Tag Archives: Running races

The Best Running Technique for Speed

So you want to run fast? Can’t blame you. We all do. I’ve talked about this before but I’ll make a point of it again:

The mistake most people make when they try to run faster than usual, such as in speedwork and in races, is to a) run physically harder, as in put forth more effort, and b) to reach farther with their steps and try to cover more ground with each step.

All the above serves to do is tire you out more quickly, and while this may be great for sprinters who need only maintain this effort for a few seconds… this is not a good way to run a race farther than, say, 400 meters. And pretty much every race you pay to run is a lot farther than 400 meters.

What you want is to maintain efficiency, while repeating your most efficient running motion faster than usual.

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Volume: The key to base training

Most training plans, whether or not they map it out, follow at least three general phases.

  1. There is a base training phase, where you establish the volume and habits you will generally follow throughout the training cycle.
  2. There is a fundamental phase, where you develop speed and aerobic endurance.
  3. And then there is the final sharpening phase, where you work more specifically on preparing for your goal race as well as taper to heal up in the days/weeks before that race.

(Some split that 2nd phase into separate development phases, one where the 1st part is speedwork-centered, and the 2nd is built around tempo and endurance with that tempo.)

Most people follow a pre-written training plan, which usually starts with a minimal weekly mileage that gradually builds throughout the plan. The base training may establish an initial pattern of speed/tempo workouts, but the volume typically is low and increases during the life of the training plan.

I do think we get it backwards.

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The Race Eve pasta dinner: Is pre-race carb loading a good idea?

I may or may not have touched on the folly of carb loading, that your diet and glycogen stores are a body of work, and not something you can fix in the 48 hours before your race (though your glycogen stores and physical condition are certainly something you can break in the preceding 48 hours).

Still, the Race Eve Pasta Gorge is a favorite runner ritual, and while you may not substantially improve your glycogen reserves, you at least won’t go to bed hungry.

This leads me to two questions.

  1. Can there be a situation where a Race Eve carb-load can be beneficial?
  2. Is the Race Eve carb-load beenficial for races shorter than the marathon? If so, when so, and when not so?

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Heart Rate: Should It Be Tied To Pace?

Many running guides, metrics, coaches, etc, will talk about your pace in relation to your heart rate, namely your maximum heart rate and what percentage of your maximum heart rate corresponds to a given effort or pace.

What to do in accordance with your heart rate depends on who is giving the advice, from Daniels and other coaches recommending a given heart rate for every pace, even suggesting your fastest runs be done at 100% of your max… to the Phil Maffetones of the world recommending you never run above 75-80% of your maximum heart rate… to coaches like the Hanson Brothers who won’t really discuss heart rate at all, focusing solely on your pace.

And this never minds that few can seem to agree on how to determine your max heart rate. Presuming you don’t shell out for an abusive VO2max or heart rate test, you’re often left to estimate using methods no one can agree on. The conventional ‘subtract your age from 220’ formula has long since been proven inaccurate. Runner’s World floated the result of a 2001 study as proof that the formula is close to (207 – (your age * 0.7)).

Scientists in Norway have found that an accurate formula is (211 – (your age * 0.64)). That’s the formula I use. The max it gives me (currently 185) seems more attainable than other results.

But anyway…. Personally, because I’m a fan of not dropping dead, I tend to avoid trying to hit my max heart rate even when running hard.

The closest I have gotten according to my Fitbit tracker is 184. My Blaze once said my heart rate had hit 187, but that could have been a blip. In neither case did I feel anywhere close to death: They were random occurrences during otherwise typically tough runs or workouts.

In most of my speed workouts and races, my heart rate may reach the 160’s, occasionally the 170’s. In my fastest 5K’s my HR has tapped the low 170’s for a short spell, but otherwise I never get above the high 160’s… even if technically I should be able to hit 185.

I do begin to wonder if along with my aerobic endurance my lower body muscles have sort of a ‘solid state hard drive’ strength to them, where my heart doesn’t need to pump at a maximal rate to keep everything going, where the muscles have the strength and energy systems to keep going with a more high-normal rate of circulation.

Even when running at closer to threshold effort or pace, I find I don’t always get to what Daniels would consider a threshold heart rate. It’s often closer to a marathon effort heart rate, maybe a half marathon rate. Even when I PR’d last year’s Lakefront 10, my heart rate never hit the 160’s until the final couple miles, when I was kicking for a strong finish.

Sometimes during my regular runs I hit the 140’s, but often my heart rate is in the 130’s. On my long runs during the last training cycle, I even hung in the recovery-territory 120’s for much of those runs.

I don’t know if I’m doing things differently, or if my body is wired differently, or what. But I certainly don’t mind seeing results even if my heart’s not having to pump at the rate that experts say it should be for me to get those results.

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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 reasonably 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 didn’t follow a concrete progression for my speedwork, and the workouts I did late in the training cycle were not substantially different from the workouts I did early in training.

I plan 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, which will allow me to focus  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 run 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 run more shorter races instead.

I don’t think I need to go that far, though. It’s entirely reasonable to do several races during an 18 week training cycle as tune-up races. And it’s reasonable to run them with a serious effort, as doing so provides secondary training benefits. Most of them can double as a long, quality tempo training session.

6. More multi-pace workouts, especially during long runs. Time to time I’ve mixed in fast-finish moderate runs, plus I 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 Daniels paced-long-runs are tough, and it may have been a little early in my development to do them. But now, having developed my ability to manage moderate pace in longer runs, I think it may benefit me to incorporate multi-pace long runs.

I probably won’t go full Daniels 2Q and devote two days a week to killer 12-16 mile runs with extended threshold and marathon pace segments, at least not right off the bat. To avoid burnout it’s best to do those closer to the race, as my training peaks.

