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Friday, December 31, 2010

You’ve got mail–Big Block Running Volume

I got an email from Ginny at Happy Feet 26.2 inquiring about some big volume blocks that I did last year.  I have run with Ginny may times over the past couple of years.  She is a good friend.  Ginny also does a heck of a lot of volume herself and she went to Boston last year.
Hello James,

I am working on my training for Snickers in March.  It will obviously be a shortened program because of Huntsville
[Ginny just did the Rocket City Marathon].  I am not worried about the shortened program at all, because I think I have maintained my fitness and will come back fast.  Just trying not to, come back too fast.

Anyway, I wanted to ask you about the workout you did, something like 15, 15, 15 in 3 days, or something similar.  First, do you think that helped you in your training?  When did you do this in relation to your race date?  I'm always looking for new things to try, and love some variety.  With the high mileage that I ran before Huntsville, I think I would be up for something similar this time.  In the past, I would not have attempted it for fear of injury, but now I feel my mileage has been, and will be, high enough to give it a try.

Please share what you can with me about it, or any other  things you feel "really worked well" for you in training.

I will continue with tempos, intervals, and long runs, but just looking to mix things up a little.
My reply:
Hey Ginny -

I got idea from hearing something about increasing your mileage for running an ultra.  Most ultra runners do not do many long runs longer than what we do for marathon training they just do more back to back mileage.  Since I have time off over the holidays I decided to get some major volume blocks.  I thank I got 3 blocks of right at 50 miles [15 – 15 – 20].  This was all LSD type running – I mean completely conversational comfortable running pace.

I can’t really say if it helped me in my marathons but it certainly did allow for me to adapt to running on tired / fatigued legs.  In fact, I just finished up a couple of more large running blocks.  I had two 6 day blocks that just kissed 70 miles.  Just this week I have decided to shut down the high volume with 6 weeks left before my A race marathon.  Now I will be concentrating on much more intensity.  It will be 3 challenging runs each week – intervals, tempo and long run at marathon or near marathon pace. 

If you do a block of high volume I think you have to shut down the intensity.  If you do speed and volume I think you are asking for trouble.

James – See you at the Steam Whistle 12K
I think the large blocks have helped in my running.  They have allowed for me to adapt to running on fatigued legs. 
My belief is that running with the tired legs should allow for you to push the wall further back in a race.  When I ran the Mardi Gras marathon last year I did not hit the wall – sure the race got harder (much harder) around mile 22 / 23 but I was able to maintain pace – or enough of my pace to reach my goal.  The race was pretty evenly split (1:34:00 / 1:34:44).  This year’s race is going to be very difficult and I hope that my extra volume blocks will push that wall back even further – I’m trying to push it back somewhere in the vicinity of mile 27.

You can see the traces of the wall just after mile 20
(you also turned into a head wind at about mile 23 – nice).

Projected 2011 Mardi Gras Marathon – NO WALL.

A quick disclaimer:  I get the holidays off from work.  This lets me recover fully from this high volume blocks of running.  In truth, I really needed down time last year when I ran big blocks.  I would take an ice bath while sipping a recovery shake.  Then maybe even a nap.  This year I have run the high volume faster and the recovery has bee much easier.  Your mileage may vary. 

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Volume DOWN / Intensity UP–Steam Whistle Race Strategy

I went for the first bike ride in a couple of months on Tuesday.  The temperature was in the high 40’s.  Having not even really ridden the trainer or anything I was in for a wake call.  The pace was not blistering but I could really tell that my form was off.

The four of us got off of the trace and hit the biggest hills around (still not much).  There were a few surges but also nothing to write home about.  However, I could really feel the fatigue in my legs.  I never took a pull.  I never surged ahead.  I just stayed in the draft.   I enjoyed the ride but it reminded my of how far off my bike gets in the winter.  After about 35 miles I started to get cold – my feet and hands were hurting.  I also started to think a lot about food.  This is never a good sign.  I was fantasizing about a big hot bowl of soup.  I could almost taste it.  Sam also started to talk about food.  When we stopped for water he called ahead home to have a couple of pizzas put in the oven and some hot soup on the stove.  I went over to his house after the ride and chowed down.  Then I warmed up next to the fireplace.  It was a good end to a cold bike ride.  There is a big hilly bike ride on Thursday but I don't think it would fit into the training plan (I'm just not up for it).

If you remember, a few posts back I talked about how many bike rides you can have while training for a marathon PR – the answer was zero.  So what was I doing?  Well, the BIG volume portion of my training plan has come to an end.  I was able to point together a couple of 70 mile weeks and now I move into the intensity phase of the program. 

The program will switch from the high volume comfortable pace portion to a FIRST (Furman Institute) high intensity phase.  There will be 3 challenging runs each week consisting of hard intervals, hard tempos, and long runs at marathon or near marathon pace.

I did the first short run I have done in a while.  It was actually shorter than I had intended.  I want to run 5 miles at sub 6:30 pace (7 miles total with a mile warm up and a mile cool down).  When running at intensity I tend to run by pace and not heart rate or feel – just by pace.  This has been slapping me in the face the past couple of runs.  This intensity is really testing me – I should be able to run these paces but they have been putting me on the ropes.  My running course is slightly uphill for about 6 miles.  This is what has been putting it to me.  So this faster run today was cut short.  I did the warm up mile at 7:30ish and then picked up the pace.  I ran the first mile and turned around.  The mile was at 6:29 pace but felt much too hard to continue an additional mile and half before turning around.  However, the next two miles, after having turned back, were much faster (and slightly easier).  These next two miles clicked off in the high 6-teens (like 18 and 19).  I need to be a little smarter when doing these run.  I need to get the necessary mileage without blowing up.


