Runners and Supplements

Yes, it is an age-old argument and the two sides will debate until they are hoarse. This argument is of course, do runners need supplements? If they don’t, how come? If so, why and which ones? It’s certainly a rabbit hole to go down and I have been on both sides of the argument. I certainly understand that we should strive for real food and am not necessarily a fan of getting food from a pill/ However, on the other side of the coin, runners are beating their body up with training and if we don’t get perfect nutrition in every day, then maybe a little help is warranted. Certainly, when you look at the definition of supplement, which is, “something that completes or enhances something else when added to it,” then it makes sense why someone would think that supplementation makes sense.

The main argument I see against supplementation is the idea that we should strive to eat a well-balanced diet and that will cover our needs. It’s interesting because I have heard dieticians (who are usually working with sedentary or recreationally active people) loathe the idea of any type of supplement. Then I have seen nutritionists who work with hard training athletes say that if you want to succeed, you have to be on some sort of supplement. For a long time I was in the first camp but have gradually shifted my position to the latter. Let me explain why.

The 3 E’s:

Essential Nutrition for Survival and Basic Health:

This is what is Recommended Dietary Allowances are built off, but these are government based standards and not meant for achieving optimal health. These standards are based on the average nutrient intake of an entire population. These guidelines make the assumption that everyone is already eating a healthy diet and that all nutritional needs are the same. In essence, it’s the bare minimum.

Essential Nutrition for Optimal Health:

This is the next step and means higher amounts of vitamins and minerals. It also means the inclusion of “non-essential” nutrients (but not unimportant). Things like antioxidants are required in higher doses to fight off our environmental stresses and help us recover. The quantities of these are needed in higher doses than the RDA (or DRI) states for basic survival.

Essential Nutrition for Athletic Performance:

The final level, where athletes are required to perform at a peak level, recover from training and outside stress, and maintain superior health. So, while I may not expect a person training for their first 5k in this category, I certainly would put someone who’s training consistently year-round for high-level competitions.

Some examples

 

Vitamin Men DRI Women DRI Tolerable UL PDI
Vitamin C 90 mg 75 mg 2000 mg 500-3000 mg
Vitamin D 15 mcg-600 IU 15 mcg-600 IU 100-mcg-4000 IU 400-4000 IU
B6 1.7 mg 1.5 mg 100 mg 10-100 mg
Folate 400 mcg 400 mcg 1000 mcg 400-1200 mcg
B12 2.4 mcg 2.4 mcg Not Established 12-200 mcg

I chose these because they are common vitamins that are important to runners. As you can see, there is a big discrepancy between the essential amount needed for survival and what may be required for optimal performance. The same is true for minerals.

 

Mineral Men DRI Women DRI Tolerable UL PDI
Calcium 1300 mg 1300 mg 2500 mg 1200-2600 mg
Magnesium 420 mg 320 mg 350 mg 400-800 mg
Phosphorus 1250 mg 1250 mg 4000 mg 1k-4k mg
Selenium 55 mcg 55 mcg 400 mcg 100-400 mcg
Zinc 11 mg 8 mg 40 mg 15-60 mg

 

The question becomes then if an athlete is training hard and eating the appropriate amount of calories, are they getting the nutrients in the amounts needed for the performance? I think that if things are perfect, then maybe. However, the vast majority of people I work with are not living the perfect life (who is?) and it’s tough to say what they are getting. Plus, we know that individuals vary. We also know that the nutrient food can vary widely, and we know that nutrient content in food has decreased over the decades- check out this piece from the Scientific American. 

So, while I think supplementation gets a bad rap, I don’t think just popping a horse pill multivitamin is the way to go, either. I think that you have to know if you are low in anything and you need to know what’s in the diet you are eating.

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Expensive, but worth it

Unfortunately, the first prong of this can be expensive, but it might be money well spent. If you have a solid insurance plan, you may be able to get out of this cheaper.

It wouldn’t hurt to get some blood work done.

A vitamin, mineral, testosterone (for men), and iron/ferritin tests are done. It’s not going to be cheap though (if paying out of pocket). There’s some great athlete oriented at-home tests like Inside Tracker. I also looked at AnyLabTestNow.com, simply because there is one by my office. You don’t need a prescription and you just make an appointment. However, in both circumstances, to get vitamin and mineral tests done, you are looking at a few hundred bucks. I do think that InsideTracker has a multiple session discounts though. I like that because you’d want to follow up tests every few months. This may not be 100% required, but I like having data and I like having information.

This is especially true if I haven’t felt great, haven’t recovered, and training has been stale for some time.

It’s easy to blame the training because that’s what we have to judge results, but that could be a symptom of the underlying problems.

Time Consuming

The second prong to this approach is less expensive, but it can be time-consuming. Overall, I am not a huge fan of counting calories, mainly for the reasons we talked about with variances. However, when trying to establish baselines, it’s key. I recommend going premium for a bit with a tracker (a quick search showed that there are dozens). It seems like you have to go premo for most to give you micronutrient data.

I think it’s important to track at least a few days to a good week.

That way you can track your nutrient intake for a scope of runs from easy to workouts, to long runs. The first couple days you might adjust to match what you think you should be eating, but over time, we tend to just eat normally, so several days are good to give us averages of intakes. We can take our averages and see where are doing well and where they aren’t. Couple that with any trouble spots our testing shows, we can really get a sense of what is going on. If you want to get some guidance, doing a nutrition consultation with a coach can be a big benefit. They can show you where you might be lagging, options to getting on track, and what supplements to consider.

Decide

If you make the decision that you want to try supplementation, there’s a couple of routes you can go to. One is working with a nutrition coach and making decisions as a team. The other is self supplement through multivitamins or specific vitamins. If you do the latter, you’ll want to make sure that these are the third party verified. Look for a label from the USP or the NSF on the packaging. These are the two most trusted. Secondly, mega-dosing is rarely justified and can be dangerous. Keeping intake under the PDI of intake is key to keeping yourself safe, but it doesn’t hurt to be working with a doctor and/or nutrition coach for monitoring.

Today’s discussion didn’t even get into things like metabolites or botanicals. This includes things like caffeine, L-carnitine, creatine, glucosamine and chondroitin, and nitrates. These will have to be for another day. Today’s topic was all about vitamins and minerals and why the idea of supplementation shouldn’t be scoffed at for athletes. When we look at what government guidelines are providing, we realize that a lot of people need more than the bare minimum.

Athletes may need a lot more!

And in an in-perfect world, perfect nutrition is a dream for many folks. Quality supplementation can bridge the gap between basic essential nutrition and maximal performance.

If you’d like a nutrition consultation, you can check out LHR options HERE

How fast do we lose fitness?

The topic of detraining has come up a lot, lately. At the time of writing this, we are under a stay at home shelter and our spring marathons have been cut short. A lot of folks feel like their hard fought gainZ are lost forever. However, I feel like there is a fair amount of confusion regarding what detraining is and what variations we typically encounter with training. So, today, let’s discuss what is really going on and if those feelings of having to start over are really warranted.

First, there’s full fledged detraining.

This is stopping training all together or reducing so much that a training stimulus is not elicited. This is what you’ll see a lot of blog posts and articles reference and when we talk about “use it or lose it” we are referring to this. The end result of detraining is loss of fitness over a period of time.

The second is the taper.

This is interesting because some folks buy into a very long taper and can actually dip into detraining if they reduce it for long enough time. That’s a discussion beyond today, but an interesting thought to expand on.

The purpose of the taper is to improve performance through rest.

I would define it as a calculated reduction in training through volume, frequency, and intensity, to maximize race performance through realizing the improvements made in previous training.

Third, we have the maintenance.

This would fall between complete detraining and taper. It may or may not be planned, as it may be done to try and mitigate downtime for injury, or, in our case, there’s no race to train for! With maintenance, the training stimulus is high enough to stop the downward trend of fitness loss (or at least slow it). However, it’s not high enough to promote further fitness development. I like to describe it as treading water.

The last one, to me is early rebuilding mode.

Some would refer this to reverse tapering, but I tend to stay away from that term. That would suggest that I am going to taper for may race, run the race, then follow my taper plan in reverse to get back to full training. However, I wouldn’t do that to my athletes! I couldn’t imagine giving an athlete a 10 mile tempo 10 days after their marathon! Early rebuilding, for me, would be the time post downtime (due to injury, illness, planned time off, or race) that takes us from reduced fitness to normal training volume and intensities. How I would approach this would vary on individual circumstances. This is one we will have to talk about later, too.

For now, let’s focus on detraining and maintenance.

