Sunday, December 5, 2010

iPod Nano V6 (6th Generation)

After 3 months of use of the new (for 2010) Version 6 (V6) Nano, I think I have enough experience to give you my two cents.


-My favorite new feature of the Nano is the Radio Live Pause feature. I'm sure that most runners that would like an option to their iPod that allows them to pause while listening to a radio station. More important than the V5 (Version 5), you can pause what you are listening to for up to 15 minutes if you meet someone at the health club or out on your run. The radio on the V6 Nano allows just that. Like the V5, when you are running in a health club, the radio channels listed under the TV screens are available on your iPod.

I was so impressed with this feature I figured that my new iPod iTouch would have this. But in case you are wondering, it doesn't… go figure.

-Weight – an item that allows high on the list for runners is the weight of what they are carrying, especially for long runs/distances. Yes, this is lighter than version 5. But seriously, any of the Nanos that have come out in the past 6 years have met this requirement. Okay, it's lighter, but I can't believe anyone would notice the difference from any of its former predecessors.

-Touchscreen. If you are an owner of an iPod iTouch or iPhone, you will understand the advantage of the Touchscreen vs. the scroll wheel. But this can also be a disadvantage (see below). Because it is so small, there is so getting used to it, especially those folk with large thumbs, but I found it easy to assimilate to.

-Clip – don't know why they waited so long to add this feature but it was a good add. Instead of needing to buy an accessory to hold you Nano when you run, you now have that built in to your device. I find that I use this all the time, but it wasn't as if I had to have it. As a marathoner, I own shorts with multiple pockets for gels, etc. and the smallest pocket can easily fit the new Nano. I have to believe is that the accessory dealers aren't crazy about adding the clip, but for the rest of us it a good add.

-Heart Rate Monitor – in case you didn't know this, you can buy a Polar Heart Rate monitor that works with your Nano V5 or V6. This one syncs easily and it shows the beats on the bottom of the screen which I find cool.


-My first one is a big one, no external speaker. One thing that I loved about the V5 Nano is the external speaker. I don't know if everyone ran into this problem with past Nanos but I would religiously pick up the Nano and find that I had no battery life left. That's because I forget to turn it off! When the V5 came along, as soon as I pulled out the ear buds from it, I could music playing and it would tell me that it was still running. That alone made the V5 worth the price, no more not-so-smart battery draining. It also was nice to know you could listen to music if you didn't bring along your ear buds. For the life of me, don't know why they got rid of that.

-Removal of Video. I know I should be upset that I'm losing this feature while having to pay the same price, but I'm not. I didn't watch many movies or MTV videos with my Nano in the past, and the screen is so small why would anyone? I can count the number of times on one hand that I took videos with the Nano. To me, it was a nice feature but far from a necessary feature. But I can understand if someone only had the Nano as their lone iPod device.

-Glitchy with Nike Plus system. I am currently on my second V6 Nano. The first one I had has the same problem that my second one has. When I run an extended period of time, say over 1 hour, it starts to skip, and say "Workout Paused", then skips to next song, "Workout Resumed", skip again, "Workout Paused" very annoying to say the least. I can't figure out if it's using the remote stereo Apple ear buds, the Nike Plus app or what, but it takes away from using the Nike Plus to have this happening. Because I am on my second V6 Nano, I know it wasn't just one bad unit; it must be something in the iOS.

So my overall rating of the new Nano? I'd give it 3 out of 5 stars. (My rating on the V5 was 4 out of 5). If you've never had a Nano, I'd say get it. Or course I would recommend a V5 Nano if you can pick one up, but if not, the V6 has enough of the bells and whistles to make it worth the money. If you are looking to upgrade, I'd say wait. I think there are some bug fixes that they need to deal with. Also, as I stated above, I really miss the external speakers on the last Nano. That alone was reason to just keep a version 5 instead of going to version 6. I actually wish I wouldn't have sold mine to a friend so quickly. But I couldn't have justified keeping two Nanos. Overall, I say wait until the next version to have them fix the bugs and get the external speaker added to the next version.


Sunday, November 7, 2010

Can a runner be competitive on a Low Carb Diet?

I had a bad stretch of running during October. I'm having a harder time keeping up with my running partners. There's also just a general tiredness my legs.

I've spent some time going through my running journal trying to find any clue to help me turn this around. So far the only thing that seems to make sense is my weight.

I lost 23 lbs. since the beginning of the year training for Grandmas in June. But since then I gained back 9 lbs. Sure, I'm not putting in the mileage that I did back in the spring, but if I've gained wait while still running 30 miles a week, I've got to change something. It's not like I haven't noticed it before, but cutting back on total calories hasn't worked, so maybe something new will.

So I'm going to see if I can't get back to losing some weight while maintaining 30 miles or less a week. I'm going to go after this with a three-fold attack.

Weight training (because muscle mass burns calories), a new running program (FIRST - a 3 day a week running program) and a low carb diet.

I know the low carb diet is controversial for runners. After researching it on the net, there is a small but becoming more vocal running community that claim there is no loss in running speed or endurance. I'm a skeptic, but what I've tried so far isn't working, so I'm giving this a whirl.

I'll keep everyone up to date as I try this. I'm dedicating my next 9 weeks of training, so it will be interesting to see how this works for the Disney Half Marathon. Wish me luck.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Hamilton Dr,Eagan,United States

Friday, November 5, 2010

2011 Walt Disney Half, Full, Goofy or Dopey January 9th &10th

For any of you interested in running the Walt Disney Full or Half Marathon, they are 91% and 94% full, respectively. The Goofy Challenge (that's doing the Half Marathon on Saturday and the Full Marathon on Sunday) is 97% full. So you might want to commit this weekend if you don't want to miss out.

I've been struggling with the urge of doing the Goofy or the Dopey. You won't find the Dopey on the WDW website. It's called that informally by runners, it's the Goofy plus doing the 5K on Friday.

With the 5K filling up on Tuesday, my Dopey option got eliminated. I am currently signed up for the Half on Saturday. Should I do the Marathon on Sunday and make it Goofy? Or just stay with Half and save myself for a Spring Marathon?

Let me know if any of you have done the Goofy. It's an expensive option and I would to know if any of you feel it's worth it. Email me at and let me know.

Clock is ticking...

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Lost in Chuncheon

Got lost on what was supposed to be a simple 30 minute run. The kind of 30 minute run that ends up being 55 minutes before you are done.

Made a zig when we should've made a zag but it is amazing how lost you can lost in Korea when you don't speak Korean and can't pronounce the dorms that you're staying in.

But an old lesson re-learned. When running in unfamiliar territory, remember to tap a map, phone, or GPS with you. Never know just how lost you can truly get.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Friday, August 27, 2010

Running in Seoul, South Korea

Traveling in Korea on the way to the 2010 World Leisure Congress and Leisure Games, and just spent 4 days in Seoul. The weather was very rainy while we were there but the locals tell us that we should be glad it wasn't last week - Hot and Humid.

Have to admit, didn't see a lot of runners in downtown Seoul. Bonnie and I ended up running in a Monsoon Tuesday morning and got a lot of stares from the locals as if we were aliens from another planet. But with a city of 20 million plus people, if we didn't get the run in by 8 am on their downtown streets, it wasn't going to happen. We were looking like O. J. Simpson going through an airport with the people we were dodging as it was.

It was explained to us that a lot of Koreans don't like being in the rain for health reasons. They may be right. One thing we both noticed is that our clothing and shoes had a sulfur smell to them even after being rinsed in a sink.

We did find a river road not two blocks from our hotel that was beautiful for a run. It cuts through the city and was long enough for our 30 minute morning run. We did not find more than a dozen people during this stretch, and it was lined with historical drawings, paintings, and architecture that lent a perspective of peace and balance.

Quick review of Seoul, and a comment about anyone planning on running a race here.

Seoul is a city that completely defines change. During the past 50 years, it's population has grown 450 percent, which would force change upon any society with that demographic shift. Part of that shift is happening right now. It seemed like there is a emphasis put on all students to learn English and to study hard in school. There were ads in the subway and on bill boards on companies willing to assist students to learning how to study and/or pick up a second language. Korea is preparing itself to be a leader in international trade.

If anyone is wondering what a government would be like if it was run by corporations, this would be a classic case study. All of the baseball teams have corporate names instead of city/state ones, such as the LG Twins, Samsung Tigers, etc. Most events have corporate sponsored in their advertisement.

I wouldn't consider myself a world traveller, but I was very impressed on the politeness and curtesy shown during our stay. Of the places I've visited, Korea is the one that presented me with the greatest language barrier. But they've made a great effort to have menus, signs, and subway information shown in both Korean and English to get where you going, and/or get what you need. They even had "Hi Seoul" agents in green outfits that helped Bonnie and I find a Temple when Google Maps had failed us.

All-in-All, I would not hesitate to come to Korea if you're looking for an Asian Marathon to run. It's relatively flat, the transportation system is very accessible and easy to understand, the people go out of their way to be helpful, and the cost of living makes it attractive to running one in Japan.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Hyoja-dong,Chuncheon-si,South Korea

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Heart Rates on the Treadmill

Running my Tempo Workout on the LifeTime Fitness treadmill this afternoon gave me reason for concern. I appreciate that the LifeFitness treadmill syncs with my Polar HRM but I found a flaw in that function.

