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Archives for September, 2011

I write about nutrition a lot.  Type “nutrition” into the search bar and you will find a few pages of blogs related to nutrition.  Nutrition is a big deal that is important to our everyday lives.  When you are out training for a long time, you can crash hard if you do not consume enough of the proper food.  I can’t tell you how many different ways I have found to mess up my nutritional intake.  Sadly, I continue to find new ways to mess up.

Proper nutrition starts early

When you are planning to do a long workout of longer than 2 hours, you should limit your intake of food that digests slowly the day before your workout.  I am not talking about whole grain foods here.  I am talking about the calorie bombs from Carl’s Junior like a ½ pound burger with bacon and guacamole.  Things like that stay in your system for days and don’t really help the digestive tract very much.  Eat healthy foods that are high in fiber and are light in nature.  Things like jello, tuna sandwiches and lots of fruit and vegetables.  I grow my own tomatoes and eat them for most of the summer and fall.  It is also good to drink lots of fluids the day before a long run.  I tend to drink 2-6 quarts of water per day.

 Before the big workout

I like to eat an hour or two before I go for a long run.  My favorite is Ted’s terrific pancakes with real maple syrup.  When it is warm out, I add more salt according to the temperature.  The warmer it is, the more salt I add.  I also like old fashioned oat meal made with milk and real maple syrup added as a sweetener.  Again, the salt level goes up depending on the temperature.  Sometimes, I will eat a breakfast food 2 or 3 hours before the run and something like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich right before I leave for the run.  I did a lot of research on pre-workout nutrition to come out with the same answer from all of them.  That is to try different things to find what works for you.  If you search my articles and reviews, you will find stuff that works for me.

During the run

Long runs can tear you up.  Make sure you carry some type of nutrition and some type of electrolyte.  The experts say all kinds of conflicting things about hydration and nutrition.  I do know that we are all different and we have to find what works for us.  To make things confusing, different things work on different days.  I like both Clif and Gu.  They are both local companies that are very nice to the local runners.  I tend to lean toward Clif because they are so cool.  One day, I can run and the Gu gels work great for me.  I can switch between flavors and types (rocatane and regular) and love the way they go down.  The next day, I can run and choke on the Gu gel while the Clif goes right down with no problems.  Other days, neither will work and I will eat peanuts and candy.
On a course with a lot of water stops, I will carry an electrolyte drink.  I like the Gu and Clif electrolyte drinks but I am currently using Gatorade because I got a huge can on sale.  It does not taste as good or go down as well but living in the San Francisco bay area is expensive and I have to watch my expenses when I can.  If you are ever out on a run and start getting a strong dislike for the thought of water, you should stop and consume any type of electrolyte or salt you can get your hands on.  Do not press on until you get some salt in your body.  Bad things can happen.

Post workout

The first thing I do after a long workout is to spend 2-5 minutes stretching.  I do not try to reach or stretch my muscles.  I lean in different directions with no pushing at all.  I do the standard legs shoulder width apart lean over and relax with knees straight and bent and a couple of other easy stretches.  Then I drink some water and an electrolyte based recovery drink.  If my stomach is up for the challenge, I will drink a protein shake before I take a shower.  I will drink something like Muscle milk or a Clif recovery shot mixed in chocolate milk.  I have been known to just drink an electrolyte drink, shower and sleep then eat after my nap.  I know it is not right but that is what my body will tolerate.  Eating something that is good for then getting sick is not very good.  I seem to eat a lot of sandwiches with a bowl of chicken noodle soup after long runs because that is what my sub conscious wants.  Try different things to find what works for you.  Electrolytes are good to replace the minerals you lost through sweat.  Protein shakes are good to help build up the muscles you just broke down.

I forgot to add – track your miles – to my list of things.  I count my miles ran per week.  How can you tell if you are increasing your mileage slowly, if you don’t know how far you ran?  I will add Step 2a here.  Record your runs.

10% rule

Now that you know how far you ran last week, it is time to start increasing the mileage for the big event.  The standard rule for increasing your weekly mileage is to increase by 10% per week.  That is a pretty good rule for a standard response but it leaves a lot of questions to be answered.  The first question a beginner will ask is; “I ran a mile yesterday, should I wait and run 1.1 miles next week?”  The rule here is, if you are not in agony from your mile run, you can probably do another mile run today.   You have to listen to your body.