This course that I run is also part of the Steam Whistle 12K that will be taking place on the first.  Looking at last years race I averaged 6:39 pace.  The first two miles were 6:34 / 6:35.  Then it looks like I blew up a little – the next two miles were 6:49 / 6:54.  Then the turn around and running slightly down hill brought the rest of the miles at 6:40 or less with the fastest being 6:31.  Knowing that the race is faster on the ‘back’ portion I need to settle on a hard effort on the out and really push the pace on the back.  I’m not looking forward to the intensity but I am looking for a PR.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

TRX 40 / 40 Challenge – First Attempt


From the TRX website:

The TRX 40/40 Challenge combines two signature TRX exercises we use to measure upper body and core strength: the TRX Atomic Push-up and the TRX Low Row. At our events, we have competitions to see who can get the most of each of these exercises. If someone can get more than 40 good reps, there's a good chance they are going to win! Also, we’ve been known to break out the 40/40 Challenge during our lunchtime workouts here at FAI headquarters.


I think I will have another go at it later in the week.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas running and TRX

We spent some time in Texas this past week visiting my father and my sister and her family. It was a lot of fun. I did get two hilly 8 mile runs in and a short visit to the gym. My father has found some friends from the Master Gardeners club who frequent a local gym. This has motivated him to start a training session. We are all very proud of him for taking these steps. I have told him to simply start the habit of going to the gym and then we would work on the program. He is meeting with a personal trainer at the beginning of the year for an assessment. My father also signed up for a smoking cessation program at the gym (which is associated with a medical center).

After we got home it was more running. On Christmas Eve the weather was cold (low 40’s) and I went for a quality session. It was difficult. I wanted 14 miles with 10 of them fast. I did my warm up and then kicked it into high gear – high gear for me anyway. The 10 miles I wanted to run at my hope to be new half marathon pace – 6:35 minutes per mile. This pace only worked for a few miles before I started to implode. I always try to push the pace knowing that there is a slight incline heading out. I usually train on the Long Leaf Trace which is a rails to trails. There are zero hills on the rails to trails but very long slight inclines. It is much more noticeable on the bike than the run; however, the incline is evident as soon as you head back.

Well, I always try to push the pace and I usually fail. And I did fail on this run. However, I did adjust and made the run of a longer interval type run. After the 4 miles at projected pace I shut it down and ran my comfortable pace for a mile (comfortable being 8 minutes per mile). I then ran several sets of 2 mile intervals at pace. I just simply tried to keep the pace as fast as possible which was in the 6:30’s and 6:40’s. I wrapped up the session with 13 miles at an average of 7:30 minute per mile pace. Although the session was not complete as prescribed it ended up being a challenging run.

On Christmas day I went for an easy run. Once again the pace would be comfortable. I was running by heart rate so the pace would settle in around 7:30. The temperature had dropped from the day before and the wind was rather brisk. I wanted to turn around after the first mile. I was cold and running into the wind was tough. I persevered and came up on another running out on the trace. I yelled at him from a good distance – I hate startling people at on the run. He had his music blaring and did see or hear me until I passed. He jumped a bit. He was running a little bit slower than me. I slowed a little bit and he picked up the pace a little bit. He was here visiting family from New Orleans. There are few strangers when out running. We ran the next 5 or 6 miles and just talked shop. We had both done the Jazz Half in October and the Mardi gras marathon back in February. We were evening matched in pace. Oh how I prefer some company when out on these runs. Talking with Scott from New Orleans allowed for both of us to push the pace and get our miles. This run was easy and I ended up with 10 miles at a 7:20 minute per mile pace.

Later, on Christmas day I tried at the TRX for the first time. I set up the trainer in my garage with an older TV and DVD player. After I watched the introduction video it was very easy to set up the TRX suspension trainer. In addition, adjusting the suspension trainer for the various exercises was a piece of cake. The system really is easy to go from one exercise to the next. I also liked how you can make each exercise harder or easier with simply the stance or your proximity to the anchor. The workout was comfortably challenging. It was very different from one of my typical weight workouts. It was more fluid and, sorry for this, “Zen like”. I felt like my body really was working as a complete unit – none of the isolation that I experience with normal strength training. In addition, the workout had several stretching routines at the end. I normally do not do any stretching but I could feel it throughout my body. It was positive experience. I am excited about adding this suspension training to my normal workout routine. I believe that strengthen my core via suspension training will help with triathlon – the swim, the bike and the swim.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

TRX suspension trainer - anchor installation

I have been intrigued by suspension training for some time. I have read countless reviews and looked at the many workout routines. That is what I do; I research everything – many times. So I have been looking at the TRX suspension training system for about a year. I have wanted to have an effective core workout that would also be easy to setup and take down as well as be portable. You see, the university is closed for the holidays. In the past this has meant very two weeks of only cardio exercise. Don’t get me wrong, I love my bike and run but I am a firm believer in strength training; especially over the holidays. I do have a full set of hex dumbbells and also a lot of Olympic weights; however, I got rid of my weight bench years ago. It was too hard to have a permanent, dedicated space for the exercise equipment. The TRX suspension training system should allow for me to get an effective workout and allow for me to store all of the gear in a very compact case. I plan on doing a full review of the TRX over the next month – stay tuned.

Over the course of my research I did find several people who have made their own suspension training systems. Some looked down right dangerous and the ones that were the most effective – after trial and error – became rather expensive themselves. I like to construct my own tools and toys, but I knew that it would be easy to be bogged down in the process. I decided to bite the bullet and purchase the legitimate product – I bought the TRX PRO PACK (with door anchor) - see the link below if you are interested.

First, I needed a place to suspend this thing. You can put it just about anywhere. I actually have a park pretty close to the house (Jackson Station) with chin up bars – this would be ideal. I also ordered a door anchor so that I can use it in the house, however, I do not have a door in my living room. I could also do the exercises in my office / workout room but I would have to clean up the floor. There is already a bike on the trainer and two more against the walls. With the computer desk and book shelves, the space is getting cramped.

I decided to do the TRX in the garage. TRX sells an anchor point on their website but it is rather expensive (just like the TRX system itself). I thought I could probably fashion the same type of device for much cheaper. I went to the local big box hardware store. In the pickup truck section of the store with the tie down straps I found an anchor point that would do the job. It was $10. With the necessary bolts and washers the total price was about $11. I also bought a small rug from the same hardware store to put on the ground in the garage. I am also going to set up an old TV with DVD player in the garage. I will be able to use the bike on the rollers in this same workout space.

