Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Back on the road...

This post is part of the Endurance Training Summer Series. To learn more or find other team members, see our Element Endurance Team introduction

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?

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