FOOLISH RUNNING!

Once more, with feeling!

Today is Sunday April 25th, 2021. I am in Gettysburg running the half-marathon, bib#1305.  I consider the last Sunday in April to be my ‘runnerversary’, or the anniversary of my first-ever race 2 years ago. That was the BEAT BEETHOVEN 5K  on April 28th, 2019. The race was held at Alvernia Universary and timed by Pretzel City Sports.  My original intent in 2020 was to run all the races I ran in 2019 to see if I improved, but all of the races I ran that first year either were cancelled or went virtual. As I begin to enter my third year as a runner, there have only been 3 courses that I have gotten to do a re-run on. Today in Gettysburg will be my third re-run of a previous course that I have run in the past. Although typically held the last Sunday in April, The 2020 Gettysburg Blue Grey Half Marathon was postponed to October 18th. I ran 2:57:56.8 and my  bib was #883. Hopefully I will beat that time today, but an insane workload at my day job has seriously impacted my training and recovery days.

The OTHER two courses I had the privilege of running again this month were the Third Thirsty Thursday 5K course at the Thun trail in Reading PA and the 1st Annual April Foolish 10 Hour Endurance Trail Run in French Creek State Park (both are Pretzel City Sports events). My time for the April 15th TTT 5K was just about 4.6 minutes shy of my 33:22 PR, but I have six more attempts this rear since this is a monthly race held the 3rd Thursday of each month from April till October.

Last Sunday April 18th, 2021 was the 1st Annual April Foolish 10 Hour Endurance Trail Run. Now you might be puzzled on how a person can run a FIRST ANNUAL race for the second time, but that takes a little explaining. Let’s start by saying that I ran FOOLISH before it was FOOLISH!

In 2020 many races were canceled, postponed, relocated, or even made virtual. I spent 2020 training very hard for the 2020 Philly Marathon which never happened. Pretzel City Sports has an annual  LABOR PAIN 12 Hour Endurance Trail Run normally held the Sunday before Labor Day on Mt Penn. In 2020, the city of Reading refused to grant a permit that year, so the race was moved to a temporary location in French Creek State Park, changed to a 10 hour race, and re-scheduled to  Sunday November 22nd, 2020. By sheer co-incidence this was the exact same date as the cancelled 2020 Philly Marathon, so I signed up. This was my first, only, and LAST LABOR PAIN. I am usually out of state the tradition weekend it is held, and I have run up Mt Penn enough times to know when to quit. It may be a small mountain, but it has some treacherous climbs best left for skilled trail runners. If Chilly Cheeks 10K didn’t ram that point home, the Half-wit Half Marathon up and down Mt Penn nailed that notice to my door with a railroad spike!

The alternate course and location for the 2020 LABOR PAIN proved to be a hit with local runners who found it easier, but still challenging. As a result, this alternate course became a new race in its own right, and The ‘FIRST’  (kinda, sorta, in a way….) Annual April Foolish Endurance Trail Run was born! 

I have run less than a dozen trail runs, but this is my favorite trail course. Both of my two marathons were run on this course.    

My first attempt last year resulted in a injury. I hit the ground so hard at the 25 mile point so hard that I triggered the emergency alert on my Garmin 945 Forerunner.

My IT band painfully informed me that my attempt at a 50K was over, but I could still limp back and earn my first marathon which I did. I had a few cuts, my legs were covered with bruises, and it took me over a hour to limp that last mile, but I did it! My awesome friends waited for me and helped get me and my gear to my car.

Stephanie and Justin Kershner, Greg Aramptzis, and myself.

 I was unable to walk for two days after the race, but I mended fast and was even able to run a 15K trail run two weeks later.   

Now for my second attempt at this course I had one goal. DO NOT GET HURT! I still wanted a 50K ultra, but I definitely wanted to run this race pain-free. I paced myself entirely differently than I did the first time I did this course. 

The course is basically a 4 mile loop on the trails around Hopewell Lake. At about the 3 mile point, there is a picnic area where you can set up camp and restock your gels, snacks, and drinks, or take a rest between loops if needed.  

At about the 3.7 mile mark, there was this hellacious mud pit that was 3-4 inches deep which threatened to steal my shoes!

Half of the course was flat or paved.  About one third was uphill. There was a series of steps to run down near the dam.

There was ONE long paved downhill section of nearly a half mile, which you only had to go back up if you were doing a partial out-and-back milestone distance.

The rest was true trail running territory, rocks the size of baseballs, twisted roots of evil, thorn bushes, etc.

Again this was a TEN HOUR endurance race, however many times you decide to run the loop was up to you, but if you couldn’t complete the final lap of the day within the TEN HOUR TIME LIMIT, based upon prior lap times,  race director Ron Horn would not allow you to continue beyond 10 hours, no exceptions.  If you were going for a milestone distance such as MARATHON, 50K or 50 MILES, there were signs posted on trees with instructions to turn back at that partial point of the lap and run back to the start/finish line. 

It sounds a little complicated, but it’s really not. Here’s an example for the marathon distance which is what I ended up doing, again, just injury free this time. You run six laps of 4 miles each, for a total of 24 miles, next you run a partial 7th lap running out 1.1 miles to the turn-back sign. From that sign, you run the 1.1 miles back the way you just came, giving you the final 2.2 mile distance needed for the 26.2 mile marathon goal. Simple huh?  

And you don’t have to run the entire ten hours either. If you just want to run 4 or 5 loops and go home, that’s ok. This is YOU vs YOU. You decided when enough was enough. Of course, there always are runners who are there to compete and try to get the next course distance record.  In 2020, the distance records were held by M: Andrew Simpson – 72 miles in 9:49:51 and F: Dixie Bonner 52 miles in 9:34:37 and those records still stand today.

Of the 228 runners of this race, 17 including my friend Greg Arampatzis ran distances of 50 miles or more. 141 ran 50K or more including my friend Justin Kershner. I was one of 22 people who opted for the marathon. I really wanted the 50K, but I wanted to not get hurt more. I took it slow and steady, running at top speed only on flat or paved surfaces.  

My official time was  9:35:43 exactly 14 minutes slower than last year’s 9:21:43. I’ll take that.  Marathon distance is no joke, and trail running is not for the faint hearted.  I heard that one runner took off at top speed early in the race, and received an injury that required a hospital trip.  There is nothing wrong with pushing yourself way out of your comfort zone, but it does come with risks. A comfort zone is a nice safe place, but nothing grows there, and you will never know what you are capable of accomplishing if you refuse to take it to the limit. In 1994 TLC released a song titled Waterfalls which had the line “Don’t go chasing waterfalls, please stick to the rivers and the lakes that you’re used to…”  Let me tell you from personal experience that that is a load of crap advice fit for losers! The same people who don’t chase waterfalls, don’t run marathons!

You can find me at these upcoming races:

May 2021

PA Dutch Half May 2 @ 7:00 am Marietta, PA 17547

Chobot Challenge 15k Trail Run May 16 @ 9:00 am Rustic Park, Birdsboro, PA 19508

Third Thirsty Thursday   5K Race Series – Race 2/7 May 20 @7:00 pm Reading PA (in-person race day sign up only)

Be sure to check back in two weeks on May 9th for another article.

As always, I wish you success and happiness!

THE BALANCING ACT!

