The Runner's Reward

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