While running through the workout, I saw the HRM on the treadmill move up to 175, then to 178, then 180. After stepping off twice to get the rate down, I realized that the HRM number on my watch didn't mat h the HRM number on the treadmill.

It dawned on me that the HRM on the treadmill was linked to something else.

Running next to me on the treadmill, all of a buck 35 in weight, was this 5 foot, 5 inch speedster doing a 5:13 mile (11.5 mph). As soon as he stepped off the treadmill - the HRM on my machine dropped to 135. I then used my Polar watch for the rest of my run.

My point is that the best technology has limits. You should trust how what your body is telling more than any other guide. Using technology as a servant, not a master, is the best use of any technology. The flip side of the use leads you down a path of dependence. As my Dad used to say "if you use crutches long enough, you become a cripple."

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Location:Amherst Way,Inver Grove Heights,United States

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Welcome to our British Brothers and Sisters

I received notice from Amazon that our blog has just been made available to our American Cousins in England through the UK Kindle store that open this week. So I wanted to give a shout out and "Howdy" from your mates on the other side of the pond.

I will try not to butcher the Queen's English too much in future blog posts, and feel free to send an email to let me know you're reading as soon as you sign up to the blog.

Again, welcome to the exciting eReader community and we look forward to your posts.

Good Day, Mates!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Location:Hamilton Dr,Eagan,United States

Urban Wildland Half Marathon

Just finished the Urban Wildland Half Marathon in the rain. Ran a 2:16 (1:59 weather adjusted) in very humid conditions (90+). Well organized race and did a good job with lots of warnings and water stops.

They bill themselves as 'Minnesota's Green Race' and attempt to make all parts of it earth friendly - from the time keeping using solar power to the cups used in the race bio-degradable.

While I support that mission, there's a limit to how much emphasis one can go in that direction. One instance of going to far was our race numbers being made of bio-degradable sun flower seeds. Pin those to a thousand plus runners with high humidity and rain half way through the race and you get a thousand runners finishing the race wearing 4 safety pins on their shirt and no numbers.

This is an example of too much of a good thing, since those numbers ended up on the ground throughout a 13.1 mile path through Richfield.

It's the thought that counts, though, and here's hoping more races embrace the Eco-Friendly effort.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Location:Richfield, MN

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Weather Adjusted Running

Received a few questions on the Running in Hot Weather Blog. Since this is a concept that is rather neglected in running books and magazines, I thought best to give it more explanation.

Let's recap with my weather adjusted formula with humidity thrown in: "Pace Per Mile = 1+(Temperature – 60) + (Humidity – 50)% x Planned Pace"

Let's use an example. A runner that wants to run an 8:20 Pace Per mile in 75 degree heat and 75% Humidity would adjust his running time by the following calculation: 1 + ((75-60) + (75-50 x .1))% =1.175 x 500 (Pace in seconds) = 1.175 x 500 = 587.5 Pace Per Mile (or 9:48 MPM).

First, a disclaimer. I am not saying that it's time to pitch your heart rate monitors in the trash bin and replace it with this new adjustment for running. I am still in the camp that believes that HRM (Heart Rate Monitors) are the best technology device to assist runners in the past 20 years. That said I don't believe you should blindly follow any device, as we all have had HRMs that get affected by other wireless devices, battery strength, or syncing issues with the reader of the device.

I offer this Weather Adjustment as another tool in your arsenal for the sole purpose of my running column - - - that is, to keep you running.

If you are new to running, or even if you are a veteran, there are days that you feel like the run is twice as hard as others with no explanation. One reader was astounded at what I wrote with the question: "Are you saying that by running a 10 minute mile run as a training run during on hot, humid day during the summer, I can still realize a sub 1:45 hour Half Marathon in the fall?" That's exactly what I'm saying.

Let's break down what I'm getting at. I ran in 75 degree heat with 75% Humidity yesterday morning. When I looked at what I had to do for a training run, it was a 9 minute, 25 second pace per mile. Following my weather adjusted calculation; I set my training monitor to pace me at 11:04 pace per mile. Now, granted, the first mile this seemed almost turtle like, but by mile 5-6, I was feeling it, and my HRM was given me a reading like I was doing a 9:25 MPM.

So, why don't the running books push this concept more? For the life of me, I don't know why. Again, we are all an experiment of one, but I think everyone can benefit from this knowledge and use it in their training. Most running books have a section, maybe a chapter on it, but it's usually limited to giving you the warning not to run in that type of weather. Its good advice, but some runners that live in the south or in high humid areas don't have that option.

Remember that when you take on training for a time goal for a race, the recommended pacing time goals you are given are for certain ideal conditions. No coach worth his or her salt would ever expect their runner to do the same 8:20 pace per mile in 55 or 85 degree heat. By using the Weather Adjustment, you can still feel you have put in the same level of effort as running the 8:20 pace per mile as in perfect indoor conditions.

This adjustment becomes very apparent when the fall weather starts to go south. When you find the temperature drops below 60 degrees and/or humidity dropping to 50%, the 8:20 pace will still be challenging, but at least not unbearable. You will be glad that you didn't give up on your dream of running a sub 8 minute mile in the Half Marathon just because of the hot weather training runs that you had to do during the summer months.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Accepting Your Running Limits

I've been struggling with setting a goal for my Fall Marathon. I already have one Marathon under my belt for 2010 but with 16 weeks between the summer and the fall one, what goal do you go for? I needed to take down time between the two (three weeks) but now that my mileage is coming back up, I need to set a time goal (running two marathons just for fun gets old).

The logical side of me wants to just set the goal and work towards it – put in the speed, tempo, and long runs based on a stretch goal – like take a half hour off my last marathon (lose one minute per mile by pacing). But the emotional side of me knows that type of commitment could make running a chore.

When I'm faced with this decision, I use the 2.1 half measure rule. Use a race that is half the distance of the goal race to determine a 'reachable' goal. For instance, if you wanted to run a 10K in 50 minutes, then you need to run a 5K in 23:48 (50 minutes x 60 seconds = 3000 seconds/2.1 = 1429 seconds/60 seconds = 23 minutes, 49 seconds).

I think the best way to do this is not to set a goal for the longer race by targeting the shorter race's time. In other words, do it the other way. For the 5K, you need to run the race first, push yourself so you leave it on the course (know you couldn't have done it any faster) and multiple by 2.1. That's what I plan to do in two weeks at a Half Marathon I have on the schedule.

Why half the distance? Because it's the only reliable measure. Based on my 5K times, I should be easily beating a 2 hour Half Marathon time. But running 3.1 miles isn't a great indicator for a 13.1 mile race. I have found that even after having a great 5K, 10K, or even 10 mile race time – that it doesn't equate to the predicted Marathon time.

I do believe in the predictor charts that give you 'expected' race times based on various distances. The trouble with them is that runners use them like a bible. I believe the charts are more of a predictor of your VO Max race times, then your actual race times. They tell you that you have the lung capacity, stride and ability to run a race at a predicted time. But you still have to develop the endurance for that distance.

So even after I race the Half, I still will have to put in the 20 mile long runs to get the endurance to be able to actually 'race' the Marathon distance even if I know the predictor charts say I should be able to do it at a predicted pace.

Try this the next time you move up the mileage on your races and let me know if you don't find the same result.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Running in the Heat

Just finished up a 10 and a half miler in 80 degree, 60% Humidity Heat. Started in 72 degree, 100% humidity. Glad I started by 7:30 am, otherwise I don't know how I would've done it. Took me over 2 hours to accomplish it.

Thought it would be good to just blog a little about running in this type of weather. All runners need to adjust their times when they are faced with temperatures and humidity like this. These are general rules to follow in running in running in anything above 60. Jeff Galloway talks about dressing and acclimating with the 10 plus rule. Temperature plus 10 equals what you are running in after you hit the 60 degree mark. This would mean that you should expect that your body is running in 80 degree temperature when it's 70 degrees on the barometer. So anything 60 or above puts me in a singlet and shorts. But there are also rules to follow to account for what you are doing to your body.

-Hydrate before, during and after every run. Thirst is not a good guide for filling up. Your urine should be clear in judging whether you are properly hydrated.

-Sun screen should always be used. Look for a 'Sports' type of sunscreen, the kind that won't run off as soon as you start sweating. I use one that is a spray (easy to apply) that has a UV protection of 50. Coppertone has a spray that covers these two criteria and is available in bulk at Sam's Club. You may think that's overkill, but 2 plus hours in the sun is pushing it for any sunscreen that is dealing with the sweat loss of most runners. One last note on this, sunscreen also keeps the skin cool, which has the added benefit beyond sun protection for the runner.

-If you are running for more than an hour, always use lubricate your 'friction points'. Any place on your body where the clothes meet (armpit, groin area, nipples, feet, etc.) will bleed when heated up with a combination of temperature, humidity and friction. Body Glide, lotion or just plain Vaseline works for taking care of this.

