Thursday, October 28, 2010

Things I Learned While Training For A Marathon

I started running for fun while I was in college. Studying for Engineering classes can really drain your brain, so I started running a few days a week to clear my mind. I like goals - so I set a goal to run the miniMarathon in April of 1998 and did so in 2 hours, 13 minutes and some change. That's a pace of around 10:09 min/mile. The goal was to run the whole race, which I did - with no consideration to the pace that I was running. After the mini in '98, I took a year off and then picked running back up in 2000-2001 and completed a total of 6 races including the mini two more times, improving my time to 1:46 (8:05 min/mile pace). This 13.1 mile distance was the furthest my body have ever run...until a few months ago.

I took a hiatus from running following the MiniMarathon in 2001...until I did my first triathlon in August of 2008. Through all of my triathlon training the last two years, I had never asked my legs/lungs/heart to carry me more than 13.1 miles. I did a 15 mile run this summer leading up to one of my half-Ironman races, but that wasn't much different.

As I started building my mileage for the upcoming Indianapolis Monumental Marathon I noticed a change once I attempted to go beyond 16 or so miles. I realized that I needed to do some things different on these long runs. Here's what I've learned that are unique to running long distances:

1) I needed to put Vaseline on my feet to prevent blisters. I don't get blisters that often, but if one starts to form on a run that's going to last close to 3 hours, it's going to lead to a huge problem. Vaseline keeps friction from rubbing my skin off of my feet and toes!

2) Nipple chafing is not cool. I believe that it was during a run of around 18 miles that I started feeling some discomfort on my nipples...yeah, that's what I said. I tried wearing different types of shirts of varying tightness and fabric, but I found that the only fool-proof way to keep my nips from become bright red and irritated was to put small band-aids over them. I just got to remember to take them off before I walk around the locker room shirtless!

3) Even briefs (aka tighty-whities) move around. For obvious reasons, I wear briefs instead of boxers when I run. I never had an issue with this until I started running longer distances. I found the the briefs rub against the inside of the top of my legs where it meets my torso (in the crotch area). This gets really uncomfortable. So I started rubbing some Chamois Butt'r (which I originally bought for long bike rides) in that area before I run. This stuff holds up a lot longer than Vaseline.

4) Hydration is critical. Hydrating before and after a run is fine while it's only going to be an hour or so. But I quickly realized that I couldn't run for over 2 hours without some liquid. I tried several things, including taking my runs by water fountains, but I ultimately decided to break-down and buy a fuel belt. I've used it on several runs, and it works great. I filled the bottles up with Hammer Nutrition Perpetuem (Orange-Vanilla flavor) for my marathon simulation last week - yummy stuff!

5) Change is necessary. When you run for over 3 hours at a time, you get a little bored. I don't use an iPod or any other device that spits out music during my runs, so it's just me and my surroundings. Running the same route is beneficial because you recognize landmarks and mentally know how far you have left to go, but a change of scenery is nice. I usually do my long runs in St. Matthew's and Seneca/Cherokee Parks, but there's been a few times that I just had to switch it up and run somewhere else - even if it was inconvenient.

6) Heart rate training is very important for endurnace. For the last year or so, I've been a big believer in training based on heart rate zones. Building a solid base in your aerobic zone will make your heart stronger and more efficient. This philosophy has been driven home over the last two months. I've been doing one long run a week, based solely on my heart rate - not letting it get our of my aerobic zone, paying no attention to the pace that I was running. My first few runs were at a pace of 8:30-8:45 min/mile, now I can run a pace of 8:00 minutes per mile or faster without my heart rate getting out of my aerobic training zone...making my heart an aerobic machine!

1.32 mile warm-up run to the track in 10:08 (7:39 min/mile pace)
2 x 400m sprints w/ 1 min. rest
1) 1:28
2) 1:28
4 x 800m at marathon pace w/ 1 min. rest
1) 3:49
2) 3:47
3) 3:52
4) 3:45
2 x 400m sprints w/ 1 min. rest
1) 1:29
2) 1:25
1.32 mile cool-down run back to the gym in 10:42 (8:08 min/mile pace)
Total workout: 6.08 miles in 53:06

Workout graph:

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

News Flash: Don't Run A Marathon Without Training

According to a shocking study by a cardiologist, marathon runners who lack proper training can temporarily damage their heart. Lack of aerobic fitness may impair how the heart copes with the stress of running a marathon.