All work and no play…

Balance is a feeling derived from being whole and complete; it’s a sense of harmony. It is essential to maintaining quality in life and work. –Joshua Osenga

There are 24 hours in a single day. That’s 1,440 minutes. Every person on Earth gets the exact same amount of time each and every day. The only exceptions are the day you are born and the day you die. How we spend each minute of our lives is entirely up to us. The secret to a long, healthy life is maintaining a proper balance in each area of our lives. We need a balance between work and play, sleeping and being awake, and exercise and recovery. We need to balance time and money. We need a balanced diet. Yes, BALANCE is the key!

The Grindstone
Work is called work for a reason. The NORMAL work day is 8 hours long, and a normal work week is 4 hours. This allows for 5 days a week to be split into three even segments of 8, allowing for work, leisure, and sleep. The weekend is for fun, recovery, worship, whatever we choose.

For a runner, the weekend is for official races! Races cost money, and we work so that we can provide the means to pay for the many things in life that we want or need, such as new running shoes, or the entry fee for next month’s half marathon. Work is a necessary evil, and we should be working not because we are forced to, but because we  want the means to achieve our goals in life. Constantly working to barely pay the bills is a sign of an unbalanced budget, or a poorly paying job. Taking on addition work such as overtime or a second job cuts into either our leisure time, or sleep time and decreases our performance. Sometimes we have no choice. Right now at my day job, I’m working 12hr days 5 to 6 days a week, and getting very little sleep. I’ve noticed this having a negative impact on my running since I have no time for training runs, and little recovery periods after races. In this morning’s 10K, my pace had decreased by a whopping 24%! 17 minute miles are not normal for me, and I was very depressed. Unfortunately, I have no choice as the work situation is not going to improve  until Autumn.

Rest and Recovery
IF you are in tip-top physical condition, recovery periods from intense periods of physical activity are greatly shortened. And if you’re also getting the proper amount of sleep each night, your body has the time it needs to repair the damage done by the stress and strain of daily life.

Three Squares?

The power that made the body has the power to heal the body. That only works when your body is getting the proper rest and recovery periods as well as a balanced diet.  Many Americans have poor dietary habits, which is why two thirds of the population is overweight. The Standard American Diet advises 2,000 calories a day as a base. Runners have different caloric needs. We burn that many calories OR MORE in a single half-marathon. Food is FUEL! Three meals consisting of breakfast, lunch, and dinner doesn’t work for us, especially on race day. Smaller meals and snacks consisting of a balanced nutritional consistency work better for us.  Every human being needs all seven essential nutrients, in the proper ratios for your body weight and activity level.  These seven essential nutrients are: Water, Protein, Fats, Carbohydrates, Vitamins, Minerals, and dietary Fiber. Sorry to say, but chocolate, candy, cake, and ice cream are NOT essential nutrients.   

So eat REAL food, (or sports food such as gel, running fuel, and recovery drinks meant for runners, NOT couch potatoes. )

Speaking of recovery drinks, be sure to drink those protein rich, amino filled drinks as soon as possible after a race, because your muscles become insulin resistant after about 45 minutes, and you lose the benefits . My go to recovery drink after a race is ReHab from CarboRocket.com! I swear by, and use  all their products! If you decide to check out their products, us my special code TOTHEMAX and receive a 25% discount on your 1st order.

The Race is on!

Since I’m currently stuck with forced overtime for the next six months at my day job, I’m forced to use vacation days for races as well as rest and recovery days. It’s not a pretty solution, but it’s the only one I have. NOT RACING IS NOT AN OPTION! I am a runner and a runner runs! I’m trying to fit some training runs into my hectic schedule, but waking up  tired and getting home exhausted  has left those practice runs few and far between. For the most part, the only running I’m getting to do is on race day. I should be doing some sort of daily exercise and strength training, but as I stated at the beginning, There’s only 24 hours in a day, and I’m spending more than half of those hours at work. My morning exercise ritual has gone the way of the dodo as I hit the snooze alarm again and again for “just another ten minutes”. Unfortunately, this means that I’m losing the muscles I worked so hard to build last year. If you are not actively working to make yourself stronger, then you are actively working to make yourself weaker!  There are no if, ands, or buts about it. In the end, we choose the things that are most important to us, I’m NOT a dull boy and I choose to run!

If you have additional running tips and tricks, please leave a comment. If you are local to me, you can find me at these upcoming races:

April 2021

Third Thirsty Thursday   5K Race Series – Race 1/7 April 15 @7:00 pm Reading PA

April Foolish 10 Hour Endurance Trail Run April 18 @ 9:00 am – 7:00 pm Elverson, PA 19520

Gettysburg Half-Marathon April 25 @8:10 am Gettysburg PA 17325

Be sure to check back in two weeks on April 25th for another article.

As always, I wish you success and happiness!

THE BARE FACTS!

The agony of ‘the feet’?

this is part two of a series on footwear.  For part one, read JUST RUN WITH IT!

In the human foot, there are 26 bones, 33 joints and over a hundred muscles, ligaments, and tendons.

Having the proper sneakers that fit well are essential equipment for ‘most’ runners. Modern footwear provides protection to that other essential thing that most runners don’t usually even think about, their feet.  Keeping your feet healthy will improve your ability to run. Shoes that fit improperly will cause all manner of foot aliments, from simple blisters up to and including:  bunions, corns, and black toenails (from cramming your feet into the front of the shoe). Now if you’ve ever caught the toe of your shoe while running at top speed like I have several times on trail runs, you’re probably grateful for having the toe box of the shoe take the hit on that ‘invisible rock’. Slamming your naked toe full force into an immovable object is a surefire way to break a toe.  

Tenderfoot  

The soles of our shoes protect our feet as we run from any sharp or jagged items on the ground.  The cushioned insoles soften the impact of our feet hitting the ground. This two step protection prevents the natural build up of calluses on the soles of our feet. Calluses are thickened  layers of skin where friction, irritation, and  pressure repeatedly occurs. Our shoes are like armor for our feet providing  a barrier between our feet and the rough ground. They also alter the natural movements of our feet by restricting the ability of many joints  in our feet to flex like nature intended, and in turn have altered the way humans run. Instead of striking the ground with the balls of our feet, we now strike the ground with our heals. As a result, we need added shock-absorption in the heal area of our shoes, so we are constantly walking and running with our feet on a slanted plane. We should be launching ourselves from the balls of our feet.

The barefoot running movement.

Abebe Bikila was an Ethiopian marathon runner who won back-to-back gold medals in the 1960 and 1964 Olympics. Amazingly, he ran the 1960 Olympic marathon completely barefoot with a record time of 2:15:16.2.  Think about that for a moment.  26.2 miles on the soles of his feet without any footwear what-so-ever. AND HE WON! 4 years later at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, he won again, this time wearing shoes. His time was over 3 minutes faster at 2:12:11.2. If you’re curious, he was wearing Puma Osaka sneakers.  These were an innovative design with a minimal sole and a nearly non-existent heal-to toe wedge providing a ‘barefoot’ feeling. In modern footwear, we refer to this as a zero-drop shoe, meaning that the heel and the ball of the foot are on a flat horizontal plane with no slanted wedge.  

The best of both worlds

A zero-drop shoe is designed in a way that the toes and the heel have the same distance from the ground  allowing your feet to sit in a natural position that helps with spine alignment and posture. Minimalist running shoes all have zero-drop platforms with super-thin, ultra-flexible soles and fit your foot like a glove. Perhaps the most widely recognized brand in this category is the Vibram Fiver-Finger shoes, sometimes referred to by the slang term as ‘toe shoes’.