During this time of forced shutdown, people have gone from peak training to forced downtime. Like I mentioned, there’s a lot of worry about “starting over” or at least losing a significant amount of fitness. The general consensus is that with a short amount of time off, performance will actually improve performance, but go past a few days and performance will start to decline. Specifically:

  1. After 2+ weeks, VO2max decreases. I’ve seen a lot of numbers, but generally, 5-20% depending on time off.
  2. Ventilation increases 10-14% within a few days. This would make exercise feel harder after a short amount of time.
  3. Lactate Threshold starts to decrease after a few days off.
  4. Capillarization decreases to pre training levels within 4 weeks.
  5. Mitochondrial enzymes decrease 25-45% for up to 12 weeks.

There are others, but the point is made. If you go full stop on training, you will begin to lose fitness. In terms of performance, what would that mean? After 3 weeks off, your times will slow 3-5%.

What’s that look like on the clock?

  • 40 minute 10k: 1:15-2:00 slower (Ouftda!)
  • 1:45 half marathon: 3:00-5:15 slower (Yikes)
  • 4 hour marathon: 7-12 minutes slower (Ouch!)

So that is pretty scary to think about!

However, remember that it is completely shut down.

If we are able to not train as hard or as often, but still getting out there, what’s the damage? If we reduce training, we can maintain our physiological gains and maybe even maintain a very high level of performance over a much longer period of time. On top of that, give our body a much needed break from our heaviest of training.

I looked at three articles regarding reduced training in distance runners. Now, to be fair, these studies were all pretty small in subjects and they were with younger runners. So, take it as you may! With the three studies, there was a period of normal training period followed by a 2-4 weeks block of reduced training. Peak mileage varied, but reductions were 50% to 70% in volume Frequency was also reduced. Intensity varied.

The results were pretty similar.

What was found is that there was a maintenance of primary measures. VO2max, running economy, and lactate threshold all held steady. From a physiological standpoint, we see no changes. However, in two of the studies, performance via 5k times were unchanged. In another, one was slower after the reduced training. However, it is important to note that body fat increased in these subjects from 10.4% to 11.8%. If you were to weigh 150 pounds, that’s an increase of over 2 pounds of body fat. It might not seem that much, but if the adage of 2 seconds per extra pound, that’s 4 seconds per mile, at least.

More importantly, it gives us a clue to our own training reduction.

Physiologically, we may be holding steady, but our weight can certainly fluctuate in a time of reduced training- not that I am speaking from personal experience, or anything! It just goes to show how much nutrition will play a role in all we do!

I did look at a fourth article that was similar to the other three but looked at testosterone, cortisol, and creatine kinase. With testosterone, runners were on the low side during regular training and unfortunately, the levels didn’t improve after the three week reduced volume. I don’t find this as a surprise because rebuilding testosterone (naturally) is a long term process- months of diligence. Cortisol, which is a good marker of stress levels, was also high during the regular training block, but also didn’t change significantly with reduced training.

With testosterone and cortisol, this is just a good reminder that we have to control for these long term and that we have to look at nutritional supplementation if we are going to go big ripper in training.

Lastly, creatine kinase was also high during training (expected), but this did drop significantly during reduced training. Hooray! CK is a measure of muscular damage, so this shows us that we can maintain fitness while allowing our body to recover. Anyway, just something I found interesting while looking through research.

Ok, now the question remains- what is the best way to maintain our fitness?

Glad you asked. There’s three things we can do.

The first two are reducing volume and frequency.

This may come from reducing the frequency to reduce the volume and get a twofer. Or, you can simply reduce the volume of your runs. Personally, I like reducing by 25-35% of my volume. I typically keep the same number of days, just reduce the volume. I will reduce the days if the person wants to cross train instead of an easy day.

Now the third variable is intensity.

This actually needs to stay the same or even increase! This means that easy days remain within your easy range, but more importantly, you shouldn’t abandon doing workouts completely.

Now, instead of doing two SOS and a long run per week, you may cut to one SOS and a long run.

The long runs should be reduced in volume, but if you run these in your moderate to long run range- keep em there. For a weekly SOS day, you can skip the marathon tempo every week. Depending on the break length, I usually just rotate different workouts. However, faster workouts show more promise in maintaining the physiological levels. So, this means keeping LT, 5k/10k repeats, and even mile pace repeats in the rotation. This works out well, because the volume of these are less and fit in better with the reduced volume.

Here’s what a sample for weeks might look like:

 

Week # Monday Tuesday Weds Thurs Friday Saturday Sunday
1 Easy Off 10k Reps Easy Off Long Easy
2 Easy Off 5k Reps Easy Off Cutdown Easy
3 Easy Off LT Easy Off Long Easy
4 Easy Off Mile reps Easy Off MP Easy

Super simple maintenance plan. LT= lactate threshold MP= marathon pace. 

You could honestly repeat this for a couple months, be fully recovered from hard training, maintain the vast majority of your fitness, and then pick up a new training segment for any race distance. The big point of all this, is don’t be scared of scaling back your training. Done the right way, you’ll come out of this a better runner for the long term.

 

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Coronavirus: Resources, thoughts, action plans

Coach Mike Morgan laid out a very grounded, reasonable response to his athletes regarding corona virus and I thought it would be great to post here. Also, below, I posted a video I made a few days later. This addresses what I think your three main options are regarding upcoming races. Stay safe, be sensible, and don’t lose your cool out there.

From Coach Mike:

I don’t want to be Fear Monger Mike, but we’ve been getting a lot of messages regarding the virus, and wanted to offer up a couple of thoughts as it relates to us as coaches/athletes. I’m not going to discuss interaction with the virus, or facts surrounding it in regards to our daily lives, there’s plenty of that information out there, and that’s not the purpose of this email.

Regardless of what you believe about the virus, the reality is that companies are making organizational adjustments due to it. Over the past few days, we have seen both the Paris and Rome Marathons pivot and unfortunately, this could continue into the spring/summer/fall.

Here are a couple of thoughts and suggestions for you as athletes:

1. You can certainly look at back up race options, but there’s no guarantee that THESE events will take place, ugh…. I know.

2. When booking, I definitely suggest understanding the potential cancellation polices, including the race, airline, and hotel. Most of these avenues are being ultra-flexible, but make sure you know what you are getting into.

3. Consider your insurance options. Talking with Coach Luke, he bought that optional flight insurance for his Boston flights, just in case. Another underutilized option is to see if your credit card offers a trip interruption insurance, most do. I recently got all of my money back for my Houston flight through my Visa card, a bit of paperwork, but you pay for these services, might as well use them if necessary!

4. If a race does get canceled or moved, I am hopeful that they will accommodate the athletes with deferred entries or refunds.

5. Finally, control the controllable. We can’t control the decisions of these cities and race organizations, however, we can control our physical and mental preparation. For me, I’m not going to waste a bunch of time and energy wondering if a race is going to go on, rather, I’m going to train for it until I hear otherwise. As an athlete, I’d hate to plan on a cancellation, slack in my training, then not be prepared on the starting line.

 

 

Podium Runner: Coping with race cancellation

 

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Product Spotlight: Isalean Shake

Runners are now recognizing that protein plays a big role in endurance performance. However, what we are seeing is that a lot of our athletes, they simply aren’t getting enough. To make matters worse, the protein that they are getting in, is of fairly poor quality. It was in my own diet that I recognized this, and decided to utilize the Isalean shake in my own diet.

So how much protein do we need? For the longest time, protein requirements were no more than that of the average person, at 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. For a 150 pound person, you’re looking at about 55 grams of protein. However, new recommendations are 1.2-1.6 g/kg of body weight and I have seen all the “whey” up to 2.0 grams. For that same 150 pound person, you are looking at a new amount of 82-110 grams. Potentially, they may need as much as 136 grams! Now, a lot of this depends on the size of the person, how hard they are training, and where they are at in their training cycle. But, you get the point, it’s significantly more protein than what was previously thought.

Why we need more as endurance athletes

While we aren’t bodybuilders trying to bulk up, our body is constantly turning over tissue. These are exponential with the amount we are training. We aren’t talking just muscle, but amino acids (protein broken down) is vital to things like connective tissue and blood components!

While carbohydrate and fat provide so much of the energy needed to run, protein does provide some fuel source. Protein can provide up to 5% of energy demands. This number is not a game changer, but also note that if you are on a low carb diet, then the amount of protein providing fuel for exercise increases by even greater numbers.

