Monday, April 23, 2012

How many carbohydrates during your long run do you need?

As many readers of my blog know, I have given advice in the area of pre-race loading and how much to eat beforehand. The schools of thought of how much is enough during a long run has varied from runner to runner based on successful long runs or races. Maybe the controversy is over? A reader sent me an article written by Scott Jurek on how to fuel during a long run. Scott should know since he has competed in everything from Half Marathons to 135 mile races. And won most of the ones that involved anything over a marathon distance. So, we have to take seriously anything he has to say about the subject. What I like about his article, is that he doesn’t endorse any jell or supplement, but rather speaks in terms of how many grams a person needs each hour in relationship to his/her weight and distance that they plan to run. He came up with a formula that takes your weight in kilograms (so, your weight in lbs./2.2) and then applies either a factor or 70% or 100% to the result. Can’t be more simple than that. So say you weight 150 lbs., your range would be 48-68 grams of carbohydrate per hour that you need. He says that if you are running 90 minutes to 3 hours, you would stay on the low end of that figure (48 grams in this case) because you would be running closer to your tempo pace than if you were running 3-8 hours. In the case of going beyond the 3 hours, he recommends going with the greater end of the range (68 in the 150 lbs. example). For me this makes sense, as I have often gotten stomach issues if I try to take too much Gu when I’m pushing it hard in the race but it doesn’t seem to be an issue on my slow long runs. I plan to try this on my longer runs and the Half Marathon I’ve got planned for this weekend. Using his calculations, I have been taking less than I need in my runs and races over one hour. In either the runs/races this year, I haven’t had stomach issues, but I guess if I was taking less than I should be, that would make sense. The article showed up last summer in Competitor Online Running Resource == > Since we have a reader than has tried and tested it, I guess it’s my turn (and yours).

Friday, April 20, 2012

Adjustments to the Half Marathon Plan

I wanted to shoot out a note to a number of you that are following my Half Marathon Plan.  My wife, Bonnie, is following it for the Half Marathon at Grandma's, and she asked something that I've also received two emails about.

The question is about the speed workout (shown on Tuesday each week).  Two fold question - does it have to be on Tuesday and does it have to be limited to 400s (1/4 miles)?

The answer to both of these are No.  But I need to qualify that answer.

You can switch doing the speed on Tuesday with any day of the week.  But it's important that you leave a day before and after for an easy or off day.  This is true for the other two workouts - Tempo and the Long Run.

The 400s can also be replaced by doing 600s (.375 mile), 800s (.5 mile), 1000s (.625 mile), 1200s (.75 mile), 1600s (1 mile).  Of course, you would have to slow down your speed to have an equivalent workout distance.  I would suggest slowing down about 6 seconds for each 200 distance you add.  So a 400 @ 8:00 MPM turns into a 8:06 600, 8:12 800, etc.

Lastly, but most importantly, do not exceed the 10% of total mileage rule for speed each week.  If you are running 30 miles, only 3 miles should be done in speed mode.  (20 miles, 2 total miles in speed, etc.)

One last reminder, I do have a heart rate based Half Marathon plan for those of you that aren't trying to break 2 hours in the Half Marathon.  It contains what your heart rate training should be when you train and race.  Again, just an FYI.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Running in Vibrams

Okay, I'll admit, it I got caught up in the 'fad'.

As many of you know, Bonnie did a guest blog where she talked about minimalist running. Some of you told me that you tried it and will never go back. Other shared they were too afraid to try something new when what they were doing was working fine.

But I couldn't help myself. The salesman at REI (Rick) had jumped on the minimalist bandwagon 2 years ago and was totally immersed in the new culture. By the time he finished all the good things he could say about it, I felt bad that I just bought one pair!

So I've been wearing them mostly for my walks and around the house. Every day at least four hours. But Monday, I did something crazy.

I have a 3.5 miler that I do on my 'easy days'. I had done a 2.5 mile walk in the Vibrams on Sunday and on Monday, threw caution to the wind.

[TIME FOR DISCLAIMER: Do Not Attempt The Following Without Proper Guidance From A Professional]

I did my 3.5 Miler in Vibrams. I know, I know, I'm supposed to 'ease' into them. 200 feet on soft grass - Day One, 400 feet on soft grass - Day Two, etc. But I'm old school, in for a penny, in for a pound.