You don’t do ballet wearing combat boots!

The super thin soles, lack of insole padding, and soft flexible upper shells allow ‘barefoot’ shoes to provide the wearers with fully uninhibited motion of the entire foot. Unfortunately, this comes at the cost of all the protective properties of traditional running sneakers. Proponents of the barefoot running movement claim that this natural foot movement eliminates many of the physical problems runners  sometimes develop such as shin splints, knee pain, IT band syndrome and a host of other ailments. As a person who has always worn traditional sneakers, I can neither confirm nor deny these claims. I personally like to think that the padding and thick soles protect our feet in much the same way that boxing gloves protect a boxer’s  hands as they’re pounding their opponents. As a Clydesdale, I’m pounding that pavement a lot harder than thinner runners, so I’m very hesitant to try this fad.

Full disclaimer: I am neither a podiatrist nor an expert in biomechanical muscular-skeletal movement. I’m just an avid runner making a guess from personal experience. It seems to me that perhaps it might work, maybe, but I’m extremely skeptical.  

The bottom line:


I’ve seen runners run in 21°F (-5°C) wearing nothing but shorts and sneakers because it ‘felt good’ to them.  Everybody is different, and every body is different. Listen to your body and do what you feel is good for you. I may give barefoot running shoes a test at some future date just to see how it feels. I am eyeing a pair of Xero-shoes sandals, but they never seem to have them in my size when I shop online. IF I ever do score a pair to try, it will be on flat pavement. So do what you think is right for YOU. Whether you choose tradition sneakers, minimalist running shoes, or no shoes at all, the choice is up to you.

I will recommend one thing though. After a long hard run, treat yourself to a therapeutic foot massage. Your feet will feel amazing afterward!

If you have additional running tips and tricks, please leave a comment. If you are local to me, you can find me at these upcoming races:

April 2021

Shiver by the River 10K April 11 @ 10:00 am Muhlenberg, PA

Third Thirsty Thursday   5K Race Series – Race 1/7 April 15 @7:00 pm Reading PA

April Foolish 10 Hour Endurance Trail Run April 18 @ 9:00 am – 7:00 pm Elverson, PA 19520


Be sure to check back in two weeks for another article.

As always, I wish you success and happiness!


JUST RUN WITH IT!

If the shoe fits…

(part one of a two-part series on footwear)

Sneakers is an American word used to describe soft rubber-soled athletic shoes. They have been around since the mid to late 1800s and go by many names. In England, they are referred to as trainers or joggers. Other names include: Tennis shoes, running shoes, runners, track shoes, sports shoes, gym shoes, kicks, and a plethora of other slang terms relating to usage, style, or manufacturers. Sneakers are so ubiquitous that they have crossed the divide from athletic usage to everyday casual footwear, and  the dreaded fashion sneaker.     

Just as people come in all shapes and sizes, so do sneakers. Just as all people are not runners, all sneakers are not running shoes. You should NOT be running in fashion sneakers. So if you’re going out for a run (an ACTUAL run, not a metaphorical one), or you’re gearing up for a race,  leave the Chuck Taylors and Vans® at home.

“Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants, so long as it is black.”

Henry Ford

It’s probably easier to pick out a car than it is to pick out running shoes. As mentioned in the opening paragraph, not all sneakers are running shoes, but all running shoes are sneakers, so for the remainder of this article, when the words sneaker or shoe appears, it is specifically referring to running shoes.

Just as there are many auto manufacturers, makes, models, and colors, the same holds true for sneakers. The list that follows is by no means exhaustive, but it was exhausting to compile.  (If I missed any popular ones, let me know in the comments)

Adidas.  Allbirds. Altra.  APL.  ASICS.  Brooks. FILA.  HOKA. Inov-8. Karhu. La Sportiva. Mizuno. Merrill. New Balance. Newton Running . Nike.  Puma. Reebok. Salomon. Saucony . Sketchers. Under Armor. Veja. VJ Shoes . Xero Shoes.

There are high end brands, and low end ones.  A sneaker does not have to cost an arm and a leg to be good, and sometimes the extra bucks are just paying for the company logo.

Brand loyalty will lock you into a particular company with shoes faster than you can say ‘RUNNERS, READY’. And sometimes, you will have a very limited color choice in that style. You may have a strong desire to own a particular brand, only to discover that they don’t fit your feet properly. Running is a very individual sport and everyone’s foot is different. Small, large, narrow, or wide all play their part as to what shoe is best for your individual foot. Just because your BFF running partner wears the latest from Saucony, doesn’t mean that they make it in your size.

When it comes to buying sneakers, you really have to do your homework, and you can’t buy cut-rate. Stick to well known brands and get your shoes fitted at a shoe store, one where they specialize in running shoes like Fleet Feet does.

Most quality running shoes will set you back about $150. Do NOT go to a place like a department store and buy  $20 sneakers. You get what you pay for. Before I actually committed to becoming a runner, I didn’t know any better. When you’re a newbie, sneakers are sneakers. I purchased a pair of no name running shoes in 2018 which I barely ever wore before I got my Nikes.  I was on vacation August 24th 2019 and I had ONLY the ‘no-names’ with me, so I decided one morning to go for a run on the boardwalk in Ocean City MD. This happened:

Yep. I ran so fast that my sole left my body.

So two lessons learned that day:

  • NEVER EVER EVER buy cheap no-name, or counterfeit running shoes.
  • ALWAYS have two to three pairs of running shoes in rotation, and a spare pair with you in your gym bag.

When  you do get around to shopping for your shoes, don’t fret about the color or obsess over a brand and style.      

There are only two real considerations you should be concerned with.

  1. What surface are you running on? Road, or trail. Some brands have both types, others specialize, but you need trail shoes for trails, and road shoes for roads. They are made different for a very good reason!
  2. How do they feel on your feet. It doesn’t matter if they’re the prettiest pink shoes you’ve ever seen, and all the girls in track have them. It doesn’t matter if your hero who took the Gold at the Olympics wears them. If they don’t fit, and they hurt YOUR feet, they’re worthless. And when you do go to buy shoes, always wear the same type of socks that you usually wear when you run, because you want these shoes to fit perfectly when you hit the road. Never wear brand new shoes for a race, or a long run. It takes five to ten miles to break-in new sneakers so take them out for two or three 5K training runs before you race with them.

BE PREPARED to spend about $150. You might get lucky and catch a sale, or a closeout on last year’s model, but don’t get your hopes up.

BUT EVERYONE WEARS THEM
Look , I understand that you may love your special brand, and that’s wonderful. My road race sneakers are my Nike Initiator running shoes, and for trails I don my  Inov-8 X-Talon 200 trail shoes.  I always wear MudGear brand socks.

The reality is, when it comes to sneakers, most Olympic runners wear Nike. Does it mean you should wear Nike? Not at all. I wear these particular shoes because I have an odd size foot, and finding shoes that fit me is a challenge.  If you find a brand that appeals to you, run with it! The only wrong running shoes are cheaply made no-names. If that’s ALL you can really afford, run with it. It’s better to run with inexpensive (but inferior) shoes than to not run at all. Just buy the sneakers you can afford without breaking your budget.

As for why elite runners chose Nike more than any other brand, the answer is simple. Nike is courting these athletes and seeking endorsements, while the athletes in turn are looking for sponsorships to pay for their training costs. For professional athletes and corporations, it’s a mutually beneficial arrangement. Plus if everyone is wearing the exact same shoe at the Olympics, They’re all competing on a level playing field.  The moment  someone breaks the trend for something ‘new’, everyone cries foul!

