Tuesday, January 31, 2012

No Funny Moles! (Just Semi-Ironic Racoons)

Went for my annual physical yesterday. (You know, the one I have every two years.)  And the doctor, who I have always loved since I know she is a runner, shows up in a boot cast.

A stress fracture caused by running sidelined her for 8 weeks. AHHH!!!

Something very cool and ironic about my PCP showing up with a "training to run the Cleveland Marathon" stress fracture. Learned  much by listening to the cause of the fracture and her treatment.  Shared this with a friend who quipped "yes, show me the doctor who says 'if you're not icing something, you're not training hard enough' and I've found my match."

But, more importantly, everything was just fine!  As I get older and older, it's always more of a relief. No funny Moles that look like cancer, no 'nodules' to send me to a specialist, no reason for concern except how am I going to save up all the money for my long retirement.

One year I went, and I was sent for a whole battery of tests for some irregular heart beats and then had the whole deal, ekg, stress tests. My family had been hearing about those who were dying of heart attacks running marathons  (you know, 2 or 3 in probably 800,000 marathoners a year). Well, I do have a lazy valve that was leaking a bit, and a thickened left ventricle, but this thickening of the ventricle is apparently a result of distance running, not a threat to it. (disclaimer, not a doctor here.)

I have the full green light to run, but if not, in order to stop, I would need to see the negatives and risks that far outweigh the positives. Of course, with a doctor who has a stress fracture from running, I'm in the right hands.

Speaking of hands, sorry for the picture below.
I've always trusted female doctors more anyways.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

A Trip To The Running Store And A Few Days In Pictures

Finally made it to Running Fit to spend the Christmas gift card. 

Attacked the clearance rack, of course, grabbed some half-off merchandise, some cold weather running gear, and chatted with sales folks about upcoming races including the Maritan Marathon.

I recently bought a pair of Nike Pegasus 28 and am in Love.  I never thought I'd run in Nike, didn't seem right for some reason. Nike is the brand of commercialism, not for semi-serious runners.  But the salesman, who had fast times in his aura says "I run in Nike," and then nodded to his friend saying "and so does he", (and maybe his little dog Toto too.)  So, I bought the neon green and black at first..

But then yesterday all they had was these:

So I ordered the black pair. Always bet on black.

My thoughts on running shoes are -  it shouldn't just feel good when you try them on, there should be some kind of spark, some flames that burst in your heart when you take those first steps with them on your feet... "Yeah, yeah! this is it, this is it!"  There should be a near love at first feel.  I had that with these Nikes

I was delighted  to finally find some calf sleeves in my size! My calfs (cankles) measure 11 inches circumference, so had to get a lady's size. (no shame in my game). And I checked out the book rack, of course, and saw three copies of The Jade Rabbit nestled nicely on the shelf, just begging to be taken home.

In other news, I had to decide this week if I was going to run New York as planned or go west 4 hours to Chicago.  Chicago registration begins February 1st, and I'd bet a year of paychecks they sell out in record time with marathon popularity continuing to grow and big city marathons like Boston harder to qualify for.  Chicago is a much easier logistically, would save me some bucks, but I have never done New York, you dont' take nothing with you but your soul, and it certainly seems more majestic.

So, I had a serious talk with my sponsoring team, who fully supported me doing New York.  (I am sponsored by team "Dear Wife and Two Daughters")

I will be running for  Covenant House of Michigan (My dad is the Detroit area Board Chair-person) In fact, if you know the plot of The Jade Rabbit, Covenant House is the type of program the main character Janice keeps urging Sharleen to get involved in rather than be homeless.  The actual shelter that Janice works at, for younger youth, is based on  Counterpoint Runaway Shelter in Inkster, Michigan.

Still, if I get a lottery entry, the fund raising expectations are much more relaxed, so I let it ride and applied for the lottery.

And finally, when I'm down, and I'm lonely, and I need a helping hand, and nothing is going right, I got a friend.... (love this guy! Weeeee... weee.... weeeeeeeee! Pure Adrenaline)

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Are You A Vampire Or A Zombie?

