The Runner's Reward

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Doctor Who Virtual Race Series

It is no secret I am slightly obsessed with certain sci-fi and fantasy books, movies, and shows. Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, and Doctor Who are at the top of that list. So when the 50th Anniversary was up and coming for Doctor Who I poked around on the internet wondering if there were any virtual Doctor Who themed races.

My Nerd Credentials from a 3D Theater Showing of the 50th Anniversary Show

If you are wondering what a virtual race is you are not alone. Simply put you sign up for an event, pay your registration fee, and agree to certain terms like how far you'll run, when you'll run. Ultimately, it is on the honor system that you actually get out there and run the good run and with most races there is a sweet race medal that is sent to you via mail.

I came across the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Virtual fun run/walk group page on facebook and signed up right away.  There are different options on how far you'll choose to go. I selected the Half Marathon.  I received this great Doctor Who 50th Anniversary themed medal and better still, much of the proceeds benefited the survivors of the Boston Marathon bombing. 

50th Anniversary Medal

There is a great sense of community on that group page. I've found runners and walkers to share a bond that I haven't seen elsewhere. I guess it is because we are all a little crazy and it's more fun to be crazy with friends. Add that with shared enthusiasm bordering on obsession about the show and you get a good time. I had the chance to talk with Queenie Zook, one of the organizers for the virtual race series, and learn more about how it all came about.

RL:How did you and Princess Seven come up with the idea to start these virtual races?

QZ: The virtual running was my idea. I had seen a couple online and wanted to do my own series, focusing on peace, love, pay it forward. acceptance. etc. I had mentioned it to Princess Seven once (she is not a runner) and she said if she were a runner, she would do a Dr Who medal. I said who?? Hahaha. Told her she might sell 10 if she was lucky. We originally ordered 50 medals. I was quickly sucked in to the world of Whovian. You all are great, but I am Seussian to my core. 
RL: I think we are all Seussians on some level Queenie. So it started with the Doctor Who 50th anniversary virtual race. I love the medal from that one! It is proudly displayed in my home. That first race benefited the Boston Marathon bombing victims correct? 
QZ: Yes
RL: What other organizations have the races benefited?
QZ:  Neads Service Dogs for Boston, One Fund, Back On My Feet (Great organization-check it out) Currently, (the) Lifelong Aids Foundation out of Seattle. Also $300 for yearbooks for the homeless graduates in our school system and we adopted 10 students who we clothed and (bought) shoe's for the first day of school. We work closely with our soup kitchen and Spin CafĂ© who feeds and does laundry for homeless and special needs youth. We are often spur of the moment. If we see a need in our community or are contacted about a need, we give it if we have it. 

RL: The race medals are fantastic! Who does the design work?

QZ: The 50th anniversary was designed by Ruby Dee via Crown Awards. The rest have been designed by us via Crown Awards.

RL: There have been 5 races so far with the latest being the 50mile and 100 mile Ultra-Whovian Challenge. What else is on the horizon?

QZ:  Weeping Angel is the next in line. We are working on copyrights for (a) Dalek (medal), and a few have asked for Adipose. Who knows, we make it up as we go.

RL:  Just like the Doctor. Anything else you'd like to add?

QZ:  Well I have had a blast getting to know the Whovian culture.

RL: Thank you for your time and all the hard work you and Princess Seven have put in. 

Here is the link for the page. Sign up links are located in the pinned post:

Doctor Who Virtual Race Series 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Getting it back via R&R

I started this post a while back and got busy and let it hang in limbo. So .........

After the Mangler 50k on Saturday smart recovery was at the top of my to do list. I'm still figuring out the best ways for my body to recover after a major endurance event.

Immediately after the race I like to mix a Vega recovery drink up and slam it down with a banana. I didn't have my Vega after this race and despite the tough run I had I finished feeling better than either of the two marathons I ran previously. I had energy and, aside from destroyed leg muscles, felt pretty darn good. So after the race I had a cup of chicken noodle soup and two slices of pizza, which were provided at the race. Carbs and some protein. Good recovery meal, right? I think I ate a CLIF bar on the way home too.

Before I left North Park I wrote Tara and told her I was done and coming home which means one thing...Indian meal! After each major race Tara has hooked us up with a gigantic spread of Indian food. I'm talking $50-60 worth for just the two of us. This is reason enough for me to run a race!

The next few days were spent eating and foam rolling and eating and stretching and eating and eating and ......eating. Also, at least 3 sessions of foam rolling a day.  Sunday I took a short walk on the treadmill, washed laundry, and knocked out the dusting and glass cleaning. Keeping moving really seems to help for a quicker recovery.