I watched the TRX video last night and I am pretty pumped to give it a try.

I just happen to have connections with the Fat Man and I knew this would
be under the tree.  It was time for a little DIY in the garage.

The ceiling anchor - max weight 3,666 lbs.  I think it will work.

(Note:  My ceiling is not pink) - As you endurance athletes know,
using a stud finder is difficult.  The dang thing seems to be always going off.

The anchor with the first bolt fastened to the ceiling joist.

The actual anchor in the bractet.

Anchor securly attached to the ceiling of the garage.

Full disclosure – if you click the link below and make a purchase I will receive a small commission. I purchased my TRX suspension trainer with my own money. I have not been instructed to give any review positive or negative and have not been compensated for this blog post.

TRX Suspension Training: Deck the home gym.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Wetsuits not just for cold water - football?

Emilio from Desoto Sports posted the following on Slowtwitch earlier this week:

Some of the highest paid pros are wearing T1 Wetsuits and they are paying full price: Tom Brady is one of them.

If you are watching tonights [New England Patriots at Chicago Bears] game, Tom Brady is wearing a T1 First Wave under his jersey. It is cut just above the elbow. How do I know? Because we sold it to him and I keep seeing it under his jersey and the navy blue shirt he has on.

But the story gets better. After he bought one just a little over a week ago before the Bears game, 3 other players from the Patriots ordered them.

....and the story gets better, Matt Cassel from the Chiefs ordered one for his cold weather games.

If you are watching the game, pay close attention to his right arm. Every now and then the you can a he has on something black as his base layer, and you can see the First Wave logo as the navy blue shirt he has on creeps up a bit.

In a later post as why a football player might wear the wetsuit top -

It keeps you warm in cold weather if you are not breaking a sweat. Think about it. He is not running very much, so it keep him warm without getting sweaty and clammy underneath. I told their trainer that it would work well for any player that is not running much....which is why their kicker, punter and long snapper all bought them.

I might start wearing a shorty on those early cold early morning commutes.

Monday, December 20, 2010

2010 Ole Man River Half Marathon - the PR streak continues – barely (1:27:30)

The conditions were perfect. There was a little bit of wind and the temperature was in the mid thirties. It was cold standing around before the race but once we started it was perfect. I am sure it is from the volume but my lower legs, shins and calves were aching horribly for the first 3 or 4 miles. It was painful. I had serious thoughts of shutting everything down and ending this race. I have never been in that situation. The negative thoughts just flooded my mind. I had already started writing this blog post, “FAIL FAIL FAIL – DNF at ole Man River!”

I was running with an older guy who seemed strong. We were talking turns leading into the wind. I took my turn up front and then I hear this noise off to the side. I thought he had fallen off the road. I looked sharp right and he was actually ahead of me off to the side of the road. He was incredibly quick and fluid. My last sight of him was him pulling down his pants in one motion and aiming his back side at a tree. My head swiveled and snapped back. I had seen enough. He was having a worse time than me.

The race stayed hard but I was able to settle into my groove. I got caught by one of the lead women of the race. She was being led by an awesome pacer. He was obviously running easy at our pace. She was trying to run at or around a 6:40 pace. I had started out trying to run a 6:35 pace so I decided to settle in behind them. My pace actually improved and I started to accept the pain. It was so much easier to run with a group. I was able to keep the pace. At mile 11 the there were 4 of us running together. We were in no man’s land. The second or third place girl was just ahead. The pacer told the girl that he was pacing that it was time to pick it up. She told him that he needed to remember that this was just a marathon training run for her. The pacer did pick up the pace and left us. Then another guy that was running with us pulled away just a little bit. I stayed back with the girl. We did pick up the pace a little bit. My last 3 miles were all in the mid 6:30’s. I was hurting but feeling strong at the same time. With a quarter of a mile left I looked at my watch. I saw it tick from 1:25 to 1:26. I knew that I needed to sprint hard if I wanted to improve upon Baton Rouge. I passed the girl and gave it everything. You have to enter a stadium at the end of this race. Fortunately you don’t have to run a complete lap – more like a quarter lap. I crossed the line completely spent. I thanked the pacer and the girl for pulling me along. I needed it!

I was proud of myself for toughing it out. I refused to succumb to the race. When the negative thoughts entered my mind I acknowledged them. I then evaluated these thoughts. And finally I shot them down. I am sure that the real time spent doing this exercise was very small but at the time it was a real struggle. I had to make a decision. I just needed to tell the legs to SHUT UP.

I was able to chip away at my recent PR achieved at the Baton Rouge Beach Half Marathon – but just barely. I finished in 1:27:30 (9 seconds faster). My GPS watch had me at a little bit faster pace (6:38 compared to 6:41) but it was very close. Looking at my heart rate between the past two half marathons I can see that Baton Rouge was a much better race. I am not sure if it was the fatigue of the high volume or the bruised from mountain bike riding that hurt my legs so much (I know, it was both – not smart stuff – as a side note I went mountain bike riding on Friday before the race and decided to put a pair of my old road bike clip less pedals on the mountain bike – for the first time. I crashed 3 times and put a nice bruise on the top of my right foot as well as a couple on my shins. I cannot recommend this in your taper).

Baton Rouge (blue) shows a smoother heart rate progression.  I raced a better race two weeks ago.

My next race is the Steam Whistle 12k (that is about 7.5 miles). In this race I ran hard. I am sure that it was the hardest race ever) and won my age group with an average pace of 6:40 minute per mile – right at my current half marathon pace.  Last year's Steam Whistle 12k Race Report - here.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Ole Man River Half Marathon - Pre race

I just ate a bowl oatmeal as part of my pre-race ritual.  It is 34 degrees outside.  I watched the Kona ironman coverage yesterday on NBC.  While watching I wrote something on Macca's wall and he replied this morning (he must be in Sydney).  Pretty cool.