Are you A Vampire Or A Zombie?

Running the last 6.2 of a marathon, to me, is such an incredible space to exist in.  Every race it will bring something fresh and new, all of them varied, all of them powerful, and all of them life-changing.

My first marathon I was so scared of not finishing that I slogged nice and slowly and evenly the first half.  Suddenly, I was at mile 15 or 16 and felt so fresh and ready to rock.  I started to speed up while others were slowing.  With each step I seemed to gain energy, and with each new runner that I reeled in and passed, I sucked the life force right out of them. Like some sort of running metaphysical vampire, I fed off of their presence and shot right on by.  The momentum and energy gained by passing others during the last part of a marathon was incredible.

Likewise, I have been the zombie at the end, moaning with each stiff-legged step, dragging my limbs in burdensome effort, and had my life force sucked out of me by other metaphysical vampire runners who swooped by me.  Each runner drained my soul of its life force, bludgeoning my spirit down and shredding my legs. I watched in agony as they passed me by as if they didn’t even run the first half but were dropped off there by helicopter.  It seemed supernatural.

It’s much more fun to be a life-force sucking vampire at the end, rather than a slogging, leg-damaged zombie doing the walking dead shuffle.

Negative Split Vampires - Looks like much more fun.

I know nothing of Twilight, but this dude Edward is one fast Vampire.
Maybe that part’s obvious, that it’s fun to run by others, but running negative or even splits has also been shown to be the most effective way to run your fastest marathon. I’m certainly a believer both for time sake and for race day enjoyment.  The danger is that you will save too much for the end, which of course rarely happens, and run a slower time than you would have for sake of running a faster second half.

It is easy to get pumped up by the excitement of marathon morning and go too quick out of the gate. After standing in the cold, waiting for an hour maybe, your heart swells with fervor at the national anthem, and the energy of 40,000 or so training programs all gathered in one spot around you swirl like a spiritual tornado ready to lift everyone off the ground. Plus you have just finished  a long, 3 week taper where your legs have been begging to be set free, and all of this makes for a strange and mysterious rocket fuel to propel you too fast at the start.  It’s one of those things you have to do a few times before you will realize its danger and futility.

There are a variety of sayings I tell myself to hold myself back. 

There’s plenty of time to run faster later - plenty of time to run faster later.”  I will tell myself, or “run your own race -- run your won race” and of course, “the race is long, and in the end, it is only against yourself” or some such Yoda-like nonsense that sounds better in the heat and sweat of the moment.

 A phrase worth repeating: run the first ten with your head, second ten with your legs, last 6.2 with your heart.  Conserve energy, and then gradually tap into it, running the last 6.2 in your desperation zone leaving nothing.   If  you have already covered a similar distance in training runs, you can run the first miles and be surprised at how fresh you will feel.  At these moments,  There is no Tomorrow,” is my self –talk, or I sing me some Cat Stevens to dismiss the pain; “Lord my body, has been a good friend, but I won’t need it, when I reach the end…
Okay, if you can't outrun a Zombie, you haven't paced correctly.

When trying to get a PR, qualify for Boston, or run any certain never before achieved time, it’s easy to go crazy with all sorts of mathematical equations in your head, trying to figure out what you need to average for each mile or what to hit with each split, and next thing you know you are caught up in the mythical “put time in the bank” bullsh*t. I have spent many moments back when I was young and foolish (like last week, for instance) writing down all sorts of magical mile combinations of how I could somehow trick the marathon and force a Boston qualifier by running 7 minute miles the first half and then using that ‘banked’ time to run an easy 8 minute average pace second half.   It’s a rite of passage the young and dumb need to go through and fall on their face a few times.  You don’t bank time, you bank energy, and unleash it at the end slowly, putting down the peddle and emptying the tank, squeezing harder and harder like your body’s a roll of toothpaste and the trick is to save the very last drop for the last moments, but not too much too soon.

