"Now if you are going to win any battle you have to do one thing. You have to make the mind run the body. Never let the body tell the mind what to do. The body will always give up. It is always tired in the morning, noon, and night. But the body is never tired if the mind is not tired.”

- George S. Patton, U.S. Army General, 1912 Olympian

Thursday, February 25, 2010

What's In Your Engine?

Meet Mike Wardian. He is a two-time Olympic Trials qualifier in the marathon and three-time U.S. champion in the 100k, 50k and 50-mile trail events and finished 9th overall in the 2008 World 100k Championships. Mike runs marathons and ultra marathons nearly every weekend and wins many of them.

Duncan Larkin at runnow.com recently posted his interview with Mike and it's fascinating to me for a number of reasons.

In response to the question, "How do you do it?" Mike responded with the following: "I don't have a lot of secrets...I don't know if it really helps...I'm experimenting...keep trying new things and figuring out what works...I can't tell..."

Asked about the role his hydration and fueling practices during races plays in his recovery he responds with, "good question, I don't know," and basically goes on to say he drinks water, sometimes takes salt, but really doesn't offer much else.

Finally, Mike is asked about the foods he east before and after races to help his recovery.

"In the past, I’ve not eaten dairy leading up to a race. I’ve tried different things. For the most part, I try to eat like I normally do. I’m a vegetarian so I’m not eating meat and having to worry about stuff trying to be digested, I guess. Everything moves pretty quickly through me."


Call me crazy (or call it a spurious variable if you'd like), but it seems like a key factor to his quick recovery is his diet.

I'm headed to the library on my way home to pick up Running Within and then I'm off for a final 4+ miles prior to Saturday's 8-9 miler.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Rite of Spring 15k/5k -- March 6, 2010

If you're in or around the Willamette Valley, you've got lots of options for races in the next couple of weeks. Everything from a 5k to a half-marathon to a 30k. Personally, I will be running the Rite of Spring 15k at Alton Baker Park in Eugene on March 6th.

If you've never run the park and trails system in Eugene, make it a point to do so. They're perfect. They're flat, they run along both sides of the river and are flanked with acres and acres of developed (and maintained) park land. There are enough bridges across the river and plenty of places to gather for a start/finish line (as well as parking) that runners of all experience and distances can find something to participate in. For these reasons and more, many of the races held in the Eugene area use these trails in some way or another because they are so easy to mark off any desired distance.

I haven't participated in a race since the EWEB Run To Stay Warm half-marathon back in November (also in Eugene), so I'm pretty excited to have a start and finish line, new scenery, official timing and all the other bells and whistles races offer that running by yourself on a lonely highway early on a Saturday morning or on a busy arterial road during rush hour traffic just don't.

The Rite of Spring run is also relatively cheap, at just $15 ($20 if you want a shirt) thru March 5th (an additional $5 on race day). If you're in the area, take a look at this one and maybe I'll see you out there.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Hello, Monday

I wouldn't normally blog about a mundane Monday run, but yesterday was not a mundane Monday run. Let me start by saying I came across a book yesterday called Running Within: a guide to mastering the body-mind-spirit connection for ultimate training and racing. I read the intro and first few pages on Google books before the page feed ended, but immediately went to my local library's website to reserve it (it will be here tomorrow--can't wait to get into it).

From the few pages I did read, I gathered that the author's premise is we all have our physical limits--but most of us perform far below those limits, only at a level we think we are capable of. If we only knew where our actual limits were we would be shocked. The purpose of their writing is to help individual break through those limits on a mental, physical and spiritual level and get closer to achieving what we are actually capable of.

One particular example shared in Chapter One was to choose a time or pace about 7% faster than what you know you can run right now. If it sounds completely unrealistic, then move it back to 6%, or 5%, or whatever level is required before you think to yourself, "maybe." There's a few other exercises the authors take you through to determine a realistic, attainable goal, but the basic idea was to figure out where you want to go.

That's where the Google books link ended, but while I wait for my copy of the book to arrive, I figured what 7% off of my current pace would be. I took 7:45/min as an average pace that I can run at any distance up to about 8 miles right now (my Saturday 8-miler was pretty easy, and done at 7:51). 7% off of a 7:45 pace puts me at 7:12. That immediately caught my eye, because 7:17 is my Boston Marathon Qualifier pace for my age and gender (and works out to be 6% off of my current pace). 6%. Just 6%. That seems within reach, doesn't it?

With that in mind I went out and ran 4.25 miles at a 7:31 pace. It felt good. Up hill, down hill it didn't matter. And the sun was setting. And it was the perfect temperature (just a tad into chilly). And there wasn't a breath of wind. It's not lost on me that 4.25 miles isn't 26.2 miles. Nor is a 7:31 pace a 7:12 or 7:17 pace. But it's a starting point. And as I've seen in my progressively longer Saturday runs, I'm able to maintain a fairly consistent pace regardless of distance.

