Tag Archives: quick thoughts

No one is fundamentally better or worse than anyone else

Stripping away any context, no one is fundamentally better than anyone else. It’s one thing for people to have greater ability or performance, but another to think that one human is inherently better or worse than another no matter what.

I think this is a common gap between my world view and mot other people. Most people do hold a sincere personal belief that some people are fundamentally better than other people… whether because of their career or upbringing or ethnic background or who they vote for or what media they consume or what.

Some of this is rooted in religious belief (which fundamentally teaches that some people are inherently blessed and some inherently cursed). But the belief of some being fundamentally better than others is largely a fundamental human flaw. None of us are equal, but we all are human, and we all are capable of improvement. What we become may be somewhat influenced by our background and environment, but it’s largely based on our actions.

Thus you are also not fundamentally worse than anyone else. You are capable of improving if you want to. There are always limits to what exactly you can do and how, but regardless of your past you are capable right now of doing better and being better.

I generally avoid people who think some people are fundamentally better or worse than others. For anyone I cannot avoid, I proceed with caution. As long as someone has this limiting belief, it does compromise how much I can trust their judgment.

By most people’s definitions, I:

– Should not have survived infancy
– Should not have graduated high school
– Should not have gone to college
– Should not be intelligent
– Should not have ever been able to perform or dance on stage in any capacity
– Should have never become an endurance runner
– Should be diseased and probably dead

And it doesn’t matter at all what I have done or can demonstrably do.

But I’ve clearly defied all of the above, because I like everyone else am the product of my actions. And so are you.

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Quick thoughts on how to find comfortable, fast, efficient running form

Think quick. Think low. Think short, swift movements.

If you’re trying to run fast, I’ve talked about how most fall into the trap of longer, lunging strides… instead of shortening up enough to where they can turn their feet over more quickly. The latter will cover more ground in the long run, and is a much more comfortable way to run faster than usual.

When starting your run, begin with a trot, and gradually accelerate the turnover of steps in that trot.

Many also fall into the trap of swinging their arms far too much, extraneous movement that wastes energy and not only tires you out more quickly but slows you down.

The only directions your arms should drive is back. Your arms should naturally repel back forward, allowing you to drive them back once again. In fact, and this is admittedly from various running form texts, your arms should ideally not swing in front of you at all. The farthest forward your elbows should come is right beside your obliques.

And your arms ought to be low, and stay low. Yes, I’ve seen (and know) plenty of runners who run comfortably with their arms high in front of them. Like a baseball pitcher with a high leg kick, it’s a quirk that works well for some and their style. For most, the most efficient form for your arms is low and driving back while not propeling far forward.

A good way to think about running is to run with the feel a hovercraft… or like a plane taxi-ing along the runway. The latter glides along the pavement, occasionally firing the engines just a little bit, enough to move itself forward.

If you’re not sprinting, look to find a rhythm that feels like you’re briskly gliding low along the pavement. Your legs aren’t lifting too high with each step. Your arms are low to the ground. Your steps are smooth, swift, so short and imperceptible that if you didn’t know any better you’d swear you had no legs and were in fact gliding like a hovercraft.

This smooth rhythm also making slowing down or stopping for obstacles easy and seamless, as well as gliding back into your desired pace once you’re running again.

At the very least, it feels a lot better than grunting and pushing out hard steps to try and run fast. You may find smooth is faster anyway.

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Strength runs, or a backpack of pain?

When I first began running in Chicago, I would run home wearing my backpack. I did it largely out of necessity, because at the end of a busy day I needed to get home, and the end of a busy night was often the only real time I could get in a run.

At the time, the weight (my bag usually weighs around 8-10 lbs) slowing me down was not a particularly big deal since I didn’t run all that fast anyway. Covering the distance consistently and building my aerobic fitness was the main goal.

But as I began training more seriously, at a higher volume, running with that weight on my back was not the most useful form of training. I began leaving my bag at home and coming to work with only what could fit in my pockets, so I could run after work as unencumbered as possible. My wallet, phone, keys, etc still added a few pounds, but that was more manageable.

The thing is, while walking with a backpack is no big deal, running with a backpack can beat up your upper body if you’re not used to hauling weight all the time. Admittedly, I’m not. The few times I had done it since, it was an unusually arduous experience even at a slow easy pace.

