Category Archives: Training

The Most Forgotten Season

When I started running, I ran three seasons: cross country, indoor track, and outdoor track. For much of the year, one season bled into another. Outdoor started as soon as indoor ended, and cross country ended after indoor started. I remember trying to convince our coach to let us take a week off, but we never did. We kept running, from August to the beginning of June. Sure there were periods of higher intensity, higher volume miles, but time off didn’t really exist.

Often times I’ll hear someone speaking of burn out. Of pushing too hard for too long and not being able to go any more. (Geoff Roes is a perfect example.) Most of the time, for the purely recreational runner, true burn out isn’t something we’re faced with, but there will be races that we fail miserably. We’ll look back at the miles we’ve put up for a year or two, the miles and hours we’ve logged and we won’t be able to figure out what the hiccup is about, and more often than not, we can’t figure it out.

The difference: The Off-Season. In high school and college, there is a sort of built in off-season. When outdoor track was over, school was essentially over and the summer began. We were supposed to run, and we did from time to time, but it came in floes, and more often than not, our attentions were turned to other thigns: frisbee, soccer, hiking, camping. What we didn’t realize at that time was that the summer provided a much needed off-season. It was a time when our bodies could take a break from the grinding workouts. Our muscles could relax and do something different. Even our minds needed it.

Unfortunately, as an adult, the world is a little different. There is no built in off-season to go relax and play frisbee for three hours with your friends, or take a week and go hike a bunch of mountains. Life brings with it many obligations, and it seems like many runners forget about the obligation to themselves to take time away. We go from one race to the next, one plan to the next. Fall races lead into a Christmas or New Years races, and before we know it we’re training for our first spring race.

It’s also important to understand that “off-season” doesn’t simply mean “go sit on your couch, eat cheese balls, drink beer, and watch the game on the TV.” That would be detrimental. Instead use the off-season to work on different aspects of your running. Cut down on volume, and lower the intensity of your workouts. Do 75% of your miles slower than your easy pace. Go out of your way not to push. Keep your muscles loose and in shape, but don’t kill them, let them recover. Do some form drills, do some mini-circuits. But force yourself to go easy.

Every runner needs an off-season. Some more frequently than others, but the key to a long and healthy running career is in those easy off-season miles. I promise.

The Common Thread to Running Success

If you’ve ever gone to the grocery store without a list while you’re, you know how crazy and chaotic it can be. In the store you’ll be going up and down each aisle, carefully looking at everything on the shelves, running a mental checklist of sorts. Some aisles, you might even have to come back to. And when you come home you will immediately realize you forgot to buy laundry detergent, or now you have three quarts of yogurt instead of just two. You’ll end up buying junk you don’t need, but looked yummy on the shelf. If you really want to be efficient and get the most out of your trip to the market so you’re not wasting time and gas to make another trip just a couple of days later, you’ll probably make a list.

So is it a list that can help make us succesful runners? Sort of, not exactly. I’m willing to guess that 99% of the time any given runner will have a given goal. It could be a race goal, a mileage goal, whatever kind of goal. We runners set these little carrots out to help give us motivation while at the same time directing our efforts. So while our goals may not be the same, we all have them.

The trick is to know what goals are really important, which ones can be missed without too much worry, and how to set them realistically. Individually, it can be difficult to have the foresight to recognize and set longterm goals: yearly mileage, a 5-year marathon time goal, a rehab goal. We can think about them, and we may even set them, but working towards them can get lost in the shuffle and the completion of immediate goals that at the time seem much more rewarding. Having a third-party work through goals can help steer an athlete in the right direction and keep things on track. To the runner, it might seem more important to run their first sub-4 marathon despite running through injury. A good coach would see it in a different light and instead focus in on a 5-year goal of a sub-3:30 marathon.

Further, it is important to set realistic goals while at the same time, not setting goals that are sub-par. When I set out to make goals for a given race or a week or month of training, I give three different goals: an ‘A’ goal, a ‘B’ goal, and a ‘C’ goal. A ‘C’ goal is pretty low-end. It’s kind of a safety net. Not everyday goes according to plan, and sometimes, they go abysmally awful. A ‘C’ goal is one that would most likely be achieved even on one of your awful days. It allows an athlete to look back at their race, week, month, year, and come away with some sense of accomplishment. A ‘B’ goal is the most realistic goal. It takes into account little hiccups during training and race day. It leaves some room for error, it is achievable but still requires 100% of your effort. Finally, an ‘A’ goal is one of those goals that you can achieve, but don’t expect them to happen all the time. We all have breakout races, but not every race can be a breakout. ‘A’ goals require all systems healthy and working together, plus a little bit of luck.