I may not need to run a 20 miler next time around, but I can definitely benefit from running 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 run nearly all of my regular runs at around the same pace. That pace was somewhat faster during the Vancouver cycle than during the recent Chicago cycle. Lately, as I’ve resumed running, all of my regular and long runs have been substantially quicker than either.

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 sustain a moderate 8:30-9:15 pace… and the next give myself total permission to take it easy and go as slow as I’d like. This can allow me to add maximum mileage as well as push myself some.

8. Run every single day, even if just a little bit. Running every single day for 2+ months worked very well for me during my last couple months of training.

It happened basically by accident: When I discovered I had run for 10 straight days, I decided to try and keep the run streak going since 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 taking a full rest day. Many good runners run every day. I think it might work out (barring an actual injury) to run 7 days a week, and when feeling particularly tired to just run a couple easy miles that day instead of outright resting.

9. Train to optimize high-moderate pace, for optimal aerobic support. Like many, I’d previously opt to slow down on longer runs to preserve stamina. While this allowed me to run 20-milers 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 do my long runs at more of a moderate pace, rather than the easy pace most recommend. I obviously don’t plan to race these long runs, or even do them at marathon pace just yet. But I want to go out at a fast cadence and try to hold that cadence as long as reasonably possible.

I’m no longer concerned about whether or not I can run long, since I clearly can. Now I want to translate my speed to 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 run at marathon pace periodically throughout the training cycle, I also don’t want to peak too early. It’s not as important to emphasize marathon-pace running until the final few weeks before the race.

As I did before Chicago, I plan to taper the last 14 days by heavily reducing my volume while doing virtually all of the my running at marathon pace. The pace not only feels surprisingly comfortable, but feels ingrained once you get to the start line. However, if I were to run a lot at that pace for six weeks, I would either risk burning out, overdoing easier runs due to prematurely ingraining the pace, or stagnating development in some other way.

I’m no fan of the muscle confusion fallacy, but development is best served by altering elements of your training every few weeks.

Prior to the final few weeks, I won’t run marathon pace for more than 25% of any speedwork in a week. A few miles once a week are fine in the early going, but running at that pace isn’t necessary.

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

If I have a goal pace in mind, I can review the Daniels or Hanson 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 have a goal pace in mind, I can 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. I don’t want to peak early overall, but I do have a lot of things I want to work on: Speed over longer runs, mixed workouts, racing 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 to running higher mileage and to try and peak mileage before I get to foundational training.

I want my max weekly mileage by the 6th week of training to be my absolute max. As I scale back to lesser training mileage I can easily slide into the other kinds of training and racing I want to do.

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Can the 5K help predict a marathon time in lieu of Yasso 800’s?

Recently I floated the value of using an 8K as a marathon time predictor shortly before your marathon, in lieu of the popular Yasso 800’s workout.

While the 8K/10 can cut out a middleman and give you the same result as the Yasso’s, possibly more accurate since the breaks are removed… as I mentioned, it can be difficult to find an 8K to race.

I’ve done some more research based on Daniels’ pace recommendations, and I realize that a 5K may provide a similar prediction. This may work better for most people, because 5K races are a lot more common and easier to find, register for and complete.

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An 8-12 week McMillan-Style 8K training plan that will get you ready

The following is admittedly a variation of a plan Greg McMillan has recommended for 10K training. The plan below is a bit more specific about mileage and off-week workouts, but does allow flexibility.

  • This plan lasts a minimum of 8 weeks and presumes you already run at least 15 miles a week, at least 3-4 days a week, and at least two of your runs are 5 miles or more. It’s ideal if you run at least 40 miles per week, but that’s not necessary.
  • If not, spend 2-4 weeks running at least 15 miles per week, at least 3 days a week, at an easy pace… before beginning this plan. The less running you currently do, the longer you need to work on that before beginning this plan.
  • Don’t begin the workouts below until you’ve run 15+ miles 3+ days each week, without trouble, for at least a couple weeks. Week 1 of the below plan only begins the week after you’re able to do so.
  • Pick a goal 8K pace that is attainable, whether you attained it before or it’s within 15-20 seconds per mile (9-12 seconds per kilometer) of a pace you’ve run at this distance or longer. Don’t pick a pace you can’t hold for at least a couple miles uninterrupted.

Starting in week 1, do the below workout once during each designated week. Ideally, do the workout in the middle of the week, but you can pick any day of the week that works best for you:

Wk 1 – 5 x 1 mile (1600m) repeats, at goal pace.

Wk 2 – 5×400, comfortably hard pace, rest 2min between.

Wk 3 – 4 x 1.25 mile (2000m) repeats, at goal pace.

Wk 4 – 5×400, comfortably hard pace, rest 2min between.

Wk 5 – 3 x 1.67 mile (2700m) repeats, at goal pace.

Wk 6 – 5×400, comfortably hard pace, rest 2min between.

Wk 7 – 2 x 2.5 mile (4000m) repeats, at goal pace.

Wk 8 – No speed workout! All easy running.

If you can nail goal pace in the Week 7 workout, you absolutely will nail your goal time.


