So, How Many Hats Do You Wear?

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Pensacola, Florida, United States
Husband. *Dog Dad.* Instructional Systems Specialist. Runner. (Swim-challenged) Triathlete (on hiatus). USATF LDR Surveyor. USAT (Elite Rules) CRO/2, NTO/1. RRCA Rep., FL (North). Observer Of The Human Condition.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

B Double E Double R U N?

Sometimes I am amazed at the questions which are not asked by runners.  Especially when it comes to food and drink.  Especially drink.  Especially alcoholic beverages.  Especially beer.

In the interest of clarity I'll say I like beer:  I serve on the management of a Hash House Harriers "kennel," a group of runners whose focus is as much on the beer as on the trail run.  There also is a restaurant that, during the summer months, sees us after our Sunday morning "sorta-long" run; their taps open not long after their doors.

It is humorous, especially if you are not from this area of the country, to hear runners talk about beer like it's a given at a running event.  A young lady last weekend said she was surprised to see folks drinking beer at 9:45 in the morning after our Running of the Bulls.  

I responded, "are you kidding?  If you are a race director in this town and you want turnout at your event, beer is almost a necessity.  It's not so much a 5K run with a beer fest during the post-race as much as a kegger with a 3.1-mile run - more or less, from my own professional viewpoint - as a prelude."  

I continued:  "Want to know how much runners like their beer here?  Remember the race that was cancelled on the beach a month ago, because of the rainstorms?  Since the kegs were there the athletes decided to tap them just a little earlier than the originally-planned post-race." 

Yes, there are successful events here where no beer is served, but you can also tell the demographic difference in the clientele.  It doesn't make beer at races right or wrong.  It's just different.

Every once in a while I hear people complain (starting with me) about the onset of the middle-age spread. Like an old college classmate of mine used to say; 'for every action there is an equal and opposite justification.'  So I started to ask a few questions:

Do we justify our beer intake as a form of carbohydrate replenishment?  I know a lot of runners - including myself - who consider our "barley pop" a way of restoring the carbohydrates we burned off during the run.  Well, a pint of typical (non-light) beer has about 15 grams of carbohydrate, which is anywhere from one-quarter to one-half of the carbs burned in a mile of running.  So there's good news and bad news.  The good news is, for those runners whose intake is "a-beer-a-mile," you're not taking in too many carbs.  At least in liquid form.  That same pint has about 200 calories, and anywhere from 3-to-14 percent of alcohol.

Do alcoholic beverages cause weight gain?  A statement said in passing by climber Marc Twight about alcohol intake and weight gain got me to thinking about my own weight struggles.  Alcohol is a sugar, an appetite stimulant of sorts, and (a bit of a) toxin.  That means several things, especially for men, since we are physiologically capable (because of body contents) to handle more alcohol at a sitting.  We're more likely to eat along with our beverage than women are.  Think about it, guys - go to a sports pub to bend an elbow and watch the favorite football team on Saturday afternoon.  What are we ordering to go along with it?  Chances are more likely we order something starchy, meaty, and crudites (that's cut-up raw veggies, boys...) for us, thank you very much.  Add to that the fact our liver wants to process the alcohol and get it out of our system first, and you have food that will be delayed in processing.  We aren't burning it off, so our body will store it for later.  Women, on the other hand, are less likely to gain weight from moderate alcohol intake.  So, food, not alcohol, is the culprit.  So we need to call that "beer belly" what it really is...perhaps a "burrito belly?"  And while I've cut back to two (give or take one) beers a day...or none...what's really going to help me lose the extra inch or two which has settled in the last year is more pushing of legs.  And less eating of wings.

Is there a better post-run recovery beverage?  Yes.  The challenge lies in taking in the right blend of nutrition; carbohydrates, protein, electrolytes and such, without taking in more calories than your body truly needs.  If you're running or engaging in an endurance event for an extended period of time the major players in the market are all pretty much the same.  But if you're just doing an hour at the gym on the ellpitical trainer or treadmill you're probably better off with a bottle of cool water.  After that you can go have the beer. 

But keep a close eye out for that burrito.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Me Against The Watch

