Friday, December 30, 2011

The First Time I Heard Its Heartbeat

As you may know by now, there is a bun in the oven.  If you haven't learned that yet, I'd urge you to read this.  About 2 months ago, Rebecca and I went on our first official visit to the doctor, where they would do a bunch of tests and we'd learn a bit more about the status of things, as it was relatively early along at only about 6 or so weeks.  Well one of the highlights of the visit was our first sign of something existing in there - its heartbeat!

It was so exciting to actually hear something, since I won't actually get to feel anything until some karate kicks start happening later on.  But the funny thing is that when I looked right up at the device amplifying the heartbeat, I couldn't help but make the analogy back to running (go figure).

The baby's heartbeat was hanging right around the low 170s at the time, at which point I told Rebecca that it was out for a tempo run, since that is my heart rate average when I do a tempo run.

So it seems as though we have a little runner in there!  Not a bad way to cap off the year and have something amazing to look forward to!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

How I Spent My Day Off on Monday

Like most people this year, we got Monday off work due to Christmas being on a weekend.  Its a double win this year, because New Years is the same way.  It also makes a perfect time to take the days off around it to make for an extra long weekend.  So with Monday off, I took to the trails for a nice relaxing hour long run.  For this run, I went over to Algonkian Park, which is a place I've never run before.  This is also the site of the North Face Endurance Challenge races, so I figured I might as well explore some.

What I found is a nice network of trails that while relatively flat, offer scenic overlooks out along the Potomac River.  I didn't go very far, and I know there are much more technical sections that are part of the 50 mile race, but I found the trail to be easy and flat, but quite muddy.  It rained a bunch earlier in the week, but it had been a solid 4-5 days since any rain, so I thought it would be more dried out.  While most of the trail was dry, there were some sections that where my foot was nearly submerged in mud.  But isn't that what trail running is all about -  Facing unknown conditions and making the most of them?

One of the nicely packed singletrack trail sections along the Potomac River
What I like most about trail running is that each time you go back to the same trail, the conditions are different.  This means that every time you run, you get a different experience.  Unlike hitting the paved roads/trails, where you know nearly each and every step along the way, trail running has the distinct advantage of forcing you to think each time you place your foot.  And as a result, time flies!  While I only spent an hour or so out there, I felt like I just went for a 15-20 minute jog.  Turned out, I had covered about 7 miles and my shoes were caked in mud.  Overall, it was a fun day and a great way to spend a day off from work.

A Good Meal The Night Before A Long Run?

I've read a lot of nutrition articles out there telling you "the perfect meal" the night before or morning of a long run or race. I don't typically follow what they say because, 1) They are very generic advice to the mass population and each person is an individual and needs to find what works best for them, and 2) Because I've found that I like to feed myself differently depending on what I am craving. Yes, you need to be careful and not go for spicy Indian food (unless of course that works for you), but I tend to place more emphasis on my overall diet and less on one or two meals. I mean, you are what you eat and whatever you've been feeding yourself for the last 48-72 hours really has a greater impact on your ability to perform today than what you ate 30 minutes ago or the night before. I like to think of those meals as the icing on the cake. They top you off, but they aren't the foundation.

So I knew that my meal before my last long run might not have been the best pre-long run meal, but being that it is Hanukkah, we decided to make latkes. Or more specifically, 5 pounds of them. In addition to the 10 pounds we made the week before when we had a party. But don't judge me - they were soooo good!
Just the beginning of 1 hr straight of scooping and flipping

So with a 16 miler planned the next day, I knew I wasn't exactly doing myself any favors.  However, potatoes have potassium, which is good right?  And starchy carbs - those are good, right?  I guess the only truly bad thing is the oil.  Lots and lots of oil.  Did I say they were really good already?  Where was I...oh yea, running...

So the next day, we met as per our typical weekly long run sessions for the DTP program.  My 16 miles were broken into 10 miles at my long run pace and then 3 x 1 mile at my tempo pace with a mile of long run pace as recovery between each mile.  Running 16 miles is hard enough on any given day, but knowing that the true work doesn't start until 10 miles into the workout always has me a bit worried about whether or not this will be a "good" long run or a "bad" long run.

So I guess the moral of the story here is that latkes are ok as a night before long run meal.  Or at least they didn't make me have a bad run.  Either way, I was fine.  I averaged right around 8:00/mile pace for the 10 miles and then 6:45/mile for the 3, one mile intervals and 7:30/mile for the miles in between.  I couldn't seem to slow back to 8:00/mile, so 7:30s it was.  Overall, a great run on what turned out to be a pretty windy day.  I finished the run feeling fine, with thoughts of running more.  But I had to show restraint, because 16 was the plan and that's what I'm sticking to!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

An Obvious Sign of Some Sweating Going On

What's the tell tale sign of someone who works out a lot?  A simple answer might be that they always smell and that'd probably be true, especially if they are a swimmer.  You never can seem to get that chlorine smell out completely, can you?  Of course, for basic runners and cyclists, a good old fashion shower can usually do the trick.  But let's say you step into someone's house - how would you know?