  • It’s okay for the mile+ repeat distance to be a little long or a little short. If you can run them on a track, measuring the repeats is very easy (one reason I mention the metric distances!) because every lap in lane 1 is 400 meters, and many competition tracks will mark off start lines in each lane for the correct distances.
  • Obviously, trying to do these repeats on a road or trail doesn’t make measuring the right distance easy. The goal is to sustain your pace for each one, so just pick a stretch of path that’s close to the needed distance.
  • If you find yourself falling more than 10 seconds per mile (6 seconds per kilometer) short of your goal pace during the workouts in weeks 1 and 3, you need to dial back your pace expectations.
  • Don’t do the 5×400 reps at max effort, but definitely give a stride-fast effort. Go fast enough that finishing is tough, but hold back enough that you could keep going another 400 meters after the finish if you had to. Let feel be your guide on these repeats. And yes, 5×400 may not be a lot for many of you. This should be a quick and easy speed workout.
  • Aside from the key workouts, you want to do some easy running at least a couple other days per week, probably more like 3-5 other days per week. The fewer days you run, the longer those easy runs need to be. If nothing else, do an easy run 2 days before the speed workout and 2 days after the speed workout. Otherwise, do whatever easy running you want.
  • Don’t skip workouts unless you’re rather sick, or you’re injured. If you’re not going to do a workout, at least run a couple miles that day.

As always: Eat well, sleep well, every day during this training plan. You are the sum of your habits. Take care of yourself.

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Strategic approaches to racing the 10 Miler

While not as popular elsewhere, the 10 Mile race distance is somewhat popular in the Midwest, especially in Chicagoland. Chicago alone has two major 10 Mile races, the Lakefront 10 in April (my favorite race) and the Soldier Field 10 in May. Several others (Quarryman Challenge and Fort2Base) are annually held in the suburbs with high turnout. There’s also the 15K (9.32 miles), the close metric cousin of the 10 Miler, and the Hot Chocolate 15K is another popular Chicago race held in November.

Because the distance is not popular like the 5K, 10K, half and full marathon distances, there’s not a lot of strategic material on how to race the distance. The next shortest popular distance is the 10K, which is over 6K shorter. Most runners approach it similar to a half marathon, even though the distance is about 5K shorter and experienced runners are probably leaving a bit in the tank.

I have run 10 Milers mostly as a long distance run (as the half-marathon runners do), and I ran my last 10 Miler as a marathon-pace tune up. However, having given it some research and thought, I have settled on two strategies for running the 10 Miler

Strategy One: The Hadfield Method

Jenny Hadfield crafted a smart approach for marathoners and half marathoners running their first race, and I think it translates well to the 10 Mile distance for most people. Along with new runners to the 10 Miler, Strategy One probably best for experienced runners who put in less than 65 miles a week.

The Hadfield Strategy, in short:

  • You run the first 60% or so of the race at an easy pace to comfortably maintain.
  • You run the next 30% or so at more of a comfortably hard tempo
  • The final 10% is closer to a max effort for whatever you have left.
  • It’s a great strategy in that it doesn’t necessarily have to be built around pace, but around your perceived effort.

If you’re not too fixed on finding goal paces, you are welcome to stop there. Just run the first 6 miles easy, the next 2-3 miles comfortably hard (if you’re running a 15K, it’s 2 miles), then go for it in the final mile.

However, for more experienced runners, I’m more than willing to recommend something closer to actual paces for Hadfielding the 10 Miler:

  1. Start at half marathon pace, and hold this pace until Mile 6.
  2. At Mile 6, pick it up to a 10K effort. If you can’t hit your 10K pace, then 10K level effort is enough. You basically want to treat this section like the last half of a 10K, except don’t kick or accelerate as you would in mile 5. Just pick it up as if you were trying to run an even 10K with a slight negative split.
  3. At mile 9 (or if this is a 15K, mile 8), kick it up to at least 5K pace or effort. If you have it in you to treat the final mile like a mile time trial or 3000 meter race, then go. But 5K effort is completely acceptable. Get to the pace that you can carry in that final mile to the finish line.¬†(Side note for Lakefront 10 runners: I’d maybe keep it exclusively at 5K effort, because you still have to climb and descend Cricket Hill at the end of the race.)
  4. Once you see the finish line and know you can get there, kick.

Strategy Two: 10 Mile pace, defined.

The other approach is of course to run the entire race at a chosen, suitable pace as you would any other race.

But what would be an ideal 10 Mile pace? Much like an ideal half marathon pace, it’s an intensity reserved for only the most well-trained, durable runners. This is why, as previously implied, it should only be attempted by experienced runners who consistently log more than 65 miles per week.

Top half marathoners race at about their lactate threshold intensity, which most schools of thought refer to as Tempo, Cruise or Threshold pace.

It’s around 85% of your max, and the reason most recommend a slower half marathon pace for most is because most can’t sustain that kind of effort for the time it takes them to cover 13.1 miles. An elite runner can clear 13.1 in a bit over an hour, so it’s not as taxing for them.

An optimal 10 Mile pace is around the high end of Threshold tempo, right before drifting into 10K territory. Most runners can’t sustain that effort for 75-100 minutes, but a fast runner that can clear 10 miles in under an hour can do so easily.

The key gauge is the longest period you can manageably sustain an uninterrupted threshold effort run. If you can’t go at least 6.5 miles straight at that intensity, asking you to do it for 10 is probably too much. Hence the previous Hadfieldian strategy recommending you go by feel, start easy and basically assure yourself an excellent negative split.

A cracky common-sense method for estimating your optimum 10 Miler pace:

Add your half marathon pace and your 10K pace together, then divide by two.

The challenge, similar to a half or full marathon, is holding that pace for 10 miles. A half marathon effort is comfortably hard but somewhat easily sustainable. This pace at its hardest is more like a tempo run you’d only hold for 60 minutes max.

