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.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Speed First, or Endurance?

"So, what is it you guys do on Saturday morning?"

After eighteen months of "social" training and a year of "un-retiring," the question comes from Teri, my wife's friend.

I shoehorn in a brief statement about "perceived effort" before a friend at the table breaks into the conversation with a "typical champagne brunch" topic. The specifics of my workouts can be explained in 25 words or less, fortunately. The method behind the madness, on the other hand, takes a little longer.

There are two schools of thought in the running world when it comes to run speed and endurance: One faction believes endurance is the Aristotlean prime mover; the other states that endurance is merely speed extended. I used to be in agreement with the first group; now I find I'm of the latter.

Why do I believe the "first comes speed, then comes endurance" order of business? Regardless of the pace, all runners start off running for a short period of time, then stretch it out as they learn the pace necessary to complete the duration. Both speed and endurance can be built upon and improved, given enough persistence and patience.

The endurance-first school looks at a person who runs four-to-five hours a week, like Teri, and says consistent running leads to small increases in fitness over time. Laid out on a graph with the x-axis (floor) representing time and the y-axis (wall) representing fitness - defined as any number of things...VO2 max score, resting heart rate, 5K time, and so on - the line will markedly jump in favor of the 'y' right off the bat, then jump less markedly until a steady state is reached.

All other factors being equal, and they rarely are unless you live in a laboratory, this increase on the y-axis will happen until about six weeks. At that point there is no more benefit to gain. I know many runners who are pleased to stay at the plateau point of their fitness. However, a runner who wants to leave the plateau and increase their fitness some more needs to change the stress - lengthen the time or distance run, find more challenging terrain, or increase the intensity (speed).

Each of the "stress changes" have their benefits and drawbacks; most persons who take up running as a fitness activity already have the majority of their day-planners booked-up with other things. There's only so much time that can be taken up by running that does not infringe upon the other activities which enable us to be responsible adults, as well as eat and sleep indoors.

When I use the term "challenging terrain," I mean terrain changes, such as hills. Persons who live in urban areas, or parts of the country which lack major elevation changes often have to make do with the use of treadmills or man-made structures.

So for me, the integration of speed training is the most-efficient means to increase running fitness. This can be done through unfocused "speed play" as part of one or more of the week's runs, or it can be a planned-out once- (or twice-) weekly session.

Local runners look at the description of the workouts from the outside, when I've posted what the group ran, and think the training is difficult. Then, they watch the group going through their paces and believe the workouts to be easy. Really, it's a blend of both.

Let's go back to the speed versus endurance argument. I'll assume you're an experienced runner, able to run at least a 5K. If I assign a workout, and say you're going to do three miles at a pace that's faster than you could maintain for a 5K race, you might probably get back in your car and leave. 'I'm going to break down,' you'd say.

But what if I tell you you're going to three sets of 10 x 160, at a pace a little faster than you can hold comfortably for 5K, with some easy jogging or walking between each repetition? You might stick around; you'd probably make it through the workout and perhaps be a little tired at the end. Were I to pick you up the next day, take you to the track, and ask you to do the same probably could.

In a couple of weeks I might throw in some 200s, and later on some 300s, and even later on some 400s...just to keep things interesting.

In about six to eight weeks you might even decide to jump in a 5K and WOW! Perhaps you lowered your best 5K time, or you ran more or less the same time but felt less drained. And you didn't have to resort to the classic "quarter mile repeats until you lose your lunch" workout we almost forgot from high school days.

It doesn't take too much work to gain some free speed; perhaps as little as three miles of speed-focused work during the week, in little pieces.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Winter Always Getting Your Hopes Up

Winter running, especially winter in the 'more temperate' regions of the U.S., is etched deeply into the lore and literature of running. It's not surprising to me, come to think of it, that the author of the most-widely read running cult novel written in the English language spent his early running years here in the (occasionally) Sunshine State of Florida. Every autumn when I pick up my copy of "Once A Runner," it is not long before I get to the part of the tale where Quenton Cassidy muses about the overcast, wet and oft-times windy conditions known to be part and parcel with life in the central portion of the Florida peninsula. My friend (Captain) Steve Kessler down in the Keys does not have to worry so much about any climatic condition which vaguely resembles anything near those in the remainder of the Republic. Truth be told, holiday lights and decorations are gorgeous, but tinsel appear as out-of-place in Key West as a distance runner appearing...

I was going to say "all-you-an-eat buffet," but John L. Parker's tale, about my old coach (Jarrett Slaven) in the follow-up novel, "Again to Carthage," put that analogy to rest.

I think you understand what I mean. We all have conditional challenges as runners which require regular confrontation. Could be heat. Could be elevation changes. Could be wind or rain. There are some conditions for which you can prepare by adjusting the terrain or the time of day when the workout occurs. My Louisiana friends who use bridges for hill training do this quite often.

Winston Groom's fictional "Forrest Gump" described the universe of rain with nuances which approached what snow is to the Inuit and "shiggy" is to the experienced hasher. A late-autumn drizzle affects the psyche of the distance runner differently than does that of a mid-summer "cow-pee-on-a-flat-rock" downpour which happens every one-o'clock in the afternoon in Tampa or Orlando.

Weather phenomena isn't only a varying degree of annoyance, it can be double-edged in nature. The same 15 mile-per-hour breeze (Growing up in southern New Mexico a day with wind less than 15 miles-per-hour was considered "calm.") which kicked you in the teeth on the way out also moderated your body temperature. Turn for home, though, on an out-and-back, and you have both a ten-second-per-mile negative split and a ten-degree increase in the "feels-like" temperature.  Loop courses aren't always the solution for windy climes; on the really bad days it's a crap shoot on whether you get a headwind the entire time. I once had a 50-mile training ride in dreary, windy conditions where I swear I rode into the teeth of a 20-mile-per-hour headwind the entire time. I'd approach a turnpoint with a sense of relief, only to have that, 'oh, no...' moment as the breeze kicked up again. 

There is nothing else an athlete can do to train for those conditions, other than to get out into it on occasion. I believe training in conditions which are less-than-optimal provides the athlete more than just the physiological benefits of whatever the assigned workout focused.

The runner who learns to train with efficient form and calm mind on the nasty days; not exerting needless energy (Matt Fitzgerald, in his book on the 1989 "Iron War" Ironman world championship, called it "burning matches.") by struggling against the weather, is the athlete who is "miles ahead" on the race day. I'm not saying they don't want to complain on race day, but they're less likely to do so. They've been out in this "soup" before; it's a familiar "meal," and they'll find nourishment in it.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Yule Be Sorry...Give That Runner A Better Gift

If you're paying really close attention to this post, especially in the days before Christmas, it's likely you are one step out from going into the doghouse; deep enough you'll mistake it for a covered bridge. It's a sure guarantee my children, my grandchildren and the friends who don't drink that much beer with me will either give me a gift card to a restaurant or to the local running emporium. Frankly, I'm appreciative but a tad underwhelmed. Certainly it is better than shaving soap and a moustache trimming kit, but let's just say it lacks a little bit of imagination.  Especially when I only grow my 'stache during Movember. 

If I were going to play Santa but only had a few dollars left to spare because the last good pair of running shoes took up a healthy chunk of my athletic budget, here are some of the things I would consider for the running enthusiast on my list...

A race number belt. Most multisport athletes swear by these things, and the latest iterations come not only with a means of clipping on the racer's ever-important race (bib) number, but also have small storage zipper pouches which can hold keys, identification cards, folding money, plastic-wrapped baggies of toilet paper...ten to fifteen bucks, tops.

Shoe pocket. Those zipper belts are great, but perhaps you don't really need to carry a lot, or all you want to carry is a car key. Or you need a different way to attach one of those wonderful accelerometer "footpods" to your running shoes. Nothing says "love," or at least "security," like hook-and-loop fasteners. You can probably find a good pocket for the cost of a Papa John's large one-topping pizza.

Ankle reflectors. There are people who actually don't mind running at all hours of the day or night. In some places it's just too darned hot to run at any time while the sun is out, anyhow. But that's another story.

Running without lighting, reflective or light-colored clothing after dark is just asking for a world of trouble; turning a training run into a hood-ornament modeling session. Once again, a good one is made with spring-loaded plastic, lined with terry-cloth...ten bucks each. So for a Jackson you might be able to keep your running friend from being part of a Lincoln.

Another interesting gift concept:  How many times have you been on a training run, come back to your car, and been in need of a cold pack. But you don't want to buy a bag of ice from the local Quickie-Mart...or the local Quickie-Mart is miles away? A box of single-use chemical cold packs could save the day. Break the bag separating the two chemicals, shake, and you have cold therapy at a moment's notice for your bruises, aches, and dingers. It might not be as good as a bag of frozen peas, but at a buck a whack it can't hurt.

At least until you can buy a big slushie.

Here's the last one for now, and another one for which we have triathletes to thank...

Shoelaces are wonderful devices, but they can be a royal pain in the back-side if not at the right tension. Provide a little too much slack and the shoe flops about...or you hit a mud puddle and the shoe stays while you continue onward. Too tight a lace job and the foot doesn't have enough mobility. Either way you end up miserable. And there is nothing worse during the course of a race than to have your shoe's laces decide to not stay the way you set them at the beginning. A pair of elastic laces not only help to keep the shoes at the optimal tension at the beginning of the run, but as your feet swell (mine do, I'm certain yours do too) the shoe still expands, without you having to stop and re-tie. And, they do come in a variety of colors, just in case you're in the mood to match or accessorize your kicks. Depending on the conditions, a single pair of elastic laces can last during the life span of two pairs of shoes.