Why I chose Isagenix Isalean

The Isalean shake is so much more than a simple protein powder. It’s 24 grams of undenatured whey protein. If you are not sure what that means, it’s simply not boiled to death so all the good stuff is cooked out. The dairy that Isagenix uses comes from grass fed cows with no antibiotics or hormones. On top of that the shake includes 23 essential vitamins and trace minerals.

These shakes are loaded with all the things I need- including essential fatty acids and high quality complex carbohydrates. For me, it made getting all the quality nutrients I need for my health and performance so much easier.

Product Spotlight: Isalean Shake

Product Spotlight: Isalean Shake

Why shouldn’t I just drink chocolate milk?

It is true that chocolate milk is a nice treat after a tough workout, but is it as the “perfect” recovery drink as often advertised? Let’s take a quick look at the make up:

For overall calories, there’s not a ton of difference roughly 200 for an 8 ounce glass of chocolate milk vs 240 calories for the same amount of Isalean shake. However, looking at where those calories are coming from, the differences become a lot clearer. In a glass of reduced fat chocolate milk, there is roughly 8 grams of fat, whereas there are 6 grams in a shake. Breaking that down even more, an Isalean shake has only 2 grams of unhealthy saturated fat and 6 grams of healthy fats (coming from olive oil and flax seed). Chocolate milk will include about 5 grams out of 8 total grams as saturated fats.

Moving to carbohydrate, chocolate milk will give you 30-36 grams of simple sugars. An Isalean shake will give you 24 grams of carbohydrate, with 8 grams of that total being in the form of fiber and only 11 grams of sugar.

Chocolate milk is often touted as a great source of protein, but in 8 ounces of milk, you get 8 grams of protein. Compare that to the 24 grams of high quality undenatured, complete protein in an Isalean shake it’s not even close. To get the the same amount of protein from chocolate milk, you now need to drink three glasses- which now puts your sugar content at about 100 grams.

Lastly, when we look at vitamins and minerals, chocolate milk contains sodium, potassium, magnesium, vitamin d and small amounts of a handful of other vitamins. An Isalean shake contains 40%, or more, of daily values for over 20 different vitamins and trace minerals.

Chocolate milk is great when you are in a pinch, but given a choice, you can see that there are more complete options out there.

Best practices

What are the best practices with using the Isalean shake (or any protein supplement)?

  • Use as a meal replacement. When Isagenix first formulated this shake, I hardly think they were keeping an endurance athlete in heavy training as a baseline! The shakes certainly were meant as a meal replacement for those trying to lose fat weight. Can they serve that purpose for the athlete in heavy training? The best answer is partly. I will use the shake in conjunction with other food (mainly fruit) to complete my breakfast. However, if you are a person who runs after work and needs something of quality a couple hours before your run/workout, then this is the perfect option.
  • Can it be taken as a pre workout meal? Yes, if you are in a window of say 90-120 minutes before a run, then go for it!
  • Post workout is probably the most popular use for my athletes. If you workout in the morning, then getting one of these bad boys in right after is crucial. Add some fruit for more high quality carbohydrate and you have an excellent start to the day. Your recovery is off and running, and your body is getting not only the carbs and protein it needs to refuel and rebuild, but also the vitamins and minerals that are crucial to performance and health.

Want to try a FREE sample? I’d love to send you one. Fill out this form and I’ll have a sample of the best seller Birthday Cake flavor sent directly to you. (I won’t sell/share your info)

Last Month of Indy

October 7-13

Indy Training - Luke Humphrey

  • Another solid week. Took a few days extra, but mileage was still high. Thursday was a big long run with the guys, where we got rolling. Hit a lot of 5:20-5:30 pace during the last 10 miles. Watch died, but 20.4 miles in 2:00:21- 5:54 pace.
  • Sunday was a nice 4×2 miles

Indy Training - Luke Humphrey

October 14-21

Indy Training - Luke Humphrey

  • Been pretty darn consistent with mileage. This week was more of the the same. Did 10×800 with Morgan on Wednesday at the track. Averaged sub 2:30 for 10 of them. Didn’t feel too bad.
  • Finished the week up with my simulator- aka the Detroit Free Press half marathon.

Indy Training - Luke Humphrey

  • Felt pretty solid. Went out conservative. (that split is not right). Handled the Ambassador Bridge and the tunnel well. Those are miles 4 and 7. Really settled into a groove and was moving up the whole way. This was a pretty big confidence boost.

October 21-27

Indy Training - Luke Humphrey

  • Last big long run! Recovered well from Simulator and ripped sub 6 pace for the majority of the run.
  • Finished the week off with a big 2×6 Miles

Indy Training - Luke Humphrey

  • Was a tough, wet, breezy morning. We got it in though! Glad to hit this one. Another confidence boost.

October 28-November 3 (Start of taper)

Indy Training - Luke Humphrey

  • Start of the taper, so was really just about being consistent with work and scaling back volume. Tried to keep intensity the same. Nothing special. A 16 mile long run at a pretty comfortable pace. Finished the week with a 3×2 mile @ MP. Did this one by myself and got it in. I definitely overlooked it though! Was probably tougher than it needed to be.

November 4-10 (Race Week!)

Indy Training - Luke Humphrey

Alright, so nothing special. Leading to the day before the race, I felt great. No complaints about anything. I thought I handled everything well and I was on point. Going into the race, we knew it was going to be cold and it was going to be windy. We were right. It was 28 degrees at the start. The wind was out of the south at about 8-10 mph and increasing throughout the morning. Chilly!

Start

I felt ok, but seemed a little chaotic. The field was huge between the women and men, both half and full. There was a lot of folks wanting to be on the front of the line. But, the race started and all was well. I was a little behind the 2:19 group (probably about 10 seconds) at the mile. There were a few people around me, so all was well. I wasn’t rushed at all. I didn’t feel overly comfortable, but that’s common. I just tried to relax and chip away to the group.

We weaved through downtown and I did gradually reach the group. I am not sure on splits because my Garmin was beeping way before, but after the first mile I do think it was close, but I did end up being about .3 mile long. So, essentially when I caught the group, I just focused on staying with the group.

By about mile 5..

I was in the back of the 2:19 group, right where I wanted to be. Again, not super comfortable- it felt a little harder than I was hoping, but being in the group was where I needed to be. At 10k, we had our first bottle, I grabbed mine as the pack scattered to the 10 tables. We regrouped and settled back in. I began sipping my fluids and it was freezing cold. My bottle held 10 oz and I’d say over the next half mile, I probably got 4-6 ounces in. I also had a gel taped to the side. However, I had two pair of gloves on and getting it off was impossible. So, I tried to focus on the bottle, but something got wanky and my stomach started turning sour. So. I put as much down as I could and had to toss it. This was the start of my problems.

From about 7 through halfway,…

it’s a near straight shot and it was with the wind. I just tried to settle in the back and not panic. My stomach was tightening up and my second bottle at 20,k was only a few sips before I thought I was going to barf. So, knowing it was gonna get rough, I just buckled up and hoped/prayed that I could just get pulled along. We came through 10 miles in 52:40 and then halfway at 1:09:15 (ish), so we were right where we needed to be. At halfway, there was a good 40 people in the 2:19 group.

At halfway, you turn and come back to the city. Unfortunately, the wind is in your face for the vast majority of that time. By now, my stomach was pretty tight and it was causing my back (which is my achilles heel) began tightening up to. Still we pushed on, but the group was starting to break up. At 16 miles, you turn right, by the governer’s mansion. It’ the hilliest part of the race. Not really that bad, but rolling for the next few miles. This is where I started falling back. The math started running in my head and was trying to calculate what I had to maintain, in order to break 2:19. I had about 45 seconds to lose, but it went pretty quick.

The pack gradually pulled away and I saw 2:19 slip away.

I hit 20 miles ..

in a touch over 1:48 and new I needed to be about 1:46 to have a chance. Admittedly, this deflated me. I was bummed, and started having a conversation with myself. Do I push on and sell my soul to run 2:22-3, or live to fight another day? Well, what a moot point, because I wasn’t really able to fight anyway. Ha! I saw Kevin, Keith, and Mike around 22 and they tried to encourage me, but we all knew the 2:19 train was long gone!

As I pulled onto the main drag,…

it’s nearly a straight shot to the finish line and you meet back up with the half marathon. There was a lot of cheering for me as I ran by and I am very appreciative. I definitely was able to pick up the pace a little bit. Rolling in, I was cold, my hands were starting to hurt, and my back was tight. But, we made it. In a way, it was liberating, because I had run 6 marathons in 2.5 years trying to chase the time. This was it. The decision was made for me. It honestly felt like I finally recognized that my service is not running fast marathon, but showing others how to do it themselves… I am a coach now, and Once a Runner.

