How to write your own training plan #marathon #training #racing #running

Everything that’s in this post is based on what I’ve learned over the last decade either by those who have coached me (i.e., collegiate endurance sports), what I’ve learned from teammates, what I’ve learned from graduate-level exercise science courses, and what I’ve read out of books. I was an assistant coach for my collegiate XC and track team during graduate school, and I followed the “training bible” of Jack Daniels, PhD, closely under the tutelage of the teams’ coaches. I do think that, over the years, I’ve learned quite a lot about endurance training and running in general, and yet my strategies for marathon and endurance-training are ever-evolving; that being said, after much exploring, I have honed in an ideology of training that really synchronizes with my physiology (and psychology) and I’ve clung to it. Every time I’ve trained for a marathon (all eight), I’ve done so by coaching myself.

Obviously, like I said, I was coached in college, but I didn’t run marathons competitively (or at all) in college. I had my first running coach when I was in middle school, with whom I maintained a strong coach/athlete relationship throughout my high school years, and also consistently had a running/endurance coach throughout my collegiate career (two coaches, actually). In graduate school, I no longer had any sort of official coach to guide my workouts each day, but I (thankfully) paid attention during my coached years and learned “the pattern,” and therefore was able to maintain more-or-less of the approach I was exposed to during my “developing” years: run more, run often, and mix it up with varying levels of intensity. And, because I was coached by numerous different coaches with different styles and approaches, I was able to identify what training methodologies worked for me, and what methods led to burnout.

Here’s the basics on how to set up and design your own training plan (or, how to pilfer it from somewhere else):

  1. Do your research. Not every plan will work for every person, that’s why there are so many books and plans and coaches out there (in other words: If one thing worked for everyone, wouldn’t everyone do it?). We all have different lives, different priorities, different physiology, and different goals. For example, if you are a veteran marathoner wanting to train for a faster marathon, and you have been consistently running bigger mile weeks without injury for the past few years (we’re talking 50-80miles), then you may be able to successfully execute a marathon training plan with 60+ miles per week in training (but what you do during those 60+ miles will influence how fast you race). On the other hand, if you’re new to the distance and have never run more than a 40-mile week in your life, jumping into a high mileage plan without making any adjustments should be avoided as it will likely set you up for injury. The most important thing is knowing yourself and your limits, knowing the basic concepts behind the plan, and fine-tuning them for yourself.
  2. Find the right plan(s) for you. Like I said in #1, there are hundreds of books out there providing insight on how to train for a marathon. Finding the right one for you is tricky. The first thing to do is ask yourself: “Does this plan fit into my life, or can I make it fit?” If you work 50 hours a week, have three small children, and a spouse that also works full time, training 20-25 hours a week may be something you’re looking to avoid. However, if you know you can manage the training time required to get in 80 mile weeks, then by all means, set yourself up for higher volume (that is, if your body is ready for it). But just remember, running more does not always mean running faster. There is a threshold at which you will become more and more fit the more time you put into training, but once you get there, your performance can plateau.
  3. Find the pattern and follow it.  Setting long-term goals is important when setting up your own training plan. Cookie-cutter training plans taken from running websites or books are helpful for beginners and those interested in exploring other training options than they’ve tried in the past, but they are generic and are rarely designed specifically for you. What cookie-cutter plans do provide, however, is a skeleton schedule that is already ironed out and easy (well, easy enough) to follow. For example, a plan from Hal Higdon’s website details specifics for daily mileage, with every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday aiming for an easy run or off day, every Tuesday aiming for a “strength” day, every Thursday aiming for a “tempo” day, and every Sunday being a longer run. That schedule skeleton establishes a pattern that is easy to remember, once you get through a few weeks of it, and the pattern eventually becomes routine. Sure, the strength and tempo days are usually different; you may need to find a hill to run up or a track to run on, but it is more or less a consistent pattern that takes the stress out of figuring out your daily workouts. In general, most plans follow this type of schedule; oscillating between low and high training days (low being rest/recovery and high being intensity/duration). We need the rest in order to excel at the intensity days. This is called microcycle periodization, where – within a short duration of time, say a week – your body is stressed at different levels and allowed to recover and make gains. Periodization also occurs at the meso- and macro-scale, too, where training adaptations are targeted to monthly or quarterly cycles, respectively. Mesocycles are typically designated as “preparation” and “competition” phases, but can also be designated as different phases (strength-building, speed-building, skill-building, etc.) depending on the goals of the plan.
  4. Build up slowly and, when in doubt, rest is (usually) best. Taking on a new training plan is a stress to your body in and of itself. There are times when the stress is good, where it builds fitness and strength. But if the new training plan deviates substantially to what you’re used to doing in training (e.g., dramatic increase in mileage), easing into it is a good idea. Avoid dramatic increases in mileage quickly; many physiologists and coaches recommend no more than 10% increases in total training volume per micro- or mesocycle when building up to a volume that you either haven’t seen in a while or have never seen in your life. There’s a balance between feeling sore and stiff because you just ran 20x400s at 5K pace for the first time in ever, and then there’s teetering on the edge of getting injured. Knowing this limit is also one of those magic questions that only you can likely answer. So be honest with yourself, don’t be arrogant and bullheaded. Regardless of who I was coached by, the most important thing I learned during my coached years was that there is strength in consistency, and that I had to absorb the rest days just as much as the big training days. And, what I continue to learn is that, when I was 20 years old, it was a lot easier to recover from a big training day than it is now that I am 30.
  5. Adapt or get left behind. What cookie-cutter plans lack is specificity, and a lack of specificity can leave veteran and advanced runners in the dust. In order to get faster, stronger, better, we need to adapt, and if we always run the same thing every week, we aren’t going to adapt. So, although out-of-the-book plans are … ok … for beginner/first-timers, as veteran runners, we need to put a little more thought into how we are going to adapt our training plans in order to adapt our bodies. This may mean we go on longer runs, or we incorporate more repeats on strength days, or faster repeats, or less rest between repeats; maybe we increase our consumption of hill repeats, or we incorporate two-a-day runs, or we add a few mornings of weight training or plyometrics. Some believe that, in order to make fitness gains, you should simply run more miles. Obviously, there are limits to this, and it takes some figuring out on your own behalf to know how far is far enough, and how far will lead to injuries and lost speed. In the simplest terms, designing a training plan is a game of balancing residuals: extra miles can lead to gains in fitness, but too many miles can lead to injury and fatigue. Getting to know how to optimally train is the magic question, right?
  6. Don’t be afraid of mixing it up. Swap cross-training (maybe a bike ride?) for one of your easy runs (with the 1.3hr bike time for 1-hr run trade); learn how to swim or aqua-jog and swap that out for a run to keep the heart rate up without building on accumulation of high impact from running; run on gravel or trails whenever possible instead of roads/sidewalks. Easy runs don’t have to be time, or mapped out (if you are “supposed to do six miles,” try just running for an hour instead of mapping out the miles and stressing about getting a nice round 6.0 on the GPS). Most importantly, RELAX. It’s not baking at altitude; you don’t need to follow everything by the half-teaspoon measurement. I feel like Ron Burgundy (I have many (leather/paper-bound) books), but the truth is, I love to learn about training and exercise science. Some books are better than others, but there’s always at least little gem or two that can be pulled from the pages of books written by “the experts.” But my favorite, and perhaps most adventurous, thing about having multiple books on different training methodologies? Designing my own in my little training/racing melting pot. True, some training methodologies are complete 180s of other training methodologies, and perhaps my library fits more under the “scientifically proven” category (again, I am a big fan of Jack Daniels). But, finding the connections between different strategies and racing theories is almost like a game to me, putting together my own story (or literature review, for the academic geeks out there) in order to make sense of it all. If that’s not for you, don’t worry… Most of the books out there reference other books in the long line of endurance training literature, so the authors, in a way, do that work for you.