If you have 9-12 weeks training time before the race, you can gauge your actual 10 Miler pace through trial and error testing (and of course make sure you don’t have any speedwork or long runs within 2 days of doing the below):

  1. Pick a comfortably hard pace you think you can maintain for an hour, and run an uninterrupted tempo run at that pace for as long as you can. Aim for an hour minimum. IMPORTANT: If your heart rate reaches 90% of your max or your known 10K effort, stop the workout immediately and note your distance traveled.
  2. If you find you can’t run at least 6.5 miles at that pace, wait a week and try again at a pace 5 seconds per mile slower (3 seconds per kilometer). Again, run for at least an hour and aim for 6.5 miles without distress or other trouble. And again, if you miss the mark, repeat a week later with a pace 5 seconds per mile (3/km) slower.
  3. If after 3 tries you haven’t been able to finish 6.5 miles… just use your half marathon pace as your 10 Mile pace.

That is for all intents and purposes your 10 Mile pace. Train accordingly with that pace until race day.


… now how do you train for a 10 Miler, you may ask?

I’ll get to that at some point, but I’ll leave it at that for now.

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The best Way to Run the Year 2019

One project some hardcore runners are into is Running the Year, aka running during the course of a year a number of miles at least equal to that particular year. People may or may not join the linked project to attempt it.

Once you get into the math of what running the year 2019 takes, you realize it’s not an easy feat. To run the year 2019, you have to average about 5.53 miles per day, or 38.8 miles a week. And to be honest, most runners probably could not run that much all 365 days, or 52 weeks, in 2019.

A hardcore marathoner or ultra runner putting in 80-120 miles a week probably reaches 2019 miles in 2019 without trying too hard (… or at least harder than they usually do while training). Many of them probably can reach 2019 miles before the end of May, whether or not they’re training for a goal race.

For most other runners, this is very difficult. I myself peaked last year in 2017 at about 1495 miles, and despite training for two marathons I’m actually behind last year’s pace by about 50 miles.

Granted, this year I took extended breaks, whereas I didn’t really in 2017, and at this time last year I was peaking for the 2017 Las Vegas Rock N Roll Half Marathon whereas today I’m taking two weeks off following a marathon.

Still, if a seemingly compulsive runner like me struggles to get to just 1500 miles, then logging 2019 miles next year probably won’t be a slam dunk if it’s uncharted territory for you.

Plus, let’s be real: You’re probably not going to run every single day, or every single week. Life happens. So banking on running 5.53 miles every day or 38.8 miles every week won’t cut it.


If you want to run the year 2019, and you don’t already run 50+ miles in a typical week, you need a more robust training plan.

It may not be enough to simply train for one or two marathons or ultras. Oddly, training for a marathon or an ultra can hinder your ability to pile up the needed miles.

  • You need to cut substantial miles for a taper in the weeks leading up to the race.
  • You probably need to take time off from running after the race.
  • That’s a month or more where your running is absent or heavily curtailed… which offsets the chunk of mileage you get running 26.2 (or more) miles on race day.

In fact, racing in general can limit your ability to pile up the needed miles. Even in shorter races you’ll need to taper in the few days beforehand, and then you’ll need to take it easy for some days afterward.

Plus, most of the races themselves are a lesser mileage than you may need to keep pace with 2019: 3.11 miles for a 5K, 6.21 for a 10K. You’re often not getting a ton of mileage bang for your buck on race day, plus you’re paying for it by needing to taper or rest surrounding the race.


Now, this doesn’t mean you need to abandon all fun and stick to just long, easy distance running every day for a year to hit the benchmark.

It can be possible, and possibly healthy while maximizing your chances at success, to run the year 2019 while peaking for races, and then taking extended time off during the year.

The key to running the year 2019: You need to run enough volume while actively training to bank enough miles that you can take time off without losing ground.

What is that volume? I’m gonna go out on a limb and set the benchmark at 45 miles per week. You need to be comfortable logging 45 miles per week in whatever way allows you to safely, reliably do so.

  • This can be one speedwork session, one long run, and then nothing but a bunch of longer easy paced runs the rest of the way, each week you run.
  • It can be three 90+ minute runs with a longer long run on the weekend each week, taking a day off between most of the runs.
  • It can be a daily run in the morning, then a run in the evening, every day if you wanted to.

However you do it, you want to make sure you can comfortably bank 45 miles per week pretty much every week you run.

The reason for this is because you will anticipate taking weeks off at a time throughout the year, plus anticipate that you will need to take incidental or unplanned days off throughout the year. If you run 45 miles a week, you can hit 2019 miles in 2019 while taking a bit over 7 total weeks off from running. It creates a substantial margin for error, while allowing you to build breaks into your training plans.

The human body can only handle a maximum of about 24 weeks of uninterrupted training before the law of diminishing returns kicks in and you start to lose more value and fitness from continuing than you gain. If your training doesn’t feature a regular break from training, you’ll want to train in 12-18 week cycles that are bookended by a week or more off from running.

This is no problem if you plan to run a marathon in 2019. But even if you’re not, it will do you good to take a break every few months, if not after any other races you do. Most runners need no coaxing to do this, but hardcore runners sometimes need the reminder. As runaholic as I can be, I realize I should take days off and extended breaks every so often.

This also better allows you to book some races in 2019 if you desire, without doing the aforementioned damage to your Run the Year 2019 goal. By logging more mileage than you technically need, you bank enough time to taper, take breaks, recover, etc, with peace of mind that you’re still ahead of the game.

So, if you’re gonna run the year 2019 this coming year, start by getting comfortable with about 45 miles a week. From there, hitting the benchmark will still take a lot of work, but will be within reach.

 

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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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Hiccups, but the Chicago Marathon is done

I had a bad case of the hiccups at mile 14, and it impacted my breathing while running to where I had to run/walk the rest of the way. But I did finish in a bit under 5:26.

I had never had anything like that happen to me before. I was on pace for 4:10-4:20 and feeling good physically, when suddenly I began hiccuping so badly I couldn’t breathe. I tried holding my breath, tried stopping, drinking water… nothing could stop them. At best, whenever it seemed I had gotten them to stop. I’d resume running for 1-3 minutes. Then they’d come back and I’d have to slow to a walk again.