Last years race report - here.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

High Frequency / High volume running

I have been working my frequency with the running. After the Baton Rouge Beach Half Marathon I took a day off from running. But I have run every day since. This gave me 11 days straight and a total mileage of just over a hundred. In these 11 days I ran 16 separate sessions. However, the run volume was weighted on the backend. For the past 7 days I have run 6 – 11 – 12 – 6 – 18 – 12 – 6 for a total of 71 miles. In this 7 day stretch I ran 10 times. The shortest run was 6 miles and the longest was 12 miles.

I never felt any soreness. There have been no signs of overuse or nagging aches and pains. However, after the 18 miles on Tuesday (these were 3 runs at AM / NOON / PM) I did start to feel fatigue. My legs were getting tired but that is something that is not uncommon. The fatigue would go away after the first couple of miles of the next session.

One thing to note about every one of these miles since Baton Rouge is that they have all been at a comfortable pace (just under 8 minutes per mile). There have been no tempo runs, no intervals and really not even any strides. The Wednesday before last I did run the coliseum steps (basketball stadium) on campus. This workout equates to very hard and steep hill repeats of short duration. This was a real challenge. The repeats (45 of them) were run with very little recovery (about 10 seconds). I had planned on doing 60 repeats but I was overcome. That is the first time in training that I really thought that I was going to throw up. I can get that feeling in races but not in training unless the heat index is 110+. The coliseum was comfortable – it was just a really hard workout.

For my taper I took yesterday off from running. I did however join some friends for some mountain bike riding. The air was brisk and the temperature was in the 40’s. I was riding with buddies that have better mountain biking skills than I. I also decided to put a pair of old road bike clip less pedals on the mountain bike. This would be the first time with clip less pedal off road. Would this be a mistake during a taper for a half marathon?

Of course, I knew it would be. I had 3 low speed crashes out on the trails. Nothing major, I am good at falling. The first two falls were at very low speed while climbing steep sections of the trail. I just lost momentum and fell over sideways. There was no harm and no foul. However, I am not sure what happened the last time I crashed. We were actually heading out of the woods and we were ready to call it a day. I think I just lost concentration and my front wheel turned out from under me. I went down harder than the other two falls. I banged my shin on the left leg and my foot on the right. When I got home I took a look and there was a pretty big bruise on the top of my right foot. It was sore all night. Fortunately, today the bruise is barely noticeable.

The Ole Man River Half is tomorrow and I still think I will be able to give this race a run for its money. The temperature should be a little cooler than Baton Rouge and the course is definitely flatter. There are no hills around City Park in New Orleans. I blew up at this race last year. I was chasing a friend that went out way too fast for me. I basically ran much too hard for 2 miles and then suffered for the next 11 just trying to hang on – it was a very difficult race for me. I did end up with a PR but that is not the fastest way around the track.

It will be an interesting test to see if the higher volume of the last week will allow for me to push the pace and achieve another PR. When asked what are the goals for the race I always say, “To run as fast as I have ever run before.” This has been working for me so far.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Chris McCormack on the Wheaties Box

While I am not a big dry cereal eater (I am an oatmeal man) I did notice that the new Wheaties box is being promoted (I got an email about it). You know, this is the Wheaties box with Chris McCormack. From the email:

Not only is McCormack the first Ironman World Champion to be featured on a Wheaties box, he is now also the first athlete to be featured on the cover of the Wheaties FUEL box outside of the cereal’s elite co-creators.

You can get a $1 coupon for liking Wheaties on facebook: 

To tell you the truth, I actually think this is pretty neat. This has the potential to put triathlon into the focus of the mainstream – maybe just a little bit. However, while I was in Australia, I did notice that triathlon had a much bigger foot print. Now, there is no doubt that triathlon is still a second tier sport down under - well behind footie, lawn bowling and net ball.  On a side note they seem to call everything footie - soccer, rugby, Australian Rules Football, etc. 

But at least triathlon is not a fourth or even a fifth tier sport. I mean, there is more card playing on US TV than track and field, much less triathlon. I snapped this picture in a grocery store in Katoomba. We were refueling after a hike to the Ruined Castle. I did not need the box but I did want the picture.  I believe we got some fruit.

The question - If Chrissie Wellington would have competed and won Kona this year would she have been on the Wheaties box?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Exercising in a fasting state - during the holidays

This article was sent to me by my sister - Phys Ed: The Benefits of Exercising Before Breakfast

I have mentioned that last year was the first and only year that I have actually lost weight over the holidays. The reason for this was a lot of run volume while training for my first (stand alone) marathon. I had a line in the sand and an aggressive goal time (BQ). I also truly believe that when it comes to running – light is right. Most references note that you can increase your speed by about 2 seconds per mile per pound. For example, 5 pounds could reduce your running pace by 10 seconds per mile - in a marathon that could over 4 minutes (a 3:04:00 marathon is 7:02 pace while 2:59:59 marathon is 6:53 pace). So, last year with this aggressive running goal I was able to not only maintain my weight but lose a little bit of body fat.

For the study, researchers in Belgium recruited 28 healthy, active young men and began stuffing them with a truly lousy diet, composed of 50 percent fat and 30 percent more calories, overall, than the men had been consuming. Some of the men agreed not to exercise during the experiment. The rest were assigned to one of two exercise groups. The groups’ regimens were identical and exhausting. The men worked out four times a week in the mornings, running and cycling at a strenuous intensity. Two of the sessions lasted 90 minutes, the others, an hour. All of the workouts were supervised, so the energy expenditure of the two groups was identical.

Their early-morning routines, however, were not. One of the groups ate a hefty, carbohydrate-rich breakfast before exercising and continued to ingest carbohydrates, in the form of something like a sports drink, throughout their workouts. The second group worked out without eating first and drank only water during the training. They made up for their abstinence with breakfast later that morning, comparable in calories to the other group’s trencherman portions.

The experiment lasted for six weeks. At the end, the nonexercising group was, to no one’s surprise, super-sized, having packed on an average of more than six pounds. They had also developed insulin resistance — their muscles were no longer responding well to insulin and weren’t pulling sugar (or, more technically, glucose) out of the bloodstream efficiently — and they had begun storing extra fat within and between their muscle cells. Both insulin resistance and fat-marbled muscles are metabolically unhealthy conditions that can be precursors of diabetes.

