Friday, July 31, 2009

Does Your Upper Body Poop-out on a Long Run?

Fatigued legs and cramping calves are common among distance runners. Most of the time the fatigue or cramping is due to depleted glycogen stores and/or dehydration. But, has your upper body every fatigued? Do your arms ever go numb or cramp?

Many times all runners do is run and that's great cardiovascularly, but strength-wise that can cause problems down the road. I've mentioned this before in previous posts (Getting to the Core ) but the core is the power center for a runner. If your core is not strong eventually, you'll become too exhausted to maintain good running form and posture. When this happens your running becomes less efficient and you begin to tire and slow down.

Strengthening your core can help avoid this. [Click here] for a good core work out using a medicine ball. Strengthening the muscles in your arms and shoulder girdle can also help fight fatigue and cramping. Focus your exercises on your shoulders (mid- and rear-deltoids), the back of the neck (upper- and mid-trapezius), the upper arm (biceps and triceps). Free weights (dumbbells) or machines can be used, however using free weights will give you better range of motion allowing you to also help increase your stability because you'll be using a variety of muscles to help keep your balance while targeting the specific muscle you're working on.

Remember the point of these exercises is to build muscular endurance. You're not trying to become the next Arnold. So, think "lighter weight and higher repetitions." Choose a weight that you can lift 12 to 15 times before becoming tired. To start do one set of 12-15 repetitions of each exercise. Eventually work out to three sets (12-15 repetitions) of each exercise.

Check out the following workouts from for sample workouts.



Upper Trapezius (from

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Vegetarian Chili That Any Runner Will Love

Earlier this month I featured a recipe for Turkey Macaroni. Gabby (one of RunnerDude's Blog's readers) emailed me with her tweaked vegetarian chili recipe that also uses macaroni. It's really simple and easy to make with a crock pot. Her teenage brother who shuns vegetarian dishes because "they're bland and never filling" absolutely loves this and is full after one bowl! Gabby says it's in the beans. She admits the list of ingredients is long, but she says the final product is worth it. The dish will feed an entire family with plenty of leftovers. It tastes better the next day and is full of protein and carbs, perfect to eat after a long run or hard track workout.

Gabby's Vegetarian Chili
Ingredients: 2 cans (28 oz) diced tomatoes
4 cups (roughly 2 cans) reduced sodium vegetable broth
1 can (15 oz) black beans, rinsed and drained
1 can (15 oz) white beans, rinsed and drained
1 can (15 oz) red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup chopped onion
1 green bell pepper
2 cloves of minced garlic (I use a tbsp of garlic powder)

1 tbsp (or whole) minced jalapeno, fresh or from a can
1 packet of chili seasoning (also works with a packet of taco or burrito seasoning, had to improvise a couple of times when I ran out of chili seasoning and it comes out great!)
2 tbsp of Mexican oregano
2 tbsp of ground cumin
4 to 5 dashes of hot sauce (optional)
half a pound of macaroni pasta (or 1/3 cup of couscous)
1/3 cup chopped cilantro
1/2 cup shredded Jack cheese (optional)
salt and pepper to taste

In a slow cooker combine all ingredients except pasta. Cover and cook on Low for 6 to 8 hours or High for 3 to 4 hours. 10 minutes before severing add the macaroni pasta. Cook pasta until desired texture. Just before serving top off with cheese and cilantro. Makes a lot.

Gabby's training for the Nike Women's Marathon (October, 2009) and raising funds for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society! I'm sure she'd love your support. Check out her fundraising website for more details on the event and how you can make a donation. You can also visit her blog for the latest training update!

The Jr. Olympics Right in My Own Backyard!

More and more, my hometown, Greensboro, NC and the Triad area (Greensboro, Winston-Salem, and High Point) are becoming the destination spot for many well known events. High Point is the home of the largest furniture show in the world. Greensboro has hosted an array of sports tournaments such as the collegiate Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) basketball tournament, East Coast Hockey League (ECHL) and American Hockey League (AHL) professional hockey, and the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship. In 2011, Greensboro will host the 2011 U.S. Figure Skating Championship.

Greensboro is also becoming a destination for track & field events. This week (July 28 - August 2), the 2009 USATF National Junior Olympic Track & Field Championships are being held at the state-of-the-art Irwin Belk Track at North Carolina A&T State University. Youth from all over the country will be competing. Entry for this championship is based on athlete performances at preliminary, Association, and Regional levels of the 2009 USATF Junior Olympic Program. Competition takes place in five two-year age divisions, with athletes generally falling between the ages of 8 and 18.

Some of the runners in this event will most likely go on to be running stars at future Olympic games. Several running stars and legends were at the opening ceremony and others will be in attendance throughout the week including nine-time gold medalist Carl Lewis, Dan O'Brien (1996 decathlon champion and American record holder), and Joanna Hayes (2004 100-meter hurdles champ). North Carolina's Crystal Cox, who won Olympic gold in 2004 on the women's 4x400 relay, will be at the meet Saturday.

For four consecutive years, Irwin Belk Track at NC A&T State has been the home of the Nike Outdoor Nationals. The Nike Outdoor Nationals brings the best high school athletes in the world to Greensboro. Many of these runners also end up appearing in Olympic competition.

It's amazing sometimes what you find right in your own backyard.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Job Loss Gives Olympic Hopeful Time to Train

A recent post—"A Down Economy Equals an Up in PRs"—talked about the spike in runners setting PRs as a result of having more time to train due to job loss. The source of the post was a recent Wall Street Journal article. The article mentions Claudia Becque, a runner who set a 2:44 marathon PR, cutting an amazing 14-minutes off her previous PR. I was so intrigued by her accomplishment that I tracked Claudia down and asked her to share more about her story.