What training plan(s) do you use? Do you design your own, or rely on a coach for guidance? In your opinion, what is the biggest unknown in the realm of endurance training strategies that you wish you had the answer to?

Advertisements

Staying on Track: Update

This week, I logged my first official track workout in a series of speed sessions, all by myself on the St Louis Uni track. It. was. fantastic. Technically, I wasn’t alone. I showed up to the track on Wednesday night, and it was a happenin’ place, with nearly 30 kids and their parents bustling around. Six-yr-olds practicing 4×100 relays. They were better at hand-offs than some college relay teams I know. It was cool to watch as I ran lap after lap.

The workout: hammer out 12x400s with 400 rest, shooting for my 5K race pace. Truth be told, I actually broke it down a bit faster. I tried reigning it in, but no matter how much I felt I slowed down, I ran faster. When I run a big block of repeats on the track, I try breaking it down into sets so A) I don’t lose track and B) I don’t get bored/overwhelmed. For Wednesday’s workout, I broke it down into groups of 4:

First set: 1:29, 1:26, 1:26, 1:23
Thoughts: Ok, these were a little fast (the last one 10sec faster than my goal pace) so try not to implode on the next set. Stay relaxed, you have real estate to slow down a little.

Second set: 1:23, 1:22, 1:24, 1:22
Thoughts: Seriously, slow down. The last set is going to be painful.

Third set: 1:20, 1:21, 1:21, 1:19
Thoughts: Ok, well then, don’t listen. The final 400, #12, was a “might-as-well-see-how-fast-you-can-go” with the last 100 a sprint, but I never felt … tired. It was great. Very confidence boosting.

Next up, I have a 5K in mid-June (All American 5K) and I may or may not jump into a 10K in Edwardsville the weekend before. Did I mention that I’m signed up for the Fox Cities Marathon in September?

Speaking of marathons, and 12×400 repeats on the track at 5K race pace, I recently updated my marathon training library with Luke Humphrey’s new book:

 photo IMG_20130601_090853_608_zpsdc0d2875.jpgThis book was super appealing to me for two reasons: I am a big Hansons Brooks fanatic, and the methodologies aren’t too crazy off-the-wall compared to what I’m familiar with. While the 18wk plan (advanced) that I’m following just started last week, and I missed a few 6-milers because of travel to NY, I am feeling confident and focusing on being consistent and running nearly every day. That being said, yesterday’s 6-miler turned into only 2, because 10minutes into my run, the tornado warning sirens went off.

To me, the interesting thing about the Hanson’s method for marathon training, compared to other plans out there that millions of people follow (Galloway, Higdon), is the lack of mega-long runs and incorporation of consistently maintained physiological stress during the week; If I follow the Hanson’s Advanced marathon training plan as it is written to a T, I won’t run anything longer than 16 miles.  When training for a marathon, a lot of runners find this blasphemous. But truthfully, when I look at my week of training midway through the plan, I get a little excited. It reminds me a lot of training in college, under a modified Jack Daniels plan, that incorporates speed, tempo (what we referred to as Lactate Threshold, or LT), and a longer run with consistency and speed. I won’t necessarily have high volume weeks because it’s not practical for me right now (the highest mileage week I have planned is 63 miles), but I will have high physiological stress and cumulative fatigue.

In the past, I’ve cobbled together my own plans in the past based on insight from highly successful coaches (including Pfitzinger’s, Daniels’s, etc.), which follow similar methodologies and likely guided the Hansons in developing their own marathon method. Jack Daniels, an expert exercise physiologist and running coach, literally wrote the book on endurance run training (and also shifted my endurance training mentality during my junior year of college, when our cross-country team welcomed a new coach who followed his methodologies to a T).  What I didn’t embrace before, but is clear after reading the well-written book by Humphrey and reflecting on things here and there that I overlooked in my marathon training over the past five years, is that Daniels’s running methods specifically instruct runners, regardless of their goal race distance, to not incorporate long runs >25-30% of their weekly volume. Even still, I admit that in the past, I ignored this advice in order to just get that “big long run” in on Sunday morning, even if my training during the week was inconsistent, because- well- that’s just what you do when training for a marathon. You gotta have a big, long run. Turns out, actually… you don’t. Oh, and just in case you didn’t know:
 photo daniels_zpsa51dcb1b.jpg

Of course, depending on my total weekly volume, the absolute duration  my long run is irrelevant (remember: it’s 25-30% of my weekly volume at most!); if I design a training plan with the highest volume week of say 100 miles, the longest run of the week would be more than 16 miles. But, 100 mile weeks for me right now are not practical, and I’d probably get injured.

My success and failures in marathoning thus far hinges on cumulative fatigue. Last year, I was ill-prepared for the St Louis Rock and Roll marathon and switched to the half… during the race… even though I ran several long, 3hr+ runs. But I lacked consistency, with typical weeks of training only consisting of 4 days of running per week, and I didn’t accumulate physiological stress to adapt and be faster for longer. The best marathon I’ve had I raced 5 weeks after my first Ironman triathlon, and the accumulation of training 20-30hr weeks with one stellar (albeit forced) taper during post-ironman recovery served as a fantastic tuning for a fast and – most importantly – fun marathon.

Stay tuned for a post about writing your own plan for your goal race while taking into consideration your physiology. It involves one of my favorite hobbies: Doing the research!

Boston: What’s the Big Deal?

There’s definitely an allure to running the Boston Marathon if you are a runner. Personally, I don’t find it my supreme goal to race there, but I would by lying if I said it isn’t on my radar. I’ve passed up registering for four years now, and I’m not really sure why, other than I don’t really have the drive to race a big race like that just yet.

That being said, in my 50×50 list, I do have it laid out that I plan to do Boston as my Massachusetts marathon. I’ve qualified (so far) at every open marathon I’ve run (and even at one iron-distance race, if that counts, which I do not think it does). Last fall, when registration opened for the 2011 Boston Marathon , it sold out in lightning speed. So this brought the folks at BAA to reconsider the qualifying times. After months of deliberating, the time has come.

Yesterday, the BAA released the new standards. First, let me start by saying there is no real easy or perfect way to figure out these types of things. It’s not simple math; there is no real straight forward approach to saying one time is fast enough and another isn’t. There’s statistics involved, means and standard deviations, and the data might not follow a Gaussian distribution (in other words, the spread might not be normal like a bell curve).

If we look at the world’s best for guidance in determining these standards, for example, we see this: The fastest marathon time for a woman in 2010 was nearly five minutes slower than the world record, set in 2003 by Paula Radcliffe. For men, it was a different story. The fastest marathon time last year for men was less than a minute slower than the all-time best set just two years ago. So, the men’s times are a little closer packed together. This makes sense, in a way, because the faster you get, the more those seconds and milliseconds start to matter (ask any sprinter what their best 200m time is… you’ll likely get a different resolution than if you as a marathoner their PR).

OK… So let’s look further at the data. More recent years, men are getting faster and being more competitive with the world record in the marathon. Women, however, are having a harder time. In the following figure, I’ve compiled the top performances in history for men and women in the marathon. In the data, which I acquired on the website for The Association of Road Racing Statisticians, I made a list of the top 30 times in history for both men and women, as well as each time’s respective year of accomplishment. In the plot below is a graphical representation of the data, where women’s times are in blue triangles and men’s times are in red boxes. There’s an obvious difference in performance times; men are approximately 15 minutes faster (on average) than women. Also on the plot you will see two lines. The location of the colored lines illustrate the mean year from the top 30 times for both males (red line) and females (blue line). It is clear that the blue line for females occurs much earlier than the males’. Now, if you’re a statistics geek like I am, the data shows some interesting trends. Take for example the horizontal spread of the blue triangles compared to the red squares. I performed an F-test for variance comparing, first, the years of the top 30 performances between men and women. This gives somewhat of an idea about when the performances were made, whether or not the times saw any dramatic drops over history (if so, the dots should be clustered together) or if there has been any stagnation in performance. Interestingly (and somewhat obvious), there is a significant difference in the variance, or the spread, of years in which the top 30 performances were made, when comparing men and women. And, the F-test demonstrated significant differences in variances, underlining that there’s more than a 99.9% likelihood that the temporal spread between these two groups differs. This could mean a lot of things, but I see it as possibly suggesting that the men continue to beat down the door of the marathon world record, whereas the women had a few great years (in the early 2000s) and haven’t really got back there since. This is a difficult one to translate to the average marathoner; if we were to extrapolate these findings (from data of professional world-champion level runners) to the average marathoner, this might suggest that women’s personal bests aren’t generally improving year after year, whereas men’s (likely) are. In other words, men keep ticking off seconds from their best times, whereas women are just as fast now as they were about ten years ago. [I don’t like to extrapolate data, and I wouldn’t put any support behind that statement. I am simply being facetious).

