Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Gaining Confidence For My Next Big Test (Myrtle Beach Marathon) in 2 Weeks

I hope everyone has been able to stay warm and get in their workouts as we all look forward to the spring running season.

I started off 2013 hating the dreadmill and loved telling anyone who would listen to me how much. Over the last 3 months, as the weather has turned colder, I have had to use the treadmill more often if I am going to make progress towards personal records in upcoming spring marathons (Myrtle Beach in February & Boston in April). Today I did a hard 12 miles on the treadmill and spent some time thinking about how much I actually like running on it. Some of the benefits, I am enjoying are great temperature in the gym, less damage to my body, able to control the pace much better than outside, able to run with my buddies regardless of their pace on the machine beside me at the same time, and able to watch TV while listening to music. The biggest advantage of running on the treadmill is learning to turn my brain off and push through the miles. If I am able to grow being comfortable running and watching the same spot in front me for an hour and not go crazy, it will help me when I am hurting in ultra marathon races. Often on the treadmill, my mind is shouting, "QUIT" this is stupid. The more I can train myself to not listen to the evil voice that wants to me to stay in bed the better, more consistent and stronger I will become. I find it funny, I am able to enjoy something I feared and hated a short time ago. There is probably a life lesson in there for me to reflect on. The more time I spend running and thinking about life, the more I have come to the conclusion that success is determined by my mindset, consistency and attitude. I am trying to find the good in every situation and people; some days it takes more effort than others.

I am feeling good about my training for my first marathon of the year coming up in 2 weeks. My big goal is to break 2:55 at Myrtle Beach assuming good weather. I cannot allow myself to worry about things I don't have control over and weather falls into that category. All I can do on a daily basis is do the work and let the results take care of themselves. Here is another life lesson for me to absorb.
My miles have averaged in the 65 miles per week range. When I get into the 80 miles per week training cycle, injuries start happening and I fall into a fatigued based state on how hard I train. My quality workouts have been on Tuesdays at the track with a 90 minute marathon pace workout, Thursdays have 6 mile tempo run at half marathon speed (20 seconds faster than marathon pace) for 9 miles total and Saturday long runs of 18 or more. I have put in 2 runs of over 26 miles and a 31 mile race in the last 6 weeks. I continue to rest or go to Yoga on Sundays. The other days are easy with my pace being 60 to 90 seconds slower than my marathon pace to give my body a chance to recover. I continue to go to the gym at lunch to do 40 minutes of cross training & plyometrics to strengthen my core. Overall I am happy with this training cycle and am interested to see how my body reacts at mile 21 of the marathon when I dig in for the finish.

What I am most proud of is helping a new runner get ready for his first marathon. His name is Sonny and he is going to do great. Last week we ran 26.2 miles together and I wish you could have seen the smile on his face when he finished. He could not have been happier with himself and told me and Victor over and over, he could not have done it without us. As I get older, these types of moments don't happen as much as I would like. His pace is slow compared to others as his goal is to finish and not walk. Running with Sonny gets me to slow down and helps me to get more time on my feet. He has done everything I have asked of him and does not complain about how hard it is. I only wish I had more Sonnys in my life. What inspires me to train hard is remembering how just 18 months ago Sonny was struggling to run a 29 minute 5K and now he is going to run a marathon. Sonny teaches me every day that consistency is the key. Some of my other running buddies (Keith, Stu, Caleb, Kelly, Steven & Victor) have the potential to really do well at the marathon (New PRs -Personal Records) if they embrace the taper over the next 2 weeks. If they get nervous and try to get in some last minute fitness gains, their race will suffer. Experience is the best teacher.

As I look to the marathon, I am committed to doing my taper correctly. I have to believe the work is done and it is now time to let the body rest and heal up. I keep repeating to myself it is better to arrive to the race 90% trained than 1% over trained. I also have to remember I cannot affect my performance with 2 weeks to go, but I can hurt it by arriving to the starting line tired and mentally drained. Trying to do everything at the last moment never worked well for me in school or life and has not worked in running. Here is another life lesson for me to absorb.

Someone asked how I am doing on my New Year's resolutions. I am on track as of today with my daily tasks (doing at least 1 mile, pushups, lunges and squates). I will be volunteering my help at the Winter Flight 8K race next weekend. I also have reached out today to learn how I can help the local groups with trail construction. The fall 100 mile (Grindstone 100) race I want to run requires 8 hours of trail work so the sooner I get started the sooner I will reach my goals.
I read over the Fall one of the best things you can do to help your body get use to running a 100 miles in 24 hours is to stand at work. I currently sit at a desk all day. I am having my desk raised a foot so I can stand and do my office work. Instead of spending a ton of money to buy a special desk, I am going to raise my total workspace but putting wood blocks under the feet and spend around $20. I have to remember that throwing money at something does not mean it is the best way to accomplish the task. Here is another life lesson for me to absorb.
Check out my newest favorite ultra running blog This little lady is awesome. She lives in Alaska and pulls a sled (this time of year) which holds her shopping purchases to help her train for 100 mile races. She will get in 20 miles or more a day a couple of days each week while doing her shopping and jogging back home. By the way, She has little ones too. I could not imagine have to tend to little ones, a husband and train for 100 mile races. After reading this blog, neither you nor I have any reason to complain about not having enough time to do the important things. Check out the my other favorite blogs to the right as they all have something to offer about life and fitness.
Keep in mind Groundhog Day is coming February 2nd. Lets all pray for a cloudy day so the big rat does not go back into hibernation and we have 8 more weeks of winter.
In the theme of "No Fear Year." I have signed up for the Black Mountain Monster 24 hour race in May.
This is a big stretch for me as the longest run I have ever done is only 9 hours so I look forward to training for it once I come back from Boston. Paul Sherman from Lewisville has already accomplished the 100 mile feat and assures me if I am willing to do the work, I will be fine. It still amazes me how we all have people in our life who have already gone through it or are willing to help if we will just reach out and listen. Here is another life lesson for me to absorb.

