Checking In on 6/21/2021

Here’s what I’m dealing with in training right now for Indy Monumental:

My weight hasn’t moved much, though it has consistently, gradually trended slightly down dating back to early April. I’m doggedly working towards 165, my ideal racing weight from earlier, and after high watering at around 184 I’ve only gotten it to camp around 178-180, though the weekly average has steadily declined each week.

While not happy with how slowly it’s moving in light of how much dietary and exercise work I’ve had to do to keep it moving in the right direction… the results have been sustainable and positive, not just with the weight number but also my energy levels in training (not always great but largely better) and in life. My body fat has dropped from the 20-22% range back down to a consistent 19-20% range. Key for me is maintaining muscle as I lose body fat.

I’ve always struggled year over year to sleep well in summer and this summer so far has been no exception. Part of that is my tuned in circadian rhythms. The sun stays up until 8-9pm local time, and my body simply has a hard time turning down at 7-8pm. Plus, the heat is enough that my A/C simply can’t cool the room enough for me to turn down and get to sleep until later in the evening.

But I need to turn in that early for waking at 5-6am to work for me, so staying up later as a habit probably isn’t a good idea (plus, with Indy starting at 8am EDT, I need to be used to being awake and probably also training at 5am local time).

While I’m now battling being able to get to sleep (no matter how sleepy I may be), I’m sleeping through the night a lot better than I was before.

The hot Vegas summer now in full force has hit my training two-fold. First, the mornings are so warm (85-95°F, 30-35°C) that I’ve had to scale back or table some workouts. I’m now erring on the side of aerobic endurance with longer slower runs, making the quality speed workouts shorter (less than 30min), and even skipping some morning foundation runs entirely while possibly cross training later in the day to compensate. My heart rate variability, body battery and stress scores indicate the resulting breaks during the week from morning training and relentless all-day stress are helping me.

I am however still doing work break jogs. Yes, in the extreme 100+°F heat (35-45°C). These are still brief, almost never exceeding 1500m, with the lunch runs split into single kilometer jogs with a lengthy rest between. None of these efforts are harder than a maybe-light-footed jog.

The heat acclimation from this combined with the brevity of these efforts is the best of several worlds, and helps close the gap with my ability to handle the (lesser) heat in my morning workouts. If rather tired on a given afternoon, however, I’ll just walk during the break. I play these by ear but have consistently ran given the option.

And again, some days I fully schedule for rest from running, so I walk during all work breaks on these days. I have about 1-2 of these per week.

My current main goals now are to get one or more easy midweek morning runs to an hour, consistently do at least one quality speed workout per week, and either do a long run or a long cross training workout each weekend. Even if I’m not happy with the progress in my given training plan… if I consistently practice these elements each week, I’ll have at least made or maintained satisfactory progress towards fall marathon fitness.

That’s where I’m at for now. More to come as it develops.

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It’s Just Too Hot, Guys

Today, after a few easy and off days, I went out for some speed repeats. It’s excessively hot in Las Vegas right now, with high temperatures exceeding 115°F, and low temperatures barely reaching 90°F before going up again with the sunrise.

It was 91°F at about 5:45am when I started the first of what I planned to be five (5) 90 second hard repeats on a long stretch of trail. After two of these, I grabbed my water bottle from the stop point and decided to end the workout right there, heading back.

I wasn’t in serious distress, nor did I go too hard on the repeats. In fact, I probably accelerated into them better than I had been doing on repeats in a while. I ran them smart and my pace was solid. I didn’t feel sick or anything. But the combination of quick fatigue and the heat told me that what little I had done was for now enough. I walked back to the ranch.

I’ve stated before that one of my goals with this summer’s Indy Marathon training was to address training seriously in the heat. So far, as temps have risen this past month, I’ve handled what speed workouts I’ve done in the hotter weather fairly well.

The only workouts I don’t feel good about so far are my longer runs. I’m coming up on three weeks since my last true long run (though I have a 10 miler planned Saturday), and I have yet to exceed 10 miles. It is early and still base training, and the plan all along was to backload the longest/hardest running for after Labor Day when the temps drop back to human levels. But I’m still not able to get what I’m looking for out of current long runs.

All of this said, I have to be mindful not as much of my continuing adaption to the typically extreme vegas heat, but of these stretches where it’s very hot even for a Vegas summer. This is a true heat wave, with temps exceeding 115°F, the top end of what heat Vegas typically gets. Much of the Western United States is in this massive heat wave right now.

This is not the time to power through a workout if I find my body struggling or tiring more quickly in these conditions than expected. While sleep and nutrition can also be factors, I’ve actually done mostly well on both those fronts this week to where I can discount those being key contributors. If anything, I should have been more ready to go for this workout than typical given that and the extra recent recovery.