I hope these few small holiday recommendations help you think about some of the little - and highly needful - things which are important to a running enthusiast. Most, if not all, of these items can be found at either your local running or triathlon shop, or at the major sporting goods chain store. 

Have a fantastic Christmas holiday and if you don't have a replacement sockliner for your shoes, that fruitcake is not going to work. You can send it to me; I happen to like the stuff.

So Ya Wanna Be A Coach?

We all want to leave something permanent after we, er, "leave," something which says "this is my essence. This is what I'm about." The fortunate often have the knowledge others enjoyed the fruit of our labor; something as brief as a three-minute guitar solo, enduring as a social policy or a book, or ephemeral as a philosophical stance. A swim coach friend reminded me years ago, 'Mike, everyone likes the idea of having an event named after them, but they forget that in most cases for it to happen they have to DIE.' Psychologist Erik Erikson described our lives as stages which continually needed resolution, with the eventual development of virtues like hope, will, purpose, competence, fidelity, love, care and wisdom.

At this coach's stage the conflict between generation and stagnation comes to the fore: Some call it a mid-life crisis. I prefer to call it a desire to pass what little I've learned to someone else. The young man on whom I've focused training this past year, Ashley, says he wouldn't mind coaching other runners. I wondered how to talk about this until re-reading a piece written by chef/writer/travel program host Anthony you really want to be a coach, eh?

First off, I love coaching. I learned to love it from coaches who invited me onto their teams, spent their free time running, drinking coffee, Gatorade and...yes, the occasional beer...with me. That kind of love gets me through days when athletes crash and burn spectacularly for no apparent reason. The rare public compliment and thanks from the athlete for, say, helping them to qualify for Boston, or run a personal best, or finish a marathon or an Ironman triathlon outweigh any paycheck I could imagine receiving. If I were to hire an accountant to determine the benefit and the cost, I probably spend more money and invest more resources into working with others than I receive.

Nobody in their right mind - from the volunteer track coach at the local high school all the way up the food chain to Alberto - goes into coaching with the express intention to make money. Coaching to get people through the door of your business? Do you plan to work with elite athletes, or up-and-comers? I guess if you are in the running biz you'll get to rub shoulders with the elites, who are, from my limited experience, really neat people.

Unless you go into coaching after collegiate or post-collegiate elite running, or your mission is like Alberto's, the Hanson brothers', and a few others, you'll most likely work with people with real lives, 40-hour-a-week demands and limited resources. Like panning for gold, working with the citizen-athlete involves lots of digging for that one little sparkle which vindicates all the effort.

How to get in? If you're affiliated with a college program, or a really good high school program, or a really good citizen-athlete program, communication with the coaching staff is most likely the foot-in-the-proverbial-door. Ask if you can help out, observe how the staff work with the athletes, ask lots of questions about what they believe and how they came to that point. Most importantly, listen. Training seminars through USA Track and Field (USATF) and the Road Runners Club of America (RRCA) provide a certain cachet and networking opportunity, especially if you plan to work with citizen-athletes.

Every coach has a short list of titles which they've read and learned the basics of running form, physiology, psychology, which lays the foundation of how to work with athletes. Visit the local bookseller and perch in the coffee shop to thumb through ones you don't have yet; make friends with the local used bookseller to keep their eyes out for your wish list. I've purchased books from authors with whom I've fervently disagreed, but I read it to know what the rest of the world thinks. And not just training books, or books on physiology and fitness are my grist. Biographies of athletes and coaches provide great insight into what worked, what failed, and what failures...when modified, worked in a different situation.

Did I ask whether you were prepared to spend every weekend, or every evening, standing along the edge of a track facility when your spouse and kids wanted to do something else...with you in attendance? Sacrifices sometimes have to be made. Speaking of sacrifices, how about your own training? The coaching act is more zero-sum than most think. And will you run the same races as your athletes or stand along the side imploring them to go one second faster? What about the moments when the athlete just doesn't have the day which you or they hoped, and they hear the snarky comments? The coach needs to exhibit a grace bordering on being thick-skinned and deaf toward those persons criticizing the training and the athlete from the outside, as well a sense of empathy and compassion to those inside the group. And when the athlete decides it's time to move on to another group or another coach, it's especially more important to exhibit both empathy and the grace.

Ask any guy or gal who has been addressed at least once as "coach," who has stood along the side of a roadway, a track curb, or a finish chute if they'd want it any other way. Most likely they'd tell you 'no.'

Monday, December 16, 2013

Swifter, Higher, Stronger...More Aware

It's dark, chilly and (sometimes) difficult to remain motivated about running at this time of the year. Thank goodness for YouTube and its seemingly-endless treasure trove of running clips. When I get tired of watching track races I'll pull up cross-country skiing, biathlon, and speed skating videos. After an evening of watching biathlon or cross country skiing I am less likely to complain about forty-something-degree weather on a Sunday morning; at least there's no snow. Snow is perfectly fine; I've lived in areas of the world where it tends to accumulate, the reason I'm in Florida.

The scientists and nice people in white lab coats have all the impresive numbers about cross-country skiers, that they're blessed with the ability to perform sustained exercise far beyond the rest of us mortals. Numbers don't always tell the entire story, especially when a cross country skier or biathlete boogies up and down hills for anywhere up to three hours...until they cross the finish line, when they collapse like they were struck with a pole-ax.

That tells me the brain plays more in this "swifter, higher, stronger" equation that we care to admit, my friends.

Last night I watched what I believe to be a two-pronged object lesson: While there are two different forms of cross-country skiing - classic and skate - and races - the mass-start (where everyone goes off the line at the same time; first one to the finish wins) and the pursuit (where each skier leaves at thirty-second intervals) - long-track speed skating is a two-person (at most) event, with the slowest seeded skaters going first and the fastest going last.

On top of the obvious conditions - those of a frozen, nearly-traction-nonexistent surface below - the skater must change lanes over the course of each 400-meter lap; if they skate on the inside lane this lap, they'll be on the outside lane on the next. If the pace between the two athletes racing in the pair are nearly alike, a skater can benefit, for brief periods, from decreased wind resistance.

And since each skater goes off either alone or with one other person, feedback from the coach about previous split, form reminders, encouragement to go faster, and the like is crucial. Especially in the longer distance races, where if not for the fact the skater is going fast for a sustained period, and making left-hand turns, they'd most likely "go to their happy place" until the race end.

The last heat I watched had the world record holder for the distance. The pair went off, and after several laps the skater was ten seconds ahead of the other skater on the ice, and the fastest skater in the competition. Victory was certain with a couple of laps left. The skater finished 250 meters ahead of his opponent, but they were both in the same lane; one of the two failed to switch lanes some time during the race.

After the finish a replay showed the lead skater had one of those "happy place" moments, drifting to the outside lane...and thought they were supposed to stay to the inside for another lap. Because the skater was so far ahead one of the two coaches didn't realize until it was too late and the judges were huddling to ensure they made the right call. The skater was livid, slinging his glasses across the track interior. No victory, no competition record, all because of a momentary lapse of attention. Minutes later along the track interior, the athlete sat sulking as he removed his skates; yards (and worlds) away, the coach knelt, punching a text message on a phone and most likely wishing the earth could swallow him whole.

Not much you can say during a high-profile event when you've prepared an athlete for everything but that one little thing which is certain to bite you in the behind. And more often than not that little thing lurks somewhere between the ears.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Your Running Dollar...Spend It Wisely

Have you ever had one of those weekends where it seemed like EVERYONE had a race going on?  You know, ones that without the benefit of cloning (or violating the laws of physics) it would be impossible to be everywhere? 

We all get 'em.  If you're in a metropolitan area it's a given. 

For guys like me on the Florida Gulf Coast it's more like the stories my old coach used to tell about the running circuit in southern Ohio.  I guess, back in the day, there were enough little races giving out cash money to top finishers that guys would get up early enough to drive from one race venue to another to see who had showed up.  Once they found a race where they felt they had the chance to win some money they would stop and register.

We don't have cash prize money being given out at races, but every so often there can be as many as five or six races of varied size and quality in a 30-minute drive of my house.  This last weekend there were five; three of which were brand new events fresh out of the box.

The irony of the weekend, to me, had to be what I guess can only be called "A Tale of Two Races."  One race was a first year event which drew over 500 participants.  The other was a third year event which had less than 100...after a debut race with nearly 600 and a follow-up participation of 200 runners the next year.  I can't say, much like the three most-important qualities in real estate (location, location and location), that successful race promotion boils down to marketing, marketing and marketing.  I can say, having been a race director and a race participant, there are things I've found which are most important to the individual participant.

First, have an interesting race concept.  I've done the only age-graded pursuit event in the area; once the individual runner has an idea what it means and the light bulb goes off in their head, they either register or go on to another event.  The race which had 500 this year was able to run their course on the runway of the local airport...a first-time occurrence.

Second, have a USATF certified course.  I'm particular about this.  I measure for certification; I don't run on courses which aren't certified.  They don't have to be my courses, contrary to what my local running friends might say, but they better be certified.