RunnerDude: When did your journey to qualify for the Olympic Marathon Trials begin?
Claudia: My journey to qualify for the 2008 Olympic Marathon Trials began in the summer of 2007.
RunnerDude: How did that go?
Claudia: I trained with a another qualifier and followed her training plan and had hoped to qualify at the Berlin Marathon in the fall of 2007. I never fully adjusted to the travel and had stomach issues during the race, falling short by 11 minutes and devastated that I had trained so hard and it just wasn't the right day.
RunnerDude: Besides the travel and stomach issues, what other factors do you think may have contributed to you not doing as well as you had hoped?
Claudie: With my high mileage and my full time job, I was so tired and had left my hard work on the lakefront path in Chicago (where Claudia trained).
RunnerDude: What happened after Berlin?
Claudia: Through a close friend I met my current coach, Tom McGlynn, founder of Focus-n-Fly, a month after Berlin at the Men's Olympic Trials. Instantly, I knew he'd be the right fit for me and could help me accomplish my goal of qualifying for the trials. Unfortunately, we didn't have many marathons to choose from to get in adequate training, but I was ready to give it all I had.
RunnerDude: That’s great that you were able to find a great coach and jump right back in to training. You still had work to juggle when your new training began. How did you deal with that?
Claudia: In January 2008, I received a phone call that my position had been eliminated. I thought the timing couldn't have been worse as I had just bought a townhouse and was planning my wedding. Luckily, within a week of being let go, I was offered a similar position with a different company. Since I had received a severance, I chose to delay starting by a month and a half to focus on getting some solid training accomplished.
RunnerDude: How did that benefit your running?
Claudia: That gave me a glimpse of what running full time looks like. I was running twice a day, blocking off time to stretch, do my core work, and nap before my evening run and allowing me the much needed rest I had lacked going into Berlin.
RunnerDude: So, how did it go on race day?
Claudia: Fortunately, I had done all of my key workouts and was able taper as I eased into my new job without any added stress. As March 2nd (race day) arrived, I knew I had tapered and felt refreshed and ready to go. By 10am (that morning), I was an Olympic Trials Qualifier, knowing that seven weeks later I would be toeing the line with the fastest women in the US. I was extremely fortunate that I had the flexibility to take the time between jobs without the stress of knowing where my next job would be.
RunnerDude: What’s next for you in running?
Claudia: If everything goes well, my goal by 2010 is to be working less hours and focusing on 2012.

I look forward to following Claudia's running and with her determination and drive, I have no doubt we'll be watching her in 2012!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Helping the Homeless Get Back on Their Feet Through Running

Recently I was reading a favorite blog of mine—Believe In The Run—that's hosted by a Twitter friend of mine, Thomas Neuberger. Something in one of the posts—Baltimore 10 Miler Race Re-cap—really intrigued me. He mentioned a running team called Back on My Feet (BOMF). I followed a link he provided to the BOMF website and discovered a really cool organization. I invited Thomas to be a guest blogger and share exactly what Back on My Feet is all about. Here's his story:

Recently, I sat down with my friend Jeanne Bayers after a great speed work out at a local high school to discuss her involvement with Back On My Feet (BOMF). Back on My Feet is a non-profit organization (originally founded in Philadelphia) that promotes the self-sufficiency of the homeless population by engaging them in running as a means to build confidence, strength and self-esteem.

The organization does not provide food nor does it provide shelter, but instead provides a community that embraces equality, respect, discipline, teamwork and leadership. There are no labels, no stigmas and no stereotypes. At Back on My Feet, all members - regardless of race, education or socioeconomic status - join together to move their own lives forward as well as the lives of their teammates.
Jeanne Bayers is part of the Baltimore team, which is the second city for the BOMF program. Things are going so well in Baltimore that they are adding additional shelters to the program. BOMF will soon be expanding to it’s third city— Washington DC.

First, let me tell you a little bit ab
out Jeanne. She's been running since high school on the cross-country team. Then her running became sporadic in college. "Every time I gained weight I would start running (again).” Jeanne comes from a running family so she was always involved with road races, but had never run a marathon. It wasn’t until Jeanne cheered for her BFF, Colleen while she ran the Marine Corp Marathon in DC, that the idea to run a marathon clicked for Jeanne. Since then, she has run several marathons including Boston this year. She even prequalified for Boston with her Boston Marathon time. That is awesome!

After reading about BOMF in an article in Runner’s World Jeanne found out that the organization was coming to Baltimore. She immediately started emailing to see how she could get involved. BOMF had an event at a local pub in Canton (Baltimore neighborhood) where you could meet some of the residents (runners living at shelters) and non-residents (BOMF volunteers). Their stories were very moving and powerful. Having an addict in her own family, the stories really resonated with Jeanne. Knowing what running has done for her and having seen first hand how addiction can destroy a person’s life, Jeanne was determined to
contribute as a non-resident runner.

Jeanne began running with BOMF in the early spring of 2009. There were a couple surprises. First, the residents were not the stereotype of what you might think of when someone says inner city homeless addicts. "We have some guys who are 20 years old and guys who are 55 years old in the program and they come from all walks of life. When you are running with them, I mean I could be running with them down the street and people would have no idea who are the volunteers and who are the residents. You can’t tell.”
The second surprise is how personally invested she's become in these guys and their stories. "It can be hard emotionally connecting with an addict, sometimes the addiction wins and the resident makes the wrong choice. In that case they forfeit the program and are out of the shelter too."

