"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

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Effect of 3"

I like numbers. Please allow me to put on my math geek hat for a moment.

I've been thinking about the importance of stretching recently. I don't do a lot of it, but the more I read of and about elite runners, they all swear by it. I don't remember where I saw it, but I was reading recently about the benefits of stretching and becoming more flexible and how being able to lengthen each step by just 3" would have significant effects on your race. So that got me thinking (and calculating). Here's what I found:

Let's start with a premise of 3.35 feet in distance for every step.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Inspired By The Inspired

My wife ran her first 5k on Saturday. She was convinced she was going to run a mile or so and then walk the rest of the way. A funny thing happened though, she saw people in front of her and was determined to keep up with them. And she did. I should also mention that she organized and hosted this race. It was a little family fun run starting at our church and winding through the neighborhood. A good time for all. Except for me maybe. My heart rate hadn't even come down yet from my 15-miler before I ran (literally) from my house to the church (longest .2 miles EVER) to babysit 8 kids under the age of 7 while their parents ran. I survived. Barely (the kids, not the run).

Friday, March 26, 2010

Sweet Dreams

I am a morning person. I always have been. I don't need alarm clocks, coffee, a splash of cold water or anything else to get me out of bed. I've been able to do this for as long as I can remember. My earliest memories include watching ESPN at 5am as a 4-year old (other kids grew up watching cartoons - I grew up watching sports highlights and classic college basketball games). I have siblings that can sleep past noon and wouldn't wake up if the house was being bulldozed. That's not me. It doesn't matter how late I got to bed, I'm up early. Call it a blessing or a curse, but that's the way it is.

This can make getting extra sleep difficult. If I want 10 hours, I had better be in bed by 8pm. Not always easy to do, especially with kids. However, as I've reflected on and reread Dr. Graham's chapter on sleep in his book Nutrition and Athletic Performance, I feel like I need to figure out ways to get more of it.

4500 Calories Of Goodness

I wanted to get an update on my diet posted, now that I'm right a the halfway point of my 21-week training program. Towards the end of January I made the decision (with the...um...help...of my wife) to eat more fruit. I decided and was determined to eat 10 pieces each day before consuming anything else (water excluded, of course). It was different at first for sure, and I had to count each piece to make sure I was really getting to 10. Then I discovered the Smoothie and my fruit intake took off. Now, two months later, I don't even think about how many pieces of fruit I'm eating every day. Without any effort at all, its a minimum of 25-30 pieces. There may be questions about how I got to this point, do I consume enough calories for my level of activity, etc. So here is a breakdown of a typical weekday (times are approximate):
  • 6-7am: 20oz of water to start the day
  • 8am: Smoothie consisting of 5 oranges, 3 regular bananas, 3 frozen bananas, 1 apple, 9 frozen strawberries (2 servings). This ends up being close to 64oz and I consume it in about 10-15 minutes
  • 10am-2pm: Bananas throughout the day at work, whenever I feel like I want something to eat. Typically I'll eat anywhere from 4-7 (for our purposes here, let's say 6).
  • 4pm: Smoothie consisting of many of the same things as the morning smoothie, but perhaps with some ginger or romaine lettuce leafs thrown in, and maybe a pear instead of an apple (or if fresh pineapple is on sale like it is this week, some of that). I drink this either when I get home from work or after my run, depending on the day.
  • 6pm: Dinner consists of various options: farm fresh eggs (usually 5 or so), a large plate of millet, 12-14oz of whole wheat pasta, or homemade taco salad (no meat or dairy). Regardless of entree choice, I usually have a combo of green onions, dehydrated red bell peppers, tomatoes (looking forward to an near unlimited supply come summer-time) or other toppings. Some days I may just make another smoothie in the evening.
It goes without saying, but I have a bottle of water nearby throughout the day as well. I don't know how much I drink, but it's enough that I rarely ever feel thirsty.

So here's the caloric breakdown of my fruit intake for the day according to NutritionData (I don't count calories because I don't care, but if you're wondering...)
  • 1 large banana: 121cal (x18/day = 2178cal)
  • 1 orange: 69cal (x10/day = 690 cal)
  • 1 apple: 65cal (x2/day = 130 cal)
  • 1 large strawberry: 6cal (x18/day = 108cal)
So I'm consuming approximately 3100 calories of fruit before I even get to dinner, which can easily be in the 1300-1600 range. So call it 4500 calories a day.

