Thursday, December 31, 2009

Running Buddies.....Get Some

Due to school and family commitments, I haven't been able to run as much of late. Just check out my log and you'll see. I have started back this week and hope to get back in the groove with my school winding up next week. (The past 6 months I've been involved in an full-time intense diploma program to become a personal trainer and nutrition consultant along with getting my RRCA running coach certification. Weekend after next, I'll be away yet again getting my USA-TF Level 1 coaching certification.) Of course then real life kicks in, so that will throw a curve ball into my running I'm sure. But since my new business will be running and fitness training, at least I'll be running and working out with awesome new clients!

This brings me to the importance of having a running buddy. The past 2 months I've strayed from my network of running buddies, due to the life obstacles I mentioned earlier. And dang-it, I miss 'em! Not only do I miss their stories, bragging, moaning, and laughter along the run, I also miss the accountability they bestow on me. I don't know how "lone runners" do it. Don't get me wrong, I love a solo run to focus on my training or to just clear my head, but there's something about that weekly group run or run with a running buddy that really does a body and mind good. I think knowing that someone is counting on you to be there and you not wanting to let them down does a lot to motivate both individuals. It's especially good on those really long training runs. My short-term interruptions will soon end and I'll eventually be back with the gang. I'm looking forward to it!

So, if you're not a part of a running group or don't have a running buddy, find one! You won't be sorry. See if there's a running club in your community. Or check with your local independent running store. They often host weekly group runs.

This clip from Friends really says it all about the importance of a running buddy. Enjoy!

I'd like to give a shoutout to Chad (a fellow blogger) who inspired me to write this post. Be sure to check out his blog, Running Man.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

RunnerDude's Stellar-Stamp Awards for 2009!

Over the past 12 months, I've tried many different running products. Most were good and some were stellar! Listed below are 8 products that have received the RunnerDude-Stellar-Stamp-of-Approval. If you haven't already tried some of these products, think about checking them out in 2010! (Note: This listed is based on RunnerDude's own opinion. No payment or endorsement fee has been provided by the featured products.)

Running Shoe: Saucony Triumph 6—This is a great shoe for the neutral runner. It's cushioned, but not overly so and provides a great flexible and responsive ride. Saucony has a new Triumph 7 for 2010, but you might be able to find the 6 still available and on sale at your local running store.

Hydration System: Amphipod Full Tilt Velocity Waist Pack—In the summer, I'm usually a handheld water bottle kind of guy, but in the winter that water bottle can get mighty cold, even with gloves. I've tried several different hydration belts and most have worked fine, but Amphipod's Full Tilt Velocity Waist Pack is one (for me) that stays in place without bobbing around or feeling tight around my waist.

Energy Bar: Odwalla Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Energy Bar—The Odwalla energy bar makes a perfect post workout snack. It packs a good 4:1 ratio of carbs/protein perfect for recovery fuel. While it does contain 8grams of fat, only 1.5 of those grams are saturated. tastes really good!

Socks: Feetures Light No-Show Socks—I'm picky about my socks. I've had blister problems in the past. I stumbled upon Feetures socks and I've been quite pleased. I've only tried the light no-show version, but they work wonderfully. They have a snug fit with extra arch support and I've experienced no irritating seams or problems or blisters!

Compression Socks: CEP Socks—Great for boosting performance and awesome for speeding up recovering of tired, sore muscles, CEP socks work great! I wear mine religiously after long runs.

Sports Drink: Zico 100% Coconut Water—Sounds crazy, but coconut water turns out to be Mother Nature's sports drink, packing five essential electrolytes, more potassium than a banana, low acidity, natural sugars, no fat, and no cholesterol. You don't have to buy the Zico brand, others are available. Zico just happens to be the brand I tried and liked. Just be sure it's 100% coconut water (not milk). Works well for those who have stomach issues while on the run.
Running Clothes: Champion USA—I wear most any brand of running clothes. I look more for comfort and fit not brand name, but I have to give a shout-out to Champion for consistently providing top quality affordable running clothes. Not only can you purchase them online from their website, you can also find them in your local Target store. Being a family that's on a budget, I love the quality and value that Champion offers.
Sports Watch: Nike Triax Fury 100—I bought Nike Triax Fury because I liked the oversized numbers. (When I run wearing my contacts for distance vision, I can't read the numbers on my watch!) You can also customize the view to see total time, lap time or both with the push of a button. And you can use Target Time to set goal splits and get notified when you're ahead of pace or behind, for the mile or the entire race. The unique S-curved shape of the watch lets you read it easily without turning your arm.

Monday, December 28, 2009

10 "Did You Knows" About Running

As runners we all know about things like hydration, pace, and eating pasta before a big race. Well, here's a few facts and tips that may be new and even a little surprising to you.