But extreme heat takes a lot out of you, prior heat adaptions or not. I had water with me but hydration had negligble effect on how it felt.

Sometimes it just makes more sense to cut a workout in those conditions short, and either run it out otherwise later (I can and may cross train after work) or just take a mulligan and move on to tomorrow.

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Experimenting With My Supplement Intake (early 2021 edition)

In recent months I switched up my supplement intake as a long term experiment.

  • I will first note one item hasn’t changed: I’m still taking my usual Cal/Mag/D3 supplement each day with K2.
  • After reading up on issues with Vitamin K2 MK-7 being made with soy and that nutrient’s detrimental effects on male hormones… I decided to try an MK-4 K2 supplement instead for a while.
  • After reading up on concerns about the common rancidity of oils used in Omega 3 pill supplements, I decided to stop taking Omega 3 entirely for a while, relying on diet for Omega 3 oils. I stepped up my consumption of wild sardines, which it turns out are a substantial Omega 3 source and a relatively close competitor in that regard with wild salmon.
  • I swapped out my one a day multivitamin for Hammer Nutrition’s Premium Insurance Caps, but instead of taking the full multi-pill dose I’ve taken 1-2 a day and counted on an improved whole food diet to provide needed nutrients.
  • I cannot mention the use of Hammer supplements without referencing the 2008 situation where several athletes claimed to tie back their positive doping tests to Hammer’s Endurolytes (a product I don’t use, BTW). The suit quietly petered out and was likely settled, and was also the only instance of Hammer being accused of containing banned substances. Some have also fundamentally questioned the accusations, alleging Hammer was not the source and possibly just a legal scapegoat for unrelated indiscretions. And all that was 13 years ago, with no reported instances since. Basically, I’m not worried.

All that said, I also during these recent months took a few other Hammer supplements:

  • The Tissue Rejuvenator, a more bioavailable and comprehensive form of the traditional glucosamine and condroitin, the supplement that help maintain joints, tendons and cartilage. Rejuvenator seeks to promote better recovery in your tissues, and while typically advised for injuries you can generally take it as a preventative.
  • The Race Caps Supreme, a mix of CoQ10 and vitamin E plus other vitamins to help your heart and improve running performance. I took it generally in the early going for a couple weeks, but now only take one occasionally and before tougher workouts.
  • The Mito Caps, a vitamin mix designed to promote recovery and building of your body’s aerobic powerhouses, the mitochondria. These have to be refrigerated, so it’s harder for me to remember to use them because they’re off the counter and out of sight. But like the Race Caps I take one occasionally and before tougher workouts, but also after many workouts.
  • In all these cases the recommended full dosage is several pills, but I typically only take one pill at a time, given I only want these to supplement my natural effort and recovery rather than drive it as others generally use it.
  • I did maintain some supply of my one a day, Omega 3 caps, and my old MK7 for occasional control doses, in case these switches ended up being bad decisions that deprived me.

For what it’s worth, my training has made reasonable progress, but given its challenges plus life stresses, and what training progress I expected to make from training recovery and improved nutrition, it’s hard to tell how much the supplements have or haven’t benefitted me. I realize a lot of this is likely confounding, but I’m trusting my observations in moving ahead.

These weren’t cheap purchases, so I did want to make a firm decision on whether or not I’d continue using them regularly. Here’s what I’ve concluded after 3+ months of regular use.

  • I probably will switch back to my old one-a-day multivitamin before the Premium Caps are exhausted, though I’ll take the multi separately in the morning rather than at night with my other supplements. I suspect that previously taking the one a day at night unduly spiked hormone production that was keeping me awake, not to mention being at rest may have caused more of it to get excreted unused than if I take it in the morning and move throughout my day. My occasional doses during this time have all been in the morning, and I’ve noticed fewer issues with better energy overall.
  • After not touching the stuff for a while beforehand… I have noticed no ill effects when dosing Omega 3, and if the rancidity concern was legit I think I would have noticed after doing so. So I think I will go back to dosing Omega 3, at least if I know I haven’t eaten sardines/salmon, or I think I’m sore enough during training to need the extra anti-inflammatory boost.
  • I noticed a somewhat quicker recovery day-over-day from my longer/harder workouts when dosing with the Race Caps and Mito Caps. So I may keep a supply of those on hand for the time being. I don’t want to lean on them for all key workouts, so I’ll probably go in-and-out with using one or both of them over time to note any differences in results.
  • I have decided that the issues with taking MK7 are worth the benefits, and will go back. The MK4 was a bit cumbersome to take (there are few varieties available, and you have to dissolve it under your tongue), and further research has confirmed my original belief that it’s not as bioavailable as MK7.
  • I do get sore more often… but realize I’m also training more and harder than I have in the last previous couple years. So I can’t necessarily say the new supplements didn’t help me, nor necessarily say that removing the Omega 3’s hurt me. I will continue to monitor this as I make adjustments and resume taking Omega 3 regularly.