It’s also interesting to look at the spread in the data for performance time as well. If you look at the vertical spread – or in other words, the variability- in the top 30 performances, for both men and women, you can see that the red squares are pretty tightly packed, whereas the blue triangles are spread out a little more in this direction as well. The F-test of variance on this data is also convincingly significant, Again, this could mean that there were a few standout times (notably in the early 2000s) for women. If we take out the women’s current-standing world record time (which is the blue triangle that rests in the 2:15:22 line), the vertical spread for women is a bit more similar to the mens. What does this mean? Well, again, the standout times are one thing. But also, men are at a point where they are having a hard time getting a lot faster. Women, on the other hand, have demonstrated their potential to go fast but don’t have the depth in performance history. It could be simply that women have not been running marathons competitively nearly as long as men have. The first time a woman broke 3 hrs in the marathon was in 1971, whereas men have been under 3hrs since at least 1908.

So what does this all mean? Well, it’s hard to say. In general, the time differential between the world’s best male and female marathons is about 15-16minutes.

But if we look at results from last year’s Boston Marathon, there’s a different story depending on what age group you look at. For the 18-39 age group, top men and women times differ by more than 20 minutes. In the 45-49 age group, for example, the discrepency between top male and female times is a little more than 30 minutes. How does one come up with a standard that is easily translatable and most fair to everyone? The BAA made a decision, based on knowledge and data, to keep men and women’s qualifying times separated by 30 min in each age group. Sure, this might make things a little more difficult for the 18-35 yr olds men, but how many men do you know play the “I’ll wait til I’m 40 to qualify” card so they get an extra 5 minutes? And, how would they get away with saying: “You 45-49yr olds get a gender gap of 30 minutes, but you younger kids in the 18-35 range only get 15.” I don’t think that would go over too well either.

As far as the rolling qualifying times go, it makes sense – at least to me – and I don’t think anyone who is confident that they can beat the qualifying by a good margin has to worry about getting into BAA in 2012. Besides, its I think it ups the bar a bit. The race this year sold out in 8hrs, but how many of those people were “squeakers”, people who JUST got under the qualifying time and were waiting by their computers hoping above hope to get in? I would imagine, a lot. In 2013, things will get a little more difficult, but I think the storm will calm when everyone sees how the 2012 registration goes. And for women to run 3:15 is not uncommon, per se, but it is an atypical goal, and it’s not easy. As a friend of mine pointed out, the “just making it” qualifying pace groups at some easy-to-qualify-at races are generally packed. Will these athletes try to get faster, or will they just run for the fun of it?

And think about how many women and men run the first round qualifying times? Is the race filling up really something to worry about? Now move down to the second qualifying time (which is 3:25 for women and 2:55 for men). Not as hard, but still- not easy. I think I finished around 40th when I ran a 3:22 at Columbus, and that was a relatively large and fast course. So the odds of getting in with a 3:25? Still pretty good. To be honest, had I really wanted to race Boston this year, I would not have got in (I think the registration date was when I was traveling for interviews). And with a 3:22, I would have been quite disappointed that I didn’t get in, knowing that some others in my same age group most likely got in with 3:40:59s. For me, I want to have wanted Boston be a competitive race, but not even giving me the chance to race takes me out of being competitive whatsoever.

In the end, I think the BAA did the best they could to make the playing field even. The new standards act as a sort of filter, and the time periods for registering under each qualifying time are still restricting. It’s not like they are allowing the 2:45 male marathons an entire month to register and fill up the race. And… maybe it is a little elitist, but hasn’t that always been the Boston way?

As an aside: No one complains about the NYC Marathon qualifying times, and maybe that is because of their amount of lottery and charity entries. Boston is making their early qualifying standards somewhat comparable to NYC Marathon’s guaranteed entry times, only not having those charity and lottery spots. In that way, it is remaining different than NYC and not falling under the peer pressure of making everyone happy (which is an impossible thing to do).

These thoughts and opinions are strictly my own with the help of data from online sources (hyperlinked).

The Endurance Meg Holiday Wish-List

The holidays are coming! Eek! My list hasn’t even been tackled yet. Double eek!

If you are like me, you already know what to get your significant other who 1) likes to ride his bike, 2) is in grad school and 3) lives in a snowy, cold place. Ok, so I have this one a little easy. But other than buying him a case or two of Pamela’s lemon shortbread cookies and a 5lb bag of Snowshoe Brew, I might be at a little bit of a loss. Endurance athletes aren’t really all that hard to shop for, if you have a billion dollars to spend on them. I thought I’d make it a little easy for those quirky endurance athletes on Santa’s list this year, no matter what your budget.

$5-35

  • Energy-o-rama: A nice variety of energy treats will bring a smile to their face. It will also give them an opportunity to restock their supply for the upcoming season or give them something new to try. I bought Baberaham a grab-bag of energy foods a few years back that had all sorts of awesome stuff, and it gave him an opportunity to try new things that he otherwise may never have tried before. My pics: Kona Kola Nuun, a flask of First Endurance Liquid Shot, a Larabar or two (coconut cream pie and pb&j, perhaps?), and some Honey Stinger chews.

  • Gift cards! Good places include:
    • All3Sports so they can put it towards some new tri gear
    • iTunes so they can jazz up their music collection
    • or Road Runner Sports so they can get a fresh pair of kicks or a new outfit.

Now if only Active.com had gift cards, too…

  • Chamois cream – whether they use it already and have a favorite, or they haven’t yet dabbled in the down-under cream, a new tube or tub might get them rolling. If you don’t know where to start, check out my chamois cream review from a few months ago to narrow down some options. Want to give them comfort without getting too personal with their privates? You could get them a can of TriSlide or a few bottles of the TriSwim shampoo and body wash.
  • Snapfish their season! My mom makes me really awesome collages every year. This year, after Rev3 Cedar Point, she made me the collest race recap ever. It had photos from their day as spectators, the course, and me on the run and at the finish.  You can make all sorts of cool things with Snapfish, like calendars and stationary. Think about a two-in-one type of present: make them a calendar that they can use to log their training!

$35-50

  • New headphones– If they are like me, they go through headphones faster than they go through swim suits. OK, maybe that is because I don’t swim as much as I should… but I digress. H2O Audio has a pair of waterproof headphones for $45, and there’s these new tri-geek-gadget headphone covers called Yurbuds that lots of people talk about. The warranty of the Yurbuds is 90days which is longer than some headphones last…
  • Underwear– No, not underwear like your mom gets you at Christmas. How about: a new sports bra? or windproof briefs? or a pair of compression shorts? Seriously, serious underwear. And if you think its weird to give your Secret Santa who also does marathons a pair of windproof briefs, then you obviously don’t know him that well… unless you live in Florida.
  • Cross training gear– Get a medicine ball, Bosu ball, or a yoga mat. I’ve always wanted one of those at-home pull-up bars because I never can predict when the mood will strike and I’ll want to do Feats of Strength. It could be in the middle of eating pasta (but it’s usually NEVER in the middle of eating ice cream).
  • A nice bottle of whiskey– I know I’m not the only endurance athlete that likes whiskey. Right? Right?!? Phew, at least I know Maggs does. My recommendation? Well, I have a lot of recommendations in this price range. But, particularly, I *love* Eagle Rare for a bourbon, Macallan 10yr Fine Oak if you like single-malt, and I’d personally love to try Hirsch 10yr in honor of my new coach, even though he’s not from Canada.