I had scheduled Monday off of work knowing that I'd probably need it. I dropped Tara off at work (we work together) and was surprised by my friend, and coworker, Nick. He had just moved and had a spinning bike that he offered up free of charge! We loaded it in my car and I headed home for a mostly relaxing day. Throughout the day I foam rolled and watched some quality TV; Walking Dead while taking a cool epsom salt bath and a whole lot of Doctor Who.  I also managed to clean the bathroom, sweep and mop floors, and finish laundry. Fairly productive rest day!

After that it was time to get going again. I had signed up for a 100 mile challenge. Run and/or walk 100 miles and the first 3 finishers would get a prize of an undisclosed nature. I began logging a lot of miles walking and started tracking my walking at work. There was a bit of light running as well with a 14 miler in the city one week after the Mangler and more than a few shorter runs.

100 miles in 10 days and a solid 3rd place finish! After this effort I will be ramping down for the remainder of the year taking a break until January 5th when 9 months of training starts for the Pine Creek Challenge 100k!

Taking a break means something different to runners than most I think. For me it is planning about 20-25 miles per week with all easy effort runs. No tempo, no speedwork, no farteks (hee hee ha ha ho ho, I said fartlek). I also got a gym membership at planet fitness so there will be plenty of crosstraining, stretching, and foam rolling. A break from challenging running.

The next post will feature an interview with Queenie Zook, one of the creators of the Doctor Who virtual race series, which included the 50 and 100 mile ultra-Whovian challenge.  Until then stay warm and run happy!


Thursday, November 13, 2014

So you want to run a 10k

In this "So you want to run" we will talk about transitioning from a 5k to a 10k; What it takes and how to prepare.

Basically, the same slow build up for going from 0k to 5k is in play when preparing for a 10k. 10 kilometers is 6.21 miles. Though it may seem very far right now it is definitely achievable with a training plan and some good old fashioned persistence.

Plan your training time. I would suggest 3-4 days of running per week with one of those days reserved for the long run.  As you might have guessed the long run should be longer than your usual runs. If you regularly run 2 miles then 3 or 4 miles would be a good starting point. Keep your pace slower than what you normally run. You really can't go too slow with a long run so keep it feeling easy.  You should be able to easily have a conversation with someone at the long run pace. The ultimate goal here is to build up endurance and spend more time on your feet. 

The long run has a number of benefits and is a staple of training for distance running. However, you don't need to be a half marathon runner or marathoner to benefit from the long run. The long run strengthens the heart and opens capillaries up.  It increases the size and number of mitochondria, strengthens muscles and tendons, and helps bring your fast twitch muscles in to help in slow twitch tasks.

Fast twitch muscles are used in quick, intense efforts like sprinting. The slow twitch are your endurance muscles for long distance running. The long run will make you faster over short distances too! Start by doing the long run once every two weeks, but no more than once a week and reap the mental and physical benefits.

As you build up your miles training a good general rule of thumb is to add no more than 10% to your distance each week. If I run 10 miles this week the next week I would plan 11. If I ran 25 miles for the week the following week I can add roughly 2.5 miles or run 27-28 miles. This guideline will help keep you running and lessen the chance of over training injuries.

Cross Training

As you are increasing your distance now is a good time to implement some cross training. What is cross training?  Simply put, it is exercising muscle groups that you do not use at all or do not use heavily when running.  Cross training will help build a strong body and it will benefit your running tremendously. Additionally, it can help make you less prone to overuse injury.

What would happen if you took a Ferrari engine and dropped it into your old Ford Pinto? The power of the motor would likely tear a car like that apart! The body is the same. You may have legs of steel from running, but unless the support structure has strength then it is only a matter of time before you are sidelined from an injury.

Great cross training activities for runners include bicycling, swimming, elliptical, yoga, and core strengthening work. Weight training can help tremendously too.  

When I started running I had a number of minor injuries. When I did, I immediately went to the internet and read up on strengthening the damaged muscle. As I increased my mileage from the 5k towards the 10k distance and beyond I had pulled a groin muscle on more than one occasion. So I went to Marshalls (great resource for affordable running clothes/gear) and got myself a thigh master for $10.  I started using it a few times a week and within 2 weeks no more groin pain on longer runs. I'm glad to say it has been a very long time since I had that injury.

Change it up!
Another activity I can not say enough for is incorporating some trail running. Though it is not cross training in a strict sense running trails uses more muscles than road or track. Particularly it will strengthen your calves, Achilles tendon, and foot muscles. Also, trail running is easier on the feet in some ways. While it is tougher on the muscles and will make you stronger, the trail will be considerably softer than asphalt or concrete putting less impact stress on the bones.  If the trail you select is very hilly be prepared to go much slower. A seasoned trail runner may cover 6 miles in an hour while us mere mortals may cover 3-4 miles in that time. 