1. Did you know that you should remove any metal jewelry from body piercings (yes, ears included) before running, if it's freezing outside? Metal conducts low temperatures to your skin with amazing efficiency. So efficient, that it can increase the risk of frost bite! Ouch!

2. Did you know that buying a higher priced running shoe doesn't necessarily mean your getting a better shoe as compared to the lower priced shoes? Research shows that actually many lower-priced shoes provide better support, decreasing the chances of plantar fasciitis.

3. Did you know that you can prevent the burning sensation in your lungs during cold runs? Doing a 5 to 10-minute warm-up inside before heading outdoors gets rid of the chemicals that cause that pain-inducing inflammation in your lungs. Try it. You'll be surprised.

4. Did you know you should do resistance training before your running if you have them planned for the same day? Running will fatigue your muscles and decrease the effectiveness of your resistance workout.

5. Did you know that all runners, especially running seniors, should incorporate resistance training into a regular weekly routine? Resistance training builds bone density in younger individuals and helps maintain bone density in older adults.

6. Did you know that new mothers returning to running should add an extra 400 to 500 calories each day to their diet? New mothers have to account for the extra calories needed during lactation as well as the calories needed for their running.

7. Did you know that downhill sprints are just as important as uphill charges in building strength and speed? Running sprints downhill conditions your body to what it feels like running faster. Be careful though. That hill doesn't have to be a steep one. A 10-15% grade will work nicely.

8. Did you know that if it's zero degrees or a wind chill of -20 degrees outside you should find a treadmill or an inside track for your run? Running in these conditions vastly increases your chance of frostbite.

9. Did you know that it's a good idea to alternate intense periods of training with lighter periods of training? Try a 3-three-weeks-heavy, three-weeks-light approach. After three weeks of heavy training, cut the intensity back by 30-50% for the next three weeks. This gives your body time to recover and acclimate to the training you've just put your body through.

10. Did you know that a pity party after a bad race is okay? But keep it to the ride home only. Then get over it and pick your next race.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Ease Back Into It

Have you been laid-up from running for several weeks due to an injury or some other life obstacle? When you're ready for your return to running, be sure to ease back into running.

Many runners eager to get back in the swing of their regular running routine, try to start back at the pace and intensity of their original pre lay-off routine. While mentally you might be ready to bounce back to your normal pace, your body probably isn't quite up to speed with your brain. Many a runner has headed out full speed on their return to running re-injuring themselves only to be laid-up even longer. So, take it slow.

If you were laid-off from running for 6 weeks or more, use the following plan to get back up to speed. If you're an experienced runner and you were able to do some cross-training while you were off, then take about a month to ease back into your regular routine. Baby steps at first. Begin with a 5-minute warm-up walk followed by a 10 to 15-minute run every other day. Increase the run by a few minutes each day. The following week, switch to running two days at a time followed by a rest day. Remember to keep all your runs at an easy pace. By the third week, you should be up to around a 30-minute run. During the next week, add another running day, making it three-days-on and one-day off (still keeping it at an easy pace). By Week 5 you should be back to running 4-6 days a weeks and you can start upping the pace and adding in some varied workouts. (Keep in mind that due to specific injuries, your doctor's return-to-running plan may be different. Be sure to follow his/her plan.)

May 2010 be an injury-free running season for all!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Starve a run. Feed a Runner? Should I Run When I'm Sick?

"Should I run when I'm sick?" A question almost every runner has asked himself/herself at one point or another. Sometimes the answer is obvious. If you're bent over the porcelain throne paying homage to the intestinal gods, then running is probably the furthest thing from your mind. But what about when you just have the sniffles, a cough, or low-grade fever?

Murphy's Law always seems to kick in when you get a cold. You're healthy all year long and then four days before that big 10K, you come down with a cold. In my case, I can almost predict it. I've often wondered if it might be related to my training. It's odd, because moderate amounts of running actually boosts your immune system helping your body fight off colds. But maybe I push myself too hard at the end of my training and end up lowering my body's defenses due to the extra stress. Seems to be some research supporting my theory. One study shows that after a hard workout session, you can lower your body's immune system for up to 9 hours following the workout. So, if you're exposed to some of the nasty colds going around shortly after having had a really hard workout, you might be more susceptible to catching one. Might be worth wearing one of those masks and slathering on the hand sanitizer after such a workout!