It is important – and this is why having a third-party involved – that goals are achievable, but not too easy. If we set our goals too high, even our ‘C’ goals, get ready for some disappointment. Too much disappointment and it becomes all too easy to lose sight of what’s important and suddenly running has lost its joy. It’s also important not to set our goals too low. In part because constantly achieving your goals can also get boring, but because if we don’t fully challenge ourselves, we won’t fully succeed.

Goals can be anything. They don’t always have to revolve around time or miles. They can be measured by time, or heart rate, injuries, types of workouts. Maybe it’s devoting one workout a week to hills. Or forcing yourself onto the track once a month. All athletes are different and all of our goals will be different. The important part is to set them, and make them realistic while at the same time challenging ourselves. So get out your log book, and jot down some of your goals. Make a list and keep it handy; work with your coach and have them help keep you accountable.

The Missing Ingredient

Working with my athletes I have been struggling to put my finger on what many of them lack. I found the answer looking through some videos while writing a lesson on goal setting for a class I teach.

Grit. That is the missing ingredient.

What is grit you ask?

Grit is the stuff on sand paper that smooths out the rough spots and polishes the surface. At least that is what I thought of at first, so I looked up what the real definition of grit is and found the following:

Grit is courage; resolve; strength of character.

Three things that any runner, athlete or hard working individual should have if they wish to achieve their greatest dreams. I then went on to define courage and resolve.

Courage is the ability to do something that frightens you. it is also strength in the face of pain or grief. As athletes we have all had those moments on the starting line with butterflies in our stomach, knowing the pain we are about to inflict upon ourselves. Knowing the battle that is about to rage inside our own minds and bodies and still we anticipate with excitement the sound of that gun and those first steps as we throw ourselves off the line and plunge into the abyss.

Resolve is the determination to do something or decide firmly on a course of action. Without resolve it would be easy to abandon those workouts that leave us staring up at the sky on our backs gasping for air. You know the ones I am talking about, that 400 repeat workout that leaves you hunched over a trash can waiting for the inevitable. Resolve keeps us from stopping in the middle of a race, unless of course your body gives out before your willpower.

Not only are these qualities a necessity for the athlete, but they can be used in our every day life. You need to not only train your body but your mind, your resolve, your courage to be a warrior on the athletic field, but also to be the same warrior in the office, board room and every other endeavor in your life.

So next time you are questioning a workout, signing up for a race or feel like dropping out of a race look deep inside and find out how much grit you have.

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Ironman Recap

Completing my first Iron man has been a goal of mine for the last 9 months. I went into it with high expectations and set goals for myself to achieve on the way. After a hectic start to the summer training regimen I finally got in the amount of training I had planned in the last six weeks leading up to Ironman Louisville.

On race morning I lined up behind about 2200 people at the swim start. I figured it was more valuable to make sure everything in the transition area was the way I wanted it on race morning so I tended to that as oppose to standing in line at 5:00 am. 

I had planned on swimming the 2.4 miles in 1:00:00, I felt that this would be an achievable goal, maybe a little bit of a higher expectation but seeing as how I had been battling elbow bursitis for the entire summer and was only able to swim one to two days a week for the last six weeks I felt it was a substantial enough goal. I never knew what my time was getting out of the water until after the race, but getting out of the water I felt fresh and like I had taken it easy. The current might have had something to do with it but hey that is part of the race right. In the end my time was a 1:01:?? not too shabby.

I jogged through the transition area, no idea what my split was, I put my bike gear on which had gotten poured on with rain the night before and my bike gear bag was a quarter full of water. This would mean that all of my home made rice bars (a take off on Alan Lim’s rice bars) were now soaked and real soft and squishy. I retrieved my bike and set off on my way with the expectation of taking it easy until about mile 80.

At the start of the bike I was crushing 21 mph and had to keep reminding myself to slow down and take it easy. The thing was, it felt so easy and I just couldn’t seem to go slower. At about 30 minutes I realized that I had not eaten or drank at the transition area as I had planned. I then tried to catch up on the plan by drinking and eating a little extra. This was the first time I got to eat one of my rice bars all day and it was disgusting. I don’t know if it was because they got left in the trunk of the car when I was doing race check in and the car was being unpacked, the rain, or sitting on the Great Lawn from 4 pm to 8:30 am, or a combination of them all. It tasted like sour bread dough and a hit of spoiled milk, my stomach was not happy. So I bailed on the bars. Luckily I had made a bottle of super concentrated Hammer Heed and Sustained energy that had about 1000 calories in it, and a super concentrated bottle of Heed which had about 500 calories. So these reserve bottles became my nutrition for the race as my dietary restrictions would not allow me to eat the food provided. 