I'm excited to get my hands on the book and work through the exercises. Maybe improving my pace by 6% is nothing more than breaking through my perceived physical limitations. Why not?
Diet update: I ate nothing but fruit yesterday. I didn't plan on doing this, I just didn't ever get around to eating anything else. My day consisted of a morning an evening smoothie (each consisting of 4 oranges, 4 frozen bananas, 2 regular bananas and two servings of strawberries), 6 bananas throughout the day, and multiple bottles of water. This morning I've finished off another smoothie (same as yesterday plus a green apple) a few more bananas and some water.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Week 5 in Review, Muscle Glycogen and Other Fruity Things

Good week this week. The sunshine finally broke through and, coupled with the unseasonably warm temperatures (apologies to the rest of the country), has made for some good solid runs. My training program suggested I run 3, 4, 3 and 5 miles this week but that just didn't seem like enough.

I'm aware of the problems with adding miles too quickly--this was the reason I rested most of December to let my knees heal--so I didn't intend to run more miles than I originally planned. But I let my body do the talking this week and after runs of 4, 4, 4 and 8 I'm feeling really good. I don't expect to tack on an additional 33% to every week's mileage totals but for this week it was the right thing to do.

My long run today was especially satisfying. I love being the only runner out on the road when it's early, cold and just starting to be light. I ran the same route as last Saturday, with an extra half-mile tacked on to the end (1 mile round trip) and continue to like it. It mimics quite well the Newport course with its small rolling hills, an initial and closing climb and nothing but highway shoulder mile after mile.

For hydration this morning I switched from water to orange juice. 1 orange into the blender and then diluted just a bit with some water. I've been reading a new book lately called Nutrition and Athletic Performance by Dr. Graham (author of The 80/10/10 Diet). In one of the very first chapters he's talking about the importance of simple sugars in the repletion of muscle glycogen.

From Chapter Three: Sugars

Reestablishing blood sugars to normal levels and replenishing muscle glycogen are absolute requirements for efficient and effective recovery...Blood sugar levels respond to the consumption of fruit by rising at a moderate rate. Muscle glycogen supplies are somewhat slower in replenishing themselves, as muscles must rely upon the conversion of blood sugar to muscle glycogen. Muscle glycogen replenishment is accelerated during exercise and at an ever-reducing rate back to normal levels for about 2 hours after exercise is terminated, because the blood is flooded with an enzyme know as, "glycogenase." We produce this enzyme in quantities that double the body's ability to convert blood sugar into muscle glycogen. Thus, if sufficient blood sugar is available, it is possible to replenish muscle glycogen at double the normal rate immediately following exercise...

Still with me? Just a little bit more here:

"If physical exertion is long enough or intense enough to seriously deplete the supply of muscle glycogen, it can take 24 hours or more to bring glycogen levels back to normal. If the window of opportunity to replenish blood sugar and muscle glycogen stores directly following exercise is missed...it can take more than twice as long to recover. Because of this, it is extremely important to supply sufficient fruit sugar before, during and immediately after exercise..."

My thought was, "why wait until I'm out of muscle glycogen to start replenishing it? Why not have a constant drip of blood sugar material so it can be converting and replenishing while I go?" So I went with orange juice this morning and had no problems. I felt really good for the duration of the run actually. And then I came home and had a smoothie made of 5 oranges, 3 frozen bananas, 4 regular bananas and an apple. So good. Rest day tomorrow and then back at it again on Monday. Thinking about entering a 15k in two weeks just to see where I'm at. One more good week of training and I'll be in for sure.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

2/13 Saturday 7-miler

I had three goals for my run today:

1. Start slower
2. Run a faster 2nd half
3. Finish without being tired

That may seem like a waste of a run, but it's something I needed to do today. I've been pushing myself pretty hard the last few weeks and have gotten away with it on my Saturday runs because the distances haven't been too intimidating (6 miles or less to this point). I have no intention or fantasy of being able to run at that pace for 26 miles (plus .2), so I made it my goal today to slow down, find a nice, relaxed rhythm and stay there.

I ran a new route from my house today. An out and back, but out away from town on a county highway. I didn't know what to expect elevation-wise, but it ended up being a really good run. A couple of small to moderate hills in both direction made for some good variety and acres and acres of fields and orchards made for good scenery (external disassociation making a comeback? Perhaps.)

I ran out about 3.6 miles at an 8:12 pace, about 22-30 seconds slower than where I've been, but it was comfortable. I ate half a banana as I turned around and came back in at a 7:54 pace.

I was most pleased at meeting the third goal. As I crossed my finish line I took a quick inventory: Knees felt good, legs felt loose, shoulders were relaxed and breathing was at a normal pace. That tells me I left some miles out there today. Which is fine, I'll get them in the weeks to come. At this point I'm more than content to add miles slowly rather than risk injury by trying to impress the passing cars, my family/friends or the two dogs down the street.

