Monday, September 26, 2011

Breaking Down & Starting Over

So I have been thinking of my training over the summer and into the fall and what a grind it has been given my knee injury. Like many I have been reading a lot about the minimalist movement as I have mentioned previously. And I already explained my philosophy about transitioning towards a more minimalist style of running. My opinion is that minimalist running is a great supplement to my running but is not the end goal in and of itself. Done properly I believe it will help make me a better, stronger and more healthy runner. This weekend I chatted up a running buddy, Jesse, about this issue. He is running TCM with us and has been battling his own injury, a tweaked hamstring. We both talked about pretty much taking November and December off from the daily running. And we agreed that working on things like core strength, flexibility and some cross training would be a good idea to take a break from the pounding, recharge and get healthy. The thought hit me that I could also use this as a chance to transition to my more minimalist shoe, likely the Brooks Pure Project. Take a couple of months off, logging maybe 20-25 miles per week. The time I would otherwise spend getting those additional 25-30 miles I will put into the core work, flexibility drills and cross training (likely cycling). While logging that mileage I can begin to incorporate my new strategy. Then in January start from square one, just like a new runner in my new low drop shoes. I'll need the time to work on getting my lower legs and hips ready for a greater workload that will come with the new shoes. My calves (especially the soleus), my achilles and my hip flexors will all need to be stronger and more flexible. Two months should be enough time to get a good jump start on that. And January through March should be plenty of time to get into race shape for the 2012 Bentonville Running Festival Half Marathon where I fully expect a PR in the half marathon. 

I simply have a concern that if I continue doing the same things I have been doing then I can expect the same results, which is a body worn down. I know some of this is due to the training workload put into 3 marathons and 2 ultras in the span of about 12 months in my first full year back running. I want to try and tweak some things and see what happens. Baby steps, right? So I may not be as visible on the back roads of NWA this winter but rest assured that come springtime I will be back and better than before. 

Taper from Hell

First of all, RESPECT to my brother in law, Martin Philip, for completing his first 50 mile ultra at the Vermont 50 yesterday. He called me after getting back home with a brief recap. Sounds like he certainly battled some demons out there but kept making progress and finished despite the tough course conditions; muddy and unusually warm. Not to mention the 18k feet of elevation change. Martin is all but solely responsible for getting me into the trail running and ultra scene. I'm very happy for him.

The last two weeks have been a study in contrast. The week of the 11th through the 17th I was able to put in 50+ miles including a solid 22 miler. The next week was a little different. My knee really started acting up. Swelling, sore and stiff. I struggled through a couple of 5-6 mile runs, never feeling comfortable. I cut some short and slogged through others. The week ended with a so so 13 miler. Ended up with about 25 miles for the week. I know I'm tapering for the marathon next week but c'mon. I decided to use some discretion and listed to my body though. I didn't really push the pace and if it felt "off" I cut runs short. Monday at the track I jogged two laps and quit. Lots of ice, massage (foam roller) and some ibuprofen got things nearly back to just being normally bad instead of bad bad. This past week I tallied about 30 miles. The weekend was the first back to back run in several days. Having at least one day of rest between runs seems to have helped settle things down with my knee. I plan on going to the track tonight for a 3-4 run at pace, tomorrow off, a few easy miles Wednesday and then chill until Sunday. Maybe a couple of super easy jog miles Saturday morning to shake things out after traveling Friday. 