Along with your lower body’s typical glycogen needs, now your upper body and core muscles are demanding glycogen and post-run protein to handle the shifting extra weight as you run. Plus, this can leave your upper body feeling sore.


This morning I ran to work with my bag on, a straightforward 5K route to my workplace from home. After work, I ran back with the same bag on, albeit at an easier pace than the morning’s run. Having improved my conditioning over the last few months, this run felt a lot steadier and more comfortable both ways, and I don’t feel sore right now.

I’m not in a hurry to get back to the gym, but this could help me develop upper body strength if I can consistently, comfortably do this two way run during the workweek.  And it would further prepare my running muscles, as I’d do other runs, not to mention races, with 8-10 lbs less weight than I do during these work haul runs.

The key is for these runs to not be painful ones. If it becomes painful, then I’ll stop doing them. Until then, if it makes me stronger, then let’s go for it.

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Why do your legs itch when you run?

Many experience itching on their legs whenever they go out to run, regardless of weather and regardless of what they’re wearing. Why?

Well, nothing’s biting you and you don’t have some sort of skin condition. So over the counter remedies aren’t going to do you much good.

The reason your legs itch is because when you start running, you activate previously dormant nerves in your legs. The sudden stimulus compels your legs to send the sensation of itching up your nerve fibers back to your brain.

So your legs itch, and the temptation is to think that something’s happening on your skin. But the reality is that your legs are basically waking up and using more energy. Often, if you continue running through it, the sensation passes.

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Final thoughts on Vancouver 2018

StanleyPark

Stanley Park in Vancouver, BC Canada

I didn’t go on a lot about what happened with the 2018 Vancouver Marathon, which I had to DNF at around 5K due to heat exhaustion.

There was a lot going on in my personal life right when that race occurred, which undoubtedly impacted my health leading up to the race.

My work situation had been stable until about a month before the race (for various reasons, mostly beyond my control), to the point where I decided to resign shortly after I returned from Vancouver due to how bad the situation had gotten. It felt like, and still feels like, exactly the right decision. My working life even without full-time salaried stability has gotten a lot better since.

Continue reading

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Do you really need a doctor?

I want to talk a bit about seeing the doctor.

Many Americans go to the doctor just about any time they get sick, even when the illness can only heal on its own (like a cold). And then we wonder why healthcare has gotten so expensive.

The overlooked prime contributor to health problems is people’s own lifestyle habits. A diet heavy in processed food, light on natural whole food, a lifestyle devoid of physical activity and sufficient sleep, and the resulting penchant for quick, rampant obesity are all easy contributors to nearly all of America’s most common health problems, from chronic colds to heart attacks to even cancer.

You are what you eat and what you do. Your body is the scoreboard for the health of your lifestyle. It usually won’t lie.

A doctor will rarely do more than blithely address a patient’s need to improve their lifestyle, and to their credit there isn’t much more they can do than that: Most of a patient’s contributions to their own bad health are a product of bad habits that a doctor can’t really do anything to address.

A doctor can’t stand over you 24/7 and rouse you from the chair to exercise or slap the processed food out of your hand. They know you need to fix your diet and can tell you so when you visit them, but that’s about as far as they can go.

So that leaves the person in the mirror. To be honest, most people lack a sense of accountability. This is why so many people go to the doctor far too often for just about every ailment, regardless of how much can be done about it.

You can avoid going to the doctor most times, and if you’re reading this chances are you have already taken far more steps to address your health than the average person. You have the ability to take your own countermeasures, in many cases more effective than anything you could pay a doctor to prescribe you.

A good metaphor for this approach: Let’s say you accidentally knock a small hole in the drywall of your apartment. Whoops!

You can either call the maintenance guy to come fix it, possibly costing yourself $50-100 for the repair and labor, possibly costing yourself part of your security deposit, or even a higher rent the next time you renew your lease.

Or you can buy a wall repair kit at a store like Home Depot for $10-15, find and buy a small can of some matching paint for even less, and quickly patch it up yourself.

And you can do the same thing with your health, because many of your health problems can be addressed by paying attention to how you handle your diet, your sleep, your exercise and your emotions.

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Quick thoughts on considering training volume by time rather than by mileage

I finished October with only 87.8 miles, thanks largely to the two weeks I took off following the Chicago Marathon. I’m already back up to about 25 miles per week as I ease back to a larger mileage load… the difference mostly being that I’m taking days off, rather than running shorter distances. I’ve already knocked out a few 8-9 milers since getting back on the road.