So, what do you do if you aren't feeling well. Should you run? I asked my doc, and he said checking your resting heart rate is a good method to help determine whether or not you should run. Check your pulse for a full minute. Be sure to do this while at rest (not after climbing a flight of stairs). Also be sure you haven't just downed a Starbucks venti espresso. If your heart-rate is a few beats faster than normal, this could be a sign that your body's fighting off and infection and you may want to hold off on that run. Taking your resting pulse on a regular basis (just after waking up) is a good habit to make. A normal resting heart rate can be anywhere between 60-100 beats per minute. You you need to establish what's normal for you. If you're a runner, don't be shocked if your regular resting heart rate is lower than 60. That's pretty typical.
My doc also said that the "head/chest test" is another good measure to use in determining whether or not to run. If your symptoms are limited to the neck up (runny nose, mild sore throat, and itchy, watery eyes), then it's probably okay to run, but at a lower intensity than normal. If your symptoms are presenting themselves in your chest or lower (heavy, productive chest cough, aches and pains, fever), then ix-nay on the unning-ray. You should be fever-free before running.

Friday, December 25, 2009

To you and yours on this very special day!

Everyday your visits and comments inspire me more than you can ever know to run and to write about running, fitness, and healthy living. You truly have become a part of the family. As 2009 wraps up, I'm excited about what 2010 holds for you, RunnerDude, and RunnerDude's Blog!

Your stories about how running has impacted your lives truly inspire me as well as hundreds of readers all across the country and the world. If you haven't submitted your story, please think about sharing it here on RunnerDude's Blog or if you know of a running buddy who has a story to tell, encourage him/her to share it too. To learn more about how to submit your story [click here].

Happy Holidays and Happy Running!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

All Yellow Muffins Are Not Created Equal

One of my many talents besides running is cooking. My wife is a 1st-Grade teacher and often doesn't get home until after 6PM from preparing for the next day (all you fellow teachers can relate, I'm sure). So, I usually play the role of executive chef. That's right, just call me Mr. Mom (I do laundry too).

Now tonight, like any other night, I was preparing dinner. Unlike most households, in our house, dinner doesn't begin with prepping the food. No, in our house it begins with clearing off the counter and doing yesterday's dishes (okay, I do laundry, but dishes just aren't my thing). But before the dishes can be washed, I have to get the plunger to unclog the sink that has backed up with water from the dishwasher. You see the garbage disposal broke about a year ago. Yep, it's on the to-do list of things to fix along with the leaky toilet, the broken banister, the front stoop railing that needs to be painted, yada, yada, yada. Anywho....tonight I was fixing one of my specialties—pork-n-beans and franks and corn bread. (I know, I know, but it's cheap and I use the fat-free franks.) I even added some canned corned to the corn bread mix. 

All's going well, but I keep smelling something that reminds me of banana bread. I ignore it because my 14-year-old daughter was also doing some holiday baking and I just assumed it was something she was cooking. So, now I'm feeling really good. Dinners cooking, the Christmas music is playing in the back ground, the kitchen is semi-clean and I'm spending time with my daughter. Not quiet a Rockwell moment, but close. Then my daughter asks me why I'm baking banana bread. Of course a perplexed look comes over my face as we both head for the trash can to find the corn muffin mix boxes. Yep, you got it. Chef RunnerDude has just prepared banana muffins with added corn to accompany his main entree of beanie weenies!

My daughter and I laughed and laughed and laughed. We said nothing about the mix-up to my wife, 18-year-old son, or my 9-year-old daughter. We had a big ole second laugh as we watched them discover the banana corn muffins. The expressions on their faces kind of reminded me of that face you make when you take a big ole swig of your long awaited cola only to discover it's tea, instead. Your brain's telling you it's one thing, but your taste buds are telling you something different.

You know what though? Those banana corn muffins weren't half bad!

My experience tonight with the banana muffins reminds me of something most runners are guilty of—ignoring the obvious. Often we'll feel a little twinge or pain and we tell ourselves that it's nothing and that it will go away. And, even when it's months later and we're still feeling that twinge we still continue to delude ourselves into thinking it's nothing. I know I've been guilty of it. Then when the pain becomes unbearable, we'll finally head to the doc to discover its something major that could have been prevented if tended to earlier.
If it looks like banana bread and it smells like banana bread, then it's probably banana bread.

So, join me in making a New Year's resolution to be more in tune with the aches and pains associated with running, not to let those twinges go on too long, and to make an appointment with the doc when things don't clear up in a few days. Oh yeah, and to double check the muffin box before putting it in the cart. All yellow muffins are not created equal.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Half-Marathon—Not Just a Stepping Stone

While half-marathons have grown in popularity, they are still often overlooked. Once that 10K has been accomplished, many runners want to jump right to the marathon. Nothing wrong with that, but a half-marathon can be a great training tool in seeking that bigger marathon goal. The half marathon is also just a great race in itself.