Holy cow! I'm sure some of you are saying. That's a lot. If you're looking at the number, perhaps. But what's behind the number? Or maybe a better question, what ISN'T behind the number? Fats. Oils. Refined sugars. Additives and preservatives. Processed junk. For those looking to have the calories vs. weight gain/loss debate, it'll have to be another day. And another blog. Frankly, it's a flawed discussion anyway because you can get to 4500 calories in many different ways.

Consider this: Research shows that a random mix of fruits will provide almost the same percentage of protein as mother's milk. Don't let that gross you out but instead focus on it nutritionally. Also, fruits provide the highest percentage of vitamins and the second highest percentage of minerals (behind vegetables) per calorie consumed.

I consume 4500 calories a day and never feel so full that I couldn't lace up my shoes and get out for a nice 5-miler. Yesterday, in fact, I had my afternoon smoothie about 30 minutes prior to my run and ran a 7:31 pace over 4 miles. Take a step to improve your diet. Cut something out. Put something in. Maybe try eating only fruit before Noon (as a starting point). I'm two months into this "diet," and its doesn't feel awkward or unnatural. It's just how I eat now. And I can tell it's made a difference in how I feel, how I perform and how I recover.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Rain, Rain....Maybe You Should Stay?!?

I'm filing this under "be careful what you wish for." As I was running (and sweating) through a beautiful 70 degree afternoon on Wednesday, I had that following thought at about mile 3: "It's been a while since I've had to run in really nasty weather. It'd be interesting to run in something like that tomorrow, after running in such great weather today...just to get a good comparison. "

Thursday greeted me with 20-30 mph winds. And about Noon the rain started. And it didn't stop. By the time I got on the road after shoveling 3 yards of dirt into my garden (also in the rain and wind), things were by definition, nasty. I don't know what it is about the rain, but I like it--except for being pelted in the face with raindrops that feel like BBs. Once I get going, and I'm already soaking wet, there's not much to not like about it. I feel like I accomplished something as I walk back into the house dripping wet. Maybe it takes my mind off of things and allows me just to run (external disassociation anyone?). Whatever it does for me, I ran a 7:31 pace for four miles, improving upon my 5.5 mile, 7:36 pace the day before.

In other news, I've had more issues with my Ipod Shuffle this week than I'd care to mention. As noted, the dumb thing died as I was walking out the door for a 13-miler last Saturday. It was partly my fault, the On/Off button was sort of in the middle, but isn't there a default shutoff if it's inactive for a certain amount of time? Fortunately, this is an easy problem to fix.

A more annoying problem is an issue with my earbuds. The right ear bud just stopped working. Earphones rank right near the top as one of the most annoying things for me to have to purchase. It's not really anything I need, but it's much nicer to have a pair that works. Sure, I can buy a cheap Walmart pair, but I know exactly what I'm getting and I fully expect to be back in the store within a month. On the other end of the spectrum, I can buy a pair that has the word Bose on them and pay upwards of $90. And then there's this...for $319. Is it worth the risk though? Do they come with lifetime warranties? Can they survive a trip through the washing machine? Can they be chewed on by an 18-month old? I don't see this sort of information in any of the reviews.

So this is my dilemma for this week. I do have a pair of the generic Ipod earphones. They feel really good in my ears. Picking up two rocks on the side of the road and using them as earplugs would feel just as great. I'll search around and let you know what I find.

Maybe it's best to go without music for a few days. Wouldn't want to be deaf to friendly dogs.

On a completely separate note, check out the Top 100 Running Sites link to the right. There's a variety of different sites and some of them are really good, depending on what you're looking for. This site was #15 on the list as of this morning. Thanks for your support.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Coming Clean

It's time to come clean. A few of my Facebook friends have noticed that I recently became a "Fan" of the Rock 'n' Roll Seattle Marathon and Half-Marathon and have inquired as to how they should read that. You can read it like this: I'm going to run the Rock 'n' Roll Seattle Marathon. Not the half-marathon, the full one. On June 26th. 21 days after the Newport Marathon.

Various people have asked what races I'm training for. I don't lie to them. I tell them about Newport and Seattle. It's interesting to see their reactions. They fall into four distinct groups:

1. The "I'm worried about your health" group. This group is led by the middle-aged lady at church who is genuinely concerned about my health. After all, her middle-aged female friend tried to run two marathons within a short time frame and her doctor really feared for her health. Noted. And thank you for your concern.

2. The "You're absolutely insane for wanting to run one, much less two, marathons" group. This group is filled mostly with non-runners who I figure are trying to be witty with their responses or are looking to hold a conversation and know that I happen to like running.