So these are the whips I selected to run TCM. The Brooks Racer ST5. I have logged a couple of runs in them so far and like them quite a bit. Noticeably lighter than my trainers (Asics 1160, Brooks Ravenna and Defyance). Thanks to Drew and Christian at Rush Running Co for helping me make my choice. At least I'll look fast, right? But they seem to have enough cushioning in the heel for me. They are pretty firm up front compared to my usual trainers since that is where the cushioning has been cut back, thus the weight savings. Flexible, breathable and the upper fits like a glove. There is also a little posting for overpronation. Brooks markets this as a long distance trainer/racer. I will utilize them for races and speed work only. I imagine I won't get 400 miles out of these bad boys though. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Fuel for Running

One of the things I wanted to add to this blog are some reference sources for running related topics. Over the last year I have found quite a few I think are worth sharing. And I have found as someone that is going on my third marathon in a year (and working towards my second ultra in the same time period) I field questions frequently from "newbie" runners. What better source is there for credible and practical information about running than other runners? At some point I will try to figure out how to post these by topic down the side of the blog. With that said, here are some of my favorite sites I keep bookmarked.

All runners need good fuel to burn. I know, there are those that can seemingly eat anything and run great but for the vast majority of us that doesn't work so well. I like to think that I have always been a savvy eater. But when I ramped up my running routine I became quite familiar with the BONK. Something was missing. Good fuel. My one stop shop for all things nutrition related is No Meat Athlete. One of the things I appreciate about NMA is Matt's willingness to try new things and provide open and honest feedback about how well it works (or doesn't) for him. Matt is a guy that more or less ran his first marathon on a whim, bonked hard, and then was bitten by the endurance bug. He has experimented with being vegetarian, vegan, paleo, raw foodie and the list goes on. Clear explanations are given about how the food we eat fuels the body and he does his homework. Great recipes from his sister, an excellent baker and the best smoothie formula ever.

Here is a book that changed the way I look at food, The China Study.
Another good one full of fantastic recipes and food facts, The Passionate Vegetarian.

Now you might be thinking that I am some whacked out, tree hugging, pathchouli wearing liberal. Not entirely true. I am not a Nazi about my diet. On a day to day basis I simply try to make smart choices for me. I still love my ice cream on occasion, can devour a pizza, a plate of bacon and crave tater tots. Yes, I ate a hot dog at a baseball game this summer with my kids. An occasional step off the path is OK. I am more concerned with the big picture. What I am is a guy that went from a fairly typical diet to one based much more on whole foods and saw my running performance step up and my recovery time decrease. It's that simple. If I eat right I can run longer and faster and more often. One thing I have done is a 30 day vegetarian plan before big races. No meat at all, limited dairy (some yogurt and cheese), I still eat eggs (fresh from my free range chickens), lots of fruit, salads and whole grains. If possible I eat it raw. I have no issues with protein intake or energy levels and I get to drop a few pounds. This way during the taper there are no concerns about putting on excess weight. I no longer use dairy milk (I use soy, hemp or almond). I seldom eat meat, especially the red variety. I quit using commercial sports drinks last summer (I now use nuun and Nathan tablets or simply Succeed S! Caps and water). I bypass processed foods if possible. And no fast food soda, cola, or carbonated beverages. Except beer, which is a great source of choline, a nutrient needed for endurance performance. If I can buy it local I will. Fortunately, I live in a place where there are countless backyard gardens and small farms and a couple of quality farmer's markets. In the last couple of days I have enjoyed local Concord grapes (insane flavor), mixed greens for salad so tasty no dressing is needed, bulgur wheat bread and these great cheese curds. My simple rule is this, if there is an ingredient that I wouldn't eat by itself, all alone sitting there on a plate, why eat it mixed in with something else? Examples being corn syrup solids, fractionated palm oil and agar. I look at ingredient lists and avoid stuff I can't pronounce, hydrogenated things,  anything high fructose and artificial sweetners. Grandma never made anything with those. I'm pretty sure I don't need them either. 

Monday, September 12, 2011

Week ending Sun. Sept. 11

MON 9/5
10k race at Pinnacle Promenade

TUE 9/6

WED 9/7
13.1 miles, two laps of the Bark Park to Crystal Bridges loop with a little extra length thrown in.

THU 9/8

FRI 9/9
The Square to Bark Park route and back to The Square.