The men who ate breakfast before exercising gained weight, too, although only about half as much as the control group. Like those sedentary big eaters, however, they had become more insulin-resistant and were storing a greater amount of fat in their muscles.

Only the group that exercised before breakfast gained almost no weight and showed no signs of insulin resistance. They also burned the fat they were taking in more efficiently. “Our current data,” the study’s authors wrote, “indicate that exercise training in the fasted state is more effective than exercise in the carbohydrate-fed state to stimulate glucose tolerance despite a hypercaloric high-fat diet.”
You can read the actual study here.

Exercising in a fasted state has been debated on countless exercise forums. There are a number of opinions ranging from burning more fat to the wasting of lean muscle mass. This study only reports what happened to these individuals when on an increased calorie, high fat diet (like the holiday season). It did not study what the effects are on a normal diet – well, normal for us – I hope we do not eat a holiday diet year round.

I routinely exercise in the morning; I simply just don’t get up early enough to have a meal before hitting the pavement. I think for more intense sessions (running intervals or cycling time trails) this can be a liability but for moderate intensity up to and including tempo work this fasted state is effective. I do not notice an inability to perform my workouts as long as the duration is less than 90 minutes.  For a race, I get up early and have my oatmeal.

Another benefit of running before breakfast is that it does not matter what happens the rest of the day – I have already done my workout.

Pay yourself first and then go have a (light) breakfast.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Running for breakfast

The temperature was in the low 50’s on Saturday. The group road bike ride was starting at 10AM. I wanted a few running miles before holding a wheel in the cool weather. I was planning on an easy 6 miles. At Clyde Station I ran into a Kevin. Kevin and I did NO70.3 together last year. I decided to grab a few miles with him. We chatted about training and upcoming races. The Mardi gras marathon will be Kevin’s first full marathon.

At about 4 miles into the run I ran into Sam, Robin, Dan and Steve. They were working on the tail end of a 10 mile run. I jumped on with them. There was more training and running talk. I knew that I was going to miss the group ride but I was okay with that.

We ended up at Sam’s house where he treated us to eggs, bacon, pancakes and coffee. It was such a get together. Believe it or not I did not eat too much – I still had to run home. We sat and talked for a while and then I headed home. I ended up with 11 miles for the morning.
Sunday I wanted to do my hard, long weekend run. The weather turned much cooler and the wind really picked up. I started out and wanted to turn back after the first quarter mile. I was cold and the wind was burning my face. For you Northern people- it was only like 45 degrees but I was cold. I persevered and got 12 miles for the morning – none of them fast. It was a comfortable run and I averaged right around 7:30 pace.

Just after lunch I met up with the guys for a mountain bike ride. There was a group road bike ride taking place at the same time but the cold temperatures and wind kept me away. An hour on the mountain bike friends proved just about right.

For the week, I ended up with 51 miles running and close to 3 hours on the bike.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Timex Global Trainer Speed and Distance - $70 - your mileage may vary (rebate).

The Timex Global Trainer Speed and Distance watch has been as low at $169.94 on  In addition there is $50 instant savings (the $50 is taken off once you 'proceed to checkout').  This brings the price to $119.94 with free shipping (free super saving shipping).  I am a deal finder so a quick rebate search brought up $50 from authorized timex dealers.  I am not sure if amazon is authorized (but I beat they are).  The rebate link is here - .  Your mileage may vary on the rebate but I am willing to give it a try.

In depth review - .

No heart rate stap

With heart rate strap

Mountain bike video - stuff to watch on the trainer

I just found this video again - awesome -

Friday, December 10, 2010

Running frequency

I attended a seminar by Justin Trolle back in September. As a side topic he mentioned that he had been training a young female that was prone to stress fractures. He prescribed a high frequency of running. Something in the order of 25 – 30 runs per week. Of course these runs would have to be short in duration. He proclaimed that this would increase her durability. In fact, in as little as 3 weeks Justin claimed that the athlete was able to perform at a high duration and intensity and has not experienced any additional stress fractures.

Recently, I have adopted a similar training program. Thankfully, I am not plagued by injuries or stress fractures but when I have increased my mileage in the past I have had some soreness. To combat this I have started running twice a day – morning and at noon. I started out with a limit of 6 miles per run – mainly just as a time constraint. I am trying to run this pattern 4 days a week and keeping the longer / faster run for the weekend. For example, leading up to the Baton Rouge Beach Half marathon, I ran a total of 44 miles during the week and then tapered for two days and ran the race. This gave me around city miles for the week – I ran a couple of miles after the race as a cool down. Granted, there is no intensity in these weekday runs – I keep these runs at my comfortable, conversational pace which is just under 8 minutes per mile.

I have noticed that as the number of runs accumulate, the first mile of each run I feel tired. However, after this first mile the fatigue subsides. Although I have mentioned that it is difficult for me to schedule cycling while trying to achieve my best marathon I am being hard headed and keeping two regimented trainer sessions during the week – these are scheduled on Tuesday and Thursday mornings.

I believe that this progression will allow for me to build my mileage into the high 60’s / low 70’s with very little chance of injury. Once I have the mileage established I will be able to add some sharpening – quarters, Yasso 800’s and mile repeats. The bread and butter of this training plan will be volume and weekend long runs / tempos. Sounds like fun to me!