-Fueling – I'm sure that you realize to bring water. How much depends on what heat you are running in, but a quick guide. Remember if you are taking Gels, you will need more water along because the body needs water to break down carbohydrates in your system. So if you normally take 3 ounces of water for each one ounce of Gel, double that on hot days. I know the warning about hydrothermia that is always flagged in all marathons guides, but on hot days you shouldn't be going for any PR anyway. There are 100 runners dehydrated at a race for every runner that is over hydrated. A word about Gels or sports drinks during hot days. Given the choice between getting carbohydrates or water into your system, the body will shut down faster without water than without carbohydrate. So make water your first priority. How much water? 5 ounces taken every 10-15 minutes is normal, more on hot days.

Now for the 'meat' of my Running in the Heat Blog. How should one adjust their running goals for running in the heat? Many articles have been written about this, but it comes down to a plain simple fact. For every 1.5 degree in temperature above 60 degrees, a runner's performance will be negatively affected by 1 to 2 percent.

So an example from my run today and some quick math might help illustrate this. I planned on running an 11 minute mile pace for 2 hours. Before my start, the temperature was 72 degrees. Since I consider myself a 'conditioned' runner (one that is not new to running, runs 3 or more times a week, and have been running in this type of weather) I need to adjust my time by 12 percent (1.5 percent average for each 1.5 degree increase in temperature. So 1.12 times 11 minutes = 12 minutes, 20 seconds per mile. I ended up with a 12:30 MPM but considering that the temperature was increasing, I was able to complete the 2 hour goal.

Humidity plays a big factor, but you can adjust your own time after you've accounted for the temperature adjustment.

Remember, just one run that you overheat can set you back a month or two in keeping your body regulated. Using these practices can keep you running through the summer and put you in perfect share for a fall marathon/race.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Time to get training again….

Okay, it is officially 4 weeks since Grandma's Marathon. My running has truly suffered for that time a lot of it, just getting the joints (and energy) back to attempt running, let alone, racing again.

I know I am older than most, younger than some, of the other runners, but the recovery time has always seemed to fit one formula. One day for every mile raced. 26.2 miles, 28 days of rest.

This formula has stood the test of time from my 30s to 40s to 50s. Sure, I have run two marathons within 28 days of each other, but neither one of them were a PR. I think you probably have 4 good races that you can gear for each year. More if you are only doing 5K, less if you are only doing marathons. If I had to put my finger on it, I'd say that 5% of all the miles I've run are racing. The rest are training for the race – either a long run, a tempo run, speed workout – or just the enjoyment of running.

I enjoy the time off after a race like the marathon. You can catch up on any activities you've been neglecting (work), skip workouts you can't miss or just spend 4 days not running and canoeing/hiking with your wife in the BWCA (Boundary Waters Canoe Area). It's a rebuilding time that allows your body/muscles to get back to the point of wanting to strive for a new goal while allowing your mind to forget just how brutal that last race was.

I think this is what nature intended. Stress/Restore/Replenish. What's my next goal?

Friday, July 16, 2010

Camelbak Octane XCT 70 Oz Hydration Pack Product Review

I bought the Octane XCT based on the idea that it would perfect for carrying enough water to supply me during my 3-4 hour, 20 mile training runs. It has proven to be a godsend for those that are interested in having as little weight as possible balanced with a pack that doesn't keep sweat next to your skin.

I had a Camelbak for a number of years, but as a 50 year-old (plus) runner, the one I own rode on my hip more than the back [a Camelbak for biking, running, geocaching and/or hiking). The XCT puts the weight on the center of the back so that your center of gravity for running is placed perfectly for forward motion.

I have used this for a 2.5 hour, a 3.5 hour and a 4 hour run. Filled to the top of the 70 ounce capacity - i had enough water to get me the whole way with little left. For a 2 hour run, half full can get you there. My 4 hour run was starting in 68 degree weather and ended in 86 degree weather, so I think it was a great test to see if the XCT held enough to get anyone through such a test.

If you are thinking of using this in a similar manner let me suggest a way to keep your water supply (and yourself) cooler in these runs. First fill the 70 ounce Camelbak with ice cubes 3/4ths to full. Fill up the rest of the bag with water. I didn't have ice at the end of my run but it kept the water cool enough so that after drinking the water in the tube the end of the drink was refreshing. I believe it also helped keep my core temperature cooler.

Overall, I am giving this a 5 star rating. My only complaints is that the storage area is small (I use 9 gels when I run - it was enough space for that) and that the storage areas are not see-through (so that you can tell whats in each area. But it is a trade off for a runner. The more you carry, the heavier it gets, so realistically, it is probably a perfect amount. I am able to carry 9 gel packs, iPhone, iPhone charger, Advil pack, toiler paper in plastic pouch, Power Bar, package of peanuts, $20 cash. iPod Nano, ear-buds and small bag of Jelly Beans. (If you're wondering what else would you need space for - there's enough room for extra gloves, knit hat - cold weather stuff.

Again, an excellent accessory for any runner (or biker for that matter) for those 2 hour plus runs.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

How LSD affects your running

No, this isn't a blog about the use of Lysergic acid diethylamide while running. LSD is a running acronym for Long, Slow Distance. There is a school of thought in running circles that says Long, Slow running makes a Long, Slow Runner. They of course mean, that if you spent all of your time running slow (because of preparing for Half-Marathon to Ultra Marathon races), your body will become accustomed to the mechanics and stride of that type of running. This leads to losing speed and any type of faster pacing that would give you the ability to finish the race with a quicker time.

I don't buy that argument as an absolute truth, but there are some elements of truth in it. It is hard to run a quick 5K when your training consists of mostly long runs. But the main reason for long runs is not for speed, it's for endurance.

After finishing Grandma's, I've been looking back over my past finishes at Marathons and making a connection between the pace of my long runs and the pacing of my overall marathon time.

As a general rule I've noticed that my average pace that I can run in the Marathon is no faster than one minute per mile for my average pace in my long runs. In my fastest Marathon, I ran my average pace that I ran in my long run for 16 miles, and then a minute faster for the last 10 miles.

Hal Higdon has a fundamental that says "If you want to run fast, you need to run fast." This pertains to the 5K as much as the marathon. If you want to run a planned predicted pace in the marathon, you have to practice it by running within 1 minute of that pace in your long runs.

I know this bucks a lot of the running guides out there that say you should run your long runs at planned predicted pace (PPP) plus two minutes per mile. But from running 20 plus marathons, I can say this isn't fast enough. That said, the PPP plus two minutes is great for building up endurance to run that distance, but not that pace.

So as you start your plans for fall marathons, take note. The LSD will affect your marathon if they are not done at a speed within one minute of your PPP.


Friday, June 25, 2010

How much to eat before running?

My son texted me after completing a run and asked me what are the causes of feeling nausea when completing a run? While this is a loaded question (could be heat, running too soon after an illness, or trying to run off a hang-over) we quickly figured out that he had eaten very close to taking off for his run on a hot day.

But this begs a question that we don't see too much written on in running magazines, blogs, and training. How much, when and what kind of food, should one eat before running? For those just getting into running, this is an important question to address when planning a morning, afternoon, or evening run. This is also a question that many experienced runners wonder about when they have a bad performance in a race and they are wondering if when, how much and what they ate affected their performance.

For Marathoner runners this is probably a more important answer than someone running a 5K. But that is because if a Marathoner makes a mistake on food intake, that is a mistake that will either cause those minutes, not seconds in a race or have them drop out altogether.

The best rule of thumb that I've seen is Weight times Wait = Runner's Fate. In other words, you multiple the runners' weight (in lbs.) times the length of time he/she will be running to determine the total calories that can be consumed before a run. So for a 150 lb. runner that is eating 2 hours before a run/race, he/she would consume 300 calories. If their race is in one hour, no more than 150 calories. This works for the 100 lb runner as well as the 250 lb runner.

This has worked for me for years and I've never tossed cookies yet. That's not to say I haven't run a 5K that I almost lost it, but it was from effort, not food, that caused the feeling.

What should you eat? Well, it should be mostly, if not all, carbohydrate. I'm on this 4:1 ratio kick, which has me eating 4 times the grams of carbohydrate for every 1 gram of protein. I firmly believe that fat does nothing for you in preparing for a run or a race. I know, I know, you need to burn fat in a long endurance run or race, but the human body has more than enough fat to supply that need. Carbohydrate is what activates the fat burning machine.

Should it be solid or liquid? Liquid gets absorbed quicker, but if I'm eating 2 hours before a run, my choice is a quickly digestible carbohydrate, like a PowerBar, Clif Bar, Banana, Bagel, etc. Anytime less, than I would go with liquid (Accelerade, Gatorade, Energy Drink) or a soft food, like a Banana.

Remember this, food can hurt your performance when eating too much or too soon, to run/race time. If you haven't practiced this in your weekly runs, eating too many calories too close to your race can affect it.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Getting over a Bad Race

Alright, I am currently licking my wounds from running Grandma's Marathon at about an hour more than what the Prediction Charts had me at. I've had a great past six months of training and for what? Run a 5:10 when I should've had a 4:10.

Have you ever these thoughts? You train for an extended period for the planned race and fall well short of it?

