Archive for January, 2012
I’m pausing in the middle of frantic packing and errands to jot a note here. I’m as excited as can be to travel down to Disneyland with a group of six women to run in the Tinker Bell Half Marathon this weekend. But I’m even more thrilled that my pal, Sharon and her sister, Julie, are doing their first ever 13.1! Stay tuned for a report and pics (Sunday evening or Monday).
I’m also pretty stoked about my Virtual Training Partners for 2012! Check out the partners’ progress and reports. And join in if you’ve got a plan to run a marathon or half marathon in 2012. Just shoot me an email ([email protected]) with the race you plan to run and I’ll add you in.
Have a great weekend!
Back when I found you listed in the newspaper, I was ambivalent about bringing you home. We didn’t have much room in our garage, and Bill wondered if I would use you or if I would miss going to the gym to be with other people on rainy days. I, myself, wondered if there was a place for you in my heart, in the mix of trail running and club membership.
You were young back then, unused and inexperienced. The odd old couple we bought you from were glad to be rid of you, but promised you worked. We hoped you’d be worth the $100 we talked them down to and the pain in our backs from lifting you over their clutter into the back of our truck. Turns out you were worth more than I could have hoped for. That first year, after we snuggled you in between our trash can and the bicycles hanging from the ceiling, I learned to look forward to meeting up with you in the afternoons. You and I spent three seasons of “Big Love” and at least two seasons of “Six Feet Under” together.
Last winter we hardly spoke. That was my fault. I’d grown heartier and almost nothing–rain, cold, SAD–could keep me off the trails. And this year has been a rerun of last year. I think of you often and fondly, but I’d rather be out in the fresh air. This week, however, when the thermometer read 19 and the snow measured eight inches, I heard you calling my name and determined to revive our relationship.
Thank you for these three days and the thirteen miles we’ve shared. I just want you to know I appreciate you being there for me when I need you the most.
I’ll see you tomorrow (but hopefully not the day after that).
When my friend, Sharon, told me she wanted to train for the Tinker Bell Half Marathon, I was quick to say I’d join her. I’m a huge fan of Disneyland, and a big fan of Sharon too. Sharon was one of the six or seven friends who held my hand and gently guided me through my divorce a decade ago. She was the one who gave me a place to sleep on her floor when I was so discombobulated I didn’t know which end was up.
Since those dark days, Sharon and I have been through a lot together. We’ve traveled, taught classes, cried over losses, raised puppies, and aged (gracefully) together. But up until a few months ago, we’ve never run together. Sharon wasn’t much of a runner until recently, and I thought I could be supportive of her new venture not only by going to Disneyland with her (a huge sacrifice on my part, as you can imagine), but also by organizing a fun final training run around Lake Padden here in Bellingham and providing a pizza lunch afterwards–maybe with a little pre-race toast to her success.
The original plan was for all of the women who were going on the trip (six in all) to meet at the lake this past Saturday and do four loops and then another mile out and back. Each loop around is 2.6 miles, so my plan would have gotten us up to 12.4 miles, a respectable distance for a first timer’s final half marathon training run.
But, alas, as will happen, my plans were foiled on several levels. First, three of the women going to Los Angeles with us next week couldn’t make it on Saturday. One had to work and the other two had a wedding to get ready for. Then, it snowed–and not the nice, pretty, fluffy stuff either. The trail around the lake was slushy and muddy up to the ankles–and really gross and cold. Sharon’s sister wisely bid us goodbye after one loop around the lake, but Sharon and I decided to press forward. Every step was an effort, especially on the flat side of the lake which is most exposed to the elements. On our third time around, Sharon and I agreed that we would skip the slush and repeat the hilly but forested part of the trail and then call it quits. In the end, we eked out 9 painfully wet, freezing miles (which from my perspective are worth at least 12 flat and sunny miles).
Home we went to shower and have our reward: pizza. Oh, but did I mention that Sharon has discovered she shouldn’t be eating gluten or dairy? So we opted for sandwiches with gluten free bread and fake cheese, and we toasted with hot coffee.
Once again, I learn the perennial lesson that running has to teach: This won’t go the way you planned it, but you can make the best of it if you put your mind to it!
BTW, it’s a good thing we’re on our taper because the snow came down heavily by Sunday evening and I’ve been in the house for a few days now.
Often, on Facebook or in private emails, friends and readers ask me specific questions about running terms and training tips they’ve encountered in their search to find a good marathon training program. I decided to put these questions to coach Carol Frazey and let her expertise do the talking. Here are some of your Qs, followed by Carol’s As. A big thanks to her for spending the time clarifying and simplifying training advice for us.
- What does it mean when training manuals tell you to run “at tempo?”
“At tempo” means that you are running at a faster pace than your comfortable pace and slower than your race pace. I like to use Borg’s Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE) to explain “effort” in a workout. If you were to add a zero after each number in the chart, the numbers would correspond with an average person’s heart rate during different amounts of exertion. So, for “at tempo” you should perceive your exertion to be about 14 or 15 “Hard”.
