Wednesday, June 30, 2010
Reflecting on your months of dedicated training, the usual pre-performance jitters, and the energy of throngs of people all meeting at the starting line will get even the most experienced endurance athletes excited. Here's a performance tip from the Element Endurance Race Day Strategy Department: fight the urge to explode off the starting line and stick to your pace from the start of the race!
Here's why: through your months of training your body has learned to store increasingly greater amounts of glycogen in your liver and in your muscles. Glycogen, a stored form of carbohydrates, is one of the three sources of energy that your body draws on during an endurance race. When going the distance at your planned pace, your muscles utilize a delicate mixture of glycogen, carbs eaten before or during the race, and stored fat. The consumed carbs fuel you short-term, the stored fat works more over the long-term, but the glycogen is what keeps you going throughout and gives you your tenacity for that final kick at the end.
Keeping to your steady, medium-intensity pace allows aerobic metabolism to work its magic in the presence of copious oxygen to maximize ATP (muscle energy) production from that glycogen. Holding your pace ensures that your glycogen stores are slowly and efficiently melted down just as you have trained your body to do.
Should you give in to the excitement and energy of the starting area and dash from the start line at a heavy sprint, your body will burn glycogen anaerobically. This is a problem because ANAEROBIC metabolism uses up glycoen 18 to 19 times faster than AEROBIC metabolism!. If you give in to your starting line enthusiasm and make a high intensity push to the front of the pack you will be quickly burning up your precious glycogen and be more apt to enter glycogen debt (also known as “hitting the wall”) by the end of the race.So before the start gun sounds, take several deep breaths, meditate, visualize. Do whatever you must to leave the start gate in a focused, relaxed state-of-mind, and most-importantly, at your planned pace! This will keep your muscles pumping all the way to the end, keep you from hitting the wall, and may even help you sprint the last straight-away to the finish line!
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
Photo CC from Lincolnian
Shakespeare was a literary genius and an accomplished marathon trainer. Who else could through a thirteen year old girl so eloquently articulate the injustices of society, agonies of love and the benefits of a good pair of socks?
O, be some other name!
What's in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet
You can feel the thirteen-year-old Juilette’s pain here as she soliloquizes as to why society and family feud’s will not let her and her beloved, Romeo, be together (imagine if she had Twitter). What you don’t feel is what I felt last Saturday on my toes after my seven mile run. It took this pain for me to realize that Juliette is also doing is letting us know that good socks are essential to training for a marathon.
I’ll explain: “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet” means that the essence of an object or person cannot be captured by name alone. If we take the inverse to be true (which Shakespeare intended) then a name cannot capture the essence of an object. Take note of that when you walk by the “athletic sock” bin at Target.
On a recent “long” of my marathon training program, I wore one such pair of white ankle length “athletic socks” and believe me, I felt Juliette’s pain.
For those of you who think that this is much ado about nothing I will point to the giant blister on my toe.
On my recent seven mile trek, I was cruising around mile 5 (after a short but refreshing recovery walk), and noticed a growing discomfort in my big toes. I don’t pronate too much, so I quickly realized that this little pain was just the seed of what would become a big fat blister by mile 7.
The culprit, “Athletic Socks”, wherefore art thou my “High Performance Athletic Socks”?
Why was the term “Athletic Socks” used for these elastic pieces of cotton if they were not really made for athletic activities? Could it be that these socks are more limber, stretchy, and supple than dress socks, so they can be characterized as athletic in their own nature?
There are many things a beginning runner learns – and this will surely not be my last lesson. Clearly good equipment for your feet is a must have and I just wish I realized it when I readRomeo and Juiliette 15 years ago.*
* I may or may not have more recently seen the movie by the same name featuring Claire Danes and Leonardo DiCaprio
Friday, June 25, 2010
Remember Jell-O(R) Jigglers(R)? The fun little fruity gelatin creations I (and am guessing you) threw at your siblings.