If not running an even-paced run, I have found what’s worked best, is actually starting slower than target marathon pace, and then speeding up. A progressive run where you run faster as you get warmed up.

The easiest miles to run the fastest, I find, are miles 7 to 15, since these are the times my legs are most warm, loose, and full of energy and strength.  For this reason, I try to start the marathon at a pace 5 to 10 seconds slower than marathon pace and then speed up to marathon pace by mile six or so.  Then I run some middle miles under marathon pace where it all seems so much easier, all in the hopes of dropping me off to run the last 6 to 8 miles by reeling people in and feeding off that energy.

I think I”ve heard this described as an “even perceived effort run”, but if you do this, and are keeping an even pace at the end, others will be slowing, and with each runner passed you will be propelled into a glorious finish.

Here’s an example of what I mean for a 3:20 marathon

1 to 5 at  7:45
6 to 10 at 7:38
11-15 at 7:33
16 to 20 at 7:35
20-26.2 between 7:40 and 7:45

So yes, be a Vampire, not a zombie, suck the blood from other runners, rather than shuffle to the end.  Vampires are suave, cool, sophisticated. Usually sexy and well dressed and hard to resist their attraction, and they certainly have endurance as they exist into eternity barring some chest through the heart or other misfortune.  Zombies, on the other hand, shuffle with decaying limbs, have blood stains on their faces, and get slower over time.  If not being shot in the head for safety, it is done for mercy.    

Read "The Jade Rabbit" - A story of a miraculous marathon run,  $3.99 on Amazon

Reviews of The Jade Rabbit

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Running Blood Boils Hot

Part of the challenge of training for a spring Marathon, such as Boston, is battling the elements. Chances are you are increasing your miles and bumping up your training during the same months snow is dumping on your favorite running routes. This can make them dangerous and near impassable, and then add the wind and freezing temperatures, and there is certainly an extra barrier to fight to get yourself out the door.

We should all be this happy and free.

Don’t let it stop you. Layer yourself up with moisture wicking, and wind resistant layers. Wear double gloves, cover your face if needed, wear reflective gear, and use a headband or hat to regulate your temperature – meaning if you happen to get too hot taking off your hat instantly cures you of any overheating.

As we all know, once you are warmed up, the outside is refreshing and exhilarating. It’s just getting past the initial freeze. The typical equation is that 10 minutes into the run it will feel 20 degrees warmer than it really is, so dress for the temp plus twenty.  However, I do find that if your hands and ears are cold at the beginning of the run, this doesn’t change. A lightweight headband and easy to store in pocket gloves are essential.

Beyond that, winter running is special.

There is something kind of neat about running outside during times when most would think it is impossible.  A certain odd pleasure from getting strange looks running in zero degree weather where your cheeks are frozen red in a permanent smile.  Winter is a challenge from nature that you can meet head on.

Why did you climb the mountain?  Because it was there.

Why do you run in the winter?  Because my blood boils too hot to be frozen out.

While the temperature is an issue, and of course snow, it is the wind, I find, that is the biggest factor in winter. I have run in zero degrees on a sunny day, with no wind, and as long as there was a zillion layers on my hands and my face was covered, it was wonderful.

But when it’s a cold wind, that changes everything.  So yes, I have a treadmill in the basement, and tend to use it when gusts hit 20 miles per hour, when there is nasty snow (not the nice, fluffy easy to run through kind) or a cold rain.  The weather channel’s “map in motion” feature is a great function and my friend. It has sent me to treadmills even under sunny skies since I could see major storm clouds minutes away, putting off my  run and timing it just right when a clearing was on the horizon.

Treadmills are often called dreadmills for a reason.  They can be extra monotonous and repetitive and make you feel like a nutcracker rat.

Do something to make it interesting. Catch up on your Netflix que, watch those movies you DVR’ed, or plan a 3 hour long run during a 3 hour football game.