$50-100

  • New bike shorts– Who doesn’t need new bike shorts, anyway? Or tri shorts? or running shorts? Heck, it’s cold now; get ’em a pair of tights, like these ones from Louis Garneau.
  • Miscellaneous gear– Do they have a nice bike pump? How about an at-home fix-it kit? Baberaham helped me put one together before I moved since we’d no longer be sharing gear. It included: a multitool, several new tubes, Bontrager tire levers, CO2 containers, a 3-4-5mm Y-type allen wrench, and all sorts of other useful stuff. Trigger Point is a sure-win for endurance athletes, since they are tools to aid recovery. Go to their Individual TP Products tab on the left to see the Quadballer (if you are gonna get one thing from Trigger Point, it should probably be this). If they are more run focused, get them gear to keep them running safe after dark, like a nice headlamp, a decent runnable reflective vest, and a hat/gloves designed for running.
  • Sweet clothes– Whether its running clothes or every-day normal clothes, which for some reason endurance athletes don’t usually have a lot of, it’s safe to say that most everyone will appreciate the finer stuff. Take merino wool, for example. It’s warm, but very fashionable. Check out Icebreaker for some extraordinary active wear (that will seriously keep you warm with less layers and weight than polyester) and also for some stylish stuff, too.
  • A few good cookbooks and some cooking tools– Get them started off on the right foot for 2011 with a few healthy-eating cookbooks and some new utensils they probably don’t have. There’s plenty of cookbooks to choose from, but make sure your choice is personal. If they are new to following a gluten free diet, get them something like Gluten Free Gourmet Cooks … series by Bette Hagman might be nice. I personally love the Comfort Foods book, but Baberaham isn’t such a soulful food person. And, if they don’t already have one, get them something nice for their kitchen to cook food in. I love my new Calphalon stainless steel multi-purpose saute pan. It has a lid, which is one giant step up from what my last saute pan had. Also check out their knife collection; everyone should hvae three good knives in their kitchen: a santoku or chef’s knife, a paring knife, and a bread knife.

  • A different bottle of whiskey? This is probably the best bourbon I’ve ever had:

$100 or more

  • While this is more the special person(s) [eg significant other, son/daughter, or kiss up to your boss because you majorly screwed off this year] gift, it’s still one that is difficult to tackle for most people. In fact, I can think of a million things to get my running buddies, but we can’t spend this much moolah on each other (if we spend anything at all, because- alas – we are either all or recently recoverying grad students). So, if your special person(s)’s an endurance junkie like me, here’s a few gifts they might just eek about in glee.
  • New kicks ($100-150)- This is something that I know I can always get great use and appreciation out of. If you go this route, get ’em a new pair of their ol’ standbys. Don’t change it up, and if they aren’t happy with their current shoe, don’t make the decision for them. Instead, offer to take them to their favorite running shop and buy their new pair of shoes after trying them on.
  • A new bike trainer ($150-1200)– Even for people who can train outside year-round, having a bike trainer gives an athlete the freedom to train when they want to, whether its 5 in the morning or 9 at night. I have become very fond of using the trainer, because I don’t have to worry about bundling up, being seen by cars, or even wearing a shirt (yes, I wear a sports bra… sheeeesh). CycleOps is *the* name when it comes to quality bike trainers, and they make such a wide range that it can fit almost any budget. Now if only I could get my hands on a Powerbeam Pro…

  • GPS watch ($150-300)- If they don’t already have one (which I’m 99.8% certain most dedicated endurance athletes do at this point), upgrade their Ironman Timex watch to a shiny new Garmin 305.
  • TYR Torque swimskin ($250)- For those tri-geeks out there- Got a significant other that aspires to qualify for Kona, or is doing any southern, warm season triathlons in 2011? This swimskin is WTC and USAT legal, and it has a wee-bit of compression to help keep things tucked in and streamlined. I had a few close-calls in triathlon over the last two seasons, where I wasn’t sure if the water would be cool enough for my wetsuit. It wouldn’t otherwise be a big deal, but my two-piece tri kit can act like a chute in the water. Plus, I hope to do some warmer-weather races in 2011, and having a swimskin would help me in my weakest of the three sports.
  • Cover (some or all of) a race entry fee ($80-600)- Nothing says “I love you” than encouragement, and what better way to encourage your special person than by being an enabler?! I love enablers. They make me happy because they are just listening to the person they care about and helping them get to where they need to go a little easier.
    • Want something a little better than just covering their race entry fee? Register for two people; make it a special day! Of course, that other person is you. Not only will you be showing your support of your favorite endurance athlete, but you’ll also be saying “I’m with you on this one!” And, if you reallllly care about that person… make it a Rev3 race. 😉

Of course, there’s lots of things you can get for an endurance geek. I’d like to think we’re the easiest people to shop for. But if you’re stuck, hopefully this list of ideas will help. You could also try to win a box of LARABARS for whoever is on your list, and I won’t tell… Hurry tho, the contest ends on Monday.

To be or not to be (coached): Is that the question?

I’ve been chatting with some friends recently, on twitter and in person, about the pros and cons of hiring a coach. For years I’ve been on my own, and I’ve been really psyched about it. I have a fairly solid background in developing and executing the right kind of training, or so at least I think. I also have a graduate degree in exercise science, and my education in physiology (and general interest in the matter) seems to help. Plus, my background in collegiate running has given me an exceptional gift: I was part of the building and assembly of training plans, I learned how to properly prepare for peaks, how to taper right, and how to execute a focused season (or not). And I did this twice a year, for four years in a row. It was like a religion. This, and my history of training marathons over the last few years, has really helped me to figure out what works, what doesn’t, and what is just a waste of time. Even still, the question continues to linger about whether or not a coach would help make life a little easier (and me a little faster).

Here’s where I’m coming from:

Collegiate running: I was on a team that was coached by two different coaches (not at the same time, of course) who had completely different theories about running. My first collegiate coach, who I had during my freshman and sophomore seasons, was a Yooper with a strategy to get his athletes fast. Trouble was, sometimes his strategy backfired, resulting in burnouts and out-of-phase peaks. I remember the day I peaked during my sophomore cross-country season. It’s like it was yesterday… out there on Lahti Road doing 800m hill repeats. I was the fastest on the day, and I even grabbed the Lahti Road record! But it was training, and the rest of my season was shit. And we were still two weeks out from the conference meet. Needless to say, I learned that peaking during a late season training session, not at an “A” race, is not that awesome.

My second coach, who came along after our first coach resigned, was more educated in endurance physiology, and he was a fan of Jack Daniels (the PhD, not the whiskey). His training philosophy brought me to a 5K PR, made me a stronger and more efficient runner, and taught me the benefits of going long even if the race was relatively short. He encouraged his athletes to read, to educate themselves on the running and training philosophies, so we could better understand where his 2-a-days and 3.5hr runs were coming from. Terms like “LT” and “VO2Max” made sense long after I took classes on the subject, because who really pays attention in exercise physiology at an engineering school anyway?

Anyway, once I graduated and moved on, I wanted to continue racing (after a brief break sabbatical, that is). From what I had learned from my former (2nd) coach’s training strategies, I developed my own training plans. Each week looked something like this:

  • One long day (Sunday)
  • One threshold day (usually Thursday)
  • 2-3 recovery days (Wed/Fri)
  • a race, max-effort, or general intensity day (Tues or Saturday)

I also used two-a-days, both to get me in shape fast and to boost my aerobic fitness (LT), and before I knew it I was deep into training for my first marathon. I trained through the winter in Montana, but I did it all indoors. I’d hit the treadmill 6 days a week, somedays twice, running anywhere between 30minutes easy to 22miles while watching America’s Next Top Model. Sundays were my long runs, Mondays were almost always full recovery (off), Tuesdays and Thursdays would be a nice hour run in the morning with harder stuff in the afternoon. Wednesday and Fridays were recovery days, and Saturdays were either easy or longer intervals. That was my week, every week, from December to March, treadmill mashing and iPod tuning. Until, of course, I ran 26.2 miles for the first time outside in Napa Valley, California. And I was very satisfied with my finish of 3:22.