Ultimately, it would be great if my diet was clean and robust enough that taking supplements beyond an occasional pill here or there wasn’t necessary. Until I get there, I’ll continue to work on what supplements I take and where.

I also wouldn’t go out of my way to recommend any or all of these supplements. Your diet remains most important, and any supplements most take should be broad and bioavailable, like multivitamins and regular vitamin supplements. I’m taking these with specific improvements and goals in mind, and as I’ve implied the results were largely inconclusive and slight.

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Developing the Trickling Marathon Training Plan

Without getting too deep into my methodology… every few days I schedule one or more days off from training, whether I’m just base training or actively training for a goal race (as I’m doing right now). On these days the only exercise I do is walk and use the spin bike. Otherwise, I avoid exercise and definitely avoid training.

In the past I trained with few to no days off, and in fact leading up to Chicago in 2018 I ran 70 straight days… with no ill effects in either case. My only knockout injuries have occurred randomly during down periods in training.

But, never minding the first digit in my age is now a 4, I recognize the balance between training enough (and hard enough) to generate fitness adaptions… and taking enough time away from training to allow those adaptions to manifest through recovery and supercompensation.

What I’m doing with the Indy training plan is something that for now I’ll call a Trickling 18 Week Plan. At some point I’ll diagram this all out in detail but in general I’ll describe it:

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A Long Workout With Less Stress Than A Long Run

I didn’t schedule a long run for this weekend, planning rest days on Saturday and Monday.

I did originally plan an easy workout for Sunday, but after having to cut short Thursday’s speed workout (five 2 minute repeats) due to fatigue from poor sleep, I decided to re-attempt the workout Sunday in place of the easy workout.

I also had a 3 mile walk booked for a Garmin weekend badge on Saturday, but had other plans come along and couldn’t do it before the weather got hot. Still wanting to badge-chase, I decided Saturday that I’d do the long walk on Sunday morning right after finishing the speed workout.

The repeats went just fine (that whole speed workout only took about half an hour), and once done with the timed cooldown I began the walk by heading back to base (I was only 1/4 mile away), getting a protein drink, and continuing the walk with the drink as I did some exploring: With some neighborhood construction done, I wanted to check out the mileage on a couple of new potential running routes.

After exploring the first loop while re-fueling, I returned to the ranch, recycled the bottle plus had more water, the continued the walk farther out to examine the 2nd new loop. (While not the main topic of this post, both routes are promising)

I returned after about 6 kilometers (3.72 miles), 80 minutes, of total walking (… and a brief running segment, as part of the 2nd route was in direct sun and I felt like getting out of it as soon as possible), to end the walk and the full workout session around 7am.

Between the speed workout and the extended walk, I was outside Sunday for close to 2 hours. Only about 35-40 minutes of that time I spent running, and the early repeats were the only truly challenging part. Most of that time I walked at fairly low intensity and that last 80 minutes was basically an extended cooldown.


This was in a strange way a long-run level workout, even though it clearly was not a long run. I spent 2 hours of my feet, though only covered about 7 total miles. My body had to operate aerobically (however mild in effort) for close to 2 hours, and while the intensity was not that of a 2 hour run, it still had to absorb the stress of two hours of total effort.

This is akin to the notion that your time to bonking in a marathon isn’t necessarily a function of your distance traveled, but your time spent at a given level of effort. Most runners can go about 2 hours at the typical 80-85% max effort most run the marathon before their natural glycogen stores tap out. How far they travel before this happens is a function of their fitness, the conditions, and all sorts of other variables, but most without fuel can give about 2 hours on their own.

That’s not why I did this, however. I just wanted to get a planned long walk in after a shorter, easier workout, before the Vegas sun got too hot. That I got this benefit was a welcome, inadvertent side effect that I only discovered in hindsight.

Still, this approach can be a fine hedge if you need a bit of a break on a long run day, or you want to maintain fitness and development on a down week.

It’s similar to Jeff Galloway’s Run Walk method, though Galloway would still expect you to run most of a given distance, while here you would just do a shorter, do-able workout and then chase it with a much longer, slower walk.

You could also take a page from IronFit‘s cross training plans, and swap the walk with low intensity cross training… though the idea of what I discovered is more about spending all your time on your feet and better neuromuscularly working your lower body.