The  Nike ‘Alphafly’ prototype shoes worn by Eliud Kipchoge when he became the first athlete to run a marathon in under two hours in October 2019 have now been banned.

In 2019, 31 of the 36 podium positions in the six world marathon majors were won by elite athletes wearing Nike Vaporfly, as reported by the Guardian.

According to Runnersworld, at the 2020 Olympic Marathon Trials, 404 of the 565 finishers wore Nikes.

Vaporflys have not been banned, but Nike must adhere to strict new guidelines. Critics state that these shoes which have thick, foam soles and carbon-fibre plates to improve speed give the wearers an unfair advantage during competition, but again, if all the athletes wear them no one can complain.

As of this writing, a pair of men’s  Nike Vaporflys cost about $425 depending on size and style. No, I’m not planning on buying a pair. I would never spend THAT MUCH on a pair of running shoes, plus Amazon doesn’t have them in my size.  

All good things must end
Remember the car buying analogy I made at the beginning? Just as car manufactures retire a certain style and replace it with a new model, the same applies to sneakers. The new model offered by your favorite brand might not fit the same or feel as comfortable as the old style of the same shoe. I’ve heard many a runner moan over the changes made to a specific shoe that they felt was ‘perfect’. The reason manufactures do this  is planned obsolescence.  The shoe must wear out after so much usage, and styles get changed and updated to keep the customers coming back to try the latest model.  If a particular brand and model feel AMAZING, buy two or three extra pairs and stockpile them as soon as possible. I am down to my last brand new pair of Nike Initiator running shoes, and I my ONLY Inov-8 X-Talon 200 trail shoes.

These are no longer in production, and as soon as they wear out, I’m going to have to find new sneakers that make my feel ‘happy’.

Running shoes last about 300 to 500 miles depending on the runner’s weight and running style.  If you have an uneven gait, and you get edge wear, or on the heal, your sneakers will not last as long.  Uneven sole wear will kill your shoes.

Also the more you weigh, the heavier you pound the pavement. A 250lb male will wear out his shoes faster than a 99lb female even if they both run identical distances on the same trails with the same frequency.  It’s not ‘fat shaming’, it’s science. Just another reason why it’s tough to be a Clydesdale. (But Clydesdales ARE tough!)

Lastly clean your sneakers regularly, spraying the interiors with a sneaker spray to kill bacteria and mold which can form in dark, damp areas of your shoe.

If you have additional running tips and tricks, please leave a comment. If you are local to me, you can find me at these upcoming races:

March 2021

Ugly Mudder 10k Trail Race March 7 @ 10:00 am Reading PA

Shiver by the River 10K March 14 @ 10:00 am Muhlenberg, PA

April 2021

Shiver by the River 10K April 11 @ 10:00 am Muhlenberg, PA

Third Thirsty Thursday   5K Race Series – Race 1/7 April 15 @7:00 pm Reading PA

April Foolish 10 Hour Endurance Trail Run April 18 @ 9:00 am – 7:00 pm Elverson, PA 19520

Be sure to check back in two weeks for part two of this series on running shoes, The Bare Facts.

As always, I wish you success and happiness!

SNOW IS A ‘FOUR-LETTER’ WORD!

Are you running in a winter wonderland?

Idiomatically a four-letter word is a swearword, considered rude and unacceptable in certain contexts.

Today is February 14th 2021 and its 23°F (-5°C) here in Lancaster County Pennsylvania. I was ‘supposed’ to be running a 10K race today, but it was postponed until the 28th due to safety concerns. The recent heavy snowfall has left many city streets narrowed down to single car widths with few accesses from the curb to the sidewalk due to the mounds of snow. Even where streets and sidewalks are cleared, there are still patches of snow and ice. So road races are not very safe under the present conditions.

Last Sunday, I drove 27 miles in a blizzard to run 11K (6.75 miles) up and down a snow covered mountain.  Mount Penn is a small mountain in Berks County  where Pretzel City Sports holds several trail races during the year. I ran up this mountain last year for the first time for the UGLY MUDDER 13K back on Feb 23rd 2020. It was warmer then, and there was no snow. This time the mountain was covered with two feet (66cm) of snow, it was still snowing, and it was much colder. This was my first snow-trail run, the CHILLY CHEEKS 11K.

193 runners showed up for the race that day.  

Whenever I do trail runs, I swap out my Nike Initiator running shoes for my  Inov-8 X-Talon 200 trail shoes. 

I always wear Mud Gear brand socks. I’ve run in cold weather, but I have never run in snow before, so I had no idea how the Inov-8s would perform. The aggressive cleats built into the sole of the shoe worked great on mud and dirt, and ‘should’ work as well on snow and soft ice. They also meant that I could not wear STABILicers ,YakTrax or any other brand of ice spikes. I briefly toyed with the idea of trying out a pair of electric socks to keep my feet warm, but opted instead to wear two pairs of socks.

While the Inov-8 X-Talons 200s did indeed work, the double socks failed to keep my toes warm. I SHOULD have purchased toe warmers, but as with doing anything the first time, you only discover these things after the fact.

Several of my fellow runners also used trek poles, a set of folding walking sticks that resemble ski poles and can help with navigating tough terrain. Unfortunately I have zero experience using these, so I had to rely on grabbing trees as I made my way up or down steep climbs. More than once, I chose to slide down the icy landscape feet first in the seated position like a sledder without a sled.

For half of the trek, I fell in with a group of 3 other runners led by Barry Elder.

We were the last group of runners on the mountain, and three of us were Clydesdales. People come in all sizes and shapes, and there is nothing wrong with being a Clydesdale. We may not be as fast as ‘the skinnies’ , but it takes a lot more physical effort for larger runners to maintain that pace. At about mile three, I could no longer keep pace with Barry, and stepped to the side and let Erin and Vanessa pass me while I took a breather.  I almost managed to catch back up to the group twice, but eventually I lost sight of them and was alone on the mountain.

Once again, I had come to a new challenge, only to discover that I had way underestimated the difficulty level. CHILLY CHEEKS is the toughest trail course Pretzel City Sports has developed. When you run with a buddy, you motivate one another to keep pace. Iron sharpens iron! Alone, you begin to play mind games with yourself as you begin to experience mounting levels of self doubt. If you’ve done something before, you know you can do it again, but the first time really tests your metal.

Just as I had hit the point of giving up, one of Pretzel City’s employees showed up.

Jules’ job that day was to remove the trail markers at the conclusion of the race. For the last half of the race, she managed to keep me motivated to press on and not give up. If she had not shown up when she did, I would probably still be up on Mount Penn sitting in the snow like a frozen Buddha. My quads were beginning to cramp from the effort, I was out of water, and my toes were numb from the cold. I was also sweating profusely since I had worn several layers but couldn’t really remove them because I had no place to stash them.

Now DFL is not a palatable position for me, I hate being last. Yes, I know ‘someone’ has to be last, but I’d rather that someone not be me.  It’s a matter of personal pride. Of course DFL is much better than DNF, or DID NOT FINISH. This was only the second time I’ve ever come in last, the first was my 1st ever trail run, The Chobert Challenge 15K in 2019. That was in the summer,  and here I was in mid-winter forcing myself to dig deep, being prodded onward by Jules as she keep telling me “you’ve got this, you’re almost there!”