I can give you my thoughts on why I failed. But before I get there, let me tell you how I succeeded.

I succeeded in the fact that I ran for the past six months while many of my colleagues didn't. I succeeded in losing 18 pounds in the past 24 weeks. I achieved a 2:00 Half Marathon that I haven't accomplished in three years. I accomplished a sub 25:00 5K that I hadn't accomplished in 3 years. I ran a personal best 53 total miles in an 8 day stretch, something I've never done in almost 30 years of running.

But I still came up short in the Marathon.

The Marathon is not your typical race. You can be in what you believe you best condition is, and a 5 degree temperature change can put all that training at risk. I'm not making excuses, but the Marathon has been for me, and many others, a crap shoot at best.

The point I'm making is that running and/or training for a race has its own internal 'Ying-Yang' balance. Yes, I had all of those positives during my training along with a bad Marathon. But all of those positives could have, I not saying for sure, but could have, led to my bad Marathon. 53 miles 3 weeks before the Marathon could've been a bad choice. Races the two weekends before the Marathon could've set me up for being tired on race day. But the key message that it taught me is that a one day race doesn't mean the past six months were all a waste. Sure, I was disappointed, but when I stepped back and thought about the successes so far this season, I wouldn't have traded a 4:10 Marathon for all of the mini-successes that I experienced.

In coming blogs, I will share some thoughts that I have, and things I've learned on what I believe makes a successful Marathon run. I've tried enough programs to know what works and what doesn't. I hope you will learn from all of my past mistakes. And also, for the successes.


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Mea Culpa

I was sharing with a co-worker that I've been so busy lately that I feel guilty about not updating the blog. She pointed out that I need to find a way to blog while I'm running. Her reasoning is that I always seem to find time to run, I just need to find time to blog (maybe right after she suggested).

Now that I have Grandma's Marathon behind me, I have a ton to share. Expect an update tomorrow morning as I gather all my thoughts and updates. Thanks for your patience and understanding.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Unhealthy Eating

If you've been running any more than 30 days, you will get to the point of wondering if there is anything you need to change in your diet. Not only if you are looking at losing some pounds but also to help in your performance. I'm not a registered dietician but I do know what works and doesn't work for me when looking at diet.

One good website to try is Dr. Weil. He's a lifelong guru in matters of food/diet and he recently sent out the Top 4 unhealthy snacks newsletter. See Link:

Now if you are just getting started in looking at what foods to eat, there are books that have been written on the subject. But a better place to start is to eliminate those foods that you shouldn't be eating. His Top 4 are:

-Instant Soup (because of the sodium)


-French Fries (actually, anything fried)


-Soft Drinks (we're not talking about Diet, but Regular)

He gives a free newsletter that you can sign up for, it gives Daily Tips that can give you a chance to think about your diet, but the main thing to start is to think about what you're eating now. If you're thinking that eliminating all of the above would be too hard, try with just eliminating one of the them and building from that base. Remember, it takes 21 days for anything to become a habit, and finding the discipline to stop eating all of the above with help with not only your weigh but also your running performance.





Saturday, March 13, 2010

MotionX-GPS for running

Since I know a number of runners use the iPhone for tracking the distance of their runs, I thought I'd send out a review of the MotionX-GPS app that is available for all iPhones. I've tried this out and it's absolutely fantastic if you are looking for something that you can use for tracking the exact distance of your runs. I found it as exact (and if running in a wooded area, more exact) than any Garmin running device.

The functionality of this app is way ahead of the curve. It integrates with your iTunes library and lets you use your songs, playlists, etc. as well as use the pause, play, skip forward and skip back of all your sings.

You can record pictures, if you are into that sort of thing, at different points of your run.

The one function that blew me away was at the end of my run. I was able to send to my Facebook update a map (that all of my friends could view) of my run.

If this app had a heart rate monitor with heart rate ranges, I would recommend this as a replacement for the Nike Plus system on the iPod.

I have two criticisms of it. The first is the number of runs you can store on it. But seriously, after ten runs, you should be logging the runs in your running journal but it would be nice if it had an on-line page/site to do it.

My biggest criticism, and why this wouldn't replace my Nano or iPhone is that the app, like all GPS apps on the iPhone, is a battery hog. I haven't gone more than ten miles with this on a run, but it ate 60-70% of my battery in that hour and a half. I question if it would last for a half marathon race, and know that a marathon is out of the question.

If you are looking for such a GPS tracking system for your run (that are less than 10 miles) that doubles as an iPod, look no further, this is it. I give this app 4.5 out of 5 stars, and only hold off a perfect score because of the battery and heart rate monitor functionalities.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Tempo Runs

I believe the most misunderstood, or maybe just the least known of running workouts, is the Tempo Run. What is it? Why do it? What speed? What distance? What day of the running week?

There are as many different descriptions of a Tempo run as there are running books out there. But I'll make it simple. A Tempo run is any run that you do to build up your aerobic endurance. So anything just below your anaerobic threshold and above an easy run falls into this category. From our earlier discussion, you'll remember your anaerobic threshold is about 85% of your heart max rate. So I'm talking about a run at 70-85% of HMR.

So how much of your weekly run should be a Tempo run? I have one weekly run on Thursday that I classify as a Tempo run. I warm up for 1.5 miles [approximately 15 minutes] then watching my heart rate, try to keep 4 miles at 150-162 [my anaerobic threshold is 163]. I also leave the last two miles of my long run for this heart rate range. I do this to train myself to be able to push it for my planned half marathons.

I am very disciplined in regards to the 163 heart rate mark. As soon as I hit 163, I slow up immediately until it drops down to 155 before getting into the running groove again. It's important to not change this run into a speed workout [anaerobic threshold or above].

For those of you that have watched the movie "Chariots of Fire", I follow my 163 rule by remembering one of my favorite scenes in the movie. It is the exchange between Coach Sam Mussabini and Harold Abraham as he explains the concept of over-striding for the sprinter. As he describes the effect of over striding, he slaps Abraham in the face saying: "Remember, over striding. Death for the sprinter. (slap) Knocks you back. (slap) Like that! (slap) And That! (slap)

In the same way, going into anaerobic threshold when doing a Tempo run defeats the purpose of the Tempo run. Leave the anaerobic threshold workout with the speed workout. Your training is hard enough without blowing your aerobic endurance workout.

For those of you just getting started with the Tempo run, I have a great transition method for you to find your tempo pace over the course of the weeks in your first training plan. When I got started on Week One of my 12-Week Sub-2 Hour Half Marathon training, I do my 400 meter pace at 8:00 MPM (Minutes per Mile) and the Tempo Run pace @ 10:00 MPM. The 8:00 MPM for my speed workout doesn't change but my Tempo speed will. I run at the 10:00 MPM until I can do the full four miles at that pace. As soon as I make it, the next week I move up pace by 10 seconds. So in this case, it would go to 9:50 MPM the next week. Again, each week, I keep the pace until I see my heart rate reach 163 and then I back off. If I need to walk to get the heart down, I do it. But remember, no going over the 163 heart rate.

You may look at this plan and think, 'Can you really run a 9:09 pace during the Half Marathon when doing a Tempo run at 10:00 MPM in Week One of your training?' The answer is yes. What you will find is that each week your tempo pace will get easier and easier to reach. For example, I'm in Week 6 of my training and already up to a 9:30 MPM. By Week 10, I should be doing a 9:10 MPM. If you do find yourself in Week 6 not being able to move out of the 10:00 MPM because of the anaerobic threshold, this is God's way of telling you that you're not ready for a 2 Hour Half Marathon.

I hope this helps you incorporate Tempo runs into your weekly workouts. They're a great way to not only build your aerobic capacity but also give you a test run for your coming race.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Running and Weight Loss

I have been in the process of losing that winter weight. That 5 or 10 pounds that you pick up in the off season, or over the Holidays. After the first 10 weeks of the year, it's all off. Now I'm looking for any suggestions for looking the next 10 pounds.

After 40, losing weight is brutal. You can halt the weight gain by your running, but moving in the opposite direction always seems like it takes twice as long. The metabolism slows down, the recovery between runs takes a little longer, and the number of races that you run each year gets less and less.

But I've been working on a new method this year. Instead of getting on the scale each day, I've gone to one set 'scale day' each week. Instead of counting calories, I'm counting minutes. Instead of playing around with meal plans, spread the meals throughout the day. Don't overeat the right foods; just eat foods the right way.

I'm using my running this year as the great equalizer. If I get on the scale and see the weight the same or going up on scale day, I'm going to increase the minutes spent running/walking in the coming week. I'm not looking for anything more than a pound a week. But I'm not going to add more than 10 minutes each week regardless of what the scale says. This should be a fun experiment. But so far this year, I haven't needed to add the minutes (yet).

How are your weight loss plans going? Are doing better than the suggested 1-2 pounds a week? Do you have any ideas that you want to share? Write me at with your comments, I'm all ears.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Spirit of The Marathon

Watched The Spirit of the Marathon over the weekend and was impressed. It's a film biography on a number of runners that prepared and ran the 2005 Chicago Marathon. The theme that the director followed was to give us a glimpse of how the favorites as well as the 6 hour plus runners prepared for the 26.2 miles.