Changing up the terrain you run will make you stronger. Run some road, some trail, take a day at the track.  There are a number of workouts to target speed, endurance, and strength. Runners World online is a great resource for information and workout ideas for the newbie and the pro alike.

For now we will stay focused on a simple plan to increase distance in preparation for your 10k.  

Dreams + Action = Reality

I spent three summers working at a camp which functioned as a training program for high school aged mentors and as a mentoring program for elementary school aged at-risk youth. Two of those years were through Americorps,  essentially the domestic Peace Corps. General Jones, USMC started the camp as a way to give back. He was a troubled kid and a person stepped in, mentored him, and set him on the right track. The General is a man full of sound, caring advice. One thing we learned and taught the kids was this simple formula: Dreams + Action = Reality. If you want something you have to take action. You have to create what you want.

A dream, a goal of yours is to run a 10k? Great! Make an action plan,a training plan and stick to it. Running is an exercise in perseverance and persistence. Here is a rough outline for how I went from 5k to 10k distances. No one plan will be the ideal for everyone so be flexible without sacrificing training.


I mentioned above planning for 3-4 days of running per week. That is a good starting point. Is the long run necessary? In short, no. You can run a 10k without doing weekly or bi-monthly long runs. I prefer to do them and I take great enjoyment in tackling new distances. Just like training for the 5k start slow and if you are doing hard workouts (ie long runs, hill workouts, track speed repeats) make sure to sandwich your hard workouts between easy effort runs and/or rest days. Easy effort means a little faster than you run your long run. A pace you can speak a sentence or two while running before you get winded as opposed to the conversational pace of the long run.  Every 3 weeks I put an active recovery week in. This just means stepping down mileage a little to let your body acclimate and rest.

Your schedule might look something like this:

Week Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday   Sunday
1 Rest  2 mi  CT 2 mi Rest 3 mi 1 mi EZ
2 Rest  2 mi Rest 2 mi CT or Rest 4 mi 1 mi EZ
3 Rest  2 mi CT 1 mi CT or Rest 3 mi 1 mi EZ
4 Rest  3 mi Rest 2 mi CT or Rest 4 mi 1 mi EZ
5 Rest  3 mi CT 2 mi CT or Rest 4 mi 2 mi EZ

6 Rest  4 mi CT 3 mi CT or Rest 3 mi 2 mi EZ
7 Rest  3 mi CT 3 mi CT or Rest 5 mi 2 mi EZ
8 Rest  3 mi CT 2 mi CT or Rest  10k Race!

CT = crosstraining

The same race week and race day prep apply from the So You Want to Run a 5k post. Get out there and enjoy the race!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Marshall Mangler 50k Race Report

After having to cancel every race I wanted to run for a few months at the end of summer / early fall due to work I decided I wanted to test myself. I signed up for the Marshall Mangler 50 k. I had 8 weeks to train. The challenge, the goal, was to train enough in that short time to be able to run the 50 k within the course time limit of 8 hours. Normally I would train at least twice as long for a marathon. I set myself up a schedule focused on long, slow trail runs and got to it..  Now, onto the race!

What can I say? This was an amazing, wonderful , grueling, painful experience. The kind of thing that you come away from with knowledge. Knowledge about the limits of the body and heart and of things that simply can't be put into words.

Race start was at 7:00 AM. It was in the upper 30's with periods of rain and 15-25 mph winds. Less than ideal, but far from a worst case scenario like snow and ice. The rain held off for most of the day so wet, slick roots and leaves and some muddy patches were the worst that the weather brought.

The course left from the Ice Rink driveway and went half of a mile up the hill to Pigeon Shelter. This was the location of an aid station and our drop bags. Our course would take us past here 4 more times and, for me, many of those times would be ugly. The first 4-5 miles followed the Orange Trail through the forests around the golf course. Leaving Pigeon it crossed a field of high, wet grass on the edge of the green. The kind that makes your legs sting and itchy. This lasted only about 50 yards. By the time I would be back here again the grasses were sufficiently trampled to remedy this minor inconvenience.

Winding through the conifer forests over hills and rock, roots criss-crossing the path, breaking the bedrock and pushing it up at odd toe-catching angles, the trail works its way counterclockwise back to Pigeon Shelter. I was following a group and chatting with some people I met, taking it easy and warming up. By mile 3 the sun was starting to come up and at the mile 6-ish aid station I decided to forge on without a stop.

The run was easy and enjoyable and otherwise un-notable for 12 miles or so. From the Orange Loop we crossed over to the Red Trails, following the main branch up 1/2-1 mile to the Red-blue dot. This trail winds its way up the western slopes heading south towards the lake. An aid station was set about halfway on the Red-blue at the Wisconsin Shelter. I stopped to refill my soft flasks and grab a handful of pretzels.

