"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

Monday, November 28, 2011

2011 Year in Review

Finishing Pocatello

2011 At-a-Glance:
6 marathons (1 PR)
2 half marathons (1 PR)
2 10ks
1 5k (1 PR)
1 Friends & Family Turkey-Trot (1st place)
256 race miles
1251 total miles (as of Nov 28th) and counting
My first triathlon
Marathon Maniac status (bronze level, later promoted to silver)
Learned to swim 
It was full year of training and racing, with the first marathon coming the first weekend in March and the last race on Thanksgiving day. I'm ready for a little break through the holidays and with that, a chance to reflect on what I've accomplished, what my next challenges are and what I can do in 2012 to reach them.
Most Satisfying: Staying (running-)injury-free the entire year. Multiple marathons and other races weeks apart, the training in between, no more than a day or two of rest and recovery afterwards and no injuries this year. There's a difference between sickness, pain and injury. If you've got the first, you need to be smart (see Exhibit A from October). If you've got the latter you need to stop. If you've got the remaining one you need to suck it up. There was plenty of pain this year (post-Red Rock Canyon marathon comes to mind quickly), but no injuries.There was one week back in April where everyone from my parents to the surgeon thought I had a hernia that needed fixing, but that was from overdoing it during a spin class session(see also HERE, and HERE). I attribute this to another full year eating healthy, getting enough sleep and taking regular rest days at the same time every week (Sunday and Monday, light on Friday). I can still eat even healthier, but I've come along way since January 2010 when I first started making fresh fruit a regular part of my diet.
Best Race Medal: St. George Marathon. Made of sandstone, each of the 7000+ medals were unique. Newport comes in a close 2nd for its unique glass medal.

With Scott Jurek
Most Unexpected: Meeting Scott Jurek at the Seattle Rock 'n' Roll expo. Nicest guy ever.
Me, A, M after St George
Most Enjoyable: Hanging out with my buddy A, and his wife M at the St. George marathon. It was their first marathon and experiencing it with them was awesome. From driving the course the day before (M: "How far have we driven?" A: "About halfway." M: "Only half?!?") to the hanging out at the expo/pasta dinner, to the early morning bus ride, to killing time in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night for a few hours pre-race, to running the first half mile or so all together and then finally to see them cross the finish line together and (after some time) experience the awesomeness that is the feeling of finishing your first marathon. And then to get a phone call the following Monday morning that began with "I can't even walk down the stairs in my house I'm so sore today, so why do I have the urge to sign up and run another one?" He's been bitten (M, not so much).
Tri For Life Triathlon
Most Difficult: Without a doubt, learning to swim. Running was difficult at first too. But there was never any chance of drowning while running. Learning to swim was extremely frustrating and in the days leading up to my first triathlon, a 500 meter swim was about the most awful thing I could think of. And it didn't go all that smoothly on race day either. I didn't swim again until just a few weeks ago, and it was still just as awful as I remembered it. But something happened as I started showing up to the YMCA pre-6am every single day: it got easier. I started swimming 1000 yards every morning. And then on Day 7: a mile. In 44 minutes. Without a struggle. Now I'm swimming a mile a couple of times a week and combining 500 or 1000 yard swims with 5k runs on other days. 
Autumn Leaves 50 miler
Most Questionable: No question about it, the Autumn Leaves 50-miler. When your parents openly question if you can and/or should TRY it, even during the week leading up to the race you start to wonder a little bit if you should. When your wife half-jokingly (give or take a few % points) asks about the value of your life insurance policies and is satisfied with the answer you wonder if you're crazy. And in a quite moment at the starting line, when you're asking yourself "What. Am. I. Doing?" you try to answer the question. But you don't have time to, because the gun goes off and you do the only thing you can do at that point: you run.
Business Left Undone: A sub-4 hour marathon. I've got to get there. 4:07 in Seattle in June and 4:08 in Pocatello in September was as close as I got. In both of those races I was tracking sub-4 until miles 21 and 22, respectively.
Goals for 2012:
1. Sub-4 hour marathon. Stays on the list until it's accomplished.
2. Olympic-distance open-water triathlon.
I may have a few posts here and there in the coming weeks, but probably not too much. There may even be a redesign of this site if I get around to it. But I'll be back at it regularly in January, ready to hit the training hard for what I hope is another great year. If you don't want to miss any posts, be sure to subscribe via email in the box on the left side of the page or become a Google follower. Thanks for reading and staying in touch in whatever way you do (even if it's just stopping in every so often to read). Your support and encouragement means a lot.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Efficient Digestion

Here's a quick, 2 1/2 minute video of Tim VanOrden talking about efficient digestion. I don't eat as clean a diet as he does, but his emphasis on the benefits of eating foods that digest quickly and easily (think: fresh fruit) is spot on. He's a great speaker, also. Very easy to follow and understand. I would add that the same could be said about sleeping with a stomach full of hard to digest food: more energy is diverted away from the body repairing itself and directed towards breaking down and digesting whatever it was you stuffed yourself with before bed.

