Last Call - Mile Run!

Monumental Mile.jpg

If your running started in school it is very likely one of your first races was the mile.  You have also probably wondered periodically what you could run for that distance now.  Maybe you could run faster or maybe not.  However, there just are not too many opportunities to race the mile.  There is now!

If you are an adult onset runner, especially in recent years, you may have never thought about racing a mile.  After all, why would someone pay to run one mile?  Good question.  Let's see if I can give you a few reasons to race the Monumental Mile.

1) It is one mile straight down Meridian Street finishing at the circle.  Traffic is shut down on what could be considered the main street of Indianapolis, so you can see how fast you can run one mile.  How cool is that?

2) There is a race for everyone.  There is a race for kids, masters, open, and even a community mile for the whole family.  And then the races are topped of with an elite mile.

3) You will recover much faster from a mile than a half marathon allowing you to enjoy the festive atmosphere of the circle on a beautiful June evening.

4) It is an easy measuring stick to duplicate to test your fitness.

5) The Mile is a great symbolic kick off to your training for other fall races.

Monumental Mile Details.

Why Do I Feel So Slow?

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I have seen a pop up pandemic in the last several days.  Maybe you have also noticed with your own running?

Symptoms:  Loss of confidence, sudden loss of fitness, slower running, especially at harder efforts.

Cause: Climate change!  Most information on the effects of heat on running performance use dew point as the primary factor.  If you don't know the dew point you can find it with this calculator.

A brief summary is that the following dew points result in the corresponding drops in performance.  

60° = 2%, 65° = 3%, 70° = 5%, 75° = 12%, 80° = 15%.  Note the accelerating decline as it gets warmer.  Remember these are dew points and not simple air temperatures.

Add the rule of thumb that you will slow down by 2% for every 1% in body weight loss due to dehydration and you have a losing battle.  There are several other factors including acclimatization (generally takes 2 solid weeks) and individual heat tolerance.

Let's say the dew point is 75° and you have lost 3% of your body weight in sweat loss.  If you would normally run 7:30 pace or 450 seconds per mile, the total of 18% loss of speed (12% for 75° dew point and 6% for the 3% dehydration loss) you could expect to slow down by 81 seconds per mile.  So now instead of cruising along at 7:30's, you are now feeling lousy and running 8:41 pace.  It's physiology.  You might be tough and might tolerate heat better than most, but you will be working much harder to even be remotely close to your normal pace.

Solution:  Consistent training for adaptation and adjusted expectations.  Stay hydrated using salt tabs when necessary.  Use respiratory rate and perceived exertion as your primary measures of effort.  Pace and HR will be affected to a degree that their reliability is no longer as helpful.  Continue to rely on Run Smart, Run Hard.  Heat will require you to emphasize the smart, the hard just happens.

What Just Happened? Part 2 Lessons from Boston & London

 Take what the day offers!

Take what the day offers!

Boston Take What the Day Offers.  You have to love hearing Desiree Linden talk about her thoughts of dropping out in the early miles.  It was not her day and she was willing to adjust.  As the miles accumulated she started feeling better while the other contenders were going from good to bad to DNF.  The longer the race the more likely your fortunes can change, and maybe more than once.  Stick with it and see what happens.  If at the elite meeting on Sunday, it was announced that 2:15:58 and 2:39:54 would be the winning times, there would have been a massive shift in race strategies.  You just don't know until you see how the race unfolds.

Boston Opportunity  Look for the opportunity in difficulty.  Some of the top finishers in Boston would have never been there under good conditions.  If you can wake up to a rough race day and see the opportunity for those that run hard and run smart you might just surprise yourself at the end.

London Reality Check  Let's look at the men's race with a good sized lead pack in the early stages.  These are the projected times at the following checkpoints.  Keep in mind the world record is 2:02:57/4:41 per mile.   5K 1:56:27, 10K 1:59:29, 15K 2:01:10, 20K 2:01:58, 25K 2:02:31, 30K 2:02:56, 35K 2:03:37, 40K 2:04:04, Finish 2:04:17.  The average pace was 4:45 and only 2M in the first half and only 4 in the first 20M were at that pace or slower.  Somebody in that pack might have thought about the carnage to be had if they would have run a more reasonable pace.  The only way that race plan works is if all of your competitors get sucked along into the unrealistic pace.  Being the Olympic Champion and one of the best marathoners ever does not hurt either.  The women's race had fewer on suicide pace, but one dropped out and the other went from 1st to 5th and 5:56 behind the winner.  And she is the women's only world record holder.   Sometimes confidence is pushing harder and other times it is holding back.

Boston Cold Rain is the Worst.  No one likes to run in cold rain.  It's hard to dress for because if you wear too little you freeze and by wearing too much you will freeze when it all gets wet.  The waiting before and after made the running part seem easy.  This leads to...

Boston Train in it All.  As much as we hate extremes you have to train some amount in it all to be ready when it lands on race day.  I don't think you can get acclimated to some extremes like cold rain and wind, but you can know what apparel works best and to have the confidence you've done it before.  Even the elite athletes were unprepared wearing sails for jackets and trapping in sweat and rain under too many clothes.  There was no way to be comfortable in those conditions, but practice does get you closer.

London Train in it All.  It was not hot, but it was warmer than most were ready to handle.  I tend to think 60-70 degrees in the most dangerous in a marathon.  It does not feel hot enough to know you have to change plans until it is too late.  Knowing and practicing race nutrition for such occasions turns such a day into a B+ performance rather than a race best forgotten.

These are a few of the lessons from the last few weeks.  There are many more if you look closer.

 Uncontollable variables have no respect for your resume.

Uncontollable variables have no respect for your resume.

What Just Happened? Lessons Learned from Race Day

 Learning from both success and failure leads to the next success.

Learning from both success and failure leads to the next success.

Success and failure are both great teachers.  However, we must take the time to reflect on each to find the lessons to either repeat or avoid in the future.  I encourage you after each meaningful race to take the time to find the successful factors to reinforce and the improvements needed to rectify the disappointment.  The following are some of the things to consider.

Pre Race Rest  Were you rested enough or flat from too much rest?  Managing the balance between acute and chronic stress is an art that allows you to simultaneously be building for future races, but ready to go for the next one.

Pre Race Routine  Back up 24-36 hours to examine how sleep, diet, travel, and other logistics affected how you felt between the gun and the finish line.  More immediately, was your warmup adequate to have you ready for the initial demands of race effort?