Well, as my endurance training has ratcheted up over 6 miles, I've found a need for hydration and energy to make it through the run. Wanting to add a little variety to my pre and post run Element Bar I found myself in the rarefied space where endurance training meets entrepreneurial spirit... the kitchen. My intention was to create something that I still don't know what to call: Endurance Goo, Endurance Jiggler, Endurance Gummy. I assumed that all it would take is a little electrolyte, a little complex carbohydrate, a little simple carbohydrate. The result:
Endurance Fuel gEeeew
These turned out so bad, that my own mother spit them out. Cringing, she tried to breathe between gasps of, "They're disgusting", "Why didn't you warn me", and "Eeew". They probably fit better in a cup of tea than in a workout, but they are effective. On longer runs that actually qualify as endurance training, I wrap a chunk of goo in a small piece of plastic wrap and bite off a pieces as I run. I keep the goo in my cheek getting a steady flow of sugars to keep my energy level high.
I'll post again soon with a revised recipe that should be more palatable. Until then, enjoy your experimentation, and schedule a dentist appointment for those cavities. If you also want to try your own endurance goo then read the rest of this post as a step-by-step process of what you should avoid.
After finding recipes for Gummy Bears online I figured I was ready (in retrospect, a mistake). Sugars and a little electrolyte in the form of salt and calcium chloride or Powerade endurance sport drink would give me a fruity gummy that could get me over the hump. Endurance training is taxing, so I just wanted portable fuel that's easy to eat, whatever the format.
I started with this recipe (Check the Notes section at the bottom for more clarification/tips)
modified from This Recipe from Recipe Secrets
1 box of Powdered Pectin (1.75 oz)
1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
1 cup of to-remain-unnamed red Endurance Sport Drink
1 cup of Honey
1 cup Granulated Sugar
1 cupcake baking tray (pretty good for cooling, though a brownie pan would work too)
1. Combine the pectin and baking soda in a decent sized (medium+) saucepan. Add your Sport Drink (or water), stirring until the pectin is dissolved. As you heat it...the mixture will foam. Keep stirring until the mixture is thick, smooth, and clear. (This was tough to discern, because of the foaming, basically just stir on a simmer for 2-3 minutes). Remove heat, cover saucepan to keep pectin warm.
2. Combine the honey and sugar in another saucepan (preferably a Large-ish one, because this stuff bubbles like crazy). Stir until the sugar dissolves, make the sugar mix boil.
3. Use a candy thermometer (I didn't have one, so I panicked and looked on google for what a "hard ball" consistency was) on the pan and cook until 260 F (hard ball stage).
4. Once you hit the hard ball stage, add the pectin mixture immediately (prepare for some noisy steaming), and return the sugar mix+pectin mix to a boil. Boil for exactly 1 minute (I'm pretty sure this is a tad flexible, but get it close).
5. Add any zest, juices, etc, and mix. Pour the resulting syrup into your molds. I used cupcake molds, and these worked great. Let it sit until cooled and firm. The recipe said wait 5 hours, but mine were pretty firm in 2-3 hrs. I didn't use any non-stick spray or anything, and they came out of the metal mold pretty well...a little spray would have helped the release (but I really hate adding any unnecessary processed ingredients to my food)
6. While still in your mold sprinkle some superfine sugar on the tops to help prevent sticking. Commercial gummies often have Carnauba Wax on the outside to coat, preventing sticking. Believe it or not, I didn't have any lying around in my pantry, so sugar had to do.
1) Superfine sugar - This stuff is like tiny normal sugar crystals...it IS granulated though. Powdered sugar is not a good substitute. Mine got slimy, because I overlooked this fact and used powdered sugar...goop city.
2) Hard Ball - Candy makers know all about this. The rest of us don't. Candy goes through stages as it is heated, and different temperatures and sugar concentrations create different candy types. A "Cold Water Candy Test" is used to determine if the concoction is right for your candy type. Check out this article if you're interested (Sugar Stages). I resorted to actually testing mine, and the little sugar turned into a slightly malleable ball of Endurance goo when dropped in water.
Two months. That’s how long it’s been since my last track workout. Per El Diablo’s (my trainer) orders, I took a sixty day hiatus from my beloved quarter mile oval. But absence makes the heart grow fonder, and my affection for running in 400 meter circles was no exception. This week I returned to the track for one of my favorite workouts.