Through the BOMF program residents can set goals and gain confidence through their running. The program also helps with job programs, grants, and transportation to work, and even help them get their GED. Once a resident shows his commitment to the program by running and staying clean BOMF is there to help them get back into a productive role as a citizen.

Philadelphia has to be proud of what they have started and how it is growing in Baltimore.
“They (residents and non-residents from Philly) were amazed when they came to the Baltimore 10 miler. They had run in the running festival last year, a lot of the guys came down. I think they were amazed at our guys as well as the sheer amount of volunteers that Baltimore has. Because we have so many, we have a huge ratio of volunteers to actual members and we just started a third shelter we are running with and a fourth one is on its way.” Check out the clip below of highlights from the Baltimore 10.

If you would like to get involved with BOMF you can volunteer to run, fundraise, fund race (raise money to get an entry into one of the harder races to get into like Boston or New York), and buy BOMF merchandise. Visit the BOMF website for more information.—Thomas

Thanks Thomas for sharing this great story! Here's a clip from the NBC Nightly News about Back on My Feet in Philadelphia.

Visit for Breaking News, World News, and News about the Economy

Sunday, July 26, 2009

A Down Economy Equals an Up in PRs!

A good friend of mine recently passed me a Wall Street Journal article about runners that puts one more card in my favor for obtaining the BQ (Boston Qualifier) I so desire in the upcoming Marine Corps Marathon in October. According to the article—"Fast Times for Jobless Runners" (Reed Albergotti, 7/8/09)—a trend is emerging. During times of unemployment, runners tend to "amp up their training." As a result their marathon results and just the sheer number of participants in races rise across the country.

As many find themselves without work with few job prospects on the horizon, many runners have been using this newly available time to train for upcoming races. Some evidence even suggests that these better-trained runners are actually helping to raise the level of competition within their age groups. The article proposes that this trend could possibly even have an effect on Olympic-level competition as more elite college athletes decide to continue with their athletic goals instead of trying to look for a job in the current economy. Imagine if this downward economy ends up helping Americans bring home more Gold in 2010 winter and 2012 summer games!

I can attest to that fact that being laid-off and unemployed takes you through all the stages of grief—Shock & Denial, Pain & Guilt, Anger, Depression (reflection & loneliness), Adjusting, Reconstruction, Acceptance & Hope. I think one of factor that keeps many unemployed from getting past the Depression stage is the lack of structure in their day. They're trying to find work, but there are just very few jobs to be had. (The other day there was a line wrapped around a local hobby store for a part-time position.) So, many end up with 12+ hours a day to think about nothing but their unfortunate situations.

A recent USA Today article, "Good mood can run a long time after a workout" (Nanci Hellmich, 6/2/2009), revealed the results of an exercise/mood study done by researchers from the University of Vermont. The study involved two groups of 24 students each. One group road a stationary bike for 20 minutes at a moderate speed. The other group did nothing during the same period. Then the overall mood of each group was evaluated at several intervals: one, two, four, eight, 12 and 24 hours. The students who rode bicycles for 20 minutes at moderate intensity scored significantly higher than the non-exercise group at every interval up to 12 hours. The cool thing about this study is that it showed that exercise has positive effects that can last several hours after the exercise. So, it seems that exercise is beneficial both physically and mentally. This definitely seems to be supported by the runners in the Wall Street Journal article. One runner, Claudia Becque cut 14 minutes of her time setting a PR of 2:44. That's pretty amazing!

Another little nugget of information I gleaned from the Wall Street Journal article is that according to IDEA Health and Fitness (a fitness-industry association) the average gym membership increased 18% this year. Being in a 6-month diploma certification program to become a personal trainer, this is fantastic news to hear!

I am more focused in my marathon training and I do have more time to train, so hopefully this will pay off in October. I'll let you know.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Newspaper Blog Helps Unite the Local Running Community

My hometown newspaper—The Greensboro News & Record—has recently added a wonderful service for the local running community. Eddie Wooten, the Church and State Team editor for the paper and a runner himself, recently added a running blog titled Running Shorts to the paper's website. Wooten began running in 2003 and has entered and finished 12 marathons, seven half-marathons, two Ultimate Runners, the Blue Ridge Relay and occasional 5Ks and 10Ks. Wooten hopes the blog will bring the running community together by introducing runners to people they see on the local greenways, to some of the elite runners in the area, to people running for various causes, and to people who just want to run. I'm really looking forward to following the blog and learning more about my fellow local runners. (FYI: Greensboro readers, scroll down the right sidebar and you'll find a link for the Running Shorts blog under "Social Network 4Runners" and under "Local Running Services.")

I've been a member of several running social networks such as dailymile, athinks, Runner's Lounge, seriousrunning, etc. These sites have been great for connecting with fellow runners across North Carolina, the US, as well as the world. But until, Wooten's local blog, I never realized all the great info I was missing out on right here in my own backyard. It got me to wondering if there were other newspapers around the country hosting a blog specifically for local runners. My research didn't uncover many community-based running blogs. Most of the newspaper blogs I found featured general fitness posts not particularly aimed at uniting the running community. Kudos to Eddie Wooten and the Greensboro News & Record for being trend-setters! Here's a few of the blogs I did find:

The Arizona Daily Star has recently added a running blog which is part of a bigger website ( that includes a calendar of local running and walking events, news, training tips and other information about running in the Tucson area. The blog is geared for all levels of runners and walkers, too.
The Sacramento Bee provides a Health & Fitness Blog for its readers "presenting the latest research on health issues and fitness trends in the region and the nation." A recent post titled "Youth Sports Participation = Emergency Room Visits" points out that 22 percent of hospital emergency department visits are from sports-related injuries of children ages 5 to 17.
New York:
The Post-Standard of Syracuse, NY features a Health & Fitness Blog. This blog features local residents accomplishing their health-related goals as well as providing general fitness and health information. A current post reads "Exercise, calorie counting help Syracuse sisters drop a combined 304 pounds."
The Knoxville News Sentinel provides a fitness blog that includes all types of fitness-related information including running. A recent posting titled "Running with headphones, or without?" talks about the pluses and minuses of running with headphones in light of a recent Runner's World column about a 17-year-old runner that was struck by a car during a nighttime 5K/10K in Bakersfield, Calif.