The resulting run/walk was a miserable slog, and it definitely exacberated any exhaustion I was feeling. If finishing wasn’t so important to me, I’d have possibly dropped out. It was somewhat aggravating knowing in the later miles I was in condition to run at speed, but this was holding me back.

I ran/walked until 40K, where I decided hiccups be damned that I would run the rest of the way, and I did. I even kicked hard like a 10K at the finish.

I feel great about finishing. I don’t feel great about the hiccups derailing my run. I am still sore and tired, and if there’s one saving grace it’s that the forced walking might have made the run less of a beating on my body. We’ll see how I feel over the next few days, but I notice I’m having an easier time walking and taking the stairs than others, even though definitely it’s a struggle.

It does feel good as well knowing I can certainly improve on 5:25ish, that I’m more than capable of 4:00-4:15 and possibly better the next time out. If I can figure out over time what caused the hiccups, I can run the next marathon without any… hiccups.

Now, two weeks off.

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Do I ever take an offseason?

My final shakeout run is in the books and I feel ready to go for tomorrow’s Chicago Marathon. I definitely feel way better and a lot more physically/mentally ready for tomorrow than I did while ill and sleeping poorly right before Vancouver.

Tomorrow, effective no later than 2pm CDT, I begin an imposed two week minimum hiatus from running. This is a rule created by the Hanson Brothers that bookends their training plans in Hanson Marathon Method. While I don’t necessarily train their way, it is a rule I plan to follow.

Never mind how much damage I’ll have to heal from. From a pure healing standpoint, you could easily begin easy running in as little as the next day, provided the running is easy and brief enough. I can do recovery runs after 20 milers with little problem.

Hal Higdon recommends you take about 3 days off after a marathon before trying any running. Even then he recommends you take it very easy and ease back into a regular schedule.

The real reason to take a break, along with physical recovery, is to take a mental break, free up those hours I’d otherwise devote to running and do some other stuff with my evenings. I definitely have some other projects and work I’m looking forward to doing during the break.

The most obvious time to take an offseason is right after a marathon, where a runner needs the recovery time anyway. The famous Kenyan runners actually will sit around and not run at all for as much as two months before resuming training. Frank Shorter’s famous quote goes, “You have to forget your last marathon before you try another.” The offseason is meant for many to re-set the mind before committing to train again.

During an offseason a runner might run some, but nothing resembling training for particular fitness let alone a race. Week One for that can begin down the road.

Once I got serious about running again, I’ve definitely taken breaks. I don’t know if I’d full out call them offseasons, as when I take them fluctuates depending on various factors.

For one, I began serious training in a traditional spring-to-fall schedule, and eventually decided I wanted to run in winter. At that time I took a break in late summer in 2017, then resumed training in the autumn as others were running their marathons and wrapping up their training. I also took another break, after weeks of general training, before beginning training in January for Vancouver this past year.

For there to be an offseason, however, there has to be a defined season to train. And in my case, winter is my favorite time of year to train, but I don’t know if November to May would be considered my “season” just yet.

This time around, obviously, I’m going to take a way more conventional break following the Chicago Marathon, which I suppose you can call an offseason. I not only will take a two week break from running, but I want to focus primarily on other physical training during November and December.

After light strength training during this training cycle, I would like to improve my upper body strength, core strength, overall flexibility and conditioning ahead of resuming training in winter. I’ve got a strength and conditioning program or two that I’ve previously worked with and think will serve me well with two months of daily committed effort. I’ll get more into this once I’m at that point and knee deep into it.


 

Meanwhile, for this training cycle, there’s one more important task remaining at hand. I will talk with you again following the Chicago Marathon.

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On how the body uses energy during a race, why runners hit the wall in a marathon, and what can be done about it

A key fundamental issue with the marathon is that the distance is farther than the human body can capably race in one go without consuming fuel during the race.

Long story short, aka I’m about to paraphrase a ton of science without citing any sources:

Continue reading

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Marathon Emergency Power, aka The Galloway Method

Even when first training seriously and comparing different marathon training books, I never gave Jeff Galloway’s Marathon book a second look. And even now I haven’t really given his method much more than a cursory glance.

So personally I can’t necessarily recommend it, even though his approach is probably a great one for a lot of new marathon runners.

Basically, Galloway advocates run/walking the entire marathon. You find a running pace you can maintain for 2-5 minutes at a time, and for all of your training as well as the entire race you run for 2-5 minutes, then stop for a 1-2 minute walking break, then repeat until after a few eternities you finally finish.

His approach clearly works, because to some extent thousands of novice marathoners end up using his approach… whether they want to or not. Once many runners hit the wall around miles 13-20, they have no choice but to run/walk the rest of the way.


But, even if you’re a more serious runner who takes pride in running out all your training runs and races… what if in a marathon you could use his approach consciously, in advance of a worst case scenario of hitting the wall hard, as a back-pocket emergency approach?

For example: Instead of hitting the wall in mile 18 and being forced to drag yourself over the final 8.2 miles… you initially feel yourself struggling badly in mile 16. You decide right then and there to run 3 minutes and walk 1, then repeat… from that 16 mile point forward, feeling like you have a little bit in the tank.

You take food and drink from every available aid station, and only if you feel you’ve found a 2nd wind do you resume a normal uninterrupted run as normal. And while it’s possible you end up run/walking the whole rest of the race, you at least are able to handle those last 10 miles with some sense of dignity and not feeling like death. Perhaps you could even run out that last whole 1.2 miles as your “kick”.