The half-marathon is just about the longest distance race a seasoned runner can run without changing his/her regular routine. There will be training and there will be long runs, but the time commitment isn't nearly what's involved in training for a marathon. Because of this, training for a half-marathon can be a great stepping-stone for newer runners who are eventually wanting to conquer that 26.2-miler. It's also a great way for the seasoned runner to get in some great endurance races without having to carve out a huge chunk of time training for just one race.

Often it's thought that the half marathon is just that—half of a marathon. It is definitely that, and it does involve a good amount of strength and endurance. But often runners don't realize that the half-marathon has a speed component often not a part of a marathon. The combination of endurance and speed can make this a fun race to train for as well as compete in. Training for a half-marathon will also help pick up your pace in other shorter distance races such as a 10K.

As with any endurance run, you'll still need a good base before beginning your half-marathon training. This varies from person to person, but you should be logging about 20 miles a week for a month before beginning your training. Sometimes base building and training get confused. Often runners think the first few weeks of a training plan is the base-building phase. The confusing lies in that it is the base-building phase for the training plan, but the plan is not assuming you're starting from scratch. It's assuming that you already have a good base tucked under your belt.

It takes your body about 4-6 weeks to acclimate to a particular distance. So for example the first time you run 6 miles, you may feel good, but that doesn't mean your body has acclimated to running at that distance or intensity. If you keep running that 6-miler and even do an 8- or 10-miler, then about 4-6 weeks down the road is when your body becomes accustomed to running that 6-miles. So in other words, base-building is key in getting your body used to running various distances as well as the cumulative miles. If the line between base-building and training blurs then you risk the chance of overtraining which could lead to the "I" word you want to avoid—Injury.

Once you have your base and your ready to start your training, then what? You need to find a plan that's diverse in it's training. Your plan should involve a Base, Sharpening, and Taper phase. The "Base" within your training plan is usually just a few weeks where you're taking that good base you've built and you're gradually increasing your weekly mileage and adding some distance to your long run. The "Sharpening" phase is the time in your training when you begin to add in more workouts focused on endurance, pace, and/or strength. In other words your long runs get longer, you add in some faster-paced runs such as tempo runs and/or interval workouts, and you add some hill workout to build strength (as well as speed). The "Taper" phase is usually the last week or two prior to race day. The total weekly mileage is usually decreased to 50% the week prior to the race.

The length of half-marathon plans is all over the place. You'll find plans for 12 weeks all the way to 22 weeks. Look closely. Typically the shorter programs have very little base-building incorporated into the program and the longer programs will have more weeks of base-building included. A longer plan may be more beneficial to a newer runner, while a shorter plan is probably better suited to a more seasoned runner who already has a solid base of weekly miles.

From personal experience, the weekly speed workouts (I did interval workouts) is the key to a fast half-marathon. Now, I'm no speed demon, but my half-marathon PR is 1:30:47. No record-setter, but for a 40-something, a 6:55 pace per mile ain't half bad. My fastest time prior to adding speed work was 1:36. I cut 6:13 from my time in just one season from adding a weekly speed workout to my training plan.

Why do interval, tempo, and hill workouts help improve your endurance and speed? VO2Max! Your VO2 is your body's ability to take in oxygen and use it. The more oxygen your body is able to take in and utilize, the longer and harder your body can go before fatiguing from lactic acid buildup. Ever get that burn in your legs that makes you feel like your trudging through mud? That's lactic acid fatiguing your muscles. The best way to push out your lactate threshold is by doing speed and/or hill work. Even though a half-marathon is an endurance race, having a higher VO2Max will help you keep that fatigue at bay. Also, later in the race when you need to kick it up a notch, you'll have the reserves to do so. Also, your body will be used to that extra speed requirement and you won't throw your body into shock. So, be sure to incorporate at least one speed and/or hill workout into your weekly training routine. A good half-marathon training plan should include some type of speed, tempo, easy, and long runs for each week.

So, work on building your base, check out some training plans, and get in gear for some great spring half-marathons! is a great resource for finding half-marathons across the country and even the world!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Chariots of Fire Meets The Terminator

Ever been in a situation where you know you're in trouble and you're not quite sure what you're going to do to get out of the situation? Not a great feeling, huh? I had such an experience this past Friday at the gym.

I've been working on functional resistance training to increase leg-strength and Friday I was on the leg press machine. I was quite impressed with my puny-self pressing 230lbs. All was going really well. I could feel my glutes, hamstrings, and quads expanding, and building muscle as I was pumping that iron (okay it was all in my head, but my backside was burning). All was fine until after repetition #10 when I was trying to engage the safety in order to stop the weights and allow me to take a rest before the next set.