If your local newspaper features a blog specifically designed for the local running community, let me know and send me a link. I'd love to check it out. I'm sure Eddie Wooten would too.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Go Faster Food!

I've mentioned it before, but Twitter is such an awesome tool for meeting people from all over the world that you'd otherwise never have the opportunity to get to know. One such person is Kate Percy. Kate lives in the UK in Bristol with her husband, Mark, and their three children, Helena, James and Will. Like many, Kate decided to get into running because her spouse was a "sports fanatic" and always training for this marathon and that. She found that she really loved running and set a goal of running the New York City Marathon. After successfully completing NYC, she was hooked and has since completed marathons all over the world including Amsterdam, Berlin, and London. She's also reached the goal that many runners strive for—achieving a qualifying time for Boston.

Even though she was thoroughly enjoying her running, Kate found it a constant challenge to fuel her body adequately. Being an avid runner as well as a cook, Kate decided to explore recipes that would increase her stamina and achieve her personal best. The result of her exploration is a collection of over 100 delicious, nutritionally-balanced, energy-boosting recipes compiled in her new book, Go Faster Food (Vermilion, 2009).

During her exploration, Kate not only discovered that certain foods are better than others for helping with endurance and aiding in recovery, she also discovered that how much and when you eat are important factors.

Go Faster Food is packed with user-friendly information that's a must have for any endurance athlete. This is not one of those books you'll read and think, "that's cool" and then never pick it up again. I foresee this book becoming a dog-eared, coffee-stained, tattered staple of many a runner's library.

The book is organized into two main sections—"Nutrition and Training" and "Go Faster Recipes." The first section is broken into six chapters each focusing on a different topic such as carbohydrates, what to eat and when, and hydration. The layout of each chapter is very user-friendly and will make using the book as an ongoing reference very easy. The get-it-at-a glance call-out boxes for tips, lists, and examples make finding key information in each chapter quick and simple.

The second portion of the book provides over 100 recipes endorsed by a nutritionist to help amateur and elite athletes improve their endurance and fitness. Each recipe provides a general overview of the dish's health benefits as well as a detailed breakdown of energy (kcal), carb, salt, fat, protein and fiber content. The recipes are divided into 9 categories:
Soups and Light Meals
Polenta and Gnocchi
Lentils and Pulses
Desserts, Cakes and Energy Bars
Drinks and Smoothies

Each recipe is marked with one or more of three different icons so you can quickly tell if the recipe is a "healthy meal for your general training diet" "good for endurance" or "good for recovery."

Some of my favorites include "Roasted Butternut Squash Risotto with Maple Syrup Almonds" and "Date, Apricot and Walnut Flapjacks" and my all-time favorite "Walnut and White Chocolate Chip Brownies."

The only drawback for "us Americans" is that you'll need to do some metric-to-standard measurement conversions, but using a site like World-Wide-Metric will make those conversions a snap!
Kate ends the book with some helpful menu-plan suggestions as well as a shopping list that will make stocking your pantry a breeze with food categories such as dried foods and grains, canned-goods, frozen foods, herbs & spices, and vegetables.

I'm not sure if Go Faster Foods is available in US bookstores yet, but you definitely can order it from Amazon. Be sure to check out Kate's blog and website for more great recipes and nutrition information for endurance athletes.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Don't Skip Breakfast on Marathon Morning!

With all the anxiety and nerves that go along with marathon morning, sometimes eating is that last thing on many runners' mind. Oh but what a big mistake. Not eating or eating too little can spell disaster. Even though you may have carb-loaded days before the race and even though you may have attended that pre-race pasta dinner, you'll still need some fresh fuel in the tank come race time.

Leading sports nutritionist Nancy Clark recommends that runners eat about 500 calories of breakfast 1-3 hours before race time. In her book, Nancy Clark's Food Guide for Marathons, Clark provides several examples of a good 500-calorie pre-marathon breakfast such as
2 oatmeal packets made with (300 calories)
1 cup of low-fat milk (100 calories)
1 medium banana (100 calories)

I've found that two English muffin halves each spread with a little peanut butter and a little jam or preserves does the trick for me. Some other good pre-run foods I've tried include:
a bagel with peanut butter and banana slices
a whole-grain waffle with peanut butter
two graham crackers with peanut butter
whole-grain cereal with skim milk
(FYI: test on a short run; milk doesn't set well with some runners)
Greek yogurt with fruit
a sports bar (check the label and make sure it's not loaded with saturated fat)

Over the past 10 marathons that I've run, I've learned a few things by trial and error about the pre-marathon breakfast.
1. Make sure your breakfast is high in carbs (i.e., bagels, toast, English muffins). A little protein is fine such as an egg, yogurt, or peanut butter, but try to stay way from excessively fatty foods. The extra fat may not settle well in your tummy during the race, plus the fat (especially saturated fat) isn't going to provide your muscles much fuel at this stage in the game.