By no accident, I live within running distance of a great track. I can run right out my front door, do a good warm-up, and hit the track. It’s the perfect set-up. I love track workouts for their measurability and consistency. I can run a few intervals on the track and get a good idea about my fitness and practice my pacing. I come from a swimming background, so track workouts are the closest things to the pool workouts I grew up with. Plus, I just love racing the clock.
This workout was all about pacing. I have a tendency to run too fast in the beginning of a race, and that is not something you want to do when you have 26.2 miles in front of you, like I will at Ironman Louisville. My goal was to hit each interval exactly. Not too fast, not too slow.
4x1600s with 30 seconds rest between each 1600
My goal time was my half-marathon pace, which is about 6:50 per mile. I knew I was very capable of running the pace; the challenging part would be hitting the times exactly.
From the first few steps, I knew I was going to have a great workout. My legs felt fresh and springy. My breathing was even and controlled. And I was completely focused on the red rubberized track surface in front of me.
It was a perfect evening. A light drizzle and distant storm meant I had the track all to myself. I ran the first mile in a near-perfect 6:49. I kept the next three within a few seconds of first. I felt strong and completely in control of the pace on all four miles.
As I did my short cool-down jog home I thought about how much I love being a part of such a cool sport. This weekend a bunch of my teammates and friends are competing in everything from Ironman Coeur d’Alene in Idaho, Buffalo Springs Half Ironman in Texas, and the local IronGirl sprint triathlon here in Atlanta. With all the different distances and races happening all over the globe, triathlon really is a sport that will work for anyone!
Friday, June 18, 2010
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
Friday, June 11, 2010
Week 1 of training is underway, and I've managed to run three days in a row, without any complications, well, any major complications.
So the biggest challenge this week has been prying myself out of bed. I've always been an early riser, but 5:10 AM hits a little hard some days. You have the Blackhawks winning the Stanley Cup (wrapping up at the fairly respectable hour of 11:00 - couldn't they be more considerate?), life in general which tends not to wrap up by 10 on its own, and a few wild workdays, and the next thing you know you're scraping by on sleep. What's the sleep/run strategy to have your cake and eat it?
Queue up the sympathy music: I skipped out on my scheduled Tuesday run, which happened to be the very first scheduled run in the program. Not exactly an auspicious beginning. BUT, it was raining, it was 5 AM, you know the drill....and let me tell you, it was nice. Following that performance, I decided to buck up and ran Wed, Thurs, Fri - 3 miles each day. It took a little will power, and a good dose of coffee on the way into work.
A special thanks to Jonathan Miller who was nice enough to pick me up from the train on Wednesday so I didn't have to push my way to the office on my commuter scooter (self deprecating pictures of grown man on scooter to follow).
The running has definitely increased my body's demand for water - and this got me thinking about the dehydrating effects of coffee. Do any of you more seasoned athletes out there have a take on the proper placement of coffee in a training regimen? I'm not looking to win the Boston marathon or anything, but what are the hydration factors to consider when eyeing that morning cup-o-joe after the early wake up call?
Thursday, June 10, 2010
This post is part of the Team Element summer series. To find other team members, see our Element Endurance Team introduction
Triathlon, tennis, touch football– no matter the sport, I love reading about it. One good thing about extra rest is extra time for one of my favorite guilty pleasures – curling up with a good sports biography. On my most recent trip to Barnes & Noble I decided to spend my hard earned cash on the two running biographies with the best looking front covers: Kenny Moore’s Bowerman and the Men of Oregon and Chris Lear’s Running with the Buffaloes.
I admire great teams, and I figure if someone writes a book about a team, it must be great. More often than not, I find great teams have great coaches. And I find it especially entertaining when a coach can collect a rag-tag group of individuals and win big a la Miracle or Braveheart or last week’s episode of Glee.
I’m not saying Bill Bowerman’s Oregon track teams of the 1960s and 70s or Mark Wetmore’s 1998 Colorado cross country team were a bunch of has-beens. But I can’t imagine the men on either team would have been nearly as successful without their respective leaders. And I believe their lessons are applicable to my own triathlon training.
Moore says in training there are only two questions: What should I do, and how much should I do?
