Monday, August 29, 2011

Running Gear, Vol. I

One of my favorite things about running is it's simplicity.  You can do it anywhere, you don't need a field or court, and you don't need lot of expensive equipment to enjoy the sport.  As my barefoot running posts show, some runners don't even need shoes!

Having the right gear, however, can make the activity more enjoyable.  For a long distance runner, one of the basic necessities is some sort of hydration.  In general, on any run over an hour I always take a water bottle.  On a really hot day, I'll take it on even shorter runs.

For years, my favorite water bottle and belt is made by Ultimate Direction.  The belt fits on your low back and does not bounce around like some belts.  The horizontal holster makes for very easy access, and the bottle itself does not leak.

If you are in the market for a new water bottle and/or belt, I highly recommend it.

Here is a link to the company website.  They have many different bottles, belts, and packs based on your individual needs and preferences.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Friday, August 26, 2011

#7--Stockholm Marathon

June 8, 2002. 3:52:05

My grandfather emigrated from Sweden in the early 20th century.  As a medical school graduation gift to myself, I wanted to visit my "homeland."  I spent two weeks in Sweden, with one week in the capitol, Stockholm.  Sweden is a clean, efficient, friendly, and beautiful country.  I met many relatives and made some new friends.  Of course, I had to squeeze in a marathon during the trip!

The Stockholm Marathon is considered by many to be one of the 10 best marathons in the world.  I would have to agree.  The scenery is breathtaking and the weather is usually mild.  The course included two loops through this great city.  The highlight was finishing in Stockholm's Olympic Stadium, site of the 1912 Olympic Games.  More world records have been set in this stadium than any other in the world.  I didn't set any records this day, but I did improve my time from Boston by quite a bit, finishing under four hours.

I am often asked which is my favorite marathon of all time.  I don't really have a favorite, but if pressed, would have to say Stockholm.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

#6--Boston Marathon

April 15, 2002. 4:20:57

This represented the end of a two year pursuit for me.  In 2000 I set a goal to qualify for Boston and reached that goal with the Twin Cities Marathon that same year.  The qualifying time is good for two years.  I was very busy with medical school, so I decided to run Boston the following year.

By this time I had met my wife-to-be and we spent several days touring the historic city.  (She was in OT school and couldn't get any time off.  She told her professors she had scabies and couldn't come to class for a few days!  Nobody asks for proof when you tell them you have scabies!)  This trip was more of a vacation than a race.  We walked on the Freedom Trail, went to a Red Sox game, drank at Cheers, and gorged on seafood.

I took a narrated bus tour of the course.  It was really cool to finally make it here and be surrounded by so many other runners who dedicated themselves to the same goal.  It can be argued that the Boston Marathon is the most famous and prestigious road race in the world.  The great thing about marathon running is the chance to compete in the same event as the best in the world.  Not many people can play in a Super Bowl with Tom Brady or a World Series with Derek Jeter, but I was able to "play in the Super Bowl of Running" for one day.

I was not in great shape for the race and labored to a 4 hr + finish time.  The course was 26.2 miles of history, and I didn't mind a single minute spent on the course.  The entire course was lined with enthusiastic spectators who are as much a part of the race as the runners themselves.  I took a disposable camera with me on the course and tried to capture what I could of the race.   For me, however, the race was fairly anti-climactic.  This was about the destination AND the journey.  To this date, qualifying for and running the Boston Marathon remains my proudest accomplishment.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

LSD is Good For You

No, not THAT kind of LSD.  I mean Long, Slow, Distance.  This is the foundation of any running program, particularly the marathon.  These runs teach your body to withstand the physical pounding of running for hours on pavement.  Mentally, you learn to be patient and to stay focused for the hours that the distance demands.

Long, slow, distance runs improve your endurance and aerobic capacity.  This is the best fat burning training zone to be in, as your body learns to use stored fats as fuel.  These runs should not be done too fast.  If you are using a heart rate monitor, you should stay well below 70% of your max heart rate.  If you are not using a HR monitor, you should be able to carry on an easy conversation without being winded.