Here's the short answer - check their bathroom for hanging/discarded workout clothes.  Take Example A below:

I mean, its not even laundry time yet, as I'm only about 1/4 way through my workout stash of clothes.  I guess the lesson here is that colder weather brings about more things to dry.  And yes, there is even a pair of cycling shorts in there, because I went to spinning with Rebecca - always fun to mix things up.  So while laundry will be done shortly in the new few days to reset the bathtub from looking like the throwaway pile from the startline of a marathon, I don't foresee this pile looking much differently a week from now, as it will be layered with a new batch of clothes.  I mean, who uses a bathtub anyways for bathing?

Friday, December 16, 2011

Stop Racing Me Dude

First, let me say - holy moly wind Batman!  That was nuts out there!  Despite temps being in the 50s in mid December (awesome!), the wind was really a pain this morning.  Especially in that first mile when it really made me want to turn around.  While going up hill.  Into the wind.  Yea, not a great way to start off the run.  BUT, once we crested the hill, it was smooth sailing (literally) as the wind was now at our backs and we were flying!  But I digress...

Have you ever had those moments where someone is racing you, but you aren't racing them?  I'm pretty sure you have.  Or maybe it was reversed and you were racing a person that didn't realize they were being raced.  Anyways, let me set the stage for ya:

Me: shorts and a t-shirt, light colors for best visibility a 6:30 AM, out for an easy jog (tomorrow IS a long run)
Dude: long baggy pants, hoodie sweatshirt, wool hat, gloves, all black colors top to bottom

The story goes like this - Tucker and I were running our usual 4 mile route and after cresting a hill, we came upon this dude and quickly passed him.  Of course, about 15 seconds later, I can hear his heavy footsteps and breathing, so I know he just drastically picked up the pace.  Perhaps, intimidated that he just got passed by someone barely breathing audibly (remember this was an easy run - keep it easy!) and by a dog, also not audibly breathing (Tucker's getting in good shape!).  So I take extra steps to not look back, because I don't want him to think I am actually racing, because I'm NOT.  Luckily, its time for Tucker to take care of some business, so I give ourselves extra time to let a gap open up, so there won't be any racing today.  Well what do you know - in less than 1/2 mile of running, we catch back up to him.  He obviously slowed down, since I was running the same easy pace the whole way, and now his form is sloppy with arms crossing over and a terrible, terrible heel strike in what look to be cross trainers.  So we once again make a pass (what else could I have done?) and he picks the pace back up!  Only this time, his breathing is loud and I can hear the wheezing.  So I did what any sane person would do in that situation and tried to turn down a random road, knowing he probably wouldn't be following me.  And thankfully it worked, because he didn't follow.

So what is the lesson here?  The lesson is: RUN YOUR OWN WORKOUT!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Are You Discplined Enough To Race Less

I am linking to an article I think a lot of people should read, called Are You Disciplined Enough To Race Less, by Jay Johnson.  It may sound familiar, since I've touched on this before.  If you don't read his blog already, I strongly recommend you do.  Between the strength routines and workout videos to the candid discussion on what it takes to be a better runner, his blog is one resource I frequent for advice for myself and for the runners I work with.   

So take a read through and let me know what you think

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A Must Read - Rebecca's Philly Half Marathon Race Report

May I call your attention to my lovely wife's race report from the Philly Half Marathon she ran?  Yes, it is a few weeks late, but you'll understand.  Trust me, you'll want to read it.  So proud of her and so excited for the future!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Epic Training Day

I don't use the term epic often, but certain conditions or circumstances call for its use.  Last night was one of them.  Though I fully regret not taking any pictures, you'll have to take my word for it - it was an epic training day.  No, this wasn't one of those epic long runs or epic fast runs.  It was simply epic because of the fact that I, along with 20+ other looney people braved pelting rain, 30-40 mph wind gusts, and temperatures dropping from the high 40s into the upper 30s. Earlier in the day, it was 60 degrees and by midnight, they were calling for a chance of snow (though we never actually got any).

You see, this was the first track workout for our Winter Distance Training Program.  And it was epic because not only was the weather crazy, but I was so impressed with all the other committed people that chose to brave those conditions for an hour of some solid mental and physical work. 