I tell race directors, 'if you have a certified course place the number on all the materials related to the race.'  The certificate number has the two-digit state abbreviation, a five-digit number starting with the year of certificate, and the initials of the state/regional certifier.  So, a course in Florida certified this year (a certificate is good for ten years, with a few exceptions), would have a certificate number of FL13XXXEBM.  To see a list of certified courses you can go to the USATF web site, click on the "Products and Services" tab, select the "Road Course Certification" link and then the "Find a Certified Course" link.  You can search there for any active certified course of any distance in any state.  A table comes up as part of the search result with links to the course map, which can be printed for use.  Just because you didn't measure the course yourself doesn't mean you can't use it...but I'd recommend thanking the person or group who paid for it in the first place.

If you're not going to use a certified course, then make certain the course is accurate.  In case you didn't know, a 5,000-meter road race is not 3.1 miles (add 37 feet), nor is a marathon 26.2 miles (add 100 feet).  This last weekend the 500-person race had a course which was billed as a 5K and was closer to 2.9 miles, according to the most liberal GPS measurement.  The race that had less than 100?  It had a certified course.

Third, how about an interesting T-shirt?  A good t-shirt with a catchy design gets worn throughout the year, especially if it's not a season-specific (long-sleeved with seasonal artwork) design.  Find a decent artist, do a shirt in technical fiber, use a color which isn't often used...let your imagination be your guide.  I know some running clubs do not place the event sponsor information on their shirts.  I've been a sponsor without "shirt recognition," and I've tried to get as many of the sponsors on a race shirt.  Kind of a no-win situation for the RD.

Fourth, communicate the cause.  As a race director it's the best way to get both sponsors and participants.  As a potential consumer it could mean the difference between me doing your race and that of the person down the street.  I'm likely to look at participating in a fund-raising event than a for-profit's not always that way but close.

Fifth, what's the value-added?  Everyone wants to know 'what's in it for me?'  Will there be a good post-race party?  What is the potential award structure?  I don't mind bringing my own cooler of beer so I can crack one open at the end while I'm cooling off...but in that case the other factors better be quite good.

A good value-added example I've seen was a nearby running club's Thanksgiving Day "Recycle Run."  This race is an event my wife and I have run almost every year since before we got married.  For a ten-dollar entry fee we received our choice of leftover / recycled run t-shirt, an accurate (now certified) and scenic 5,000-meter road course, use of a publicly-maintained bathroom facility near the finish line, munchies and a kegerator of quality beer provided by the local running emporium.  Award winners receive their choice of cast-off awards or award remnants from previous club events.  It's almost a certainty we're coming home with at least one and often two coffee mugs or beer glasses.  To us, it's become a holiday tradition, complete with Waffle House on the way back home, so as to keep from eating too much turkey later in the day.

It doesn't hurt, running enthusiast, to take a closer look before you buy into an event; make certain you're paying for what you feel is the most important quality of your running event.  And race director, if you find your event is dying on the vine, it's probably because either you're not providing what the running community wants.

Michael Bowen is a training specialist/running coach who lives and trains in the Pensacola, FL area.  He works with runners of all ability levels, in-person and remotely.  He and his wife, Suzanne travel frequently to New Orleans to participate in and support running events and triathlons.  He also writes two 'blogs, "If I Were Your Coach..." and "Red Polo Diaries."

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Keeping Me On My Toes

Coaching is not strictly a one-way relationship, strictly limited to the administration of varied degrees of physical discomfort.  A smart coach, in the words of some, is able to work themselves right out of the job description.  One coach mentioned that the ideal coach/athlete relationship can transform from one that is prescriptive to one that is more-collaborative in as little as one year's time.  I welcome the occasional good question from an which not only encourages me to stay on my toes, but to elaborate (in a Twitter-like (25-words, more-or-less) mode) my coaching philosophy.  The post-marathon recovery-slash-prepare-for-an-upcoming-half-marathon-cycle has sparked at least one really good question from one of my athletes:

"How do you determine exactly what particular workout to run, specifically the distance and intensity?"

The answer depends much on the focus.  If the athlete focus is on 5K and 10K races, events which can be trained for in five-to-six hours a week, the repeats during a workout range from 200 meters to 20 minutes, at intensities as high as nearly-all-out all the way down to anaerobic threshold pace. I usually keep the duration of each set in the workout limited to the same 20-minute rule of thumb. Depending on athlete level of experience (and other subjective conditions) I may assign three or four sets during a workout.

Intensities and distances during the time of year from late November-to-early January are maintenance, where I ask the athlete to pretty much place a check-in-the-box on the training calendar with efforts at 50-to-60 percent of maximum effort.  Starting in January effort, distance, duration, amount of recovery and a couple of other variables adjust upward and downward in varying degrees until a six-to-eight week stretch (where the big racing happens) is reached in mid-April...after which the maintenance cycle begins again until early August.  The August-to-November progression has cycles about a week shorter than that in January-to-May, but the difference between the two is otherwise negligible.  If there's a half-marathon or a marathon on the horizon, then the classic "look at the target date, move back 16-to-24 weeks, start your training" plan is added to the mix.

When it comes to marathon training runs, in fact, when it comes to most all of the training...nearly three-fourths of the training run miles during the cycle are (ideally) run at paces which are SLOWER than my typical track workout repeat. The other 25-percent can be almost evenly divided between three workouts; two which are self-mediated and one coached by me.

To teach an athlete to become an active participant in their own training it takes a blend of art and science, discussion and debate, and in some cases a bit of trial and error.  Several great reference books, thoroughly read, can provide the basic principles by which to effectively train.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Marathon Training - Not Only The Long Run

One day out of the training week - specifically, the belief how long that day should be - is at the heart of the most contentious debates about marathon training.

Why do some training plans have runs on the schedule which nearly approximate the race distance; others have long runs which go beyond, and some have lower long run mileage? 

I originally wanted to look closer at which plan most closely aligned to which type of runner, but that effort would be duplicative.  There are questions which do need to be asked, either by a running coach or by runners themselves, before even considering a marathon training plan.

First, go out and run for sixty minutes.  Multiply the distance run by the number of hours each week you have available without taking away from your family, friends and employer. If the number exceeds 60 most plans will work with a few adaptations.  

Then again, it might also be attributable to the fact you overlooked sleeping...don't worry, you'll need sleep soon enough.  

Or you aren't mathematically-inclined.  Or you're delusional.

If the number is between 45-and-60 you're probably realistic and time-constrained like the rest of us.  Again, there are plans which will work to get you to the starting line more-or-less ready to tackle the event.  

A runner with a "magic number" of less than 45 should either consider shorter-distance racing or place a podiatrist, orthopedic surgeon, chiropractor, massage therapist - and perhaps psychotherapist - on personal retainer.

Once you figure out you have enough free time (after informing your family that all weekend plans for the next six months are hereby CANCELLED) it's time to choose a training plan.  When choosing, it's important to consider how much of the training volume - and your state of mind - you want to be tied into the outcome of the weekend's long run.

Once you're hip-deep into the plan, say, 13 weeks in...that is definitely NOT the time to find out that the first of six scheduled three-hour (-plus) long runs leave you unable to function for a day-and-a-half and place you miles behind the training volume for the week.  That's when all you can hope for is to increase the duration/distance of the training runs during the week, spread the pounding of that three-hour run across the other five or six days during the week and bring the longest run back down to a more-reasonable two-and-a-half hours.  

Why two and a half hours?  Most of the published training plans were developed for or by elite runners, or their coaches.  The majority of them have learned from trial and error, from hard experience, the basic training principles.  The problem comes when the plans, like "spandex jackets for everyone," as the old song goes, are put out on the market.  Most self-guided runners, especially those who take on the marathon, violate the first law of coaching, "first, do no harm."  Some, like Joe Henderson, place a caveat on their training plan and assume the individual has undertaken a modest start, gradually increased their training volume over time, and have a sufficient base.  In his case, he assumes the runner can complete without injury a long run of ten miles.

Do you have the good sense to know how fast to run each workout?  All of a plan's training runs need to have a reason beyond the conventional wisdom of once-weekly, low-level orthopedic trauma.  The body needs to learn to run efficiently when fatigued, yes, but the challenge is to be able to go out and go out and do some or all of what you just did today tomorrow.  Even the easiest-paced marathon prep long run (50%-70% of max) as short as the 150-minute ceiling recommended by Dr. Jack Daniels has a training impact from which the body will not completely recover for a full day.  That three-hour(-plus) run will probably take the body two days to recover...what are you going to do in the meantime, outside of risk injury?  Is it to teach the body to learn to burn fat in place of glycogen stores which Dr. Timothy Noakes states are nearly-depleted at 20 miles?

Daniels, Luke Humphrey, Keith Hanson, Kevin Hanson, Greg McMillan and many other coaches are prescriptive when it comes to not only the long run, but also the training sessions during the week.  From personal experience, I can say training paces which are too fast during the week can be as detrimental to marathon performance as running the long run too slowly.  That's where different energy systems and muscle fibers are brought into play.

When it comes to marathon training it's not ONLY about how long the long run needs to be.  The questions which need to be asked before and during the entire training cycle include whether the marathon distance may be too much for the training time available. Secondly, can the training plan elements can be adjusted to match athlete strengths and shortcomings?  And lastly, how will the athlete know the body is ready for an change in training volume?

Michael Bowen is a training specialist and running coach who lives and trains in the Pensacola, FL area.  He works with runners of all ability levels, remotely and in-person.  His wife, Suzanne, and he travel frequently to New Orleans to participate in and support running events and triathlons.  He also writes two 'blogs, "If I Were Your Coach..." and "Red Polo Diaries."