Running “at tempo” one time per week helps you to increase your cardio-endurance and allows you to mentally prepare for racing. In a race, you are pushing yourself for a longer period of time and it will be uncomfortable. Getting used to and pushing through this uncomfortable feeling combined with good training will help you improve your racing times.
Borg’s Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE)
7 Very, Very Light
9 Very Light
11 Fairly Light
13 Somewhat Hard
17 Very Hard
19 Very, Very Hard
- How about “cadence?” What is it?
Cadence can also be called turn over or stride rate. Cadence is how frequently you take a step; the time it takes for your foot to touch the ground, go up in the air, and touch again. The faster your cadence, the fast you go.
- Can you talk about good pain versus bad pain? Beginning runners will feel pain, of course, but how do you know which pain is a normal part of training for long distances and which pain is dangerous?
Know your body. Achy pain is normal after a run or the next day or two. Any type of “sharp” pain should be avoided and running should be discontinued if you feel something sharp and painful. Whether you feel achy or have sharp pain, icing is a great way to decrease inflammation and decrease the pain. I always recommend that if you feel pain, ice the area 3 times per day for 10-15 minutes each time. A bag of frozen corn or peas makes a great, contouring ice pack.
You may experience “achy pain” after a long run or speed workout. The best way to reduce this pain is to sit in an ice bath for 15 minutes after your workout. It is very uncomfortable, but the effects of how well your muscles feel the next day is amazing. I always use this technique when training for a marathon. It allows your muscles to recover quickly.
- I get asked by a lot of people about Jeff Galloway’s run/walk method. I’ve never really mastered using it and find it a little confusing. Can you shed some light on why someone might want to try it and what you think are the advantages/disadvantages?
Many people have successfully completed marathons by using Jeff Galloway’s run/walk method. I have never used this method, but many people love the idea of having rest periods to bring their heart rate down and get a mental break from the monotony of running for 26.2 miles.
Advantages: brings heart rate down, allows you to physically and mentally rest, “I can do anything for 10 minutes!” Short walk breaks give you time to refuel for the next running period.
Disadvantages: Some people “tighten up” when they go from a run to a walk. “Tightening up” is when your muscles contract and it is difficult and painful to start running again.
- I always tell people that the long runs are the most important part of training for a marathon or half marathon. Do you agree? And if so, why are they so important?
The long run is the most important element when training for a marathon or half marathon. The time on your legs helps build your muscles, cardio-endurance, and mental toughness. The hours of running on your legs helps your muscles to prepare for the hours of pounding they will endure during your race. When you train, little tears occur in your muscles. Then the tears repair themselves and get stronger each time. A long run of at least 18 miles should be done at least 3 weeks before your marathon.
A long run also builds your mental endurance. Pushing your body is a mental feat that takes practice. Mentally preparing for the race is also important. This is especially important when you begin to get tired and the negative self-talk seeps into your thinking.
Another suggestion for your long run is to make sure you run them on the same type of surface you will be running on for your race. When training for our first marathon, my husband and I made sure to get our long runs in, but we did them on dirt roads. At mile 18 in the actual marathon, our quadriceps locked up from the pounding on the concrete roads on the course, and it was a long and painful last 8.2 miles! If racing on pavement, be sure to train on pavement!
- When you coach runners, you have us do speed work (and you’ve added speed work to your training program for my 2012 challenge). Why do we need to do speed work even if we’re happy running slowly?
Running at a faster pace (speed work), allows your body to increase your lung capacity and increase your cadence. When you increase your cadence or turn over, your stride becomes more efficient. Even on your long runs you will notice it is easier to go at your “normal”, slower pace.
- Talk about stretching and why it is important for runners.
Stretching keeps everything aligned. If one muscle is tight, it pulls bones and ligaments slightly off kilter so that your body is not properly aligned and “things” may rub. For me, I need to stretch every day or my kneecap starts to “catch” and I feel pain with every stride. By stretching each day, everything stays aligned and I can run comfortably without any knee pain. Stretching keeps you limber and allows your running stride to be loose and efficient.
- What are your top three pieces of advice for new runners or for those who have decided to really amp up the miles and train for a full or half marathon this year?
- Get your long run in.
- Practice eating what you will eat during the race (gels, etc.).
- Have fun! – Enjoy the training, don’t take yourself too seriously. And once you’ve put in the work, REALLY enjoy the race!
Information from Fit School, Inc. and Carol Frazey should not be used to alter medically prescribed regimen or as a form of self-treatment. Consult a licensed physician before beginning this or any other exercise and/or nutrition program. Please visit www.TheFitSchool.com for more information.
So back in 2010, Bill and I met two adventurous Utah residents while we were traveling in Southern Chile. Todd and Jennifer were friendly, fun, and positive, and we promised ourselves we’d stay in touch with them. Well, we have. This summer, we visited Todd and Jennifer in Park City, Utah and found out that if we’d come a day later, we would have missed them.