I believe that the director (Jon Dunham) having run marathon gave him insight into the toll of what marathon training does to all runners of the marathon. After a quick introduction of all the runners that he's spotlighting, he walks us through the first long runs and the time and dedication that each of the runners go through. He follows each of these runners from the training through each of the miles of the marathon. It's a great insight that gives aspiring runners that are thinking of running the marathon, a video diary of what training will be expected to prepare for the marathon.

If I had any criticism of the film at all, it was the little bits and pieces of insight that we got of some of running greats. Their contributions about marathoning were insightful but left me wanting more. I mean how often do you get to tap the minds of Amby Burfoot, Dick Beardsley, Grete Waitz, Frank Shorter, Bill Rodgers, etc.? Of course, I can appreciate that Dunham wanted to focus on all runner's viewpoints equally, but I think he could have accomplished it with more interviews with these greats and still gave us this story.

If you have any interest in running a marathon, or want to remember what it's like to train for one, I highly recommend this film. Overall, I would give it 4 out of 5 stars for a running movie.


Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Using Heart Rate Zones for planning a weekly running program

Okay, we've gone through how to determine what our heart rate zones, MHR, RHR and anaerobic thresholds are. The obvious question is how do we apply this in a running program?

Well, here's the good news. Armed with this information, you now have everything you need to never waste one day running wondering if you are doing too little, too much or just enough effort in your running each day. Sound like this is worth knowing? Let's apply time tested training from the elite athletes and apply them to our training.

Simple rule to start with that can be applied to world class athletes as well as to the everyday runner. I call it the 70/20/10 rule. 70 percent of all your miles run should be at your 70% zone or less. 20% should be at 70-85% of your zone, and 10% [or less] should be done at 85% plus. There are some tweaks we will have to make, depending on what distance race you are training for, but overall, this is a pretty good rule to follow.

In the 1980s, Jess Jarver, an Australian track coach, came up with a hard/easy formula for all major distances. This formula was to give the runner a definitive guide on how much of their weekly mileage should be done in an aerobic vs. and anaerobic state. The distances and the ratios are as follows:

Distance    Aerobic/Anaerobic Ratio

¼ mile        18.5%/81.5%

½ mile        35%/64%

Mile        52.5%/47.5%

5K        80%/20%

10K        90%/10%

Marathon    97.5%/2.5%

Although, his study was silent on the Half Marathon distance, I've found the right ratio to be a 95%/5% aerobic/anaerobic blend.

There have been many studies done since, yet the ratios have remained relatively the same except for the 5K and lower distances. (For example, the anaerobic percentage is smaller - 16% for the 5K) I'm assuming most runners are running in the 5K and longer races, so these ratios are important in planning your weekly workouts.

Let's use an example of a runner that is training for a 10K race and putting in 30 miles a week in their training. Applying Jarver's formula, it would tell us that 3 miles of the 30 miles (10%) should be done in the anaerobic state. So to apply this to our heart rate discussion, this would mean that the heart rate should be in the 85% or higher range for 3 miles each week. Using my 70/20/10 rule, it would also mean that 6 miles should be in the 70-85% range, and 21 miles at 70% or less.

So to put this in a weekly schedule, Tuesday could be a speed workout of 12 - ¼ mile at 85%-max heart rate (with a 15 minute warm-up and 10 minute cool-down and ¼ mile walk breaks). Thursday a Tempo Workout of 6 miles (with a similar warm-up and cool-down). The weekend long run of 10-12 miles and all other days in the week at 70% or less of heart rate.

I hope the past week's discussion on heart rate training was useful in planning your running program. I'm sure you will have questions as you apply the discussion to your training. Feel free to contact me at with any questions as you incorporate it into your training.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Using MHR and RHR to calculate out everything necessary for your running program

So you have your MHR and RHR rates, now it's time to use these numbers to determine all of your heart zones.

Let's use an example to demonstrate the zones. First take you MHR and subtract your RHR. For our example, we will use 185 for the MHR and 55 for the RHR. Using the result, multiply it by .60, .70, .80, .85, and .90 and add your RHR to all of these percentages. Let's look at the example:

185 – 55 = 130

.50 – (130 x .5) + 55 = 120

.60 = (130 x .6) + 55 = 133

.70 = (130 x .7) + 55 = 146

.80 = (130 x .8) + 55 = 159

.85 = (130 x .85) + 55 = 166

.90 = (130 x .9) + 55 = 172

Your probably wondering why we use 85% for one of our calculations while all other calculations are done on increments of ten. 85% is used as a common threshold for the body moving from an aerobic state to an anaerobic state. This means that you are using your muscles without oxygen, which will limit the amount of time you can continue running before the muscles will give out. Outside of speed workouts, you normally don't want to exceed the 85% even in your running or risk failure of your muscles to continue to perform. 50% is widely accepted as the minimum training threshold for gaining any type of endurance for running.

So how should we use these zones? Well, from my past post, remember that you can use these zones to determine what zone you should be training in for each running day:

50-60% (120-133) is usually considered warm-up or if you are going very easy, as in recovery, from a heard workout the day before.

60-75% (133- 152) is considered Aerobic Development – Long Slow Distance, or easy days.

75-85% (152-166) is when you are trying to build aerobic endurance.

85-95% (166- 179) is all anaerobic endurance, so this for distance that is ¼ to 1 mile in distance.

95-100% (179 and above) all speed, going more than a quarter mile at this level is very, very difficult.

Now I want to stress that these are just averages. If you have your maximum and threshold rates determined by a certified health club trainer, the reading will be a lot more accurate. For example, I have a 185 MHR and 55 RHR. When I have been tested, my zones end up like this:

Warm-up = 127 – 142

Aerobic Development = 142 – 152

Aerobic Endurance = 152 – 162

Anaerobic Endurance = 162 -172

Speed/Power – 172 plus.

As you can see, the feedback from the testing done at a health club monitoring my heart rate through various speeds, inclines and stresses is a lot more accurate than using the percentage formulas. Again, not a wide margin of difference, but still more accurate to the point of letting me know the exact number of beats for the training, especially in terms of moving from aerobic to anaerobic.

Tomorrow, we will put this together to put together a weekly training program for your running improvement.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Winning a Running Lottery…

My wife Bonnie and I found out this week that we were selected in the lottery for the Gary Bjorklund's Half Marathon in Duluth this June. I believe this is most perfect Half Marathon in the country. I may be biased being a Minnesotan, but it truly is. Starts at 6:30 am, it is mostly on a downhill course, that gets you to the finish by 9 am, with enough time to shower before the Marathon winners show up at 9:40 and after (the Marathon starts an hour later 13.1 miles down the same course route).

I like the lottery format that has been adjusted in the past few years that allows for a 'group' to register instead of solo entries only. In that format, you and your friends/family register as a group instead of as individuals. If one of your entries is selected, the whole group gets in. If none of you are selected, none of you get in. When traveling 2 plus hours to an event with an overnight stay, it's a lot better to know you are all going to get in instead of a select few. Makes it more rewarding as a group event.

Bonnie and I have also entered the New York City Marathon Lottery, but there was no 'group' option. That will be disappointing for one of us if either of us is selected, but not both and/or neither. I believe that all running lotteries should incorporate the group option as a way of making it more of a running community event.

Overall, these lotteries have been good to me. I haven't always been selected but the important ones I can't remember missing out on.

My claim to fame, and without a doubt the hardest to be selected on, has been winning the Boston Marathon Lottery in 1996. As a promo to the 100th running of Boston, they allowed all interested runners to apply for a one time lottery that would select 5000 runners. The rules were that you had to finish in 6 hours or less, understand that the entry could not be deferred or transferred, and if you qualified by meeting the time goal (between the selection date in July, 1995 and March, 1996) you had to surrender the entry for a qualified number.

Some runners might look at running Boston as a Lottery winner vs. as a qualifier as a letdown. Considering that the odds of me actually qualifying for it, (would have to run a qualifying marathon in 3:35 or less these days), the only chance I had of running this in my lifetime was getting picked in that lottery. And running it on its 100th birthday was something my grand kids and great grand kids can say about their grandfather.

That's not to say I've ever given up qualifying for the Boston Marathon. As anyone that tracks the qualifying times, my odds of qualifying for it will vastly improve starting September 25th of this year. That's when my qualifying time will change to 3 hours and 45 minutes. Still a stretch, but not impossible. And like the lottery itself, as long as there is a chance, there is hope…..

Maximum Rate and Resting Rate Heart Rates

Before I begin, I do want to point that if you are just getting into running and haven't had a physical in a few years, this might be the time to do it. Before beginning any exercise program, you should just make sure that you do not have any condition that would preclude you from increasing the effort of this training. Now that I have that disclaimer out of the way, let's discuss heart rate maxes and resting rates.


The best way to determine Maximum Heart Rate (MHR) and Resting Heart Rate (RHR) is by having it read professionally. Most health clubs have some type of program that can do this for you. I have a membership at Life Time Fitness and they use the New Leaf program that will read your heart rate while performing stress tests at different speeds and inclines on the treadmill. You can also have this done at running expos or hospital outpatient or same day surgery centers. The running expos are probably not the perfect set up and the hospital is probably the highest cost. But any of these methods are more accurate than doing the poor man's method (described below). I highly recommend checking your local health club to have this done to get the most accurate reading. It will give you the anaerobic and aerobic thresholds that are invaluable for your training program.