The aid stations. The sweet, sweet aid stations that literally made this race possible for me. The stations had bananas, pb&j sandwiches cut into little 2" squares, goldfish, pretzels, salt and vinegar chips, trail mix, m&m's,cookies, water, soda, Gatorade, and a staff of the greatest volunteers under the sun, or in this case under the clouds and rain.  These guys were knowledgeable and encouraging. More on that later.

 From the Wisconsin shelter aid station here I made my way down to the southern end of the lake and the start of the Rachel Carson trail. There was an unmanned fluid station here. Following the course I went back up the Red Trail and back to Pigeon Shelter and the Orange trail. Just under 16 miles in and only 1/4-1/2 mile to the aid station I had a wicked calf cramp. This marks the true start of the race for me. Over the next 16 miles I would come to learn things about myself. I would also come to having a number of out loud conversations with myself that bordered on insanity.

As I walked toward the Pigeon aid station the volunteers jumped into action. All the volunteers were great, but a special shout out to the Pigeon crew. And I mean crew. It was like having my own ultra trail crew. One guy came out to meet me, took my soft flasks and had them filled by the time I was at the station. I started stretching and massaging out my calf at which point the guy ( why didn't I get names?) who took my water bottles came back with a massage stick and even offered to massage it out. I opted to take care of it myself. In the meantime the crew gave great advice and encouragement. I ate some pb&j, and a little of everything else. Pretzels and m&m's can not be over rated in an event like this.  I left Pigeon feeling good. 

Less than a mile later everything in my legs started cramping and went into spasm. The semitendinosus, vastus lateralis, vastus intermedius ,and worst of all the vastus medialis. The entire chain of motion came to a grinding, spasming halt.
I tried massaging and light stretching trying to find the balance between relief and sending the muscles back into contractions. After a few minutes I tried walking. Painful, short steps. Then a stop again with more stretching and massage. Then a short walk. At that moment I knew without doubt I would not be finishing the race. How could I go another 15 miles like this? The clear answer was I couldn't. 

One runner passed me in that time. One of two still behind me. He very kindly stopped to see if I was okay and when I indicated I would be he carried on with his race. At this point I made a decision, one that would prove to be the right one.  I set my intentions on walking the 4+ miles remaining on the Orange trail back to Pigeon and seeing from there. After 2 miles around a 20:00 pace with light, slow , and careful running on flat ground I  was able to bring my pacing down to a 19 and then 18 on the last few miles. During this time I doubled up in the salt stick plus caps and had an extra Hammer perpetuem solid. By the way both of these items are amaaaazing!

The first thing I learned about myself was that I could run after full muscle spasms. Run might be a strong word for what I did, but I was still moving albeit very slowly. I needed to carefully hobble and walk all uphill and downhill and could slowly shuffle my feet on the flat ground.  I finally made it around to Pigeon at mile 20 and talked to the guys there. They all felt it was still possible and within the time limit. I thought possible, maybe. Within the time limit no. At this point I made another decision. The decision to go as far as I could regardless of time. Just to see how much further I could  push this body. 

With this decision I crossed back to the Red trails. Here I started walking a little less and running on the very slight inclines. Still though, I had to walk the hills. With almost 4000 feet of elevation gain on the course this wasn't going to be easy.  I started checking my pacing and crunching the numbers. If I could keep around a 15:00 pace per mile I could do this still!! The running became easier as I went. Easier does not mean easy by any sense of the word . I was still shuffling my feet close to the ground and felt every muscle threatening to spasm. After making the big climb up to the Wisconsin aid station I stopped to refuel and eat. The volunteers here were great. I left feeling encouraged and with too much food in my belly. 

As I wound down the remainder of the Red-blue towards the southern lake edge my legs again went into spasm. This time, however , I knew it wasn't the end. I knew that this made finishing in 8 hours an even more daunting task, but I only had 6-7 more miles to go. At mile 23 my garmin battery finally gave out. 5 1/2 hours in GPS mode for a forerunner 10! I was amazed, but I knew this would happen eventually and was ready. I used mapmyrun on iPhone to complete tracking and monitor my pacing. Along this trail I became my own drill seargent. If anyone was around to hear the obscenities streaming out of my mouth! "You are not stopping , keep moving your  f$&@ing feet" "You didn't come this far to quit and you didn't come this far to finish after the time limit! F$*#ing move it"  

Another thing I learned about myself is that even when the body entirely quits the heart and soul can propel you through pain and torment. 

Coming down to the unmanned fluid station I pressed on knowing I had enough fuel and water and was now on the return path! Two major hill climbs stood in my way. The first was directly ahead.  At this point I could "run" uphill a little bit and I took advantage of this by doing so intermittently in the climb. At the top I was across from the Wisconsin aid station which was cleared out . 