From there, it was all in some direction over a hill towards who knows what. I move back to Michigan and got back to training with some of my former teammates. I trained mostly outdoors from then on, but I kept my training schedule roughly the same. I squeezed in a few more marathons while working my butt off at school, and eventually got into a good rhythm. And with that rhythm came more challenges, including my introduction to triathlon. Instead of running every day, I swapped out biking and swimming. The key run workouts (the long run, the track intervals) would stay, but biking would take the place of the recovery and easy days. Swimming- well, that was something I forced myself to do once or twice a week instead of a recovery run or bike. And it rarely was fun (ok, endless relays were pretty fun).

With the planning of my first Ironman distance triathlon, I wanted to make sure I wasn’t missing key running workouts, so my first training plan as a triathlete actually used a marathon-specific run plan. I based my training on a book by Pete Pfitzinger, which may not have helped my Ironman run but actually helped my post-IM marathon five weeks later (where I ran a marathon PR of 3:19). Anyway, I was a little more knowledgeable after season #1 of triathlon, thanks to trial-and-error, not to mention just having experience under my belt, and my second season in triathlon was more successful. I was more diligent about my training plan; I kept an electronic spreadsheet so I could update it and kept track of weekly training hours. I watched my season progress, and the ups and downs of my weekly hours fluctuate somewhat sinusoidally (thanks to my planned training cycles).

This season, though, I had more doubts about my training than ever. I was racing better, but I was also having a more difficult time planning my training. I know how to handle one sport, but how could I deal with three and still try to do well? I had a hard time answering questions like: When should I do my long runs and rides? When am I supposed to do my hard swim workouts? Do I swim hard on the same day as a hard track workout? Or do I swim hard on my run/bike off day? Or do I bike hard on my run recovery day? These were questions that I couldn’t answer yes or no to unless I just did it, but I was afraid and hesitant that I would make the wrong decision and make my season go south real fast. I also had problems with accountability. One poor decision that I made on my own was my post-A-race recovery; or lack thereof. I basically didn’t do anything for two weeks after Rev3 Full, and the three weeks leading up to my fall marathon were full of sitting around eating candy, drinking bourbon, processing words, and being stressed out. In hindsight, active recovery may have been more beneficial than the “recovery” I was doing- which was more or less just being sedentary.

I don’t even have enough fingers to count the number of times I questioned getting a coach. I asked friends who had coaches, and we talked about their relationships. I talked to friends that didn’t have coaches, and we discussed the pros and cons of hiring someone to tell me what I thought I already knew. I talked to friends that were coaches, and got some great, rewarding feedback there, too.  I feel like I am in a tricky situation, because I know enough about training to know what might be a good idea or a bad idea, and this makes it really difficult to wrap my head around the possibility of having a coach who could have different views and opinions about things than me.

There’s also something so rewarding in designing your own plan, laying down the tracks that can bring you to having a great performance. Knowing that I was able to race fast this season, on my own, by doing the work that I put in- the work that I developed- well, anyway, this idea tends to linger in my mind. Over the past several months, whenever I would consider getting a coach, I’d ask myself: Would a coach help, or would a coach tell me something I didn’t want to hear? And not to mention, can I even afford it?

Now, I understand that not everyone can design their own training plan, let alone stick to it. I definitely didn’t stick to mine like I probably should have. There are weeks in my training plan that are sparsely sprinkled with completed workouts. This season, the only accountability I had was myself, and that was better sometimes than others. But regardless, having a coach is not essential to the triathlete. There, I said it. Now all my friends who are coaches are going to stop talking to me.

But they shouldn’t, because there really does come a point when having a coach is beneficial. For example, beginners rarely know where to even begin, let alone figure out how they are going to fit in training in their already-busy schedule known as The Real World. Because, let’s be honest, who can hire a coach if you don’t have a job?

And even for the “experienced” athlete- there comes a point when someone who thinks they know everything (points at myself) might need some insight. There comes a point when ya gotta say: “OK, do I want to get faster with the help of someone else, or am I OK with rolling the dice?” I sat down and thought about it, I thought really hard. And seriously. I considered all aspects. How much will a coach cost, and how much can I afford? What will they offer me that I don’t already have at my fingertips, including a boyfriend that bikes, a kickass group of cycling buddies, and a running partner that runs the shit out of everything (ok, maybe that’s not what I meant)?

Most importantly, though, and this is the real deal: If I hire a coach, am I confident that I can put aside what I know think I know and trust what this other person tells me as true? Can I say: “Oh, I feel like I should be running for 5 hours if I want to do well in a HIM” and they tell me- “No, you’re flippin’ cheesefried nuts.” That’s the biggest step: getting over what you think you know. Of course, if we look hard enough, we can usually find what we’re looking for. It’s like those people that go to the doctor to get the diagnosis that they want to hear. Sure, some would call them hypochondriacs, but if the fifteenth doctor they see tells them they have a rare disease that no one else has ever heard of and will get them special attention, than its the fifteenth doctor they are going to trust.

Ok, maybe finding the right coach is not really that extreme. But hopefully, you get my point. It’s not just “hearing what you want to hear”, though. It’s also hearing what is right to you. Finding the right coach is finding the right pairing of personalities; it’s finding the person that you can relate with, and the person that is willing to work with you. And when you know, chances are you will really know. And hopefully for your wallet’s sake, that person isn’t Dave Scott at $600/month. Of course, I say that, because I am a measly grad student making $20K a year. I am sure there are triathletes out there that eat $600 for breakfast.

Recap: 2010 “Sophomore” Season

It’s hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that my 2010 season is wrapped up.  I’ve even had two weeks of my post-season do-whatever-I-want awesomeness, [which really hasn’t been that awesome].

Racing this year has been a blast! In my second season as a triathlete, I raced more and improved from last year. And, I felt strong in the run of practically every race, which made me happy. I set some lofty goals at the beginning of the season, and although I didn’t make them all, I’m happy with the level I’ve risen.

Anyway, it’s time to reflect on what racing in 2010 brought me:

  • Two more marathons are checked off my 50×50 list (Utah and Michigan)- I BQ’d in both of these, too. Although I didn’t reach one of my goals (another marathon PR), I am still incredibly satisfied with where my run has made it. In fact, although I didn’t PR in the open marathon, I broke my marathon PR in the 140.6 distance by over 30 minutes. And, I also shaved off a minute from my previous best time in the 10-mile.
  • I ran the farthest I’ve ever run before, in a training run no-less. Although I was registered for my first ultra, I bailed because of sub-optimal health/stress levels. The ultra world is still there, and I’m striving to make it a to-do for 2011.
  • I broke 11hrs in the long course tri at Rev3 Cedar Point! This was one of my more major, loftier goals, one I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to accomplish. But, dare I say? I crushed it! I even got lost on the bike, which added a good 2 miles to my bike leg, and still cruised to a sub 3:40 marathon. And had fun!
  • I raced more in 2010 than I did in ’09, and I traveled a lot more for races, too. I even flew to a triathlon, which was something I had never done before. Special thanks to The Bike Shop and Bicycle Works for helping me out at Quassy!
  • I directed a half-iron distance triathlon, the Kuparisaari Tri, and got to meet some incredible people along the way. It was a lot of work (that’s an understatement), and the race could not have happened without the help of the KCRA, Bear Belly Bar and Grill (and the Lac La Belle Lodge), the volunteers, and the LLB community! I hope the race will continue, especially so that some day, I can race it!