I now realize that, when I stepped to the line in Vancouver this May feeling ill and overheated… I possibly could have finished the race, had I committed to running the entire race easy and using something like Galloway’s method. It would have taken 5 fairly grueling hours, but instead of feeling unwell at mile 3, I could have slowly navigated the race mile by mile, at an easy pace, possibly felt good enough to high five all the old men and women shuffling alongside me, and gradually made my way to the finish line.

Of course, at the time I had no idea I could use an approach like I described above. And for all I know my ego would not have allowed it anyway after having trained as hard as I had to run the whole race. This is little more than 20/20 hindsight, and the humbling experience of a DNF was probably necessary for me to even entertain the notion today.

Galloway’s book has runners going as far as 25-30 miles in training using his simpler run/walk method. And, to some extent, some of my experienced (faster) runner friends have knocked out 30+ miles in a day through a similar approach… running 5-7 miles at a time, stopping to rest for a while or eat, and then continuing.

So say what you want about stopping or walking: For finishing a marathon, it absolutely works.

In fact, this is how a lot of ultramarathon running is done. Since many of these races require 12-24 hours to complete, even the winners are expected to stop and rest for extended periods.


I practiced a variation of this after work on Friday, running at a threshold-level pace for 2-4 minutes, then walking for a minute, with the clock running the entire time. And it was doubly useful since I wasn’t feeling well at the time. I managed to polish off a couple miles at about a minute faster per mile than usual.

I would have gone the rest of the way home. But again, I wasn’t feeling well, and though I could have finished I decided to cut the run short.

Still, along with the rest of my race-day gear, I will have an emergency plan in my back pocket, thanks to the wise words of a man whose book I haven’t really read. “You can do it!”, indeed.

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Things I wish I had done in marathon training

I’m running the Vancouver Marathon in Canada in less than two weeks. At this point I’m into the taper, and at the point where adaptions from any further quality training wouldn’t be manifested until after the day of the race. So making any dramatic changes to my training plan, aside from skipping a run if I’m feeling unduly worn out or sore, would not benefit me further. Beyond tomorrow, I’m basically as trained for the marathon as I am going to get.

I recognized the importance of developing and sticking to a single training plan, and feel good about having trained consistently over the past 3-4 months. I took days off and reduced volume as needed, but otherwise stuck to my overall basic plan cycles as intended.

– 45-50 miles max per week, with average around 35-40.
– One longer than everything else long run at least every other week
– 1-2 quality workouts per week (speedwork, tempo run, or at least a training run harder/faster than the others)
– 2-5 other easy or recovery runs per week surrounding those, with easy runs replacing quality workouts when applicable.
– At least one rest day per week, with others taken when needed due to soreness, substantial fatigue or other life events.
– If I ran a race, that always replaced the long run, or the long run was moved to at least 4 days before or after the race.
– Consume at least 20g of lean protein and an accordant amount of clean carbs (like fruit) as soon as possible after any workout longer than 30 minutes.

That said, I still throughout my training have read up on various training methodologies and ideas. I made a point not to implement anything new that would dramatically shift my existing schedule or training focus. But there are things that, looking back now, I would have implemented or explored given the chance to go back and start over… which of course I can do when I run another marathon!

12 THINGS I WANT TO DO NEXT TRAINING CYCLE:

1. Better defining phases of training

Most experienced runners who have followed training plans or worked with coaches know a quality training plan generally follows a series of phases: Base building, speed development, strength building (aka being able to hold existing and newly developed speed over long-distance), and then specific final-touch training/prep for your race.

Most of the training plans I examined admittedly didn’t itemize these phases. The closest any came was the Hanson Method, which differentiated between focusing on speed work before switching to “strength” work (longer training segments closer to your goal pace). All of them assume the trainee is beginning from a basic, reduced volume of running. Even the Daniels plans, while the plans for shorter races did break out training by phases, only listed plans as a single 18+ week block or a single repeatable 4-5 week cycle.

When I laid out my final plan, I basically did so the same way. As a result I jack-of-all-traded training on speed, tempo, endurance… mixing everything in on the regular but never really giving any single element the due focus that would have yielded better improvement. My training runs stagnated whether or not I took extra time to rest, whether I did reduced or higher volume. Prior to the recent Lakefront 10, I didn’t feel fully prepared for my prior tune-up races and the results showed that.

I think part of the problem was I didn’t break the plan into focused phases, where I’d spend four weeks building a base, four weeks focusing only on speed and running economy workouts, four weeks holding a closer-to-goal tempo over miles, etc. Like in life, I find when I focus on a main task or goal, my results are better. While the consistent volume of my training was a plus, the sameness of a lot of my training may have been a problem.

So, next time I will make sure my training plan has a clear base phase, a clear phase of speed workouts, a clear phase of longer tempo work, and then a ramp towards the race.

2. Spend quality time every week at your goal race pace

Jonathan Savage offers the taper recommendation of doing all your runs at your goal pace. However weird that sounds to you (and while intriguing I’m not totally sure about that recommendation myself)… the idea, to get used to the feel of your pace, is a good reminder of the importance of regularly practicing your goal pace. You are the product of your habits, you play like you practice, ten thousand hours blah blah blah. You get where I’m going with this.

I worked a single tempo run of varying moderate-long lengths into my training, a Hanson concept, once a week over an extended period of training. The Hansons had the right idea, but I think it would have been more productive to do more goal-tempo running at shorter distances, more often. Going from several days of easy running with maybe one other hard workout… to having to run at a moderately fast tempo for 5+ uninterrupted miles is a little excessive and tough.

But I recall how Hal Higdon would recommend new runners train for a 5K: Start with three short-ish runs a week, take all the other days off. Make those short-ish runs a bit longer each week, until finally you’re running 3 miles at a time around week 7. Boom, you’re ready for the 5K. It’s how I got into running, and I found his plan easy to implement.