Bowerman’s distance program was based on a series of interval days, long runs, and rest days, totaling around sixty miles per week. The key was rest – both between intervals and between workouts. Bowerman wanted his athletes to finish workouts “exhilarated, not exhausted.”
Based on mileage alone, Wetmore’s program looked very different. His athletes often ran close to 100 miles per week, ideally done “in singles.” Translation? Really long runs. That kind of mileage averaged out to a 14+ mile run every day! But not everyone did mileage like that. Freshmen did much less. And even seasoned athletes were pulled from workouts if Wetmore sensed them struggling.
My major takeaways from both books were the ideas of rest and individualized workouts. Though each coach had a “typical” workout style, neither was afraid to modify a workout to meet a specific athlete’s needs, especially if the athlete needed more rest. An unhealthy athlete is not a fast athlete!
Unfortunately, I learned about the whole rest and recovery thing the hard way. But the more I think about it, the more I know my recent break was a good thing, and I need to continue taking my recovery time as seriously as any workout.
Fortunately, I am doing great in the individualized workout area. Just like I rely on the good folks at Element Endurance to guide me in creating customized energy bars, I rely on El Diablo to help me with customized workouts. Even though I’ve had some decent race results, El Diablo knows I’m a freshman in the triathlon world. And while I’d like to be doing both Wetmore-esq huge volume and Bowerman-inspired fast interval workouts, I need to work up to that. So we’re starting slow, and evaluating each workout before moving on to the next.
"Stress, recover, improve, that’s all training is. You’d think any fool could do it."
That’s my favorite Bowerman quote. It makes me laugh because it makes me realize I still have so much to learn! But right now my biggest problem is what to read next…do you think I could find any training tips in Twilight?
Tuesday, June 8, 2010
Rest Report? That must be a mistake. Endurance athletes write RACE reports. We don’t rest. Long and continuous training is what endurance sports are all about, right? Wrong!
I just finished six days of complete and total rest. No physical activity at all. Why in the world would I do that? Because last October I did a little race called Ironman Hawaii. The race went exactly as planned until about mile 8 of the run. That’s when I had some major stomach issues that left me crossing the finish line feeling empty (mentally and physically) and wanting only to get back to the Big Island and give the race another go. I was back at it before my sunburn even had a chance to heal. Running crazy amounts, racing every opportunity I had, ignoring my coach’s suggestion to take a break and recover. I was determined to get fitter and faster and get back to those lava fields.
And it worked – for a while. But gradually I started to falter. Training sessions were ok, but not great. Races were survived rather than conquered. Worst of all, I was totally oblivious to all of this. I thought I was totally fine and just figured more training would fix everything.
The turning point was a blood lactate test I did a few weeks ago. The testing process was pretty cool. I rode my bike on a PowerCycle indoor trainer and every three minutes my coach, also known as El Diablo for his love of inflicting pain on helpless athletes, would increase the wattage on the PowerCycle and prick my finger to get a blood lactate reading. This continued until the resistance was too much for me to handle and my poor legs just refused to turn the pedals one more rotation. Once I reached my limit, El Diablo sent the data off to the lab, and within a few short hours we had a verdict:
She is tired.
What?! But I’m an Ironman! I don’t GET tired. There must be some mistake! Nope, turns out my blood and heart aren’t nearly as good at fibbing as my brain. So El Diablo put me in timeout. Six whole days of nothing. I thought I would go insane. I expected to be bouncing off the walls and getting into all sorts of trouble. But I was in for a surprise. Within hours of succumbing to the harsh reality of no exercise my body completely shut down. I shuffled through the day like a zombie and was asleep by 7pm. Even my triathlete friends started calling me lame.
My vegetable-like state continued for four full days, but it did get better. By day five I managed to pick up my dry cleaning. On day six I wanted to go for a run. The final night of my exercise hiatus I could barely sleep – I was so excited to swim in the morning. The rest had worked. I was back.
But hard time doesn’t just end. It is typically followed by a period of probation, which is where I am now. While I am back to long workouts, they are very slow and closely monitored. Hours on the bike without a single hard pedal stroke. Running with a heart rate monitor so I’m not tempted to go too fast. I’m committed to following El Diablo’s “go slower to get faster” plan. No more double secret training. I’ve even mixed up my nutrition plan, complete with my new favorite Blueberry Repair Element Endurance bars to promote post-workout recovery.