I had a surreal run on my treadmill this weekend during a wet, windy, snowy day where 14 miles would have been crazy to fit in. I watched the Red Wings/Chicago hockey game in a great overtime matchup, (Red Wings won) followed up by the Houston 2012 olympic time trials. Both of these were DVR’ed, allowing me to fast forward through commercials and only to the interesting parts.

Being in the same spot during hours of a long run is a bit of a torture.  It is much harder to ‘disassociate’ during the run. The processs where, as your body feels the tingle and sensations of the run, your mind loses its concentration and your stream of consciousness dissipates and scatters.  Your brain flows in all directions like lava and takes you through all your subconscious areas (or, as is discussed in "The Jade Rabbit"the collective unconsciousness of all humans history) and allows time to be suspended and unnoticed.

Compare this to watching the tenth of a mile tick tick tick slowly off the treadmill.

Plus, There are certain things you can’ replicate, No elevation, (although common wisdom says to add a .5 incline), and your legs don’t get used to the pounding of the pavement. Plus you don’t have to push to keep the pace, but instead just try to keep up with the pace chosen for you. I tend to recover quicker from a treadmill run, which is a benefit but makes me suspicious.

So, no matter what, you have to head out into the great snowy fields of winter to get your real training in.
Bumbles - The Abominable Running Snowman

In order to find routes when the snow just doesn’t cooperate, I look for large parking lots where I can do a half or 2/3 mile loop.  Parking lots of schools and churches are generally well maintained, regularly plowed and heavily salted, and often empty on a Saturday afternoon.  This allows you the freedom to run some loops, maybe venture out into some more snowy terrain for a change up, or a connecting parking lot, and return to your salt-covered, snow and ice-free loop.

There is a church across the street which I use, and get lost at times running 20 loops of 2/3 miles a piece, mixing it up a bit here and there. I have often found it ironic that I am going to the church for a spiritual experience.  Perhaps I can run my spirit hard enough in the churches parking lot for them to allow me entrance to the inside.  Or, what feels more true, is that God meant for the grand communication with his spirit and yours to take place in all states of nature.  What is going on in your heart and head is more important than where you sit your ass.

But I digress.

In my parts of Michigan, there are different kinds of sidewalk snow that cover the suburbia sidewalks.

The most dangerous, it seems, is the partially shoveled snow where the slight film of left over snow turns to ice. This is often the black ice variety, and top it off with a trace of snow, and a layer of ice with lubricant means you have to run carefully and as flat footed as possible or find yourself face planting on the pavement, your legs twisted out from under you and risky injury, or flat on your back with dangerous head-hitting landings.

 Other treacherous kinds of danger are when there is an inch or more of snow that has not been shoveled but has been treaded upon and the footprints are now dangerous caverns of ankle twisting, frozen footprints jarring your stride and it feels like running through rocks.

  1. Fully Melted
Maybe obvious, but..
The best seems to be the sidewalks that have been shoveled and then hit by sunlight, which then melts the remaining snow into the smooth pavement as nature and the local city hall intended.  It’s especially wonderful  when there’s a foot of snow on the ground or more, but in between there is a fresh, non-covered clear sidewalk. It has the feel of running through an ice tunnel.

Shorts in the Winter but with Hat and Glove

Second best,
2. SOFT Powder.

Second best, I feel, is an inch or two of fresh snow on pavement, untouched by human kind. I find that a sidewalk that is partially shoveled and then walked upon is more dangerous than fresh powder, which can provide a cushioning effect if it hasn’t been run through yet, and if there is enough, nullifies any ice that happens to be underneath.  This can hold true for sidewalks as well as quiet side streets.

Feel the burn in your legs and your lungs

.* In fact, a fresh powder run can be incredible. At times I even run through a field when there is a foot of snow, and it’s almost like a combo stair stepper/treadmill since you have to pull your thighs up high to keep running.  Try this at a football field with plenty of socks and waterproof pants, and run through foot high snow and get a great work out.  Your gait wont’ be the same-- its almost like water running or walking--but it beats a treadmill at times and is a great muscle cross train.  Run in the dark, under the moonlight when the Moon beams off the snow and glows in the air, and you create footprints back and forth across the huge field, with headphones blasting of course.  It’s mystical.