Now that it’s been a few days, I have thought about some things. In occupational running, there isn’t really a retirement, rather, you just quit running. I don’t plan on quitting running. I don’t even plan on avoiding races. I have goals and I always need a challenge. Plus, once you turn 40, it’s like a whole new career! I just don’t feel a need to chase times anymore.

My training was great.

I wouldn’t change what I did at all. I added strides again. I was very consistent with that. Now, I need to assess what other detail I need to improve. My nutrition was so much better. The best it’s ever been. I feel good. I feel like I can train hard and stay healthy. I do want to do some faster stuff and hopefully, this summer I can race some shorter races. I think that would help me a ton. The stomach thing was a freak thing. I don’t know what happened. Maybe it was the temp? Either way, I just wasn’t able to get the fuel in. That cost me, big time.

So, you live, you learn, and you push forward. I truly appreciate the messages I have received, but please, don’t feel sorry for me. My life is good! Plus, getting all the successful race reports more than makes up for my own disappointment!

Nitric Oxide and Running Performance

Nitric Oxide? It makes me think of pushing a button on my car dashboard for a little boost! However, NO is an important neurotransmitter important for nerve signaling, nerve signaling, tissue turnover, and blood vessel dilation

 

Seems like most research focuses on the dilation part and exercise as a performance enhancer via delivery of oxygen and removal of waste products. Along with that dilation comes an improvement in running economy and time to exhaustion. In terms of running economy, I have seen 5% thrown around. To put that in perspective, that’s higher than what the Nike Vaporfly’s claim to obtain and have taken the running world by storm.

 

So, who does that benefit? Running economy will benefit those running long distances (half marathon and above) while time to exhaustion will benefit shorter times. While we do produce NO in our bodies, we often don’t eat the right amino acids, or enough, to see a performance benefit. We also see a drop in natural NO production as we age. 

 

The research can get dicey because of the way it is set up. What worked for older athletes, didn’t have the same effect on younger athletes. The dosages that worked on 1500 meter runners, didn’t affect the longer distance runners. What worked for recreational runners didn’t exactly show promise for elite runners. There’s a lot of factors like dosage, quality of ingredients, and length of studies that come into play. With that said, let’s look at some practical advice.

 

For older and less trained athletes, you should take a single dose of 60-70 ml of nitrates 2.5 to 3 hours prior to your workout or race. Keep in mind that levels of NO will stay elevated for some time. These groups will see more response on fewer amounts, so max the response on the least amount of dose. 

Custom or Pre-Made Training Plans for any distance!

For younger and more trained athletes, you should be at two doses of 60-70 ml of nitrate. You folks have things like naturally higher levels of NO and training adaptations that are going to make seeing a response require a larger dose. The same time frame applies here. 

 

NOTE: Unless you are building up to a goal race, these shouldn’t be taken every day as it can blunt the natural production of your NO. 

 

Ok, so, the second way to do this, is to do a gradual supplementation of 3-15 days, leading up to a goal race. Using the same two groups I just discussed, let’s determine the probable length of time to NO load. Less trained or older athletes may want to stay in a single daily dose for 3-7 days. The younger or more trained athletes may want to do a single daily dose for 7-15 days. 

 

What I will do for a workout: 

 

Night before a workout: 1 60 ml bottle of Amped Nox

AM before workout: 1 60 ml bottle of Amped Nox

 

What I will do prior to my goal marathon:

5 days prior to marathon: 1 bottle of Amped Nox nightly

 

HOWEVER: After reading more into the updated research, I think I am going to extend this out to 10 days prior to the race of a nightly dose and then one bottle the morning of the race. 

 

Interested in what I use? Check out my supplement site.

Road to Indy: Training up to 10/6/19

Monday 9/16 and 9/17

  • Two days of 12 in the morning and 4 in the afternoon. Did get strides in on Monday!

Wednesday 9/18

  • Long 24 miles in 2:22:40 (5:57/mile) Now, before people go, “but, but, but!” I am running well over 100 miles per week, and I’m running for under 2.5 hours, so that’s well within reason. This was pretty nie from a simulation standpoint as I definitely got that “wobbly leg” that you get those last few miles of the marathon.

Thursday-Saturday

  • 10 miles, 10 and 4 Double, and 12 pretty dang easy. Running 24 will put you up on mileage, so took advantage of the situation with not doing some doubles. Did get strength, core, strides in during the three days.

Sunday: 4-3-2-1

  • This was a test as we went to the Tigers game and had a lot of junk food. Got home pretty late too, but the kid had fun! I did adjust because it was super swampy.
  • 18 total for the day.

112 for the week. 


Monday 9/23

  • 12 and 4 easy. Nothing to get worked up over!

Tuesday 9/24

  • Taking a different approach and doing some faster stuff. A few years ago, this would have basically been 10k pace, but now it’s probably more like 5k-8k pace. I just haven’t done anything very fast in such a long time that I feel like some interjections of fast work can do me some good. Did 4 sets of 4×200 meters. So 200 meters in 34-35 seconds with 200 jogs. Did 400 meter jogs after every 4th one. Each set got progressively  harder, but never out of control.
  • Did a shakeout 4 miler in the afternoon because of lower workout volume.

Wednesday 9/25

  • Easy 12 and 4. Nice and easy.

Thursday 9/26

  • The Greenfield Elementary fun run was this morning, so I had to run at 12:30. 8 was all I could manage. Decided to cut my losses.

Friday

  • 3×3 Miles with Mike Morgan! Worked out well to team up. The whole team was out there, so good stuff. Mike wanted to go 5:30-20-10 and we were pretty close. The 5:30’s were a touch quick, but nothing out of control. Averaged about 5:18 pace for the workout.
  • Did a shakeout 4 in the afternoon. Trying to make a little bit up from the missed mileage on Thursday.

Saturday

  • Easy 12 and 4. Easy Peasy.

Sunday

  • Hanson’s Running Shop 16 miler at Lake Orion and Mile wanted to do a long run. 20 miles on the dirt roads and hills. He said he wanted to take it easy but we still ran 6:19 pace for it!

110 Miles for the week!


Monday through Wednesday (9/30-10/2)

  • Nothing crazy here, except two things. One, I was planning on taking three days easy in a row this week because I crammed a lot into last week. I know that if I get overzealous and just keep that train rolling, that it never ends well. Two, it worked out really well that I did that because my right plantar had been a little troublesome the last couple weeks. On Tuesday, I was running from the house. Some guy blew through the cross walk and I had to side step really quick. I felt like a tear in the spot it had been hurting. Of course, I was as far out on my run as I could be so I couldn’t just stop. It hurt for a couple minutes and then kinda subsided. Went home and iced like crazy and waited. On Wednesday it was sore, but not unbearable.

Thursday 10/3: 5×1.5 Miles

  • Mike Morgan is starting to get back to hard training. And has been dipping his toe into some workouts. He was looking at doing 5×1.5 Miles and we talked about paces and what not. He was looking at 5:10’s which is an in between pace. So, just kinda said we’d feel it out and see how it went. Newbie, Larry Char, joined in too. Started out about 5:10 pace, but it felt pretty good to me so I started creeping the pace down. Larry wanted to show us old guys that he was a big boy now, so he rolled too. Mike held on for dear life. Got down to 5:00 pace on the last couple.

Friday and Saturday: More easy running.

  • Sunday: 3×3 miles with Mike. 5:15-5:18 was the plan and we pretty much nailed it. Mile jogs were sub 7, which made me happy, but probably not Mike!

Ended the week with 108 miles. 


That’s 6 straight weeks at about 110 miles/week and 10 weeks at over 100 miles per week. My average weekly mileage is now higher than what my highest one week was this spring before Toledo.

Takeaways this week: I probably tried to change or add too much this segment to get everything to stick. I still do core and light strength regularly, but I haven’t done the heavy lifting or plyos as much as I wanted too. This goes to what I tell my athletes and that is finding easy wins at first and making small changes that will stick. For me that’s strides and my nutrition is the best it has been in years.

Getting into the heart of a plan makes finding time tough. You are tired and sore, and motivation can get tough. When you get to this point, just focus on getting out the door. Don’t mind if that first mile is slow. You’ll warm up, you’ll find your rhythm, and you’ll start to find your way. Now is not a time to compare how you felt when you were fresh, because you were, well… fresh!