We look at elites and their crazy mileage loads, but it may make more sense to look at their weekly training in terms of time spent running each week.

Matt Fitzgerald actually lists runs in the training plans in his book 80/20 Running by time spent running, rather than by mileage. He’ll list regular runs at 40 minutes, 45 minutes, etc, reserving mileage recommendations exclusively for long runs.

Though like most I track my runs primarily by mileage, I do keep an eye on my overall time spent running. In fact, if you use the Electric Blues Daniels Tables, you’ll find yourself gauging workout intensities by time spent more often than by mileage.

Back to elites. Some may aspire to run the 100+ mile weeks that elites run, but many may make the mistake of blindly aiming for that mileage, even though they lack the speed of those elites. The result is they spend far too much time each week running, if they don’t burn out or get injured first.

Consider that an elite who can average a 5 minute pace running a marathon probably does his/her easy runs at something like a 6 minute mile, which is far faster than the vast majority of runners. Thus, if this runner were to run 100 miles, they could knock all of them out in fewer than 10 hours of weekly training. A typical runner might be able to log 65 miles in the same time frame.

An elite runner doing a 12 mile run for their typical run can probably knock it out in around 75 minutes. You or I trying to run 12 miles might take a couple hours.

So, one thing to bear in mind when setting the elites as a benchmark is that their high mileage is a function of their superior pace. If they ran closer to a 9 minute mile, there’s no way they’d log 100+ mile weeks.

As you go to establish training mileage goals, it might make sense to take stock of your own pace, and whether that pace makes the needed training time realistic.


I’m scratching the surface on this idea as it’s late, and it probably will get a more substantial treatment down the road. But it’s worth considering.

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12 things I want to do more in my next marathon training program

No intros. Let’s get to it.

1. More hill running. Brad Hudson swears by hill runs as an easy form of strength training, as well as a recovery aid after long runs. Jonathan Savage also swears by downhill running as a way to develop quad strength and endurance.

I want to try and do both during training… regular uphill running after long runs, and downhill runs as a harder workout early in the training cycle.

2. Sunday long runs instead of Saturday long runs. Previously I did my long run Saturday to give myself Sunday to recover before the workweek.

But this was during my previous career, which required a lot more walk commuting and where I used a standing desk. While that had many benefits, my new conventional sit-down career and its quicker, easier commute allows me much more physical downtime. Plus, I’ve improved my ability to get sleep after long runs, another factor in why I previously ran long on Saturday.

The hurdles to running Sunday have been eliminated, and since my next marathon will likely fall on a Sunday, it’s best to do the long runs on those days.

3. Greater emphasis on maintaining pace through consistent quick cadence. I’ve already been working on this as I’ve resumed running. But, in prioritizing volume during my last training cycle, I think I ran a low slower than I needed to.

This is hindsight being 20/20, but I realize I have better speed than my 11 minute mile long runs indicate. Plus, as I saw in tapering and the marathon, I have no trouble maintaining a faster cadence (and pace) on long runs.

I need to take a page from the Hanson Brothers and do all my distance running at as quick of a cadence as I can reaosnably maintain.

4. Mini-sharpening period for tune up races. My speedwork was either a bit scattered or a bit flat in how I applied it during the last cycle. I’m planning to stage it out a bit more this time around, not focusing hard on marathon level effort until the final few weeks.

As most recommend, I plan to focus more on maximizing speed during the early training stage, and this will allow me to focus better on tune-up races. If I train for specific endurance in the 3-4 weeks leading up to those races, to maximize performance in those races, it could have substantial long term benefits as I move on to more marathon endurance training post race.

5. Tune up races! I didn’t really do many tune-up races in my previous cycle, and to be honest I do miss shorter races. I almost decided to take a year off from marathons not because of how tough training is, but so I could do more shorter races instead.

I don’t think I’ll need to go that far, though. It’s entirely reasonable to do as many as 4-5 races during an 18 week training cycle, as tune-up races. And it’s reasonable to give them a serious effort, as doing so provides secondary training benefits.

6. More multi-pace workouts, especially during long runs. I’ve always mixed in fast-finish moderate runs, and dabbled with Daniels-style multi-pace long runs last year, during an extended test run of a marathon training cycle (I didn’t actually plan to run a marathon that fall, but did want to practice stretching out).