2. Be sure that whatever you eat, it's something that you'd nornmally eat prior to a run. It's a good idea to test out various breakfast foods during your training. This way you get a good idea of which ones provide you the fuel you need as well as which ones may have adverse affects. Never, Never, Never eat something on race day that you've never before eaten prior to a long run.

3. If you're having to travel to a different city for your marathon, be advised that the hotel you're staying at may not have the breakfast foods you need or it may not prepare them the way you're accustomed to. I've found it very helpful to either pack the foods I'll need or purchase them from a local grocery store once I get there. I've also found it very helpful to book a room that has a mini-fridge. This way you can keep your water and sports drinks cold.

4. Be sure to hydrate starting the day before the marathon. No need to over do it, but I've found that sipping on several bottles of water throughout the day is helpful. The morning of the race be sure to drink water with your breakfast. Then drink your last glasses of water or sports drink about 2 hours prior to the start. This will give it plenty of time to pass through your system, giving you time to void any extra before the start. Then drink some more about 5-15 minutes before the start. Just like the food, only drink liquids you normally drink before running. Don't all the sudden decide to try a sports drink before the run, because they're handing them out free.

Marathon: The Inside Story, by Hal Higdon

Looking for a new running novel to read? Acclaimed runner, trainer, author, and and long-time contributor to Runner's World, Hal Higdon has a new book—Marathon: The Novel— you should add to your reading list. To find out more about the book check out the article below written by Higdon himself (originally posted June 22, 2009 by my friends at TrainingPeaks blog). Also, to download the first three chapters of the novel for free from Higdon's website [click here] .

I just finished my latest book - shipped it to my agent last Monday. That means I can spend the rest of the summer playing. I ran to the gym this morning, pumped some iron, then ran home, jumped on my bike and rode to a nearby supermarket for coffee and donuts. I had two of the latter figuring I was in the middle of a triple workout. Should have had three, but I’m on a diet.

The book just completed is my first novel and carries the working title, Marathon: The Novel. Thirty-four books in print, and I finally got around to shifting from non-fiction to fiction. That’s not entirely true, because my resume includes several works of fiction for children, including The Horse That Played Center Field, made into an animated film by ABC-TV. But this is my first stab at an adult novel.

Fiction usually is tougher to sell than non-fiction, unless your name is Stephen King or Joyce Carol Oates. Thus, for most of my career, I have been content to publish books about crime, business and the Civil War, along with a few books that might help runners finish a marathon.
Nevertheless, I’ve had the plot for a novel rattling in my head for most of the last decade, dating from about the time I became a training consultant for the Chicago Marathon, permitting me a unique opportunity to peer into the workings of that race. For the last several years, Marathon: The Novel has been the focus of my daily writing. It was what I did first each morning when I sat down at the computer.

This first novel focuses on the 72 hours leading up to a major marathon, the fictional Lake City Marathon. The plot revolves around a romance between the race director and a just-met TV reporter. That plus problems with sponsorship, hot weather, illness to his top runner and the appearance of a person known as Celebrity X, reportedly “more famous than Oprah.” Marathon is a multi-dimensional and multi-character novel similar in scope to best-selling books by Arthur Hailey: Hotel and Airport.

En route to finishing Marathon, I suffered a couple of false starts, including one on my Virtual Training Bulletin Boards. I thought it might be fun to turn the writing of a novel into a community project online. I figured I would write a couple of paragraphs, then invite others on the V-Boards to add a sentence or a paragraph taking the book in whichever direction the mutual authorship wanted.

Great idea, but it just did not work. So I retreated to the traditional route for creating best-sellers. Each morning, you sit down at the computer and type-type-type, and after a year or two, you find an agent and a publisher and readers willing to spend $26.95 for the privilege of reading what you wrote.

Don't forget to download the first three chapters of Marathon: The Novel for free [click here]. If you have a question for Hal Higdon, you can ask it by visiting his Virtual Training Bulletin Boards.

Also, be sure to take some time to check out the TrainingPeaks blog.

Update! (7/28/10)-The book is now available and is a great read! To learn more about the book and more about Hal, check out my recent interview with him.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

To Wash or Not to Wash That Is The Question

Woolite, Woolite, wherefore art thou oh Woolite. Okay that's a bit much, but have you ever wondered whether or not you could wash your running shoes? You wash everything else—socks, shorts, singlet, jog bra (well not me)—so why not your shoes? I've researched this a lot and there seems to be people passionate on both sides. Kind of sad to be passionate over washing shoes, but hey, whatever gives you kicks.

Anywho...the shoe manufacturers of course say not to wash the shoes. But, I have a feeling that's the same thing as a 100% polyester shirt with a tag that says "Dry Clean Only." I think the shoe companies are just playing it safe. Seems to me that if you run in a downpour and your shoes get sopping wet, how is that any different than you washing your shoes. I've washed my shoes for years.
The main reason is that I'm a heavy sweater. My feet often slosh in my shoes after a summer run. My shoes don't stink from fungus or athlete's foot, but they do get this pungent sweaty smell. At first I would just remove the insoles and rinse them out with cold water. Then I'd take them outside and shake as much water out as I could and then let them air dry. For me, however, this didn't always take care of that sweaty smell. So I started using mild detergents like Woolite. That really helped. Most recently I've been washing my shoes in the washing machine in cold water with the new sports detergent WIN that's designed to remove sports-related body odors. My shoes come out fine.

I think the trick is to use a mild soap, cold water, and to let the shoes air dry. Never dry the shoes in the dryer. That can shrink your shoes or even melt the rubber if you use heat. My experience washing my running shoes of course is not scientific, but it's worked for me. My shoes run fine after being washed. If you're curious, I recommend taking an older pair of your running shoes and do a test wash. Then if they don't come out as expected, you were going to replace them soon anyway.