12 Weeks Out from Indy Monumental

8/19/19 through 8/25/19

Monday 8/19/19

Today was the day following a pretty solid 22 miler I put in. One of the biggest lessons I have learned recently is that if I want to continue training really hard on my workouts then my easy days really have to be a recovery day. 7-8 years ago, I would do that 22 miler and then come back and run the “easy” day at 6:30/mile, or faster. I just can’t do that and be consistent. I probably shouldn’t have done it back then, either!

  • AM: 10 miles @ 7:10/mile pace.
  • PM: 4 Miles, about the same pace. Did get 5×10-12 second strides in. Am surprised that these are hitting 4:20-30/mile pace. Regaining any semblance of speed is going to be a long term process. Saying that as I approach middle age seems like an oxymoron

Tuesday 8/20/19

  • AM: Easy 10 miles at 7:00 pace.
  • PM: Easy 4 miles at 7:20 pace.
    Hot today. Strides on second run. Second run was also from my office/studio, so did my “plyos”

Wednesday 8/21/19

Track Day! 6×800 meters with 400 meter jog. Followed up with 4×200 meters hard. An improvement over a couple weeks ago. 2:30 average for the 800’s. The 200’s were rougher, but still squeaked out 35-36 seconds on the 200’s. Very humid out! 13+ miles for the morning.

12 Weeks Out from Indy Monumental

Thursday 8/22/19

  • Recovery Day!
  • AM: 11.6 miles at an easy 7:14/mile pace.
  • PM: 4 miles from office @ 7:13/mile pace. No strides today.

Friday 8/23/19

  • Easy 12 Miles @ 6:58/mile pace.
  • Easy 4 miles @ 7:13/mile, but did 6×10-12 second strides.
    (Notice the difference in paces between Thursday and Friday)

Saturday: 8/24/19

  • 10 Miles easy in the morning @ 7:04 pace. Family get together didn’t allow to get a second run in.

Sunday: 8/25/19

  • Workout Day! 6×1.5 Miles @ MP (or maybe rather marathon effort) 4 minutes for the jog recovery. Managed 5:19 pace. Really going by feel on these, plus it’s really humid right now. Just getting work in.

12 Weeks Out from Indy Monumental

Week Overall:

102 miles for the week. Two pretty solid workouts I am spacing these out 2-3 days right now because I have a pretty decent amount of time. I get in shape pretty quick, so deliberately drawing out the process. I think the key for people to take away is the recovery on the day following a hard workout. Leave the hard days hard and let the easy days be easy. It would have done no good to go out and try to run harder the day following the workout. For the most part, the next day is a lot slower then the following easy day. So, when you look at my training, you’ll see SOS day, recovery (pace, not low mileage), easy to moderate, then another SOS. This is a good system for me and we can do similar things for you. This really let’s you have more quality workouts, keep your easy mileage high, and be able to be more consistent throughout a training block.


August 26th through September 1

Monday 8/26/19

  • Nothing crazy today- An easy 10 and 4 miles. Average over 7 minute pace on both.

Tuesday 8/27/19

  • AM 12 miles around the hood.
  • PM 4 miles, plus 7 strides. Must have gotten dizzy and snuck an extra one in.

Wednesday 8/28/19

  • Track Day! 8x1k and 4×200. This one hurt a little bit. Humid again. One of those workouts where I literally just had to focus on the one I was in. Told myself to get to 6 and I could quit. Got to 6 and said after 7. Finished 7 and realized I hate odd numbers, so finished it. About 5 minute pace for the k’s and the 200’s were 35 ish. Been a long time since I made a dedicated effort towards speed. Especially trying to run really fast after being tired. I remember in college, we’d do a k workout and then 200’s and I could run 25-26 all day. Can’t think about that though!

12 Weeks Out from Indy Monumental

Thursday 8/29/19

  • AM 12 easy at about 7:10 pace. Left to the cottage one last time before the school year starts! After driving all day, I couldn’t muster a second run. Plus we forgot some things and had to go into Alpena to supply up!

Friday 8/30/19

  • AM 10 miles easy. Weather was cool, baby! About 50 degrees way up north!
  • PM 4 miles easy with 6 strides.

Saturday 8/31/19

  • I finally did it! I have been coming up here for 8 years and finally ran the lake! HILLY, so was just trying to get the mileage in at a decent clip. 6:35 pace with uncertainty about the actual distance. Everybody told me it’s 20 miles. I did see I could avoid Mt. Mariah, but what’s the fun in that? 22 miles @ 6:34/mile

12 Weeks Out from Indy Monumental

12 Weeks Out from Indy Monumental

Sunday 9/1/19

  • Easy 10 and 4 from the cottage at over 7 minute pace. Actually did a good job recovering.

Week Overall:

108 miles for the week. A very solid track workout and a really good long run. Plus I finally did something I have wanted to for a long time. Finished the week off with some nice dirt road running. Proud of myself for being up at the cottage and staying disciplined. I have always struggled with that. I wasn’t as good with core and mobility this week, but training and nutrition was solid.

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Nutrition: Diet Definitions

Last time, we talked about macronutrients and the importance for balance in general health as well as performance. I hope that’s what everyone took out of it, at least. At the end of the day, balance is key and if there are major swings to focus on one macronutrient, the swing really should be short term and recognized that it may not be a sustainable option for long term (years). At the end of that discussion, I mentioned where I would like to take that conversation. One of the areas included what the definitions of diets actually contained and why the lack of continuity can blur the lines between what we think we are doing and what we actually are. So, today I’d like to explore an article from Burke, et al. (2018) that serves as a guide to understanding diet and exercise strategies. This entire article will be in reference to this article. I will share the link at the bottom of this post!

Let me first discuss that I am moving beyond general strategies here for overall health and talking mainly about running performance and adaptation to training.

High CHO diet

This is what we traditionally think of when we talk about endurance athletes. However, there is no clear definition of what this actually is, other than it is considered a daily diet. Definitions of a high CHO diet range from anything over 50% CHO, 60-70% CHO, 500-600g of CHO per day, or 7-10g/kg of body weight! The underlying premise is that all endurance athletes have a daily need for high amounts of fuel and these are met by high CHO intakes to support hard training. Overall, it’s not recommended to be using in isolation because it’s a poor correlation with muscle fuel needs for training.

Very interesting, huh? If you take anything from this diet is that it’s broad and based off the original research done in the 1960’s. So, this would really be seen as the starting point for endurance athletes. Don’t take away from this that CHO is not needed in larger amounts, but rather that there’s more info needed on an individual basis. Things like- type of exercise, volume, intensity, etc.

It goes back to what you have heard me say before- “Eat to your daily needs.”

Luckily, there’s been a number of updates to that original research that we can build from.

High CHO availability:

CHO spread across the day and is targeted at optimizing glycogen stores by exogenous supplies to meet the fuel demands of the days training/event. Amount is based on goals of training and body weight. Daily intake from 3-12 grams/kg of BW. Basically, we are going to make every run a focus for providing carbs right before, during, and after a run. Then the rest of the day might be a lower overall intake of CHO.

Luke Humphrey Running Books!

The potential problems are that it may take some guesswork and experimentation on your part to really nail down what works. In really high volume training (2+ sessions/day or 25+ hours per week of training) a person will probably have some training sessions that are low CHO availability.

Peridozed High CHO availability:

Essentially, the strategy as above, but now we decide which ones to make available based on the goals of the training. Each single session may have a different approach based on where you are at in training. So, early on, we may make all easy runs and shorter long runs low CHO availability, but keep high intensity SOS days a high CHO available day. Then, the closer we get, all SOS days may be high CHO available and keep shorter easy days at a low CHO availability. Two studies shown this to show performance improvements, but subsequent competitor studies have not been able to replicate.

Nonketogenic low CHO/high fat:

CHO availability is chronically (up to months) below muscle needs so that adaptations occur to promote fat oxidation. However, it is high enough to avoid ketosis. Typical: 15-20% CHO, 15-20% protein, and 60-65% fat daily intake. Or, CHO can be less than 2.5 grams/kg of BW. One important factor here is that this in combination with a moderate endurance program of less than 5 hours per week. I think that last sentence is pretty key to this! In context- It has been shown that this can up to double rates of fat oxidation, but this has not been shown to be in association with endurance performance overall.

I think there are some very important aspects to look at with this. The first is that there’s no doubt that it can increase fat oxidation and thus probably improve overall body composition. This alone will probably improve endurance performance.

If you weighed 200 pounds and lost 25 pounds of non excess fat, then yes, you will run faster.