Listen to your body

If you are new to running, you have to let your body tell you if you should run or rest.  Listen to your body, not your brain.  Some of us will skip a run because we don’t feel like running.  Some of us will be limping and say it is not so bad and run anyway.  Once you can run 15-20 miles a week for a few weeks, you should move toward the 10% rule for increasing your mileage.  More experienced runners should switch to the 10% rule when their body tells them it is time to slow down with the weekly increases.  I took 6 weeks off after doing a half ironman distance triathlon to let my injuries heal.  When I got back into running, I was over 30 miles per week in about a month.  My body let me know when it was time scale my weekly increases back to 10% per week.  I over did it last week by running a hilly trail half marathon when I was supposed to run a 15 mile long slow run.  That was 9/24/11.  I am training for a marathon on 12/4/11.  I won’t know if I over did it until the really long runs in late October.

To boldly go; where your body has never gone before

Most of us rarely run more than 40 miles per week.  When we get into the rarified air of these long runs, we have to be careful.  Injuries occur when we push our bodies into unfamiliar places.  When we train for a goal, we keep pushing until we can push no more.  Unfortunately, most of us can push no more because we are hurt.  We have to be consistent.  My lifestyle does not give me time to run 40 miles per week all year long until I want to train for a marathon then back down to 40 miles per week.  Therefore, we cycle our training.  For example, I will run the following mileages per week 33, 36, 40, 35, 42, 44, 46, 38, 46, 46….  I will build up for 3 weeks, scale back for a week, build up, scale back and repeat the cycle.  The higher the weekly mileage, the smaller my increases.

Injury prevention

Use your whole arsenal of injury prevention materials when you start running high mileages.  I take ice baths; get massages, use rollers and my electro stim machine.  I have ice packs for every part of my body and I don’t hesitate to use them.  Increasing your mileage is tricky.  Be careful and avoid injuries.

Number two on my list of tips for the long run is to slow down.  Long runs are for training.  They are not to take a measure of your performance so you can gauge your time.  It is amazing to think that you can’t get people to slow down when they run but it is true.  I talk about marathon training because that is what I am doing right now.  It is true for any distance event you are training for.  Going fast on your long runs is bad.  The wear and tear on your body adds up and you have a good chance of getting injured before you make it to the start line of your planned event.

The first time you do an event, you should not have any goals other than to finish.  We all know that it is no fun to have only one goal of finishing so we set up a couple of other goals while we are at it.  We all do it so don’t worry about me knowing your secret.  The most popular time goals for the half marathon and marathon are 2:30 and 4:00 hours.  2:30 is a reasonable goal for a first timer running a half marathon.  4:00 hours is a pretty tough goal for a first timer to run a marathon.  I think 4:00 hours became the standard because that is what Oprah ran in the Chicago marathon many years ago.

To run a 2:30 half marathon, you will need to run an average pace around 11:30 per mile.  This takes water stops and the start line mob into account.  To run the half at this pace, you should run your long slow runs at around 12:30 per mile.

To run a 4:00 hour marathon, you will need to run at an approximate pace of 9:00 per mile.  This also takes water stops and the start line mob into account.  To run the marathon at this pace, you should run your long runs at 11:00 per mile.  You need to slow down more for the marathon because you are going farther and you have to cross mile marker 22.  When the mile markers get into the 20’s, you are so grateful for all of the spectators cheering you on.

Slow down and get to the start line healthy.  If you train properly, getting to the start line healthy will be the biggest challenge of all.  I know, if I show up healthy, I will finish the race with a good possibility of meeting my goals.

As you may know, I tend to write about what I am doing.  I also tend to socialize with people with similar goals.  Things are similar for running and triathlons but not so good when I am resting after a big event.  Rest is a bit boring.  Today’s post is a list of 10 or more things for distance training.  I will attempt to follow up with a daily explanation for each item on the list.