Race Plan  Race fitness takes a long time to build but can either be cashed in or wasted in a hurry depending on your race plan and execution.  Did you properly plan your pacing and strategy?    If your plan was on target, were you mentally tough and physically fit enough to carry it out?  Did you adequately adjust for course, competition and conditions?  The answers to these questions will help you adjust your training as well as your next race plan.

Grading Scale  Last year after a particularly warm Boston Marathon, I texted one of my runners to congratulate him on a great race.  He texted back about how horrible he performed and questioned the meaning of life and running altogether.  I told him to wait until he saw the results before he beat himself up too much. After further review and grading himself on the curve the conditions required, he realized he did have a good day, after all.  It can be difficult, but try to have more than one measure of success.  Time is only one of them.  Uncontrollable variables can doom your time standards, but that does not mean you cannot have a great race.  The time will just have to wait for more cooperation.  On other days you might find you matched your time hopes but then find out people ran out of their minds on a magical day and you failed to cash in on your share of the magic.  Be open to taking what such a day has to offer by removing the time limits and focusing on the appropriate race effort.

Sure, it's a stretch, but to paraphrase Socrates, an unexamined race in not worth running.  Use the lessons of each race to make the next one better.

 

Work Wasted

 There are no deals, so make your miles count!

There are no deals, so make your miles count!

If you are reading this you most likely take your running seriously.  That means it is not only important to you, but you make choices that cause you to miss out on other things to have the time and energy for training.  That being the case, the ultimate running sin is to do things in training that are actually counterproductive and cause you to waste your work.  I will make an admission up front.  I have committed all of these at one time or another as a runner or as a coach.  I can tell you it hurts to have done the work, but to have done something else to prevent reaping the benefits.  I hope what follows can help you avoid the same mistakes.

Racing Workouts  There is no substitute for hard work in training.  You have to practice digging deep to be able to do it on race day.  However, going too deep, too often in training can also lead to an inability to adapt to your training, breakdown, or flat racing.  Train hard, train consistently, but save the heroic efforts for race day.  While you should take confidence from your training, just wait and see how optimistic you feel after a few great races.

Passing Opportunities  With every interval, mile, and run so measured and often reported through online media and training sites, it is hard to back off training and put up bad numbers.  It is hard to back off to be rested going into a race and to back off to recover from a race when it will hurt your numbers.  Passing up too many racing opportunities to keep you numbers up is the exact definition of losing perspective.  You are training to race better, not training to train better.  I know some of my best fitness was wasted looking past too many opportunities and towards some big race a few months down the road.  Yes, this problem can swing the other way to too much racing so plan thoughtfully to balance training progress with racing results.

Dropping Good Habits  If you have done this welcome to the club that includes every runner ever.  After focusing on getting stronger and more flexible, getting more sleep, eating to maximize health and energy you feel so good, you stop doing these things until you break down.  Write these habits and practices in your training log right alongside the workout and mileage.  They allow you to get the most from the actual running.  Find a level that can be maintained.  Then maintain it!

Losing Balance  With both training and racing it is easy to stick with your strengths.  If you are a 5K runner that loves 12 x 400m, it is easy to never stray far from those.  A long steady state and a 10K-10M race may give you a new training effect to help you maintain a faster pace for the shorter distances.  If you are a marathoner who hates anything shorter than a 5M steady state run and wonder why anyone would pay to race under a half marathon, you could be shocked in a good way to find how easy marathon pace feels after a few 5K's and quarters.  The right balance at the right time is key to optimal training effect.  Staying at one end of the spectrum is a sure way to slow or stop your progress.

Not Listening  You body tells you everything you need to know.  It might start as a whisper, but it will tell you if you are approaching your limit or if you can do more.  Don't make it scream at you because that usually ends in a sports medicine visit.

Fixation on Time  Weather, course, biorhythms, pacing, and motivation only converge near perfectly a few times a year.  Yet, we often grade ourselves exclusively, sometimes pass or fail, on time.  If you fall into the trap of thinking only in terms of times and PR's you are missing many rewards.  Some of your best races may not fall into your top 10 times for a distance.  Learn to appreciate how you do on a particular course, or against frequent competitors to measure your race success.  You can show up and be doomed by one variable that is against you, such as heat.  Learn to embrace it and take the challenge to beat someone faster than you because you are either tougher or smarter or both, and will race better in bad curcumstances.

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Resolution Redo?

How is that resolution working for you?  With one month down it is a good time to revisit your goal setting for 2018.  Many resolutions and goals can be saved with a timely tuneup.  Let's examine your progress and determine where you can adjust to maintain your momentum, get back on track, or get started.

 Nothing is better than the moment you know the mission is accomplished!

Nothing is better than the moment you know the mission is accomplished!

Are you still as excited about your goal as when it was set?  It is rare to accomplish anything meaningful without enthusiasm.  If you are not excited not only by your goal, but the process it requires, it is time to either examine and regain your lost excitement or scrap this one on the mountain of unrealized resolutions.

Is your goal still important to you?  Some days you will look forward to your training and others you will be on the auto pilot of habit and commitment.  For the days you pause to ask and ponder, "Why am I doing this?", you better have an answer why this goal is important to you.  Better yet, have a few reasons why it is important because the most meaningful motivations may shift from time to time.

Have you made progress towards your goal?  Consider it a urgent alarm if you have not yet started towards your goal.  If you are still excited and it is still important, the time is now to start doing something to move you closer.  Build some momentum with the investment of time and effort.  If nothing else, careful planning and learning now will prove valuable when it is time to start.

Have you come to terms with imperfection?  Frustration and doubt are likely to creep in at the first sign of a setback or small failure.  They will come flooding in with the second and third.  Expect these along the way.  As a matter of fact, plan for them.  Know your flow-chart for a missed day or aches or pains or the interference of real life.  If there are any guarantees in life, imperfection is one of them.  Don't expect your training to be any different.

Have you accepted non-linear progress?  It sure would be comforting and encouraging if you could chart some measure of progress each week.  But we know some weeks it will come easy and other weeks you will feel you have gone backwards.  It is all part of the process of stress, rest, and adaptation.  Learn to welcome the plateaus and even the valleys because they are just building blocks of the next ascension.