SAT 9/10

SUN 9/11
22 miles from The Square around Bentonville parks. We hit Tiger, the Stink Plant, Bark Park, Walton, Crystal Bridges and then part of the half course. Totally improvised.

I opened this week with a 10k race on Labor Day. I toed the line with many friends at the Run For a Child in Rogers, Arkansas. My last 10k race was in 1987, the summer after graduating high school. So I wasn't sure what these legs had in them. I figured I could do a 48 minute time for sure and maybe break 45 if I was lucky. I just missed breaking 45 minutes and placed third in my age group with a 7:23 pace.
On Wednesday I set out with doing a 12 mile run in mind. Things went well and I felt great. So much so that I added a little distance and set a PR for the half marathon distance by 1 min and 18 seconds.
Friday was a recovery and fun run. Brian and I met Kim and jogged a couple of miles with her before heading back to The Square. Good to see Kim getting back into the swing of things after some time off to have a baby with her husband Brandon. Congrats to them both on the birth of Landon.
Sunday was interesting. The last long run before Twin Cities. A nice group with Brian, Daniel, Jesse and Jason. I struggled to keep a consistent pace. I was either 20 seconds too fast or 20 seconds too slow. About 6 miles in I dialed the pace back as it was more than what I thought I should do and the rest of the guys gained ground on me and pulled away as they began a tempo run. This is when I began my up and down pacing issue. I started to feel a little tired, got a second wind. Then tired again before catching a third wind. And for good measure repeated that one more time before catching Brain and Daniel at mile 19 and finishing strong. I have never had so many winds during a run. But it was my best overall pace for anything in excess of 17 miles and I felt pretty good afterwards. A little sore in the usual spots today but that is expected. I have to say this is a huge boost to my confidence and gives me the info I was looking for to dial in a race day pace.
The end result is 51+ miles this week at about 8:35 pace, a podium finish at a 10k, a PR at half marathon distance and my best long training run to date. I'll take it.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

My Training and Sept. 11th

As I mentioned previously I am in the late stages of training for the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon in October. My expectation is for a PR. Probably in the 25-30 minute range. My training has gone well and I have about 14 months of consistent running under my belt. This summer I added some twists to my training routine. I began a weekly speed workout with the Rush Running crew. In the span of a few months I have dropped my average mile split time at the track by a full minute. Mike Rush knows how to push folks. I also embraced the idea of back to back (B2B) long runs that some ultra runners use. I decided to do these in blocks of two weeks on and two weeks off. For example, my first B2B week consisted of a 17 mile road run followed by an 11 mile trail run the next day. On the following weekend I logged B2B 15 milers. I also incorporated a couple of "tempo" weeks. During these weeks I ran everything at or below race pace. Of course I cut down on my mileage for these weeks, about 20% or so. The result is feeling that I am in the best shape of my life. With the cooler weather setting I find myself having to slow myself down on training runs. With that said I think I could have followed almost any routine and improved over the last year. Why? The real key, in my mind, was being consistent. The B2B runs, speed sessions and tempo weeks are icing on the cake. The foundation is the mileage and time I spent on my feet the last 14 months. My confidence was boosted by my performance at a 5k in August at which I ran a flat 7:00 pace. On Labor Day I finished a 10k at 7:23 pace and this week, on a solo training run, I beat my best half marathon time by 1 min 18 seconds. And for those of you local that was with running Crystal Bridges twice on my course.
Tomorrow morning is my last long run before the marathon. A 22 miler with a couple of buddies. Always nice to have some company on a long one. The weather looks pretty good and we should really be able to gauge things by the outcome. I need it more mentally than physically even though I know the distance is not the issue. I still have some lingering doubts about being able to finish 26.2 strong. If I feel bad at the finish line in Minneapolis I want it to be from pushing the pace and not from the distance itself.
In closing I wanted to share a great line from an article I found at Running and Rambling about September 11th, for the full article click the link below.

Before you go for a run on September 11th, and every day after, make sure you are running toward something and not away from it. And hug your family before you go.