And after 3:34 minutes, I did crawl up the final hill to the finish line, to cheers of Helene Horn calling me a rockstar, saying that she’s proud of me, and telling me I’m awesome!

The moral of the story? If you don’t push yourself to the limit, you will never know how far you could go. Many of your limitations exist only in your mind, and you will never have a positive life if you have a negative mind. So instead of saying ‘I can’t’ TRY, and if you struggle, don’t quit! There are people watching you and rooting for you that you are unaware of, and your accomplishments fuel their hopes, dreams and aspirations. No one wants to emulate a loser, so be a winner! If you can’t do it for yourself, do it for THEM. Like Sir Winston Churchill once said, “If you’re going through Hell, KEEP GOING!”

If you have additional cold weather running tips and tricks, please leave a comment. If you are local to me, you can find me at these upcoming races:

February 2021

Shiver by the River 10K February 28 @ 10:00 am Muhlenberg, PA

Arctic Blast 5K February 20 @ 10:00 am  Reading, PA (Relocated to Trooper Thorn’s)

March 2021

Ugly Mudder 10k Trail Race March 7 @ 10:00 am Reading PA

Shiver by the River 10K March 14 @ 10:00 am Muhlenberg, PA

As always, I wish you success and happiness!

RUNNERS, READY…

Running fun in sub-freezing temperatures!

Today is January 31st, 2020 and here in South Central Pennsylvania we are poised to get the first significant snowfall of this year. Friday was the coldest day of the year locally, and yesterday was not far off.  Likewise today we are also experiencing sub-freezing temperatures as we prepare for the storm.

Saturday also marked the first live-in-person race of this new year. The HumBug Bustle 5K had been delayed from six weeks prior due to a state-wide prohibition against large gatherings in December and part of January. As a result several local races either were either rescheduled or became virtual runs.

It was great to be among the 216 committed runners who showed up to race in the 20°F (-6°C) cold. My amazing friend Bruce finished just seconds behind me.

Pretzel City Sports is a local race timing company owned and run by Ron and Helene Horn with the help of their talented and professional staff. They hold their own race events as well as the races of other running organizations such as the local Pagoda Pacers Athletic Club.

When I ran my first ever 5K race, BEAT BEETHOVEN  back on April 28th, 2019 it was timed by Pretzel City Sports  and just as they have been supporting me from day one, I support them by running in as many of their races as possible. Although I continue to express my gratitude to Ron and Helene because I personally feel I could not be where I am as a runner today without them, they continue to remind ME that I am the one who made the commitment and did the work. To quote Ron from an e-mail he sent me last year after I completed my first marathon:

“While we were glad to offer encouragement along the way, what you accomplished in that period is all about YOU! YOU ran the training runs. YOU ran thru the pain! YOU altered your diet to drop the pounds. YOU went out and did those long runs. Not us. We were honored to be “along for the ride” but it was YOUR ride and you’ve done a life-changing job at it.”

Words have POWER and I hold these words forever in my heart. Ron is absolutely correct. NO ONE can do the work of improving your life for you. YOU must do it yourself, and that requires perseverance and commitment. You will never know what you are capable of succeeding at until you have accomplished it. Once you have achieved your goals, you do not stop! You continue to set new and better goals and plans for the future. Then you ‘pay the universe back’ by providing the support and encouragement to others as they set forth on their own journeys of self-discovery. As the word of God says,’ iron sharpens iron’.

Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend. Proverbs 27:17

Yes, it was cold outside yesterday. A runner runs! This means running in all kinds of weather and temperatures. It is nice to have other runners out there with you, but sometimes you have to go it alone if you are maintaining your training, or if there is no race or fellow runners available. You must not stop training or you will lose the training effect and any progress you have made you will lose. In conditions too hazardous to run such as deep snow and ice, or temperatures significantly in the negative zone, your only option may be to run inside on a treadmill.

If you are able to run outside in the winter, there are several important tips that you should follow.

1 Run with a buddy. If there is an in-person race, sign up for it. If you have a friend who can run with you, set up a time and place to get together. If you MUST run alone, stick to manageable distances and established trails.  Make sure you have your cell phone fully charged and with you. If your GPS watch or a running app on your phone allow for ‘live tracking’ set these features up so that your friends monitor your progress and can be notified and able find you in an emergency. You do not want to be lost alone in the woods in freezing temperatures. This can be a fatal mistake.  I bit off more than I could chew on New Year’s Day because I am doing Run The Year, but I was on an established trail, being live-tracked, and came upon a fellow running who was able to pace with me back to the car when I was struggling the last few miles.

2. Always carry water and running fuel. Running burns calories, and your body will burn more calories in harsh temperatures as it struggles to maintain your core temp. Likewise, you must replace the water your body loses while running. You will sweat as you exert yourself, and you may also overheat depending on your clothing. You will lose body fluid in the form of water vapor in your breath while you breath. You may need to stop and urinate. Does a bear piss in the woods? Runners do as well. You need to replace lost fluid. You need to have  some kind of running fuel to provide energy should you suddenly need it. I always run with a packet or two of Accel Gel (a glucose gel similar to GU Energy) from Pacific Health Labs in my running waist-bag. I keep post-run granola or cereal bars in my car. I mix CR-333 in a sport bottle or two for drinking while running, and also have a bottle of post run ReHab mixed up to drink as soon as I reach my car at the end of the run. CR-333 and Rehab are available from CarboRocket.com I swear all by their products. If you decide to give them a try, you can use my personal code TOTHEMAX to receive a 25% discount on your first order, or click this link:  https://carborocket.com?sca_ref=283788.xst8wM5N56  

3. Dress appropriately for the temperature. You will sweat while running and you will heat up, but you do not want to be drenched in sweat and overheated. You know your body comfort zone. As I said, it was sub-freezing yesterday for The HumBug Bustle 5K. There were people who ran wearing shorts. I was passed by a very fast female runner who was only wearing a sports bra. It’s possible for many advanced or physically fit runners to do a 5K in under 20 minutes. It takes me twice that on average. I’m a Clydesdale. The last ten people to run yesterday took more than fifty minutes to finish. You need to have a balance of heat loss and core-heat retention. You will lose most of your heat from your head and fingers.

So first and foremost, HAT AND GLOVES!

Wear an appropriate cold-weather hat, preferably with ear flaps that can be deployed if necessary. Wear premium runners gloves. A face buff can protect your face as well as warm the air you breath.

Next layers!  

The fabrics closet to your skin should be moisture-wicking. After that a hoodie and cold weather windbreaker if necessary. Both should have a zip-up front that allows you to vent if needed. Remember you will heat up as you run. Dress as if it’s 20°F warmer than the ambient temperature, but don’t neglect the wind-chill factor or potential precipitation.  You DO NOT want be outside in sub-freezing temperatures underdressed, being pelted by wind, snow and ice. EXPOSURE CAN KILL! As soon as you stop running, you will get cold.

Lastly keep a dry set of clothes in your car.

As soon as possible after your run, change into warm dry clothes.  Your core body temperature drops as soon as you stop running. You will get cold very quickly especially in clothes wet with perspiration.   

AND THEN THERE WAS COFFEE!

Reward yourself after your winter run with a nice hot cup of coffee, cocoa, or if you prefer, tea. Nothings takes off the edge of winter then having a nice hot drink after a long cold run. You can have your hot beverage of choice waiting for you in a thermos or hot mug your car, or stop for carryout on the way home.