The latter are tough, and it may have been a little early in my development to do them. But now, having improved my ability to manage moderate pace in longer runs, I think it may benefit me to incorporate multi-pace long runs.

I don’t think I want to go full Daniels 2Q and devote two days a week to killer 12-16 mile runs with extended threshold and marathon pace segments right off the bat. I think to avoid burnout it’s best to do those closer to the race, around the peak cycle. I may not need to do a 20 miler next time around, but I can definitely benefit from a 16 miler where, say, 10+ of the miles are at marathon pace.

7. Varying the pace and intensity of regular distance runs. Over the last year I’ve done nearly all of my regular runs at around the same pace. That pace was somewhat faster during the Vancouver cycle than it was during the recent Chicago cycle. Lately as I’ve resumed running all of my runs have been substantially quicker than either.

But I think as I ramp up to training mileage it would be a good idea to take a standard hard/easy approach to those regular runs. Perhaps one day I can go moderate, and try to sustain an 8:30-9:15 pace… and the next I give myself total permission to take it easy and go as slow as I’d like. This can allow me to add maximum mileage while still giving myself permission to push myself some, while scaling back enough to allow those regular opportunities.

8. Run every single day, even if just a little bit. This worked very well for me during my last couple months of training. It happened basically by accident: I discovered I had run for over 10 straight days, and decided to try and keep the streak going because I still felt good despite no days off. I ran for 70 straight days right up to the Chicago Marathon, and felt great at the end.

My body seems to respond better to quick, easy runs as recovery instead of full rest. Many good runners run every day. I think it might work out (barring an actual injury) to just run 7 days a week, and when feeling particularly tired to just run a couple miles that day instead of outright resting.

9. Train to optimize high-moderate pace, for optimal aerobic support. Like many, I would previously opt to slow down my longer runs to preserve stamina. While this did allow me to run 20’s and other long runs, it didn’t help translate my speed to longer runs. My speed at shorter distances indicates I can run faster at longer distances.

Again, I want to take a page from the Hansons and seek to do my long runs at more of a moderate pace, rather than the easy pace most recommend. I’m obviously not going to race these long runs or do them at marathon pace just yet. But I want to go out at a solid cadence and try to hold that fast cadence for as long as reaosnably possible.

I’m no longer concerned about whether or not I can run long, since I clearly can. Now it’s about translating my speed to the longer distances by working on the specific endurance of running faster over longer distances.

10. Don’t emphasize marathon-pace until the final six weeks before the next marathon. While it’s important to do a bit of marathon pace training periodically throughout the training cycle, I also don’t want to peak too early. And it’s not as important to do marathon pace running until the final few weeks before the race.

As I did before Chicago, I will taper by heavily reducing my volume while doing virtually all of the my running during that time at marathon pace. It feels ingrained once you get to the start line, but if I were to do that for six weeks I would either begin to burn out or would lose my stamina from not being able to do longer runs.

Prior to the final few weeks, I’ll make sure not to do marathon pace for more than 25% of any speedwork in a week. A few miles once a week might be fine in the early going, but isn’t necessary.

11. Use accordant tune up races as goal pace benchmarks. Pace prediction calculators will use results from your other races as estimators of how you will do in other races, including the marathon.

If I have a goal pace in mind, a key will be to look at the equivalent pace in a tune up race, like a 5K or 10K, and see if I can run that pace. Or, if I don’t, to use the pace I run as a gauge of what I can do, and adjust my workout pacing going forward.

12. Peak early… with training volume. While I don’t want to peak early overall, I do have a lot of things I want to work on: Speed over longer runs, mixed workouts, other race distances.

It’s hard to work on all those things and increase your mileage during training. So, my plan is to focus during off-season and base training on building up higher mileage and to try and peak mileage before I get to foundational training.

By the 4th-6th week of training, I want to have experienced my max mileage, so that as I scale back training mileage I can easily slide into the other kinds of training and racing I want to do.


Thanks for humoring my lengthy list of personal training ideas.

More to come shortly on my upcoming personal marathon training goals.

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The two questions that will always keep you moving forward

Stumped? Here’s two questions to ask that will get you back on track towards what you’re working for.

What’s the main goal behind what I’m doing or making?

What’s the message you’re trying to get across? What does this thing you’re making or doing need to do, and why?

Start with the main idea, and then build around it. All roots grow from the same tree. Every essay has a main idea, supported by 2-4+ sub-ideas, each built around their own sub-ideas, etc.