Monday, November 18, 2013

Increasing the "Degrees of Separation" from Bacon

"If the furnace is hot enough it will burn just about anything."

This pithy little statement, along with a list of others, has been a dictum of many a distance runner. And for the most part it seems correct. We, as running enthusiasts, love to hear tales about Bill Rodgers' love for pizza (with mayonnaise!), Steve Prefontaine's passion for beer, Don Kardong's belief that without ice cream there would be chaos and darkness.

All of these, and most importantly Dean Karnazes' infamous "pizza/burrito" mash-up, provides us a justification (and for every action, we know there is an equal and opposing justification...) for the dietary indiscretions to which we engage.

Perhaps you're less indiscreet with what you eat than I.

Frankly, I have my loving wife to thank for my diet. Without her I probably would dine on Chinese food, especially the unhealthy items, six days a week...and twice on Sunday. I'm an omnivore of the highest order; the less-expensive and more-quickly prepared, the better. But as of late I've started to think a lot more-critically about what goes into my body. Part of it has to do, not so much with any particular medical issue, but the painfully-obvious fact I'm aging.

As part of a pre-retirement financial planning session, I decided to purchase a supplemental life insurance policy for Suzanne's benefit. Unlike the group life insurance which I have through my employer, this insurer wants me to take a physical examination. Not a particularly harrowing one, but one which includes laboratory work and weight. It's not so much the couple of excess pounds that scare me as much as what might lurk within my bloodstream.

Ignorance, yes, is bliss.

Journalist and food writer Mark Bittman recently posted a 'blog in Outside magazine, titled "Real Men Love Kale." Six years earlier, he'd received the wake-up call from his physician; his "numbers" were all on the bad side. It came down to a choice between medication and modification. Bittman, at that point, was unwilling to give up "cheese, carnitas and chicken biryani" completely. He became what can best be described as "flexitarian." From the moment he awakened in the morning until 6 o'clock in the evening he would engage in a vegan diet. After six p.m. he could eat like any other omnivore, in moderation.

I have friends who run the entire spectrum of vegetarian...from nominal pescatarians (vegetarians willing to eat fish for protein needs) to full-blown vegan. Until I read the Bittner article, the overwhelming majority of vegans seemed to me to be the kind of person who not only wouldn't eat meat, but also demanded you make concessions to suit them. Thoroughly unhappy persons. Given the choice, if forced at gunpoint to change my diet so that I could never eat meat, I would have gladly told the offending person to pull the trigger.

In the past year I've trained a young man who has been a vegan for several years. He's got the "typical" long-distance runner's build. We've talked at length over a few beers (thankfully, beer is a universal foodstuff) about how choosing to not eat animal-based foods affects his training in specific and life in general. Here's what I have taken away, especially in light of the most-recent discussion:

First, it is thoroughly possible to be vegan and have a lousy diet.

My first thought was, "well, of course. Sugar is a plant, right?" But when we look closer at the "typical American" and the separation of up to six degrees between Kevin and his bacon (or his eggs, or his veggies, for that matter...) there appears to be a spectrum - might even look like a bell curve - which runs from "bad diet" to "bad diet."

How much processing are we willing to tolerate for the sake of that really 100-percent chicken in my chicken nugget? How much of that "pink slime" is there next to the processed cheese-like substance between the hamburger buns?

And why, in heavens' name, amy I paying for it?

And this willingness to settle for speed and convenience on the one hand is offset by an attitude...a willingness to spend the same amount I used to spend twenty years ago on beer, but get one-sixth the beer, which better be quality.

Second, it doesn't hurt to know how to cook, and well.

My loving bride is a good cook, hindered only by two things, time management and - for want of a better term - recipe compliance. When she follows the instructions to a "T," like baking sugar cookies with the grandchildren, the end result is a wonderful thing. If she's rushed, let's just say the meals are an adventure.

I'm not complaining, mind you. Anything that comes out of the kitchen by my wife's hand has been prepared with the intent to keep me healthy. And my response, like any wise and prudent man, is to sing her praises.

So I cannot bear to go completely over to the vegan side of "the street," like Scott Jurek I am more than willing to be more mindful of what I shove in my mouth, somewhere closer to Dean Karnazes...which means I don't get to try that "pizzarito" until my first ultramarathon...

Michael Bowen is a training specialist/running coach who lives and trains in the Pensacola, FL area. He works with runners of all ability levels, remotely and in-person. He and his wife, Suzanne, trael frequently to New Orleans to participate in and support running events and triathlons. He also writes two blogs, "If I Were Your Coach..." and "Red Polo Diaries."

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

A Tale of Two...?

Last Sunday was marked as a "rest day" on the training calendar. Since the weather was so nice I decided to walk the eight-mile course; you can never tell when a day like that is going to come around. Besides, I needed to break in the pair of running shoes I purchased the day before.

I put on a well-padded pair of socks (I wasn't wearing the silicone heel lifts I wear for running) and snugly tied down the laces before stepping off with our little group of walkers and joggers.

Everything went well for about the first two miles, after which all hell broke loose in the right heel and ankle. It did not resemble the pain or discomfort of a hot spot/blister, but more like the intense pain which comes from an unhappy tendon...the continuing saga of my achilles tendon recovery.

At this time I run an average of 30-to-35 minutes a day for three days with a day of rest in between.  It's likely my body has learned to tolerate the pounding for that exact period of 35 minutes and not that much more.

It makes perfect sense, come to think of it. When I gave my wife the 15-minute head start and then ran my 30-minute workout a couple of Sundays ago, there was that little pop in my ankle not long after. So perhaps the mind has more to do with how well we handle physical stress than we like to think.

I explained this to someone the other day, "...back when I was running 'well,' finishing 10-kilometer races in the 37-to-40 minute range, I would feel beat-up after it was all said and done. The first time I decided to walk a 10-kilometer race, my body was good to go up to the 40-minute point, after which I felt like someone beat me with a nylon stocking filled with a half-dozen oranges."

"And I still had three and-a-half miles to walk."

The mind is only going to tolerate, or help the individual dissociate, what it is used to tolerating. Over time, a new stressor becomes second-nature; the body is ready, more or less, to add a little more stress. Or a new stress.

We used to think muscle cramps on the run had to do with the lack of electrolytes or the lack of hydration, but now researchers have determined there is a neurological factor which is one of the root causes. We get to a point beyond our farthest previous limit, and the brain starts looking at the "gauges" and asking the questions: 'How much farther or longer do you plan to go? Do we have enough resources to make it to that point?' If the brain thinks we're going to do some permanent damage to ourself by going any farther, it begins to shut down communication and transmission of energy to groups of muscle fibers; that's when we see runners 'tie up,' decrease their range of motion or stride length. Once muscle fiber groups get shut down the muscle decides it's not going to work. 

Or work as hard. 

But when you're already walking there's not much else you can do except keep slogging.

So, there are a couple of take-aways from this little tale:  First, there are times when a rest day should be exactly that, and not a regenerative run, or an easy run, or any sort of cross-training.  Second, if you're going to do something foolish, make certain it's on a course where you can take a shortcut as necessary to get back to the end...not an out-and-back.  Third, if you use arch supports, heel pads, or orthotics for walking or running, don't forget to take them with you.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Leaving Siberia

How many of you cross-train? How much of that cross-training is in a group exercise class?

Ever notice what happens when you show up close(r) to the class start time, the only remaining spaces, or bikes, in the case of a spinning class, are near the instructor? The chance of getting a space at the rear of the class is slim or noexistent.

I am one of those persons who actually enjoy being in the front of the classroom.  I joke about having borderline attention deficit disorder (which, I know, is not as funny if you've had to deal with it...), but I do have a problem with focusing my attention if there is a student directly in front of me.  I also have found I pay closer attention if I can chat with the instructor; a learned behavior from my first years of college, when I would go to a class in the morning immediately following a midnight-to-eight shift.  Talking equals wakefulness, no?

(Instructors who have worked with me the past six or seven years are not surprised when Suzanne shows up for a class...she is almost the complete opposite of me. I'm gregarious to the point of garrulous; the missus is stable, steady, and doesn't change all that much. Like her running pace, she locks one steady effort in and doesn't slack until the end.)

Another reason for a bike near the front of the class, and continuous chatter:  If it's a spin class at a gym where I'm paying for the privilege (which it was for a time) I like to make the instructor earn their dollar; 'I came here to get exercised (exorcised?) and by golly, you're going to help me...' The gym where we spin now is on base, so it's one of those small (at no charge) benefits of my employment.  The instructors, whether they are a temporary hire, a substitute, or an auditioning instructor, eventually learn a little about my background.

Depending on how long they stick around the gym.

Last Wednesday an instructor was going through a audition workout with the mid-morning crew; eight students, ranging in age from the mid-40s to the early-60s, varying in fitness level from less-than-six months of steady training to years of "weekend warrior" event participation.

This young lady was enthusiastic and possessed basic knowledge, but I suspected this might have been her first group of students; right off the bat she questioned why the students were closer to the back of the workout room.

Okay. I'll give her a mulligan for that one.

College professor Ira Shor wrote in his 1996 book When Students Have Power: '...the students’ relationship to seating is a significant text revealing the power relations embedded in schooling, or the social power ‘circulating’ in the discipline of school...'

The rear/corner sections of the classroom, or the workout room (the meeting room and the church sanctuary, too, come to think of it) are the physical and emotional domains of the alienated and marginalized, places where, as Shor writes, '...students attempt to participate as thinly in a class as they possibly can...'