Friday, November 11, 2011

2011 Autumn Leaves 50 Miler: Nutrition & Refueling

Before it gets to be too far down the road I wanted to make sure I said a few words about my nutrition and refueling strategy during my recent 50 miler. You can read about my concerns prior to the race here, but basically it came down to two things:

1. Quite often I cramp in the final few miles of a marathon. Electrolyte depletion? Imbalance of nutrients?

2. How do I continue to replenish my energy stores after 20 miles and while continuing to run?

I wasn't sure what I would eat during the race, but figured I would just go with what my body was craving, particularly in the later miles. If you've followed this blog for any significant period of time you know I'm a huge proponent of a fruit predominant diet. I start every day with a half gallon of 100% frozen fruit smoothie goodness (oranges, bananas, strawberries) and try to eat fruit only (not including water) until dinner each day. Some days I do better than others, but I always start with a smoothie.

Running past the aid stations for the first few times I have to say, I was impressed. Heed, water, oranges, candy corn, bite-sized candy bars, gummy bears, pretzel/peanut butter bites, turkey and cheese sandwich bites, pb&j bites, and probably other things that I'm forgetting. It was quite the spread. Almost too much. I didn't know how hungry I would be as the day wore on and the sight of all the yummy, sugary goodness was actually a little frightening. I typically don't eat candy. Not because I don't like it, but because it feels like sludge in my stomach when I try to run on it.

As far as liquids go, I decided prior to the race that I would drink only Heed and no water. Scientifically correct or not, my thinking was that if I was going to need constant electrolyte replenishment during the day, that I had better start from the very first lap. From what I know about water, it dilutes things. So heed it was. (In the later laps I started mixing a Nuun Electrolyte tablet with the Heed in my water bottle, hoping it wasn't like mixing drugs). I also consumed 50z of EFS Liquid Shot after laps 1 and 2. I had more of this in my bag, but I just wasn't feeling it, so I left it alone.

Aid stations consisted mostly of orange bites. Lots and lots of orange bites. They tasted so good and I just kept craving them, so I just kept eating them every time I passed a station. Once I took a few gummy bears but couldn't swallow them (not sure why). Tried the pretzel/peanut butter bites once. Not bad, but left a bad taste in my mouth. After lap 4 I took about one half of a pb&j sandwich. It really tasted good. It sure didn't feel good 20 minutes down the road though, so no more of that. Other than that, it was orange bites, Heed and Nuun tablets all day.

No cramping.

No bonking.

My Garmin watch says I burned just over 6,500 calories during my run. That doesn't include calories burned just by existing the rest of the day. I don't know how many of those calories were replaced during the run, but I'm guessing not many. I don't know how many calories Heed has per 10oz, but I know how many an orange has and its not much, even with the number of oranges I consumed during the day.

Also interesting to me was the fact that post-race I never experienced the "I need a buffet NOW!" appetite that I often feel after a marathon. I waited for it, but it never came. The evening of the race I had a medium-sized plate of pasta, and then Sunday afternoon after church I had a 48oz smoothie. Another small plate of pasta Sunday night and that was it for the weekend. Monday came and I was back to normal.

I really was impressed by the Heed. It felt good in my stomach and I really felt like it was the difference in continuing all day without problems. That and refraining from the candy offered every few miles and sticking with the fresh fruit. Maybe that doesn't work for everyone, but for me, it was a winning combination.