If you cannot afford or do not wish to pay for the accuracy of these readings, here is the poor man's method. After putting on your heart rate monitor, warm up for 15 minutes and find a hill with a 10% to 15% incline that is at least ¼ to 1/3 a mile long. The object of this exercise is to get you to run up the hill for at least two minutes at you full all out. So after your 15 minute warm-up, run up the hill for at least two minutes as quick as you can without losing your running form. Your should be gasping for air when you finally reach the two minutes. Jog back down for two minutes before your next run. Watch your heart rate reading at least one full minute at the end of your run. Sometimes the heart rate monitor takes time to read what your heart rate's beats are. After four trials, you should have a good heart rate max, your top reading. If you can't find a hill [live in Kansas City for example] you can use the incline on a treadmill as they usually will incline up to 15% on most health club machines.

For resting heart rate, this exercise is a lot easier. After waking, put on your heart rate monitor [on the nightstand next to your bed that you put there the night before]. Stay vertical for at least 5 minutes, checking once each minute. Your lowest reading is what your RHR is.

Tomorrow's blog will give you a step-by-step formula for calculating your heart rate zones for your running program.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

The Kevorkian formula

If you want to incorporate heart rate training into your running correctly, you need to use the training zones that you get from using the Kevorkian heart rate formula. I cannot stress how inaccurate the 220 minus your age heart rate formula is. If I used that, I would be underperforming in all my training. The formula is more inaccurate as you get older, mainly because there is an inherent bias built in for age.

Here's the Kevorkian formula in a nutshell:

Max Heart Rate (MHR) – Minus - Resting heart rate (RHR) = Net Active Heart Rate (NAHR). Apply the percentages for your zones (60-70, 70-8-, etc.) to the NAHR add the RHR and voila, your training zone.

Let's use an actual example (mine) to give you a sample to use as you calculate yours:

Max Heart Rate - 185

Resting Heart Rate - 55

Net Active Heart Rate – 185 – 55 = 130.

So to get to 60% of the max, it would be calculated at 185- 55 = 130 x .60 = 78 + 55 = 133. So if I want to be in the 60-70% training zone, it would be 133 to 146 beats per minute.

What are the important ranges for training?

50-60% is usually considered warm-up or if you are going very easy, as in recovery, from a heard workout the day before.

60-75% is considered Aerobic Development – Long Slow Distance, or easy days.

75-85% is when you are trying to build aerobic endurance.

85-95% is all anaerobic endurance, so this for distance that is ¼ to 1 mile in distance.

95-100% all speed, going more than a quarter mile at this level is very, very difficult.

My next blog will go over on how to get your MHR and RHR and how to incorporate these training zones.





Friday, March 5, 2010

Heart Rate Training

I have to admit, it may be my German genes, but I have a love for technology when it comes to running. If there is anything that got added to running in terms of technology, it has been the use of a heart rate monitor.

Before you go out and buy one to compliment your running, I have a few things to suggest for you to consider before adding it to your training. First off, the heart rate monitors itself. Before you go out and paid $300 plus for a heart rate monitor, I would caution against making that kind of investment.

20 years ago, you really only had one manufacturer that did HRM right – Polar. But now, there are more choices from more manufacturers than we count. But for running, I have three that I would recommend – Garmin, Polar, or Timex. These are listed in terms of what size wallet you have. But for pure accuracy, I have used all three side-by-side and all of them are within one beat of each other if not the same beat reading. Suunto is good for a watch that puts style with function, but its user interface doesn't work for you.

Decide what you want (besides a heart rate reading) and buy one. If this is your first watch, keep it under $100, unless you are looking for something that will keep track of your distance also.

Besides going out and buying a watch, I'm going to give you one other item to think about before tomorrow's blog where I will give you a way to have an accurate reading. Don't go with the calculation that you see written on the Fitness Center walls – which are 220 minus your age for your top rate and then multiple times 60% to give you an exercise zone. Tomorrow, we will discuss the Kevorkian formula, which will give you the best way to use your heart rate in your training.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Heart Rate Training for a Runner or Walker

Last weekend, I discussed the most important for runner to keep running. If I could pick what the second most important thing for beginning runners or walkers, it would be training with a heart rate monitor (HRM).

Most experienced runners probably take Heart Rate Monitoring for granted but it hasn't been around for that long (when compared to the running craze beginning in the late 60's, early 70s). I know it was hard to even afford a HRM when they first came out and there was even a question on its value in training. But both of those issues have been settled in the past 20 years.

What Heart Rate Training (HRT) does for a runner or walker is eliminate any question on whether you are wasting your time in your training. I think a lot of starting runners get frustrated by either over doing it or giving up because they feel they aren't getting anything out of running. Using a HRM will address both of those issues and give you immediate feedback on what you are getting out of running. It will let you know whether you are pushing it too hard, too easy, or just right. Knowing that kind of information will keep you coming back because it will not only give you great information but also injury free. The leading cause of people giving up running is from over doing it and ending up with a long layoff that discourages them from starting again.

I will a lot of future blog posts on Heart Rate Training, hopefully not too much to bore you on the subject. But for my running experience, HRT has made the difference in my staying with it or giving it the ghost. More to follow.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Complete ‘Core Values’ Workout

I'm looking for a great workout routine for runners. I'm always concerned that over the course of a year, a runner tends to hone their body into a running machine without doing the proper maintenance to keep the muscles balanced. If you have any program, book or video that you follow, please send me your ideas for future blog reviews.

Within the last two weeks, I downloaded through iTunes 'The Complete 'Core Values' Workout' from Runner's World. It's a 36 minute workout that goes over stretching, poses and lifts that help keep the core muscles [abs, hips, and upper legs] in shape to balance the weekly pounding that running and walking do to it. It was released at the beginning of this year by Runner's World on iTunes for $7.99. Downloads both a video and audio program for that price and stores in your iPod or computer.

What I really liked about it is that you don't need a ton of equipment to get through all the exercises in the program. I went out and brought the stuff I was missing - Balance Ball, two hand weights and a medicine ball. What I really liked is that the trainer gave you alternatives poses to do if you didn't want to buy any of the equipment, which is useful if you either don't want to make the investment or you want to do some type of exercise before picking the equipment up.

I thought the trainer do a good job of showing you're the basics as well as giving you two alternative poses to make it harder. Two often, the training videos make you switch to 'advanced' programs if you find the basic ones too easy. I especially like that the trainer made sure to put stretches in between the exercises. The only peeve I have with training videos is having you do stretching to begin and end and back-to-back exercise that end up killing you. This is a great mix of both when you need that break between exercises.

Overall, I'd give it 4 out of 5 stars for a workout routine. Having both video and audio is a nice touch and very reasonable for a $7.99 total cost.


Saturday, February 20, 2010

The One Most Important Thing for a Beginning Runner

Today as I was pounding out a tempo run on the treadmill, I thought about what would be the most important advice I would give any beginning runner who is interested in starting and staying with a running program.

Would it be making sure you get the right type of shoes? Would it be starting with a run/walk program of 20 minutes a day, 3 days a week before moving up in minutes or miles? Keeping a detailed running journal of all your runs? Staying consistent in making sure you get 3 or 4 runs in each week?

No, although all of those items are important in getting started and staying in running, I wouldn't have any of them listed as the most important thing for a beginning runner. After 20 plus years in running, my number one thing would be to find, and run with a partner.

It can be a best friend, an established runner, heck; it may be even be your dog. But get someone to run with. Just having someone that keeps you (and you keep them) honest, will keep you committed to a program. It has been argued that just writing down a commitment will get a person to harden their resolve to see it through. I believe that sharing that commitment with one other person sets that commitment to a power of 10.

Now this is coming from someone that trained for his first marathon in 1990 running all his long runs as a lone wolf. But even though I ran all those miles alone, it doesn't change my opinion that sharing a run with a friend beats running it alone. I find it makes the time that you spend running go quicker, more meaningful and overall, more satisfying.

I mentioned the importance of keeping a journal in an earlier blog. After running a while, take a look back and compare your notes on how your runs went when you ran alone vs. when you ran with a partner. If your entries are anything like mine, you will find the runs that you struggled with, will happen much more often in your solo runs.

There is something about running with a partner. You share, and sometimes solve, life's struggles. You encourage each other not only in today's run, but also in life's challenges. You share things during a run that you would not share in any other medium. I'm not exaggerating when I say that you share more than physical activity, you share a spiritual one also.

The beauty about the running community is that it is not a zero-sum sport. When one participant has a good run or race, it is not at the expense of another runner. I've run races with many friends that I've also run with and never felt that when one of them had a better race than me, that it was at my expense.