13 things from Ted’s training list:

  1. Just do it
  2. Long runs (or rides) are for training.  Slow down
  3. Increase your distances slowly
  4. Eat before a long training day
  5. Run by feel and time
  6. Cycle your training with buildup and rest phases
  7. Don’t train to someone else’s pace.  Train at your own pace.
  8. Rest, when you are not feeling well.
  9. Find a training partner
  10. Practice eating
  11. Work on your strength
  12. Work on your core strength
  13. Watch your diet

I will talk about number one today
Just do it – Long runs are hard; you have to go out and do it.  The bigger the distance or duration, the more excuses your subconscious can come up with to avoid the effort.  People often ask me why I train so hard for the Escape from Alcatraz triathlons.  I tell them “The bay does not care how cold the water was on a training day.  If you do not practice, you will sink.”  The same can be said for marathons and bike rides.  The hills do not care if you train or not.  If you do not train, you will not conquer them.  I look forward to the peace of a long run.  If I build up my distances properly, I don’t put myself into difficulty until I get up around 18 miles.  I try to put the difficulty out of my mind before the 20 mile run the following week.  For my long bike rides, I pick great places to ride.  I absolutely love riding up the side of Mount Tam.  I am going to do the Vineman half ironman again next year, just to get out and ride at all of the great locations around San Francisco.  My lunchtime run was along the bay in Berkeley and Emeryville.  I have a great location for outdoor sports.  I still pinch myself that I can live here.  It does not matter where you live, you have to make the most of it and get out and do it.

Speed work

I always write about “the long slow run”.  Today, I am going to talk about speed and variations.  As you may know by now, I tend to write about what I am doing.  Today, I did speed work.  Running at a slow pace helps to build stamina and endurance.  Unfortunately, running slowly also trains you to run slowly.  You have to break it up by throwing in some speed work.  A lot of us like to go out and run at the same speed every time we run.  Our only variation is when we do the long slow run.  There is a fine line between being in a groove and being in a rut.  We all fall into the rut.  Let’s get back into the groove.

It is hard to complete a marathon or become race ready by doing the same thing every day. We need to vary our routine.
The long run – what we do to build endurance
Hills – for speed, strength and fun
Tempo runs – for speed and endurance
Intervals – for speed
Easy run – recovery (I mean slower than a long run pace)

I talk about the long run a lot so I will skip it.
Hills – I like to do trail half marathons for my hill work.  Hills are cool because they make you work so hard going up them.  When I go up the sand ladder at baker beach, I am panting so hard, I am wheezing.  My heart rate goes through the roof when I go up the big hills.  You have to turn off your brain and climb that hill while hoping you don’t have a heart attack.  It only takes a few minutes to climb most hills but it seems like an eternity.  The nice part about hills is that your body gets used to feeling pain without going on a long tempo run.

Tempo runs – Tempo runs are hard.  This is where you run at 80% – 90% of your max heart rate for a short distance, usually 3-5 miles.  I usually run 4 mile tempo runs.  The first mile is a warm up mile where I get my heart rate up to about 150 (170 is my max).  I then run for 3 miles at a heart rate of 150.  It is a long 20 minutes at that heart rate.  The good thing about the tempo run is that it is mindless.  You pretty much go at your maximum sustainable pace for the 3-5 miles you select.  The better your conditioning, the higher your heart rate will be.  Since I am out of shape, my maintainable heart rate will be around 145.

Interval runs – Today, I did an interval run.  I did a one mile warm up followed by ¼ mile pickups.  The pickup pace should be a little faster than the tempo run pace.  I followed the pickup with ¼ recovery run.  I did 4 pickups then 4 recovery runs followed by a 1 mile cool down.  As you get stronger, you can pick up the pace and number of speed sessions.  Interval runs are designed for the track but I use a Garmin GPS in place of the track.

Recovery run – You can’t just go fast and long, you have to have rest and recovery days in your training routine.  I did a long tempo run (decreased tempo pace and increased mileage) yesterday and intervals today.  Tomorrow will be a recovery run day.

Changing things up helps your body get used to the different amounts of stress you put on it.  The first few times you pick up the pace, it will be painful until you get used to the exertion.  As you get used the exertion, you will get faster.


Long slow run means exactly that.  Slow!  Slow means slow.  Going too fast on the long slow run is probably the leading cause of injury for marathon training.  We all have running friends on or our local run groups who do long slow runs of 20+ miles at a sub 7:00 per mile pace.  People who can run that fast are special.  Most of us can’t run like that or the cut off time for the Boston Marathon would be 2:30.  Do not try to run at the speedy pace.  It will lead to injury.  If you can run 4 miles at an 8:00 pace, slow down to 10-11 minutes per mile for your long run.

