worse, turnarounds) that will impact my consistency
I want to know where the water stops (if any) will be and what will be served at each station

You get the idea.  I need to know these details so I can figure out how I should structure my racing strategy based on the details of the course.  And you know what?  I won't be signing up for any race that I can't see the course for.  It's as simple as that.

So listen please - you race organizers and managers of race websites - no course map, no registration fee from me.

Got it?  Good.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Why Flip Flops Are Bad For Athletes

Did you know that wearing flip flops are bad for you? Even worse for you, if you're an athlete trying to maximize your potential.  I have long known the negative impacts of wearing flip flops, but it wasn't until about a year and half ago that I did something about it - I ditched them!

At the most basic level, wearing flip flops requires your foot to be in an uncompromising position in order to walk, causing your toes to point down and grab the base of the sandal in order to keep it from falling off your foot. Why is this bad?  Well it causes a ton of downstream issues with the lower leg by shortening the plantar fascia and stressing the rest of the muscles, which in turn, reduces your mobility. And for athletes, keeping your mobility is something you want.  We all know how important I feel mobility is.

Well rather than trying to explain the basics, I'll let you in on a little secret resource I've been following since it started last year called MobilityWOD (MWOD).  Built off the same concept as Crossfit WODs, MWODs force you to attack different areas of your body daily - and it hurts so good!  But I don't follow this as much for the MWODs, as I do for the wealth of information shared in each video.  If you want to learn about the way your body works, pay attention to every detail, because there are great nuggets of information in each video.  If you aren't following it right now, I STRONGLY recommend you do after today.  So getting back to the issue of flip flops, this recent MWOD video explains all you need to know:



You're probably thinking - what should I do then?  As Spring temperatures are starting to crop up around the country, "flip flop weather" is coming.  But you don't have to be another casualty of brown flip flops.  There are other options and I have quickly begun to accumulate multiple choices along the way:

Sanuk Men's Vagabond Slip-On,Grey,10 M US- My 1st choice for warm weather, alternative flip flopping is from a brand called Sanuk.  They make all kinds of options, but the one I wear is called the Vagabond.  The base of the sandal is just like a flip flop, only walking in it allows you to walk naturally.

I also have 2 pairs of shoes from Terra Plana VIVOBAREFOOT, which I managed to score on a super secret discount.  I absolutely LOVE these shoes and they can be worn is any number of situations.

- The first one, which is more casual is the Aqua.  Before the major barefoot/minimalist running shoe craziness that is currently going on, these models were widely used as a minimalist running shoes for people looking for a barefoot feel.  I've run a bit in these and can see why people wore them.  Though I am not planning to use them as minimalist running shoes myself, it is good to know that they can handle virtually any situation.
- The other VIVOBAREFOOT shoe I have been wearing is the Oak.  I tend to wear this more with jeans, but also plan to wear them with shorts once the weather warms up.  They are a bit more formal, which is great, because I can wear them with virtually anything.

- Oh and for the women, of course they make versions for you!  In fact, after noting to Rebecca how much I really liked mine, I got a pair of VIVOBAREFOOT Yukams for her.  And now that she has a pair, she loves them too!

The one word of caution about the VIVOBAREFOOT shoes is that they run small, so I'd recommend ordering a size up.  The pair that Rebecca is currently wearing is a full size up from what she normally wears.

So with that said - are you ready to ditch you flip flops and make a statement!?!? No. More. Flip. Flops.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

2011 Monument Ave 10k Race Pictures

Here are some of the pictures from the race.  A few came out alright.

Crossing the 5k mark (on the right in grey) - notice the 2 thumbs up guy just to my left

 Checking the watch to see if I can still finish in under 43:00

Crossing the finish line in exactly 43:00 (took me 4s to cross the start line)

The race has this competition called the Dash for the Cash, where they randomly select someone to get a distance-based head start over the entire field.  If the person finishes the race before the leaders do, he collects some cold hard cash - $2500!  This year, the guy got a 1.9 mile lead, which is based on previous race performance, so it usually makes for an exciting finish.  Below is a photo that shows how close it was this year:

 Dash for the Cash winner, with overall race winner only 12s behind

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

How The Government Shutdown Could Impact Your Racing and Training

Don't worry, this isn't a post about picking sides in any political argument...it's simply an observation worth noting about the impact of the potential Government shutdown, should a budget not get passed this week.

As you may or may not be aware, many of the races that take place all over the US occur on National Park land.  Of course, there are plenty that do not and this is of no concern to those.  But for those keeping track of this issue on a local level, there have been 2 local races that could have been impacted.  The 1st was the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler that was run this past weekend.  However, the continuing resolution that was passed ensured that the race could be held without issue.  The other major Spring race is the GW Parkway Classic.  I've run this race several times and it is one of my favorites.  But it turns out that the GW Parkway, which runs from Mount Vernon (the start of the race) and up along the Potomac River, is owned by the National Park Service.  As a result, this budget crisis is certainly causing a bit of worry for the race.

For those that are signed up to race however, there seems to be some progress.  First, a letter was issued last week indicating that the shutdown may force the postponement of the race, but that an alternative date of May 1 might be scheduled if a shutdown does force the race the be delayed.  Good news though - the latest update now states that there is a potential that the race could be run regardless.

Then there is also Skyline Drive - the training place of many athletes in the area for constant mountainous cycling.  With the weather quickly warming up, it is sure to be full of uber athletes training for big upcoming races.  Should this shutdown continue, it will be interesting to see how Skyline is handled.  Will cyclists be able to bypass the gates or will they close it entirely?  There are also tons of other races throughout the US that no doubt occur on National Park Service land or some other US Government owned property.  As a result, all of these locations are subject to the same potential delays/cancellations until a new budget gets passed.