Don’t let the cold weather stop you, let it sharpen you like the dripping icycle off  the gutters of your house, growing and growing, getting more lucent and sharper as the season goes, because the time will come when it will thaw and the ice will break, and you may even miss it when it’s gone.

"The Jade Rabbit" - A story of a miraculous marathon run

Reviews of The Jade Rabbit

Saturday, January 14, 2012

WICKED - "Everyone deserves the chance to fly"

I saw Wicked on the last day of 2011 and it was an incredible experience.  It was my second time seeing the musical, but this time it was fifth row seats (really 2nd row, behind the orchestra pit seats).  It was two weeks ago, and I had meant to blab all about my thoughts and give a review.

Wicked Witch of The West Before The Labels

It was an amazing experience. And yes, I am certain I made eye contact with the performers being up so close.

First of all, I love music as a tone and drama amplifier for any story. Music is just the tension and drama escalated to higher ground.  I remember seeing Moulin Rouge and how geeked I was when they just broke into song, the story of Les Miserables needs the music to make it so majestic, and the rage and angst and love of Rent demands to be sung. (you can guess what musicals I like.)

The story, as most now know, gives an alternative perspective and background of the Witches from the wizard of Oz, The Wizard himself, and of course those dreaded flying monkeys, with most of the focus on the Wicked witch of the West. The character we remember when we were six years old and hid our faces under pillows and were peeking through our fingers. Just the sight of her minion maniacal flying monkeys made us shriek in horrific delight.

The origins of her being born green, her relationship with her sister (the eventual Wicked witch of the East who has the house fallen ontop of her), and watching her be ostracized --first socially by xenophobes and then politically by the wizard -- are all presented in heads over heels matter. Finally, she becomes champion for the oppressed and then vilified by a government who needs the masses to unite. People come together when united by a common enemy. We need black and white ideas of good and bad. These themes run throughout the story.

The reason the story is extra powerful is that the Wizard of Oz is a modern myth, and its language is accepted part of our lexicon.  The wickedness of the witch who would hurt a poor innocent girl, and her ‘little dog Toto, is a given in our century. Of course she is evil, we can all unite around that, and to defeat her is for all that is righteous in the world to prosper. Shallow minds can't have these presumptions challenged.

The sociological imagination of the story unravels all those presumptions with back story, and a tender yet conflictual relationship develops between the green, nerdy, intelligent outcast and the queen of social popularity who becomes the good witch of the north.

Glinda - We all knew someone just like her in college didn't we.
The good witch of the north could be written off as the stereotypical blond bimbo but was a sympathetic character who grows and despite her apparent longings to be as steadfast to what’s right, she is a compromiser and pragmatist without the moral integrity of her green counterpart.  Most of us are much more Glinda than Elphaba without such a strict moral compass and compromise to easy.  For noncomformity, the world will whip you with its displeasure, and we'd rather not keep  true to our values and risk being an outcast.

The story drove the musical for me, the costumes and stage was second, the musical was perhaps last and was not a ‘must buy’ soundtrack for me the way other musicals have struck me. The voices were incredible, the songs just didn't seem as essential as others I have seen.  The most inspiring song was “Defying Gravity,” (well done by the folks at Glee) and is a great, inspiring, “I shall overcome” song to be added to my Ipod and running playlists.  The set was incredible, especially Act 1's final scene which created an instant memory burn. The fantastic and sparkly Emerald city was indeed an opiate for the masses..

I'll Right Then, I'll Be Wicked
 When Elphie decides to "go rogue," so to speak, and hold true to her beliefs, I couldn't help but think of the line from Huckleberry Finn, where Huck is traveling down river, wondering why he's so bad, and then finally just decides, "All right then, I'll go to Hell."  The reader, of course, realizes it is Huck who is the hero and society with the 'jacked up' values.

All of this seems like such a deep and somber meaning, but the musical is actually full of light moments. There is a nice mix of humor and some sly but obvious nods and winks to lines from the movie.