So you're probably wondering how it went. I can report that I actually did my 3.5 miler 50 seconds faster per mile than I normally did. How do I know what normal is? I did it by heart beats per minute. So I just kept it at the same BPM that I run my easy days at (>150 BPM). At first, it was hard picking up the rhythm to run at. The goal, I believe, in this type of running is to NOT heel strike, or as little as possible. So you are landing mid-foot, and for me, that meant on the outside of the mid-foot and slightly rolling in or pronating, and then slightly pushing off the ball of foot and repeating. The reason I believe I was faster than normal is because you do not have wasted movement and are a more efficient runner. It provides a slight bounce to you step if you are not using the heel of your foot, that, when you think of it, is really a break for your movement. All-in-all, a very good experience.

The day after (Tuesday) that's another story. My calves and Achilles were sore. They barked when I went up and down steps. And trying to do a sub 6:00 3/4 mile during my speed workout on Tuesday was something that I had to shake out of my leg. I was able to complete my speed workout but I was still feeling the calves and Achilles from Monday.

Wednesday: I am walking around with the Vibrams, but I did today's easy run in cushioned shoes. I'm not giving up on the Vibrams and I'll tell you why. I believe that they are making my feet and legs stronger. I'm noticing the past two weeks that just wearing them around at non-running events - walking, etc., they force you more toward the ball of your foot. It's not like you can't stand in them, that position is fine, it's when you walk or jog, you find yourself getting used to using more of your mid-foot, which I believe is a good thing.

I think I'm sold on them. If for nothing else, to replace my sandals, Crocs, and old shoes around the house. They give you a better feel of the surface that your feet on walking on.

I'm not saying that I will be running a marathon with them. If you gathered anything from my experience, it would be to take it easier than I did in making the adjustment. But there's more here that I want to experiment with. If my calf muscles continue to recover like they are doing so far, and my theory of them making my feet and legs stronger, I will take this to the next level. At least Monday proved I can do a 5K in them.

For anyone interested in trying them, they are available via Amazon at:

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Strategy for running any race over one hour

I completed the Goldy’s 10 miler this past weekend in Minneapolis and the weather couldn’t have been more perfect. The course was hillier than I remember, but the mind does that sometimes when dealing with difficult courses. I organized and executed a strategy/plan that you can use next time you are running a 10 plus mile race.
Unlike a 5K or 10K, the 10 miler to marathon makes you actually test your endurance. Unless you happen to be reading this from Kenya and can complete that 10 miler in less than an hour. I’ve found than in any race where you need to run in excess of 60 minutes, that you need to learn to pace yourself so that you hold back from a hard sprint so that you make it to the finish line. For 5Ks or 10Ks, you can probably pin your ears back and go. I actually have to do a warm up for those to make sure everything is warmed up and ready to go. Not so for races exceeding one hour.
I broke down the race into thirds. They are not equal distances but rather timed distances where you apply a heart rate zone for. I will share the one I used for the Goldy’s 10 miler and you can adjust it to any distance using this example.
A couple of items to note. I had not run this course before. Sure, I had reviewed it on the map, but the map will not always be accurate with elevations, how tight the turns are, and how accurate the mile markers on the map relate to the actual ones on the course. I knew it was going to be crowded at the beginning (usually is) but I was not sure about the hairpin turns at certain places where the two lane goes into a one lane both ways for the turn. I had run sections of the course for other races, but I had to assume there were unknowns I had to deal with. Also, water stops, water/Gatorade, etc. were all placed at various spots that lend to a certain degree of difficulty.
So what I did, was take my heart rate training and put up a range of how long I would stay in certain zones for certain distances of the race. Since I know that I go from aerobic to anaerobic at 163 beats per minute (BPM), I gave myself 4 miles below 160, 4 miles @ 161-167, and two miles at 168 plus.
Of course if it was a flat course, I could’ve done it by minutes per mile and just use the mile markers but this adds to many variables to consider to be a good strategy. For example, because it is crowded at the beginning, good luck trying to keep an even pace at the start. I was deep into mile 2 before I didn’t have someone directly in front of me. Also, on hills, my pace moved up 30 seconds per mile and the reverse happened on the downhill’s. If I had to use time, it would be a negative thing entering my mind (“OMG, it just took me 9:45 that last mile!”). That was not the case in using heart rate. 160 going up a hill, 160 going down a hill, but of course the speed changed dramatically.
So how did the strategy work? Ran my fastest mile at the last mile. Ideally, that’s what you want. There’s an obvious reason for this: If you can finish strong, it will encourage you for the next race. Sure, later I thought, ‘What if I would’ve started running 168 BPM plus at Mile 7 instead of 8?’. But there are limits to when you step on the gas and go. I know this from past races where I died with a mile or two left in the race. Your ‘all out’ pace cannot be held for more than 20 minutes. Trust me on this one. I’m not talking about doing a 440 dash, but anything longer than a mile will get your lungs burning and legs turning to stone if you try to cut more than a minute per mile pace in your last two miles.
As with everything athletic, it’s all about balance. For running those last 6 miles (which I knew I could do in less than one hour) I knew I had to keep the heart rate close to anaerobic threshold (plus or minus 4 beats per minute). Anything more and I wouldn’t last more than 2 miles (approximately 20 minutes).
But you don’t have to worry about making that mistake, because I just gave you the plan to keep you away from crashing and burning. Try it in your next over hour race and let me know how you do. It’s worked for me (and kept me relatively injury free – knock on wood).