Hopefully there is no shutdown and nobody has to worry about any of this.  However, I thought it is an interesting angle in all of this, because it is easy to just focus on the main topic without looking downstream to see the cause and effect relationship.  

UPDATE- The latest update on Pacers site is now saying the race will be postponed until May 1 if the shutdown occurs. Hopefully those that are signed up will still be able to race, since there are quite a few other races going on that day.

UPDATE 2- The GW Parkway Classic is on! The budget was passed in time late last night. Crisis averted :)

Monday, April 4, 2011

Race Report: Ukrop's Monument Ave 10k

Once again, it was time to head south a bit to run in the Monument Ave 10k.  This event has become an annual tradition for Rebecca and I, as we join a large contingent of people running in the race and celebrating after.  This year was no different, but with the added bonus of VCU playing in the Final Four game that night, there was a special sense of spirit in the whole city of Richmond....despite their eventual loss :(

Like 2 years ago, I would be running this post-marathon, so it's always difficult to figure out exactly how the legs are going to hold up.  With pretty solid recovery the week before and a test run last week, my legs felt surprisingly fresh, so I decided that I'd try to race it, rather than trot along.  With 40,000 runners, there are a billion waves consisting of anywhere between 750 to 3000 runners per wave, and they send each wave off in 1 minute intervals. However, one of the unique experiences about this race is that the first 9 waves are seeded and require qualifying times. A 43 minute or less finishing time qualifies for the A Wave.  I used my 41:37 time that I ran here last year to qualify myself.  Based on my fitness level before the marathon, I knew that I'd be able to far surpass that time, so I developed my race plan to race the 1st half of the race at about that pace (6:37/mile) and try to pick it up for the 2nd half if the legs were feeling good.

After having only enough time to muster a 4 minute warm up (never good for a 10k), they announced 2 minutes until the race was starting.  So much for that!  I quickly jumped into my corral and barely had a chance to breathe before they started the race.

I stayed pretty true to my pacing and let TONs of people pass, knowing they were likely going out too hard.  Most of them fell back after the first 1/2 mile.  I just tried to stay comfortable and came through Mile 1 in 6:31 and was feeling alright.  The one thing I noticed was that my HR was very quickly rising (typical of fatigue still in my legs from the marathon), so I noted to myself that I need to keep an eye on that if it continued to increase.  The last thing I wanted out of this race was some type of overuse injury, so I was a bit concerned as my HR started to creep into 5k effort levels, despite running what had been my tempo pace during my marathon training.  Mile 2 clicked through in 6:43 and knowing that Mile 3 had the largest rise on the course, I knew my HR was going to continue climbing.  At that point, I decided that I'd keep the effort up through the 5k point and if the HR was still super high, I'd shut it down and cruise it in.  I came through Mile 3 in 6:41 and the 5k mark in 20:43, which was right on pace for where I wanted to be. 

However, because my HR was so high, I didn't think it would be wise to keep pushing and risk anything.  It was a difficult decision, but I like to think of myself as a smart runner.  I was rolling the dice by running a hard effort this close to the marathon and pushing too much would just compromise my recovery and the amount of time it takes for me to get back to my regular training.  Given the effort required to run the paces I was hitting, it just didn't make sense to try and force it.  On almost any training day, I could hit these paces at HRs of 10-15 bpm lower than what I was currently running.  It was the right thing to do.

I spent Mile 4 a bit slower, taking in the crowds, the bands, and chatting it up with a few people running next to me and cheering them on.  I was still moving pretty good, but not racing anymore.  I came through in 7:30.  Mile 5 was a little more of the same - enjoying the sights and the experience.  At some point, I heard Rebecca from the other side of the street as she was headed out on the course, since her wave started 20 minutes after mine.  It was around this time that I glanced down at my watch and started having thoughts in my head about what my finish time would be.  Well somehow, I got it in my head that if I picked up the pace, I could still finish in 43 minutes and assure myself a spot in the A Wave for next year.  Kind of stupid, since I'm pretty sure I'll be running another 10k this year, but the mind always is a bit strange in the middle of a race anyways.  Mile 5 was 7:17 and I really started picking up the pace again, with my new goal of sub 43.  I knew I'd have to bust it though, as time was quickly running out.  Mile 6 came through in 6:52 and just when I didn't think I'd make it, I put it in the next gear for the last .2 running it at a 5:51/mile pace. 

Was that stupid?  Yes.  I could have pulled something in that last effort and running hard again totally went against the reason why I shut things down in the first place.  But what was my finish time?  42:59 :)  Actually, that was my unofficial time - they changed it the next day to 43:00.

So I was a little sore the next day, but nothing terrible or specific that I need to specially address as a result of this race.  The next 2 weeks will be spent continuing my post-marathon recovery.  Hopefully by the time that is over, my legs will start coming back and I'll actually be able to train to race (and PR) much faster than that 10k time.

I also wanted to mention a note of praise for this race and a lesson for every other race out there.  With 40,000 runners, unofficial results were posted on their website by early afternoon of the SAME DAY of the race and official results were posted the next day.  There is simply no excuse for any race that uses a chip timing system, that they can't get the results up on the same day.  Thanks to the people at the Monument Ave 10k for making it one of the best race experiences of almost every race I've been a part of.  Low registration fees, good expo, great crowd support, bands on the course, and excellent race management.  This is the reason we keep coming back.
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