It is hard to leave the theater without feeling the important binds of friendship, how we all fall short of ‘What Would Elphaba Do?’  And to not question our previously preconceived notions of other evils in the world.

Sitting next to me was an 8 year old, who was seeing it for the fourth time. If she and her friends do as the Wicked Witch did, our world will be a better place, and much safer for flying monkeys and other things we tend to shun because of what we see as evil.

***Special thanks to Blogger, Hungry Runner Girl for her shout out and thumbs up for  The Jade Rabbit.
Check it out at Hungry Runner Girl.

The Jade Rabbit.

STRAY - The Novel

Monday, January 9, 2012

I Hope This Burger Was Happy And Free In Its Previous Life

"If you run 100 miles a week, you can eat anything you want -- Why? Because
(a) you'll burn all the calories you consume,
(b) you deserve it, and
(c) you'll be injured soon and back on a restricted diet anyway."
--Don Kardong

In my obsession to qualify for Boston, I was determined to gain every edge.  This included trying to run in the lightest shoes possible, trying to put myself at a good ‘fighting’ weight where I wasn’t carrying around an extra five pounds around my gut, and being more diligent about what I eat.  Especially since my body craves food in monstrous proportions after I run.  The cravings for food come in predictable intervals -- a bit right when I’m done, a ton more about 2-3 hours later, and then a wave of food cravings the whole next day if the run was 10 miles or more. 

In my diet of a marathoner quest, I wanted something to fuel my body, heal the challenged muscles, and get me ready quicker for my next run.

Holy Pectoral Muscle this thing is heavy
So, I went to all sorts of sports nutrition stores where I asked men with monstrous bulging chest muscles what to use post-workout. Inevitably, I was consistently shown huge Bins of Whey Protein. 

Then I figured the muscles were developed from picking those vats of powder up. I wasn’t convinced it could help me, with my scrawny legs and cankles, so I resisted.

I finally decided on some FRS energy gels and an Enduorox post-run drink mix. I took it to the counter and was ready to buy from a skinny rag of a dude, the exception in this muscle-bound world. He wore a bandanna, sandals, had no body fat, and long limbs with even longer tentacle fingers. If he wasn’t a runner, I am sure he would be playing hacky-sack some where and wearing Hemp clothing.

After I complained about the price, he mumbled 'chocolate milk'.    I scanned the man suspiciously and with a smile, ”chocolate milk is all I use,” he repeated.
'Come on, just a taste.  Everybody's doing it.'

Surely the chocolate rabbit drink couldn't provide the same bang as this specialized drink. 

But I saw fast times and running wisdom in his rag-tag skinny runner-nerd eyes, so I set the 29.99 endurox back on the table, and have stuck with Chocolate Milk ever since.   And you can't argue with both the serious research and my own less than scientific results.

Chocolate milk has since taken over the airwaves and marketed itself like mad as the best post-run recovery drink, and who can blame them.  There is something that seems so childlike and innocent, a not so guilty pleasure with the upper-lip chocolate mustache and a little boys smile coming to mind just as you say the words Chocolate Milk. In fact, the two words might be the perfect anger management technique since the much-heralded count to ten or take a walk. Just say ‘Chocolate Milk.’  AHHHH. You feel that? 

And for post-run, you can just feel the perfect blend of proteins and carbs (and for some reason, the sugar makes it correctly proportioned) rushing right into your R-spot.  (that hits the recovery spot)

And now I think of how good it will taste when I need extra motivation for the last miles of a long run.  Cold Chocolate milk in the fridge awaits. Yum.

As for other nutrition and eating habits I subscribe to:

-Blueberries, blackberries, and all sorts of anti-oxidants. The darker the berry the more magic the fruit.

-Protein blasts – what’s a protein blast?  Meals with all protein, eggs and ham, for example.  Since I have many meals of all carbs pre-runs, I feel this balances out the ratio.

-Adding protein to my pre-race, (or pre-long run) carb load meal the night before.