A runner for example can run to get in better shape, and everything they do (how they train, how they eat, etc) can be built around that main goal: To get in better shape.

What’s my next step?

Once you understand your primary objective, this can better frame the 2nd question: What is the very next you need to do to move ahead? There’s a bunch of things you probably need to do. But there’s only one next step.

  • For runners, it’s typically literal: Taking the next step and going on that run.
  • For that five paragraph essay, you need to write the next sentence, even if it’s the first part of an outline of all those main points.
  • For that tree to grow, get it (or seeds) in the soil and get some water on it.

 

Knowing what you’re working towards, and knowing what to do next, are the keys to getting and staying in motion towards what you want.

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Sasha Pachev does this and I think for some it might be worth doing as well.

Every few hours, take a break, go outside, and run a mile. It doesn’t have to be fast, though it can be. Get back inside, and go back to whatever you were doing before.

Pachev calls it his Always On The Run Routine. He does more typical training each day, but aside from that he sneaks in a mile here, a mile there, throughout every day. It’s a sneaky way to get 20-25 extra miles on top of your training.

A great time to do this is right before or right after eating breakfast or lunch. A run will prime the body for optimal nutrient absorption, and this will allow more of any protein or carbs consumed to be utilized effectively within that optimal half hour window of exercise.

Now, some of you have to dress impeccably for your jobs and doing a little run during the day is not practical. Some of you work on the umpteenth floor of a Downtown tower and can’t practically get to the ground floor, run a mile and come back in 15 minutes. Of course it’s not going to be practical for some during the workday.

But for many, especially though who can dress a bit more casually, or don’t mind running in their work clothes, it may be a useful way to sneak in some extra bits of training.

Quick tip: Little mile runs during the day

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Back to running… with an 800 meter time trial

Most recommend easy running after returning from a running hiatus. Meanwhile, after 2 weeks off, I come back to running with an impromptu quick mod-effort run to coffee carrying a 10 pound backpack, then run to the track this afternoon and run an 800 meter time trial at full effort.

Let’s just say I was chomping at the bit to get back to running. The coughing fit that preceded my cooldown run back home wasn’t the product of anything other than dusty air, but it did at least get me to slow down and relax on a run for once today.

Of course, during the two weeks off, I still did some running. It was just in brief, incidental bursts. Running across a street, chasing after a bus, etc. I even ran a little bit on my birthday while going to the store to get ice cream.

I was fine to run a few days after the marathon. I just made sure not to get in any formal running over a mile during the two weeks because that was my plan from the start. So there’s not much of a need to ease back into running, other than to take it easy on the volume for a couple weeks until I’m back to what I’m used to.


Still, why run an 800 meter time trial? Why not a mile time trial instead?

Trick question on that last one. I am going to run a mile time trial later this week. I’m running both. AND I’m running a 400 meter time trial this next weekend.

I decided to get a more comprehensive idea of my overall speed. Most only do the mile time trial. The 800 and 400 require more sprinter-type speed, and obviously would be run at a quicker pace than a mile. Both still require a modicum of aerobic capacity, and all three together can be matched to form a solid idea of your top speed, VO2max, VDOT, whatever you call it.

I’d like to do a 5K or two before the end of the year, and I want to get an idea of what pace I’m capable of training for. I can adjust the average of the trials down to a 5K, 10K, whateverK pace, and train intervals at that pace while stretching back out.

In Daniels Running Formula, Daniels points to 400, 800 and mile times as a barometer of whether your strength lies in speed or in endurance. Depending on which time is best, it’s possible I have strength in one vs the other, but we’ll see. I’m more interested in seeing overall how much I have improved.

Already, off the 800 time alone, I may be capable of smashing my 5K PR by a lot. But, of course, we’ll see.

Mostly right now, I’m just thrilled to be running once again.

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Thoughts on ultramarathons

I have no visions of trying ultramarathoning anytime in the foreseeable future. But I realize that at some point, once I’ve done enough marathons, I will at least consider running a 50K (31.07 miles), possibly up to 100K (62.14 miles).

I have running friends who have dabbled in ultra running. In fact, friend and former Fleet Feet Racing Team coach Kyle Larson is (as of this post date) the current reigning back to back champ of the Frozen Gnome 50K.