The study looked at 20 marathon runners with varying levels of fitness (based on their VO2 max). Those in the less fit group showed abnormal functioning in more than half of the 17 segments in the heart's left ventricle, unlike their fitter competitors. Other areas of the heart had to work harder to compensate. The good news is that the heart damage was not permanent. After only 3 months, the damage was no longer visible.

So in case you didn't know, don't try and run 26.2 miles without training properly!!

45 minutes of light weight, high reps - worked shoulders, back, biceps and abs

888 yards (1/2 mile) in 15:38
After a quick warm-up, I did a half mile at a pace slightly faster than the pace I swim during a half-Ironman (1.2 mile swim). Felt pretty good the whole time and tried to focus on hand entry and body rotation.

5 minute warm-up, 45 minute Spin Class and then a 5 minute cool-down
I really pushed hard the entire class. This was just a steady effort mixing in some hills, but no intervals. My heart rate was pretty high the entire time as you can see from the chart below (almost half the time was spent in Zone 4).

30 minutes of legs with some stretching mixed in

Friday, October 22, 2010

Marathon Simulation

With 2 weeks to go until my first attempt at a full marathon, I really needed to get in one last long run. I had planned on doing a "Marathon Simulation" run with about 3 weeks to go, but the injury to my foot really messed up my training plan. I figured that I would go ahead and make this last long run a simulation. If all went well, I would get a boost of confidence and also know what I was capable of doing on my foot if it still hurts come race day.

So I did some research and came up with several "Marathon Simulation" workouts. I landed on one that seemed to be a good one for "advanced" runners - not that I'm advanced, but I like to push myself. It's called a 30/50/20. So here's the workout: Total distance is 18 miles. The first 30% of this distance (5.4 miles) is done at a pace that is 20 seconds slower than your goal pace. My goal pace for the race is 8:00 min/mile. So I did the first 5.4 miles of this run at a pace around 8:20. The second phase of the run has you run 50% of the distance (9 miles) at your race pace. The third and final segment (20% or 3.6 miles) is done at 20 seconds per mile faster than your goal pace, which for me is 7:40 min/mile.

I secured the tape on my foot and headed out this morning - fully expecting to have to stop at some point due to pain in my foot. First few miles went by really slow, but my foot felt good. Once I made it to that 5.4 mile point, I increased the pace...and still felt strong. Today was one of those days that I was really thankful that my wife got me the Garmin watch with GPS. I was able to look down and keep my pace where it needed to be for the entire run - something that I wouldn't have been able to do two months ago!

I really had no problems keeping the 8 minute per mile pace for those 9 miles. But once I got to the third and final segment, it was really tough to increase the pace. This is the whole point of this run. Those last 3.6 miles of pushing it hard are meant to replicate the true demands of those last 6 or so miles of a marathon....I'm expecting lots of pain!!

Here's my spilts from today's run:

As you can see, I did pretty good at keeping my pace where it needed to be during the first two segments, but that last one was tough. In my defense, I had to slow down several times while crossing streets in order to let traffic go by. It's really hard to get back up to speed once you slow down. My average heart rate for each was 154 bpm, 163 bpm, and 170 bpm. If I can hold a heart rate around 163 and run 8 minute miles, reaching my goal of a 3 hour, 30 minute marathon should be attainable.

I was ecstatic that I was able to not only complete the 18 miles with only minor foot pain, but that I was able to do it at the paces required by the workout. I now plan to take the next two weeks easy and only do some short runs with some longer bike sessions and swims mixed in. I plan on being fully rested and ready to rock come November 6th!!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Plantar Fascia Failure

The Plantar Fascia is the tendon that runs under your foot from the toes to the heel. This tendon can become strained if it is overused or stressed. A combination of the extra miles I've logged during my marathon training and my run-in with the hickory nut have left my planta fascia begging for a break.

I first felt a pain in the sole of my right foot after a 21 mile run on October 6th. Since then, I've run a grand total of three times and never more than 4 miles. Each time, I've felt varying degrees of pain. With only 16 days left until the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon, I do not have the luxury of letting my PF rest and heal properly.