The biggest mistake most runners make is doing these runs too fast.  You lose the benefits of training in a low HR zone, and you risk acute and overuse injuries.

To very loosely paraphrase Timothy Leary--shoes on, tune in & slow down.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Thunder Run 2011

Today was the 2011 Thunder Run.  It was a perfect day for a race-sunny and not too hot.  This is a unique race run on the airport runway.  This makes it seem much longer than a 5K, in my opinion.  Over 400 runners participated in the 5K, another great turnout for a Lincoln Track Club event.

I've been doing some speed work of late, and the 3 weeks of boot camp have me feeling stronger and faster.   I used today's race as a tempo workout.  I jogged an easy mile before the race, and then hovered around the 7:45/mile pace during the 5K before finishing with a mile cool down afterwards.  My time for the race was 24:26.

I don't run many 5Ks, but it is probably one of my favorite distances.

I'm doing an easy 12 miler tomorrow.  Next weekend I'll peak at 20 before tapering before the next marathon.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Altitude Running 101

This seems like a strange post from someone living in Lincoln, NE.  There are several reasons why it's been on my mind, however.  I was in Keystone, CO recently for a meeting and went for several training runs.  My heart was practically pounding out of my chest.  My recent post about the Wyoming Marathon also reminded me of the joys of running at altitude.  Finally, my next marathon will be another one at altitude.  Have to check Colorado off the list!

Altitude probably doesn't affect endurance performance until you reach almost 5000 ft.  After that, however, your VO2 max (maximum ability to transport and use oxygen) declines about 3% for every 1000 ft of elevation.  There are several basic physiologic principles that explain why.  At altitude, the partial pressure of oxygen declines.  In order for your heart to pump enough oxygen to all of your tissues, your heart rate speeds up.  In order to get more oxygen into your lungs, your breathing accelerates.  You lose water in the form of water vapor from increased respiration.  The above changes affect the pH balance of your blood.  In order to try to maintain normal pH balance, your kidneys diurese.  This leads to further dehydration.

The physiologic effects of altitude begin almost immediately.  Your body responds by making more red blood cells to carry oxygen, but this process takes time.  Full acclimatization takes weeks.  Ideally, one would arrive several weeks before an event at altitude.  For most of us, that's not an option.  Acutely, the best thing to do is drink a lot of water to negate the effects of dehydration, adjust your expectations, and enjoy the views and cool mountain air, however thin it may be.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

#5--Wyoming Marathon

May 27, 2001.  5:20:19

After I qualified for Boston, I took some time off.  Probably too much time off, in retrospect.  I was into my third year of med school and I really had a hard time finding time to train.  After basically taking the fall and winter off, I was ready to run again.

I've always been goal oriented, and I needed something to get me back on the road.  By now, I had started to think about running a marathon in all 50 states.  I did a family medicine rotation in Chadron, Nebraska in the spring of 2001.  The Wyoming Marathon just outside of Laramie was within driving distance, so I signed up for it.  My training was still somewhat sporadic.  I was limited by time and was having some leg and calf pain.  I later diagnosed myself with shin splints, or posteromedial tibial stress syndrome.  I tend to over-pronate some, and I was running in fairly old and worn out shoes.  Big mistake.  My biggest mistake, however, was just not having enough respect for the course I was about to run.  My previous races had been pretty easy, and I was a Boston Qualifier.  It should be easy, right?

The Wyoming Marathon is basically a trail marathon.  It was in Medicine Bow National Forest.  Very beautiful.  It is an out and back that starts at 8500 ft elevation, downhill to 7000 ft at the turn around, and then back up to 8500 ft at the finish.  It was an incredibly hard course, and remains the most difficult marathon I've ever done, even to this day.  At several points I wanted to quit, but that would have been tough.  You are basically stranded in the middle of nowhere.  The best thing to do is just keep moving towards the finish.

Well, I did finish, but in a record slow time of 5:20:19.  Since that race I've learned a lot.  Don't run a marathon you haven't trained properly for.  Don't run in old and worn out shoes.  Trail marathons in the mountain altitude are tough if you don't live and train there.  Finally, don't get too cocky.  The marathon can be a very humbling experience.