If you have any other tips/tricks for cleaning your running shoes, I'd love to hear them!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Tune Up With a Tempo!

Intervals at the track are a great way to build speed and long runs are great for increasing endurance. Running fast repeats will definitely help improve your pace even if you're a distance runner, but maintaining a faster pace throughout a half-marathon or a full marathon is another story. So, what is there to help bridge the gap between the interval (speed) and the long run (endurance)?

The bridge you're looking for is a tempo run. The best definition of a tempo run that I've seen is running "comfortably hard." That means you're running faster than your normal pace, but not quite at your race pace. As a veteran marathoner, I've always wondered why the long run was always done at a slow pace. I understood the reasoning of building endurance without increasing the chance of injury, but in the back of my head, I always wondered how my body was all of the sudden on race day going to "kick-it-up-a-notch" and run at race pace. Tempo runs help address that dilemma.

Basically the tempo run does two things. For one, it helps mentally by allowing you to run some longer distances near race pace. This helps build your confidence by bridging that gap between the really fast intervals and your slow long runs. Secondly, it helps train your body to deal with the by-products that come with running faster and longer. Have your muscles ever become fatigued during a marathon race? (Stupid question, huh?) Well, this fatigue (in part) is due to lactate and hydrogen ions that are released into the muscles as a by-product of metabolism. This increases the acidity of your blood which fatigues the muscles. So how does a tempo run help with this?

Well, part of the reason lactate is a problem is that most runners haven't trained their bodies to use the lactate to their advantage. Yep, you heard correctly. Lactate can be a good thing. It can be used as an energy source when your body shuttles it to the liver where it's changed into glycogen (fuel). Problem is that most runners don't push themselves in a long run until the race and at that point, the body doesn't have time to adapt and figure out how to use the lactate to it benefit, so all the runner experiences is fatigue. A tempo run helps to increase your lactate threshold. In other words, you can actually train your body to push that threshold helping your body learn how to use those by-products to your muscles' benefit which means less acidity of the muscles, which translates to less fatigue. Basically, that's a lot of scientific garblety-gook for...throwing in some longer faster runs will help you be a more efficient runner on race day.
If you're training for a 5K, adding a weekly tempo run of 2-3 miles will do the trick. If you're running a 10K, add 4-6 mile tempo run during your peak training weeks. Running a half marathon? Do a 6-8-mile tempo run during your peak weeks. Marathon? Throw in an 8-10-mile tempo run during your peak weeks.

The FIRST marathon training plan actually varies the pace a little during its tempo runs. It incorporates four different levels of tempo runs—marathon pace, short, mid, and long. The marathon pace tempo run is exactly what you think; running at marathon pace. The short tempo is run at about 15 seconds slower than 5K race pace. The mid-tempo is run at a pace approximately 30 seconds slower than 5K race pace and the long is run about 45 seconds slower than 5K race pace.

Also, keep in mind that you should begin a tempo run with a 1- to 2-mile easy warm-up that leads right into your tempo pace and distance. Some plans have you also slow down the last mile as a cool-down. So, a 4-mile tempo run may actually be 6 miles total running—1mile warm-up, 4-miles at tempo pace, 1-mile cool-down.

Take a look at the video clip below from American long-distance runner, Ryan Hall, as he explains the importance of the tempo run.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

How Has Running Changed Your Life?

I have read numerous stories about people who have used running to help them overcome monumental obstacles in their lives. Each story no matter how similar or different is a true inspiration. Running has helped me deal with a chronic illness and to this day still helps keep me a healthy, positive, and motivated person.

How has running helped you overcome a life obstacle? I'd like to feature on the blog the stories of a different RunnerDude's Blog readers who are willing to share their experiences. What an awesome way to inspire and motivate others to possibly use running as a tool to change their lives for the better.

Periodically I'll be asking you (the readers) to send me your stories. For this first round, email your story along with an attached photo (jpeg format) and/or a YouTube video link of yourself (suitable for posting on the blog) to with the subject line "My Story" by midnight Friday, July 31. Each email that's received will be placed in a drawing for a $25 RoadRunner Sports Gift Card. Each email will be assigned a different number based on the order that the emails are received. The winning number will be selected by The True Random Number Generator at on Saturday, August 1. This is simply a drawing for the participants. The stories will not be judged in any way. My goal is to try and post as many of the submitted stories as possible.

I look forward to reading, celebrating, and sharing your stories with all of the RunnerDude's Blog readers and seeing the powerful impact they'll undoubtedly have.

New Pocket Guide to Yoga for Athletes!

Back in May, I reviewed a great book The Athlete's Guide to Yoga (Velopress, 2008) as well as the DVD of the same name from Endurance Films. The author, Sage Rountree is a USA Triathlon certified expert coach, a USA Cycling and RRCA certified coach, and she's an experienced registered yoga teacher. Sage is also a contributor to Runner’s World and Yoga Journal and has published articles in Running Times, Inside Triathlon, and Endurance magazines.

Sage explains that "athletes come to the practice of yoga with muscle tightness from hours spent training and little time in their weekly schedules for lengthy sessions. At the height of the season, they often disappear from yoga classes altogether in favor of demanding sport-specific training, yet it is then that yoga can be most beneficial." To help make the benefits of yoga more readily available to athletes yearround, Sage has recently released a new book, The Athlete’s Pocket Guide to Yoga. This handy new resource is set up to complement a rigorous training schedule. This pocket-sized book provides:
5-minute warm-ups to prepare for daily workouts
Strength sessions for the off-season and base periods
Flexibility sessions for when training grows more demanding, including 20-minute flexibility routines designed to follow workouts
Focus sessions incorporating breath exercises and meditation to improve recovery and sharpen mental toughness for competition

This smaller pocket-sized (6" x 7") spiral-bound book makes it easy to lay flat so the pages can easily be viewed. Each pose is beautifully photographed and tips are included to simplify trickier poses or vary the routine from one session to the next.