Back at it on Monday. Looking forward to some sunshine next week.

Happy running.

Friday, February 12, 2010

External Disassociation? Perhaps Not

I commented a week or so ago on an ARTICLE at active.com looking at a study done by researchers on mental strategies of non-elite runners in the 1996 London Marathon. You may remember the researchers broke these strategies into four categories: internal and external association, and internal and external disassociation. They looked at these four strategies in relation to when and to what extent non-elite runners hit The Wall.

I've been focusing on this during my runs the last few weeks, wondering what works for me and what doesn't (granted, I haven't run anything long enough to hit any wall yet). Yesterday, I crossed External Disassociation off my list of effective strategies.

I wanted a new route. I've been running the same stretch for weeks and it was getting old. So I planned a new one. Start at my office, run to the bridge, across the river, around the park, back over the other bridge and through another park before returning to my starting point. Should have been a great run Fairly warm, only a slight wind, over the Willamette river twice, through two riverfront parks, nothing to worry about.

Four tough miles later I got back to my car and quickly dismissed that route as a good one. What I didn't take into account was having to be mindful of traffic, wait for two stoplights (that seemed to last FOREVER) and just generally be aware of a whole host of things I don't usually encounter on my normal route (which is still along a fairly busy road, but it's different--I don't fear being clipped by some guy hoping to get to the Taco Bell drive-thru 3 seconds sooner).

I could never get into a groove. I never focused on my breathing. Looking at my Nike+ running graph, my pace was all over the place. And I struggled because of it. I'm sure that there will be some external disassociation thoughts going on over the course of 26.2 miles, but I'll certainly be aware of how much time I'm spending in that world of thinking.

Oh, and the researchers conclusions? External dissociation seems not to lead runners into the trap of hitting The Wall because it somehow puts the body on autopilot more or less, thus keeping a steady pace, anticipating hills, etc. Awesome.

(Additional analysis and application of the study can be found HERE as well).

Bananas: Not Just For Energy

I was reading my daily email from Runnersworld.com today and one of the articles was titled "Outrun The Common Cold." Turns out there's data to support the theory that the body's immune system is boosted after 30-75 minutes of moderate activity. Since most of my runs in my short 8-month running career have been in this range, I took a quick self-inventory to remember when I was last sick. Maybe my wife will correct me, but I can't remember the last time I was sick (pause...going to find some wood). Maybe last winter? I don't really know.

You can read the article HERE but it goes on to talk about defensive strategies to avoid getting sick, particularly after longer workouts. The first suggestion in preventing a dip in immunity is none other than "carbohydrate-rich beverages before, during and after your run."

Hmm...a carb-rich beverage. Like a big banana-based fruit smoothie before my run? Bananas and water during my longer runs? Another big banana-based smoothie when I finish? Yes, yes and yes. I don't want to sound preachy, but I think smoothies are definitely the way to go. Calories? Check. Carbs? Check. Good taste and easy digestion? Check and check. Recovery benefits? Check (You might also check out THIS POST at foodnsport.com for a great discussion about the benefits of fruit in your recovery period. Part 2 of the discussion is HERE. I want to address these discussions in another post, but I think they're appropriate to bring up here as well).

There's a lot out chatter out there that makes trying to be "healthy" seem more complicated than it needs to be. Garbage in, garbage out. Pretty simple. And while one man's garbage may be another's treasure, I'm sticking with my golden-ripe bananas.

Welcome Run Oregon readers

A big thanks to Kelly Johnson at the Run Oregon blog (see the link in the right-hand column) for posting my pre- and post-run fruit smoothie recipe. And a big welcome to those who found this blog through her post. I hope you enjoy.

Happy Running.

(If you don't follow the Run Oregon blog yet, HERE is the link to Kelly's post)

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Take a Look

Here's a blog you may consider following. First-time marathoner and Runners World contributor Ted Spiker is documenting his training for #1.



Friday, February 5, 2010

Turn It On And Turn It Up

After asking about others' playlists last week a few readers asked about my own playlist. Apparently stale playlists are fairly common problem. Perhaps against my better judgment, I give you a glimpse of what's currently loaded in my Shuffle. First, though, a few disclaimers:

1. I don't pay for music. Everything I have is either from CDs that I've acquired/burned (thank you Year 2000, Napster and college dorm T1 Internet lines) or from free download codes from various sites (amazon.com, emusic.com?JUNK! DON?T EVER SIGN UP FOR THE FREE TRIAL, etc)

2. Other than watching 1 season of American Karaoke (which you'll see evidence of in the playlist), I'm not current on what's "hot" these days. I don't listen to the radio, I don't go to concerts, and I don't watch MTV (do they even show music videos anymore?). So my exposure to new music is minimal. And I like it that way. When I do occasionally give the radio a try, I flip through 11 different Portland/Eugene-based stations and then turn back to the sports station.