Right now the changes are very frustrating. I miss racing. But if I take care of myself and follow the plan, I know I’ll be on the starting line at Ironman Louisville in a few months well rested, well trained, and ready to race. It’s actually pretty exciting. And then I will have a legitimate shot of nabbing that Kona slot.
This all started with a book. Oddly, I wasn't the one reading it. My wife's aunt and uncle (a.k.a Jim) read it in May and have been talking about it every time I see them. The inspirational book is Born to Run by Christopher McDougall. The Tarahumara Indians of Mexico practice a running technique more innate to the human form that does not require advanced footwear technology to cushion the shock of running. Consequently, they can run for hundreds of miles without tiring. The implication is that you and I CAN run and that it can actually be healthy in many unexpected ways. Despite my years long conviction that I could never run real distance, Jim convinced me that I should train for a marathon with him.
And so it begins...
Jim and I are planning to train using the plan laid out by the marathon training writer Hal Higdon. For a preview check out his marathon training calendar (Note: I'm going after the novice version...). The training program includes three short runs each week, cross training on Friday, and a long run each weekend. Training starts 6/7/10 - and I need to be able to run 3 miles by then. That used to be no problem, but saying I'm a bit out of practice would be a criminal understatement. Until then, I needed to find out if I'd be able to even get off the runway. Here's how the prep runs went...
5/22/10 - First run...8 AM Saturday
- The Plan: Run 1 mile to see how bad my wind was...
- The Run: I ran near Lake Michigan to see the morning sun across the lake. My wind was decent, but I wheezed quite a bit as my airways aren't used to that much strenuous activity (Thank you, Metrarail commuter transit). According to Born to Run, the human body is designed to run, and if you will your way through the psychological aspect of the strain, the body is just fine. When the mild cramping and wheezing kicked up, I leaned on Jim's enouragement, and guess what...my discomfort actually improved. For a 1 mile run, that falls into the "weak sauce" camp. At least I'm getting practice with this whole mind-over-matter thing early. I suspect there will plenty more weak sauce where that came from.
5/25/10 - Second Run take it up a notch
- The Plan: Try a lightly longer run - hopefully 2 miles
- The Run: Feeling good at the start - inhaled a mystery cloud of gnats (you runners know what I'm talking about) about a quarter mile in and dealt with some solid coughing fits. Note to future self: run with mouth closed. I tired a bit towards last 0.5 mile, probably ran a total of 1.5 miles. Mapping out the course on Google Maps to get a feel for distance proved that my distance judgment really is that bad. My 2+ mile run turned out to be closer to 1.5...more weak sauce from JK.
5/27/10 - Raining - stayed indoors and did 10 min on a stair master. Felt good - good burn on the legs. I hit up some Element Endurance bars when I got to the office - I had a high protein pro-fruity bar with the cherry base. We scrawny guys need all the help we can get to add calories and protein after exercising.
5/30/10 - The Salad Burn Ate a big arugula salad for lunch, ran 1 hour later...felt terrible w/ the heartburn and full stomach. Only made it the 1/2 mile to the lake. Had to take a walk to slow down. Ran the 1/2 mile back home after cooling down. They say that stopping to walk is a good idea when you want to...it still feels like a failure to stop after a half mile. Better luck next time.
5/31/10 - Did a 1 mile loop. Nothing to report. Wind feeling good, no complications. I think I'm ready for a longer run.
6/2/10 - Cross train Stairmaster for 15 minutes. Wow, that's tiring, and I look ridiculous on my Brookstone stair master And yes, I use the arm bands. I'll have my wife, Margaret, take my picture - sweat band anyone?
6/4/10 - Distance test
- The Plan: Run 3 miles.
- The Run: Ran 2.3 miles - the path I charted was supposed to be closer to 3 miles. I did feel great for the whole run though. I think my wind is improving, and running on a more empty stomach seems to help at this point. I know I'll need more fuel before the run soon. I hit up a classic Element Bar at work - crispy core with Whey Protein and customized with my favorite mixin's - cherries, almonds, and choco-chips...I love our dried cherries.