This is kind of scattered-brained. I'm two weeks removed from race-day now and some of the details I wanted to include are starting to fade a bit. But I wanted to make the point that good nutrition really does matter. I'm not sure if things would have turned out the same if I had spent the day pounding down Butterfingers, candy corn, gummy bears and sandwiches.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Psychology of the Final Mile

For the first 7 3/4 laps (48.44 miles) during my Autumn Leaves 50 mile race last Saturday I was completely locked in on only one thing: the lap I was on. That was my goal prior to the race, to focus only on the lap at hand and not to worry about anything else that had happened before or that still awaited me. For more than 10 hours I accomplished this goal, despite numerous opportunities to stray from it. A few quick examples:

Lap 1 was slower than I had projected. If this had been a marathon or another shorter distance race, running an early segment too slow would have mentally thrown me into a state of negativity ("it's just not my day") or into one in which I would try to make it all back up as quickly as possible and and up flaming out later in the race as a result. On Saturday I didn't care that my first lap was slow. I finished the lap, put it behind me, reset myself and started a new lap.

In a marathon, Lap 4 (miles 18.75-25) is where I would normally start to be extremely fatigued, walk more than I should, not want to start running again and quite often start to cramp. During the race though, it wasn't miles 18.75-25, it was simply Lap 4. Nothing more. This was actually my strongest and fastest lap of the entire day.

After completing Lap 6 and meeting my friend K at the aid station I looked at my overall time for the first time all day. I had been going for more than 7 hours. Just looking at that had the potential for disaster, much like the feeling you might get when swimming out into the ocean or a lake and not realizing how far out you are until you turn around. I could have panicked. But I reset myself again, as I had done a half dozen times already that day and started in to a new lap.

I was in a great rhythm all day and my running pace was remarkably consistent from start to finish (though my walking/recovery pace did slow in later laps).

So why then was the last 1.5 miles of the race so much more difficult? What changed?

As best as I can tell, two things happened.

1. I thought about how far I had come. 48.5 miles. Never had I run more than 26.2 miles at one time or 29 miles in one day. I was way out into that lake I mentioned.

2. I thought about how close (relatively) I was to the finish. Not the finish of the lap, but the finish of the race.

These two thoughts caused an almost instant change in my mentality. Instead of the confident, consistent pace I had been running all day, I was now in a struggle to keep moving. It's like I allowed my body to overcome my mind as it realized what it had done and it (my body) fought back by saying, "well if I've done all that, then I'm supposed to be exhausted and sore." And so I was. This was the battle I fought during the final 1/4 lap of the race.

As I wrote in my race recap though, I got to a point just about 1/4 mile from the end where I asked myself, "What do you have left?" At that point my mind took back control over my body and I sprinted to the finish line.

The quote from George S. Patton at the top of this site has been a fixture since I started running and writing here. Read it again now, given the context I've just laid out:

"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."

I thought I knew what he meant by that. Now I know.

72 -- The # of Recovery Hours For 50 Miles

There was a point during my 50 mile run on Saturday that both time and distance felt like they had stopped. It was at 8 1/2 hours and more than 43 miles into the race, when I first noticed it, when it felt like I had run no further and had been out there no longer than during a marathon. I can't explain it. My recovery has been much the same as after a marathon also.
Saturday night was pretty awful. My knees were pretty swollen (I couldn't make out my knee caps anymore) and there was some pretty intense pain up and down my legs. Nothing sharp or acute, just dull and achy. It made it difficult to fall asleep because I couldn't ever get comfortable. At some point I fell asleep out of exhaustion and when I woke up Sunday morning, I was sore, but not like I had been.
I was moving pretty gingerly on Monday as well, but I took the stairs up to my office (my barometer of how my muscles are feeling on any given day) and felt decent. Once I got moving I was alright. It was the sitting and then starting to move that was most painful.
And then I awoke yesterday (Tuesday) and there was no pain. No muscle soreness at all. I helped out with our local high school's basketball clinic they put on for the local middle schools last night and before I could even think about it I found myself demonstrating a drill, running (yes, running full speed) up and down the court. No one else probably noticed or would have even cared, but at the end of the demonstration I cracked a smile, laughed to myself for a second and thought, "recovery complete."
And so it's back to training today. A good run this evening and one more tomorrow and then comes what could be my final race of the year on Saturday, the Silver Falls trail half marathon. It's a decently challenging course with some elevation change to deal with (including climbing a few flights of stairs around mile 10) that I ran in 2:02 last year.
I'm still working up my recap on my in-race (and post-race) nutrition and refueling strategy, which should appear here by the end of the week. I've said this before but I think it's worth saying again: I believe my diet is the biggest contributor to me getting back on my feet so soon after a long run or race.
Hooray for a quick recoveries.