3. As a result of disclaimer #2, most of my tunes are pre-2003. Sorry, just the way it is.

4. If you don't know who/what the Dude Room is, stay tuned-that day is coming. And it will be a good one. And my playlist will make so much more sense to you.

So with that, here is what's currently playing:

Me Against the World mix
The Anthem - Good Charlotte
Waldorf Worldwide - Good Charlotte
Motivation Proclamation - Good Charlotte
East Coast Anthem - Good Charlotte
Complicated - Good Charlotte
Little Things - Good Charlotte
The Young & The Hopeless - Good Charlotte
Good Charlotte - Good Charlotte
Hearts on Fire - Rock IV soundtrack
War/Fanfare - Rock IV soundtrack
No Easy Way Out - Rock IV soundtrack
Training Montage - Rock IV soundtrack
Sweetest Victory - Rock IV soundtrack
Vindicated - Dashboard Confessional
Hit or Miss - New Found Glory

Let's Jam mix
Don't Look Back - Boston
More Than a Feeling - Boston
Stacy's Mom - Fountains of Wayne
No Surprise - Daughtry
There and Back Again - Daughtry
What I Want - Daughtry
My Name is Jonas - Weezer
Somebody Told Me - The Killers
Running Down a Dream - Tom Petty
Welcome to Paradise - Greenday

On rare occasions (you can read that as maybe once a month?maybe) when nothing else sounds very good I'll turn to my Chick Mix. Typically these songs only come up on runs longer than 10 miles, when I need something to break things up a bit before returning to a Podrunner mix to finish out the run.

Chick Mix
Various Titles - Carrie Underwood
The Climb - Miley Cyrus
Bring Me to Life - Evanescence
One or two, can't remember the names - Taylor Swift

Podrunner: a relentless robotic musical running partner

Meet DJ Steve.

DJ Steve has carried me through more difficult runs than he knows over the last few months. If you're unfamiliar with DJ Steve's mixes, you can find them HERE or HERE or on itunes. And they're FREE. Whatever your pace, he's got a mix for you. I've tried a number of different mixes and have currently have three locked and loaded.

These mixes are great for me. They're approximately an hour long each and they maintain the same beat pace throughout. This is extremely helpful if I'm focusing (of having difficulty focusing) on a pace through part or all of a run. Some are a little boring and others have a few minutes here and there that I skip over but there's no way to tell in advance. It's more trial and error than anything else. If you don't like how a particular mix is sounding in the first 5, 10, or 20 minutes, just skip forward, maybe there's something there. Here?s what I currently have downloaded:

175bpm - Beattitude - I've had this mix loaded since last fall. It's my fallback mix. If I need a pick-me-up or if I find my pace wandering all over the place, I'll switch to this mix and go for a while. I skip over about 5 minutes in the middle and never listen to the last 5 minutes or so, but the other 45 minutes are great.

173bpm - Among the Titans - This is DJ Steve's most recent mix and I haven't gotten all the way through it yet. The first 15 minutes are a little dull, but by the 25-minute mark you?re ready to run through a wall.

173bpm - Pococurante - I started using this mix two weeks ago because I needed something slightly less intense than the 175bpm Beattitude mix. This becomes more of a warm-up mix, and I anticipate using something like this for the first 6-7 miles of the actual marathon. I'm amazed at the difference between 173bpm and 175bpm. 173bpm is pretty comfortable and doesn?t seem to take too much effort. 175bpm is right at the threshold of what I can do though and works me pretty well.

Monday, February 1, 2010

To My Solemate...

Dear Solemate,

There's no easy way to say this, but you've been replaced. We've been together 10 years now, and it's been a good run. You followed me to the dusty deserts of Arizona, carried me through the bitter cold of Utah and did what you could to support me during the rainy Willamette Valley winters. For all of these things I thank you. But it's just not the same as it once was.

You don't give me all that I want and need anymore. It's mostly your lack of support. It's just not there. To be honest, it hasn't been there for years. And it's hurt me time after time and I just can't take it anymore. I can't afford to be hurt again. Not now. I hate to be "That Guy," but itn's not you, it's me.

It's not not just your lack of support though. I know there are things we could do to fix that. It's more that that. Frankly it's, well, your appearance. I mean, look at you. You're withered and dirty and way past the point where a little soap and water will make any difference. The truth may hurt but I need to say it: I'm embarassed to be seen in public with you.

So this is it I guess. There's no use in trying to talk me out of this decision. I've moved on. And you will too. Actually, I think you two should meet before you go though. I think you'd be able to understand why I have to do this. It will be better for all of us.

All the best,