With the clock ticking and my mind telling me that I need to get in another long run prior to race day, I decided to head over to see my buddy Kevin at the Rudy J. Ellis Sports Medicine Center yesterday. After a thorough examination of my foot (which is never pretty), he determined that  there are several factors at play in my injury. The factors that are out of my control involve the structure of my foot. I have very flat feet (no arch) and I overpronate (my foot naturally rolls to the inside when I walk or run). These are things that I have known for years and that is why I am adamant about replacing my running shoes every 300 miles. I need the arch support and stability that the shoe provides. The other factors that came into play were the increased stress on my arch due to the long runs and straining the tendon my stretching it as I landed my foot directly on that damn hickory nut (this just sound ridiculous).

So Kevin fixed me up with a tape job that will help support my arch and let is rest while the plantar fascia is healing. This tape job will also hopefully stabilize my arch enough that I can get through one more long run that I have planned for tomorrow. If I can make it through this run, I will rest for the next two weeks and only do some short, high intensity runs leading up to the race. Fingers are crossed!

Here's the tape job...if feet gross you out, you may want to skip down past the pictures. I'm sure I will catch some heat from my wife for putting these pictures on here for all the world to see, but I thought it might be useful for someone else that may be experiencing similar injuries.

The black tape is the magical (I'm not joking) KT Tape and the tan tape is called Leukotape P tape and it's really strong, non-stretch tape that is used here to support the arch itself. This stuff is also apparently super adhesive, so it has to be applied over the KT Tape because it would literally rip my skin off if it was applied directly to my foot!

 The light tan tape going over my heel and achillies is also KT Tape.

4.00 miles in 29:59 (7:29 min/mile pace)
After taking an entire week off from running, and a recipe of ice and elevation at night, I honestly felt zero pain in my foot when walking and assumed that it was healed. Reality kicked in about mile 2 of my run when I started to feel a dull pain in my arch. I immediately turned around and headed back.

30 minutes (9.5 miles)
Once I got back from my run, I hopped on the bike for a quick, easy ride before doing some stretching. 
Avg HR = 125 bpm

1 hour of hard work on the bike, covered around 22 miles.
Goal was to do a 5 minute warm-up, the stay in Zone 4 (143-155 bpm) for 40 minutes before a 5 minute cool-down. This was a tough workout, but one that I needed to do to keep my fitness up. I ended up spending 61% of my time in Zone 4 (66.7% was the goal). 

20 minutes on the elliptical and then about 20 minutes of weights to finish off the workout.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Sugar Alternatives

So by now we all know that High-Fructose Corn Syrup (or Corn Sugar) is BAD. As in it affects the levels of insulin that your body releases and leaves more sugar in the bloodstream...which translates to fat. Look for it on labels - it's in nearly everything you buy that is processed.

Table sugar, while a better choice than artificial sweeteners (I'm talking to you Splenda, Sweet N'Low, NutraSweet, etc.) is still not good for your body. Table sugar (even the organic type) has the same affects on the body as HFCS described above. Table sugar also interferes with your body's absorption of lots of important minerals and can cause constipation among other things.

So what should you use as an alternative to sweeten food or drinks?

Raw Honey - Make sure it's raw...otherwise it's lost a lot of it's nutritional value through processing (it may even have HFCS in it!). That means don't buy the little bear shaped bottle of honey. It's especially good to buy raw honey from your local area to assist with allergies.

Stevia (pictured to the right) - This comes from a flower and has up to 300 times the sweetness of sugar....with negligible effect on your blood sugar and zero calories.

Date Sugar - This is basically ground-up dates. This is especially good for baking when you want to substitute brown sugar in a recipe. This doesn't dissolve in water, so don't try to use it in your coffee or tea.

Blackstrap Molasses - Two tablespoons of this stuff will give you your required Iron intake for an entire day. However, this stuff tastes like black if if you are not a fan of Good & Plenty, you might want to look elsewhere.

Keep this in mind - ALL sugars, even the alternatives listed above are simple carbohydrates. While the natural sweeteners are less detrimental to your health, they should still be used sparingly.