Does your goal still seem reasonable?  Did you learn something you did not know you did not know or have you had a cold dose of reality?  If so, your goal may need a slight adjustment or a complete overhaul.  This should not be confused with failure.  It is simply mixing in the reality of your limitations to make your goal no less challenging, but within your reach.

Is your support team in place?  Do you have someone or a team of people that are helping you stay on track?  They can be a training partner, a coach, a mentor, or just a sounding block.  The important part is that someone else is checking on you and cheering for you. 

Do you need help clarifying your running purpose for 2018?  Contact Coach Matt Ebersole to set up a goal setting or review session today!

 

 

 

R&R Required

 Max Williams, 68, on his way to the Monumental Marathon AG record.  Recovery and enthusisam are great anti-aging tools.

Max Williams, 68, on his way to the Monumental Marathon AG record.  Recovery and enthusisam are great anti-aging tools.

You are now in the pleasant valley between your Monumental race and your next big thing.  As nice as it is in this valley right now you know if you stay too long it will become uncomfortable.  Do make sure you stay here long enough to recover and to be ready for your next climb but start planning your next ascent before too much time passes.

After a race that was the focus of your training and maybe a good slice of your real life for a string of months you will need recovery time.  You will need to recover and recharge both physically and emotionally.  The two cannot be separated and many times the emotional recovery takes a bit longer.

How do you know if you need a break?  This is a good time to evaluate your history.  Do you find during long training periods your enthusiasm for the daily work and the big goal wanes and it begins to feel like a job and you just want to be done with the race?  Do you find you tend to drag little aches and pains around that inhibit consistent healthy training?  Are there people or things that have not gotten the time and attention they deserve?  If so, a break to reset mentally, get completely healthy, and to reestablish life balance is a really good idea.

Typically, runners fall into two categories after a big goal race.  Some are so ready for a break that the days turn into weeks and then into months until they have let themselves go so far they have an uphill battle to lose the potato chip weight before they can start actually training again.  Others are searching race calendars before the weekend is out looking for the next one.  As with most things in training and life there is a nice balance in between.

The key is to take a long enough break that when you start building and the mileage and intensity is brought back to a boil, you will not need another break until the new training cycle has been completed.  A good litmus test is that you should be excited about getting back to it.  If not, take some time to examine the reasons why your enthusiasm has abandoned you before forcing yourself back to work.

Running is a sport of passion and enthusiasm and without these in abundance running is simply no fun.  A planned break of a week or two once or twice a year can safeguard against physical breakdown but perhaps more importantly allow for emotional and mental recovery and rejuvenation.  Much like your daily recovery needs these breaks may look a great deal different from person to person.

While the specifics should vary for runners at different levels and psychological make ups, here is a recommendation for your annual or semiannual break.

Week One:         Very little to no running.  Possibly include some light cross-training for exercise and not to replace your run training.  Take most days completely off.

Week Two:         Some light running but nothing you would consider “training”.

Week Three:      Mostly relaxed running bringing your mileage back up to the low end of your normal range.

Week Four:        Add some quality and get back to business.

Health and enthusiasm is a very hard combination to beat.  They may only be a few recovery weeks away.  Enjoy!

All Hope Is Gone

 Rob, a few years and miles later.  Thanks for the timeless lesson of good days vs bad days.

Rob, a few years and miles later.  Thanks for the timeless lesson of good days vs bad days.

All hope for a good race is gone, or so it seems.  After months of hard work you are finally getting close to race day, the weather is beginning to cooperate more often, and you are feeling fit.  Then you run a race or one of your few remaining long runs and it's a disaster.  Before you crossed the finish line or ended the long run the big questions storm through your mind.  What was I thinking when I signed up for this race?  Why do I do this to myself?  What is the meaning of life?  

You have invested a significant amount of precious time and energy, let alone heart and soul into your training.  You have tried to temper your expectations, but things were going so well until today.  You might even start thinking about pushing your race back to a later date.  You need more training,  Yes, that is it, you just need more training.

Let's get back to reality.  It was just a bad day.  If you have done the training, run the miles, the long runs, some quality from time to time and you have had many days that tell you that your fitness is there, you are ready to race.  Don't let one day derail you.

Here's what I've figured out.  Get ready, more quantum mechanics from the coach.  A great race or training day tells us you are in great shape.  There is no such thing as lucky in running.  Maybe the variables aligned to make it extra special and it was an A+ day, but it was your body and your mind that ran the time.  A good day means you are in good shape and should expect a good race.  A bad day means, well, that you had a bad day.  Nothing more or less.  Do you best to figure it out and avoid whatever cocktail of circumstances led to your pride swallowing performance.  And then move on to more good days.

One of my favorite stories to tell my runners after a bad race or training day at a critical time is about one of my former training partners, Rob Seymour.  Years ago we used to do a point to point from 146th Street and Meridian to Eagle Creek Park, 22 miles away.  We would transport the runners to the start and their car was waiting a few hours away at the finish line.  This particular year this was the last long run before his goal marathon.  To make sure people did not get lost on their way back I would drive back and forth on the course checking on them.  I came across Rob with about 2 miles to go and to say the least he was hating life.  I don't remember the exact exchange but when I offered him a ride because he was clearly done for the day, I think he said he hated himself, hating running, and probably hated me.  He managed to hike his way back to the finish.  Fast forward two weeks and Rob toed the line of his marathon with a half marathon PR of something in the low 1:30's and a marathon PR of several minutes over 3 hours.  Rob set many personal records that day.  He ran just a little under 1:30 for his first half (Half marathon PR!), he ran low 1:29 for the second half (Half marathon PR #2!) and finished in 2:59:01 (marathon PR!).  Amazing what he would have missed had he given up all hope for a good day after one bad day. 

Ideal Long Run Pace? Well, it depends...

Other than a few adventurous win or die trying types, the first marathon objective is to make it to the finish.  After that is no longer in doubt, the challenge becomes about getting to the finish before the clock strikes your personal midnight.  For many, your personal midnight has been determined by our friends at the Boston Athletic Association.  And then for some it becomes about being faster than the rest.  While there is overlap between how the finishers, pacers, and racers should perform their long runs, we will pretend for the purposes of this post that each prepares in their own way.

 Collin Trent finished, paced (his fastest and slowest miles were within 9 seconds, -5/+4 of his average pace), and raced, finishing 20th at Monumental 2016.