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Fatigue after a Marathon

Read a Runner’s World article about Neuromuscular Fatigue ( last week and really hit home about what I dealt with last year when I ran two marathons in a span of 20 days. The mind-body connection is a tricky one. Your mind can tell your body “If you ran a marathon while taking walking breaks every 5 minutes, just imagine how you will do by taking then at the end of each mile!”

Yeah, but the body knows you already maxed it out by running the first one and being out there for 5 hours. Good luck trying to attempt that again within the next month…

It was a lesson learned, but this article was important because it pointed out the beyond the body, there’s another part of you that needs a rest – your mind. It seems as if the mind prepares for a marathon just like your body does. It logs into your subconscious all of your thoughts, feelings, high points of your training, the low points, and everything in between. Just as your body heals up after a long run, your mind is also recoiling upon itself, storing the confidence that you survived another run and gets you ready to face the next one. After you apply that training (by running the actual marathon) your body AND mind need a rest.

For those of us that have run multiple marathons, this will come as no surprise. In my earlier marathons, I had what I can only term as a post-marathon depression. I’m not claiming that its anything that women go through after the birth of a child, but it was a down time similar to the after Christmas Blues that kids go through about December 27th. You have look forward so long to the big event. You run it and blam – the day of the event never ends, but the days afterwards you get the blues from realizing it came and went. I’ve run bad marathons and good ones, and at least for me, that feeling is pretty close to the same. The actual result doesn’t make the blues any shorter. You just look back at what could have been. If you run a bad one: “Man, if only I had only run slower the first half, I could’ve finished at least 10 minutes sooner”. If you run a good one: “Man, if only I would’ve picked up my pace a little earlier, my time would have been unbelievable.” But th real truth is that you are just blue because your version of a running Christmas just passed.

Of course, the answer to get you out of the post-marathon depression (if any of you are still in it) is to schedule a future goal/race. No, it doesn’t have to be a marathon; it can be any distance race. But as pointed out earlier in the article, your mind needs time to process all of it, just like your body. Remember this next time you plan back-to-back races over the next year.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Running on Hotel Treadmills

Last week on an out-of-town trip, I spent a morning on the hotel (Marriott) treadmill. Why is it that hotels do not invest in good treadmills?

I'm talking about the ones that you can easily find in local gyms or workout facilities.

Anyway, I actually try to get outside when I'm traveling. I find that you can find out more about a city or culture just by doing a 3 miler in or around your hotel. How many runners are you running into? Are there any running paths that are dedicated to runners? Are their sidewalks always crowded? Do they even have sidewalks? (This comes up running suburban areas all the time.) Does the area promote being outside or just enough access to get to public transportation?

It's interesting when I read the billions that they put into public transportation (light rail, subways, commuter train, etc.) but the lack of funds dedicated to a running path that is a thousandth of the cost if we did it in the same location. With all the concern around obesity in the United States, there should be a dedicated effort to get access to these areas. It's one thing to ask everyone to get moving, it's another thing to show it by providing that access.

Anyway, back to my treadmill experience. since I had speed listed on my workout schedule, doing a fast tempo on city streets was not going to work for me. Weather along with location put a damper on that. So I got the Nano going and just warmed up for a one miler and then kicked it into high gear [the fast tempo pace].