Problem was, the safety would not engage. Try as I might, I could not get the safety to work. Earlier that 230lbs felt really good, but now that same 230lbs felt like 460lbs! As my life was flashing before my eyes, I was trying to figure out a way to get out of this predicament that didn't involve me becoming a flattened pancake.

Luckily right behind me, an "Arnold clone" was doing back squats on the Smith Machine. So, in the deepest voice I could muster, I said, "Hey man, would you mind helping me a second?" Evidently he had been watching me squirm in this predicament and said, "Yes" with a little chuckle in his voice.

Using his hands, he pushed up on the weights to give my legs a break while I continued to jimmy the safety trying to get it to engage. Still no luck. By this time, I was the talk of the gym. Two more Arnold clones came over to see what was going on. Now two guys were holding the weights up while a third tried to engage the safety. Fortunately (saving me some pride) he too could not get it to lock in place.

Then one of the hulks said, "Just lower it." I'm thinking, "What?!!!" So down the weights go and so do my legs, my knees getting closer and closer to my eyeballs. Wishbone was coming to mind. Then finally, "click!" The bar stopped. Unbeknownst to me, there's a backup safety, so if the handheld safety doesn't latch or comes unlatched, you won't get squished.

So, out I scrambled as quickly as possible. Upon further examination, we discovered that the safety was hanging and was in fact not working properly. I was so glad that it wasn't just due to my ineptness.

The one good thing that came from this adventure was I actually communicated with the "Big Boys" in the gym. It's always been "Us" and "Them." The "Haves" and the "Have-nots." Myself being one of the latter. Well on Friday, we found some common ground. Even though I was about a fourth of their size, I seemed to impress them (just a tad) with my knowledge of resistance training. And I realized that these guys (even though they're huge) are just regular Joe's. When I told them I had run 10 marathons, that gained a little respect too. Each of us had strengths, just in different areas.

Will this fiasco keep me from working out in the gym? Heck no. I may be checking the safety on the equipment before climbing in, but it won't deter me from working out. Plus now I don't feel so intimidated by the Big Boys.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Committed Runner

In several past posts, I've written about the importance of a running group. The support and friendships a group provides is awesome. Even as a group's dynamics change over time, the sense of accountability and support that a group provides is wonderful and something I miss when I'm not able to make it to my weekly runs. Life has been so hectic of late (we're just putting up our Christmas tree today), I have to admit that the past couple of months I've only made it to a handful of these weekly runs. All legit reasons (helping with a local 5K, visiting family, studying for big tests), but still I've missed those long runs, both for the physical endurance aspects as well as socializing with my running buddies. Hopefully after I finish my personal trainer schooling in January, I'll be more of a regular back at "The BlueLine" (where we start our weekly long runs and our group's namesake). Last night we received about 4" of snow and today we're supposed to get 3-5 more inches. Now for you guys up north, that ain't a heck of a lot of snow, but down South, that puts life at a stand-still. But yet today is still a Saturday and it's still the day of my running group's long run. Well, this morning, I had all good intentions of making it to the BlueLine even with the snow, because I knew I'd get a lot of flack (all good natured) from my running buddies for not making it. But, when I woke up at 5:30AM, my 9-year-old's big brown eyes were staring at me, soon followed by, "Daddy, I don't feel well." Well, how can you go for a run when that's at your bedside. So, up I got, hot chocolate I made, and comforting I did. Of course, she's all better now, even been out in the snow and now on her second cup of hot cocoa. Guess she just needed some daddy-time. Some of the very dedicated running buddies did make it out to the BlueLine and the made sure to rub it in. LOL!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Share Your Story!

I would like to thank all the readers who have submitted their "How Running Has Changed My Life" stories. Each story no matter how similar or different has been a true inspiration to me and the hundreds of RunnerDude's Blog's readers all over the country, even the world! Those of you that have submitted a story, you will probably never know how much of an impact you've made nor the number of lives you've touched and inspired.

If you've missed some of the featured stories, just key-in "How Running Changed My Life" in the search box at the top right-hand corner of the blog and it will pull up the links to the various stories.

With your help, I'd like to keep this regular feature of the blog going for 2010. All you have to do is share with me how running has helped you overcome a life challenge or obstacle? Maybe you know a friend with a story. Encourage him/her to send it in!

How To Enter:
All you need to do is 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 (EST) Thursday, December 31. Each email that's received will be placed in a drawing for a chance to win one of two $50 RoadRunner Sports Gift Cards! That's right two different names will be drawn and each will receive a $50 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 on Friday, January 1, 2010. What a great way to start off the New Year!
This is simply a drawing for the participants. The stories will not be judged in any way. Each week a different story will be featured on the blog. 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.—RunnerDude

And the Winner of the Carolina Blue Ray-Bans Is...