From what I have learned, ultra running is clearly different in that you really can’t “race” an ultra the way you can race any distance up to the marathon. In theory, any stretched out runner can run 26.2 miles with minimal trouble if they pace themselves slowly enough. It’s racing the distance that poses the ultimate challenge.

However, once you get into ultra distances, you’re really just running at your best easy to moderate pace. And it’s about survival, or finishing the distance within a time window like 12 hours.

Most runners who get into ultra running tend to be sturdier framed, more compact runners who aren’t as speedy in their running but can durably run long distances day after day. These races are often run on trails, so ultra runners tend to train a lot more on rugged terrain.

Ultra runners also tend to wear different footwear than conventional competitive runners, since they log such massive training volume. Shoes like Topo Athletic and Skora, known for their trail-friendly durability, are popular with ultra runners. The more conventional footwear often takes a backseat.

I often play around with Electric Blues‘ complex Daniels Tables to get an idea of goal and benchmark paces for training ahead of more conventional, much shorter races. I also use it to judge the intensity of various workouts as well as the intensity of my training.

I’ll probably go into more detail on how I use this data in a future post (as it’s 9:20pm CDT now, and to get into it now would keep me up until midnight on a work night, as it’s somewhat complex). But I have played around with this to get an idea of the intensity at which a runner can reasonably run an ultra.

A 50K (31.07 miles) is still within the realm of being race-able, though obviously you’re not going to give it the same effort as a marathon. You probably should run it more like a sustained moderate run. In fact (though he didn’t intend his written marathon programs for this), Jeff Galloway’s run/walk training methods are also a great approach to training for a 50K.

It’s once you get into the 50+ mile range that race pace is merely a function of how fast you can comfortably go while running at an easy intensity. A 100K would probably be run at the pace of a gentle recovery run, whereas the real challenge is maintaining that gentle run for 12-16 consecutive hours (while of course working in breaks to use the restroom and to eat, since at that length of time you will need to eat meals of some kind to continue functioning).

Once you’re in the 100 mile range (like the world famous Diagonale de Fous route of the Reunion Grand Raid), you are basically running for survival as much as competition, and you focus on doing what you have to do to stay upright through the finish.

The key aspect to the slower pacing in an ultra is not just the lengthier race in itself, but that you must conserve glycogen and rely much more on burning fat. You simply could not digest enough carbohydrates to fuel a normal race-pace effort at these distances even if you wanted to. Therefore you must master sustained running at a lower intensity.

Thus the fuel for these ultra races tends to be a lot more robust than your typical gels and Gatorade. Runners often swear by bars and other chewy snacks and other whole food. Some will prepare a special bottle as elite runners do for marathons, but these concoctions more resemble protein shakes than eletrolyte solutions in their consistency.

Also, you often have to pack your own food and carry it as you run. These courses are often in remote regions, and you won’t see the robust on-course support that you see at marathons. If there’s an aid station, it’s probably every several miles or so. On a loop course, there might only be one. And what nutrition they might be carrying is fairly limited, more of an emergency supply than something you can rely on. And ideally you want to dictate your fuel intake anyway, so you’re just better off bringing your own gear. Carrying this gear furthers the need to run at a slower pace.


Standard disclaimer: A lot of this can vary from race to race, and many experienced ultra runners have had differing experiences than what’s described above.

Because it’s largely uncharted territory, most experienced ultra runners follow their own approach to doing things that works for them. It remains a vast field of potential in terms of the possibilities for training and for race strategy, even as the popularity of ultra racing has improved in recent years.

I didn’t mean for this by any means to be a complete treatment on ultra racing. I’m hardly scratching the surface, and I’ll probably have more to say on it as I do more research. Plus, again, it’ll probably be a long while before I entertain doing one.

But it’ll be interesting to see if strategies and coaches emerge in the field of ultra running. The possibilities, while not endless, are vast.

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An impromptu birthday run, and thoughts on aging (even when others don’t notice)

Most people go on an abbreviated run and hope that it’s long enough to count in their training long.

Me? I go tonight on two short runs, to and from the store to get ice cream, and hope the runs aren’t long enough to count. Here I am trying to stick to my guns on a two weeks hiatus following the marathon, and yet opportunity calls.

See, today is my birthday, and I turn 40 years old. I figure why not treat myself? Ice cream makes sense. A 2 mile round trip run… possibly less so, but I certainly enjoyed it.

A lot of people get to this stage in life and face a mid-life crisis. Their health and figure has declined. They’re fighting father time.