I realize that I'm a big runner. Okay, not 20 pounds overweight [although I was not so long ago] but on the high end of what is considered normal for my height. If you were in the pool [in the room next to the workout facility] every time my foot strike landed on that belt, you would think that a 747 was landing in the room next to you. I just turned up the volume on the Nano. But my embarrassing claim to fame cam when I finished 3 miles at this pace and jumped onto the running boards alongside the treadmill belt. Both [yes, both] snapped off like I was trying to catch branches of a Birchwood tree afterr having my parachute not open. Embarassing? You bet. I felt the need to let the desk know. They were kind enough to tell me not to worry about it (but not kind enough to tell me that it happens all the time.)

So I need to adjust my future travel plans to inquire as to where the nearest health club is next time I find myself roaming from home.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday, April 2, 2012

17 Day Diet Book Review

I’ve been asked to tell me ‘secret’ from an earlier blog about how I lost 13 pounds in 13 days ‘safely’. I will share with you how I did it so quickly. It was following a Book written by Dr. Mike Moreno called ‘The 17 Day Diet’.

First, I need to do a little background on why I chose this diet. I had weighed myself in January after an 11-day vacation that included a Caribbean Cruise. I came up about 22 pounds overweight to what is considered ‘normal’ for my height. No, not BMI, but what almost any insurance table or normal would be for a male at 6’ 2”. I knew that running would help me lose it, so I started there.

After about two weeks of losing three pounds total, I realized that I was going to enter the spring still overweight when the road race season began. I also wanted to see if there was a more sensible approach to losing all of this weight, something that would give me a quick weight loss so that I could plan to actually do speed workouts or tempo runs without risk to my legs of injury. After seeing his book reviewed, and comments by runners on how successful they were, I thought ‘Why Not’?

I’m not the kind of person that can stay on any ‘diet’ long. But the suggestions that Dr. Mike (as his patients refer to him as) made a lot of sense to me. He asked for 17 days and after that I could decide if I wanted to, or needed to, continue with the program. His patients had shown results of 10-14 pounds in a 17 day period, so that looked like he could get me back to normal within what I was looking for.

The diet is simple to understand and even simpler to follow. His basic premise is eating high quality protein with a small amount of carbohydrate the first 17 days. As a runner I’m away afraid of low carbohydrate diets. But with the 10-14 pound promise and the fact I was just starting a running plan for a half marathon, I thought this could work. And it did.

The high quality protein diet does help you control your appetite. Not once, after the first two days, did I feel the need to eat more, like I was getting full enough. I did worry at that time that I wouldn’t get the amount of carbohydrate that I needed to continue training but I found that was not the case. That said, I did notice on runs longer than 45 minutes, I would get mini-Charlie Horses in my legs that I never noticed before. Since I was at the start of my Half Marathon training, this didn’t affect more than one or two runs. But I do wonder if runners training for a Full Marathon could’ve stayed on the diet.

I give it high marks on the diet side. I learned some great knowledge on how to win the weight war. Everything he promised in the book, he delivered on. But I do have to point out I was only on it for the first 17 days. He has 3 more 17 day “periods” where you move more and more carbohydrate into your diet. Since I had already got to the weight goal I was hoping to achieve, I just moved back into my diet (except for the fact of staying away from sugars and starches which I learned were probably what caused my weight gain in the first place). I have continued to lose weight at a clip of about 1.5 pounds per week since then, so I am glad for the jump start this diet gave me.

I do have a slight criticism of the book, I don’t think he ‘pushes’ his patients and/or readers into enough activity. For exercise, he recommends a 17 minute walk to go with his 17 Day Diet. I, of course, was training, so I exceeded this recommendation. But I have to assume his book is aimed at non-runners so he is hoping to just get them active. But I think 17 minutes of any exercise is not enough to get anyone to the point of getting ‘in shape’. I believe that most literature has 20 minutes at a minimum for exercise that is beneficial. I’ve also read studies that say that the real fat burning begins at about 15-20 minutes since your body burns carbohydrate in the first 15 minutes. So I think he should’ve pushed that time period beyond 17 minutes to something that would really be beneficial to the patient/reader.

The key learning is this: You can lose weight more by diet than you can by exercise. I realize that I will get some debate about that, but for me, I’ve never lost weight as fast or as for as long as I did by diet. Of course, I realize that running will help me maintain my ideal weight, but it was diet that truly got me back to a normal weight in the quickest time.