It takes practice to run slowly.  I did a 9 mile practice run a couple weeks ago.  I kept picking up the pace.  I don’t know why I picked up the pace, I just did.  I could feel the change physically then slow down to my target HR zone.  Target HR zone?  What is that and what is mine?  I know my target heart rate for various circumstances because I do it so frequently.  How is a novice supposed to figure out a target heart rate?  The old tried and true method for a target heart rate is 220-age for max HR.  Multiply your max HR X 0.7 to get your long slow run rate.  This is not an exact science but it is close enough.  I am the oldest Alameda runner at 50.  220-50=170.  170X0.7=119.  See picture above.  To be honest, that picture was taken as I was slowing down to complete my run.  My average HR was 125.  Another way to find your target HR zone for the long slow run is to build up to 6 or 8 miles.  Go for an 8 mile run at a tough intensity.  Do not go all out but talking should be difficult.   Check your average HR, your long slow run should average 80-85% of this number.  Always err on the slow side.  For example; if you run 8 miles at 8:00 per mile with an average HR of 150.  Slowing down to an HR of 120-130 will give you a10-11 minute per mile pace.

While you are running, you should be able to talk comfortably and breathe deeply.  No huffing and puffing.  After you finish the long run, you should be tired but not exhausted until you break the 15 mile barrier.  Practice the long slow runs.  Get it right while you are still on the easy phase of the long runs.  It seems like a waste of time at first but these runs are very important to building stamina and preventing injuries on your quest to complete a marathon.

When you break the 15 mile barrier, a mistake can kill your chances at finishing the marathon.  It is really difficult to recover from an injury on big runs because your injuries occur on a fatigued body.  Pay attention to your body, you need to consume calories, sodium and water on the long runs.  I know that I don’t drink enough water from the fountains along the trails so I carry water.  I start out with the bottle filled with an electrolyte drink then go from there.  I try to drink 4-28 ounce bottles during a 3 hour run.  I drink some water before I start the run.  One bottle for the first hour.  Two bottles during the second hour and one to two bottles for hour 3.
Run slow, eat, drink and consume electrolytes.

The long slow run

The long slow run is a weird thing.  It works your leg muscles and burns a lot of calories.  I always want to pick up the pace because my brain does not like to accept the fact that running slowly will benefit me in any way.  The experts say that it trains the legs for turnover for a marathon.  Ted says the long slow run helps train the slow muscles for when you get to mile 22.  When running a marathon, there is something about the last 4 miles that are so difficult.  It does not matter why but something will happen to make you change your stride.  When you change your stride to a slower pace after 3 or 4 hours of running, you need to be prepared for it.

Today, I did my second long slow run in preparation for CIM 2011.  I got out there and plodded along at the prescribed pace.  My goal was to keep my heart rate close to 120 at a pace between 10 and 11 minutes.  I did a pretty good job of maintaining my pace without using my heart rate monitor to slow me down.   I carried a 20 ounce bottle of GU electrolyte drink, one Honey Stinger waffle and a Clif shot gel.  I also wore a pair of injinji toesocks.  The long slow run is a good time to try out new things.  The toe socks were a success.  I was bit leery about wearing toe socks for a long run but they were great.  I love Honey Stinger waffles but they are not very good for running because I inhaled a few crumbs which caused some discomfort for a while.  You don’t realize how much you use your abs while running until you start to cough up some crumbs.

I always wear a hat and sunglasses for long runs.  Good polarizing sunglasses are best.   I should wear sunscreen but I don’t.   I planned on running 15 miles but I cut my run short because I ran out of water.  There is something about stopping at home for water then going out for a few more miles.  After my run, I tossed down 16 ounces of water followed by a Clif Shot vanilla recovery drink mixed into 12 ounces of chocolate milk.  The instructions say to mix it into 8 ounces of water but I like it better when it is added to chocolate milk.  The long slow run is important.  I will write more about it in the future because I always mess up on the long run.

Rest and recovery

As mentioned in my last article, rest is important.  I don’t hate rest.  I really like to rest, I just happen to like doing things more.  It can be hard to rest.  We are afraid that rest will become addicting and we will become couch potatoes.  Rest days are good.  Learn to put them to good use.  I am saying this even when I know it is next to impossible.  I have been married for over 25 years.  One trick to staying married that long is sharing my free time.  That means Saturdays are mostly mine to beat myself up.  I can go do an 8 hour long slow workout on Saturday then use Sunday as my rest day.  Sunday happens to be the day I share with my family so it is not a total rest day but at least I am not working out.  Sometimes, I think getting out and walking around with my wife helps with recovery.  It probably does not help with recovery if you look to sit at every bench you walk by.