3. The "Good luck Skippy, you don't have any idea what you're getting yourself into" group. Perhaps not, but your reaction is priceless. It it typically manifested by words such as "wow" or "oh" or my personal favorite to-date, "well that's a nice goal." Jenny, at Roadrunner sports falls into this category, as do certain family members.

4. The "I'm not going to say anything even though you know what I'm thinking anyway" group. This is the group most people tend to fall into. No worries, you don't need to say anything. I'm mentally placing you into one of the first three groups.

The rare 5th group is the "That's awesome" category. This is reserved for people who are truly excited for me-- for the journey I've started on, the progress I've made and what it will feel like to accomplish my goals. My wife falls into this category, thankfully, as do a few select others.

I trust my training schedule. I trust my diet. I trust my body's recovery processes. I trust my mental preparations. I'm not looking past Newport -- I'll focus on and take each race separately -- but my goal has shifted from "running a marathon" to being a "marathon runner."

So think what you want. Let me know what group you want to be in. I'll be sure to mentally note it. But I'm going to do it. Two marathons in three weeks. And when I cross the finish line in Seattle, I'll be looking for a third to run before September 5th (90 days)...if I haven't found one before that.

Happy running.

Why Did It Take This Long?

I've had some pain in my lower legs for the past month or so. Nothing hurts when I run, but afterwards it's so tender that I can't even touch it. I started to get concerned about it around the beginning of March and it just hasn't gotten any better. After quite a bit of research from a number of different sources, it would appear as though I'm suffering from medial tibial stress syndrome, or shin splints. General causes include overpronation (check), worn out shoes (check, sadly), running on roads (check) and being female (so mark it down as 3 out of 4). Shoes are a weird thing. I get attached to my shoes. And I couldn't bear the thought that after only eight months I was in need of a new pair. So what if they had almost 600 miles on them, it's only been eight months!

My legs were killing me though, so I eventually gave in and went my nearest Roadrunner Sports to meet with Jenny, who has helped my dad find numerous pairs of shoes over the last little while. Jenny ran me (literally, even though I was in slacks, dress shirt and tie) through a series of diagnostics, looking at my weight distribution, landing patterns, arch measurements, foot flexibility and shape and and a few other measurements she needed to recommend a decent pair of shoes. She brought out three pairs, had me run on a treadmill in each of them, asked me which one felt the best (they all do, they're brand new shoes), and then offered some orthotics to help my arch support, which was lacking a little bit in my right foot. I ended up going with the Adidas Supernova Glide 2 model.

I've always wondered if paying the prices at these specialty stores was worth it. Were they really telling me anything earth-shattering? Why can't I just go buy a pair of shoes at an outlet store or online somewhere? Where's the value-added service? I was skeptical, but bought the shoes and the orthotics anyway (holy cow those things are expensive!). Jenny assured me that everything had a 60-day no-questions-asked return policy on them, which seemed decent. I will be very skeptical over the next 60 days. If my feet don't feel any better, I thought, they're going back.

Whatever commission Jenny is making is worth it. After just three runs the pain in my legs isn't gone, but its nothing like it was a week ago. Hopefully it will continue to improve. The recommended treatment for MTSS is 4-6 weeks of rest. And that is definitely not going to happen. If you are looking at getting a new pair of shoes, go find your nearest Roadrunner Sports. The equipment they use to do their diagnostic work is kind of cool. And then if you want to be a complete jerk, you can always take the info they give you and go buy one of the pairs they recommend online.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Rottweilers, more 4-letter words and a new PR...all in one day

March is one of the better months of the year in my opinion. The NCAA tournament is the most perfect postseason in all of sports, NBA playoff races are heating up, there are zero NFL or MLB games to speak of (Note to ESPN: You can read that as a plea to not show me Mel Kiper's face every morning) and the sun is starting to shine more regularly. On Wednesday last week I was even slightly...get ready for it...warm. Happy day. One of the runners I follow closely has had terrible weather where he is in the east, but has persevered through blizzards, wind and all things cold as he has prepped for his first marathon of the year. Kudos to him. His descriptions of the weather in his area cause me to keep my complaining to a minimum.

I set out to run a 13.1 half-marathon distance for my most recent Saturday long run. My feet were wrapped in my new shoes, a handful of dates was tucked into my race belt and my music was cued up. And then I walked out the door and my Ipod died. Two hours on a Saturday is a precious thing around my house, especially to my wife, so rather than wait for my Ipod to charge, I gave it a lecture on responsibility and threw it on the counter. I hadn't run without music in a while so I wasn't sure if it was going to be the most boring 13 miles of my life or not. About 5 1/2 miles later, I was glad.