I was churning out the miles and felt great doing it. I felt relaxed, calm and like I wasn’t even working, but I was still hitting the 20 mph range quite often. Around mile 75 the sun came out and the temperature spiked from 80 to 96 and high humidity. I don’t do well with heat and the New York summer had been a great one for training being a cool 75 for most of the time. At mile 90 I hit a wall, my hands started cramping, my back locked up and I lost all energy. I thought it was hydration so I started drinking more of the heed and water at which point I realized I had lost track of how many bottles of water I had drank throughout the day. 

At this point I had one goal, get to the transition area.

When I got there my hamstrings were cramping and when I tried to put my running shoes on my back, hands, quads, hips, hamstrings and calves started to lock up. After a few minutes I was able to get out of the changing tent and got maced with sun screen, so now I was cramping and blind. When I left the transition area I was at 7 hours. I had completed the bike in about 5:46:00, a whole lot faster than I had planned. 

About a mile and a half into the run I stopped breathing, no matter how hard I pulled in no air would enter my lungs. As a result I was forced to stop and walk. This caused me to realize my vision was all wonky and I couldn’t see straight, but I could breath again so I started jogging again. Ten steps later it happened again, this time my whole body was pins and needles, I couldn’t see, I started blacking out and tried to sit down but the ground was too far away so with hands on knees I started dry heaving, vision pulsing with my heart beat I made the decision not to try to fight it for another 25 miles. I found a race official and dropped out. 

My blood pressure was 70/50, temp was 95.2 and my hr was 70. I had depleted my body so much that it had decided to shut down, it couldn’t even maintain proper temperature. After several cups of chicken broth and an hour in the med tent with 12 people fawning over me I shuffled out under my own power. I found an over pass sat down on the side walk and went to sleep/passed out. Some time later I came to with a crowd of people over me, an older guy said he had called the EMT’s and that I would be ok. After convincing the EMT I was fine I went back to the curb.

Ill be honest, I might have cried a little. Not tears streaming down my face, but definitely had some fluid build up in my eyes. Maybe if I hadn’t been so dehydrated. I was so mad at myself for dropping out of the race, something I had never done before, I was disgusted. I knew however that I had made the right decision. 

I went for it, I didn’t want to just finish, I aimed for the clouds and got stuck in the tree tops, but at least I tried and I gave it my best. As athletes that is all we can do, put ourselves out there time and time again, push to that fine line between failure and greatness. Sometimes we fall off the edge, but without failure how will you ever know what you truly capable of at that point in time. Embrace the suck, embrace failure, make it your training partner and your friend.

Ironman Louisville

I have to be honest, I am a bit nervous about this thing. Not because of fitness, but because of the nutrition and hydration requirements and the role they play in performance.

My race goal goes as follows:

Swim: 1:00:00
T1: 2-5 minutes tops
Bike: 6:03:00 (18.5 mph)
T2: 2-5 minutes
Run: 3:30:00 (7:28/mile)

Total: 10:45:00***

***If I finish around 11 hours I will be happy, 12 or higher and I will be unhappy***

As for nutrition I plan to eat a light breakfast maybe a couple hundred calories, then about 100 calories before getting in the water. In T1 I will drink about 10 to 12 ounces of water and have roughly 150 calories. On the bike I plan to drink 20-25 ounces of water per hour, this will consist of water and highly concentrated Heed to get my electrolytes. The reason for highly concentrated HEED is because I don’t want to drink the high fructose sports drink they will be providing as it screws with my stomach. I will also be consuming around 200 calories per hour using Sausages, Rice and egg bars that I make, and Hammer Nutrition’s Sustained Energy. The rice and sausage are so that I can have something else to eat that a goo for 6 hours and offer some variety throughout the day.

For the run I will be hitting every aid station for water and GU or Hammer Gel if I decide to carry it with me.

If you would like to follow the race you can by visiting
http://www.ironman.com/triathlon/events/americas/ironman/louisville.aspx#axzz3ABKcxfWx

My bib number for this event is 1052