I pressed on and crossed over to the second hill climb left. The beast that worked its way back towards Pigeon. This climb went straight up the mountain. No switchbacks, no turns , just straight up. I stopped halfway up and stretched lightly, then attempting to walk up it backwards to see if that would be easier on my damaged muscles. It wasn't. After conquering the climb I checked my watch.  I was around 7:10 in. Rounding up to Pigeon for the last time I heard the guys screaming and cheering. Just the boost I needed. While passing I asked how far? About 1/2 a mile!! I'm actually going to do this AND within the time limit!! I was ecstatic. Coming down towards the finish chute I felt a surge of energy that took me to the line at a chip time of 7:31:16! 

First 50 k In the books!

I had mentioned there were two people behind me at the start of the second loop  and one passed me soon after the cramping began. The second person finished sometime after I had left. 

I was the last place finisher within the 8 hour time limit. And last place feels incredible!

Course and Placement:
Elevation Gain: Approx 3940'
Distance: 50km   31.1 miles - I tracked 32.7 miles using Garmin and map my run


Monday, October 27, 2014

Last Long Run Before the Mangler

I woke up around 6:45, late for a long run day, made a pack of raw steel cut organic oatmeal that I added raisins and honey to. Ate a banana. Filled my travel mug with coffee and headed up to North Park to run the first lap of the Marshall Mangler course. This was the last long run before the race this coming Saturday.

I was filling my two 500ml soft flasks for the Salomon Hydro Set 5 pack when I noticed the bite valve internal cap was missing. The flasks have bite valves similar to a bladder and hose setup. The internal cap is what keeps the water inside. This wasn't going to work. I was on the running warehouse site pretty quick looking if they had the soft flask in stock. Fortunately they did and they send all orders 2 day ship. Also, my Steel City Road Runner (SCRR) membership gets me a solid discount. Flask ordered. Crisis averted. Sure I was stuck with half a liter of water on hand instead of the liter I normally carry, but no issue on a figure 8 course. My car was a fully stocked aid station.

The course route has roughly 1900 feet of elevation gain over the 15 miles. Just a touch over the average for most local hill trails I've run. This assumes that I ran the correct route. I seem to be coming up 1/2-1 mile short.
Red Trail

Now, typically it's not suggested to start toying with fueling plans one week before a race. So I figured I'd toy with my fueling plan the week before the race. Almost 6 miles in I was off the Orange trail and back at my car. I refilled my soft flask and tried a piece of Ezekiel cinnamon raisin bread with peanut butter. Took a shwill of coffee and hit the Red trails. Maybe the piece of bread with peanut butter slathered over it was a little too much. My legs were kinda dead as blood went to my stomach to digest this heavy thing I threw at it one hour into a run. That being said the lethargy legs passed in 20-30 minutes and no other unpleasant side effects were had,but I did have solid energy the rest of the way. So come race day I think I will downsize the portion to half a piece of bread with PB somewhere between miles 6-10 and keep on with Clif Bloks and Salt Stick Plus caps. That should do the trick.

The Orange trail or Golf Course trail as it is also known encircles the Golf course... Big surprise there!  The forested trails are beautiful and treacherous. It's the kind of forest you want to look around and enjoy.  There are a number of sections that have intertwined roots and rocks breaking the ground, so make sure when you are enjoying the scenery to also take careful note of where your feet are landing. 

The remainder of the run was on the Red trail which runs down to the lake and back up on the Red- black to Red-green. At the Wisconsin shelter I crossed over to the Red-blue following it down to the ice rink. I really can't say enough for how nice the trails at North Park are. They are well maintained, marked, and frequently used.

 I made it back to the car around 14.5 miles and ran up the hill and back to round out a nice 15. Finished this baby up with fresh legs and energy to spare.  I'm ready. A couple of short runs this week in the 2-4 mile range , some carb loading, and hopefully a little extra sleep. Ready to go! I'll post a race report up next weekend or early next week.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Taper, Taper, Tapas: One week from the Marshall Mangler 50k

I'm one week out from my first 50k and second trail race! It has been a crazy 2 months of training and as always during a taper I find myself nervous. I could have prepared more, I could have run more miles, I should have cross-trained more (I really should have cross-trained more). All these thoughts keep popping up. Of course I did prepare. I think I did well too, but these are the thoughts that inevitably come to me leading up to a big event.

So what is a taper? It is a planned reduction in volume of training (ie how many miles I run) leading up to a long race. This reduction after a build up allows the body to rest and heal. It also gives time to top off the tank with glycogen. Glycogen is the primary fuel burned in running. Have you heard runners talk about carb loading? Complex carbohydrates are the best sources for topping off your muscles glycogen reserves. So what is the best way to taper? How do you carb load?