For anyone interested in trying ‘The 17 Day Diet’ you can click this link for more information:

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Minimalist Running (Guest Blogger)

Jim asked me to do a bit of journaling about my entry into minimalist running so here goes. I've heard of barefoot running and have had the book "Born to Run" on my Kindle for a couple of years but have never gotten around to reading it. I've got what I consider very sensitive feet and have struggled for years with a Morton's Neuroma and some osteoarthritis in my feet - I definitely didn't think this minimalist movement was for me and, because I've been injury and pain free for a long time (knock on wood), I didn't want to mess with a good thing - after all, I can't even walk to the end of my driveway in bare feet, let alone run! However, the little I had heard seemed to make some sense…

So last Saturday I went into our local REI store to use my dividend and 20% off coupon and was taken aback by the direction REI has taken with their footwear department. Vibram and Merrell are definitely dominating the section and the area was packed with people trying them on. I nudged in to the area to see what I was missing out on and, admittedly, got sucked in. I left REI with a brand new pair of Vibram Seeya's.

I arrived home and sheepishly showed them to Jim - he won a pair a few years ago and after the teasing he got from friends and family the first time he wore them, never put them on again. I then proceeded to read everything I could regarding barefoot and minimalist running. I found many blogs and articles and am thru chapter 4 in the book "Born to Run". (Note that I was talking about the book at dinner last night with my sister Barb and her family and was surprised to hear that my 14 year old nephew, Quinn, is about 1/2 way thru the book and loving it - he's a soccer player so I'm not sure what specifically interested him in the book but I see this as promising to future generations).

Some things I've read that have struck a cord with me are that, indeed, people with sensitive feet like myself are the people that might benefit the most from minimalist running (MR from now on) - I might be one of those folks who have had their feet controlled for so long that their feet have forgotten how to operate on their own and have turned weak and "stupid". Using the theory "if you don't use it, you'll lose it", I've lost what it takes for my feet to function on their own without controlling shoes. It's kind of the same theory regarding doing the "third world squat exercise" (basically doing a full squat with your butt near the ground and feet flat on the floor) - this exercise is difficult for many of us because we've lost those muscles (so important to posture and back/leg strength) because we sit in chairs all our lives.

The other interesting note is that the majority of the people raving and blogging about their successes are NOT the nimble, skinny runners you might imagine (those people that already know they can run in their racing flats all the time and don't notice that there's no cushioning in them). Many of them are larger people with frames more conducive to any other sport than running but have been plagued with bad knees or other leg/foot related injuries. These are the success stories that interest me.

What I've learned so far is something I've found applicable to almost everything in life: just about anything done in moderation is good for you - too much, too soon (or too little, too infrequently) can be catastrophic.

I'll cover my reflections and progress on the first week of my minimalist progression and then try to update weekly. Because I'm not totally sold on barefoot or MR and don't want to mess myself up, I'm completely at ease going into this SLOWLY and progressively. The day I purchased my Vibram's I wore them around the house for about an hour - for the most part, I spent that hour just sitting. I then downloaded the pdf guide from Vibram which contains the recommended progression and some exercises.

I've found the exercises interesting and somewhat frustrating. It's recommended you do 3 sets of 20 reps, about 3-5 times per week. What I find frustrating is that I can't do some of them and really struggled - especially the one where you're supposed to pick up a towel from the floor and transfer it to the other foot - I can't do that once, let alone 20 times! I can pick up the towel using each foot about 6-7 times and that's going to have to be my starting point - I'll work on transferring as I go! My legs were a little tired but for the most part, the exercises are going well. After doing them tonight, I'll have 4 days this week. I've also tried to wear my Vibram's around the house for longer periods of time and ran to the mailbox (our mailbox is actually 2 houses away from us). Yesterday (the 5th day) was the first day that my "medium arches" felt sore. I took the Vibram's off and put my Chaco sandals on - that gave me some arch support but still left my toes unencumbered. The other thing I did was to order some minimalistic shoes to help the transition. I ordered a pair of Brooks purecadence - my thought is that I'll run short distances in those as I transition away from my Asics Gel-Nimbus (with Superfeet pink inserts). That transition may be as far as I get - we'll see what happens and what the next week brings….