My next race is the Ole Man River Half in New Orleans on 12/19/2010. This should be flat, fast and cold – I had a PR at this race last year and I look to repeat! Last years race report.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The triathlete’s dilemma

For many triathletes the off season means getting back into the weight room and base building. This is a time to work on weaknesses and limiters. It has been a tough couple of months of fitting in 3 swims, 3 bikes and 3 runs. For me the off season means running – and lots of it. Ask the experts and they will tell you that an off season marathon does nothing for ironman – not to mention for sprint or Olympic distance triathlon. However, it is the premier running distance.
Last year I decided to put together a solid effort at the marathon. I had never run a marathon but I was determined to Boston Qualify. I went from a half marathon time of 1:37 and dropped it too 1:29:30 – A solid 7 minute gain. I got my BQ in my first and only marathon at Mardi gras with a time of 3:08:44 – evenly split mind you (1:34:00 / 1:34:44).
However, during that run period my cycling suffered. Looking at my triathlon races this past year my cycling did improve but it was incremental. Compared to my compatriots I lost time on the bike.
My dilemma is how much cycling can you do when you want to put up the best possible time in a marathon? I have been riding the trainer two mornings each week and then hitting the group ride on the weekend. The trainer sessions have been purposeful. I have been attempting to ride 2 x 20 minutes at FTP (functional threshold power). FTP is the maximal power that can be maintained for 1 hour. The 2 x 20 minutes sessions are based on a percentage of this FTP.
Being in Australia for the month of November I was not able to keep up with my bike fitness. In addition I also increased my run volume. I have been unsuccessful in my trainer sessions and seen little to no progress.

So back to the question at hand – How many times can you ride each week and still put together a PR marathon. Unfortunately the answer is zero.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

You've got mail - DEC - 2010

I don't get bags of email questions but I do get a few.  I have decided to go ahead and start posting some of the interesting questions that I get.

Luke wrote - Regarding - "Race Report - RUN - 70.3 New Orleans - 2010":

I have been discussing running this race as my first 70.3. I am trying to learn more about it so I googled Race Reports and thought it was great that yours came up at the top. Thanks for the read.

Luke –

Although there were some technical problems the first year, NO70.3 is a great race. None of the problems from the first year affected me but they did make several changes to the race for the second year.

The biggest concern is the logistics of a point to point race. If you do not have transportation you would have to take the bus to the swim before and after the race. Not that big of a deal but it is something to think about.

Now, the race itself is pretty flat and fast. This year the swim had pretty big swells and that added a few minutes to my time. However, the bike was truly flat and fast. The bike is an out and back with a couple of additional detours. The roads themselves can be pretty bad. It is awesome riding 56 miles of completely shut down highway. The race excels in this area.

The run is also pretty hard on the feet. The pavement in New Orleans is just rough. There is no way around that. In addition, it can be and has been rather warm in April the past two years. We are talking low 80’s and lots of humidity. This can be a shock even if you are training in the Deep South. But I heard of lots of people that flew in from the frozen north for this race – well, they just melted. The race hurt them. Also, they changed the start of my age group from 7:20 AM to something like 8:30 AM – I was in the second to the last wave.This affected my swim and my run was MUCH hotter than the year before.

Although I have not done any other 70.3 race I would have to say the finishing in front of Jackson Square in New Orleans is an awesome feeling. Running down Decatur Street you will see LOTS of PEOPLE. You will smell the cigars, the liqueur, the beer and the beignets from Café Du Monde. Fortunately you will be finishing early enough to not experiencing ALL of the smells of the French Quarter.

I finished in 5:08 - I think I have a sub-5 in me if I can put everything together.


I posted to your blog before I got a chance to read that you are from Mississippi. Too bad…I was hoping to possibly get to train with you sometime! I’m the guy in BLUE!

You ran a great race and made my race better too!

This was my first half and I’d like to run more and possibly a marathon one day, but I’ve always been really competitive and I’m worried I’d go out to fast or train to hard and hurt myself! As an Ironman I know you do plenty of training! Any pointers you can give me? I have 4 young kids at home (7 and under) so my training time is limited, but any suggestions would help!


Hey David (aka The Guy in Blue) -

First, you had a great race especially for a first half marathon. I actually really like the half marathon distance. You can run the race hard and still bounce back quickly. Last year – well I guess last FEB I ran my first marathon. I kind of did it backwards in that I first did an ironman before doing a marathon.

Anyway, my goal last year was to Boston qualify. I ran the Mardi Gras marathon in 3:08 and did indeed qualify for the Boston Marathon. Almost as tough - I got registered for the race – it sold out in 8 hours earlier this fall.

With limited time I would suggest one of the Furman plans. They are really just run dominated triathlon plans. There are only 3 runs a week but all of them are challenging and they are separated by cross training. The philosophy is that you can improve your aerobic, anaerobic and VO2MAX by just doing long runs, tempo runs and intervals. Granted, each one of these sessions will be hard. There will be no garbage miles. They have plans for all of the Boston Marathon qualifying time in the book “Run Less, Run Faster”. Your local library probably has the book.

I am also very partial to the McMillan Running Calculator – put in your most recent race time and it will spit out all of your paces – it is a great resource.

As you can see, it says my marathon time should now be 3:04:51 -
but I know better.  The long the race, the higher I place.

Last but not least, this time of year I race a lot. It is the best way that I can push myself and evaluate and adapt my training.

Some previous blog posts that relate to FIRST training:

Monday, December 6, 2010

Race Report - Baton Rouge Beach Half Marathon 2010

This past week has seen some decent volume and a taper for the Baton Rouge Beach Half Marathon. The month before the race had zero speed work. And last week consisted of –

Sunday – 14 miles (the middle 10 at tempo pace)
Monday – AM – 6 miles at comfortable pace / LUNCH – 6 miles at comfortable pace
Tuesday – AM – BIKE Trainer (20 min FTP repeats) / LUNCH – 6 miles at comfortable pace
Wednesday – AM – 6 miles at comfortable pace / LUNCH – 6 miles at comfortable pace
Thursday – AM – BIKE Trainer (FTP work – FAIL) / LUNCH – Strength Training

Total Running for the first part of the week equaled 44 miles. I had intended to do some track work on Tuesday night to get 50 miles for the 4 days. I actually made it out to the track but was lacking motivation. The wind was blowing and the temperature had dropped throughout the day. I was cold. In addition, because of the weather, Ginny and Audrey had done their speed work and were finishing up by the time that I got there. I skipped out on the sessions. This would have been the third workout of the day and I would have needed some serious motivation to run fast circles in the dark by myself.