Taper time!
Tapering is a reduction in training volume before an endurance event. When should you taper? I taper for any distance from the Half Marathon up. Different people taper differently. In running everything comes down to what works for you and your body. There is no 100% correct advice, but there are a few guidelines.

By most schools of thought the taper should be 2-3 weeks long. I shoot for two.  The reduction in miles run per week should drop during that time. I reduce my mileage by about 10% the first week and up to 25-35% the week of the race. But again, different people taper differently.You will find what works for you.

Along with the drop of miles I choose to reduce or eliminate speedwork during the week of the race. That being said when tapering reduce mileage, but not effort! You still want to run your runs like you have during training. Just avoid the all out efforts. No hill workouts, no long speed sessions.

I take a day or two off before the race. Maybe take a walk,do some stretching and yoga,or a light bike ride.

Okay! We've got the taper covered. What about carb loading?  

                                                                 Not this way!

If you are on a low carb diet, Atkins or something similar, you really need to consider more carbs if you are going to run distance events. You can get away with running a 5 or 10k carb depleted. Maybe, just maybe even a half marathon, but it's going to be an ugly day if you try to run a marathon or longer without a abundant source of healthy carbs in your diet. Healthy is the keyword here. Eating 25 candy bars or spooning down a 5lb bag of sugar is not the way to go! Whole grain breads, pasta, rice,sweet potatoes...mmm mmm That's where it's at sans two turntables and a microphone.

 This way!

How do you carb load?  First, we aren't looking to binge on nothing but carbs. According to Dr. Leslie Bonci, Director of Sports Nutrition Department of Orthopaedic Surgery and Center for Sports Medicine-UPMC, it really is as simple as adding one additional  "fist-sized" serving of carbs on top of your normal meal portions.  I start 3-4 days out from the race. The night before I eat a light meal. No heavy fats (sorry bacon) , but some healthy fats (avocado, my precious) and a smaller serving of lean protein (chicken). 

During this time make sure you are drinking enough. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!

That is it! Nothing to it, right?

Race Day!
The morning of the race you want to top off your glycogen tank. Four hours before the race I will eat a light breakfast. Oatmeal, a banana, coffee, and toast with peanut butter. Two hours before the race perhaps another piece of toast and a banana and a sports drink. I use salt stick caps plus with a glass of water  or Nuun. Use what works for you and what you used in training!

So this week I will be following the general plan we just talked about. And come Saturday you can find me rocking out 31 miles on what the race director describes as "challenging, aggressive trail" in Pittsburgh's own North Park! Hope to see you there!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

So you want to run a 5k

The past few posts gave you a little background on me. Let's move on to the fun stuff! This is the first in my "So you want to run" series. I will be covering a different race distance with each article in this series. This is geared towards someone who wants to run their first race at the target distance. I plan to cover the 5k, 10k, Half Marathon, Marathon, and maybe, just maybe ultra distances.

So you've decided to run a 5k. First off, congratulations!! You've made the decision to try something new, to put yourself out there and to challenge yourself. Most people will not take this step. A 5k is 3.12 miles, no easy task!

I had been running for about 2 months when I ran my first 5k. It was the Rotary Zombie 5k and 1 mile fun run in Cranberry Township, PA.  The event was well organized and had an excellent spread of food and drinks. Coffee, bananas, donuts, cookies, and lots of water.  I thought it was going to be a run away from zombies kind of race. It was not. Still, I am glad I signed up. It gave me the motivation to train and gave me a taste of the race atmosphere.

Now that you've decided to run the 5k it's time to pick a race! Maybe it will benefit an organization close to your heart or maybe it will be a fun run event like the Color Run. Sign up right away. Even if the race is 3 months away sign up. And tell people! Friends, family, coworkers. This is going to help keep you motivated to train. 

You've got a goal, you put your money down, told everyone you are running a 5k, and now it's time to prepare. Do you have some experience running? Or are you going from the couch to a 5k? Either way I believe the approach should be the same.

1. Set a schedule!
Plan to build up to your 5k over 2-4 months based on your fitness level. Make time to run 3 days a week and give yourself 30-45 minutes to do so.   If you want to do more maybe add a 4th day where you take an active recovery day with a walk, yoga, or a bike ride.

2. Follow the schedule!
It sounds easy enough, but it's also easy to make excuses.  "It is raining out I think I'll skip today. I'm too busy. It's cold out."  Get in the habit of getting out there when you plan to. Sure, things come up and maybe you need to move a workout day. That's fine. Just move that day in the schedule and carry on. Training is a balance of workouts, rest days, and being consistent. Consistently getting out there will give you the best payout for your efforts.

What happens if you miss a training day or two? Just pickup the schedule and carry on! 