Collin Trent finished, paced (his fastest and slowest miles were within 9 seconds, -5/+4 of his average pace), and raced, finishing 20th at Monumental 2016.

Finishers need to focus on, well, finishing their long runs.  Keep moving and show off early at your own peril.  Slower is fine if it allows you to complete gradually increasing longer runs.  For first time marathoners this can be all kinds of fun as you might be running the longest distance you have ever run on a regular basis as you build towards your longest, somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 miles, before going 26.2 on race day.  This is pure endurance training done specifically to keep moving without regard to pace.

Pacers have typically already finished a marathon or two or have the resume that leaves little doubt of their ability to do so.  Now thinking about the specific demands on the legs and lungs over the actual last half of the race (10K, not the mathematical half, 13.1M) becomes paramount.  Running slow for 20 miles in training is not an effective way to prepare to run faster for 26.2.  The lungs need to be trained to be working as sub maximally as possible while the legs can handle the tension of a well paced race until the end.  Running faster workouts along with some higher intensity work added to the long runs will prepare the last of the muscle fibers called upon for service to produce the force needed to maintain the stride length necessary to maintain pace.  The ways to recruit the last fibers in training are only limited by imagination but they all include quads and other strategic muscles on the verge of going AWOL often accompanied by heavy breathing.  I have written a related post on goal pace running.

Racing the marathon is a bit different than shorter distances.  In most races it is you versus them.  In the marathon it is you and your teammate, the distance, against them.  Even if you cannot cover the moves of your competitors, the distance itself may finish them off for you.  So simultaneously you will need to be aware of what those around you are doing, but also your own personal very real and unforgiving limits.  True racing not only requires your ability to run a strong pace, but stay in the race after going a little too hard and recovering at that strong pace.  In addition to everything the Pacers will do in their training, races will need to add elements to their long runs that put them just enough over the edge of their limits that they can bring it back again without having to slow or stop.

Clarifying your marathon goal and current fitness will help you determine the right mix for your marathon success.

The Same But More

I used ta do a little but a little wouldn't do
So the little got more and more
I'm just keep tryin' ta get a little better
Said a little better than before

-GNR

The best thing about beginning running is that it is so easy to get better.  Just get out the door a few times a week and the improvement keeps coming.  You can set records in workouts and races and it seems it will never end.  Eventually the PR's start to take more effort and there's more time in between.  That is usually when people start to take more of an interest in training to figure out what will keep the PR parade marching.  

It does not take long to settle on a nice mix of workouts with some variety of speedwork, threshold running, and long runs for the magic to return...for awhile.  Training then gets more confusing and you begin to learn one of the absolute truths about how your body works.  When it comes to training your body cares about 2 things only, stress and rest.  They are all that matter.  If you keep stress and rest in balance your body will do amazing things for you.  If you are too heavy on the stress, you break down.  If you are too heavy on the rest, you don't improve.  

But here is the twist.  That balance may need to look different than it once did.  Marathon vets, do you recall your first 20 mile run?  You were probably nervous for the preceding days and were very careful the day before, carbo loading, staying off your feet and early to bed.  Finishing felt as good as a great race.  You might have spent the rest of the day in a hammock reliving the glory of your training victory. You were on a high for a few days afterwards amazed at how tough you were to run 20 miles.  A few (or many) marathons later and the 20 miler may not be routine, but you know you can do it and it feels like a good training day, but nothing like the first 20.  Your body thinks the same thing.  It is not nearly as impressed with that stress as it once was and it no longer needs the same recovery.  

Because of this your body will no longer experience the same training effect and resulting improvement it once did from an easy to moderate 20 mile run.  We can no longer expect you to get better from the same effort and same distance.  That's right, you now have to run longer or faster to get the same effect of your early long runs.  This applies to all of your training including weekly mileage and all varieties of quality workouts.  The same training will eventually no longer work and you can actually get worse by doing the same thing for too long.  For you to progress, your training must progress.  The best return on training investment in terms of how fast, how far, and how often are the details to be sorted out.  The training ingredients will be the same but you just need a little more for them to work their old magic.  If you have been at it hard enough for long enough to you know your PR days are behind you, but you want to slow down the slow down, the same principle applies.  However, with this experienced group it may have more to do with a re-balancing of training than simply doing more.

 

Thriving in Heat

 When a simple 4 mile run can feel like this it's time to arm yourself with some strategies to thrive while others wilt.

When a simple 4 mile run can feel like this it's time to arm yourself with some strategies to thrive while others wilt.

So you have registered for Monumental with a fast course and cool conditions on your mind.  But then the realization sets in that to be ready to take advantage in November there are some critical training months that will be neither fast nor cool.  It's hot out there!  I do not want to duplicate the other heat training articles you have read, but I do want to offer a few practical points that may help you thrive while others are melting this summer.

LIVE BY FAITH when the heat index is stacked against you.  Accept your watch will not be offering you much in the way of confidence building numbers. It will be rare to be feeling light and fast when the conditions induce sweating by the very act of stepping outside.  Have faith that great training effect can still be had from working through tough conditions.  Your watch may try to tell you that you are worthless and weak and you should take up a less strenuous hobby when all the while you have been building the perfect beast.  The first cool day will prove your faith was well placed.

YOUR HEART RATE WILL DRIFT in the heat.  Two primary factors will cause your heart rate to rise above your actual effort level.  Lower blood volume caused by dehydration results in increased heart beats to deliver the same amount of oxygen.  Blood is also redistributed closer to the surface of the skin to help cool you and that leaves less volume for exercise.  So your legs and lungs may feel fine while your heart rate is indicating you have increased the effort.  This is a good time to rely on your other measures of effort.  If we can no longer trust pace or heart rate we need to focus more on our respiratory rate, muscular tension and perceived exertion.

TRAIN YOUR GUT to get you through the fire.  We know that if you can keep your water, sugar, and salt levels constant, running long and fast sure is easier.  As they dip you have all kinds of trouble coming your way.  We know what dehydration can do to you,but without enough sodium there is only so much water that can be absorbed no matter how much you drink.  If you run low on sugar you are on borrowed time before all speed is gone.  Are you thinking, "I tried, but I just cannot eat or drink anything when I run"?  Well, maybe.  But just like endurance and speed that is trainable.  Start working on it now.  If you get this down the duration and quality of your workouts can be closer to what you can do in ideal weather.  Bonus: This skill will be a big deal on race day when you are trying to run longer and faster even in great conditions.