60 minutes on the elliptical trainer. In an effort to heal up my right sole, I'm letting my running shoes collect dust and I'm turning to some alternative cross-training to try and maintain my fitness. I'm not sure what 60 minutes on the elliptical at level 15 translates to, but it was a good workout.

912 yards in 17:09 (33:05 min/mile pace)

Approx. 2 hours (including a 10 minute warm-up and 10 minute cool-down) on the indoor bike. It's been a few weeks since I was on the bike and I could tell. I thought two hours would be easy, but this was a tough legs are pretty tired. Probably covered around 40-42 miles.
Avg HR = 140 bpm
Time below Zone 1 = 26 minutes (warm-up and cool-down)
Zone 1 = 12 min.
Zone 2 = 27 min.
Zone 3 = 39 min.
Zone 4 = 16 min.

Monday, October 11, 2010

2010 Ironman World Championship Recap

This past Saturday was the Ford Ironman Championship in Kona, Hawaii. It started around 12:30pm Eastern Time and I was able to watch it online on and off all day. I could go off on a tangent about how stupid it is that we can see poker tournaments and Canadian Football live on TV all the time, but no one will show a live triathlon! Sure it's an 8+ hour event, but doesn't each round of a golf tournament take that long? Ooops, looks like I'm starting to derail...back to the point.

While 1800 age-group athletes competed, the online telecast focused just on the pro's, so that's all I'll address here. The swim start is always crazy. As predicted, the former college All-American swimmer Andy Potts had a lead out of the water. He had almost a 2 minute head-start on the bike, but was caught by a group around mile 18. Chris Lieto (pictured below), who was my favorite to win, took the lead on the bike at the half-way point, but a large group was only about 3 minutes behind. Going into T2, Lieto had over a 2 minute lead on the closest competitor (Maik Twelsiek) and over 7 minutes on everyone else. Andy Potts finished the bike 15 minute behind Lieto.

Starting the marathon, the two-time defending champion, Craig Alexander was over 15 minutes behind Lieto...that's a lot to make up in the run! Among those in the top 10 starting the run were Mario Vanhoenacker, Raynard Tissink, Chris McCormack and Norman Stadler.

Chris McCormack went out very strong on the run, making up a minute on the leader in the first two miles! Chris Lieto was also running strong and holding onto the lead....but by mile 6, McCormack had moved into second and was only 4 minutes behind Lieto. At mile 11, McCormack cruised past a struggling Lieto to take the lead. Hot on his tail was Andreas Raelert, who was only a little over a minute behind.

By mile 18, McCormack's lead was only 40 seconds on Raelert...and everyone knew he was going to catch him. By this time, it was about 7:30pm Eastern Time and I was back in front of my computer. It was perfect timing, because I was about to see one of the best Ironman finishes in history!

In a race this long (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 mile run), it's rarely close at the end. A race lasting over 8 hours tends to allow someone to pull ahead and cruise to a victory with no one else in sight. This year was clearly going to be different. By mile 21 of the marathon, only 5 seconds separated the two men. By mile 22 they were running stride-for-stride (see picture below). Raelert had worked hard and caught McCormick, but McCormack wouldn't let him pass easily, it had become a mental battle. I couldn't get over how comfortable they both looked, running at a pace around 6:15 per mile!

As they approached the last aid station (between miles 24 and 25), Raelert slowed to grab some water...McCormack passed on the water and when he noticed Ralert had slowed, he took off! McCormack punched the gas and gave it all he had. You could see him grabbing his right side fighting off a side stitch. During the last mile, he continued to open up his lead as Ralert didn't have enough left to catch back up.

Chris McCormack ended up crossing the line with a time of 8 hours, 10 minutes and 37 seconds. Andreas Raelert came across 1 minute and 40 seconds later for second. It was an amazing finish, which you can watch by clicking on the video below (I dare you not to get chills):

The women's pro race took and interesting twist when the 3-time defending champ (Chrissie Wellington) withdrew from the race just hours before it started. Apparently she had flu-like symptoms. I felt really bad for her and a whole year of training was lost due to something out of her control. Julie Dibens set the pace early with a fast swim and bike. She was finally caught at mile 16 of the marathon by Mirinda Carfrae, who ended up having the fastest marathon ever run by a woman at Kona - a 2:53! After taking the lead, Carfrae pulled away and ended up winning by over 7 minutes.