If you have additional cold weather running tips and tricks, please leave a comment. If you are local to me, you can find me at these upcoming races:

February 2021

Chilly Cheeks 11k Trail Run February 7 @ 10:00 am Reading, PA

Shiver by the River 10k February 14 @ 10:00 am Muhlenberg, PA

Arctic Blast 6k February 20 @ 10:00 am  Birdsboro, PA

March 2021

Ugly Mudder 10k Trail Race March 7 @ 10:00 am Reading PA

Shiver by the River 10k March 14 @ 10:00 am Muhlenberg, PA

As always, I wish you success and happiness!

RUN THE YEAR!

HITTING 2021 RUNNING!

2021 is a whole new  year and now that we’re done putting a bow on 2020, it’s time to dust off the ashes of the old year and do what needs to be done to make 2021 a better year than the dumpster fire we all just survived. I don’t think that there’s a person alive today that will look back on 2020 with fond memories.

So here we are in this new year with another chance to start over once again. As I stated in my previous blog post, this year I’m changing the format of InstantCoffeeWisdom.com a bit.  New content will still be uploaded on Sundays, but only once or twice a month instead of weekly, and I’m shifting the focus away from finance and politics towards running and fitness. You may be asking yourself why. The answers are simple. Over the last three years, I have provided you all the tools and advice you need to get your financial house in order.  I’ve proven by my example to you that just as I am having a comfortable life free from the self-imposed monetary burdens that enslave many people, you too can free yourself from these chains. I have written over 100 articles on budgeting, saving, planning, and investing. I’ve provided you the keys, now you must open the locks and free yourself. You must do it yourself, I cannot do it for you.

As for the lack of discussions of politics, let’s just say that I’m done with politics for the foreseeable future. The results of the 2020 presidential election broke my heart, and I see dark days ahead for my country. Donald J. Trump was the president America needed. May God have mercy on our fallen nation.

As I have said many times in the past, your health is your wealth. Staying strong and healthy will shift the odds in your favor of a long and happy life.

I started 2021 by hitting the ground running. I mean this both figuratively and literally. The phrase ‘hit the ground running’ means to start something and proceed at a fast pace with enthusiasm. On New Year’s Day, January 1st, 2021 I did something again which I did last year. I got up early and went out for a run. Unlike last year though, this time it was a solo run, as well as a virtual race.

Last year when many of my official races were cancelled, I discovered ‘virtual races’. If you are unfamiliar with the term a virtual race is one when you sign up online and pay your entry fee.  Then you pick your own course and distance, and time yourself with your GPS runner’s watch, or phone. You upload the results and you get your medal in the mail.

Now I had signed up for not just one but TWO virtual different virtual races. One for just that day, and one that lasts the entire year.  For New Year’s Day, I selected a virtual race called ‘Run out of the 2020 Zone into the 2021 Zone’ because the finisher’s medal had a Twilight Zone theme to it. This race was sponsored by Goneforarun.com  I was only intending to run a 5K, but I got caught up in my enthusiasm and kept on running. I don’t know what I was thinking when I passed the 10K turnabout point and kept going. It was below freezing and I was not prepared for a long run. For some odd reason, the thought of running a half-marathon popped in my head, but by the time I had run 4.7 miles (7.6K) down the trail,  I knew I had bitten off more than I could chew and had to turn back.  The final 2 miles were a struggle, but another  runner who had passed me earlier was now heading back as well, and she was able to provide encouragement and conversation as we matched pace and ran back to the start.  It was a good thing Kris happened by when she did because I was discouraged and just walking at that point because I was cold and tired. I ended up finishing with a 15K (9.3 miles) that took 2 hours 38 minutes 46 seconds to complete.  The temperate was 24°F (-4°C)

What prompted me to press on beyond my initial intention of just running 5K (3.1 miles) was the OTHER virtual race I had signed up for. For 2021, I had opted to join the RUN THE YEAR CHALLENGE. This is a yearlong virtual race offered by runtheedge.com where you run 2,021 miles in 2021. It has a beautiful finishers medal that anyone would be proud to display.

Now how you run this seemingly impossible distance is entirely up to you. The key is to have a plan, and this is where the 6P Rule comes into play. Simply stated  the 6P Rule is: ‘Prior Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance‘.  Memorize that phrase, learn it and live it. If you are going to be successful, you MUST plan. If you fail to plan then you plan to fail. There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it. Without a proper plan firmly in place at the onset, failure is inevitable.

When you divide 2,021 miles by 365 days you get 5.53 miles per day. That’s not a bad exercise goal to stick to for the year. I do not own a treadmill, there is no space in my apartment.  Running outside is far better, and it’s free. The problem lies with the weather. There are days when running outside is a miserable option, or even out of the question. As I said, right now it’s bloody cold outside, but I am managing to run about  20 miles a week despite the cold weather and the 60+hour work weeks I face at my day job. I’m trying to run distances of at least 7.5 miles at a clip. Sundays are my long runs, so anything up to a half-marathon is possible , weather permitting.  Last Sunday Jan 17th 2021, I ran a winter half-marathon for the 1st time ever. Temperature was 36°F. I chose the 2020 Dumpster Fire Half-Marathon from virtualstrides.com

Just like 2020 was a Dumpster Fire of a year, so was this run. To my credit, I did not give up despite the cold, but this was my worst time ever for completing a race of this distance. 4hours 26Minutes 55seconds. Normally I can run this distance in about 3 hours or less, but I have NEVER run this far in temperatures this frigid, so there is no sense beating myself up over this.

Last night I ran 7.5 miles, and it was a much faster pace.  So far this month I have run 50 miles. Today is Sunday Jan 24th 2021 and I’m going for a long run, probably a 15K again. As I RUN THE YEAR, I will continue to post progress updates as well as upcoming races where I can be found.

NEXT 2 UPCOMING LIVE RACES:

HumBug Bustle 5K Saturday Jan 30th 2021 Reading PA

Shiver by the River 10K Sunday Feb 14 2021 Muhlenberg PA

When the weather gets warmer, I should be able to run further distances and more frequently.  I only have 1,971 more miles to run, and I have the strength and motivation to accomplish it. Perhaps my fitness journey will encourage you to pursue one of your own.  The year is still young. As always I wish you success and happiness!

FEEL THE HEAT!

Some LIKE it hot? NOT!

FEEL THE HEAT

Some like it hot and some sweat when the heat is on
Some feel the heat and decide that they can’t go on
Some like it hot, but you can’t tell how hot ’til you try
Some like it hot, so let’s turn up the heat ’til we fry

Feel the heat pushing you to decide
Feel the heat burning you up, ready or not

(Lyrics from the song ‘Some Like It Hot’ by The Power Station – 1985

You may have heard it said about a person that they were ‘not worth their salt’. This phrase refers to the practice of paying Roman soldiers partially in salt. Salt was an expensive commodity because it was scarce in the ancient world. This salt money payment given to the Legionnaires was called ‘salarium’ and our modern English word salary is derived from that.

Roman soldiers used salt to help prevent muscle cramps from dehydration, and this is why ‘some’ people still think taking salt tablets is a good idea. Maybe if you were living back in the nineteenth century or earlier.

The chemical name for common table salt is ‘sodium chloride’ but when athletes sweat during extreme exertion and in high heat conditions, what they are really losing in their perspiration is electrolytes. Electrolytes are types of ‘salts’ which include not only sodium and chloride, but potassium and calcium as well. They are electrically charged minerals and compounds that produce energy in our bodies and allow our muscles to contract. Physical performance is affected by both the loss of electrolytes AND water! Low electrolyte levels will cause muscle cramping. Severe electrolyte imbalances can cause serious problems such as coma, seizures, and cardiac arrest.