Congratulations to Eddie Wooten, winner of the limited edition Carolina Blue Ray-Ban Wayfarer sunglasses! The True Random Number Generator pulled the #2 and that was Eddie's email number. Of the many contests featured on the blog in the past year, this is the first time anyone from my home state (North Carolina) has won. In fact this winner happens to be from my hometown (Greensboro)! Eddie is the church and state editor of the News & Record (my hometown newspaper). He also hosts a blog for runners on the N&R website called Running Shorts.

Hey Eddie! I expect to see a picture of you on your blog or in the paper with you wearing your fine new specs! LOL!!

These special limited edition sunglasses were made available due to an exclusive arrangement with Ray-Ban and Eye Care Associates of NC. Thanks Eye Care Associates for making this contest available to the readers of RunnerDude's Blog!

Established in 1978 by Dr. Stephen Bolick, Eye Care Associates, O.D.P.A., is a multi-site optometric practice with 24 doctors. Eye Care Associates has been a market leader in the Triangle for more than three decades providing comprehensive eye exams, treatment for eye injuries, glaucoma and cataract care, distinctive eyewear, contact lenses, senior and pediatric vision care, and premium sunglasses. The practice has grown from a single office in Raleigh to a network of 18 locations found throughout the Triangle, Sandhills, in Wilmington and Burlington. Eye Care Associates proudly supports its local community through a variety of charitable outreach programs. Eye Care Associates also serves as the Official and Exclusive Eye Care Provider of the Carolina Hurricanes. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call (919) 863-2020 or visit

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Running Green: Recycle Those Old Running Shoes!

It's funny, running shoes are like books to me. After I've used them, I have a hard time parting with them. I have such a sense of pride and accomplishment after I've finished reading a book (fiction or nonfiction). I feel like I've learned so much and I'm the better for it. Same thing with running. After a season in a pair of running shoes, I have that same sense of pride and accomplishment. It's hard to part with something like that.
If you're like most runners, you go through at least a couple pair of running shoes each year. But what happens to those used shoes when you don't need them any more? Are you like I used to be and have a "Mount Run-No-More" of shoes piled up in the corner of your bedroom? Eventually, after my wife complained enough I'd usually decrease the pile some by taking a few to Good Will. But most of the shoes were so worn out that I felt guilty dumping them on Good Will and I felt bad about tossing such a good and loyal friend in the trash bin. So, what's a running to do?

Luckily there are some wonderful organizations that will help you recycle those faithful friends of yours. We all have those shoes that just never did fit right and as a result you never wore them too much. As mentioned before, Goodwill Industries is a great organization for recycling your more gently used shoes. Soles4Souls is another wonderful organization that will take your less-worn shoes and distribute them to people who need shoes all over the country and the world. Soles4Souls has a simple mission: To impact as many lives as possible with the gift of shoes. For the nearest Soles4Souls donation center [click here].
In Canada? Then check out Sole Responsibility, a non-profit organization formed by a group of runners in Ottawa who want to donate gently used running and walking shoes overseas. Each spring, this organization collects shoes at Ottawa running events. We also have drop-off sites throughout the Ottawa.

For more shoe recycling organizations all over the world, [click here] to check out a wonderful list comprised by
But what about shoes that are so worn out that can no longer be worn? Nike's Reuse-a-Shoe program will take such shoes and break them down. Each part of the shoe is then recycled into other products such as the bouncy flooring used on indoor basketball courts. For more information on how to donate to Reuse-a-Shoe [click here].

So, put that growing mound of old shoes to some good use and check out one of the wonderful organizations above!

Monday, December 14, 2009

How Running Changed My Life: Amanda's Story

Amanda has a truly inspirational running-related journey to share. Like many, Amanda has discovered the importance of setting goals as well as the wonderful sense of accomplishment when you work hard toward those goals and achieve them. In her own words, here's Amanda's story:

How running changed my life? How hasn’t running changed my life is a better question. Let’s start from the beginning. January 2008 I walked into Weight Watchers weighing 276lbs. This is not the heaviest I have been but my brother was getting married in 8 months and I didn’t want to be the fat sister in all the pictures. My weight loss journey went well. By the time August came around I had lost 40lbs. I was still overweight but I felt much better about myself. Now that the wedding was over I was stuck. I thought; what next? I had a goal the first 8 months but now that I didn’t have something to reach for I didn’t know what to do with myself.