I've not only seen this, but heard it more than a few times. When I'm gasping for air, with a puddle (pool, more correctly) of sweat forming underneath the bike, it can be a little frustrating to hear fluent "Siberian" being spoken at the rear of the classroom.  I understand that a workout is a personal thing, but I'm encouraged to see folks working (hurting?) at the same level as I. Suzanne reminds me on many occasions that the folks who don't necessarily look like they are straining to complete the workout are often working as intensely as I...but if you are, at least don't chatter like a bunch of magpies...please?

Why do students occupy the "Siberian" corners of a classroom? Perhaps this has much to do with the attitude of instructors, trainers, and coaches. Put folks in a group with one person in the front on an elevated platform, or on a slightly more enhanced, or better-maintained piece of equipment (furniture) and it appears like Brazilian educator Paulo Freire's description of the "banking concept" of education.

Freire wrote in his most notable work, Pedagogy of the Oppressed that "banking" teachers assume their students know little or nothing and ultimately '...negate(s) education and knowledge as processes of inquiry. The teacher presents himself to his students as their necessary opposite....The students...accept their ignorance as justifying the teachers existence -- but unlike the slave, they never discover that they educate the teacher.'

About 25 minutes into the workout session the instructor had the group in an out-of-the-saddle climb, on the handlebars which extend from the front of the spinning bike - hand position three, for those of you who have done at least one spinning class. She mentioned, "if you want to make this more challenging, do this..." and took one hand off the handlebars, placing it at the small of her back.  That's where the ol' coaching red flag went up. I rarely lift my hand off the spin bike handlebars, and if I do it's to punch the button on my heart rate monitor. Most of the class did not engage in the move, one that would most likely have caused - if attempted on a road bicycle - injury to the student.  But this particular crowd is also one which places implicit trust and confidence in the person at the front.  Fortunately for us (and especially that there were no inexperienced participants) there were no accidents, incidents or bobbles.

Not surprisingly, there are parallels between what happens in some group ex classes and the world of run training/coaching. There's a fine, thin line drawn between people who show up to a track workout or a group run with the intent of doing their own thing and those who show up feeling a little less than optimal for the day and needing something a little different than the plan. Some folks, yes, all they want to do is show up and stay in the periphery, get their workout, and go home.

But there have been others who never seemed to get with the program: on a few occasions in the early years I felt the need to ask the occasional attendee "are you doing my workout, or your own?" Should the athlete tell me what's ailing them, and is honest about the situation, I can recommend an alternative to the original assignment or ask them, "what do you feel like you can do today?" This kind of exchange empowers the athlete and places responsibility as much in their own hands as in those of the coach.

Any coach can suggest what they believe is best for you, but the good coaches can help you find your way out of "Siberia" and discover along with you what's best.

Michael Bowen is a training specialist/running coach who lives and trains in the Pensacola, FL area.  He works with runners of all ability levels, both virtually and in-person.  His wife Suzanne and he travel occasionally to New Orleans to participate in and support running events and triathlons.  He also writes two blogs, "The Red Polo Diaries" and "...If I Were Your Coach."

Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Chase

There are evolutionary biologists, like Harvard's Daniel Lieberman, who have had the audacity to claim humans are beings which are uniquely suited for long distance running, especially when it comes to hunting for food. Body surface area, relative postural stance, internal and external structures...all seemingly tailor-made for chasing other vertebrates to the point of exhaustion, heatstroke, or collapse. Not all that much has changed to this point in time, biologically, save for a few mechanical issues caused by paved surfaces and societal norms. Add to that the little voice in our head which reminds us our food stores are as close as a walk to our car and a drive to the grocer.

Running events in the past couple of years have become less of a hare-and-hounds, catch-me-if-you-can thing and more of a herd activity. Participation is the thing; training group activities, for many (including my Sunday morning) groups, have the emphasis more on the "group" than on the "training." I'm using broad brush-strokes here; if your group is more-competitive then you are blessed to a certain degree.

This last Sunday morning my loving bride and I had the great fortune to (unintentionally) return to our more-ancient, more-predatory selves, if only for 90 minutes.

One of the unintended outcomes from the Achilles' tendon rehab has been that it takes me a little longer to warm-up in the morning. When people hear me grouse about "not being a morning runner," it's not that I dislike running in the morning (I ran a wonderful 7.5-miler one Wednesday morning with Suzanne during the recent government shutdown...) as much as it is I'm not "completely awake." The gastrointestinal system is a given, but my musculoskeletal system also needs an hour at the least from the time I crawl out of bed to the time I'm completely prepared to exert myself.

And sometimes a little longer.

My original plan was to run the first thirty minutes of the Sunday run a little bit faster than my marathon goal, I'm not training for a marathon, but I know what my Boston Qualifying pace is. However, when we got onto the loop my ankle was not feeling quite up to the task. I decided at that point to walk for fifteen minutes, or a mile (whichever came first), and then I would most likely be ready to run.

Suzanne started to run right from the start, leaving myself, three other joggers/runners and the three walkers in her wake.

I started to run at fifteen minutes exactly, at a pace which Pete said was "scalding dogs." Perhaps his dogs were being scalded, but I still felt, old, fat and slow. I thought I should have seen my wife at the two-mile point...I did not see Suzanne until about twenty minutes into my run, a little past three-and-a-half miles.

At that time, I started to push myself; I wanted to see if I could catch her before the four-and-a-half-mile mark on the course, where we would turn and run a quarter-mile before turning on to a residential street.

At four-and-a-quarter-miles, her leg turnover picked up. She hit the four and-a-half mile point about ten seconds before I did, running a solid 9:55/mile pace (her best effort since late 2007). Suzanne told me as we walked back up the road to regroup, "I heard you coming from behind and said to myself, 'there is no way I'm letting him catch me; not today...'"

Pursuing and being pursued during a workout can stir the embers of the competitive fires; simulating the stresses of a road race for the individual runner. What do you do when another runner comes up on your shoulder? Do you throw up the white flag of surrender, do you immediately counter the attack, or do you wait for a later moment to counter?

The pursuit workout can be done on a road course or on the track, intervals between slower and faster runners can be any duration you see fit, but every runner can benefit from a shoulder in the distance they want to catch, or hot breath slowly making its way to the back of their neck.

Yep, that was always is until someone gets hurt.  It was definitely my ankle popped and I had to walk the three miles back, trying to catch everyone.

Michael Bowen is a training specialist/running coach who lives and trains in the Pensacola, FL area.  He works with runners of all ability levels, remotely and in person.  He and his wife, Suzanne, travel frequently to New Orleans to participate in and support running events and triathlons.  He also writes two blogs, "If I Were Your Coach..." and "Red Polo Diaries."

Friday, October 18, 2013

Nervous Time

Nervous time, this next handful of weeks.

I'm not even running...and still it's the same. The four-to-six weeks leading into a target race, depending on the distance, is the most nerve-wracking. Marathoners - or their training plans - are scheduling the longest distance runs for those weekends, and the workouts assigned during the week are shorter in duration. Worst of all, the intensity levels of all of the workouts during that time tend to drop.

Training plans with an overabundance of slow training paces throughout the week lead to slow performances on race day. It stands to reason that an athlete is going to race in the exact same manner as they have trained throughout the cycle. A good plan during the training week lets the runner simulate the latter miles of the target event during the weekend's training run; a 15-to-16 mile training run should simulate how the runner is going to feel from the tenth or eleventh mile forward, not the first fifteen.

The challenge, naturally, is to NOT spend the entire time not working or taking care of family demands out on the road, trail or track in workouts. Train as hard as necessary to achieve the desired results, and no harder. Going longer or harder than necessary cuts into that all-too-precious recovery time.

My speed workout assignments during the last six weeks are harder in intensity, shorter in distance, and longer in recovery time; a ninety-minute workout with 5,000 meters of repeats during the first six-to-eight weeks of a program cycle will drastically reduce itself to 2,500 meters in the last period.

The "more junk-like" miles aren't so much pitched by the wayside as much as they become "optional" added miles during the remainder of the week. The athlete usually pitches the option of adding miles in favor of more recovery.

Taper during the last three weeks is gradual; there still are assigned workouts, the volume decreases by up to fifty percent but the intensity stays closer to race effort until the last week. The more busy an athlete is kept with the business of maintaing effort and recovery the less likely they are to do something foolish like go out for an additional run (and risk injury) because they have more time to spare.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Staying Out Of The Echo Chamber

Visualize a bell curve for a few seconds.

If a person were to honestly measure an attribute of a large population, or a large (truly) random sample, the largest percentage of the population they measure will be close to the center of the range of possible measures.  Height, weight, calorie intake, intelligence quotient...all of these and lots more can be graphed on a curve. Some curves will skew toward the higher end of the measurement range, such as school grades, because measures below a certain point are the cut-off point, and grounds for removal from the population.  Persons can contend that running performances, if measured, would not evenly align to bell curve, but be skewed toward a faster performance.  Lower limits on measurement, like course cut-off times, constrain a statistician from measuring the entire population.  Every person pulled off course because they failed to make an intermediate cut-off is not different than the kid who bombed their ninth-grade language course and didn't get to move on to the tenth grade course.  Smaller population based on selectivity; another good example would be average grades between undergraduates and graduates...graduates are higher on the average because the population is smaller.  In the case of distance running, the un-measured population members would include those who say, "I don't run (blank distance) races; I lack the endurance."

Still with me?