So the best advice I can give to any rookie runner is to find a partner to share your runs with. It will give you returns beyond your original commitment.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

USA Track & Field (USATF) amended rule 144.3(f) – use of headphones at a USATF Race

Every once in a while, you see a sport make a bone headed decision that diminishes the sport for the everyday participants. Such was the decision in 2007 (and continued to current with some races) of not allowing any participants to use headphones while participating in a USATF event.
As someone that runs marathons, it is very rare not to have a race that is USATF sanctioned. This is because a number of runners use marathons that have the USATF accreditation to qualify for some of the national marathons such as Boston or New York City. When race organizers started to threaten to remove runners from the race (as they did in most marathons), it’s surprising that they didn’t get together and address this with the USATF instead of trying to police an obvious stupid rule. It is too bad that even when everyday runners began boycotting their races, the USATF still wouldn’t amend their rule to exempt everyday runners. Finally, on December 22, 2008, the USATF changed the rule, because it became too hard to enforce equally across all USATF races.
Here’s how the new amended rule 144.3(f) reads: “The visible possession or use by athletes of video, audio, or communications devices in the competition area. The Games Committee for an LDR event may allow the use of portable listening devices not capable of receiving communication; however, those competing in Championships for awards, medals, or prize money may not use such devices." So, technically, if you are in a USATF race and plan on placing in an award position, your award could be withheld if you are found using a device.
I don’t like that they still allow Race Directors to make the decision of whether to allow them or not. I still find myself checking to make sure the races allow them before entering (For Minnesota races, Grandma’s and Twin Cities Marathons changed their rules to allow them starting in 2009). I think the onus should be on the race director to make sure that before anyone is allowed to enter a race, they have to check a box (either online or on an application form) stating that they are giving up that right. No one should have to worry which races are enforcing this rule and which ones aren’t.
I’ve heard the arguments about the questions of safety. I’ve run enough marathons and other races to have runners (right in front of me) pass right into my lane while crossing over to stop at a drink stop without hearing or stopping to look for other runners. But I am more than willing to tolerate that pet peeve vs. having all iPods banned from a race. What happened to running being fun?
I remember running Grandma’s Marathon in 2003 and following two sisters for a two mile stretch. For about one mile, I couldn’t figure out what private joke they were sharing as they ran. Both were wearing earphones and laughing each 4-5 minutes without really talking to one another. It wasn’t until I asked that I found out the reason. They had both loaded the other’s iPod with a song list that the other would listen to, for the 4 plus hours that they would be running. As a surprise song would come up, of course, it would remind them of something – an event, a favorite song, who knows – a former boyfriend? But the point being is that I’m sure it was as much a part of their memory of that marathon as the run itself.
So this blog is an appeal to any race directors that come across it to allow the use of audio devices for their race. In a 9,000 runner race, or for that matter, a 100 runner race, 97% of the runners aren’t running it for the prize money. Remember the reason that most runners are at your race – to participate with others in the running community in a social event that is supposed to be fun.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Nike + System

I wanted to share some tips I've learned in working with the Nike Plus system for the past four years. For those of you that aren't aware of this, Nike offers a Nike Plus system that monitors your distance through an iPod (either Nano, iPhone or iPod Touch – any size storage). It consists of putting a shoe sensor in your Nike+ shoes syncing the iPod with the sensor and setting your preferences with iPod (miles vs. kilometers, Basic vs. distance/time mode, etc.). Each time you sync your iPod with iTunes, it sends you running information to the Nike + website, which keeps track of all of your runs.

What I noticed after using this system on and off for a number of years are that there are times where the iPod will have a hard time syncing with the shoe sensor. I'd be surprise if you don't run into the same experience now and then. I'd like to offer some things to try when this happens to you:

-Try shutting down your iPod and restarting it. I've found this works to fix it 70% of the time.

-Go to your iPod setting for Nike Plus and try to re-sync with the sensor. Sometimes, with multiple sensors being at an Athletic Club, Race Events, or if you have multiple sensors in your house, it will lose the connection. Re-syncing fixes this.

-Lastly, you need to check the sensor. One of things I didn't realize (until after spending a half an hour trying to get the sensor synced) is that each sensor has a battery in it. I thought the sensor was a receiver with a magnet or some type of marker and the power source for keeping track was the iPod. But that's not the case. How long does it last? I haven't had any sensor last more than a year but I put in around 1000 miles a year. So if you push the sync button on the sensor and you still can't get the iPod to find the sensor (after trying the two steps listed above), your battery might be dead.

Now, concerning what sensor to buy. If you have a Nano or an older style iTouch or iPhone, you will need to get a sensor with an attachment that plugs into the bottom of your iPod. This will run about $29.95. If you have an iPod iTouch or an iPhone, you just need the sensor, this runs $19.95.

Finally, a quick observation on calibrating the system for distance. You have two options in calibrating the distance, either Walk Method or Run Method. Either method is fine, but one thing I've learned is that the last method that you use, determines the distance for either walking or running. If you are a walker, this will probably not be a big deal, but for running, it is. That's because your stride, time and turnover rate of your feet determine the distance. So, if you are primarily using this for running, use the run method, for walking, the walking method.

One more item to note on calibration. Remember to calibrate it at a pace that you normally either run or walk. I've found that if I calibrate it for running on my easy run pace, when I do my speed or tempo workout, it doesn't give me an accurate distance (comes up short). I believe this is because the time is faster and the calculation can't account for the quicker speed. So using your tempo speed (which is normally between your slow easy speed and quick speed workout pace) might be the best to use if you want to have a calibration that you don't need to adjust all the time.

I actually keep two sensors in two sets of shoes. One for the shoes I walk in, the other for the shoes I run in. I use a Nano for my running shoes and my iPhone for the walking shoes. And of course, I calibrated each accordingly.

If you have any quick tips that you would like to share, please do. Write me at

Monday, February 15, 2010

Guest Blogger answers “How do you put together a playlist using BPM”?

The posts that I received on what type of music runners listened to, generated questions on how a runner puts together a playlist using Beats Per Minutes (BPM). I asked for help on answering this question from Barb Smith who shared the steps that anyone that has iTunes can use to create this playlist. Here is Barb's process for putting together songs that will inspire runners through any distance:

"Having the right music to run with is crucial for me. I'm not a competitive runner, nor am I very fast . . . until I get past the first mile of my run, I am usually in complete agony. I actually stopped running races where iPods are banned. Having music that allows me to focus and be entertained at the same time is the key to a successful run. But it can't be just any music. Something too slow frustrates me and completely throws me off. I actually HURT more when I'm listening to music that doesn't fit with my tempo. Therefore, I spend a fair amount of time finding the right music.


It's all about finding beats-per-minute (BPM). Simply find your preferred tempo and find songs with the same BPM and you're golden. But where to start? Follow these completely unscientific steps to create the perfect running playlists using iTunes and a BPM calculator:


(1) Think of three to six perfect songs to run to. Anyone who listens to music while they're running has favorites . . . something that makes you completely forget your pain for three minutes yet still keeps your pace. Don't worry about the lyrics . . . but if they fit, that's even better (think: "Running on Empty" by Jackson Browne).


(2) Download and install a BPM calculator. There are a ton of them out there . . . and this is where I'd really like to get reader feedback.


I used to use a BPM plug-in for iTunes on my Mac that was wonderful. It was simple . . . you'd tap out the beat of the song with your mouse while listening and iTunes would store the BPM. The only drawback is that you needed to listen to each song and tap away. That plug-in stopped working after one of the iTunes updates and I'm still in the process of finding the best solution. There are a ton of free apps out there (Google "iTunes" and "BPM calculator"), but I'm currently evaluating BPMer (Mac only) which I'm willing to pay $19 for if it suits my needs. The reason why I'd be willing to shell out the bucks for this app is because it will calculate BPM for your entire music library without you having to listen to each song. I'm still evaluating, however, to determine if I agree with its BPM calculations. BPMer just calculated the BPM of Willie Nelson's "Georgia On My Mind" as 138. I love that song, but honestly, it's like 60, it's so slow. I could never run to that song.


Plus, BPM is pretty subjective . . . faster runners might run double-time, so something that I might calculate as 70 or 80, a someone else might calculate as 140 or 160. Plus there are certain parts of songs that I tune into that might have a faster BPM than the first or last part of the song. If you have found a BPM calculator that works for you (Mac or PC), please post in the comments!


(3) Calculate the BPM of the songs from step (1) above. If iTunes isn't showing you BPM for your songs, right-click (ctl-click for Mac users) on the music headers in the main window of iTunes and add the BPM column to your view). Average the BPM values and consider this your "preferred BPM".


(4) Now calculate the BPM of other songs in your library. If you are using something like BPMer that cranks through your whole library and you don't agree with some songs, you can always manually change the BPM by right-clicking (ctl-click for Mac users) on the song, choose "Get Info", click on the "Info" option, then change the value in the BPM field and save.


(5) Once you have a decent-sized library with BPM, you can start creating your playlist. First sort your music by BPM (click on the BPM header). Then start pulling songs into a running playlist based on the length of your run, how fast you want to go, and whether you have hills on your route. For instance, I have a 3.5 mile route that has hills about 10 minutes in. My playlist contains:

    - the first song at about 100 BPM to warm up

    - Two at 120 BPM which is my preferred BPM

    - Three at 110 BPM to get me through the hills

    - Two more at 120 BPM to get me back into my groove after hills

    - One at 140 to get me really moving

    - Then a final one at 100 BPM

10 songs total, average song length = 3-1/2 minutes, total playlist = 35 minutes.


