Friday, September 26, 2008

Marathon Long Run Training: Long and Steady, Surges, Fast-Finish, Marathon Race Pace, and Pace Changes

In the October issue of Running Times, an article by Greg McMillan, M.S. on marathon training discussed 5 strategies to use with your long runs. I really liked how he presented a plan that prepared your mind and body for the different specialized long runs that you would do in your 16 week training program. Each strategy prepares you for a different type of pace for your marathon training.

The Long and Steady training run is a run of 2 to 3 1/2 hours at an easy but steady pace. This strategy works on the build up of endurance of the distance for future long runs in your training starting with 20 miles and moving up to 26 miles. The Long Run with Surges, your goal is that on every other long run, you put in "surges" (running fast bursts) every 10 minutes. These surges can last anywhere from 30 seconds to 12 minutes. This will provide a faster than average change of pace during the long run. Surges are similar to fartleks. Fast-Finish Long Runs mean that you finish the last few miles (I would recommend the last 2-4 miles) fast. You would be on marathon goal pace and then run the last 10-20 minutes of your long run as fast as you can. You are basically going to empty your tank. The Long Run at Marathon Race Pace is designed to practice your marathon race pace during your long run. An example would be for you to have a run of 20 miles and run the middle 12 miles at marathon race pace. The final strategy presented is the Pace-Change Long Run. You need to practice changing your pace during the race by doing these pace-change training runs. Very seldom do you run a race at the same pace. This might be due to weather conditions, crowded field of runners, or how you generally felt that day. You might need to "change gears" due to terrain or race tactics. If your marathon goal pace is 9:00 per mile on a 20 miler, then your pace change during the middle 8 miles would be between 8:45 pace and 9:45 pace. You would alternate between these two paces. This would work for any pace that you might want to run.

(Your marathon race pace is a minutes per mile time that you have set as a goal to determine your finishing time)

The article has a great chart that shows how many of the long run strategies you should do. During a 16 week training program, it is suggested that you should do 4 Long, Steady Runs; 4 Long Runs with Surges; 3 Fast-Finish Long Runs; 2 Long Runs at Marathon Pace; and 2 long runs with pace changes. After trying several of these during training for my upcoming 4 marathons and two ultra-marathons, I have been very happy with the results. It has been a good plan and a good challenge. Give it a try. It is a great way to get "fast" and also break-up your normal training routine.

Reading to consider:
Run to the Top by Arthur Lydiard and Garth Gilmore
Speed with Endurance by Bill Squires and Bruce Lehane
Paul Tergat-Running to the Limit by Jurg Wirz
Advanced Marathoning by Pete Pfitzinger and Scott Douglas

Forward we go! May your roads and trails be happy and safe!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Runner Stopped by Police...Well Almost

Today on my long run I thought it had finally happened. I thought I was going to be stopped by the police. Not for speeding mind you, but for standing in the middle median while waiting to cross a very busy street on my route. Not a good decision on my part. The police car went by me, slowed down and then went on. Not sure whether I was going to be stopped, I continued on as if nothing had happened. Yes, I did make it across the street. But I did have the feeling the the car was lurking behind me the rest of the way waiting for me to make another bad runner decision. As I ran, I contemplated what I was going to say if the car came back and actually stopped me. So here goes:

(Flashing lights and siren blaring. I run to over to the curb and stop.)