It might not be a direct correlation, but think about our social media contacts.  We start off with a small number of contacts, which increase to either the limit of our account, or to the point where either our contacts decide to no longer keep in contact with us...or we decide to no longer read what they have to say.  Over time we, if not careful, might end up in contact on a regular basis with people who think, act and do pretty much the same way we do.  That echo chamber can be comforting for a time, but left alone with everyone who ABSOLUTELY AGREES WITHOUT YOU WITHOUT RESERVATION is a fantastic recipe for intellectual stagnation.

What's wrong with not working to maintain ones' contacts as closely to the mode (for those who forgot mathematics-or statistics-the highest point of the bell curve)?  I noticed this while home visiting with my father; while we don't necessarily see eye-to-eye on politics or social issues, I try to see his point of view or at least ask his rationale...and explain to him what supports my stand.  Face it, the ability to disagree agreeably has gone by the boards.  In this day in age where everything is posted on the internet rather than printed in a handbill the classical use of source references like news articles, statistical information and scientific research (preferably from independent sources) have been sadly replaced by snappy retort and nasty name-calling.  The first person to describe everyone who fails to agree with them a vulgar or perjorative term "wins."

So what do we have for our "winner," Johnny Olson?  After so many "victories," the only applause left is that Zen koan-like single-handed stuff...and regrettably it's ones' own.

When it comes to running and fitness, there are "conventional wisdoms" and "strongly-held truths" which have been questioned by far too few coaches and few athletes.  My advice to friends who look for running counsel and athletes who train with me?

First, take the time to read any run training manual onto which they can get their hands.  If the book is older (I have several which were written in the early 1980s) the goal is to pick out the eternal training truths.  Even if the training specifics are something to which you may disagree, at least you've taken the time to know the author's underlying philosophy.  A former Olympian's training plan used to be my piƱata, until I took the time to read one of their earliest books.  After the read I learned I disagreed more with the author's disciples than the author.  The ability to tell an athlete why you disagree, and more specifically what you believe, can keep the coach-athlete relationship harmonious.

Second, be prepared to adapt the training truths and "good stuff" to the specifics of your own life. The difference between writing a "C" research paper and one that would be graded an "A" is the ability to take those notecard ideas borrowed from all the authors we read and converting to ones' own life. Not every person has a forty-hour, office-based 9-to-5 job; lives in a nuclear "spouse-and-2.5-children" household, and resides in a town with access to high-tech modalities - or running trails, hills, running tracks, and so forth.  Since the specifics for every runner are different it's a silly idea to quote directly chapter-and-verse.  This makes the difference between a coach and a person who's slapping workouts on paper...and in the case of a self-coached athlete the difference between potential success and failure.

Third, don't hesitate to chat and trade notes, especially with runners who perform consistently well.  Coaches are also a good resource; I love to hear what they're doing with really good runners, or what mistakes they made over the years in the profession...then I go back and adapt or look closer at what I assign, and the why behind it.

While it's nice to be at the mode when it comes to friends, we would much rather be closer to the front end of the bell curve when it comes to our performance.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

A Need to Drink Before Thirst? "Haile" Unlikely!

Well, if that isn't a shame...

Who knew someone not running with us needed the (eight) six-ounce water bottles I set next to the bus bench at the three-mile point on our Sunday morning loop?  Really they couldn't have.  Not that early in the morning, with temperatures more-resembling a typical San Diego day than late September in the Florida Gulf Coast.

Or Suzanne - who ran ahead of the pack this morning - decided she needed all of the water for herself.  Not likely; she'd have taken one bottle and left the rest.  Three extra pounds outside of her cell phone pouch?  It doesn't make sense.

So the person who decided to police the area of the group's water bottle stash could easily be mistaken for (another term for) a hot water bottle. One ending in "bag."

The water support would have justified a one-minute break at the hill top, but we weren't going to suffer for the lack.  Not even if the weather had been "typical" summer would we have been in peril.  At our average pace of a very-pedestrian twelve minutes per mile (to go off the front is acceptable but nobody is left behind in our group) all of the concerns which get written about in major magazines were moot.

Strange, everything I used to consider conventional wisdom about hydration and rehydration was pretty much all, er, mistaken.  Perhaps marketing is the better term.

I ordered a copy of Timothy Noakes' book "Waterlogged:  The Serious Problem of Overhydration in Endurance Sports" right about the time we went on our Key West training camp.  It arrived not long before we went to run Rock n' Roll Virginia Beach, but I was in the mood for more, er, uplifting fare while being stuck on planes and in airports.  Don't ask me why I took it along when I flew out west, then.  Oh, time.  I forgot.  Lots more time to digest the material.

To read research - or what passes to be - it doesn't hurt to look closer at the researcher's footnotes.  In the case of Noakes one finds no stone is left unturned; his 900-page-plus "Lore of Running" has a 100-page bibliography, only available by download from the publisher's web page.  The familiarity with the body of research from the earliest years of his professional career (he did his own share of back-tracking) has placed him directly at odds with the booming sports-beverage industry, the research groups funded by them and the publications referred to by the mainstream media.  Noakes' well-aimed shots at a national newspaper's health-and-fitness editor in the later stages of the book reinforced many of my own convictions.

The book is not a training manual.  But it's recommended for any person interested in running races where they'll be out for longer than two hours. For most, that is the half-marathon and longer.  Read the first chapters to place a finger on the pulse of the human side of exercise-associated hyponatremia/encephalopathy, the summaries of each chapter (should the eyes begin to glaze because of the medical and physiological terminology), and the last three chapters in full to understand the business behind the "need" to drink.  Once finished, you most likely will take the dictum "drink before your thirsty" with a grain of salt.  No pun intended.

Do you need to drink before you're thirsty?  No.  The human thirst response worked perfectly fine for thousands of years, and nothing has suddenly changed in the past thirty-to-forty.

What about dehydration; what happens to my performance if I lose two or three percent of my total body water?  While there might be some decrease, it's not catastrophic.  Studies over the past four decades show the fastest finishers in endurance events were the most dehydrated, up to twelve percent, in the case of Haile Gebreselassie during his world-best-setting marathon performances.

Won't I overheat?  Rectal temperatures of the fastest and slowest finishers at marathons weren't all that different, and went no higher than 40 degrees Celsius/104 degrees Fahrenheit, regardless of how much or how little they drank.

How much and what should I drink?  Our body can only hold and process so much water at one time; and small amounts of carbohydrate (not sodium) not only speeds the emptying from the gut but aids in run performance...even if swished in the mouth and spit out, triggering pleasure receptors in the mouth.  The American College of Sports Medicine said to drink as much as tolerable, around 1.1 liters/hour.  That's more than most runners can tolerate.

And the faster you run the less likely you'll take in fluid; a slow(er) guy like me has a difficult time at the half-marathon distance taking in more than half a liter (hate drinking out of cups on course, don't like to carry big bottles).  I'm not one to recommend going back to the old school "drinking is for wimps" attitude, but I do think we need to seriously re-think how much, when and what we drink.  Given the choice between running faster and drinking more I'll choose to pour the drink over my head.  I'll save my gut space for an adult beverage afterward.

Should we listen to our body or to the commercials?

Monday, September 16, 2013

A Visit Home - Running For Dad

This week I'm 1200 miles physically  - and apparently a decade emotionally - removed from my state of normal.  I'm back in my home town out west to spend a few quality days with my father, fresh out of the hospital.  My home town of Deming, New Mexico is one of those municipalities which, if you sneeze as you drive past on Interstate 10, you are likely to miss by one-half.

For me, there's always some sort of literary, historical or musical touchstone which aligns to the immediate present; that's what my wife always tells me.  My first visit home, five years after I left high school, was something akin to meeting back up with an old lover.  There's memories of the really good times and a recollection of where "everything" is located...there might be a few cosmetic changes here and there, at the worst.  My previous visit seemed more like I was watching a video of Bruce Springsteen's "My Hometown." Springsteen sings of the melancholy reality of a place you thought would never change, where your kids would be able to have the same degree of stability and mobility, depending on what they desired...but it all changed.

This trip has an entirely different feel.  Two different songs weigh heavily on my thoughts:

The first is the Beatles' "In My Life."  Things have changed in my home town, and the "old lover" is now nearly-unrecognizable.  I had absolutely no difficulty finding my way to the place my parents have called home for the past nearly-three decades, but the brief tour around town found very little to be unchanged. Perhaps the big churches, a couple of restaurants, the hotel where I worked my first job (where I'm staying this week); not much else.  Even a pass through the local major retail chain store which crushed most of the mom-and-pop businesses we patronized when I was young placed me in the "Ebenezer Scrooge" role in a southwestern remake of "A Christmas Carol."  I didn't see a person I recognized.  At all.  And nobody knew me from Adam.  God bless us, every one.

The second song is John Mayer's "Stop This Train."  Mayer talks in the song about his fear of "getting old," as if he only can be successful at being young.  Spending time with one's elders, especially when they are in frail health, can shake the hell out of your own wrongly perceived concept of immortality.  So far, the real joy has been able to have the "help me understand" talk with the "old man."  And the counsel is much more than the "hang in there and renegotiate when you hit my age." platitudes and b.s.

Dad asked me what I did this morning.  I described in a nutshell the distance and duration of my scheduled jaunt, which was less sprightly than originally planned, I dare admit.  Forty-two hundred feet of elevation change will do that, just in case you wonder what it's like to jog near the Continental Divide.  But his questioning had not so much to do with intellectual curiosity or making small talk.  He really and truly misses his daily walks, a habit he took up not long before he retired about eight years ago.