(6) Now get really creative and put together longer playlists for longer runs. I have a 1/2 marathon playlist that I used for the Gary Bjorklund 1/2 and I had my best time ever!"


-Barb Smith

I'm sure we'll get more discussion as readers put together their own playlists, but this looks like a great process to get everyone started for their own speed workouts, tempo runs and long runs in the next week.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Running Watches

For a beginning or experienced runner, a lot of time can be spent finding the 'right' watch. What should a good running watch have?

There a number of fair to fantastic running watch out there. I have probably spent a personal fortune trying to find the right one. It's almost as difficult as choosing a cell phone. Do you need GPS? What about a Heart Rate monitor? How accurate does it need to be? Should it have it all (GPS, Heart Rate, Time Splits, Zone Alarms, etc.) or should the GPS be part of a watch and the Heart Rate monitor be a different device?

I will save you a lot of time looking and just go with my personal opinion on what to buy/own. Keep it as simple as you can while getting the most out of what you use. What I am getting at is to make sure you are not toting around 6 devices that take longer to understand and use than it does to just get out the door.

GPS – Garmin has arguably the best devices if you are interested in having the most accurate time/distance keeping tool on the market. I owned the Garmin 405 and liked the ability to not only give me a constant time and distance but also give me a map read out when I got back and plugged it into the computer. The downside to it was the battery. I couldn't go three days without recharging it and would be frustrated when I forgot. I also didn't like using it on the treadmill. They do have a foot pod you can use, but switching in and out of the right mode to use it (let alone remembering to bring it) didn't make this a viable option. Also, trees/hills/valleys wreaked havoc on the accuracy of the distance.

Polar – owned at least 4 different versions of this. It is the most accurate in terms of heart rate monitoring. Distance/speed is dependent on a foot pod that approximates to your stride length. What you are giving up in accurate distance you are making up in heart rate accuracy. Moving between the modes on the watch also was challenging without being plugged into a computer.

Suunto – I consider myself above average as being technically competent with new computer hardware and software. But I'll be damned if I could ever figure out how to use this watch. Looked very nice with a business suit or dress clothes but as a user friendly watch, forget about it.

Timex – I like how intuitive the modes and uses of their watch, especially with the five alarms and 100 lap option. But like the Polar, they use a pod that you can strap on your arm or body to give you a distance reading. The pod totally eats batteries like a flood light. So again, your distance going out on you doing a 12 miles run can be a pain.

So, summarizing the above options, what's a runner suppose to do? I think every one of the watches above have strengths and weaknesses that might attract you to using them on your runs. But remember, like a cell phone, no one watch will meet everyone needs.

Currently, I've gone with the semi-cheapest option by having two devices that cover my needs. My Timex Heart Rate Watch takes care of my time/heart rate recording needs (up to ten runs until I have to record the runs and empty the memory). For my distance, I use an iPod Nano with the Nike Plus chip for the shoe for my running, an iPhone (with Nike Plus chip in walking shoes) for my walks/hikes. As I mentioned in my blog earlier, I have to have music/Audiobooks on my runs anyway, so integrating the Nike Plus with the iPod just made sense to me.

So, what do you use? Send me a post; I'm looking to see how other runners deal with keeping track of their runs through time, distance, and heart rate.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

12 Week Plan to a Sub 2:00 Hour Half Marathon

As promised, I am providing a 12 week plan for running a Half Marathon in 2 Hours or less. This 12 week plan assumes that you have built a 21-31 mile base before beginning. As we discussed before, you do not need any more than 30.57 miles to run your best Half Marathon. Any additional miles is just icing on the cake. But your goal is to be consistent in the 21-31 mile range – less when you are running a weekend race and more when your weekend has a long run scheduled.

Now a couple of additional items to go over before you start this program. You must be able to accomplish two things – a distance goal and a speed goal. The distance is easy to determine. Can you run 6 miles in the first week of a 12 week program? Can you run 11 miles in the ninth week of the program? If so, you've met the distance goal.

For the speed portion of the goal, there is a whole different criterion you must meet.

Jeff Galloway, in his 'Marathon' Book, has a simple test to determine how fast you can run a marathon. After warming up, a runner will run their fastest one mile – no to the point of being ready to puke, but at least a speed that puts you out of breath or close to maxing out on your ability to continue running. The runner will then take that time, add two minutes, and multiple it by 26.2 (the distance of the marathon in miles). That total will give you the total time in minutes. Divide that time by 60 and you have the hours and a percentage that you multiple by 60 to get the minutes.

An example to demonstrate this. Say that I follow this test and run a mile, as quick as I can without killing myself and it ends up being a 7 minute mile. I take 7 minutes, add 2 minutes and have 9 minutes. Multiplied by 26.2 and my total is now 235.8 total minutes. Divide 235.8 by 60 and it shows it would take me 3.93 hours to run a marathon. (If I apply .93 hour times 60, my net time would be 55:48, so the time would be 3:55:48 to run the marathon).

This rule can be applied to the speed you need to run to accomplish a 2 hour Half Marathon. But the time needed for that mile run would need to be adjusted because you are running a Half Marathon not a Full Marathon as used in the Galloway example. Don't worry, I'm saved you the trouble of that calculation.

To run a Half Marathon in less than two hours, you will need to run a 7:30 mile. But you will also have to show you can run farther (not at the 7:30 pace) during your training to achieve the speed goal. Your goal will be to run a sub-26 minute 5K race (this is an 8:21 minutes per mile pace). You don't have to do this your first week of race training, but by two weeks before your Half Marathon Race.

To meet the speed goal, you will find a treadmill or track workout that I've included each week. It starts out with ¼ mile repeats at a 1:50 minutes per mile pace (on the treadmill this is the 8.2 speed). That is your goal for the first 4 weeks. The last 8 weeks are ½ mile repeats at a 3:45 minutes per mile pace (on the treadmill the setting is 8.0). Your goal is to warm up for a mile, and then alternately run 1:50 for a ¼ mile followed by walking for 1:50. The number of these repeats are shown on the schedule by each week.

The tempo runs shown on the attached schedule are run at your marathon race pace (9:09 minutes per mile). For these, you run a warm up for 1.5 miles, 4.0 miles at tempo pace, and .5 mile cool down.

Below is the total 12 week plan. Please review and let me know if you have any questions on anything on the schedule that is confusing. For those of you reading this blog on an electronic reader, if the schedule is too condense, please contact me at and I will forward an Excel file for your review.

1/2 Marathon Training Plan to Run a sub-2:00 1/2 Marathon [9:09 minute per mile pace]


Treadmill Workout**


Long Runs/Races




Average Pace









for Saturday


3-4 miles


6 x 1:50 440s [8.2]

3-4 miles

6 Tempo


6-9 Miles

> 10:00 MPM


3-4 miles


6 x 1:50 440s [8.2]

3-4 miles

6 Easy


5K Race [27:00]

8:42 MPM


3-4 miles


6 x 1:50 440s [8.2]

3-4 miles

6 Tempo


7-10 Miles

> 10:00 MPM


3-4 miles


6 x 1:50 440s [8.2]

3-4 miles

6 Easy


5K Race [26:45]

8:37 MPM


3-4 miles


3 x 3:45 880s [8.0]

3-4 miles

6 Tempo


9-11 Miles

> 10:00 MPM


3-4 miles


4 x 3:45 880s [8.0]

3-4 miles

6 Easy


5K Race [26:30]

8:32 MPM


3-4 miles


5 x 3:45 880s [8.0]

3-4 miles

6 Tempo


10-12 Miles

> 9:30 MPM


3-4 miles


6 x 3:45 880s [8.0]

3-4 miles

6 Easy


5K Race [26:15]

8:27 MPM


3-4 miles


7 x 3:45 880s [8.0]

3-4 miles

7 Tempo


11-13 Miles

> 9:30 MPM


3-4 miles


8 x 3:45 880s [8.0]

3-4 miles

7 Easy


5K Race [25:59]

8:21 MPM


3-4 miles


6 x 3:45 880s [8.0]

3-4 miles

7 Tempo


8-10 Miles*

> 10:00 MPM


3-4 miles


4 x 3:45 880s [8.0]

3-4 miles

3-7 Easy*


1/2 Marathon

9:09 MPM


**- For Treamill workout, Warmup for 1 mile at a 9 -10 minute pace, then repeat intervals with 1:50 [or 1/4 mile on treadmill].

-Cool Down with 1/2 mile slow.


*** - Tempos are done at race pace. So '7 Tempo' mean that you will warm up with 1.5 miles, go 4.0 miles at pace (9:09 minutes per mile on average) and with a 1/2 mile cool down. For '* Tempo', the pace distance changes to 5.5 miles.


To Do's


- To run a 2:00 1/2 Marathon, you need to run a 25:59 5K


- A 25:59 5K equals a 8:21 minutes per mile


-To run a 25:59 5K, you need to run a 7:30 mile.


-To run a 7:30 mile, you need to run 1/2 mile repeats @ 3:45.