Officer: "May I see your license and registration?"
Me: "Sure." Handing them my last gel and rag I use to wipe sweat.
Officer: "Do you know how fast you were going?"
Me: "I'm sure it wasn't too fast, I'm on a long run today and working on a medium pace."
Officer: "Did you say median pace?"
Me: "No, medium."
Officer: "Well, you were standing in the median in a very busy intersection. Do you know how dangerous that is?"
Me: "Actually I do this every week. Sometimes more than once."
Officer: "So you repeat this action on a regular basis?"
Me: "Yes. You see I run marathons. Do you happen to have any bread in the car? I am really needing some carbs." (Now I am starting to do some stretching because I am getting tight.)
Officer: "No we don't carry bread as a rule."
Me: "Ok, then can I have my gel back?"
Officer: "No, we are going to have to test it to see if there's something in it making you make bad decisions."
Me: "That won't be necessary, it's just carbs and protein."
Officer: "You runners are all alike. No regard for safety. Just run and run and run. Did you even look as you were trying to cross?"
Me: " Yes, but I did feel a few wind gusts from the cars as they went by." (More stretching)
Officer: "I am going to have to ask you to come sit in the car."
Me: "You don't understand. If I do that, I will lose all of my mental focus, get tight, cool off, wreck havoc on my running goal for the day, and that's not good."
Officer: "I'm sorry, we are going to need to check some things out before we let you go."
(Several minutes pass by.)
Officer: "We have also found out that you run with a group on the weekends. Is that true?"
Me: "Yes, it's a great group of runners!"
Officer: "Well, we're going to have to take you downtown. This is far too serious. Add the running group factor to this and we just can't let it go."
Me: "You don't understand."
Officer: "You'll get one phone call. I hope somebody in your group will come bail you out."
Me: "All of this because I crossed in the wrong place?"
Officer: Yes, crossing like you did is just not safe."
Me: "Say, on our way downtown, can we stop for bread? I need carbs!"

Tip for the day. Be safe and watch where you cross. Someone may be watching you!

Forward we go! May your roads and trails be happy and safe!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Great Sunday Long Run

What more can you ask for in a long training run? Great running group. Great temperatures. Great stories, jokes, and other discussions. Nothing escapes this group as far as what can possibility be discussed. It doesn't get much better than it was Sunday. Our Sunday group was ready to go today. My son Andy, Brett, Joel, Casey, and Maria and I started out on a windy crisp day for a long training run. Our Sunday group is really awesome because anyone that comes can really just pick a distance that they want to accomplish that day and go for it. Some of the group members are training for upcoming races at a variety of distances and others are out for the great time of being out with the group. Distance really isn't a factor. Today's goals were from 5-20 miles. Some of the group ran a 10K race yesterday and I ran my second long run of the weekend. It just all works out. Today's run went fast. It seems like when you run in a group the miles go by so much quicker. I am really impressed with everyone in the group. They are all excellent runners and have a determination to accomplish what they set out to do that day. I have the greatest amount of respect for all of them as they find their distance for the day, go for it, and are supported by the group to reach their goal. They are amazing! It seems that the group communication as far as pace goes is always great and there are times we do push each other to reach for a faster pace and also give encouragement as we travel up a "fun" incline.

Of course there are other important factors that make our group training runs a success. That would be my wife Berta who meets us at several stops along the way to support us with a buffet of running nutrition possibilities. It's really amazing that she gives up many Saturday's and Sunday's to help us out or if the group is not running she follows me to help me on my solo training runs. Hydration and nutrition are just not a "worry" factor because she is there to help us out. If one of the group chooses to stop at a certain distance she shuttles them back to our house where we started and then hurries back to meet us again at the next stop. We are all truly blessed to have someone so dedicated to helping us out!

As I train for upcoming races, I am thankful to have the opportunity to run with such a great group of runners. It was a blast this morning, thanks everyone!

Forward we go! May your roads and trails be happy and safe!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Marathon/Ultra Pace Groups

Also in October's issue of Runner's World is a great article on Pace Groups. The article titled, Party at My Pace, is an excellent account of the benefit of planning a pace strategy and having help maintaining it whether you are new to marathons or have run several. It's a good read. Remember only 1% of the population has completed this distance. What an accomplishment. To get there however, you need to use all available strategies. Pace Groups (groups that run together to reach the finish at a certain goal time) are one of those strategies that I highly recommend.

The article by John Hanc gives the following statistics: 30% of marathon participants run in a pace group, the 4:00 pace group tends to be the largest with 3:10 being the smallest, 38 is the median years of age of participants of the groups, and 69% have completed one or more marathons. These statistics are based on Clif Bar's Pace Team in 10 marathons.

There are however options. I like to put Pace Groups into three categories. A sponsored pace group like Clif Bar, a group that you form on your own probably a small or large group of running buddies, and solo with a pace band or watch.