WEIGH EARLY AND OFTEN to manage your hydration.  Keeping your hydration level constant will not only maximize your chances of a good workout or race, but it will also help speed recovery.  In the summer, running consecutive days or twice a day for the higher mileage crowd, your ability to rehydrate can become your limiting factor.  How do you know if you are optimally hydrated?  The simple and most practical way is to keep an eye on weight.  As you weigh yourself you know what to expect in the morning, pre run, post run, and at bedtime.  This regularity helps prevent surprises because if you realize you are too light and dehydrated as you head out on a run there is not much to be done other than to suffer.  In most cases taking in fluid on the run is limiting your losses and not keeping up with them, so if you start dehydrated it is all but a lost cause.  However, if you know several hours before a run you have time to work on it.  

 

The Calendar Vs the Clock

When you find your performances stalled or slipping or you are mired in an ongoing injury cycle, it is helpful to investigate the battle between the calendar and the clock.  Both play a critical role in planning your training and racing.  With a year full of so many enticing events from which to choose it can be hard to prioritize races and plan your training (and breaks!) properly.  

In this instance I am not referring to your body clock as something that tells you when to get up or eat, but rather your body clock that tells you when it is time to push harder, maintain, or back off.  When you allow your body clock to determine when it's time to push and when it's time to rest, finding the optimal balance to be at your best becomes much more clear.  A tell-tale sign that you are not listening to your body clock is when you are stuck in a bad patch and still think, "But I have this race coming in..."  Another common symptomatic thought is, "I sure am tired, but today's workout is..."  Your body could not care less about your plans or your calendar. It only cares if you have stress and rest in balance.  The longer you push through accommodating training and racing plans, ignoring your body's yield and eventual stop signs, the longer it will be until you are thriving and feeling sharp on race day.

I will let you in on a coach's secret.  No matter how beautifully crafted the workouts we write for our runners may be, it might not be the best thing to run them.  There is a certain amount of crystal ball that goes into planning training.  Sometimes things change and what seemed like a good idea a few weeks or days ago, is not not such a good idea or a downright bad idea now.  Staying tuned to your body clock will tell you if it is the right time for a workout or race.

Sure, if we expected to feel inspired and 100% for every hard effort, there would be very few workouts being run.  But when you have to drag yourself through something and the results  indicate your body was not ready and you are falling behind in recovery, it is time to step back and reevaluate.  Discerning when to tough it out and when to give in now for a better result later is a valuable skill.  This is when having the objectivity of a coach can be very beneficial.  The same mental tricks that make you a good runner are exactly the same ones that get you into trouble.  You may need saved from yourself.

Check in with your body often to determine if what is planned is really the best decision.  If it's not, your body has a way of winning sooner or later.  As a matter of fact your body always wins in the end.

The Gold Standard

 How many opportunities do you have to fly down a clear Meridian Street?

How many opportunities do you have to fly down a clear Meridian Street?

If your running started when you were school age it is very likely one of your first races was the mile.  You have probably wondered periodically what you could run for that distance now.  Maybe you could run faster or maybe not.  However, there are not too many opportunities to race the mile.  There is now!

If you started running after you finished school you may have never thought about racing a mile.  After all, why would someone pay to run one mile?  Good question.  Let's see if I can give you a few reasons to race the Monumental Mile.

1) It is one mile straight down Meridian Street finishing at the circle.  Traffic is shut down on what is considered the main street of Indianapolis, so you can see how fast you can run one mile.  How cool is that?

2) There is a race for everyone.  There is a race for kids, youth, masters, open, and even a community mile for the whole family.  And then the races are topped of with an elite mile.  Except for the kids and community miles, all have a separate men's and women's race.

3) You will recover much faster from a mile than a half marathon allowing you to enjoy the festive atmosphere of the circle on a beautiful June evening.

4) It is an easy measuring stick to duplicate to test your fitness.

5) The Mile is a great symbolic kick off to your training for other fall races.

Link to all the Monumental Mile details!

 There is no holding back with only 1 mile to go!

There is no holding back with only 1 mile to go!

Optimal Training, Tug of War, & the 3-Point Shot

How much training do I need to reach my potential is one of the most fundamental questions that come to the mind of anyone struck with the inspiration to be their best.  Your optimal training level is where your maximum training load intersects with how much training your body can actually absorb.  How close, how consistently, and how long you can train at this level is the biggest controllable factor in your distance running success.

If we think of this intersection as the ideal training level as a line, anything below is undertraining and anything over is, you guessed it, overtraining.  The tricky thing about it is that it is hard to know exactly where that optimal training line lies.  It is a moving target and one that needs to be constantly monitored.  There is a complicated list of factors that contribute to how well we adapt to stress.  Non-running, real life stress leads that list.

Lines of Training.jpg

Let’s look first below the ideal line in the area of undertraining.  Many will fall into undertraining because of the other demands on time and energy keeping them from running as much as they would like.  Or this is simply where they enjoy running the most and have no need for more.  We know the closer we move towards the perfect training level, the point of diminishing returns sets in so the additional benefits are reduced while the time and energy demands are increased.  Most often, being a little undertrained results in better racing than overtraining.  For this reason aiming a little low of perfect is better than aiming a little too high.  And given the A+ personality types that concern themselves with such things as maximum performance, aiming low most often just limits the amount of overtraining. 

On the other side of ideal is overtraining and running from which we are no longer benefiting and more than our bodies are able to handle.  The more driven, with enough time on their hands, will often end up here.  There is an amount of overtraining that you can handle.  You are not thriving, but not breaking down either.  This is where the 3 point shot comes into play.  We know the worst shot on the basketball floor is just inside the 3 point line.  It is still a difficult shot but counts for 1 point less than an inch further back.  Training above the perfect line is increasing risk for no additional reward.  I will grant that a mental toughness factor can come into play and be beneficial but we need to be careful doing things for our heads that may hurt our bodies.  The real danger lies past this gray area of overtraining where the impending doom of burnout and injury reside. 

If you talk to a cross section of my runners you might get conflicting reports on how hard I think they should train.  This is the tug of war competition between coach and runner.  If I have a runner camping clearly below the ideal line while telling me they want to be their best they will tell you I am always challenging and pushing them to do more.  Others that like to live in the rare and dangerous air above the idea line may feel I am always trying to pull them down to run slower on recovery days and dial back their racing instincts during workouts.