I just wanted to share what I found after Sunday’s extended session. This is not necessarily something I’d make the key component of a training plan. It’s just an option for certain situations where you might want to dial back the intensity on a non-crucial long run day, or on a stepback or lighter weekend.

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I love you, Spin Bike, but we need to see other people

Photo by Ivan Safmkov on Pexels.com

I have probably used the spin bike more than any other piece of equipment at the gym over the last year. It’s been my go-to cross training equipment while in-between training cycles, a low-key aerobic workout so easy to do I often will read books while doing it.

But it’s time to stop and take a break. It’s not you, Spin Bike, it’s definitely me. There isn’t anything wrong with stationary indoor cycling in general.

In my case, I not only have ramped up marathon training ahead of Indy Monumental, but I also decided that two signs were too strong to ignore.

The stiffness in my legs after most spin bike sessions is a sign I need to focus on other training methods. Typically, I would just stretch after spin bike sessions and this would subside. But if instead of limber and flexible my key movers were feeling tight while walking afterward, that intuitively tells me that range of motion isn’t helping my running. I have to keep in mind my primary goal.

Also, more importantly, the spin bike in general can exacerbate upper and lower crossed posture problems, encouraging tightly held, slumped shoulders, bent-in under-stretched hip flexors, and a rounded back from all that sitting on the bike. Most trainers working with clients who have upper crossed syndrome will make a point to emphasize those clients should not do cycling while working on their issue. It emphasizes the very (lack of) range of motion they need to change.

When you spend all day sitting in an office and have to therapeutically address those posture issues in training, the last thing you probably need is extra quality time sitting while exercising.

So, sadly, I decided a little bit ago to stop using the spin bike in training. There’s other methods that can better emphasize use of my running muscles while also better promoting the posture and range of motion I need to maintain to succeed.

For now, the spin bike and I can just be friends.

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The Idea of a Bad Workout

I don’t have bad workouts.

That’s definitely not because I’m perfect, or because I don’t challenge myself. And it’s not like I don’t have good workouts.

I’ve had plenty of workouts that didn’t go the way I wanted. I fail over and over again. I’ve had to cut workouts short, re-configure workouts, turn quality workouts into simple easy runs, stop the workout early and go home, etc.

But none of these workouts were bad. I didn’t screw them up… even if maybe I screwed something up (e.g. ran repeats too fast, went out too hard, didn’t bring hydration, ate or hydrated too much, etc).

I could give you a treatise on the perils of results based analysis, e.g. you ran a race and won, so you think therefore the way you ran the race was good… or you didn’t hit your goal time or finish despite following your race plan, and you decided therefore you screwed it up.

On a similar note, we as human beings often attach emotional judgment to our workouts and races. And so many have a workout not go the way they want and decide the workout was therefore bad. I see and hear this far too often.

To me, workouts are truly bad only if they set back your growth, fitness, or life… for avoidable reasons that were totally within your control.

  • Going out for a run if you’re injured and know you should rest, and aggravating the injury
  • You’re burned out and exhausted and know a run isn’t going to help you in any way, but you go and run anyway.
  • Running in a severe thunderstorm or tornado.
  • Chasing after someone while holding a knife, to try and end them.

As you can see, my threshold for labeling a bad run is somewhat higher than most people.

If I go out for a run, feel crappy the whole way, and don’t feel great when it’s done, I don’t consider that a bad run. I consider that a learning experience. Maybe I could have skipped that run. And now I know, thanks to that run, that maybe running in those circumstances isn’t the best idea or use of my energy.

Today I went out for speed intervals after yet another consecutive night of poor sleep (been having an unusual stretch of these nights recently). I was up for the run but my energy wasn’t high, and though I gave a solid 10K effort I couldn’t go as hard in the repeats as I would have liked.

I did knock out four solid repeats out of the five needed, but I knew while finishing the 4th that I was tapped and at the point where the 5th might push me too far for my good. So I stopped after that 4th and headed home.

Was it a bad workout because I never felt quite right, or because I couldn’t get myself to eke out one last repeat, or because I did them closer to threshold/10K effort than the desired 5K/mile effort?

Or was it a good workout because I made progress in my training plan, finished the needed workout minus just one repeat, didn’t lose any ground with training since I’m still in the base/foundational phase, and moderated my effort to where I felt more rewarded than worn out by a key workout in tired circumstances?

Recall I mentioned the value in giving every workout a purpose. On a similar note, if a run doesn’t go the way you want or doesn’t feel at all good, you can still take away some positive value from your workout. It’s rarely a total waste as long as you apply yourself.

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