Me? I probably feel and look better than I did at 30. Hell, I feel a lot better than I did at 38 or 39. A combination of all this running with substantial improvements to my lifestyle habits have dramatically improved my energy levels, my physique, my health.

So, I realize the number is a specter given it’s a midlife number. Any notion of youth your age offers is pretty much gone at 40. You’re a man, and you’re pretty much on the “old” side of the spectrum.

Meanwhile, I still get mistaken for being 15 years younger, and I’ve let a lot of twentysomething ladies down when I break to them when I was actually born. You have to look closely for telltale signs of my actual age. My face at point blank range looks just weathered enough to indicate I’m no kid. My hairline has mostly held the line, but the front base of hair has gotten a bit thin at the top of my forehead. People get weirded out and some even laugh when I make any effort at being authoritative, because it looks like a college kid trying to act like an old man.

But otherwise people still think they’re dealing with a twentysomething. Maybe it gives me as many chances I wouldn’t otherwise get, as it takes away chances I otherwise would get. Maybe if I race as a Masters runner people will immediately cry foul and accuse me of lying (especially if I win an age group). If I went to see a doctor about some old man thing like a heart scan or (heaven forbid) a prostate screening or something, he’d probably laugh and wonder why a kid thinks they need something like that.

I’m not crazy enough to think I’ve turned back the clock or I’ll be young forever. I feel the bone-and-joint creakiness of having passed 30 now and then and have for years. I just have gotten in good enough condition that it doesn’t really hold me back. I realize I’ve got to work hard to take care of myself to maintain what I can as I age, as much as grow in any way naturally possible.

I ran to the store and back at an 8:35-8:40 mile pace. I couldn’t have imagined running comfortably that fast back in 2010, and certainly couldn’t have imagined that eight years later I’d be running like that, in better shape than I’ve ever been.

P.S. I couldn’t decide between Ben and Jerry’s Peanut Butter Cup and Häagen-Dazs Caramel Cone. So of course I got both. The former got crushed just now, and I’ll eat the Caramel Cone some time down the road.

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Want to stay warm in winter?

This occurred to me about halfway through a brutal cardio workout in my otherwise cold apartment (bearing in mind that it isn’t even that cold yet).

There are two very easy ways to warm up during the winter, if you’d rather not blast your heater too much, or it’s so cold your heater isn’t really keeping your home warm.

One, you can cook. Use the oven, use the stove, use whatever generates heat. Cook a full meal. The meal itself can provide some temporary warmth, but a 350-400 degree oven or a hot stove will also provide some warmth. Learn to love cooking again if you need some help dealing with the cold.

Two, you can do serious exercise. The easiest and most direct way is to do an aerobic or circuit exercise program that really kicks your ass, in the not-quite-comfort of your own home. During warmer months, you may sweat enough to need a mop. But in the winter, your overheating may be exactly what your body needs to counteract the cold seeping through your walls into your bones. The added circulation during and after the workout will help keep you warmer than you were before.

Another helpful exercise method is to run outdoors, if you can handle it. I run all winter, and it makes acclimating to the cold easier to spend any extended amount of time active in it. Plus, after about 10-20 minutes of running, you warm up about as much as you do any other time of year. What may overheat you in summer is exactly what you might need in the dead of winter. Once you get inside, it not only will feel warmer than the outdoors, but you’ll be warmer and able to handle the cooler indoor air a lot better.

So, while most people want to curl up under a blanket during the coldest months, your best bet to warm up and stay warm may be to do the opposite. Get busy, and get warm! And probably cook a nice meal as well.

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Another day of brief post-marathon notes, on a sleepy Thursday evening

I’m honestly ready to start running again, but two weeks off is two weeks off. I had a plan and I’m sticking to it. No running… not even any kind of working out. I’m giving myself a full two weeks to rebuild and recover as much as possible.

I’m going ahead and pigging out a bit on the stuff I like, potato chips and pizza and such. I’m still eating mostly clean, though I’m definitely not logging enough activity to burn off the excess. But this week I’m willing to take on some water.

Occasionally I feel a bit of lower body stiffness here and there, but otherwise I feel good. I can jog across streets with no problem.

The weather in Chicago has taken a turn for the cold, with temps dropping to the 40’s Fahrenheit today, possibly to the low 30’s tonight. I keep all my winter gear packed in a big duffel bag, and it looks like it’s finally time to begin unloading it. Time to acclimate!