If you can't run a mile that's fine! I couldn't either. If I ran 1/8 of mile I was doubled over out of breath! Start slow. Walk when you need to.  The idea is to gradually build up to the distance. So run 1/8 mile and then walk a bit, then run, then walk. Maybe the next day or the day after that go a little farther before walking. Just keep on keeping on and before you know it you'll be running a mile without stopping. And then 2 miles. And 3.

I clearly remember going out for my walk/run one day. As I moseyed along I looked at my phone. I was using Map My Run at the time. And lo and behold the distance readout said 1 mile! I hadn't stopped to walk and I wasn't out of breath! When did this happen? It happened little by little by consistently getting out there and putting in the work.

Running is a great analog for many of life's challenges. Quite simply the more time you put into it  the more you get out of it!  And don't forget rest days are a necessary part of the training! 

3. Get ready for the Race!
You've put in the work and now race day is almost here! Take 2 days off before the race. Maybe take a walk or a bike ride. The night before pull out your race clothes. If you have already picked your race packet up affix your bib onto your shirt. If there is a chip timer put it on your shoe.

The morning of the race you will likely be excited and maybe a little forgetful. Having it all ready makes the morning easy! Don't eat a huge breakfast or try a new food out. Stick with what worked for you while training. I like to have a banana and a cup of coffee. Maybe a piece of toast or oatmeal.  Try to eat at least 2 hours before the race start time. You don't want a full belly trying to run!  Make sure to get to the race area at the time recommended. If you have not received your packet yet you'll need to be a little earlier. 

4. Run! Walk! Go claim victory over the 5k!
You have trained. You have prepared yourself. Now is the time to reap the reward of your efforts.  If you can't run the whole 5k no worries. Walk when you need to. And most importantly, DO NOT FORGET THIS: HAVE FUN!!! This is your day so enjoy it.

5. Have a banana! You've earned it

Race Etiquette

A few things worth mentioning. There will be all kinds of people running at the 5k. There will be seasoned racers looking to perform their best, there will be new runners looking to finish their first or second 5k. There will be people walking, maybe pushing strollers.  Here are a few things to keep in mind so that you and everyone else can enjoy the race:

1.  If you aren't planning to run at the front of the pack for the race don't line up in the front.  If you are running with a stroller or walking the race line up near the back.

2.  Headphones are typically discouraged. If the race allows you to use headphones keep the volume low enough that you can hear your surroundings. This is for your safety and everyone's safety.

3.  Do NOT stop moving as you come through the aid stations. Slow to a walk and if you need to stop do so after the aid station.  Move to the side of the course until you are ready to resume.

4.  Do NOT stop as soon as you cross the finish line. Move out of the chute before stopping.

In the next "So you want to run" we will talk about transitioning from a 5k to a 10k.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Why I Run

Why run? I mean really? I would be driving along all nice and comfortable in my car and see these people. These strange, strange people in neon and reflective wear. In the snow and rain and 90 degree heat I'd see these people. More often than not their faces would be in a contortion of pain and exhaustion. They would be on country roads, busy city streets, in the parks..everywhere! Why are there so many of them? Sometimes they run in packs. Large groups wild with a hunger that could only be satiated at an all you can eat pasta bar. 

They speak strange too! They talk about PR's, PB's (was it peanut butters?), tempo runs, fartleks ( really!?). They refer to food as fuel and can literally talk for an hour straight about shoes and foam rollers. 

As for me, I never was a runner. Of course I ran around playing as a child, I ran at basketball practice, I ran like hell after some friends and I threw snowballs at a police car passing by, but never  for fun and never from an intention to do so. Me, I was a hiker. I spent days and days of my childhood up through adulthood hiking and exploring in the forests and mountains. I loved being in nature and felt a intense drive to keep going and see what was over the next hill or around the next bend in the trail. Sometimes there was not even a trail and I would return home bloodied from briars and happy.  

After graduating college I started working. And kept working more and more until there was no time for anything. And this was life for almost 10 years.  I watched too much television, played video games waaay too much, and smoked cigarettes. I needed a change. 

Flashback to 1994: I was 15 and diagnosed with Epilepsy. Most of the time since then it has been poorly controlled at best. I would be seizure free for months or a year and then at times I'd have a few in a week or month. Eventually I was cordially invited to a weeklong stay at the hospital's EMU, or epilepsy monitoring unit. For that time I was under continuous EEG and had a number of tests administered. At the end of the stay the team of doctors had some changes for treatment. The specific diagnosis was partial epilepsy in the frontal lobe. From here we tried a few different medications , all with undesirable side effects. One pill gave me a rash, another pill made me raging angry all the time, and "one pill was just right," said baldylocks.  I have not had a full blown seizure since the day I started that medication in 2012. 