However, this is only going to be true up to a point. Also, the amount and intensity of exercise you should be doing with this is pretty low- basically meeting the AHA guidelines for everyday health. I just think you are limited with the situations where this will be successful- especially long term.

Ketogenic LCHF:

A person severely restricts their CHO intake to less than 5% CHO (or 50 g/day), while protein is 15-20% and fat is 75-80% of daily intake. The basic premise is that this type of diet will produce very high rates of fat oxidation within 5 days to 2 weeks. However, extreme fatigue can occur for the first 3 weeks. Overall, exercise seems to be sustainable up to about 75% VO2max, but higher intensity exercise is not tolerated well, if at all. Another factor involved is that the severe restriction of food minimizes nutrient density and variety.

Thinking about the exercise tolerated makes sense. When we discussed macro nutrients, we talked about the body’s back up is to make glucose out of non glucose sources (both fat and protein), but it’s extra steps and it’s slow. The glycogen and glucose required for higher intensity exercise simply can’t be met with these back up mechanisms. I think it goes back to the level of athlete and their desired goal/outcome.

To wrap up, this is all pretty interesting.

For one, the body is really good at making due with what is being provided to it. Also, I think that what works for a lower level athlete isn’t particularly going to work for a higher level athlete. I am referring to both ability and amount of training.

Third, I think it’s important to note that these long term “diets” aren’t really suitable for more than a short period of time.

For instance, a high carb diet might only really be needed for a few days before a marathon. Meanwhile, a LCHF diet may be exactly what an overweight runner needs to shed some weight before starting a training plan and then can eat a more balanced diet. Lastly, what’s interesting in these diets is that the two main variables are fat and CHO. Why not change the amount of protein? For most endurance athletes, I would almost say that you keep CHO at 50-55%, fat at 15% and then protein at 30%. I’d have to work the numbers based on grams per kg of BW, but who knows? I mean, we know CHO needs are slightly higher, but so are protein needs. If we boost protein a little, we can maintain or build muscle during hard training, have a place to store glycogen, and we still change our body composition for the better. Ah well, maybe another time!

So next time, I think we continue on with the article I referenced and look at the more short term strategies and sequences for workouts and tapering (loading). I believe that propels us more into the idea that our “diet” really can shift from day to day. While one day may require a lot of CHO to replace what we utilized, another might not require as much. All in all, I think we are starting to paint the picture that from 10,000 feet, saying calories in, calories out is fine. However, as we zoom in, there’s more to it than that. Until next time!

 

Glass City Recap

I ran CIM in the beginning of December and then took some time off. I was going through a lot of life changes so for the first time in a long time, running took a backseat on the priority list. I’ll have to admit, I didn’t really miss the training aspect. I still enjoyed the daily routine, but not the regimented routine I have been undertaking for the last 25 years!

As life began to sort itself out, I began to be accustomed to my routine. For a long time I had to be selfish with running (or at least I thought) and that left a lot of daily tasks to my wife. That always made me feel guilty and over time I think it was things like this that really affected our feelings towards each other. I always was an early riser, but it was usually to scramble to get around to meet the guys for an early morning run. Now I was getting up at the same time, but getting a couple hours of productivity done, school lunches packed, kid fed and dressed, and making sure bags were packed. Even after all that, I was out the door running by 9 am.

I started getting the desire to train again, but knew I had to change the approach a little bit. Not the philosophy, but just how this segment was to be approached. I had done two marathon segments in 2018 and ran two in 2017! I hadn’t even thought about that until writing this.

I had played around with more recovery and less mileage because I thought my body couldn’t handle what I used to do.

The truth is, it can’t, but it could handle a lot more than what I was doing. That’s a little off topic, as I still needed to change this segment. I had a ton of marathon work in my system, so I wanted to work on just being able to run faster. I hadn’t done much of anything under 5 minute pace (per mile) in a very long time and I want to get back to where that feels comfortable. However, this winter was pretty rough and I did a lot of simulated efforts on the treadmill. When I got outside, I tried to run faster. During the the last 6 weeks, I was able to get in the staple workouts of a Simulator and a 2×6 miles. I was pretty confident, at least in my ability to run respectable, but honestly, I knew it was going to be a little bit of a crapshoot.

Overall, from the first week of February until the week before the race, I averaged about 105 miles per week.

Not bad by any means, but a little less than what I averaged before CIM and about the same as what I averaged before Bayshore in May. I felt good physically. My back was in decent shape and my head was clear. My stress levels had decreased significantly. So, heading into the Glass City Marathon, I had two goals- 1) Was to compete for the win and 2) Run under 2:20.

RACE WEEKEND

The nice thing about this race was that it was close- about an hour away from home. Nikki and I still got a hotel room in Toledo, but just for convenience. Given the fact that our hotel for Boston two weeks earlier was in the 4 figures, this was nothing! We checked in and then headed over to the expo to pick our race packet up. Part of my elite entry included helping out for a couple hours at the expo, so I fulfilled that duty. Talking to the elite athlete coordinators gave me a lot of info and I knew the competition I was going to be racing against the next morning.

As expected, the weather deteriorated over the evening and into the night, but all reports said the rain was going to be gone, which was my biggest concern.

There is nothing worse than a cold rain. The morning was cold.

About 36 degrees, but the rain had stopped. However, the wind was steady at 10-15 mph and gusts up to 20+ mph. Woof! Oh well, I was honestly just glad it wasn’t 75 degrees! It did warm up a bit- I think starting temp was 39 or 40 degrees, but the wind was still there.

As I stood on the starting line I was pretty calm, but anxious to get going. I wanted to see how this thing was going to unfold. The half marathon and the full marathon run together for the first 9-10 miles, so I knew there’d be a good range of paces at the start. The race started and of course all the local hero’s went blowing by for their few minutes of fame. I was glancing around at bibs to see who was full and who was half marathoners. There was a couple guys that were on there own and then everyone else seemed to just kind of pack up. We started looping around the outside of the U of T campus and I tried to tuck in away from the wind. It was funny because there was so much back and forth with the pacing, so I just tried to stay calm. All was pretty well through the first 5-6 miles. I just ran my pace and let those young guys throw the sneaky punches. Looking at my splits, I was pretty steady at 5:18 ish pace. Miles 5 and 6 were 5:12 range, but I think we were with the wind.

However, by 6 miles, they must have tuckered themselves out and all of a sudden I was in front. Knowing the field, I knew that I had to set myself up for the best chance to win, so I stayed on the pace. I never pushed the gas to the floor, but I stayed honest at 5:18-19 pace. It was cold, and it was windy, so the field started falling apart. Pretty soon it was just myself and the eventual winner. From miles 7-15 we worked through a nice neighborhood and then into a big metropark and were on a bike path. We ran side by side all the way through 15 miles. I never felt like I was over the edge, but I felt like that was as fast as I could go without getting over the edge.

As we exited the park at 15, we made a right hand turn and this guy just blasted it. I ran 5:15 for that mile and he just dropped my like I had made a pit stop, or something.

To make matters worse, we were dead nuts straight into a headwind, too.

So, there was the break and he spent the next two miles putting a big distance on me. At that point, it was a matter of holding on. It just stunk because he was too far ahead to be in contact and I was all alone with third being a couple minutes back. No man’s land is incredibly lonely.

I am proud that the gap didn’t get any worse. At mile 20, or so, the biker next to me told me the gap was about 50 seconds and that’s where it stayed. As we headed back to campus, my calves were starting to cramp and my quads were fried. I was just spent and managing myself.

The wind definitely played a role with me. I looked at a couple calculators and a 10 mile head wind can add 10-20 seconds per mile, pretty easily. I would say that you throw in the factors of dehydration, being tired already, and then running completely alone for 10 miles and there’s a lot going on there. All in all, it was 2:22 and second place. I competed for the win for a long time and was on sub 2:20 pace for 20+ miles, but it ended rough.

Post Race

Now’s the time for too much information. I didn’t pee for almost two hours after the race. When I did, it was so brown I thought it was blood. I am telling you this because it’s important. I dehydrated myself really bad and that also had an effect. The thing is, I was really good with gels. I took 5 Isagenix Fuels. One right before and four during the race. However, it was so cold I couldn’t grab water.

I would be surprised if I took in 10 oz of water during the whole run.

That’s such a bummer, too. That’s a rookie mistake and it’s frustrating for myself. I’ve been doing this for 15 years and you always have to remember the basics!

The next couple days were brutal! I could barely walk. However, by Saturday, I felt good and went for a 3 mile jog. It was slow, but spring had finally come and I wanted to get some sun in! I ran the next week until mothers day. My hip was a little sore, but now it’s all good. I even started doing strides this week!