If I have a goal pace in mind and it’s do-able, it’s certainly easy to run it in shorter chunks several days a week, probably within other easy training runs. Running a bit faster for a couple miles in or at the end of a 6 mile run is not a big deal. Get used to it, then I can run it for 3 miles, then 4, etc. If I still want to do the long tempo run once a week or two, I can, but then at least I’m not doing it cold turkey every week. I’m just extending what I’ve already been practicing. Way easier to get accustomed to running at that pace.

3. Using the treadmill as a training gauge rather than a training tool

I hate the treadmill and have made no secret of this to anyone who knows me. It’s also practically not as effective a form of distance-run training as running outdoors. I will (and do) run all winter in sub zero temps before I’ll ever commit to running regularly on a treadmill.

But recently, while trying to internalize and hone my goal pace, as well as desired training paces, I discovered its obvious value: You can set the machine to that pace, and you’ll have no choice but to run at that pace.

Now, I’m not about to do a 4+ mile training run on a treadmill just because I want to make sure to run an 8:30 mile. But ahead of tempo training for that pace, I can certainly get on the treadmill and run some at the 8:30 pace (plus other related paces) to get a handle on how the cadence for that pace feels, if it’s feasible or too slow for me, etc., before I go out on the road and work to replicate that pace.

I’ve been doing this more over the last week or two after having figured this out, but now that I know I’ll make sure to use it early in training to help the rest of my training.

4. Strategically use compression gear

It’s a mother’s-love thing and a little funny to me. But I told my mother about my finish at last November’s Las Vegas Rock N Roll Half Marathon: I passed an older, struggling man dressed as Elvis just in sight of the finish line. I cheered him on with something like, “Keep it going, Elvis! You’re almost there!” As I turned to continue, both my calves seized up with cramps. Never minding this weird reverse-karma, I hobbled at pace and finished just fine.

I guess I could have hydrated a bit better but it was more amusing to me than anything. My mother responded to this by immediately mail-ordering me a pair of Zensah calf compression sleeves.

At first, I wore them a couple of times (including in a subsequent race) and found them constrictive. That’s what they’re for, right? So I said maybe I shouldn’t use them.

Except there were a lot of points where I struggled with sore, stiff calves, had to work on my feet all day before training that evening, and discovered wearing them was very helpful during those more-painful work/training days. They provided much needed support, helped circulate blood etc, and I found my calves would feel better after a day or three of use.

So now I do wear them somewhat regularly as needed. Thanks, Mom!

But next time, I can see wearing them on a more scheduled basis, such as the day or the Monday after a longer run, a race or other hard workout. They may not help me run faster, but they may help me accelerate recovery to those muscle fibers while also providing lower body support so I’m not overcompensating and risking injury elsewhere.

I also started doing the same with my compression pants and shorts. Aside from wearing them in workouts, I’ve also worn them to work under my work clothes. Sure, in part that was a product of wanting to layer against extreme cold, but after tough workouts I immediately saw a similar benefit in recovery. They can be of use beyond just workout days.

5. Worry less about hydration before a run, and worry more about it during the run

The key benefit I’ve seen from making a point to hydrate before going out on a training run is having the extra need to take a piss at multiple times during the run.

Yes, I get thirsty and dry during runs, and I’ve found that happens whether or not I hydrate before the run.

Not a lot to unpack there. I need to make sure to bring water or train near water, and of course if running a race that problem’s mostly solved. But unless I’m dry as the desert before going out, there’s no need to drink any extra water ahead of a training run. Whatever water I take in during the day is enough.

6. Use your big hills, whether or not your goal race has hills

On my longest runs I would go far south of my Wrigleyville home, as far south as Soldier Field… as I would want to run up the sledding hill before running back down the zig-zag ramp and heading back north. It was a good challenge in the middle of a 15+ mile run.

However, as I charged up and down Cricket Hill at the end of the recent Lakefront 10, I wished that I could have put in more hill work. I’ve had and taken my share of opportunities (which I needed since the early portion of Vancouver has some challenging hills), and my schedule did impose limits on how often I could access said hills for said hill work.

But given the opportunity to plan for it, you can definitely incorporate it. Next time I want to spend a lot more quality time with Cricket Hill, and to a lesser extent the slight uphill near Grant Monument in South Lincoln Park. Hills are an easy way to build lower body strength.

7. Implement downhill running workouts, early in training

The big thing though is that on top of your traditional uphill intervals… I wanted to take up Savage’s recommendation to do downhill intervals. Downhills really beat up your quads, but the quads heal substantially stronger and more durable after a few weeks.

Obviously it’s too late now to try this (and even if not you have to do so carefully + not too fast, as downhill running can be more dangerous). But it’s definitely worth a shot early in the next training cycle.

8. Keep cross training simple

During this training cycle I joined a gym and took advantage of two cross training cardio machines I like: The stationary bike and the rowing machine. The latter was a full-body substitute or rest day exercise, while the bike was often a cooldown bookend to my standard Northwestern-to-Loyola training runs.

I’m sure there was some slight training benefit, but I suspect the bike did little more than further aggravate the soreness and fatigue in my legs, while the rowing machine simply wore out muscles I could just as quickly and easily train with heavy weights (while also making my hands hurt). Plus, neither burned a substantial amount of calories, and part of the goal is to keep a calorie burn similar to training days. I would have accomplished just as much by walking another mile.

Hal Higdon always recommends walking as the primary form of cross training, and lately I put more time on running-days-off towards just taking a long walk. It’s relaxing and probably as effective. That said, there are still various hormonal and health benefits to basic weight training (I don’t push heavy weight or do a ton of reps), so I’ll continue to do that.