Watching this race really gets me excited to compete in Ironman Louisville next year! I can't wait until they show the NBC production of this race on December 18th. This will coincide perfectly with the start of my Ironman training, which begins on December 20th!

I've been trying to nurse the strained tendon on the bottom of my right foot since I injured it last Wednesday. After my short run Saturday morning, it felt good the rest of the day and all day yesterday, so I figured I was good to go for my speed work this morning. I started to feel some pain towards the end of my warm-up, but I went ahead and did my first 800 meter repeat...the pain increased. I struggled through two more slow intervals and then called it quits and jogged back to the gym. Looks like I have some RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) in my future.
Yasso 800's (800 meter runs at a high intensity, with 3 minutes of easy jogging between each)
Warm-up (ran to the track) - 1.32 miles in 10:12 (7:44 min/mile pace)
1) 3:07 (Avg HR - 155, max - 165)
3:07 jog
2) 3:20 (Avg HR - 160, max - 167)
3:01 jog
3) 3:21 (Avg HR - 162, max - 170)
3:01 jog
Cool-down (ran back to the gym)- 1.32 miles in 11:49 (8:58 min/mile pace)
Total Workout: 5.09 miles in 43:59

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Running In The Dark

During my long run on Wednesday I went a few miles into Seneca and Cherokee Parks. I like running through parks because it takes you away from civilization. I run through neighborhoods and populated area's all the time - it's nice to run amongst the trees. One of these trees produces what I believe are hickory nuts. While on the tree, the nuts are housed in a nice shell/husk about the size of a racquetball...and hard as a rock!

More on the hickory nut in a minute. As you probably know, I do all of my runs early in the morning for several reasons. I love getting up early and getting my workout out of the way. One of the issues with running at 5am is that it's dark - especially in the parks. It's pitch black. I carry a small flashlight with me, but I usually just turn it on if I see a car approaching. Running down a road in complete darkness is strange. Not being able to see the road or trees as you run past them almost makes it feel like you are running in place...kind of cool.

So while I was running in Cherokee Park, in the dark, I stepped directly on a hickory nut. It looked something like the picture to the right. I obviously didn't see it and my first thought was that I was thankful my foot didn't roll off the stupid thing and twist my ankle. I felt a slight twinge in my arch during the next few strides, but then it went away...until about an hour later.

Once I got back to the gym and got out of the shower, I felt a pain in the sole of my right foot with ever step. I knew exactly what it was from. I've been icing it on and off in the evenings and trying to stay off of my feet as much as possible, but the dull pain is still there.

I went for a short run this morning and felt a minor amount of pain during the run. Hopefully it will subside before my speed workout on Monday!

4.32 miles in 30:48 (7:08 min/mile pace)
I just wanted to have a solid run a little bit faster than my comfortable pace. I also wanted to test my right foot and see how my sole was healing. This run, while short, has over 300 feet of elevation gain, so it's nowhere near flat. My heart rate stayed mostly in Zones 3 and 4 with a few minutes in Zone 2. Here's the breakdown:
Zone 1: 6% of the time
Zone 2: 18%
Zone 3: 43%
Zone 4: 31%
Zone 5: 2%

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Happy Ironman World Championship!

The 2010 Ironman World Championship is this Saturday in Kona, HI.

The top athletes in the sport of long-course triathlon will race for the title starting at 6am (12pm EST) on Saturday. Although I have never yet to race in an Ironman distance triathlon, I do know that it takes a special athlete to qualify to race in the World Championship...yes, that's right, you have to be invited to Kona.

How do you qualify? It's very difficult...and somewhat confusing.

Athletes qualify by earning a spot at one of the qualifying events - which are open to citizens of all countries - held throughout the year. Qualifier races include a few half-ironmans and full distance races.

Each event awards Ironman slots to its top 3-4 age group finishers (depending on the race), with some races also awarding professional qualifying spots.

Athletes may also gain entry by being selected through the Ironman Lottery.

1800 spots are given to those who quality, only 200 spots are given to lottery winners. With close to 100,000 people racing in the 24 qualifying events, it's VERY tough to qualify to Kona!