How do we know where that ideal line is for you?  Two of the best measures of how close you are to ideal are recovery and race results.  If you feel fresh on your easy runs and can’t keep the pace under control it’s time to increase training stress.  If you feel progress has slowed and you are working harder with less to show for it, you may be in the gray area of too much.  If you feel you cannot get recovered and it is rare to feel fresh for a workout or race and you feel you are hanging on by an ever fraying thin thread keeping you from injury, you are on the express to breakdown.  If race day expectations are not being met you need to determine if is it because you are wishing for times without evidence they are realistic or are you leaving your best races in training.  If your workouts are better than your races it may be time to do a little less in training.

Gen GPS

With all the attention paid to Millennials and Baby Boomers, you might have missed the fastest growing running group, the GPS Generation.  They cannot be neatly boxed by their chronological age, but rather by their running age.  If someone started running in the last dozen years they could be part of Gen GPS.  You know you are a GPSer if you have never run an unmeasured unrecorded mile, unless of course you forgot to charge and your battery died during the run.  If you wondered if it still counted because it was not captured on your download you are definitely Gen GPS.

Don't get me wrong, I use a GPS watch and enjoy the freedom of running unmarked courses and still knowing my mileage and splits.  Hey, I am an early adopter of running tech.  I started using a HR monitor in 1988 (thanks, Coach Benson!).  As a coach, all the data I can see from a runner's workout is valuable in determining workout quality and progress.  A GPS watch is a great tool, but some GPSers don't know the short comings and how to avoid the problems they can cause.   So from a runner that has been at it for more than a few years and a coach that sees hundreds of downloads each week, here are a few problems I see with GPS and how to adapt.

Long Courses  Skillful tangent running assumed, how often do you hear someone complaining about a half marathon course being 13.3 miles?  Sure there are plenty of courses measured without much care, but when you run a reputable race you can expect great pains have been taken to make sure it is accurate.  After running one of the perennial local 5M races without any alarming splits, we started to notice the course read about 1/4 mile long.  As much I wanted to believe I was faster than my race time indicated, I could not believe it would be off that much without a very odd split along the way.  After downloading the file and zooming in on the map we saw everyone seemed to have an uncontrollable urge to dodge down the same alley during the 3rd mile.  The GPS signal had just jumped Satellites before correcting itself resulting in the "long" course.

Inaccurate Mile Markers  Careful readers might have wondered how I did not have an odd split if GPS read .25 too long over 5 miles.  The reason, and I highly encourage my runners to adopt this practice, is that I turn off auto split on reliably marked courses and go to the trouble of actually pressing a button when I pass a mile marker.  GPSers, never fear, I leave GPS on so I have the map with elevation and other data and a backup should the reliable prove otherwise.

Pacing Problems  Have you ever been with a pace group and heard watches alarming intermittently including maybe one or two that chirp at the mile marker?  Being a few seconds off does not really matter for most purposes...at least until you start multiplying a few seconds by lots of miles.  Have you ever found yourself running along on goal pace only to see the upcoming finish line is not where your GPS tells you 13.1 or 26.2 miles should be and you have another .2 or .3 miles to run?  Not fun!  Especially if you PR'd or qualified for Boston at the GPS finish but not at the finish with the banner and clock.

Faster Downtown  Remember the aforementioned alley?  Signals do tend to jump when the preferred satellite becomes obstructed.  Add the tall buildings and tunnels that you expect to find in any downtown and you have a finicky GPS reading.  Though GPS can read short (like it often does on trails) it is commonplace for it to read long downtown.  That is long on distance but with the actual time therefore calculating a much faster pace than actually run.  It's a great confidence booster until you get to race day and wonder why the pace that was manageable in training was not when it mattered most.

Too Fast For Recovery  Awareness is often key to solving problems, but in the case of GPS it can create the problem.  So you have run a hard workout and pressed yourself to the limit.  The next day you are in serious need of some recovery.  You go out for a nice relaxed run and it feels just right until you see your first split.  Now you rue the day you signed up for Strava.  No self respecting runner can let splits like that go public.  So surely enough you start pressing on the gas pedal to get a more respectable 2nd mile and soon order and respectability are restored.  Never mind it ended up being too hard for recovery and good preparation for the next hard workout because you won the recovery run.  Turn it off, tape over it, wear a non-GPS watch, keenly observe the angle of the sun, whatever it takes to get recovered and actually benefit from yesterday's hard effort and be ready for the next meaningful workout.

For more information on how your GPS works and measurement considerations please visit Camille Estes's website for an article entitled, In GPS We Trust.

There is No Finish Line...

 Nike's No Finish Line ad campaign of the 70's & 80's.

Nike's No Finish Line ad campaign of the 70's & 80's.

...Without a Start Line.  Yes, I am a master of the obvious, but we often loose sight of this fact when we are making training decisions.  Anything that causes undue risk of jeopardizing showing up at the start line on race day healthy and ready to run should make these decisions very clear.  Here are some trustworthy ideas to help deliver you safely to the start.

"There are no deals available.  The thing doesn't dilute."*  If you have missed training because you could just not get going again after your fall marathon, or work has been busy, or you have had a nagging injury, your body does not care.  You can not convince or make a deal with your body to do 6 months of training in 4.  You have to recalibrate the time you have and make the most of it.  That time is gone and your body will not let you make it up.

Be Patient or you will become one.  Trying to hurry your body to adapt to training rather than letting it absorb and adapt to the training is the surest way to support the local sports medicine professionals.  It's also a great way to be a cheerleader rather than a runner on race day.  Yes, this is very similar to point one, but I think it is important enough to repeat.

Find your hard/easy balance.  I apologize to any of my runners reading this because they have heard this countless times.  When the hard days get harder, the easy days have to get easier.  So tempting with a GPS to try to average some magic number on a recovery day.  Slow is never the goal, but pushing at all on an easy day reduces recovery and therefore adaptation to the work already done.  And furthermore it takes away from the next effort.  If you cannot stand seeing a slow pace on your download, don't.  Run by time on an unmeasured course at a fair average pace.  If jogging for you is 8:00/M, then run for 48:00 and call it 6 miles.  Now there is no incentive to overrun a recovery day.  Is it 6 miles?  Who cares?  Close enough and now your training benefit is increased.