So, what does that mean for 2011?

There are lots of things I want to do. There are lots of things that I don’t know if I can do. But I won’t know unless I push the boundaries of what I am capable of doing.

For me, 2011 is going to include more focused sessions, aiming to improve my swim, bike, and run. My specific goals are:

  • Faster swim!    I’d like to hit 32-34min in the 1.2mi distance, and 1:10 in the 2.4mi distance… or faster!
  • Stronger bike! In 2011, I want to get on the bike and enjoy the ride the whole time. I know that’s impractical, because some days just suck. But, this season, I struggled a little in races and training. I just didn’t have the fun that I thought I should be having. I did, however, get a little out of my comfort zone in the second half of the season, and hope to bring that back in 2011. One thing I plan to do in 2011 is use benchmarks to track my cycling progress.
  • Blazin’ run! I am a runner. I have it in me. And I love it, all the time. So I am going to work on my running strengths in 2011 to get me there. I think that the longer runs in the early season really boosted my endurance for the rest of the year, so I plan to build a solid base of long runs. And, I want to race a half marathon! I’ve never finished an open road half marathon!
  • Keep peeling off time and running down places in the HIM distance races. It was blatently obvious to me this year that you really can’t compare race to race. To put it in writing that I want to go 4:45 at Quassy is insane. Plus, courses can change year to year and its hard to have  standard. So, I’d like to just keep pushing to get better in this length, because its so fun!
  • Race a (legit) Oly. Last year, I did my one and only Olympic race at Rev3 Knoxville. This race was seriously legit; the only problem was, I wasn’t. And I didn’t race another Oly all season. I’d like to race at least two this year, and race them to the best of my ability. I’m really interested in what I will be able to do in this distance, especially when my run will be faster than that it is in the HIM.

Although I haven’t completely figured out my 2011 schedule, I am planning on doing the following races:

  • Ragnar Relay Florida Keys – all-women ultra team (Jan)
  • Rev3 Knoxville Olympic – May
  • Rev3 Quassy Half – June

Detroit Free Press Marathon Race Report

Thank you everyone for the kind words about my grandpa.

Getting back into the groove of training is going to be a little daunting, with this imposing 300pg document screaming in my face. After Detroit, I decided to take an entire week off, mainly because I had a lot of traveling/family-ing on my plate, but also because I was sore. Really sore. I couldn’t walk well the day after the race, and my feet ached. In fact, my quads screamed for the longest post-race duration I’ve ever experienced, and I was still feeling the marathon on Thursday. Which, of course, I think is odd considering it was “only” a marathon, and not a super fast one to boot. Some days you have it, some days you don’t.

So, how was the Detroit Free Press Marathon, you ask?

In one word: Awesome.

I have to start with the disclaimer that I love Detroit. Sure, it has a bad rap. I admit, I used to make fun of it. It was kind of dingy. I used to call it names, maybe even show embarrassment whenever someone would ask where I was from. And, to be honest, there’s really nothing that cool about car arson or five-story apartment buildings without any windows. But things are starting to change in that town. Detroit has shown me what it takes to be resilient, to persevere. To turn the other cheek, to ignore the naysayers. I’ve been shown that those from Detroit are proud, yet they aren’t afraid to lend a hand to a neighbor in need. They have every right to be proud; it was this city, after all, that brought everyone in the US their own vehicle. Detroit has helped make driving a right, not just a luxury. Whether or not we like it, without Detroit and the Big Three, the US wouldn’t be what it is today. Yet we are quick to judge this city and its people, throwing them to the wolves. Many Americans point their fingers at the Big Three and Detroit for the downfall of the economy.  They have used Detroit as the scapegoat for their financial strives, and that is quite unfortunate. I’m looking forward to the day when the phoenix rises up from the ashes…

But, off my soapbox, let’s just say that Detroit has a special place in my heart. There’s awesome music (and no, I’m not talking about Kid Rock… he’s not even from Detroit!). Awesome food. Great parks. It’s a blue-collar town.

So, without further adieu, here’s my Detroit Free Press Marathon report!

Expectations:

Going into this race, I was hoping to cruise to a fast marathon time with my post-FullRev fitness. Unfortunately, my post-FullRev diet and activities included a lot of junk. I did a lot of sitting at my desk, I did a lot of eating candy and not hydrating well, and I did a lot of nothing. I ran ~3-4times a week, didn’t swim more than twice, and only bike once. It was pathetic. But, for whatever reason, I thought I’d be ok. I even thought I’d have a chance to snag a PR. I was delusional.

Expo:

The expo was extraordinary. This is probably the best expo I’ve been to. Race wear was for sale, and they had some seriously cool designs. Had I not been in a penny-pinching-gonna-move-to-another-state-soon financial situation, I’d have definitely bought plenty of Christmas gifts. We went to pick up our packets on Saturday afternoon and it was not too crowded, the flow was great. We were able to get our bibs and swag quickly. There were plenty of last-minute things if I needed anything, but fortunately I didn’t.

Pre-race:

Fortunately, Big Daddy Baberaham gave Babe and I a ride to the race start on Sunday morning, so we didn’t have to fuss with parking or People-Movering. Not that the People-Mover is bad; it’s actually quite awesome. But, easing pre-race stress is always key. It was dark, and it stayed plenty dark until the race started.

The only qualm I had about the whole race was the gear drop. It was a little chilly but Baberaham decided to ditch his pre-race clothes with his dad in case we couldn’t find the gear drop. Luckily, there was a gear drop, so I didn’t lose my layers. I ended up giving him my jacket though, since he was shivering and I felt fine. Not only did that give him a little bit of warmth, but it also encouraged other athletes to think he was a pro marathoner, and a few people approached him with questions about the race start because “he looked like he knew what he was doing.” That was funny. Anyway, back to bag drop– We found it about fifteen minutes before the race start, which apparently wasn’t enough time because the queue was quite long… and not moving. Eventually, it was 8min to race start, I had to pee, and we were still in line. About five minutes to the start of the race, we were able to make it to the front of the line and I got into line to pee… then ran to the start. I found my friend and college buddy, Kaoru, who helped me jump the fence and start with the B wave.

The waves started 2 minutes apart, and I was bummed because in my run from porta john to start line I lost Baberaham. I wanted to run with him for the first few miles, but that was a lost cause (there were nearly 20,000 people). So, I started with Kaoru. The rope held us in the gate until our wave was to take off, and I didn’t feel the jitters that a pre-race PR-seeking gal might.

The course:

The marathon course was excellent. Since I was in wave B, it was pitch black when I started. I didn’t see the first mile, which was ok, but I figured that when I got to 8minutes I had passed it. It was probably the best that it was dark at the start because the first mile or two are the ugliest of the course. Around mile 3, we headed up and over the Ambassador Bridge and into Canada. The bridge was a little slower than I wanted, because the Trolls thought it was a hill, or something. After we got off the bridge, it was a few miles of flat shoreline running in Winsor. I loved it, the spectators were great and the views were amazing. We headed into the tunnel to get back to the US and it was a hot mile underground. My arm warmers came off and I cruised through the halfway.

Right around 13miles, my legs started to fight me. I could feel feet clomping on the ground, and my joints ached. It was a strange sensation, telling me to slow down. But I was on pace for a 3:15, which would be a PR, so I pushed through. Then I saw my friends, D&T, and thought “wouldn’t it be more fun to stop and cheer the other athletes on?” But I’ve never DNF’d a marathon, and I wasn’t about to start in my home state.

We headed down Lafayette, and my legs got more and more tight. Maybe I should have stopped, I thought. The pain in my legs didn’t go away. It just got worse. But now I was the farthest from the finish line I’d be all day, and if I stopped I’d have a long walk back. My quad muscles started to get shooting pains through them.

The course headed onward into Indian Village, and the spectators were phenomenal. I took in as much as I could of what was going on around me. The tree lined streets and the beautiful, old houses… the leaves crunching under my feet, the colors. It was just awesome. I was a little disappointed to run past, or get passed, by athletes wearing headphones. I wanted to chat with them, I wanted to take it all in.