Before I start talking about the main topic, I have to confess this time of year, with a lead-in to another Olympic Games, is a sports junkie's dream.  It has been good for my recovery.  I’ve initiated my own little ‘occupy the couch’ movement with the US Olympic swimming and track/field trials, topped by the Tour de France as the background. 
While many of the participants of the larger ‘occupation’ movements were nebulous in what they desired, I have two goals:  The first goal is to let the lingering tendonitis in my ankles and knees completely heal.  It’s simple:  The only way to recover from an overuse injury is not to overuse what gets injured.  The second goal is to motivate myself into a frenzy of smart training once the Olympics are over.  It’s still going to be infernal, but I have a gym membership and a flexible schedule, so early morning and late evening training is not a problem.
Track and field events, and the Tour de France cycle race, have more in common than the average television spectator might guess, for a number of reasons:  When there are preliminary and semi-final heats at a track meet, the goal of most every athlete is to finish either in a position where they automatically qualify for the next round or in as fast a time as possible to be selected.  Does the athlete necessarily want to finish in first place?  All they need to do is exert just enough energy to qualify, save their energies for the final heat when a win means something. 
During the years when Lance Armstrong won seven Tours de France, he didn’t win every single stage.  He’d win a mountain stage here, and a road stage there; he would finish consistently close enough to the front of the pack every time he was on the road. 
There were races during the Olympic Trials, like the final of the women’s 5,000-meter run and the 3,000-meter steeplechase, where the leading runners not only had to win (or finish in the top three) to qualify, but also had to push the pace of the race in order to make the Olympic qualifying standard.  Some of the athletes collaborated with training partners and co-competitors to ensure a fast pace.  Others felt the need to go “off the front” and do it alone. 
Road stages of the Tour de France (and other cycling races) are a collaborative effort between teams and individual riders, both to push the pace or to hold the pace back…depending on their own best interests.  But there also is what is known in cycling as the race of truth.  Many stage races, including the Tour de France, begin with a short prologue individual time trial and also have one or two longer individual time trials during the course of the event.  The ‘race of truth’ sorts the good from the great athlete.  A rider can win a grand tour without being a great individual rider but there’s no way to win without being a good individual rider.  The time trial exposes every weakness in training, more so than the typical mass-start race.  There’s nobody to hide behind; no teammate to help pick up the pace should they falter. 
For runners, it’s more difficult is it to run a race going off the front alone without a supportive pacer than as part of a pack of individuals with near-identical fitness.
I trained under a coach who (i know) adjusted my training efforts based on recent racing results.  I never did time trials on my own because I ran at a level where I was out of reach of the really good runners and ahead of the slower ones…after the first mile of a race I was usually in “no-man’s land.”  But, when training a runner who is focused on, say, the half-marathon or the marathon, I like to schedule a 5,000-meter time trial on the roads to judge their fitness and make adjustments to their training paces.  It doesn’t necessarily have to be an organized 5K race (although I prefer a certified course), and it might not be until somewhere around six-to-twelve weeks out, but I prefer a course which resembles the terrain or conditions for their target event.
The goal of the time trial is either to run it at a slightly faster pace than the previous time trial, or to run it at the same time, but with a lower perceived effort.  If the athlete’s previous 5K time trial was at a pace where a few seconds of improvement will move them to a higher Daniels’ VDOT score, and subsequently faster training paces, I prefer the “same time at less effort” result.  Just like “heat racing,” the goal is not to light the fuse for a fantastic short race effort six, eight, or ten weeks out from the longer target event, but to develop the runner’s confidence; hiding an “extra gear” inside their head which they can save for race day.  It's the sum total of good runs, rather than a single great workout surrounded by a bunch of crappy ones, which are going to help define a running performance.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Running Shoes Are Like Toilet Paper

I think I've mentioned in the past that almost nothing is a "sacred cow" topic; by that I mean an individual (or group of) runners' Miranda rights...

For those who have never watched a police drama on television, the Fifth Amendment of the US Constitution protects an individual against making a horse's behind of themself, or worse, as long as their mouth stays closed.  Once their mouth opens, it's pretty much "game on" for this coach.  Anything you say can and (probably) will be used against you.  Or as an illustration in a blog post.  This weekend, Teri and Charley provided two separate pieces of inspiration.  Teri by a topic of conversation, Charley by his (first or second in a year) absence.  Charley missed the Sunday morning "sort-of-long run" because of several nasty blisters on the bottom of his feet and toes.

Charley wears good, comfortable shoes when we run together on Sunday mornings.  He changes them out every 400-to-500 miles.  He tries to stay with the same brand, model and type which works best for his build, mileage demands and foot type -- all of the things I've preached, cajoled and ranted about over the past seven years.  When we do hash runs on Saturday afternoons, however, Charley wears old, beat-up shoes -- he saves his good ones for training. 

Two dozen Hash House Harriers suspected last Saturday's trail was going to be swampy or sandy in nature.  We were all fooled; eighty percent of the trail was either on a gravel fire road or a paved bike path.  Definitely not the terrain for the shoes Charley wore.

We were all dealing with damage of one sort or another:  Teri and Pete ran another 5K in infernal conditions; Suzanne and I were almost out of the woods from our minor overuse issues after the Ottawa Half-Marathon (madness begets madness in the Bowen household).  Otherwise it was a nice morning to engage in an easy trot/hike, followed by breakfast.

I don't recall how or where toilet paper came into the discussion, but Suzanne said something about my preference for high-quality paper.  It might seem silly to most people, but after years of public school "single sheet at a time" dispensers, filmy porta-john tissue, and sandpaper-like wiping material in several European countries (It's simple to tell an American-owned vehicle in Europe; just look for the toilet tissue holder on the back dash.) I feel justified in making certain I place good quality (comfortable!) stuff next to the tenderest parts on my body.

I can never stress enough in many areas, especially when we talk about comfort or support, you get what you pay for.  I don't have any expertise in the area of jogging brassieres, so I cannot speak directly to them.  However, the "trial of miles" tends to drop a lot of barriers between the sexes -- only the most personal of secrets remain.  My wife has her preferences in support, which don't necessarily align with those of the female athletes I train.  That's probably why there are different styles of support garment, much like different types of running shoe.

The running outlet/race expo/e-store fifty-percent-off deal at first glance might seem like a great concept, but the (temporary) pain message which travels the meridian between the hip pocket and the brain -- when spent on the right product -- will not last as long as buyers' regret, chafing, blisters and (perhaps) musculoskeletal injury.   You really do get what you pay for.  When it comes to your tender parts price should be no object.