Around this time I came across the C25K program on the WW message board. The program intrigued me. Probably because my dad was a runner and I remember him running the NYC Marathon year after year. He was always super fit and loved to run. August 2008 I started week 1 of C25K. The program is 9 weeks long and it gradually increases your running up to 30 mins straight. You start with 60 second intervals of running and then walking. I wont lie the first week was pure torture. At 230lbs it was not easy. I kept with it and I completed the program October 2008. I signed up for my first 5k which would take place on Thanksgiving morning. At this point I was not running 3 miles yet so for the weeks after C25K and before the 5k I worked up to running 3 miles. It took me 45 mins but I couldn’t believe I was running! I ran the turkey trot in 39:02! I was so proud of myself. I ran the entire time!

Fast forward a little. I have run a bunch of 5ks and a 10k throughout the months. I decided that I would train for my first half marathon. I trained throughout the summer an
d I ran my first half marathon on October 11th. It was the most amazing feeling in the world. I wanted to cry several times during the race. I just kept thinking that a year ago I couldn’t run for 60 seconds and here I am running 13.1 miles! The best part is that I finished the race 25 mins faster then I expected! My finish time was 2:26:21!!!

In case you are wondering – I have continued to lose weight and I have lost a total of 98lbs to date. I know that if it wasn’t running I probably would have not lost this much weight. I owe my life to running.—

Go Amanda! You truly are amazing! Be sure to check out Amanda's Blog Manderz Journey to a New Life. Thanks for sharing your story, Amanda!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

What Should I Wear?

"What should I wear?" That question is asked by thousands of runners all over the world each morning before heading out on their daily run. I've even been late for a group run trying to figure out what to wear. Are we that clothes conscious? Nah, the problem is the WEATHER! How to dress for the WEATHER! Mother nature can be rather fickle and you never know if she's going to treat you to rain, wind, snow, sleet, ice, a heat wave or a monsoon!

There are several different online weather services that provide all kinds of great info on the current and predicted weather—The Weather Channel, AccuWeather, and WeatherUnderground. I have WeatherBug on my laptop that displays the current temperature on the desktop as well as the weather forecast and it also pops up weather alerts. But dang it, none of these services/programs tell me what to wear!

I've often thought how great it would be if I had a program that would pop up on my screen each morning with exactly what I'm supposed to wear for running that day. Well, I haven't found that, but I did discover the next best thing—The Runner's World What Should I Wear? tool. This handy tool allows you to enter the temp, wind, conditions, as well as how you like to feel (temp-wise) when you run. Once you've done that, it pops up the garments and gear you need for the day's run.

What an awesome service! Be sure to bookmark this site and check it on those mornings when you're in doubt of what to wear. Now all I need is a program that will wake me up, dress me, and feed me. Don't laugh! I can dream. We didn't even have PCs 30 years ago!

Friday, December 11, 2009

10 Great Running Gifts for Under $20!

Need to do some holiday shopping for a runner, but you're on a budget? Check out the 10 gift ideas below that RunnerDude's dug up. They're great gifts any runner would love and the best part is that they're under $20!!!

The Wrist ID Sport by RoadID—$19.99
Identification is a must have for any runner or cyclist! The wrist ID can be engraved with your emergency information. It's available in six different colors and it comes standard with two 3M reflective stripes to enhance your visibility when training in the dark.

The Shoe Pouch by RoadID—$4.99
At a loss for where to store your key, some emergency cash, or your drivers' license? Then the Shoe Pouch is what you need. It attaches to your shoe laces and will keep the contents dry within it's water resistant ripstop nylon pouch.

These gloves are made of Dri-FIT® fabric that wicks away moisture to keep your hands dry and warm. The gloves also contain a key pocket in the palm, perfect for the car and/or house key. (Click here for the Women's Nike Lightweight Running Glove)

Are you Ipod Earbuds always falling out of your ears while on the run? These handy little soft flexible attachments mold to your ear's shape and stays put during any activity. Perfect for running!

Adidas Metro Sacpac—$14.99
Perfect for when you don't need a big duffel bag. Great to toss in the car with your dry change of clothes, towel, your wallet, and your phone!


Ultimate Direction Fastdraw Plus Handheld Water Bottle with Pocket—$16.99
Lightweight water bottle with strap that fits over your hand. Hold 20oz of liquid and the strap contains a zippered pocket perfect for stashing keys, cash or gels.

Foot Log—$19.99
Roll your foot gently over the Foot Log and feel the stimulation throughout your body. Helps relieve stress and tension. Excellent for plantar fasciitis massage.

Inov8 Debrisgaiter 32—$16.95
Have trouble with debris getting in your shoes when running trails? The Inov8 Debrisgaiter is just what you need to keep that debris where it belongs—on the ground.

Amphipod Stretch-Bright Reflective Band L.E.D—$13.95
Perfect for those early-morning or evening runs! The very bright red dual bulb display has three modes: continuous, dual flash, and alternating flash. Battery is included and is easily replaced. The band is a stretch-fit design for a comfortable fit and contains end-to-end high brilliance reflective tape.