-Sodium S-caps – for long runs especially, made a huge difference, and processes much better than Gatorade..

-Vitamins supplements, E, B, Calcium and Glucosamine Chondroitin. (The Glucosamine is something I swear by, and the Vitamin E means I have to get hair cuts more often. )

As for my diet in general, I fully believe there is a spiritual component of eating. The nature of the food you are eating, the wholeness of it, the closer it is to the natural state, and even the way in which it was killed all gets imbibed by your spirit.  I am not sure why I know this: maybe it’s instinctual, maybe it’s in the aura of those who follow these principles and how innately happy, or deeper, content and ‘whole’ they seem.  Maybe I read it on a milk carton.

Of course, I rarely follow this.  Sure, I prefer organic when I can, free range eggs, chicken, and I gobble up fruits and veggies at the local fruit market and local raised cattle.

But I’m also into processed foods and diet soda and pizza and chocolate. 

For some reason, I’m stuck on this mindset that as long as I eat my share of good, healthy foods, I can eat the junk as well.  I’m sure it weights me down some, but to escape that rush of a big piece of dark chocolate (which isn’t as bad for you and has plenty of anti-oxidants, right?) would be a life less worth living.   I am sure that my history of alcohol use has made me crave sugar and chocolate beyond what is normal, and I succumb to those with delight.  I can eat a medium pizza and walk away standing while larger men are passed out under the table.

So, I don’t necessarily avoid junk foods, I just try to eat more ‘good foods’ and hopefully the cavernous space left by the training is filled by the spiritual remnants of happy cows dying peacefully, chickens who have roamed free on the range, pasta’s made by amber waves of happy grains, and fruit picked from the garden of Eden. 

And then I will delight in eating peanuts out of the shell while I wait for my loaded up Five Guys Cheesburger, followed by some mint chocolate chip ice cream.

"The Jade Rabbit" - A story of a miraculous marathon run

Reviews of The Jade Rabbit

Sunday, January 1, 2012

My Top Secret Marathon Training Plan

I had initially planned on doing the Running Fit Martian Marathon in April.

This of course, meant bumping up my training now, (which I have) and lots of potential winter training.

I loved the idea of not traveling, staying in my own bed, and just rolling out to the expo  plus love the folks at running fit. But now that the Ann Arbor Marathon has been unveiled, I’m going to have to do the Martian half on my way to Ann Arbor on June 17th.  I am very excited to run the same path I very well may have taken during a drunken walk home 23 years ago when I was a booze guzzling grotesquely lush of a freshman at U of Michigan.  And then if all goes well doing the New York marathon in November to benefit covenant house. 

So, today being January 1st, I woke up at 7 am, completed a 14 mile run, and then signed up for the Ann Arbor Marathon. Registration just opened today, It was kind of neat to sign up on the first possible day, (I want a two Digit Bib number Damn it!) and  I am sure that the first four hours of my 2012 will perhaps be of the most productive of the whole year, and that it will all look lazy and slothlike from here.

So, it’s time to study my training plan.

And here’s my secret about training plans.  Ready?

Besides a few key long run dates circled on my calendar, I don’t look at them and don’t use them.

Sure, I have been very much interested in learning about them and have spent hours investigating, studying them and googling them and reading articles explaining them.  I am cursed with obsessions, so did all I could to even smell their aroma from the page, see their aura, feel the sins of their past lives, and send them Christmas cards.  But I do not follow them. 

My belief, right or wrong, is that training plans are made by those who don’t necessarily understand me. Most training plans I look at, I can circle the injury on my calendar that would happen should I follow them.  They are made by those who are genetically superior to me.  