Moving Forward

I feel like I have one or two more chances at a Trials qualifier.

Right now, I need to step back from the marathon. I want to race some shorter races and get to where I can handle some things I haven’t done in a long time. My plan is to build up with a 5k and a 10k in June and July. Then run the Crim 10 Miler in August. From there I’ll transition right into marathon training for Indy on November 9th. I think there will be quite a few guys going after sub 2:19 and it’s a great course and race. It should be fun! I also want to get back to more strength. I keep saying it, but it’s my downfall!

At the end of the day, training for Glass City helped me transition to a new chapter of my life. I didn’t win, but I raced hard. I learned how to train without the reliance of a team. And I feel good with a lot of things in my life and my family! So, here’s to the rest of 2019.

 

Marathon Tempos: 2019 Update


In 2018, I did a podcast on tempo runs, and it really discusses how Marathon pace should feel. That post is still relevant and will be unless our physiology drastically change. If you haven’t read or listened yet, I encourage you to do so HERE.

Over the last several years, as more and more people have read the HMM books, some questions have arisen. I have had this discussion several times now about how the book and the plans are meant to fit a wide spectrum of people. Now as more and more people have read the books we can dive into discussions about how to make things more specific to your individual needs. So today, I want to comment on the four most common areas of specificity when it comes to the marathon tempo runs.

The first is “Small Jumps vs Big Jumps” in marathon training.

By this I mean, are you making a big jump in goal pace or are you making a small goal in pace? I would say that anything within 10 seconds per mile of what you have currently run is probably within your standard of deviation already. So, if your current marathon pace is 9 minutes per mile, then you probably hit 8:50 per mile fairly regularly in training and doesn’t represent any major adjustment to pace. However, if you ran 8:50 per mile instead of 9:00 pace, then you run nearly 5 minutes faster for the marathon!

Funny how small increases in pace over 26.2 miles can drastically change the outcome of your race…

Anyway, let’s use that same 9:00 per mile pace and now you want to run 8:30 pace. For some of you, that new pace might represent a pace that looks more like your half marathon pace than it does your marathon pace. This, obviously, is a big jump in pace and is going to drastically alter how your marathon tempo runs feel, especially the early ones. Even a four mile tempo will probably feel more intense than your speed work! I will discuss how to handle this in a minute but recognize that if you are making a big jump in pace, you’ll need to exercise a certain amount of caution and recognize that your early tempo runs may feel harder than what your later tempo runs feel.

Building on the jump in pace, the next logical step is how your early paces feel versus later tempo runs feel.

The basic assumption here is that you are coming off a rest and are now starting a buildup to a marathon.

Now, if you aren’t coming off a rest, but simply moving from one segment to another, then chances are your early tempo runs will feel easier than they should and that’s a sign of trouble.

However, that’s another discussion for another time. For now, let’s assume you are coming off rest, and are making a small jump in paces. If that’s the case, then marathon pace will feel uncomfortable, but not super taxing. This is mostly because you have slightly decreased fitness levels and this slightly above your current marathon ability. The idea that is that as your fitness improves (and it will quickly) your marathon pace will feel easier as you go on- to a point. Now, as we mentioned, if you are making a big jump in paces, the marathon tempos will feel difficult. They might even be discouraging. However, if you are committed to the goal, I say give it several weeks before deciding if it is too much. We’ll discuss ways to combat this later on.

Custom or Pre-Made Training Plans for any distance!

The third area is your progression of fitness:

The whole goal with a training plan is to improve your level of fitness. So, in theory, MP should feel easier, right? For some, it might, but for most, there are confounding factors involved that will affect how you actually feel. In reality, I have only had pace feel slightly easier. What’s more important is that unless I was overtrained, I never felt worse. So, I felt roughly the same for a 10 mile tempo later in the segment as I did during a 4 mile tempo 8 weeks prior. Even more important than that, my confidence increased as I felt more comfortable (or familiar) with the new pace. Notice that I am differentiating between easier and comfortable. I find this to be true for modest increases in pace and for those who are adjusting to the bigger increases in pace.

The fourth is the effect of cumulative fatigue and its effect on your “feel” of tempo pace.

Using that early four mile tempo, it feels hard because your fitness is at a lower level. When you get to those 10 mile tempos, you are doing them with several weeks of hard training in your legs. So, your fitness may be leaps and bounds higher, but the fatigue you feel is not allowing your tempos to feel easier. Now, under normal-heavy training, tempo runs will still be hard and the first couple miles might not be wonderful, but you will settle into a pace and end up being just fine. If you are overcooked, what you’ll see is that effort will increase, but your paces will be slower and slower. If this is the case (which is usually with the “big jumpers”) then you may need to reconsider the pace that you are trying to attempt.

How do I combat this?

For big jumpers- a segment that focuses on getting other race times down

So let’s assume that you just ran a marathon and it went well. Now, you want to jump in and start training for another one, but you’ve gotten the idea to make a go at that once impossible BQ. It’s still a big jump of 15 minutes, but what the heck!

Now, I am not saying you shouldn’t. However, what I am saying that you will not want to jump right into it for your next segment. Let’s say you ran an end of April marathon and were thinking you want to make a go at it in the fall. What I will see is a lot of people will want to jump right into another marathon attempt to try and reach the deadline for Boston. For those who don’t know, if we are in the year 2019 and you want to run the 2020 Boston marathon, you need to have your qualifying time by early September of 2019. So, what we have seen is a number of “last chance” Boston qualifying races for that weekend of the deadline. The problem is this doesn’t give the person who is trying to make a big jump in performance enough time to adjust to that new level. Those just needing a couple minutes is another story. They can probably make that turnaround.

What I would propose is that the person take their recovery, then utilize the rest of May, June, July, and part of August to work on shorter races.

I don’t particularly care if it’s a 5k/10k segment or a half marathon segment, but just something that shifts the focus. The reasoning is that if the person trying to make the big jump is aiming for a new goal that doesn’t line up with anything that they have run in the past, then it’s going to be a hard go trying to run that new pace for 26.2 miles. Let’s pick, say a 10k, goal that is more in line with what would suggest that the marathon goal is possible. That way, we aren’t putting all our eggs in one basket, we are giving our body an opportunity to train at faster paces, but not be under the grind of marathon training. Then, once you come back to the marathon, the paces won’t be as daunting and you’ve hopefully increased your fitness enough to tolerate the new paces. Essentially, we have made an attempt to bridge the gap between where you are at and where you want to be.

 

Break up the tempo runs early, treat as rust buster workouts

This is something that I will do in many of my other Final Surge plans. Essentially, these

are soft toss workouts. Something that you are confident in hitting, but an introduction to

new marathon paces. It can be pretty simple like 6-8×800 meters at your goal marathon with short recovery jogs. Each week, simply lengthen the distance of the repeat until you get to where you are more comfortable at doing a straight up tempo run.

  1. Add a day of recovery.

    I am a big fan of going Monday, Thursday, Saturday or going Tuesday, Friday, Sunday. I also like our alternator and 9 day cycle to spread out your intense workouts to a more manageable recovery period.

  2. Start from slower to faster (or fast to slow?)

    You can employ this strategy regardless of whatever strategy(ies) you employ from above as a supplement. There are really two ways to approach. The first is to start your tempo (or marathon repeats) at your current marathon pace and progressively work towards your goal marathon pace. I personally like this method the best, as I like to have your train how’d you should be racing. However, there the other side of this, too. That would be to start at your goal marathon pace and simply hold it as long as you can. This, I feel is acceptable when you want to test yourself after a few weeks, but it’s not something I’d attempt on a weekly basis. I feel like frustration would lead to doubt and more negative self talk. Regardless, the end goal would be the same, and that would be to accumulate more time, each successive workout, at your goal marathon pace.

How am I going to go another 16 miles at this pace?

This is what I want to end with because it’s probably the biggest question I see in the Facebook group after they do a 10 mile marathon tempo. It’s certainly a valid question. I have talked about it in this post (the how do I know I am ready). However, I will say, if you are hitting your 10 mile tempos within a few seconds per mile and not adjusting any of your training to get there, then you have a good chance.

If you get through a 10 mile tempo and felt like you just raced the workout, then you might be in trouble- especially if you are trying to take a big jump.

If you get to that point where it was a hot mess or you just can’t even come close to that goal pace, then you really have some decision making to do. If you are ok with rolling the dice, then go ahead and roll the dice. However, if you are ok with splitting the difference and scaling back to a smaller personal best effort and building that bridge (rather than potentially burning that thing all the way to the ground) to BQ land then now is the time to make that decision.