6/6/10 - Distance test (really this time)
- The Plan: Run 3+ miles
- The Run: Ran 3.5 miles in just under 30 min. Experienced an interesting phenomenon as I approached the end of my course. I needed to make a right turn on one of the upcoming streets to loop back to the run starting point. As I saw each opportunity, I'd look ahead and think, "I can make it to that next street, and it'll add another 0.1 mile or so..." This went for five streets in a row, taking me from the planned 3 miles to just over 3.5. It's hard to say I've got the bug, but I can imagine what it must feel like.
- The Aftermath: Wow, first joint pain. Everything feels pretty good, but the outside of my knees are pretty tired and sore. I'll need a couple of lower impact rest days before starting the program. Here's a mockup of where it hurts -
NOTE: this guy is more muscular than I am...from Anatomy Chart of Musculature
Hal says you should have been comfortably running 3-6 miles for a year before starting his full marathon program. Any experts out there want to weigh in on that? My knees feel better today (Tuesday morning), but given the tenderness, should I opt for a half marathon training program?
On the heels of introducing Element Endurance, we'll be featuring a summer series of Element Endurance team members - chronicling their stories in the world of endurance athletics. Tune in every couple of days to learn about how they're staying fed, staying fit, and what they're learning along the course of their training journey.
Our first team member is Haley Chura. Haley is a triathlete and CPA, living, working and training in Atlanta, GA. In 2009 she posted a top ten finish at the USAT Age Group National Championship and was the first amateur female out of the water at the Ironman World Championships in Hawaii. Whether navigating her way through swimming pools or cost pools, Haley uses Element Endurance bars to fuel her adventures.
Haley grew up swimming, ultimately backstroking her way to the University of Georgia where she was a member of the 2005 National Championship Team. After graduating in 2007 she started working for Atlanta accounting firm Bennett Thrasher. Her boss convinced her to run her first marathon and when Haley crossed the finish line only a minute ahead of him, he challenged her to a rematch at a local Half Ironman. Haley won the rematch, managed to keep her job, and realized her love for endurance sports.
In 2009 she joined Atlanta triathlon team Dynamo Multisport. Her coaches, Matthew Rose and Maria Thrash, and her Dynamo Multisport teammates guided her through her first full season of multisport, which concluded with Haley not only qualifying for the Ironman World Championships, but posting the fastest amateur female swim time.
Haley finished 3rd at the 2010 Rev3 Knoxville Olympic Distance triathlon, qualifying her for her professional triathlete license. She plans to continue racing amateur through 2010, and is currently training for Ironman Louisville on August 29th.
Coach Matthew introduced Haley to Element Endurance bars as a post-workout recovery snack. She immediately liked the bars for their all-natural ingredients and great taste and thinks they are a great compliment to the endurance sports lifestyle.
Next we'd like to introduce Debbie Dust. Debbie Dust is an elite competitive cyclist who's career spans nearly 18 years. In that period of time she has earned multiple state championship titles in all cycling disciplines as well as silver and bronze medals in national competition. She is the owner and head coach of Off the Front Athletics, Inc., a company that provides customized endurance sports performance coaching, personal and group training, injury rehabilitation, and educational presentations on health and wellness.
She believes that successful outcomes and high performance in sport are the product of hard work and solid nutrition. Element endurance bars are an outstanding way to fuel before, during and after training and competition.
Last, and most definitely least, is Jonathan Kelley - the uber amateur runner and co-founder of Element Bars. After spending too much time in front of the computer building websites, Jonathan (not the one on Shark Tank) has finally decided to get back into fighting shape. He ran extensively in high school as part of a JROTC physical fitness team and baseball training, but took off for a little aerobic exercise honeymoon during and post college. He has recently received some not-so-veiled suggestions from family that a little running might do him good - and with a baby on the way, he's going to need the extra stamina.
Jonathan has asked that any readers with helpful tips or lessons on his activities will assume he knows nothing and post comments heavily to help him "endure".
We'll be featuring these and more athletes throughout the summer, so tune in, comment on our athletes, and feel free to ask questions. Also if you'd like to share your training adventure - let us know!