Thanks for taking time to read my thoughts & experiences and let me know how I can be of help in reaching your goals.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Frosty Fifty (31 miles) Race and My Low Carbohydrate Diet

On Saturday January 4th, my local running friends (Victor, Caleb, Stu, Sonny & Sam) and I went to Winston Salem to run in the annual Frosty Fifty trail races.

The two races are 30K (15.5 miles) and the 50K (31 miles) in length. It was only 12 degrees when we started the race. My friends in Toronto would be thrilled to have 12 degrees / -11 C during this time of the year, so I have to keep what is cold in perspective. The blessings of running in 12 degrees were that when I ran later in the week and the temperature was 24 degrees, it felt warm. The other benefit of running in the cold is my left foot (has been giving me trouble) never bothered me because it never thawed out during the race.  
Salem Lake has wonderful, wide trails (hard packed dirt) which run around the lake. We ran a 7.5-mile loop with the lake on the left and woods on the right.

 The course has one small hill near the dam and a steep hill which we ran behind the parking lot to get back to the starting area. I have said, “I love Hills” for so long in training, I actually believe it. I was lucky enough to pass many runners on the hills. I would increase my intensity on the hills and tell myself “this is who I am and this is what I train for.”
The race did not offer any age group awards. The top 10 male and female finishers received a large pottery medallion.
I was lucky enough to finish 10th place.
This race was more of a training run as my upcoming “A” races are the Myrtle Beach Marathon in mid February and the Boston Marathon in April. My only goals were to stay within my upper Aerobic Heart Rate Zone of 150 and over the last 3 miles pick up the pace so I could finish strong in the Lactate Heart Rate Zone of 160. I also did not want to run so hard that I would reinjure my sore hip. Over the last 3 miles I picked up the pace especially on the final hill and noticed my hands going numb which happens year around and lets me know when I am pushing hard. I knew I had to leave enough energy in the tank to have something left for the end of the race. Patience with my running pace is something I am still learning with the longer Ultra distances races. I was happy to see so many of my running friends from nearby cities before the start of the race including Jenn, Masayo, Richard, Dave M, Caleb, Paul & Aaron.
The race volunteers were cheerfully out in force at aid stations every 3.5 miles. I took a small gulp of water at every opportunity and brought gels in case I needed them. I did not use any of my gels. My energy level during the race was constant and I never felt like I was going to bonk, crash or “hit the wall.” My morning breakfast 2 hours before the race was a plain Greek Yogurt. 45 minutes before the race I took Vespa (amino acid supplement) and a serving of UCAN (super starch with water). Vespa and UCAN help my body to start burning fat quicker than typical gels, which contain sugar and carbohydrates.
Vespa Amino Acid Supplement

I come from a long line of diabetics (Type 1 and Type 2) in my family so I am concerned about my diet. Over the last year, I have slowly started following the Paleo Diet (low carb) after I read about how it helped diabetics & long distance runners.

I became interested in some of the claims long distance runners were making about how a low carb diet helps them with their endurance training:

·         More energy during the day especially after meals

·         No hunger pains even after long runs because the body is fueling on fat instead of carbs

·         Less recovery time (soreness) after hard workouts

·         Leaner body to fat ratio

·         Less opportunity for stomach distress during training and racing from gels
Low Carbohydrate Performance 
At the start of 2013, I started removing certain foods slowly. One of the main reasons it took 2 weeks to transition to the Paleo Diet was because my body was addicted to carbohydrates. Now I find I eat even more often than I did before with foods that are high in protein, fat and low in carbs. The carbs that I used to eat regularly were breads, grains, pasta, fruit juices, cereals, and sugar. I also have given up all soft drinks including diet. I am still getting my necessary carbohydrates, which is now around only 20% of my diet from the foods (low glycemic vegetables, eggs, cheese, milk, meat based proteins, Greek yogurt, spinach, salads, hummus, seeds and nuts) I eat on a daily basis. At first, I worked on keep my carb grams under 100 per day. Now I think I am around 50 grams of carbs a day and my weight has stabilized. Most of all foods we consume have carbohydrates in them, which is the reason I do not need to seek them out. When I eat an apple each day, I choose a green variety, which has less sugar than red apples.