The sponsored pace groups are really great. They are led by experienced runners that will virtually guarantee the finish time that you sign up for. During some of my early marathons I ran with several pace groups from Clif Bar and reached my goal time without any problem. They are entertaining and also release you from having to know exactly what pace you are running at a given point. They really make the race go fast.

My favorite pace group is running with my running buddies. We can all have the pace bands on and help each other along the way because we know what each other needs in a variety of situations. That has been the most fantastic experience of my running marathons and ultras. I treasure the time I have run with groups of friends from a group of 2 to 10. The support is extremely valuable as well as challenging. I think you are in more control of the situation if you run with your buddies. I have great memories of running with "the group" in several races and anticipate more great times in the marathons and ultras that I have scheduled coming up soon. Of course not everyone is as lucky to have a group of friends travel to marathons and ultras with them. So there is another option.

Running solo, is another option, with a pace band provided by online sources, expo sponsors, or a Garmin or other product is also a choice to keep you on pace. Many individuals choose this option and do very well. It all depends on what you are looking for in your race strategy.

There are some things to do and not do in a pace group as mentioned in the article. Don't arrive at the race late and attempt to find your pace group. If you are depending on running with them and can't find them this can be very upsetting at the start of your race. Don't expect the group to cater to your needs. Some of these groups at the large marathons will have quite a few people in them and they aren't going to stop for you if have do the restroom thing...but don't panic about that, slowly try and catch up to the group. They all carry signs and balloons and/or wear recognizable clothes. Don't run ahead of your pace group. "If you want to lead the pack, leave the pack". It can be very frustrating to the other runners if you are trying to prove your super strength. Do make sure you are in the right pace group with a time that is a reasonable goal for you. Do take clues from the other runners in your pace group and learn from their strategies and needs. Also, do give the pace group leader space. It does no good to be the "teacher's pet" in this case.

So there you have it. Three options for pace groups for you upcoming marathons and ultras. Pick one or come up with your own. Remember, your race strategy is important to your success!

Forward we go! May your roads and trails be happy and safe!

Friday, September 5, 2008

Running Recipes/ Let the Drooling Begin

Today's edition of Runner's World online (Nutrition and Weight Loss Section article click on Fresh Thinking) and the current magazine print edition for October (Fresh Thinking, pp.65-73) have some fantastic recipes that are the favorites of several famous runners. As I looked at the recipes, drooling, I thought that if I had to drool everyone else should too. Often times, many runners think that they can't get creative with what they eat and still maintain the training value needed for optimum performance. The recipes that these four individuals tell about show that you can be creative and enjoy what actually comes out on the table from your efforts.

There are four categories: The Locavore (Carrie Tollefson- 1500-meter Olympian) "The locavore movement aims to capture that flavor difference and promote sustainable, community-based agriculture by favoring "low-mileage" foods over ones that have traveled long distances to arrive at your plate." Carrie's recipes include Beef Fajitas and also a Fresh Market Stew. The Omnivore (Nick Symmonds- 800-meter Olympian) "At the core of the omnivore's philosophy is this fact: As long as you don't overindulge, no food is off-limits. That means foods some might consider forbidden, such as red meat, cheese, and butter, are part of the omnivore's diet--in moderation." Nick's recipes include Red Beans and Rice with Turkey Sausage and also Fresh Fried Trout. The Vegetarian (Scott Jurek- Ultrarunning Phenom) "When it comes to being a vegetarian, there are few hard and fast rules. Some eat no animal products at all, while others may eat dairy, eggs, or fish. Regardless of where you draw the line, a vegetarian diet can provide healthy fuel for running." Scott's recipes include Sweet Potatoes with Garlicky Greens and a Blueberry Protein Shake. The Foodie (Deena Kastor- Marathon Olympian) "In the world of the foodie, eating is an experience to be savored--from selecting top-notch ingredients to cooking the meal to relishing each bite." Deena's favorites include Caramelized Onion and Fig Pizza and another one is Grilled Vegetable Polenta Casserole.

There is quite a bit of information in this article. Wow! Great stuff. What category do you fit best? Try some of these and see how you like them. Yes, you do have time!

Forward we go! May your roads and trails be happy and safe!