If you loved The Athlete's Guide to Yoga, you'll love this new handy guide. If you're just beginning to think about incorporating yoga into your exercise routine, you'll find this easy-to-use resource invaluable. To check out a sample of the book [click here].

Friday, July 17, 2009

Electrolyte-rich ZICO Coconut Water Fuels Badwater Ultramarathon Runner Pam Reed

Coconut Juice? Yep you heard correctly. World-renowned ultra runner and Evil Training ™ team member Pam Reed has proven once again that she is the ultimate endurance competitor after capturing 2nd place in the women’s division and 7th overall at AdventurecorpsBadwater Ultramarathon, a grueling feat she accomplished with the help of ZICO Pure Premium Coconut Water. Reed, a six-time Badwater finisher, clocked in at 29:03:09.

Recognized globally as the “the world’s toughest foot race,” competitors in this legendary event cover 135 miles from Death Valley to Mt. Whitney, Calif. in temperatures up to 130°F. To ensure that she was well hydrated before the arduous challenge and to replenish lost electrolytes during and after the race, Reed kept a constant supply of ZICO Coconut Water on hand.

"With the brutal conditions of Badwater, I knew that remaining hydrated and keeping my electrolyte levels up would be key to a successful finish,” said Reed. “Drinking ZICO pure coconut water throughout the race allowed me to take advantage of the legendary benefits of coconut water and helped me maintain a peak performance level, particularly during the final push up Mt. Whitney.”

“The Badwater Ultramarathon is hands-down the most demanding and extreme running race offered anywhere on the planet,” said Mark Rampolla, ZICO’s founder and chief executive officer. “Tough athletes like Pam know that the best way to rehydrate, replenish and restore essential electrolytes is the natural way – drinking ZICO Coconut Water. We’re so proud that we could play a part in her incredible achievement.”

Made with 100 percent pure coconut water, ZICO is more effective for full body replenishment than plain water and contains none of the added sugars and calories commonly associated with traditional sports drinks, plus it has low acidity. ZICO is becoming a favorite among endurance athletes for training, as well as before, during and after long distance races. ZICO contains the five essential electrolytes your body needs to keep nerves firing, muscles moving and to help manage stress. One ZICO has more potassium than a banana – 15 times more than most sports drinks – to prevent cramping and promote recovery. Drink ZICO before or during a workout for the natural energy you need for optimal performance. After a workout, ZICO replenishes and re-hydrates you to speed recovery.

ZICO currently is available in three varieties – natural, mango and passion fruit-orange peel. Even the flavored varieties are all-natural, as they contain flavor essences, meaning they come from the flower itself, not the fruit, so there's no additional sugar, calories, carbs or acidity. ZICO also comes in an easy-to-carry, eco-friendly TetraPak for on-the-go refreshment that retains the beverage’s authentic tropical flavor.

ZICO can be found at leading yoga studios, gyms, natural food stores and gourmet grocers in select markets across the country. Find out more at

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The New Adventures of RunnerDude

If you've been reading RunnerDude's Blog for a while, you may remember several months ago a post that I wrote about my career change from the world of educational publishing to the world of running, fitness, and nutrition. That change is finally becoming a reality. This past weekend I attended the 2-day RRCA (Road Runners Club of America) seminar for running coach certification (I still need to get my CPR and first aid certification and to take the online RRCA certification test, but I'm almost there.) Monday, my NPTI (National Personal Training Institute) program began.

The NPTI program is a 6-month program that meets Mon-Thurs 9:30 to 2:30. It's a 78-mile commute each way from my home in Greensboro to the school's location in Raleigh, NC for the program, but it's only six months and it's an awesome program. Another great thing about the program is that in addition to receiving your personal training certification and nutrition consultant certification, it also qualifies you to take the Advanced Certified Personal Trainer (A-CPT) exam giving you the option to receive an even higher level of certification. Previously only someone with a Bachelor's Degree in a health-related field from a regionally accredited college or university could qualify to take the A-CPT, but the qualifications have been broadened to include 500-hour State Board of Education approved training programs, which fits the high standards of education received from the National Personal Training Institute (NPTI).

There are about 25 students in the class representing a wide range of age groups and backgrounds. There are 20 somethings, 30-somethings, 40-somethings, and 50-somethings. (I'm a 40-something.) There are a few that appear to be fresh out of high school, some recently graduated from college, some stay-at-home-moms who are returning to the work force, and several like me for whom this is a career change (some by choice and some from being laid off). Some of the students already have a strong fitness background, while for others, it's a completely new experience. It's only been a few days, but the group has melded nicely and I really think this is due to the diversity of the group—everybody has something different to contribute.

We've gone over the skeletal system, parts of the muscular system including the Rectus Abdominis and Erector Spinae, the planes of motion, each plane's axis of movement and related movement terminology, a laundry list of terms including, aerobic, anaerobic, eccentric, concentric, isometric, isotonic, hypertrophy, as well as covering gym etiquette, and learning about different types of sets such as straight, super, and compound. And that's just the first four days!

The program consist of 500 hours total. We spend 2.5hrs in class learning the curriculum, have lunch, and then spend 2 hours in the gym applying what we've learned. My brain hurts and my body hurts, but I've never been so excited and pumped! My dream of building a business around running, fitness, and nutrition is coming to light and that's an awesome feeling.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Returning to Running After an Injury?