Since it was the first workout of the season, it wasn't anything terribly challenging - 1600, 2 x 800, 2-4 x 400 each with 3 minutes of rest between sets, but given the conditions, just getting out the door is something I consider a victory.  So I use the term epic, because I was able to share in the enjoyment of so many other die hard runners.  It didn't matter what you wore last night.  By the end of the workout, you were cold and wet...and a little bit tired.  In fact, more than 12 hours later and my running shoes are still soaked!  The track's lanes were also partially flooded by the more than 2 inches of rain we received throughout the day.  So at any given time on the track, you'd be splashing and sloshing.  Of course, then the winds would kick up and blow you a lane or two over.  Fun times I tell you, fun times.

So while the conditions weren't ideal, I have to say we still pretty much nailed the workout.  I was joined by a group of 3 others and mostly served as the pacemaker.  It was fun and painful at the same time (aren't intervals always that way?).  The goal of these intervals was not to run them all out - merely 10k pace or something at or around threshold.  Otherwise known as "comfortably hard".  We ended up running them as a progression, with each one faster than the previous.  And this is what we ended up with:

1600m: 6:28
800m: 3:08
800m: 3:05
400m: 88
400m: 83

I did get a little excited to be done on the last one (about 5:30/mile pace), so I took that a bit faster than I should have.  It's just my old high school track instincts that come back out whenever I step on a track nowadays.  I can't help but feel at home.  Surprisingly, it didn't take much out of me and I feel great today.

If this workout and the turnout on a crappy night like we just had was any indication of the commitment of the runners in our program, this is going to be one heck of a season.  Can't wait to keep the momentum going!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Naked Running - Its Good But Not Necessary

Many on the popular running magazines/websites have posted about the virtues of running naked.  You know, sanz Garmin or whatever device you use.  The claims of us having become so dependent on technology, while true, don't necessarily hold up in this argument IMHO.  You see, its not the watch that is the problem.  Its the OCD runner that keeps checking it that is.  In other words, the lack of ability to temporarily tune out and just let things be.  So while removing the watch is an easy solution to the problem, I'd like to argue that the benefits of running with a watch outweigh the cons that come with it.  So met explain further...

There are many reasons why people say to remove the watch, such as:
  • Obsession with pace at all times takes away from running enjoyment
  • Inability to self pace
  • Complete reliance on readings from the watch, resulting in panic when watch isn't working correctly
  • Self judging pace readings to determine how "good" a run is and speeding up to "beat" a time
  • You can scare yourself into running too fast even though it might feel fine, preventing breakthough performances
I'm not arguing that these aren't valid reasons.  And in fact, I'm probably just a guilty in achieving some of these.  However, there are also many other reasons why wearing a watch is beneficial:
  • You know what pace you are running with one, which serves as a consistent metric
  • Sometimes the mind can keep you from your potential and seeing numbers can be motivating
  • Mental math is much easier when you factor in your current pace/distance vs nothing/guessing
  • Properly pacing simulation workouts and/or races becomes much easier with a guide (the watch)
  • Utilization of features such as uploaded workouts, virtual training partner, etc can enhance the user experience
  • Recording workouts and tracking them on a regular basis ensures you are training most effectively
And it is this last point that in my opinion serves us most beneficially.  If you document your workouts, you have a better grasp on what you are doing.  Now can you do that without a GPS watch?  Sure.  But for me, it is the combination of the readings that I get, that provides the value, which is something you wouldn't otherwise get.  Things like HR, splits, elevation, etc all play a valuable role in analyzing the data.  For example, I track training stress on a rolling basis, which is based on a combination of duration, distance, and effort (HR).  I do this so I can verify what my body may/may not be signaling.  Have what feels like a bad run?  Look at that rolling fatigue and I guarantee you'll have an answer.  In most cases when I have bad runs, it correlates exactly to that metric.  It also helps me know where the threshold is, so that I don't cross over from very fatigued to overtrained due to stacking too much work into a given period of training.  So without this information, it leaves one having to do a lot of guesswork.  But since I can quickly discover these things, I can adjust workouts on the fly to schedule an easy run or a day off (gasp!) to let the fatigue settle before moving on to some tougher workouts.

Now like I said, there are plenty of people who can just get by without this information.  And that's fine.  But I think that most people, especially those that are self coached, getting the numbers is an important part of training.  Now with that said - if you don't USE the information, then it is just data.  In order to get the value, you need to use it in a way that allows you to make sense of both the macro and micro elements to your training program.

In the end, we all have our reasons for using devices or for going without one.  So when I don't feel like wearing one, I simply cover it up, but record the data.  Because when the run is over, those numbers play a role in how my workouts are managed.  Without that information, I'd be training naked...and nobody wants to see that!
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