The Running Log

An old school notebook version.
An old school notebook version.

Running in high school and college, I never kept a log. I had allowed coaches to lay out and dictate a plan for me. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t, and I had no idea why not. For the most part the importance of a running log was lost on me. And it wasn’t until I started running again that I realized the folly in not tracking anything.

When I started running again, I was hoping my times would get faster the more I ran, and eventually I might get to some semblance of the shape I had been in in college. Wanting to monitor my progress and times, I decided to start keeping a log. At first it started out fairly simple: how far, running time, and pace. Over time, my log has grown to include more information, while other information is removed. Recently I have been neglectful of my log and while I am still recording mileage and time, the details are left out. Sometimes, our logs can get too complicated, but at the same time, it is important not to over simplify them. For me, my log is an entity of it’s own that changes as my running and goals change.

In reality, there is no correct or incorrect way to keep a log, but for me, it should measure two basic things, subjective and objective measures. Objective measures are concrete a time is a time, a distance a distance, they will not change. For objective measures my log includes time, pace, distance, and the loop. (I also include weather just for chuckles.) You can also include weight as a rapid loss of weight can indicate overtraining. On a subjective level, it is important to include how our legs feel. While the feelings of our legs may be subjective, we should strive to give them an objective measure. While noting that your ankle is nagging, or your hamstring feels tight is good – give it a number. Ankle nagging – five, hamstring tight – three. Granted the scale may change, but ideally a seven should always be a seven. By giving things a number, we can go back and monitor pain and discomfort levels over the previous week, month, year – it’s easy to forget these things.

A log is of great importance to the runner, but it is also immensley helpful to your coach. A coach can give you workouts that typically work for the goals at hand, but as any coach will tell you, not all runners bodies function the same. What works for one runner may not work for another – your log helps a coach thresh that information out. Perhaps nagging injuries start to reoccur when a certain mileage is hit, or too much performance at one level of intensity, or maybe it’s your coach recognizing that you’re holding back. Being able to look at and compare data overtime is the only way to truly determine what works for the individual runner.

If you already have a log, go look at it and think about adding or subtracting information that may or may not be necessary or helpful. Think about how you can make your log more informative for you and your coach. One of my failings in terms of logging information is my lack of a weekly summary. I used to keep a weekly and monthly summary but that has gotten away from me. It is good to be able to compare any workout this year to last years workout, or this year’s Phase II Week IV to last year’s Phase II Week IV. A good log is an invaluable tool, from the highly competitive elite to the non-competitive weekend 5ker. And by all means if you do not have one, start one.

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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Foundation

I am sure we all have heard runners talking about the importance of base training. Maybe we have just passed it off as another over exaggerated thing on the runners to do list, like hill workouts and new shoes.

I suggest we look at it as more of foundation training. Not just going for long runs day after day but also working on strength training and form drills. This is so that when it comes to the continuous and intense training at the next phase of training we can avoid impact injuries, over use injuries, and we can maximize our time and energy.

 

Over the past several years I have been working with several high school girls through the cross country, indoor and outdoor track seasons. At the beginning  they were not very committed and did not do much over the summer months to prepare for cross country. As a result we often fought fatigue and nagging injuries as we used the XC season to prep for indoor and outdoor.

Finally our numbers have doubled and the girls have started to train consistently over the summer, and this season there are virtually no issues with injuries despite the intense nature of their training plan. Unfortunately the boys coach left unexpectedly so I moved to the boys and took on another coach that I work with to train the girls.

The boys team on the other hand has not had the same type of commitment and even though I have tried to ease them into the  season but they continue to battle lower leg problems due to over use and impact.  They also complain a lot more than the girls and are harder to get motivated and require constant encouragement.

So if you want to have an awesome season it starts weeks before your interval training starts. It isn’t just running either. Strength training, flexibility training, form drills and even mental training all play a crucial in getting you ready for your best race seasons

Who Needs a Coach?

The last time I ran with a formal coach was back in 2002 – college cross country. A lot has happened since then, including a long stretch of not running spanning near eight years. A lot happened in that time, including a fairly large decline in my running abilities. When I started running again I had an idea of what I was doing and quickly started to regain some of the fitness I had lost.

I experienced success for a few reasons:

1. I remembered a number of workouts from high school and college and was familiar with implementing a training schedule and strategy.
2. I knew where to look for further information regarding the science of training.
3. I had a knowledgeable support system.

Numbers 1 and 2, I think anyone can figure out. If you’re new to running it can be difficult to arrive there on your own, but it is doable with some effort. The problem is, steps 1 and 2 will only take you so far. There is a point where an outside force becomes necessary to improve our fitness.

Enter support system. By support system I do not mean a partner who gives you all the time you need to go train, or a couple of friends to mess about with you on a Saturday morning (though these things can be helpful); I mean a coach. A support system or coach can exist in a few different ways. There’s your garden variety coach who helps out at the local running spot once a week and tries to disseminate tips and techniques to better your running. Inevitably these are helpful ventures and a great way to find new topics or ideas to look into further, but they don’t offer everything. There can can also be a more personal coach; someone that is responsible for developing a plan or workouts to better your running.

While I haven’t personally paid for a coach, I have developed a couple of different relationships that work in much the same way. I am able to work with my brother to build workouts and training plans and then bounce them off of some elite ultra runners and gather their thoughts. It is not a simple task and takes a lot of digging and delving to ascertain the right techniques that will benefit me the most, but in the end, it’s worth it.

Another aspect of having a coach that I wholly enjoy is that I have someone to answer to. While there may not be a financial incentive, no one likes to tell their coach they didn’t make it through the workout for whatever reason – barring serious injury – especially when your coach is your brother.

You can peruse our coaching options: here.

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