They were off to Europe on vacation the day after we met up with them. Todd was planning to run the Ultra Trail Mont Blanc race.
When Todd announced his plans to us, our eyes flew open wide! We knew this was a huge undertaking, and we were excited for him.
I’ve been meaning for months to interview Todd about his experience. And I’m glad I finally got to it! If you’re inclined toward ultra running, Todd will be an inspiration. After reading Todd’s answers to my questions, I’m scratching my head and asking, “Why do I run ONLY 26.2 miles at a time?” Beware of a similar experience.
Facts of the Ultra Trail Mt. Blanc: 105.6 miles on mostly trails through France, Italy and Switzerland/ 31,450 feet of climbing and 31,450 feet of decent (Everest is 29,029 from sea level and most people start the push from base camp at 17,600)/ 8,323.5 feet at the tallest peak/ 2300 runners and 1300 volunteers/ 47% finish rate (out of racers who must have completed a previous 100 mile race in good form)
C. Why did you want to run the Ultra Trail Mt. Blanc?
T. The Ultra Trail Mt. Blanc is for me, and many others, the pinnacle of all 100-mile races. I have always chosen races based on the location and what new challenges it may offer. Most of my races are actually part of a much larger vacation in the region. We had an awesome time riding bikes through the Provence Region of France and drinking wine with our friends for two weeks after the race. I like having an added purpose to a trip and finding a race gives me that satisfaction. Ideas like getting a “PR” never enter into my thought process. The reason I race is to put myself on the starting line. Getting there is the true battle against physical/mental complacency and time constraints of daily life. When I have a race on the horizon I get out when I might otherwise have something else that needs to be done.
C. The Mont Blanc website is a little confusing in terms of how you “qualify” for the race. Is it true that you have to prove your worth for the event by participating in up to two other trail runs of particular difficulty? How did you qualify?
T. Yes, to qualify you must have completed a 100 and another ultra, (race of more that 26.2 miles), in the preceding two years. The UTMB prides itself on being the hardest 100, and with the big name sponsors and professional racers, it has become a “test-piece” in the ultra community. There are two good reasons for this requirement. The first is that even with this requirement, only 50% of applicants get a spot. The second is that the route is difficult and must be done in a more “French” fashion of self-autonomy. Imagine if you chose your first marathon to be run at night in a snow-storm at altitude while carrying 12 pounds of gear–and with only one aid station. And all of this is after being awake for 30 hours even before you start. This would not be the race to test your mettle and neither is UTMB.
I qualified with my great friend and running partner Rob Stafford at the Leadville 100 the previous year. The Leadville course has half the amount of rise/fall of UTMB but is much higher with an average elevation of 10,000 ft. I ran that in less that 24 hours and UTMB took over 40. Are you starting to get it?
C. I think so! And I understand the weather can also be pretty precarious along this course, what sort of weather did you face?
T. The first night was the worst trail condition I have seen in a race. It was raining and the trail/cow pasture with flags and downhills were incredibly slick. I remember holding on to numerous trees on the decent. It snowed and the trail was icy on the passes. The wind blew a bit; post race reports were about 45mph. It got hot in the valleys, and then I was running without a shirt.
C. I read that they had to change the course in 2011 at the last minute because of the weather. How was your course different from what was advertised? Was the course well marked and easy to follow? Did you ever get lost?
A. Yeah, one of the last big sections had a pretty significant detour due to the foul weather. The detour was well marked, but obviously not a proper trail. This detour was one of the biggest mental challenges I’d ever faced in a race. Wow, I got mad at everyone for a while. When I run I am always in control of my mind. I have pain, aches, hunger etc like everyone else, but I usually never let them surface. It’s not a pride thing at all; it’s just what I do. Running partners often complain that I don’t complain. They say things like, “It’s snowing, we’re lost, my foot is cramping and you haven’t said anything negative at all.” This is why I like ultra running. We all have negative thoughts during any run. How you acknowledge them and place them in your mind separates us as either finishers or DNFs.
C. Todd, I know you’re an avid outdoors-man, and someone who has incorporated your athletic pursuits into the daily-ness of your life. Can you talk about why running is so important to you?
T. So here’s my soapbox: I run because I like feeling my body and experiencing mental and physical challenges that we no longer find in daily life. We have been designed for “fight or flight” for tens of thousands of years, and it is only within the last generation that we do not have to use those skills. Now we pay race promoters for the privilege of doing what comes naturally. We are all runners because we had to catch prey and outrun threats to exist. You really have no choice, you are a runner in the very core of your being. We seek out races because we desire that rush to be alive. It matters not the distance. If your toes are on the starting line and you are nervous, welcome to the history of the human race.
C. A huge thanks, Todd, for taking time for this interview and for being a positive inspiration to all of us, now matter how far or fast we run! You rock. Anyone who would like to see Todd and Jennifer’s blog, check it out HERE. For cool YouTube aerial footage of the race, click HERE.
Some pics of Todd’s race