Next time around, if I need to cross train I’ll just take a long walk and do some light weight work a couple days a week.

9. A 20 miler is okay, as long as you get to and do several runs at 16

Almost every major training scribe slams the idea of a non-elite runner running more than 16 miles for their longest marathon run. The idea is that elites who swear by the 20 can finish it in 2.5 hours, which many cite as the longest period you should spend on a single training run (running longer isn’t believed to benefit your aerobic capacity but does damage your body, and may require you to miss training). For most to run 20 would take them 3-4 hours, which goes beyond that itemized threshold.

I did a lot of 15-16 mile runs leading up to the 20 I planned to do (anyway) about a couple weeks ago. I topped three hours on those runs, so I was already in theory beyond the aerobic-value threshold. But I found that I felt about the same after those runs as I did after other long runs, and was able to bounce back into regular training in the next day or two.

I ran 20 and though I hurt for various reasons (many totally within my control: I didn’t fuel and hydrate as effectively as I wanted to, and even bonked at mile 19), I got it done, was totally able to resume training normally two days later, and it was a valuable hurdle to clear.

Because here’s the thing with the 20: It’s not necessarily about physically prepping you for the marathon any more than a 16 would. It’s psychological, about stretching yourself to a long enough distance that the remaining miles don’t seem so daunting. If you physically get through 20, you can see yourself battling through another 6.2188 (just a hair over 10K). Some may like to argue that shouldn’t matter, and if you’re experienced at running the distance then it probably doesn’t. But to those who haven’t really run it, I say it does. It certainly did to me!

But a key to this, what I think made sure I passed the 20 with flying colors, is that I did a lot of longer runs in the weeks prior to attempting 20. If I did one 16 miler, and then tried to do 20, I probably would have broke… because my body wouldn’t have been accustomed to that kind of distance. I do wish I had done more than a couple, though: The 20 would have hurt a lot less.

So I think next time I’ll probably do a 20 again, and I’ll certainly make sure to get in several 16’s over a few fortnights leading up to it. And hopefully next time I hydrate and fuel well enough not to bonk at mile 19.

10. EAT CLEAN ALL THE TIME

My diet overall has been about 60-80% healthy, built around baked chicken, vegetables, rice and plain pasta, and I do all my cooking with unrefined coconut oil. I still have eaten my share of processed food, not necessarily as cheat meals but as protein-dense fill-ins for the self-prepared whole foods I should have eaten instead (Eastside Cafe sausage pizzas are allegedly a terrific source of protein, by the way).

During last year, running regularly, I got my weight down to about 160 from about 170 (I originally weighed as much as 193 but worked that down beforehand). Then suddenly in autumn it began creeping up again, and recently topped out at 170-172 again. I tinkered with elements of my diet, managed my calorie intake against my burn, and of course ran a lot, but I just couldn’t get my weight to trend back down. In fact it took effort just to keep it even.

I noticed that when I ate most processed food for dinner I either woke up strangely hungry or didn’t feel as rebuilt/rested/fulfilled as someone who ate 180 grams of protein should. I realized that maybe the metric load of processed nutrients might not be as useful to a busy, rebuilding body as more natural whole foods.

I ate more green vegetables, more home-cooked baked chicken, lighter snacks like popcorn, etc. Suddenly the weight began peeling off again, without any adverse effects. I suspect in the short run the loss of water weight from eliminating processed sodium is a factor, but I also suspect the more nutrient-dense food is having its effect.

So, aside from any celebratory meals after Vancouver, and a beer or two during random events, I’m probably going to stick to cleaner whole food at home and at work. I don’t think I can healthily peel much weight before Vancouver, but I can definitely shed a few more pounds before the next race.

11. Strategically use intermittent fasting to moderate body fat and calorie intake

I used to intermittent fast (the process of eating all your meals in an 8ish hour window, so that you go 16ish hours without eating… the easiest way to do this is to skip breakfast), and it worked well for me, especially with losing weight in a healthy way. But this was before I began running. When you need to make sure you’re well fed and not catabolically broken down in any way before a 6 mile run that will catabolically break you down even more, it’s more important to ensure you’re properly fed than to torch fat. So I religiously avoided it… until recently.

With the above mentioned weight problem, I decided to experiment with fasting in the morning on off days, and on a select basis before some lighter training sessions. Any other day (or even any day where I wake up unusually hungry), I just eat breakfast as normal. I found I have better energy overall, and this is something I’ll probably want to do on a touch and go basis going forward.

12. Know how to start ANY race, let alone the marathon

Everyone knows but few actually do it: You want to start races conservatively instead of going out hard. You want to start slower, build to your tempo, and then finish fast. I knew this, but only in my last race (the Lakefront 10) did I actually apply it to the letter.

In my previous races I struggled to keep a fast pace (often slowing badly down the stretch, especially in anything beyond the 8K distance). This last time, I went out very deliberately and let everyone who wanted to pass me. I eventually settled into a comfortable pace that turns out was a bit faster than I expected, and over the final 5 miles I ended up passing a lot of people while comfortably maintaining my improved pace en route to a smashing PR.

This was a vital happy accident, as the key to not crashing and burning in this upcoming marathon will be to go out slow and patient as everyone else around you gets too excited for their own good, so that I can find my pace on my own time and finish on my own terms. It was important for me to experience what it felt like to successfully do it right.

And of course it’s something I will want to do in order shorter races going forward, including tune up races. In the Lakefront I crossed the 10K marker in what would have been my PR at 10K. If I apply it effectively to every other race, I anticipate I’ll be able to smash other PR’s, even if I’m not training for those distances.

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Better luck next time, obviously. But for now, I need to focus on THIS time. I run Vancouver in 11 days!

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