I slowed a little, but that didn’t help the pain in my legs. I stopped and stretched out, but that didn’t help. My run turned to a shuffle, and I walked through the aid stations. I physically could not force myself to run any faster. The course headed over the River Walk bridge to Belle Isle, a place in Detroit where I had never been. It was an awesome 2mile loop around the island. I wanted to enjoy it more, and I felt like I had so much in the tank to burn. But the legs just wouldn’t wake up. It was as if I had left everything at the halfway mark. I walked a bit, I’d walk backward to see if Baberaham was catching up. I’d scan every person passing by and every person approaching, to see if they were wearing a blue shirt and hat, to see if it was Babe. But then I thought, if he does catch me, I won’t be able to run with him. So I would start running again, only to stop about two miles later to stretch or walk. It was mile-by-mile of sufferfest. And it was only a marathon.

Eventually, I heard a huff and puff come from behind me and a “Finally I see you at mile 24!” Babe caught up, and was going to run with me, but I encouraged him to catch the girl in the pink skirt that ran by a few seconds before. At first he resisted, but he saw I was hurting, so he took off. Two more miles, anyone can run two more miles. Or walk. I shuffled my way to the finish line, thinking to myself what a poor attempt at a marathon that was.

But I really can’t be that upset. For blowing up completely, I still hung on to a 3:30 marathon. And I was actually quite happy when I finished. Not because of my time, I didn’t really care. I was happy because I didn’t quit. Because I experienced a part of Detroit I’d never experienced. Because I had a good time, even though I had a painful time. There was no “woe-is-me” for me afterward, I was just glad to be done. Baberaham got a PR by over 15minutes, and my friend Jess PR’d in the half. I was so glad to be done to hear their stories and congratulate them.

That’s one of the few times I’ve raced where that thought has crossed my mind. Glad-to-be-done. The finish line volunteers put the medal around my neck, and I smiled. It was worth every step.

It’s amazing how the same things can feel so different on different days. Some days you feel cold when its 70 degrees outside. I think running a marathon fits in this category. Sure, I wasn’t prepared for a PR. I admit that, hands down. But its amazing to me how hard a marathon can feel, like how hard it felt on Sunday. And yet, on other days, marathons can feel like a breeze, even after you’ve biked 112 miles and swam 2.4. I guess some days you have it, and some days you don’t.

So even though it was a crappy race for me, even though I felt sore and slow, I still had an awesome time. I enjoyed seeing parts of Detroit that I’ve never seen, even though its where I grew up. It’s amazing what a marathon can show you; it’s amazing what we don’t see unless someone else shows us. Thank you, Detroit.

Detroit FreePress marathon, and something a lil’ special! #fb

I’ve been honing in my fall marathon schedule (that’s right, already looking ahead, past the Cedar Point FullRev), mostly because I absolutely loved doing a post-Ironman marathon last year. Not only was it awesome to visit Columbus, Ohio, where I got to hang out and race with Kendra, one of my MegaTough teammies, but I also ran myself to a three minute marathon PR, something I hope to do again in 2010.

Where will I do this? Well, I’ve got my sights set on the Detroit Free Press Marathon. There are many reasons for this, but it boils down to the following:

  1. Close to home: I don’t have to worry about traveling to a city where I have to pay money by going out to dinner, renting a hotel, etc. etc. Plus, I know Detroit, and I love Detroit!
  2. Weekend trip: Yeah, its actually quite a long haul for me to get to Detroit from school (about a 9hr drive), but at least I don’t have to worry about delayed flights, lost luggage, and $450 airfare!

Why do you care what fall marathon I’m doing? Because you could do it, toooooo! It’s an international race [you run across the border into Canada!], and Detroit has some really awesome areas (believe it or not). Some of you are my Midwest crew, and I am super excited to meet and greet with ya’ll at races. Why not head out for the Freep? Not only is there a marathon, there’s a half marathon too, and a 5K, and a marathon relay.

Want something even cooler?

Trakkers, the GPS trakking device for athletes that has been at all the Rev3 races, is considering their schedule for this fall.  I used one of these devices at Quassy in June. The device enables friends and family to follow athletes using the device online in real time during their race.  One of the events they are considering being available for is the FreePress Marathon. Trakkers will make this decision based on the desire and interest of athletes to have the device available for this event.  Since I will be down there and have quite a few friends that are planning on doing it as well, I am pushing for Trakkers to be here.

If you are interested in racing any of the FreePress Marathon weekend events, let me know. If I can find enough people interested in renting a Trakkers device, we’ll be able to wear them! Race day rental will be $19.95 per device.

So, are you interested?? Feel free to email me directly (mlkillia [at] gmail [dot] com) or comment on this post, and I’ll be pulling to have Trakkers at the Detroit Free Press Marathon!

Salt Lake City Marathon Race Review

Temperature: 49F at the start, 63F at the finish
Weather: Sunny, 0-6mph winds (calm)
Participants: 5733 half marathoners and marathoners (71 of which were early starters, taking off at 6:15am)

Saturday – Expo: The expo was big and easy to find, although finding parking was a little tricky. Erik did hot laps around the block until we were done getting our race packets. The race shirts are nice, technical short sleeves that are fitted. I got a kid’s sized shirt which I appreciated. The rest of our race packet was lacking in the free-goodies-area, which some people count as a big factor for race quality. I didn’t care too much, but I could have done without all the flyers (I didn’t really look at them; I just threw them away).

Night-before meal: Gluten free Annie’s Mac and Cheese! Lots of Nuun to make sure the altitude didn’t effect me much.

Sunday- Start time: 7am.

Pre-race fuel: Couple handfuls of Peanut Butter Panda Puffs, and then one scoop First Endurance PreRace and 1scoop EFS (Grape) in 20 ounces of water ~45min before start.

Baberaham and I drove Marc’s truck to the U and parked in an engineering lot, about 200yds from the start line. We were right next to a porta potty, which was awesome because there were no long lines (it was like our ‘secret’ spot). We headed over to the start area around 6:30 to drop off our gear bags and make one last porta-potty-stop, but the lines were tremendously long for the loo. I waited in line while Baberaham dropped off both our bags, and when he returned I hadn’t made any progress on the loo-line-advancement. So, without further hesitation, we headed for a tree on the far side of the field.

We made our way with 12minutes to the start The race start was crowded, but it was our own fault for not starting a bit closer to the starting line. We walked to get across the mats and our first mile was a lot of weaving in and out of people run/walking. I expected this, because the race was a half marathon/full marathon start, but I didn’t want to lose Adam along the way. Luckily, he tucked in well behind me as we made our way through the crowds.

The course was beautiful. The Wasatch mountains were seemingly always on the horizon, and the sun was only directly ahead of us for a few miles. We ran through a few parks, including the Sugarhouse Park (from the photo below) and Liberty Park.

Unfortunately, the race route layout was not the best. At mile 5, the marathon and half split, and I felt relieved because we were no longer involved in the R.R.C.F. that was nearly 6,000 runners. I followed the other marathoners through beautiful Sugarhouse Park for a mile or two, but then I saw the stream of half marathoners ahead. We reconnected with the rest of the runners, except instead of being up to pace with the runners we left at the split, we were running with those who were two miles behind us before the split. That brought on a bit of anxiety for me, and I tried to contain it because I didn’t want to be a Negative Nancy with Adam by my side running his first marathon. We weaved our way once again through the runners, and then split off again for good. Once we were alone on the course, it was smooth sailing… until the last 3 or 4 miles…

I was glad I brought along a bottle of EFS Liquid Shot (found it at the Canyon Bicycles) on the race, as this served as my only nutrition aside from an orange slice around mile 19. It fit great in one of my Lucy Propel Run Skort pockets (and my inhaler fit in the other pocket). I finished my entire flask of Liquid Shot before mile 18, and was a little worried that the lack of food along the course would cause me energy-issues. I had Powerade at one of the aid stations around mile 18, but this made my stomach want to turn a little, so I continued drinking water. Luckily, I didn’t feel any bonk, and actually picked up the pace quite a bit toward the end, even with the uphill near the finish. This was probably the first marathon I have ever done where I felt great at the end, energy-wise and biomechanically. I think part of my good-feeling groove came from my caffeination boost with Pre-Race and my sustained energy with Liquid Shot. Running a 30-miler a few weeks before the marathon helped, too. I think I have my nutrition dialed now, at least it seemed like it on race day.