So, training plans. Forget them. Learn their basis, and make sure your plans incorporate some sort of sensible approach, but don’t’ get hung up on following them. We get so worried that if we don’t’ follow the training plan we will falter.  Don’t’ let the training plan be your guide, let the feedback you get from your body be your guide.  Are you able to finish your long runs, and does your movement resemble something close to running at the end and not some cramped-leg Gollum shuffle?  Okay, then you are doing well.  And while I have and do believe in writing down your training and reviewing them during your taper, right up to the morning of the marathon (with “I kicked ass” workouts circled) the paper doesn’t run for you.  Nobody gets to the start with a perfectly followed training plan, but many never make it to the start because they injured themselves due to blind adherence to what their training plans called for each day.

This is why I don’t follow a plan, but just highlight a few key workouts during the month, and let the rest slide in.  For example, I might say I want to a two 14 mile runs, and then a 16 mile run this month. In between, I want to do a couple set of mile intervals, two or three longer pace runs, maybe a 8-10 miler near marathon pace, as well as some 4 to 8 mile recovery runs to keep a healthy weekly mileage.  As long as I am doing the long runs, and some speed and hill/strength work, I’m golden.  My legs will tell me how to run, not the book.

 I do think we should read about and learn about as many training plans as possible, don’t get me wrong. Learn everything you can, and then forget it all, in other words.

“Use the force, Luke. Let go.”

Its kinda my answer to everything.

We should learn all that we can about the rationale and theory behind every program, so we can learn all that it takes to finish a marathon effectively.

For example, I read about the rational behind the Galloway method, and the purpose in running to the length of the marathon before the race, and the role of walking breaks. Both of these I have incorporated at times, and used the walking breaks to complete a marathon during a semi-injured time that otherwise I probably would not have.  And I have also looked at the rational of the local group, the Hansens, who have you topping out at at 16 mile run, but doing so on ‘tired’ legs, so, that the 16 feel more like running the last 16 of a race rather than the first 16 of a fresh run.  They also do more speedwork. Hard to argue with many of the Hanson finishers. You will see them at major events -  yellow jerseys, tall and skinny,  and fast as a mudderbucker. Home grown from main street Michigan.  But no way in hell can I follow their plans. They are more like a one week running camp I visit to blast my legs, but then have to crawl back home from and spend a week on my arse to recover.

These are just a couple, I have scoured Hal Higdons and runner’s worlds and running times, and Pfitzinger Douglas.

And while there are different approaches, they all have plenty of basics in common and include all the components of endurance, speed and strength.  Some of these components, when applied to your individual strengths and weaknesses, need to be modified.

This is where the ‘experiment of one’ fits in.  For example, I have always had plenty of speed, and my times at shorter distances race predict a faster time than my marathons were showing. In other words, I was fast enough, but  what I needed was the endurance to not fizzle out at the end, to have some strength in my legs to fight the fatigue.

To gain further endurance and strength, I added hills, did more long runs than most marathon programs asked, and actually cut back and mellowed on my speed work because the recovery time stopped me from focusing on the runs that attacked my deficits. I would love to do mile intervals once a week, but then I wouldn’t be able to do a long run or mid range run as efficiently, and my calves wouldn’t be able to attack the hill workouts which yes, are speed and strength anyways.

This is ‘just me’, once again, but I cant believe there aren’t a ton of folks who would do better with less. I love love love the feeling of a hard run, and sometimes that’s the joy of recovery, to get the endorphin rush of a long, fast one - but pushing myself isn’t the problem, its over pushing and wearing things down without resting that is the biggest risk. Especially as 40 is pretty far back in the rear view mirror.

So, in summary, my magic training plan for running an incredible marathon is:.

  1. Schedule my last, pinnacle long run 3 weeks out from marathon day -  a 22-23 mile run with the last 7 or 8 at marathon pace.

2. Build up to this last long run by doing long runs every ten to 14 days, doing some lengths twice, (the  second one with some significant marathon pace runs thrown in)

  1. Throw in a healthy, but non-injurying dose of some speed work (mile intervals and 10k tempo runs) and some strength work of hills along the way.

I’ll never win an event, chances are will always dance on the fringes of Boston qualifying times , but my guess is, the more marathons people do and learn their body, the less they need to follow plans but instead will instinctively know when they need to throw in a certain kind of workout.


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