I described the "new" (to me) rails-to-trails path which was once the train tracks running just west of our house and south of town protecting the Country Club members from those of us who were genuine working-class stiffs.  I joked about the 15 mile-per-hour (for Deming residents, better described as "what") wind blowing gently on my face and cooling me for the last two and a half miles back to my hotel.  And, I realized that my running tale might have well been the tonic he in his housebound state needed to have, even if in a small dose.

So right now my training sessions and recovery jaunts are as much for him as for me.  I will no doubt be overjoyed when he's able to take his dog out for a stroll up the back road to the supermarket, and I think he'll look forward to the next time I'm able to toe the line, racing fit.

Monday, September 9, 2013

That's Not Karaoke. That's My Shower.

The low level groan of discomfort quickly turned into a yowl of pain, pure and simple.

All I could do to dissociate from the pain was try and remember the technical term used by triathlon coaches Roch Frey and Paul Huddle, but to no avail. At least, not until this morning

I remembered it was something along the lines of "Extended Low Frequency Moaning." It's a disorder caused by extended contact and friction between the skin of one's more-tender nether regions and seams of fabric covering those same nether regions. There are cases of this being also caused by skin-on-skin friction, too, but we'll stay with the former for this moment in time.

Some pairs of running shorts are more likely to cause this discomfort than others. Cotton and cotton-blend fabrics are definitely high on the list, at least as far as I'm concerned.

Some other reasons that have been bandied about as causes of chafing include a lack of hydration - which supposedly leads to a lack of sweating. Any person who knows me well enough can attest that I don't have any problems with a lack of sweat.

How about clothing that is too tight or too loose? Well, I'm not quite certain one would classify a pair of high-cut running shorts as "tight" or "loose." From difficult experience I can say I have a pair of "more" loose running shorts which invariably lead to uncomfortable days; and I did walk about in them during the previous day; the seams in about three locations are particularly painful after a few hours.

Another source suggested that a sudden increase in my workout duration might be the root cause.

Very well, I'll buy that one for a dollar; I've been doing anywhere from 30-to-60 minute runs or hikes.

The half marathon I completed the other weekend didn't cause me this much pain, in spite of the fact I took in less fluid than during a "normal" Sunday eight-miler.

Is it possible that I would be better off wearing a pair of compression (or triathlon) shorts during longer run workouts?

There are some benefits to using tri-shorts: Most materials are breathable so there's not as much sweat against the skin. The really good quality shorts have tightly-knit material which may decrease the degree of muscle vibration; when it comes to shorter distance running sprints, where explosive efforts are a plus, compression shorts have been found to increase power. And the shorts are sewn with flat-lock seams which aren't in areas which are going to rub the more tender skin. So depending on the short length (I've pairs which range in inseam lengths from two-inch to eight-inch) the chances of skin-on-skin and skin-on-seam contact are greatly minimized.

While the jury is out on the performance benefits of compression clothing they are a sure guarantee when it comes to post-workout recovery. A pair of compression tights or calf sleeves can make a long plane flight a little less uncomfortable; and a pair of triathlon shorts can make that post-workout shower...something to not scream about.

Monday, September 2, 2013

On Your Rights, Track

Grass.  There appears to be not a more-forgiving training surface than running on a field of grass.

If this is true, than why have I stubbornly stayed on polyurethane or asphalt tracks for the longest time?  I'm not certain, save for the fact that most grassy fields are used for other sporting purposes, and I'm (really) not into conflict.  Soccer coaches are often very protective of their space; the coach of the women's team at the university where we trained for several years became so used to our presence - and the fact we stayed out of their way or shagged the occasional errant kick - we'd greet each other on Tuesday and Thursday evenings during season.  I'd tell my folks to swing wide of their bench area on repeats and trot their recovery jogs on the back side of the goalposts.

At the beginning of the summer I saw a sign which gave me hope...of a sort.  The university was closing the track until the beginning of August, in the hopes of resurfacing.  I moved our Saturday workouts to an asphalt track located at a middle school just up the road from my home.  Eight weeks, to me, was a short enough time to suffer through training on harder surfaces; adjust the effort levels accordingly and make certain nobody's wearing old shoes.

During the last week of July, Gil (the father of one of my younger athletes) mentions the track has been finished.  I asked him how it looked.  "Well," he said, "Alex took a couple of laps on it but couldn't really tell much; he's been a little beat from racing."  I took a drive after the workout ended to look at the surface myself.  To my horror I found the track was not resurfaced but merely recoated.  We're talking the same type of coating companies use to re-do parking lots.  I reached down to try and press the surface, which did not budge a bit.  Thumping it with the knuckle of my index finger found it completely unyielding.  In essence, the track is now asphalt with a polyurethane core.  The "Tootsie Pop" of running tracks.

In the past ten years I've seen three tracks either torn up and redone in this way, or torn up and redone as narrow jogging loops...sure, you can use a jogging loop for speed work, but it just seems to violate the laws of god, man and nature.  Why do schools take out perfectly-decent, well-worn but almost serviceable all-weather tracks and replace them with (unprintable) asphalt surfaces?  And, to add insult to injury, these tracks end up fenced-off from the public?  Tax dollars pay for this travesty, and the schools feel justified in locking the financial supporters out from the opportunity to at least TRY and use the surface?  If your town doesn't have jogging paths or sidewalks, the motor vehicle operators can be complete jerks about using the shoulders of public roads (which, YES, are also paid for by the taxes of people who bicycle and jog on them)...what else is a runner to do?

Schools feel justified on many occasions to close off their tracks because the average exercise enthusiast FAILS TO READ THE GUIDELINES posted at the track.  Most of the time the (common-sense) guidelines are posted for safety and courtesy reasons.  Occasionally, especially when the track surface is all-weather, the guidance is intended to even the wear-and-tear on the surface.

Skates, skateboards, strollers, bicycles - most, if not all tracks, prohibit the use of these implements for a number of good reasons:  First, they're often being operated by persons who lack situational awareness skills, and are being operated at speeds which are dangerous when placed in the context of confined areas.  If you're a stock car racing aficionado, putting a couple of five-year-olds on bikes, skateboards or skates on a 400-meter track is the equivalent of a race at Bristol, Tennessee; the driver who wins is the one who avoids the most accidents.  Strollers are the other end of the speed continuum, but the situational awareness deficit remains.  Top that off with the fact the stroller users often occupy the inside lane of the track.  Which leads me to...

Inside lanes for faster running, outside lanes for walking - using the inner-most three-to-four lanes for speed workouts and racing, with the outer lanes for easier running or walking has, what I believe, two good reasons.  First, walkers and slower runners place greater pressure on a broader swath of the track surface, whereas faster runners contact the track with a smaller "footprint" and a longer distance between "footprints." If you're getting passed by more runners than you pass it might be a good idea to move a lane farther out than you're running.  And if you're in between repeats, or laps, or miles, please don't stand and stretch on the inside lanes of the track,  Especially if others are really hammering repeats.  And if you hear the cry "track!" Look to the direction of where the runners are approaching, and get out of the way.

There are many persons (especially slower runners, walkers, and stroller users) who say "but I don't want to do more distance per lap of the track," and consider it as a justification to stay in the way of faster runners. If I rightly recall, the difference between lane 1 and lane 4 on a 400-meter track is pretty much the difference between a 400-meter track and a 440-yard track; four laps of a 400-meter track is 1,600 meters, about 31.06856 feet shy of a mile.  Four laps of a 440-yard track is a mile.

Spike lengths - most PU track surfaces have a maximum spike depth of (I believe) 1/4-inch.  How many times have I seen soccer players traveling across the track surface in their boots ("shoes" would be the  American term) onto the pitch.  On tp of this, driving their golf carts (refer back to the ground force reaction/"footprint" stuff when I was talking about inside/outside lanes), setting up their benches and Schwinn Air-Dyne stationary bikes on the track.

So when schools start to complain about the damage to their facilities from the general public, often they fail to see that what passes for convenience for one program can place irreparable damage or harm to another. And sometimes the only real victim of the conflict is the people who are eventually tapped to foot the bill for something they cannot enjoy.

So if you see a person engaging in an activity which violates basic track etiquette, let them know that it's not only a violation of common courtesy but could eventually lead to damage to your local track facility. Explain to them why their actions could place the entire running community in a world of hurt.

That is, unless you like running on the shoulder of the road.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Can You Say, "Bake Sale?"

So you want to raise money for a "worthy cause," huh?

And, because you have an active vibrant running community you think the easiest way to get a chunk of change will be to put on a five-kilometer run?

First of all, let me tell you the exact same thing I have told well-intentioned true believers who called or e-mailed me when I was the state representative for the Road Runners Club of America:

Hang up the phone.

Hold a bake sale.

In the same manner as a business, the would-be event promoter has to understand it takes money to make money; in the case of most running events it takes money to (if you're lucky) to break even in the first year.

My wife, as always, is not easily dissuaded or readily swayed by my words of counsel. She believes that hard work, persistence, and serious "outside-the-box" marketing strategies can win the day. And, rather than tell her "no" I agreed to take care of the technical aspects of the run; I would deal with anything that had to do with the actual run itself.

If you really, really want to put on a running event here are some of the things you better be prepared to do or have at your disposal...