Prove It.  Your body is amazing and would allow you to go out and run longer or faster than you think it could.  However it would then need a great deal of recovery time without skyrocketing injury risk.  When you increase your training level, especially, if you have not been there before and somewhat recently, allow plenty of time to make sure you have adapted before another training bump.  If you are taking longer to recover than normal you are not ready for another increase yet and may even need to back off.  If you are fully recovering for a week or two for each hard effort, then it may be time for another increase.

Use the 10 Minute Rule.  When you are struggling with an ache or pain and not sure if it is something you can run through or need to rely more on cross training or take time off you can apply the 10 minute rule.  Ease into a run and then evaluate after 10 minutes.  If it does not get better (or gets worse) or you are favoring it in any discernible way, stop.  If that means the walk of shame back home or to your car, do it anyway.  If it does get better, that means you can proceed with caution, but be sure to determine and address the cause to make sure it does not get worse. 

Use the Day After Safeguard.  Just because you passed the 10:00 test does not mean you are out of the woods.  Many injury issues warm up nicely and feel fine during the run.  If later in the day or the next morning, the injury concern is worse, then it is time to seek help and cross train or stop running for a day or two.

Listen to the Voices.  If you think back to most of the training mistakes you have made you probably can recall what you were thinking before they happened.  "This does not feel right."  I think I will be OK going a few more miles."  "I think I can squeeze in this workout."  "I don't have time to cooldown but I'll stretch really good tomorrow."  And the mother of all warning signs, "I am in the shape of my life!", That one often leads to a feeling of invincibility and that universal training rules not longer apply.  What were you telling yourself before your last setback?

The Little Things.  There are many people willing to work as hard as it takes for an hour or two on the run.  There are far fewer that have the discipline and habits to take care of all the little things like warmup/cooldown, stretching, strengthening, sleeping, and the list that goes on to become a very big accumulative thing in determining how your body responds to training.

I encourage you to take a little time and use these ideas to keep your training on course and I will look for you at the start and finish lines!

 Showing up healthy allowed Scot Allen to take a 14 minute bite out of his marathon PR at Monumental '16.

Showing up healthy allowed Scot Allen to take a 14 minute bite out of his marathon PR at Monumental '16.

*This quote is from Quenton Cassidy in John Parker, Jr's Once A Runner.

New Year & ReNewed Purpose

 Days like these start with a goal!

Days like these start with a goal!

There has always been something about turning the page to a new year that inspires renewal and resolution.  I would like to offer some thoughts about goal setting that may help you differentiate yourself from all of the other resolution runners and those overpopulating gyms for the next few weeks.

The Goal Has to Matter.  Be very clear with yourself about why this goal matters to you and why it will continue to matter after the initial inspiration and novelty wear off.  If you do not have at least one solid answer to this question you chances of success are zero.

The Goal Must be Exciting and Motivating.  It is amazing how willing we are to do many things that are hard and unappealing if the goal continues to be motivating and is the reward.  The initial motivation will ebb and flow, so the goal must be powerful enough to help you correct course over time.

Measure the Process and Habits.  While motivation may falter from time to time, habits will keep you on track.  Being able to measure the habits will help you through the tough spots.  You can measure training days, miles, hours, training or race pace, subjective measures such as how your feel or anything that helps you towards your goal.

Keep Moving.  Something is better than nothing.  When you feel beat down or life is taking its' toll, just do something.  Progress is not linear.  It is what you do during the dips that will make all the difference in the end.  Limit your losses and be ready for the next upswing.

Use Progress Reports to Correct Course.  Schedule progress reports along the way to identify what is working and what stays and what is not working that either goes or gets repaired.  You might even realize that you have been pointing towards the wrong goal and the destination needs adjusted.  These progress reports should be often enough you don't stray too far off course, but spaced out enough that you can spot trends and know what needs fixed.

Find a Mentor.  You take on some immediate measure of accountability once you tell the right person your intentions.  Find someone with the wisdom of things learned the hard way and can help you with what you don't know you don't know.  A good mentor should posses objectivity as well as wisdom to help you identify the obvious and not so obvious challenges and solutions along the way.

Are you ready to clarify you running purpose for 2017?  Contact Coach Matt Ebersole to set up a goal setting session today!

Quotes You can take the Distance

 Noah Droddy finishing last year's Monumental Half high on optimism.  He carried this optimism out west to train in CO with Roots Running Project and made the Olympic Trials in the marathon and 10K.

Noah Droddy finishing last year's Monumental Half high on optimism.  He carried this optimism out west to train in CO with Roots Running Project and made the Olympic Trials in the marathon and 10K.

As I prepared to meet with a group of my runners to talk about their marathon and half marathon race plans, I wanted a new way to describe the spirit of a long distance race plan.  From there we can plug in their personally specific details.  I have described the thinking on race days as transforming from a pessimist, to a realist, to an optimist.  Here I offer a quote for each race segment that will transform you over the race distance.

"The Marathon can humble you." -Bill Rodgers 4 x NYC & Boston Marathon Winner*

Hang around the recovery area of a marathon or half marathon and one of the things you are least likely to hear is, "I should have started faster!"  Of the countless tales of marathon success and crash and burns I have heard, I don't think I have come across 5 people that told me their time or experience would have been better if only they would have hit the first few miles harder.  We know that your ever present effort gauge, perceived exertion, is MIA in high adrenaline moments.  That is why the common refrain of, "But, it felt so easy" is usually followed by the word, "until".  How about some real world evidence?  Maybe you've heard about the Boston Marathon and its hills in the second half?  The fastest time ever run on that course is 2:03:02 by Geoffrey Mutai in 2011.  Care to guess how much time he banked on the downhill first half?  He was actually 54 seconds faster over the hillier 2nd half and through the Newton Hills.  If someone with that speed on that course holds back early, it might even work for you.  This stage is usually the first 5-8 miles of a marathon and 2-4 miles of a half marathon.