The route I've been running on Saturdays takes me out of town on a two-lane highway into the farmland of the Willamette Valley. It's beautiful. I get a great view of Mt. Hood to the east, the coastal range to the west and nothing but green fields in between. There are a few houses along the way, mostly set back from the road. I've seen a variety of different animals along the way - horses, cows, a few cats, chickens (there were two standing on the side of the road this week -- I thought maybe I was going to be able to definitively answer the age-old question about why they would cross. Unfortunately they just stood there). It's not uncommon to hear dogs barking. I never see them though, they're always behind a fence somewhere and I pay little attention to them.

I was cruising along, 5 1/2 miles in, feel really good about things, when I heard a dog bark. I instantly knew it was a large dog by the sound. But as the barking continued, I could also tell it was getting closer. As I glanced over my shoulder I saw a huge black rottweiler tearing across the grass towards me, probably about 50 yards away. The words flying through my head are neither speakable nor printable, but needless to say my pace increased significantly. The dog closed the distance quickly and with about 10 yards of separation between us and me looking for anything to defend myself with I passed a metal post on the side of the road. I glanced over my shoulder again and found the dog slamming on its breaks at this post. With the adrenaline pumping I wasn't sure what do to -- should I turn my back on it and keep sprinting? Turn around and face it while walking away slowly? I opted for the former and made great time for a few minutes.

I finished my run in 1:41:53, which is 7 full minutes below my half-marathon distance PR. Like last week, I felt good all the way to the end and felt like I could have kept going. I have to keep telling myself that it's a process though. I have a schedule. I put my trust in it. I want to walk to the starting line in Newport on June 5th knowing I've done what I need to do to be successful. And though I deviate from my schedule a little bit (adding fractions of miles during the weekday runs and a mile or so on Saturdays) Saturday was not the day to run 26.2 miles. I pleased that I finished at a 7:45 pace and wasn't winded, overly-tired or, on this day, mauled.

One issue that did arise is hunger. I had a few dates along the way, but at about 90 minutes in I started to really get hungry. I'm going to explore this more in the coming days, but my goals for the next few long runs are to try to replicate what I've been doing while at the same time getting some additional food in me to keep me from feeling hungry.

All in all another good week of training. I'm please how my body is responding as I start to enter the longer runs of my training. I continue to work hard at keeping my diet clean, my mind sharp, my thoughts positive and body rested.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Rite of Spring 15k Recap

I wrote a recap of the Rite of Spring 15k yesterday and nearly put myself to sleep re-reading it. So I'm going a different route today. A Rite of Spring Top 10. I don't know if these are necessarily the "Top Ten" things about the race, but hopefully it will give you an idea about what went on.

10- Score, out of 10, given to the following: the weather, the course, registration/packet pick-up and cost of the event. The only thing preventing a perfect score was the post-race spread (keep reading).

9- Number of weeks since my last race (2010 First Run 5k) -- that's 9 LONG weeks and 150 miles running the same local routes. New scenery was nice.

8- Pace, in minutes, for the 9.3 mile distance. A little slower than I would have preferred, but a pace I can run lots and lots of miles at -- so a pace I can live with. For now.

7- Number of University of Oregon sorority girls who greeted each participant as they approached the registration/packet pick-up tables.

6- Estimated age, in months, of the baby the 20-something gal I thought I could pace with after two miles but didn't stand a chance against was holding at the finish line (she placed 2nd overall in the women's division at a 7:30 pace).

5- Number of degrees the temperature dropped from the time I left my house at 7:30am (44) to the time the race started at 9am (39).

4- Number of miles it took before I felt comfortable, afterwhich I felt great.

3- Score, out of 10, given to the post-race food spread. Chocolate chip and frosted gingerbread (I think) cookies, plain bagels, bananas and slightly ill-tasting water? I had to check twice to make sure I wasn't taking dessert from a 4-year old's birthday party.

2- Number of finishers in the Male 65-69 category who passed me in the 7th mile and finished about a minute ahead of me. Also the number of lessons learned from these two "experienced" runners: 1) take advantage of small slopes and run faster through them rather than trying to run a constant pace regardless of terrain and 2) it doesn't matter how creaky you look before or after a race, it's how you look between the start and finish lines that counts.

1- Number of runners participants seen gripping a venti-sized Starbucks drink along the 5k course. I'm sure the race organizers thank you for supporting their cause. Also the place I finished in my age/gender division (out of....get ready...1).

Eclectic Edge Racing took care of the race management responsibilities and did a great job. Proceeds from the race went to support the Fanconi Anemia Research Fund, based in Eugene, OR.