I left work a little early on Friday. I arrived at Charles’s house at 3PM and we left for Baton Rouge. The runners were Terry, Audrey and myself. Charles would be the Sherpa for this race. Last year the weather was much worse. It was in the low 30’s and the sky was splitting a wintery mix. This year the weather would be much better. We arrived at package pickup with plenty of time to talk race tactics, eat too much and drink not as much as last year. Charles and Audrey were staying at Charles’ parent’s house. Terry and I were sharing a hotel room. Terry is a running machine – he has done Boston more times than anyone I know. HE is also a statist ion. He plans his races to the letter. He leaves very little to chance. I enjoyed picking his brain about all aspect of training.

I drank more than I should the night before a race – the optimum amount should be zero – but I did better than last year, I only had a couple – last year I had n+1 – too much.

I was a little restless but the next thing I know is Terry is awake and drinking some special sports drink to calorie load. He also had one before he went to sleep. I look over and it is 3:30AM. I decided to go ahead and make my oatmeal (with the hot water from the coffee maker). This would give my body plenty of time to digest the complex carbohydrates for the 7AM start of the race. In the next couple of hours I ate a banana and a couple of small granola bars. I also drank a lot of coffee.
The runners

We arrived at the race at just before 6AM. It was chilly. I was wearing some track pants and a light jacket over my running shorts and light weight technical fabric shirt. I hit the portaloos twice (the coffee). I heard them announce the start of the race while in said portaloo. I jumped out and sprinted to the race start. I then heard them say that the race would start in 2 minutes. I walked the rest of the way. Last year this race was chipped timed, however, there was no start timing mat, only a finishing mat. Remembering that (I read my blog from last year – see, these blogs do serve a purpose because I remember very little about last year’s race) I seeded myself near the front. This year there was a start timing mat!
Charles showing off his post sugary surgery running fitness.

I had already programmed my virtual nemeses on the Garmin for a PR run. I had set it for a 6:43 pace for 13.15 miles. I always pad the race distance when using the virtual nemeses. This would put me at a PR time of 1:28:19 – which would be 61 seconds faster than my PR from the Jazz Half on October 30th.
He always goes out too slow ...

A minute PR in a month is an aggressive goal and I had my doubts. The start gun went off and I activate the Garmin as I crossed the start mat. In this race the people doing the full marathon start 200 yards behind the half marathoners and a few seconds later. All I know is that within the first quarter mile this super fast Kenya full marathoner comes screaming past us mortals.

I was a little chatty in the first mile or two. I was running with a guy named Hunter who wanted to run in the 1:25’s and a guy named Zack was looking for 1:27. These guys were both a little too fast for me. I hung with Hunter until about mile 2 where I let him go. My Virtual Nemeses had once again started out too slow. I was 150 feet in front of him. I slowed the pace down and chatted with Zack for a little while. He was planning on running a 10 mile tempo and then kicks it at the 5k to go mark. That is not the fastest way around the track but to each his own.

Zack pulled away from me for a few miles and a couple of runner got between me and him. I was running my paces but the effort in the early miles seemed harder than they should have been. Doubts started to creep into my mind. I wanted to slow down a good bit and I was not even at the half way point. This was not good.

However, clicking off miles 7 then 8 then 9 the pace did not seem any harder. I had started to gain some ground on the few guys that had passed me and on Zack. The race course had a lot more hills than I remembered (I did not remember anything about the course). It was deficiently not flat. I tried to keep the time lost to a minimum on the hills and I also pressed the pace on the decline. The entire race I was between 30 feet and 100 feet ahead of the virtual nemesis. At mile 10 I was still feeling good but it was getting harder. It was getting harder for everyone. I started to creep past the people that had passed me. Zack was fading hard but he gave me some encouragement. I also passed the guy in blue. He told me to go get them. I continued on – I was not running faster but I was not fading. Everyone else was fading hard. I think I passed 4 people in the last 3 or 4 miles.

Don’t let me kid you, the race was hurting and hurting bad but it is just a race – I could push on at the prescribed pace. I only had a couple of miles to go. However, at this exertion level it seems like each mile is a race in and of itself. The 1 mile race at mile marker 11 and 12 were tough. I kept looking across the lake to see where the finish line was. I refused to scroll through the screen on the Garmin to see the exact distance to go – I just thought to myself “What would be the point? I am going to run hard until I finish – regardless of the distance!” As I had passed the last couple of guys I could hear and feel them right behind me. I am not really a racer. I did not try to put them away as I passed. I just kept my same pace and let them fade. I let them say in the race because I was racing against the clock. I was not racing for place. With about 50 yards until the last turn I could hear the heavy breathing of someone right behind me. I did not let my pace fade and picked it up just a little bit. I had just passed a field marshal that had told me there was half a mile to go. I round the last turn for the straight away and kicked it up a notch. I was running flat out. However, the guy in blue was still right there with me. He was working hard and I was hoping that he would blow. He kicked it up a notch. I had nothing left but I dug deep. In my head I was doing quarter mile repeats and my arms were pumping and my stride was long. I was giving it everything that I had – this was my second ‘dig deep’. I kept it up until the end, however, the guy in blow had one more. He shot past me in the final 10 feet. There were 3 timing mats and he shut it down after the first one. You had to cross the last timing mat for the official time. People were yelling for him to continue. He sucked it up and beat me to the final mat by a fraction of a second.

I ran through the finish corral . Someone tried to put the medal over my head but I just grabbed it. I took a 90 degree turn away from the spectators and gagged a little. I was cooked. I took a few seconds to gather my composure and shook the blue guy’s hand.

I had a new PR by a 1:41 – NEW PR 1:27:39 (6:41 pace) (Average heart rate 171 / Max 190 ). That is nearly 10 minutes faster than I ran this race last year. But much more importantly it is 10 seconds per mile faster than my best half marathon time from last year (First Light from January 2010 – 1:29:30). I like the half marathon distance I have gotten faster and each and every one of the races that I have done (the only exception was the Jazz Half in 2009 – just after I did my ironman – it was a ‘fun’ run).