Electrolyte pills should ONLY be used by athletes during extreme workouts and  long distance runs, especially during periods of high heat and humidity.  

Likewise severe loss of water (dehydration) can kill you! Water is one of the seven vital nutrients that our bodies NEED to survive. 

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There needs to be a balance of the electrolyte and water content in our bodies.  This is regulated by our kidneys. The kidneys remove wastes and extra fluid from the body, producing about 1 to 2 quarts (liters) of urine daily.  

Urine should be clear or a lightly tinted yellow color. The darker the color of your urine, the grater the level of dehydration.

Summer Running

Athletes need to train in order to improve their physical performance. Training schedules need to be strictly followed to get the most out of the training effect . Bad weather can delay training by a day or two AT MOST, but skipping entire weeks will undo everything you are trying to accomplish.  If you are training for a fall marathon, you will be running 3 to 4 days a week, all summer long, probably in high heat and high humidity. At least one of those weekly run days will be your long run. Yes, it’s going to be hot during the summer. So logically, you are going to be hot, sweaty, tired, and thirsty towards the end of your workouts, and especially during those long runs. The average person sweats between 0.8 to 1.4 liters, or 27.4 to 47.3 ounces per hour of exercise. (That’s equal to roughly one to three pounds of body weight.) You need to replace that fluid loss!

The general rule of thumb for fluid consumption during runs is: Take in 4 to 6 ounces of fluid every 20 minutes. Runners running faster than 8-minute miles should drink 6 to 8 ounces every 20 minutes. You may need more, you may need less, but it is of the utmost importance that you listen to YOUR BODY! Everybody is different, and EVERY BODY is different.   

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Heat Exhaustion VS Heat Stroke

You may at some point experience some symptoms of HEAT EXHAUSTION, you DO NOT want it to become HEAT STOKE.  HYDRATION IS CRUCIAL!

Heat exhaustion

Symptoms

  • headache
  • dizzy or fainting
  • heavy sweating
  • cold, pale and clammy skin
  • nausea or vomiting
  • fast, weak pulse
  • weakness or muscle cramps
  • excessive thirst

What to do

  • Hydrate with water or sports drinks. No alcohol.
  • Move to a cooler, air-conditioned place.
  • Lie down.
  • If fully conscious, sip water.
  • Take a cool shower or use cold compresses.
  • If vomiting continues, seek medical attention.
  • Act quickly. Untreated heat exhaustion can progress to heat stroke.
  • Remove tight fitting clothing or extra layers.

Heat stroke – a medical emergency

Symptoms

  • headache
  • confusion or delirium
  • may lose consciousness
  • no sweating/dry skin
  • hot, red skin
  • nausea or vomiting
  • rapid heart rate
  • body temperature above 104° F

What to do

  • Call 911. This is a medical emergency.
  • Move the person to a cooler place.
  • Use cold compresses to reduce body temperature.
  • Do not give fluids

The mind / body disconnect

It is very important to LISTEN TO YOUR BODY! I cannot stress this enough.  YOUR BODY is YOUR BODY. You know what works for YOU. You know what YOU need. Sometimes athletes push past what their body is telling them and force themselves to continue on by sheer force of will.  This is a mind/body disconnect where you are ‘in the zone’. You refuse to give up because quitters never win, winners never quit, and YOU ARE A WINNER! You yelled! You cursed! You prayed to God for strength! And you pushed your way through to the end with blood, sweat and tears. And hopefully you got stronger from the experience. Believe me, I’ve let out a primal scream or two myself as I forced my exhausted body and tired muscles to  up the pace as I charged towards the finish line in a mad sprint of speed.

There are times that I’ve beaten myself up because I’ve run at a much slower pace than I know I am capable of. The problem is that heat changes pace! The hotter it gets, the worse your pace becomes because of the added stress of high heat and humidity. Training is Summer is tough! Optimal running temperature is between 50°F and 59°F. Average runners add 2–2.5 seconds to their pace for every degree F above 59° F. Once you get above 85°F your speed is about 20-25% (or more ) slower than normal, so you push harder because you can’t understand why you are suddenly running like a snail on a course made of peanut butter!  It’s okay to do that, but it’s not okay to ignore your thirst in high heat and humidity.  Dehydration if left untreated leads to HEAT STROKE. Twice this Summer, I ran out of water 2-3 miles before I ended my long run. Believe me, it sucked!

Tired man lies in the sand next to a bottle of water

It’s better to heave water you don’t need than to need water you don’t have. On long runs, you need to self carry water, or pre-stash personal water supplies along your route where you know the will be undisturbed if discovered by passers-by. I use both methods. Last week I ran 15 miles for my long run using the Hal Higdon Training plan for marathons. I ran out of water at mile 12 because it was 92°F but felt like 100°F with the humidity added. Today I will be running 16 miles on a different trail, and will bring a lot more with me. Hopefully It won’t be as hot as last Sunday!

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As always I wish you success and happiness!

THE TRAINING EFFECT!

THE TIME  vs. THE TOLL

THE TRAINING EFFECT

But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.– Isaiah 40:31

I have been in training for months now as I prepare to EVENTUALLY run my first marathon. I was originally planning to run in the Philadelphia Marathon, but it was cancelled this year. I am now HOPING instead that I can run in the Gettysburg Marathon, assuming it too, does not get cancelled. Unfortunately In my case two things have been affecting my training.

First,  my day job has been hammering me with forced overtime for weeks now. In this past two week pay period i worked 129.25 hours. My ONLY day off is Sunday, and that day is designated by my training plan as my long run day. Sunday is also the day I TRY to write a weekly article.  Sometimes I do not have time to finish and post these articles because I MUST go running.  

Second, we’ve been having a heat wave here in South Central Pennsylvania and working 10 to 12 hour shifts 6 days a week in 95°F heat with high humidity has left me drained and exhausted.  Last Sunday I barely was able to run 9.5 miles, and I had zero energy after work to go running all week. I work outside all day, and usually walk a distance of about 7 miles. Today I was planning on running 15 miles, and again on next Sunday, but it is raining! My training is suffering as a result, but as I stated in my opening paragraph I am currently unsure  when or if I will be running a marathon this year. I do have three very important upcoming races this month, so the lack of ability to train has me greatly concerned. I’m running the Thirsty Thursday Races on August 6th and 20th, as well as the Double Trouble 15K/30K Trail run on August 16th. Training for these races is crucial!

WHAT IS TRAINING?

Athletes are often ‘in training’ for upcoming competitions of one form or another. Training is NOT the same as ‘working out’. Simply going to the gym a couple of times a week is just a normal part of being physically fit. Some type of regular exercise is needed to be healthy, there are just no ‘if, ands, or buts’ about it. Exercise can be anything from walking to riding a bike riding, lifting weights, or just going push-ups and sit-ups.

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Training is a programmed series of exercise routines of increasing duration and frequencies, conducted over a period of several weeks or months, the purpose of which is to take the athlete to a higher level of personal physical performance. It is a battle against entropy. It is how a 40-something can beat a 20-something in a race. It is a way of maintaining that peak level of health and strength that the young take for granted.  The harder you train, the better you are.