So needless to say, it takes a very gifted (or extremely lucky) athlete to make it to the Championship.

Craig Alexander is the two time defending champ on the men's side, but my money is on Chris Lieto this year. In the women's race, Chrissie Wellington should walk away with her third straight title. Barring an injury or mechanical issue during the race, no one will be close to her...again.

21.29 miles in 2:58:08 (8:22 min/mile pace)
Once I got about 4 miles in, I started to feel strong. I was running at a pace between 8:00 and 8:15 per mile and feeling good (heart rate was in the mid 140's). I was smashing hills and cruising on the flats. All was well until I hit the last hill coming out of Seneca Park around mile 17. It's tough, but I've run it many times without issue. This time was different. My legs stared to burn going up the hill and I knew when I reached the top I was done. I struggled to keep my pace under 9 minutes per mile the remaining 3-4 miles. Not sure why my legs gave out, but pushing to finish strong was a good mental test! Check out the chart below showing elevation and my pace.
Avg HR = 148 bpm
Max HR = 164 bpm

Monday, October 4, 2010

A Different Type of Recovery

A few times a year (last time being in May), usually after a big race, I move away from my typical healthy eating habits and "splurge" for a week or so. I refer to this week as my "Week of Gluttony". The Boilerman Triathlon last weekend was my final triathlon of the year, so while I am still training for a marathon next month, I shoveled a bunch of food into my body this past week that I would normally avoid. Some of my indulgences included strawberry ice cream, pizza (courtesy of CiCi's buffet), a couple of Dr. Pepper's, biscuits and gravy, a Kit Kat Dark candy bar, a Chinese buffet, some lots of Jessica's famous banana pudding, Outback's Baby Back ribs, a chicken quesadilla from Taco Bell, a glass of the new Maker's 46 and a few other things that I can't remember.

Towards the end of the week (as in last night), my stomach was telling me to stop with the sweets. It's amazing how just changing up my diet for one week can effect not only how I feel, but how my body responds when I run. I try to view food as fuel. This helps me to make good decisions when eating. If I expect my body to perform what I'm asking it to, I need to fuel it with high-quality foods, not junk. Garbage in = garbage out.

My long run last Wednesday was early enough in the week that the unhealthy food I had been eating hadn't had time to effect my performance. But that wasn't the case on Saturday or this morning. I could definitely tell that my body wasn't feeling as good as it normally does...and not just because of the 5 pounds that I gained last week!

I'm definitely ready to get back to eating right. Stuffing myself full of pizza and Kung Pao chicken at buffet's is out of my system, and I have no desire to grab a candy bar next time I stop at a gas station.

Hopefully my body is on the road to recovering...

10K (6.2) mile Tempo Run
15 minutes at an easy pace (approx. 7:45 min/mile), 16 minutes at an increased pace (around 7:15 min/mile) and then 16 minutes at an easy pace (7:50 min/mile). My legs felt heavy and I never really settled in. Believe it or not, quads were still a little sore from Wednesday's long run.
Total workout: 6.2 miles in 47:06 (7:35 min/mile)
Avg HR = 162
Max HR = 172

Yasso 800's (800 meter runs at a high intensity, with 3 minutes of easy jogging between each)
Warm-up (ran to the track) - 1.33 miles in 9:51 (7:28 min/mile pace)
1) 3:08 (Avg HR - 155, max - 166)
2) 3:14 (Avg HR - 162, max - 171)
3) 3:21 (Avg HR - 163, max - 169)
4) 3:17 (Avg HR - 165, max - 171)
5) 3:16 (Avg HR - 166, max - 172)
6) 3:16 (Avg HR - 167, max - 172)
Cool-down (ran back to the gym)- 1.33 miles in 10:51 (8:14 min/mile pace)
Total Workout: 7.38 miles in 1:01:30
I hadn't done Yasso's in over a month, so I had my mind set on getting in 6 of them. I really wanted to quit after the third one was so slow, but I sucked it up and pushed as hard as I could for the last three and never fell back to the pace of #3...only feeling like I was going to vomit once. Speed workouts are not my favorite, but they are just as important as the long runs. I've noticed an increase in my "comfortable" pace since I started doing these track they are successfully teaching my legs how to run faster!

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