AN ORIGINAL CONCEPT: This town is what I have occasionally called (in a derisive manner) 5K-saturated. A cursory scan of the local running club's yearly calendar of events showed at least 50 events within a one-hour drive of my home...with another dozen 10Ks, 21.1Ks and 42.2Ks. Open dates for races are either in the hottest part of summer or in conjunction with a holiday...which means more often than not your planned event is competing with at least one and maybe two others in the area. I've seen three events in a ten-mile radius of my home. No kidding.

AN AGGRESSIVE MARKETING PLAN: We had an event presence in social media from the outset, but don't be lulled into equating "likes" with participant numbers. I know of a second-year race which had 600 people the first year and 150 the second, all because of what could be kindly classified as desultory marketing. When a banner for a 5K a week after the event is posted mere blocks from the start line and you don't see a flyer about the event you're planning to run until the day before, well, the marketing committee chair screwed the pooch. It has to be a mash-up of e-mail marketing, paper-based forms in places where the target demographic can be found, and electronic advertising of any sort. Just because "it hasn't been done before" doesn't mean it cannot be done; only that it hasn't been figured out yet.

SUFFICIENT LEAD TIME: A well-meaning friend of mine works at the local running emporium. We chatted at a local run club get-together, at which we happened to be marketing our run. She told us to not worry about the possibility of low participant numbers because we planned our event on such a short notice. Part of me gave her the "blah, blah, blah..." look, but lead time is everything for an event planning process. It gives you the opportunity to get all that important paperwork out of the way, to talk to the (potentially-) affected (and potentially-aggreived) parties whose life or livelihood might be temporarily inconvenienced. Some times it takes more than one schmooze session to win over a potential sponsor or overcome a potential barrier. In some municipalities you might be thankful for that extra month of time, especially when dealing with bureaucrats.

SPONSORS: If you pick up nothing else from this piece, know this: Without sponsorship, participatory recreational athletic events are impossible. It takes money to do everything. The municipality will not let you use their roads and their public safety infrastructure without money (up-front in some cases). Unless you (as in the words of Jean Knaack, executive director of the Road Runners Club of America) are willing to lose your house because someone gets hurt on course and sues you (or your not-for-profit do have one of those, correct?) you're going to need event insurance. T-shirts cost money. Bib numbers cost money. Timing companies cost money. Awards cost money. Food and beverage costs money.

If you're going to go after sponsors, you better have a thick skin - because you're going to hear a lot of "no" - and a clear message as to what the money is going toward...and what the sponsor will receive in return. If all they're getting is a pat on the back then you're going to need a whole lot of sponsors.

There's different levels of support for an event:

In-kind sponsorship - this is the least painful for most businesses, like a grocery store providing fruit or bottled water. You're not going to turn it away, naturally, but the local constabulary usually doesn't take payment in gift cards.

Participatory support - sometimes there are schools and other civic organizations who don't have a lot of money but like the cause; they know showing their face makes for good marketing. These groups are also a good "in" to get persons to show up who otherwise might not have participated in the first place.

Monetary sponsors - the folks you are looking for. If your event is a non-profit organization these fine persons will be glad to write off some of their taxable income, as long as they're keen on the social benefit. Not every monetary sponsor gets the same degree of "love" from a race director. Perhaps every sponsor gets a logo on the shirt; bigger sponsors might get placed on bags or have signs prominently placed along the course. It's up to you, the race director, to determine up front what you'll do in exchange for what you get.

PHYSICAL HELP: Unless you are gainfully-unemployed or independently wealthy you are going to want to lighten the potential workload from the outset. Many hands make light work and all that. Because putting on a race, even a small one, is going to consume an inordinate amount of your time, energy...and yes, your own finances. Be prepared, if all else fails, to do EVERYTHING yourself that doesn't violate the laws of physics. You will find, as you walk into this kind of endeavor, just who your friends are.

As well as the people you mistook for your friends.

You've heard the phrase, "a friend will help you move; a good friend will help you move the body," correct? A running event is like an Irish wake; everybody's good to go with standing around an getting drunk but nobody's going to stick around and pluck the cocktail napkins wedged between the guest-of-honor's hand and torso. Don't be afraid to enlist friends-of-friends-of-friends; they might not show, but if they do a good job at cat-herding they'll probably become your friend for life.

SPECIALISTS: People who possess specific knowledge, skills, and abilities are a plus when developing your race production team. Someone smart with money; either an accountant or a really-honest person who won't pay ANYONE until the say-so at the end. Someone graphically-skilled to develop clean, uncluttered race print materials. Someone who knows how to sell ice cream to Siberians in winter, or gas grills in the nether regions. A person who doesn't get flustered by anything. And I do mean anything. You're going to need them when you have to deal with the bureaucrats. A course measurer (a first year event doesn't need to be certified, but it can't be measured with an automobile odometer, either). One computer geek; especially impotant when dealing with on-line registration portals.

It takes a forward-thinking, well-prepared team of persons to put on a successful event, which often doesn't occur until the second year of an event's existence. If you don't have a team and you're looking at the short term you're probably better off...yes, having a bake sale.

Monday, August 26, 2013

August And Everything After

I don't know how you feel, but I'm excited. Let's get the month of August over with and on to September. If you're training for the ING in Miami or New Orleans' Rock n' Roll this is when the training kicks off, but as a (rehabilitating) athlete/coach the majority of my focus right now is on races which take place between Labor Day and Thanksgiving. I know nobody wants to be out running in August. All those folks who laid their money in the early spring to run Chicago or New York...what were they thinking? And if they ratcheted the intensity up too soon up front the odds are pretty good that by now - at the end of August - they had to take at least a week off.

During the summer, which for me and the athletes I work with I define as the period between the end of May and the beginning of September, most of the "speed" workouts are what coaches would call "maintenance." They're doing aerobic efforts, ranging from 160-to-1600 meters, breathtakingly-boring stuff. One of my guys races sprint triathlons, so the efforts he runs with me (when in town) are a nice change from the damage he does to himself on the junior circuit. His training partner is training for a marathon, so my biggest challenge is to keep them from hammering themselves into oblivion. Everybody else in the group have been with me for at least a year so I don't have to pull the reins in as much on them.

Once the temperatures drop to about 82 degrees I start to work in the occasional 400 at closer to VO2max pace - 2:10 per 400 for runners like my wife, 1:25-to-1:30 for my "hammerheads." Jack Daniels suggests a 2:1 work-to-rest ratio, which means the guys might jog an easy 100 in between, where Suzanne will walk that same distance. She'll do five of those where she might have done six (seven on a cooler day) at a more-aerobic pace; Al and Ash might do eight.

Even if I didn't change the intensity the chances would be they'd see faster times on the race course, because unlike many of their contemporaries they've been doing SOMETHING the entire summer rather than lsying on the couch drinking iced tea and watching Looney Tunes.

So, if you decided to allow the most frightening law of physics, the law of inertia, to take effect over the summer, it's not too late to be ready, more or less, for those Turkey Trot races at the end of November. Six weeks of aerobic efforts and you should be good to go.

Monday, August 19, 2013

When You Read Your Training Schedule Backward...

I didn't run a single step the other weekend; not a one.

I tentatively planned a brief 30-minute jaunt (or two) on Saturday, as well as Sunday. But as my old coach used to say, 'one excuse is as good as any other if you don't want to do something.'

I wanted to do something, but my heart wasn't in it. I was more worried about how my father was doing. So I spent more time chewing at my brains and reacting to every chime of my cell phone until I had the chance to speak to him on Sunday afternoon...

Me: "So, how are you doing?"

Him: "Well, I'm alive."

And, as my hasher friends would say, "...there was much rejoicing."

I've kvetched and moaned in the past about consistency in training, the benefits of rest, and stuff like that. Quite frankly, I don't think there's an incongruity between getting out (or, on the treadmill in my case) when your schedule says so, and plugging in a day off, especially when you've got a lot things on your mind.

Many of my friends love running as a form of stress release. As long as you don't carry your cell phone with you, a good run is a sure-fire way to place some distance between you and the things which are eating at you. Sometimes when it's all said and done you've got the problem all sorted out, or your plan of action drafted, or the thing you intend to say rehearsed. But there are moments when the overabundance of things on your mind are going to do nothing but screw up your run.

And if you're a tightly-wound guy like I am that "rotten run" then ends up being another thing driving you insane. I guess that's the double-edged sword, that "holism of training" thing which Timothy Noakes talks about in his "Laws of Training. How many times do we find that when we're running well our lives are a joy to behold? I mean, we're feeling (relatively) lean, (relatively) fast and invincible; our workouts are falling into place, our race performances are where we think they should be, all is right with the world? Those are the good days. And we can have the exact flip side of the coin where we can't finish a weekend long run without feeling gimpy and dragging our tail between our legs, and all we want to do is find a country album and a record player so we can play it backwards and...

You do know what happens when you play a country song backwards, right?

My wife loves to use her little frustrations as a reason to go out and run. Running with anger? I'm not so certain that adrenaline and cortisol and all those other hormones make for the most optimal run fuel source. Perhaps sprinters can get away with that sort of junk, but it's a recipe for disaster for us distance-loving guys & gals.

Naturally, Suzanne is not your typical distance runner.

It's okay to take a day unscheduled. You might feel a little bit of guilt, but I don't know of too many people who have died (directly) from feeling guilty. And if you're running for the right reasons you shouldn't feel guilt in the first place

Oh, and when I (finally) hit the gym on Tuesday, even the tendons and fascia had a good time.