The solid-food nutrition provided by the race was pretty bleak. There were no gels, oranges, or any food available for the half or full marathoners. Some spectators had set up their own tables with oranges and other nutrition (including TEQUILA! at mile 20!), but the solid-food nutrition provided by the race was nil. Marc wanted orange slices. I have to admit, I wanted orange slices, too.

The race finish was crowded. I was disappointed that the half marathon walkers were finishing when the marathon runners were, especially when I reached the cobblestone street that was 6-8ft wide. There was a lot of leaping and maneuvering that was not necessary if the finish chute were only a few yards wider.

It would have helped if the half and the full had pacers, or at least corrals where folks could start with others who are running the same pace. Also, the first half marathon/marathon split should be removed. That was a pain because it was too crowded when we reconnected, and we were running with people much slower pace than we wanted to be running with. So we had to re-weave our way through the slower crowds; very much a pain.

Gear bag retrieval was quite a pain in the neck for a lot of people. Half marathoners were in a really long line, but Baberaham and I cut in without anyone noticing and grabbed our bags from along the railing within fifteen minutes. The bags were apparently all dumped together, half and full racers, so the organization was a little difficult. Plus they organized bags based on last name, and we didn’t put our last name on our bags (only race numbers), so the volunteers couldn’t organize them. Fortunately, not many people put just their numbers on their bags, so riffling through other bags to find ours was not difficult.

Trax was closed, so Marc and Sarah had a difficult time getting back to their car to come back to get us. We didn’t plan that out very well. We should have parked one car at the finish, and one car at the start, that way it wouldn’t have been such a shit-show to get home afterward.

All in all, it was a good race with a beautiful course and lots of racers. I didn’t really like how the start was organized (or lacked organization, I guess). Salt Lake City was not my favorite marathon I’ve done, but it has a lot of potential to improve. This was its 7th year. It is tricky, because I thought- organization-wise- the race was fairly great. There were plenty of aid stations, volunteers, and helpers at the finish line. It was the course layout and quality of aid stations that was poor. I saw so many people wearing hydration packs and I know why now (not that I thought I needed to carry 50ounces of fluid).

What I wore: Saucony ProGrid Guide 3’s, Saucony Women’s Speed Short Sleeve (and Speed long sleeve that was shedded in the first mile!), Patagonia Active Sport High Impact bra, and Lucy Activewear Propel Run Skort

What got me through the treadmill marathon

Question of the week: You ran a treadmill marathon?! [trust me, it’s always been a question, never a statement]

Why yes, I did! Ok, now the next question: Why?

There are lots of reasons. One reason: running the ‘mill offered me a race-simulation. I could wear shorts and a sports bra and had all my nutrition needs at my fingertips. Another reason: my buddy, Erik, talked me into it. But in all honesty, I had a good time (seriously!).

It was quite the experience, that’s for sure. And the time actually went by rather fast (considering). Here’s what I learned:

  1. Setting a goal in advance is key. I knew when I stepped on the treadmill that morning that I’d be running 26.2miles. I knew I’d be there for several hours. I didn’t have anything planned that morning, nor did I feel rushed to get the workout done. And because I wasn’t running “just to run”- the time really did go by fast. The first hour just flew by. Plus, I had friends that were in it with me, and friends that knew what I was doing, so I had a few companions and fans coming in and out of the gym that morning. That made the time go by faster, too.
  2. Have a plan, and stick to it. I wasn’t just going for a training run, it was a more serious venture. I had the whole workout planned: when I was going to eat food or take drink, what it was going to be, and what pace I was going to run. I could have got caught up in the fact that a) I overslept and missed running the first 40minutes with my training partners and b) my neighbor treadmill was pumping out 6:30min/mile [it should be known that I have a very, very bad habit of racing my neighbor treadmills, especially when they are operated by males]. But I didn’t get caught up, and I really stuck to my plan. I ran the first hour at around an 8:30min/mile pace, which was right around a 3:40 marathon pace. I was able to eat solid foods and feel comfortable. My second hour, I slipped to a comfortable 8:10-8:15s and slurped down mostly liquid calories that sustained me the rest of the run. My third hour: I was running sub 8-min miles, feeling great. The last 10K was more of a let-loose-and-have-fun, with a few 7:15s thrown in for kicks. Truth be told, the last two miles were the hardest, and I just wanted to be done. But who doesn’t feel like that at the end of a marathon?
  3. Be prepared. My training didn’t put me at running a 26.2mile run last weekend. The longest run I’ve done since Ironman was about 20 miles. But, mentally, I was in the zone and I knew my body could handle the miles. I threw a towel over the treadmill display so that I wasn’t staring at it the whole time. I knew what I was getting myself into, and that really made all the difference. I told myself that I couldn’t look at the mile-mark or clock until a commercial break. I had my nutrition laid out, I knew what to eat and when, and I had my music stacked just right.
    • Another thing to be prepared for: when you get off the treadmill to go to the ‘loo… try not to fall down. Seriously, the longer you run on the treadmill, the harder it is to walk on real-ground. Just sayin’.
  4. Get un-focused. Alright, I’ll say it: Running for 3 1/2 hours on a treadmill can be boring. But when I was running, I wasn’t thinking about the distance or the duration the whole time. The first hour, I was recooperating from oversleeping, so I listened to some really nice, relaxing music for a good 60minutes*. I just hummed along and enjoyed the repetitive, mindless movement that I was engaging in. I felt light, almost weightless. I wasn’t focused on the next 19.5miles I had to run, or the next person waiting to use the treadmill (bonus: there wasn’t anyone waiting). Maybe since I knew I was going to be there for a good while, I didn’t worry about how much longer I had left. I listened to all different types of music, from folk to rap to pop. I watched a movie I had never seen and was enthralled. I giggled at commercials and pointed at them, with much disregard from my running mates.
    • I think my favorite song was “Breathe” by Alexi Murdoch. I listened to it twice in the first half hour. Here’s some of his lyrics:
      • Don’t forget to breathe, don’t forget to breathe; you know you are here, but you’ll find you want to leave, so don’t forget to breathe. Keep your head above water, but don’t forget to breathe.
    • I ramped up the music in the second hour to include:
      • Bodyrox & Luciana – Yeah Yeah
      • Cake – Mahna Mahna
      • Britney Spears – 3 (hey, don’t judge me)
      • and other songs by Common, Crookers, Cut Copy, Deadmau5, and Drake
    • Hour three, more ramping:
      • Mindless Self Indulgence for a good 20minutes
      • Ke$ha, KMFDM, Lady Gaga, M83, and Metallica

I would love to say that it was a spiritual experience, that I reconnected with my running in a way I haven’t done in a really long time. And that may be partially true. But what I really got from running a marathon on the treadmill was that I can pretty easily disconnect my brain from my body. I kept my mind entertained, and my legs kept moving. Sometimes I was thinking about stuff, but most of the time, I wasn’t. I knew how far I had to go, and I knew my legs would get me there (or, realistically, that my legs would keep moving until I stopped the belt).

So that’s that. Sorry if I disappointed anyone with my non-earthshattering emotional connection with the treadmill. It was fun and I will do it again. It was challenging and a great test of my early-season fitness. OK, you’re turn!

*Seriously. Mellow music to start is the way to go. It got my mind relaxed, calmed and ready for the run.