"When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do?" -Attributed to Winston Churchill (among others)

Most of the nerves that accompany race week are due to the unknown factors of race day.  Will I feel good?  What is the weather going to do?  Is my calf going to hold up?  And the list may go on.  The early miles are like waiting for the conditions report.  If you manage to stay nice and comfortable (race relative) and control your effort, you will find if the things you do not control are in your favor.  I was a spectator at the Chicago Marathon in 2002 on a very cold and extremely windy day (even for Chicago).  In all of my wisdom, I remember thinking that no one will be running fast today.  I was very surprised when the reports from my runners started coming in.  It was a big PR day.  And yes, this was the day Paula Radcliffe broke the world record by a minute and a half.  By the way her splits were 1:09:03/1:08:15.  More negative splits!  Contrast that to last year's Chicago where the temperature felt OK at the start but soon became evident it was too warm.  If people did not adjust their plan accordingly and quickly, many miles of training went unrewarded.  Check in with your self early and often and see what the day offers.  If you are not sure, stay conservative early and gradually become more aggressive as the miles pass.  This segment can last until 16-22 miles in the marathon and 8-10 in the half.

"Quenton Cassidy moved out to the second lane, the Lane of High Hopes, and ran out the rest of the life in him."  Once A Runner -John L. Parker, Jr.

The perceived exertion that may fail you early comes back and can be trusted again later in the race.  As a matter of fact it becomes pretty hard to fool, late in the race.  There is a very trustworthy litmus test that happens every mile.  Did that mile seem to pass quickly and are you excited about the fact you only have 10K to go?  Or did that last mile seem to last 5K and another 10K might as well be Everest?  This is the time that if it is you day, your challenge is to stay focused and keep the gas pedal down.  It is a scientific fact that if you are running a great time and are passing people you will feel far less pain than going slower at a reduced effort.  One of the many benefits of your training is that you have come to believe in yourself and be optimistic about the effort you can give when it gets difficult.  This is the time to rely on that knowledge and cash in the time and effort you have invested in this race.  If despite your best effort and adjustments for the day, it is still not going all that great, you can still tap into the training runs that headed south early that you managed to survive.  You know you can get there.  Just keep fighting and moving.  This will lead to another better, faster day.   It is my hope that by starting as a pessimist and transforming over the miles into an optimist, that better, faster day will be your next race.

*Here is the rest of the paragraph from Bill Rodgers' 1980 autobiography he wrote with Joe Concannon. 

"When I say the marathon can always humble you, I mean that no matter what level you have reached, what medals you have won, or who you are, or no matter how many lesson you think you've learned, you can run into the most difficult situations in a marathon. I mean the ravages of physical fatigue and psychological despair.  It happens to beginners, it happens to the best marathoners in the world.  It's something we all have in common."

Bad Math

If my math serves we have 9 weeks to go before the Monumental Marathon and Half Marathon.  This is a good time to talk about some of the bad math you will want to avoid in these last 2 months.

Adding

At this point you should be in a nice training rhythm and most likely adding mileage at a gradual, but progressive rate.  The time to add new training components is gone.  If injury (or prevention) necessitates adding strength or flexibility that is fine.  Just apply your gradual and progressive rule to those as well.  This is not the time to add circuit training, boot camp, cross fit, etc into the mix.  Anything you add at this point should be focused on allowing you to keep up with your normal training load and not adding to it.  The additional stress that tips the scale towards too much can also be something completely unrelated to running that still requires time or energy.

Subtracting

There are many possibilities from which to choose, but perhaps the silliest thing runners do is to stop doing what is working.  Maybe it is lifting twice a week or stretching regularly, and things are going great, so they stop.  The thought is I don't need to do these anymore because things are going great.  Reducing some cross training or supplemental training may be necessary as the mileage goes up,  but keep doing it and stay in your successful training rhythm.

Doubling

Most runners have the necessary amount of obsessive compulsive tendencies to be successful.  A missed workout or one cut short should bother you.  If that does not phase you, you will probably not get very far in marathon training.  However, doubling up on hard workouts or mileage to make up for what was missed is a sure way to miss making it to the start line.  I spend a fair amount of time helping my runners rework weeks by determining what we drop and what we move or replace with something else.  Take your frustration of missed training and use it to motivate you to plan better and hopefully avoid missing something later.

Balanced Equations

Remember in algebra 1 when you learned how to balance an equation?  Running, and all training for that matter, has to be a balanced equation between stress and rest.  As you increase weekly mileage and long run distance this balanced must be maintained.  Once that is lost your progress will slow with too much rest or you will fail to improve or worse, end up injured is the stress is too great.  If hard days get harder, the easy days need to become easier.  It is the rest from the stress that actually brings about the adaption and overcompensation to training.

Good luck with your math over the next 9 weeks and I look forward to seeing you in November!

 

 

Training Through the Ridiculous

Now that the weather has all of our attention, here are a few tips to help you survive the remaining high heat index days.

1) When a warmup is needed, keep it to the minimum required to be prepared for the workout.  Typically, we like to front load the days's mileage in the WU, but in these conditions it is taking away from the workout effectiveness.

2) As we do on race day, let's think of replacing water, salt, and sugar (if duration necessitates) in terms of an intravenous drip.  A little bit more often is absorbed much better than more at less frequent intervals.  Ideally, 6-8 ounces of fluid every 20:00.

3) Sodium is necessary for water to be absorbed.  Drinking an ideal amount is only part of the equation, we have to make sure it is being readily absorbed.  Those that have learned to use salt tablets or other sodium supplements have been enjoying better workouts and faster recovery.  A good starting point is 400-600 mg per 1 Liter (or 34 ounces) of water intake.

4) Pace will not tell the story so don't get too down on yourself for slow splits.

5) Blood gets redistributed to the skin's surface to help cool your body.  Additionally, dehydration causes a decrease in blood volume.  Combined, these require a faster heart rate to accomplish the same oxygen delivery.  Your HR will not correspond to effort as it does normally.

6) Because pace & HR are not very helpful right now, you will need to rely on perceived exertion, respiratory rate, and muscular tension to mange effort.

7) Remember your body does not care how far or fast you ran, it cares about stress.  You body may get more stress than normal even with a reduced workload and pace with a high heat index.  Use this physiological fact to alleviate any guilt for cutting a workout short.

8) If you are not feeling quite right or are exhibiting any symptoms of heat illness such as nausea, dizziness, cessation of sweating, stop and live to run another day.

9) As soon as the run is done, it's time to focus on recovery and that means re-hydrating.  A pre and post run weigh in are very helpful to measure how you are doing.  If weighing yourself is on your list of least favorite things to do, cheat.  Move the scale to a weight that you know is too high or too low, but gives you the net difference between pre and post run.

10) We live by faith during ridiculous weather.  Keep doing your best and despite all evidence to the contrary right now, you will find the work will pay off and when the weather breaks.