The running calculators still do not think I have what it takes to run a sub-3 marathon. McMillan says I need a 1:25:20 (6:31 pace) half to make a run for it. There are doubts in my mind but I am confident if I can continue to work my plan I will be successful.

Checking the results I finished 10th overall!  However, I was 5th in my age group (the guy in blue was NOT in my age group).  Damn, this is a competitive age group!

I tend to base my running performance off of my half marathons – here is the progression:

11/29/2008 – 1:37:15 - Gulf Coast Half (first half) - PR
10/31/2009 – 1:40:05 – Jazz Half (FUN RUN)
12/05/2009 – 1:37:07 – Baton Rough Beach Half - PR
12/20/2009 – 1:33:53 – Ole Man River Half - PR
01/10/2010 – 1:29:28 – First Light Half  - PR
10/30/2010 – 1:29:20 – Jazz Half - PR
12/04/2010 – 1:27:39 – Baton Rouge Half - PR

Friday, December 3, 2010

Baton Rouge Beach Half - pre race

Taken from Steve in a Speedo taken from The Oatmeal. 

This is the locker room at the Payne Center.  If there is something for an older guy to prop their leg on they will find it!  A few actually bring a step ladder for occasions where no bench is available.  On a side note, I went to a nice gym in Sydney and they had a sign that the blow dryer was to be used ONLY for hair on your head.  Severe penalties including dismissal from the gym would apply if the blow dryer was used on other hairy areas.  You know that there had to have been an incident.

I am racing the Baton Rouge Beach (there is a lake) Half Marathon this weekend with some friends.  I raced this last year with a self inflicted injury (too much pre race festivities) - last year's race report.

I have done no speed work but I hope that a month of running hills in Sydney will pay off with another PR!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Are you a satisficer or a maximizer? (from the Happiness Project)

Jon over at SwiCycloRun asked why do you buy product x on his blog earlier this week. It reminded me of a post from last year on the Happiness Project -

Are you a satisficer or a maximizer?

Last night, at dinner with some friends, we talked about whether we were satisficers or maximizers.

Satisficers (yes, satisfice is a word, I checked) are those who make a decision or take action once their criteria are met. That doesn’t mean they’ll settle for mediocrity; their criteria can be very high; but as soon as they find the car, the hotel, or the pasta sauce that has the qualities they want, they’re satisfied.

Maximizers want to make the optimal decision. So even if they see a bicycle or a photographer that would seem to meet their requirements, they can’t make a decision until after they’ve examined every option, so they know they’re making the best possible choice.

Most people are a mix of both approaches. For example, one friend was a satisficer about renting an apartment, but a maximizer about buying an apartment. As a consequence, he and his wife are renting an apartment now, because they had to move, and they're still searching for the perfect apartment to buy.

In a fascinating book, The Paradox of Choice, Barry Schwartz argues that satisficers tend to be happier than maximizers. Maximizers must spend a lot more time and energy to reach a decision, and they’re often anxious about whether they are, in fact, making the best choice.

My mother is a good example of what I’d call a “happy limited maximizer.” In certain distinct categories, she’s a maximizer, and she loves the very process of investigating every possibility. My sister is getting married next year, and I know that my mother would love nothing more than to see her try on practically every possible wedding dress, just for the fun of it. But too often maximizers find the research process exhausting—yet can’t let themselves “settle” for anything but the best.

The difference between the two approaches may be one reason some people find a big city like New York overwhelming. If you’re a maximizer, and you live in New York, you could spend months surveying your options for bedroom furniture or even wooden hangers. In a smaller city, like Kansas City, even the most zealous maximizer can size up the available options pretty quickly.

In almost every category, I’m a satisficer, and until I read the Schwartz book, I felt guilty about the fact that often I make decisions without doing more research. For example, when I wanted to start a weight-training program, I didn’t study the options at all. A friend of mine told me she loved her trainer and regime, and I just got the number and called. In law school, one friend interviewed with something like fifty law firms before she decided where she wanted to go as a summer associate; I think I interviewed with six. And we ended up at the same firm (which I found both reassuring and vindicating).

It’s one of Life’s True Rules: let someone else do the research.

I am a major maximizer but I am trying to be more of a satisficer.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Jet Lag and what they don't tell you.

I was warned about the jet lag. In fact when I landed in Sydney a month ago I was under strict instructions from my brother in law Joe to not fall asleep. My sister was the enforcer. It was like a Nightmare on Elm Street movie – you must not fall asleep! Anyway, it was successful. I had very little to no jet lag. In fact, the very next day after landing in Sydney I was up at 4AM heading back to the airport on my way to Cairns up by the Great Barrier Reef. Everything was fine.

Coming back to the US I was able to sleep more on the flight. I got about 4 or 5 good hours on the way to San Francisco and I was even able to sleep a little bit more on the way to Dallas. I arrived at home around 8PM and just relaxed and went to bed. I was tired but once again the jet lag was minimized.

However, no one told me about the other lags from travel overseas. You see, I am a very regular type of guy. I am not sure if this is something that I trained myself for or if it just happened naturally – but either way it is what I am used to and it has served me well on race day. I am an early morning between first and second cup of coffee – like clockwork. Well, being in Australia it took about 3 weeks for this to work out. I guess it was like daylight savings time every few days – I just kind of fell back an hour or two every couple of days. But by the time I left I was back on schedule (pronounced SHEDGE-RULE).

ultraviolence on the treadmill

Now I am back at home. The weather has been kind of raining and I have been running on the treadmill at the gym. The past two days I have had ‘problems’. On Monday I was able to complete my 6 mile run and then make a dash to the locker room. No harm no foul – business was taken care of. Tuesday – I got 4 miles in and had to take a break. I did go back and finish up and completed the 6 miles. This is not me! I am not an exerciser deucer. No sir, I don’t like it one bit. I started to put 2 and 3 together. Yep, 12:30PM is 5:30AM Sydney time. Like freaking clock work.

I am racing the Baton Rouge Beach Half Marathon on Saturday. I hope I am back on SHEDGE-RULE.