Picture in your mind a runner who has been recovering from an injury sitting on the exam table talking to his doctor. The doctor says, "Well, Joe Runner, you're healed. You can run again." Joe Runner gets a huge grin on his face slips on his running shoes he's been hiding under the table and strips off his shirt and pants to reveal running shorts and a singlet. He says "Thanks Doc!" as he runs out of the room at lightening-bolt speed. If you're a runner, you're probably chuckling and thinking, "Yep, that would be me!"

If you've had a running injury, you're well aware that the recovery period can be more frustrating than the injury itself. Imagine all of the sudden not being able to do the exercise you love the most—running—for several weeks or sometimes several months? A few years back I was told by my doc not to run for about three months while a heel fracture mended. I went just about bonkers during those long three months. I was gradually able to add back some exercise such as walking and using the elliptical, but it just wasn't the same. Luckily my doc specializes in sports medicine and is a long-time runner himself. After my recovery, he warned me against attempting to start back at the same level of running as before the injury. He said it would take time to get back to my previous level of fitness and if I didn't come back gradually, I could risk re-injuring my heel or possibly even injuring another part of my body.
It was hard. Damn hard, but I listened. That recovery period was during January, February, and March of '07. By the end of April I was getting back to my regular base mileage. Late May I ran a 5K, just for fun (not an all out effort), but it helped me mentally to "get back in the game." Funny thing is that by late summer, I was running faster and better than ever. That summer, I finally broke 2o minutes in a 5k and I set a PR for the half marathon (1:30). I firmly believe that my forced time off, allowed my body to recover not only from the heel fracture, but also allowed my entire body time to recoup.

Toward the end of my recovery period, I was walking a lot. I think my longest walk was 6-miles while my running buddies did our regular Saturday long run. The walking I did actually made me sore! Come to find out, you use different muscles when you walk. I believe all the walking I was doing helped to make me a stronger runner.

So, if you're injured, listen to the doc and allow your body time to heal. Also, if you're able to participate in other activities such as water running, using the elliptical trainer, cycling, swimming, or walking, do so. And don't think of it as, "well this is all I'm able to do." Think of it as an opportunity to let your injury heal as well as a time to strengthen muscle groups you don't normally use ultimately making you a stronger runner.

When it's time to get back to running, RRCA (Road Runners Club of America) recommends that you...
phase out of the alternate activity, don't just jump right into running.
have 10 miles of pain-free walking a week before returning to running.
mix some walking into your running for a gradual return to full running.
initially run at 25-50% of your pre-injury pace. Gradually work your way back to full speed.

Monday, July 13, 2009

And the Winner Is...

Congratulations to Danelle Taylor, the winner of the 4-Bottle Helium Hydration Belt provided by Fuel Belt! Thanks to all who entered the contest. Over 100 runners participated. Also, a big thanks to Fuel Belt for providing the awesome prize. Be sure to check out all of their hydration products at their website.

Be on the lookout for RunnerDude's next contest in early August. RoadID is providing a $50 eCard as the prize!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Nip That Negative Energy in the Bud!

Yesterday I participated in day-one of a two-day seminar in Clarksville, TN (birthplace of Olympic gold medalist, Wilma Rudolph) that's apart of the RRCA (Road Runners Club of America) running coach certification I'm seeking. It was 8 hours packed with great information covering the science of coaching—physiology, nutrition, injury prevention, and psychology.
One of the great pieces of information I learned that dovetails nicely with yesterday's post —"Set a Goal and Go For It!"—deals with controlling negative energy that might seep into your training and sidetrack you from your goal.

One way to control this negative energy is to meet it head-on by making a list of de-motivators—things that bother you and/or sap your motivation. One participant in the seminar said the she had always run shorter distances in college and was a pretty good at it. In fact she hated when someone passed her. When she decided to run a full marathon, she knew that since it was a much longer distance than she typically raced and with the shear volume of runners on the road during a marathon, someone would inevitably pass her. Once she identified this problem, she began to visualize herself wishing runners well as they passed her. She did this in her mind and on training runs prior to the marathon. Sounds kind of silly, but it really helped her diffuse her previous angst over passing runners.
Other de-motivators on your list? List them all. Don't hesitate to list ones you might think are trivial or silly. It very well could be that silly one that becomes a big problem for you during your training or on race day Your list might include—heat, cold, runners who don't look where they spit, having to keep up with hydration, calculating splits, managing the transportation of gels during an endurance race, trying to figure out your new GPS, leg cramps, keeping the sun out of your eyes, etc. Once you've made your list, evaluate the things you can't control such as other runners passing you, rain on race day, and unusual heat/humidity. Then, since you can't keep these things from happening, determine how you'll handle those situations and actually practice your solutions during your training runs. This will give you the opportunity, well before race day, try out your solutions and tweak them if need be. The remaining de-motivators on your list should be things that are in your control. Now that they've been identified, you can begin to work on them too. How can I manage transportation of those gels? How can I remember when to take in fluids? What can I do to keep from getting leg cramps?

This process may sound like it will take a lot of time, but it really doesn't. Take a few minutes one day to make your list. Then take about 30 minutes to divide your list into "in-my-control" and "beyond my control" items, and then brainstorm possible solutions for each set. Now that you've invested about an hour, the rest is easy. Just consciously address those de-motivators by testing your brainstormed solutions during your regular training runs and you'll be well on your way to nipping that negative energy in the bud!

Making yourself aware of what de-motivates you and then addressing or avoiding those de-motivators is a great tool to have in your arsenal of training strategies.