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Most runners use the Hal Higdon marathon training program, or some variation of it.  Hal Higdon is a writer, coach, and former marathon runner. He has run over 111 marathons and written 34 books on running. His proven training methods have stood the test of time.  The basic training plan is a 20 week regiment of speed training, cross training, and a weekly long run of increasing distance, followed by a rest day.  It can be found online for free. Although the information is readily available, training does have a cost. Time and commitment!

 If you do not stick to the program, you will not achieve the desired effects. You MUST do the exercises, and you MUST put in the time. An ‘accountability buddy’ can help you stick to the plan, so find a friend and go run!

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Skipping one week of training can undo two or more weeks of progress. Your muscles start to stiffen up and your body enters a reverse mode where it heads back to its normal resting point. Likewise it is just as possible to maintain the physical level achieved at the end of the training program by continuing to do those activities. This is why some highly competitive athletes are ALWAYS ‘in training’ and tend to be in the top spot for a very long time.

UNFORTUNATELY, the difference between the professional athlete and the amateur is that for the professional their sport IS their JOB, whereas the amateur must still try to fit in a full-time day job to pay the rent.  A profession athlete can achieve amazing, even super-human achievements if they have someone else providing them with a constant source of revenue.  

THE MARATHON OF HOPE!

In 1977, Canadian distance runner Terry Fox lost his leg due to bone cancer. He was walking again in just three weeks and soon began an aggressive 14 month marathon training program. In 1980, he sought sponsorship and donations to fund a bold attempt to run the entire length of Canada in the hope of increasing cancer awareness.  Starting on April 12, 1980 Terry Fox began running the equivalent of a marathon EVERY DAY for 143 consecutive days, with an artificial leg! He had to abandon his 5000 mile quest on September 1st 1980 because his cancer had spread to his lungs. He ran a total of 3,339 miles. Nine months later he succumbed  to the disease and passed away on June 28th, 1981 at age 22. He is considered a Canadian national hero and there are statues, parks, roads, and buildings named in his honor.  His effort raised $1.7 million for cancer research.

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500 Marathons in 500 Days! (And then some…)

Ricardo Abad Martínez is a Spanish ultrarunner and holds the Guinness World Record for most consecutive marathons, 607!  Originally the plan was 500 Marathons in 500 Days,  but upon completion of the goal on  February 12, 2012, he upped the ante and proclaimed he would attempt another 500 bringing to proposed target to 1000 marathons in 1000 days. Unfortunately he failed to secure funding to finance his endeavor and he abandoned his plan after he ran his 607th marathon.  He was 42 at the time. More impressive was the fact that he did while working a full-time job at a factory. In some cases, he even ran two marathons in less than 12 hours depending on if he ran after work, or before his shift began.    

In my case, my day job has been hammering me with forced overtime for weeks now. In this past two week pay period i worked 129.25 hours. My ONLY day off is Sunday, and that day is designated by my training plan as my long run day. Sunday is also the day I TRY to write a weekly article. I apologize to my regular readers if it’s been hit or miss lately,  but I’ve been a tad overwhelmed by everything. I’m hoping the rain stops at some point today so that I can at least do a short run. As always I wish you success and happiness!

A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH!

The importance of training!

A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH

“Motivation remains key to the marathon: the motivation to begin; the motivation to continue; the motivation never to quit.” — Hal Higdon

According to legend, Pheidippides was a Greek messenger who ran 25 miles from Marathon to Athens to deliver news of the victory in the battle against Persia in 490 B.C. He said to the king of Athens, “Joy to you, we’ve won” and then he immediately died on the spot. This is depicted in the famous painting Pheidippides by Luc-Olivier Merson, 1869.  

Phidippides

Twenty weeks from today, on November 22, 2020 I will be running my first marathon.  The modern marathon was named after the famous run by Pheidippides, but it is by no means a death-sentence.  According to a medical review conducted in 2016 the risk of death during or shortly after running a marathon is between  .6 and  1.9 deaths per  100,000 participants.  According to cardiologist Dr Lim Bee Chian  marathon runners often collapse near the finishing line because the build-up of lactic acid in the blood during the run triggers abnormal heart rhythms. In addition, they also suffer from exhaustion, emotional stress, dehydration and heat stroke.

On average, approximately 40% of participants in a marathon are first timers like myself. In many cases the marathon is their first official road race, which is a terrible idea. There is a very old saying that goes ‘You need to learn to walk before you try to run’. On New Year’s Eve 2018, after being inspired by long distance runner Nathan Maxwell, I began training to become a runner. I was not training to run a marathon first, I was training to run a 5K race that was months away. On Sunday April 28th, 2019 I ran my first ever 5K. A few months later I ran my first ever 15K, and a few months after that on September 7th 2019 I ran my first half-marathon. The following month I did it again and ran my second half-marathon.  The important takeaway point I am trying to make is that the training was essential. It was consistent and methodical.  In 2019 I ran a total of 11 officially timed races, this year I had planned to run double that number.  

Long races which are officially timed have support stations along the race course for runners to grab water, Gatorade, or little packets of glucose gel to enable you to keep going. Shorter races such as 5Ks often provide water and snacks at the end. The average time for a 5K race is 30-40 minutes.  10K runs average 50-70 minutes. Good times for half-marathons and marathons are 2hrs and 4hrs respectively, and involve maintaining a 9min per mile pace. I cannot run that fast yet, but I am getting better. Longer faces have cutoff times. Typically 4 hours for a half-marathon and 7 hours for a full marathon. So basically if you can run at a consistent pace of 15min per mile, you can still finish the race before the cutoff time, but you have very little wiggle-room.  I average about a 13min mile, and I am still considered a new runner. I only ran my first official race 14 months ago, so I am just two months into my second year of running, but I am definitely faster than I was a year ago.

Then mid March, the coronavirus shut down all the gyms and cancelled almost every race I had lined up for this year as part of my training regiment.  This in and of itself could have thrown off my entire marathon training plan. Fortunately  Gina,  a member  of a run-club I belong to shared a virtual run series that spanned 12 weeks. Last  Sunday was the final race. During the series I ran 37 races, all timed with my professional runner’s watch, a Garmin Forerunner 945. If you add the 4 races I got in before the virus that shut down the world struck,  I have run 41 races so far this year and am at nearly 4 times as many races as I ran in 2019, so I know what I am doing. A runner runs, and I am a trained professional now. I created an info-graphic depicting the 37 races I ran for The Un-Cancelled Project over the 12 week series.

UNCANCELLED2416222020

If there is one thing I have learned in my 14 months as a runner, it’s not the distance that kills you, it’s both the pace, and dehydration.  Since most races currently are virtual, there are no water stations so I need to self-support. As a Clydesdale (a heavy-weight runner) I require more water than the average racer, especially during these hot summer months. Dehydration is a killer. (So is carrying all those sport bottles of frozen endurance fuel!)  As I start gradually increasing my distances according to my running plan,  the water needed may become a problem.  So far I have run 4 virtual half-marathons in the past two months alone.  I underestimated my water needs for the 1st one May 2nd. So I ran out after 11 miles with 2.1 miles remaining and the hot sun beating down on me.   Fortunately Steve, another member of my run-club was able to bike out to me with a water bottle. This is why I carry my phone while running.  This is also why it is important to run with a group, but as our schedules don’t always mesh, lately I have been doing a lot of solo runs.  Over the next  5 months I will be running 4-5 times a week and following a custom training plan which I derived from several popular marathon training plans including the Hal Higdon plan. Always remember you plan to fail, if you fail to plan! As always I wish you success and happiness!