I know my run-training plans for January and beyond, and I’ll get into those later. But I’m still hashing out how I’m going to train for the rest of this year. I definitely plan to strength train during November, and will definitely taper any running during the December holidays. But I’m not yet sure how much running I’m going to get back to doing in the short run. I don’t foresee running a race before next year, and this section of training would be lighter and a little less formal.

I got several topics I want to write about this weekend, and one will probably be preferences for when I do eat processed or junk food. Perhaps tomorrow! I don’t just eat any random junk. There are some things I won’t ever touch, and there are some items of preference that can be somewhat healthy and keep you on track. Soon.

That is all. I plan to turn in early and catch up on sleep. Until tomorrow!

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Some random thoughts the day after my marathon

I am definitely sore. At first yesterday I thought, “Well, this doesn’t feel much worse than after a 20 miler.” But deep down I knew better, and sure enough the soreness stiffened up and felt decidedly worse this morning. I had to work today, so there’s no day off to rest up. Back at it.

When I’m on my feet and moving around, movement gets easier and I almost feel normal. If I sit for extended periods, then getting up feels painfully difficult.

The saving grace of good running form is that, even when you’re very sore, that form can still carry you somewhat comfortably if you have to jog across a street or similar.

Others who ran the Chicago Marathon struggled as well. A few had great days, but many experienced, skilled marathoners I know reported this was one of their harder marathons. They didn’t have ridiculous hiccups as I did, but many slowed quite a bit towards the final 10K… very unusual for people who have run a few of these races. They know about the wall and how to prevent it.

Part of the issue was the sneaky humidity. The cloudy 60 degree weather did obscure for many how much the humidity would be a factor. It hinders sweat evaporation, which became an issue when the wind wasn’t blowing, and when it wasn’t raining.

And of course that occasionally substantial rain was an issue. Never mind getting you all wet. The extra water does weigh your clothes and shoes down and add weight, which slows you by about 2-3 seconds a mile per extra pound. It hit most runners before the halfway mark, and I imagine the long term effect of the watered down gear plus the high humidity contributed to slowing people down late.

I have some theories on what may have caused my hiccups.

  • I drank some protein rich fluid during the 1st half, and it’s possible it sat in my stomach with any water I took in, hindering digestion and backing up traffic in my esophagus, triggering hiccups.
  • I hadn’t practiced fluid intake as much in my training, and while I was skilled enough at it to do so without problems, perhaps the combination of pace running while taking in occasional fluid strained my breathing tract enough to trigger the hiccups. It’s also possible I took in some air at some point and that triggered it… though if that were the culprit that should have cleared up after a bit.
  • Perhaps, despite being in control otherwise, my body was intrinsically freaking out from the combination of long moderate running, nutrition intake, dealing with weird and occasionally wild weather, etc. Perhaps the hiccups were a sign of it beginning to give in, even if my legs and lungs were not.

I think one key adjustment I can make for next time is to not worry about carrying nutrition for the next marathon, certainly not the next time I run Chicago (if/when that happens). It seemed like Gatorade and the bananas or other products provided later on would have been more than enough.

I always run with the mindset that if I don’t bring nutrition for a long run, I am up the creek. This might be true in a race like Vancouver, where their energy drink is something no-calorie like Nuun. But for Gatorade races, that is probably enough.

In fact, I was not prepared for how many people on the South Side had food to offer passing runners. I was shocked. It was a veritable buffet from West Loop all the way to Bronzeville. Had I known there would be so much available I wouldn’t have even carried anything. Between that, on-course bananas and Gatorade that would have been more than enough.

The South Side portion of the course was so much fun, even if I was miserable for much of it and didn’t enjoy it as much as I would have otherwise. The spectators really bring the energy down there on race day. The king bee of it all had to be the marching music played as you enter Chinatown. You have got to see and hear it to believe it… especially if you’re on about mile 20 of a marathon.

I’m on the fence about putting in for Chicago’s lottery for next year, especially since I’m not certain of what my living and job situation will be by next summer. I may end up moving, and if I leave Chicago I’m not going to be too keen on coming back just for a marathon. But I feel like it’s a race I should definitely do again.

That’s all for now on random thoughts. Perhaps tomorrow I’ll have some less random, more evergreen material. Meanwhile, hope you’re doing well, especially if you’re coming off a marathon like I am.

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