The Runner's Reward

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