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Marathon Long Run Part 2

Last time, we talked about long runs that were more simple, but not any less easy. This week, we will expand on those foundational types of long runs and into more race specific long runs. These runs already assume that you have built your general endurance and are now into more race specific phases of your preparation. I’ll discuss a few instances where that could change, but for the most part, these are all long runs that would occur after you’ve done general training. I would also say that most beginners and first-time marathon runners should put their focus in being able to cover the ground and then maybe doing these types of runs in the future.

Fast Finish

This was my first introduction into next level training, right here. I don’t quite recall who started it, but my first experience was from Khalid Kanouchi, the Moroccan marathoner and later US citizen. He was a favorite at the Chicago Marathon in the early 2000’s and he would always chat a bit with us Hanson guys at the Chicago races. He told us a staple of his marathon training was the “Fast Finish” long run. A few of us were really on board and begged Kevin and Keith to let us try it and they did! I still remember the day we tried it the first time. We always had a Sunday group run n conjunction with the Stony Creek Running Club and we’d rotate sites. One location was way out on the dirt roads at this middle school in northern Oakland County. It was a tough loop with tons of dirt roads, hills, and the school had a track behind it. So, being who were as a team, hit the long run pretty hard, ran straight to the track, where we had left our flats, and then ripped a 3200 meter (basically time trial against ourselves). I think I ran about 9:50 after putting in a hard 18 miles before. It was hard. It was a real gut check, but it was fun. Part of it was because of the track, part of it was because it was something new. However, it’s not something I’d do all the time! Plus, we definitely made mistakes on that first one, like changing into our racing flats and taking a 5-10 minute break in there. The run evolved for us over time. We don’t change into flats and we just go straight into it from our run. Now, that typically happens where we can let it rip for a few miles down the Paint Creek Trail where the trail is flat.

Some key points to this long run:

  • Done in the last 6-8 weeks of a marathon segment.
  • I wouldn’t do in successive weeks, follow a tough long run with an easier long run the following week
  • Don’t need a lot of these 1-3 during that time is plenty good.
  • Really focus on the recovery aspect after these. Pushing yourself to that limit on already fatigued legs will require extra attention from the recovery department.
  • From my experience, just getting down to marathon pace is tough enough for most people I have given this run too. No need to make it harder for those chasing BQ’s and new time thresholds. This will still teach you that you can push through late in the game, even when tired and that’s a major component to this long run.

 

Squires Long Runs

The Squires Long run comes from Coach Squires of the Boston Track Club from the Bill Rogers and Greg Myer era. The long run is a great way to accumulate time at marathon pace for the week, but also bring the average pace of your long runs down. To me, it is a great tool to learn how marathon pace feels throughout the course of time- from when you feel fresh, to when you are tired. This will pay great dividends to those performance minded runners. If you can learn to associate effort to pace and do so when fresh and when tired, you can take your performance to a whole new level! I think this is also a great long run for those who struggle with traditional marathon tempos. We can accumulate a lot of time at marathon pace while not just logging mile after mile at pace every week. However, I have to add, that you do need to learn to be able to do that, but this would be a nice break from that monotony. If you aren’t familiar with what these runs are, they are essentially long runs with a fartlek in the middle to second half of the long run.

  • Can actually start these earlier in a training cycle, say 8-10 weeks out from the marathon if you are more of a seasoned marathon vet.
  • Use first few miles as a warm up and progress into moderate paces before starting the marathon pace “fartleks.”
  • Start with small amounts of time, say 8 x 2-3 minutes at marathon pace with 2-3 minute jogs. Each long run you do, up the time. So, if you do this 3-4 times throughout the training cycle, you may be up to 10 x 7-8 minutes at marathon pace. Ideally, recovery would stay about the same, at roughly 3 minutes.
  • Recovery between each marathon pace effort is still in your easy to moderate pace.
  • Cool down the last couple miles of your run.
  • This is a run you want to be fueling for. Allow yourself to keep the effort high by providing the fuel needed for the intensity.
  • Post run recovery is as important as the effort given during the run!

The Combo

If you are in our Facebook group, I have offered this one up for a long time. If you are really tight on time in a particular week, but still have your long run, then this is a great compromise. If you have done the 10 mile tempo, then this is nothing new to you. You have probably done this on plenty of Thursdays already!

  • Use first few miles as a warm up, gradually increasing from easy to moderate to long run pace.
  • Then do your assigned tempo mileage at goal MP. Ideally this is done for longer tempos, say 8-10 milers.
  • Set up so the last 1-3 miles can be used as a cool down.
  • This should be a fueled run. You will already be going to the well pretty deep. Don’t dig it so deep you can’t get out.
  • Post run recovery is crucial. Get on your refueling, re-hydration, and hopefully, rest as soon as you can.
  • If you do this on the weekend, you are typically doing in place of a tempo run during the week, so you may need to adjust the days before and after.

The Mega Long Run

Ok, here it is! For all you 40 mile a week runners who love your 20 milers! I am just kidding, so no hate mail, please! I think it is an important long run type to discuss. Now, admittedly, I have never given a mega long run to an athlete, and I don’t have any personal experience with this long run. Just want to be completely up front with you.

The mega long run can mean a couple of things. It can be described in terms of mileage or in terms of time run. When people talk to me about it, they usually express in terms of mileage, usually something like 20-24 mile long runs. If someone does a 22 mile long run using the classic Advanced plan, this is about 40% of the weekly mileage during the last 8-10 weeks of the training plan. If following the plan, the longest long run would be about 29% during the same week.

Sometimes, mega long runs are described in terms of time. For instance, coach Greg Mcmillan says he will prescribe a long run up to 30-45 minutes longer than what the person is planning on running during the marathon. So, if a person is trying to run a 4 hour marathon, then he may give them up to a 4:45 long run. This doesn’t mean that they will cover something like 30 miles because they are running slower than goal pace. They will just be putting in a lot of time over what they plan on racing for.

Do I agree with the mega long run? Well, it depends! I think that when you are new to HMM style training, then no, I am quite reluctant to give the green light on the mega long run. I have just experienced too many people doing it on their own and then not being able to tolerate the rest of the training. Now, if you have done a couple of cylces of our training and seem to be thriving, but need a new stimulus, then I can see doing a run that creeps up into the 40% range of your weekly mileage. HOWEVER, this doesn’t mean you scale way back during the week in order to accommodate this run.

Now, when referring to a mega long run by time, I think you have to look at from a different point of view. If you are following one of the HMM plans and are running long runs at 10 minutes per mile or slower, then a 16 mile long run is already taking at least 2.75 hours. What I think makes that work is that idea that the day before, you are putting in a significant easy run of 8 miles, or at least another hour and 20 minutes. So within about 24 hours, these runners are putting in roughly 4 hours of running. That is a significant amount and stimulates all the adaptations needed that would also be provided by the mega long run by itself. The other aspect I want to look at is from a practical standpoint. Using the examples from above, a 4:30 marathoner (which is about 10:15 per mile), could in theory run 5:15 for a long run. That seems completely brutal to me and I personally feel like that will cause more harm than good. This is because we deplete ourselves so much and begin to break down so much that we really run the risk of being in a position of fatigue that takes way too long to recover from. If I gave a person that run, they would probably be too beat up to do much for the next week! To me, I feel like I can get so much more accomplished from backing the long run down and being able to train the next 7 days as I normally would. I do understand that extraordinary circumstances require extraordinary responses. However, I also think the risk far outweighs the reward for run over 4 hours. Now, where I do see this run working is for runners racing at under 3 hours. Going for a 3-3:30 long run will help these runners, but not dig the training whole too deep. I think a run like that would suit these runners about 10 weeks out from the race and maybe again at about 6 weeks out from the race. As long as they can really put an emphasis on recovery after and fueling during to preserve stores and muscle structure, then I think they will be ok.

 

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Wrapping up..

Phew, that’s a lot of variations to the long run, especially for the marathon. I can’t stress enough that you have to take a serious look at your own ability and where you are at. It’s nice to get some ideas, but you also have to be careful not to get yourself into a position that you can’t recover from later on. If you are a beginning runner, focus on building your general endurance first and then start adding in another training cycle. If you are attempting these types of long runs, put a lot of focus into fueling and recovery. I also suggest that you follow each of these long runs with a more traditional long run. Adding too much intensity and duration for too long isn’t productive either. Keep the balance of easy to hard. Train hard, but recover too.

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