Epilepsy controlled I moved on to making some needed changes in my life. I quit smoking, started running, and began eating healthier. No more refined sugars and chemicals. Mostly clean eating, clean living. 

So back to the question: Why did I start running? Why did I become the reflective tights wearing, talk your ear off about shoes, fuel ingesting, carbocentric, fartlekking madman you love today? I had a number of friends who were running and talking about how much they loved it. I wanted to get into the woods again. I guess one thing led to another. I laced up some shoes one day in September of 2012 and stepped outside. I ran and it sucked. It hurt like hell. I could only manage to run for 1/8 of a mile before being winded and feeling on the verge of puking. I returned home drenched in sweat and sore and I don't think I even covered a mile, but I felt good. Better than good. I felt happy and good. So the next day I did it again.

I run to have time to reflect, to enjoy nature, to shake off stress or a bad day. I run for the challenge, for the elusive runner's high, for fun. I run to have a clearer mind, to problem solve, I run simply to run. So if you haven't tried running find a nice park and lace up. Who knows? You might hate it, you might love it, or maybe both.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Bread and Pasta: The return of

Last week I ran...a lot.  A 40 mile week with 27 of it over the weekend. I had one more heavy week ahead of me and then the taper begins for the Marshall Mangler 50k (my first 50k!). After the 20 mile long run I felt like a million bucks! No soreness...nada! This has been starting to happen more as I have slowed my long runs down. Slow and easy..just enjoying the run groove.

 So Sunday comes along and I go out for a 3-4 mile recovery run at Boyce Park, my handy dandy go to place for trail running just 10 minutes from home.  Hey, I know this place, right? I've run here a bit..I mean I wouldn't get lost. Well, I didn't get lost per say....but I did take a wrong turn somewhere on the blue trails and 4 miles turned into 7. Normally, no biggie. At mile 6 I bonked. I've never bonked before really. I mean, sure I've hit a wall or two near the end of a marathon, but this was different.  I wasn't sore or tired even. It was an overwhelming lethargy. I couldn't carry on.  I'd try to run a little and just slow up to a walk. 

Monday was a much needed rest day. Tuesday I ran a slow and  rough 5 miles of hills. Wednesday night I went over to Frick park for a 4-5 miler...bonk! Tunnel vision, gotta sit right-this-second bonk at a mile and a half in.  I walked back to the car feeling woozy and defeated. After asking around on my favorite running groups I decided to try a few things before seeing the MD.

I began by looking at my diet. I had problems not taking in enough calories in the past and had to dial my munching in to my training regiment. I was certainly eating enough! More than enough. What was I eating? Well, everything in sight. I feed like a hobbit: 1st breakfast, 2nd breakfast, brunch, lunch, onesies, snack, 2nd lunch/1st dinner, dinner, snacks and off to bed.  What I found was I wasn't getting nearly enough carbohydrates for the workload I had my body under.

Carbs! How did I miss you? Delicious breads and pastas and rice and sweet taters and bananas and.....  I had been following an adapted form of the Paleo diet. For those who don't know the paleo diet is essentially a lifestyle. It is eating foods with no preservatives, additives, no GMOs or crap. No processed foods, no refined sugars.  Instead the diet consists of lean protein and healthy fats and low carbohydrates.  This means mostly organic produce and fruits, nuts, seeds, and meats.  Now when I say adapted paleo I mean I put more carbs in. Active folks need more carbs than the paleo diet typically allows for. Even as such I was not getting nearly enough carbs. At my body weight and training I should get around 500-800 grams of carbs a day.  I was probably getting closer to 300-400 grams.

The solution: Two rest days with good, healthy eating including around 600 grams of carbs per day. I also ate a more substantial breakfast than I normally have before going out for my long Saturday run. A banana, oatmeal,and coffee instead of the normal banana and coffee. I went out to try and salvage the training week with a long run on the race course at North Park. Due to time constraints I got 14 miles in at race pace before I needed to leave. felt great! I am a man with a plan!

I am now tracking my approximate caloric intake and carb intake daily until I get into the swing of it. And I should consider buying stock in sweet potatoes. Gotta say the return of bread and pasta is nice!


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

A start

Well here we have it! I setup this blog page a long time ago..a year or two ago and have done exactly nothing with it.  I forgot it was even here. So for my first ever blog I will say hello! My name is Tony. I have been a runner for a little over two years and have completed a number of 5 and 10k's, a few half marathons, and two marathons. Currently I'm training for my first 50k and am 1 week out from tapering. The trail race is the Marshall Mangler 50k outside of Pittsburgh and will take place November 1st.  Assuming I don't forget about this page again for a year or two I'll post more as the event draws closer.  Run happy my friends