I am still getting the carbohydrates which I need, which is now around only 20% of my diet from the foods (low glycemic vegetables, eggs, cheese, milk, meat based proteins, Greek yogurt, spinach, salads, hummus, seeds and nuts) I eat on a daily basis. At first, I worked on keep my carb grams under 100 per day. Now I think I am around 50 grams of carbs a day and my weight has stabilized. Most of all foods we consume have carbohydrates in them, which is the reason I do not need to seek them out. Excess carbs (more than you need for basis functions and energy) is stored as fat.
I started training my body to burn more fat by running in the morning without eating anything (fasting) since dinner the night before. Often I will have not eaten anything for 10 to 12 hours before I run including my 20+ mile long runs. After the 2-week transition period, my body was used to using fat for fuel. I was surprised to learn that I have enough fat on my 158lb body to fuel 20 marathons back to back. There is no fear of running out of fat. Over the past year, my Body to Fat ratio has gone from 18.5% to 16.5% while my weight has dropped 5lbs, which tells me I have replaced some fat for muscle. I have heard in the past, every pound I drop between now and my “A” marathon reduces my time by 1 minute. Logically reducing weight and not carrying it over 26.2 miles would be easier on the body and result in a faster race.
Products like Vespa and UCAN help super-charge my body’s ability to burn fat during long runs and races (20+ miles). I appreciate Peter Defty's (President of Vespa) assistance with helping me to understand how to use fat as my primary running fuel. Runners like Zack Bitter and Jon Olsen are breaking 12 hours for 100 miles are using fat as their primary running fuel with great results.

The purpose of this blog is to explain what is working for me as I train for the Boston Marathon in April. I am neither a dietician nor a healthcare professional so your training and diet results may vary.
I have attached some links to resources mentioned above if you are interested in learning more.

I hope you are keeping your new year’s resolutions and finding time to enjoy life. Time is passing quickly.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

New Year Resolutions for 2014


This past year has been very rewarding, much of the running and fitness changes I made in 2012 showed up in my 2013 results (qualifying for the Boston Marathon, running 4 marathons and 2 ultras (40 & 54 mile) . I am thankful my health has been good, as I have tried to take 1 day a week to rest. I also have taken to heart the training philosophy of “Make easy days easier and make hard days harder.” Most days (recovery runs) I am focused on enjoying the company I am with and the view versus my running pace.
My challenging days have been and will continue to be- Tuesday: Track Day (intervals), Thursday: Tempo Run (5 miles or more) and the last 5-9 miles on my long runs on Saturdays.


I started cross training with BOLO (dragging my tire), weights, plyometrics and cardio (bike, stair stepper & elliptical) at lunch during the week and I think it has allowed me to increase my mileage and expand into Ultra (longer than marathons) races without injuries.
My running family continues to develop as my close friends. I look forward to catching up with them and hearing about their family during the week and helping them achieve their fitness goals. It is so true. “The more I help others, the more they help me.”

I cannot stress enough how important it is to run with others to stay focused and motivated. There have been many cold (21 degrees), dark (5:30am) and hot (87 degrees at 6am) days this year where the main reason I came out was to not disappoint my running friends who showed up. DailyMile.Com is a great way to see how your running friends are training when you are not with them, receive encouragement, and stay motivated.

I am committing to the following in 2014:

·   Walk/Run at least 1-mile everyday this coming year: On days when I am taking a rest day, I can still take Luther for a walk around the neighborhood (1.2 miles). It only takes 20 minutes. If I can’t find 20 minutes a day for my fitness then my priorities needed to be reviewed.  My hero, Bill Shire from Charlotte, is coming up on 10,000 days straight of running. I should be able to do 365 days straight. It will also give me more time to spend with Anne on days when we walk Luther.


·   Go to Yoga (Body Flow) class at least once a week: Flexibility is an important part of being an efficient runner and I have not focused on it as much as I should have. Working on gaining more flexibility is another way to increase my chances of not being injured. One theory for the high percentage of knee issues is a result of flexibility problems in other parts of the body.


·        Run on the local trails at least 2 times a month: Any time I can get off the road, my body will appreciate it. Running on trails is also great cross training as it uses different muscles especially in the hips, ankles, and feet. Salisbury Community Park on Hurley School Road has some challenging trails courtesy of the Mountain Bike Club. The park has at least 6 miles of well-marked trails in the woods and at least 8 miles of bike paths.

·        Volunteer at 3 local races: I need to do a better job of giving back with my time to my local running organization (Salisbury Rowan Runners) which has helped and encouraged me.

·        Continue to run with beginning runners: It is so important that I remember how hard it was at first to make running a part of my life. I ran/walked for months before running was bearable and fun. Running with others who were patient with me was the key to me sticking with it.


I am not as concerned about the number of miles I will run in 2014, as I do not have total control as to what happens with injuries. I just want to continue to be excited about running and share my love with others who are willing to get off the couch and strive toward their dreams.