We all know that we need to rest.  Think about what happens when you lift weights or do sprints.  You go all out for a very short duration, take a breather then repeat.  We need to rest.  Sleeping is a big part of rest.  When you are into serious training, you need to get plenty of quality sleep.  Most of us know what time we are going to wake up in the morning.  If you go to sleep late, set your alarm clock accordingly.  Do not set your alarm clock early then hit the snooze button for an hour.  That is not a good hour’s sleep.  I noticed that I do not sleep as well when I am resting for a long duration.  When I took time off after the triathlon, work stress kept me up at night.  Balance is good.

I tend to eat a balanced diet consisting of healthy foods.  I also look for real foods with real sugar and real fat.  There is nothing wrong with going out and eating some junk food on a rest day.  I consider fat free yogurt junk food but that is not what I will indulge in on a rest day.  I will aim for pizza or In-N-Out burger and a milkshake from real ice cream on a rest day.

Drink plenty of water and get some sleep on rest days.  Rest is good.

Post-Exercise Recovery Ideas

As we increase the duration of our workouts, recovery becomes more important.  If you are under 35 and running for 3 miles or less, a glass of water after a workout is just fine.  For the rest of us, we need to consider other options.  Depending on the duration of our workout, we will need to recover in different ways ranging from recovery drinks to ice baths.

Ice baths can be a bit aggravating from going to the store to buy the ice to jumping into the tub full of ice.  On really tough days or at the end of tough weeks, I will take an ice bath after a 20+ mile run.

I don’t like to put the ice in until after I am in the tub full of cold water.  It is a bit uncomfortable but it does feel good after you are done.  I also like to have ice packs handy for my knees and calves on tough days.  I use anything I can to hold the ice packs in place.  They make custom straps with Velcro and foam to hold ice to any part of your body.

I use Ace bandages, old socks and saran wrap to hold the ice packs in place.  Use your imagination; just try to keep the ice pack tight.

I usually have a recovery drink after most hard runs.  Cytomax powder was my favorite for years.  Lately Clif and GU jumped into the fray with excellent products.  I really like the Clif and GU products with Cytomax right behind.

I always have the drink before I take a shower.  If you wait until after you shower, you will get all sweaty again.  I don’t notice any gain from the recovery drinks, I just notice the added pain from not having a recovery drink.

Massages are good but the cost can add up if you get one every week.  I use a foam roller on my calves and the sides of my legs but I don’t like to sit still long enough to use the roller because you can’t do anything else while using it.  Home electro stim machines are available for around $100 now.  They work really well to aid in recovery.  The home machines are not really strong enough to hit the big muscles but they work great on the smaller supporting muscles.

Ted’s Recovery Day Roundup

I had a low sugar Cytomax in a pre-mixed bottle.  I am not a fan of the low sugar drinks so I will not buy that stuff again.  If you like low sugar drinks it may be for you.  In my opinion, the Gatorade G-series stuff is better.

On to something worth writing about: Pretzel Crisps.  A couple of grocery bags full of pretzel crisps showed up on my door step a month or so ago.  I liked them so much, I went out and bought more.  I like the original and sesame and love the cinnamon toast flavor.  They are like potato chips.  Once you start, you don’t stop until the bag is empty so be careful.

I am not a fan of garlic so the garlic and everything flavors wound up at work.  My friends from Berkeley dipped them in soft cheese spreads and ranch dressing!  It turned my stomach to watch but they liked it.  I am going to change the subject before the political correctness police come after me.

leg stim
Electro pulse stimulation on the calf muscles.  It is amazing what you can get for under $50 on Amazon.  It can take a little practice to get the pad placement just right.  The configuration I have pictured is off for the target muscle.  Since I did not want to lose my photographer, I kept the pads in place until the picture was taken.

The pad placement did the trick but it caused some discomfort after I took the pads off.  One side of my leg felt nice and massaged while the other side was tingly from poor pad placement.

I don’t need to use the stimulation machine every day but it is very easy to use and it does help.