Do you love to run with music? Then try Fuel Belt's MP3 Armband. It's easily adjusted with one hand so you can tighten or loosen it up without interrupting your workout.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Spring Marathons: It's Not Too Late!

Have you been putting off registering and training for that spring marathon? Well, it's not too late, but you better act now! Most marathon training plans last 16-20 weeks. Some marathons have a cap on the number of runners so, races may be filling up fast. For a few, registration may already be closed. Listed at the bottom of this post are links to several great spring marathons to check into, if you don't already have one in mind.

If your marathon is out-of-town, it can get expensive really quickly! For 10 penny-pinching tips for your marathon trip [click here].

Remember, prior to beginning your marathon training, you should have a solid base of weekly mileage. If you're a newbie to running, a spring marathon is probably not an option. It would be best to build your mileage and shoot for a fall 2010 or spring 2011 marathon.

Listed below are RRCA's base-building recommendations for the following groups of marathoners:
Beginning Marathoner: Six months of running experience and a base of 20 miles per week
Recreational Marathoner: Experienced runner, may have run one or more marathons; has a base of 25-30 miles per week
Intermediate Marathoner: Experienced runner, may have run one or more marathons; has a base of 30-40 miles per week
Advanced Marathoner: Experienced road racer with previous marathon experience; has a base of 50 miles per week

Date: March 20 Place: High Point, NC
Date: March 20 Place: Washington DC
Date: March 21 Place: Cary, NC
Date: March 21 Place: Virginia Beach, VA
Date: March 21 Place: Atlanta
Date: March 21 Place: Los Angeles, CA
Date: April 17 Place: Charlottesville, VA
Date: April 17 Place: Salt Lake City, UT
Country Music Marathon (I've run this race. Fun race! Well Organized!)
Date: April 24, 2010 Place: Nashville, TN
Date: April 24, 2010 Place: Roanoke, VA
Date: April 25, 2010 Place: Big Sur, CA
Date: May 2, 2010 Place: Cincinnati, OH
Date: May 2, 2010 Place: Pittsburgh, PA
Date: May 2, 2010 Place: Eugene, OR
Date: May 16, 2010 Place: Cleveland, Ohio
Date: May 16, 2010 Place: Tannersville, PA
Date: May 30, 2010 Place: Burlington, VT
San Diego Rock 'n' Roll Marathon (I've run this race. Awesome! Well Organized!)
Date: June 6, 2010 Place: San Diego, CA
Date: June 19, 2010 Place: Anchorage, Alaska
Date: June 19, 2010 Place: Duluth, Minnesota

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Kyle Petty Runs More Than One Kind of Road Race!

Kyle Petty is not only a race winner in NASCAR’s top series, he’s also a marathon veteran (Las Vegas, 2005, and Disney, 2006; PR of 4:16:01 at Las Vegas). Petty will take part in the 5-mile run at Sunday’s Run to Victory road race in Randleman, NC, benefiting the Victory Junction Camp that he and his wife, Pattie, started in honor of their late son Adam. After his run is complete, he’ll greet runners as they cross the finish line.

Petty took a few minutes by phone recently to talk about the Run to Victory and his own running efforts.

On the Run to Victory event: “Really when it started was when I talked to John (Bingham) when I ran the Disney marathon (January 2006). It was the first time we had met. We had no expectations. Out in Level Cross, it’s not that people don’t run, you just don’t see ‘em running up and down the streets like you do in Greensboro or other places. But from the first year to the second year to the third year, it’s almost doubled every year. I don’t think it will double this year. But if we have a 20 or 30 percent increase, that’s realistic. It’s just gotten bigger and better, and the community has embraced it a lot more. The first year people were mad about shutting down country roads.”
On its proximity on the calendar to the Mistletoe Half Marathon in Winston-Salem: “We get local people, but honestly a lot of people we get are race fans. Tons of race fans. That’s amazing. We just get a lot of people that travel and will come run this run. There are a lot of walkers, a lot that come to do the 5-mile. They’re just race fans. If I’m there, Michael (Walitrip), they want to meet Michael. I always try to stand at the start-finish line and greet everybody as they finish. They just want to be around the camp. We have a donor base of about 60,000 or 70,000 people. A lot of people come and look at it as a donation to the camp as much as the run.”
What will your role be on race day? “Mostly I say the prayer before we run. I just give a blessing for a safe run and for everybody. The first couple of years I went straight to the start-finish line. Colin, a camper with us, challenged me to run the 5-mile with him. We ran-walked 5 miles, and it was a lot of fun to be with him and his family. Colin, since he beat me, he’s got to greet me when I get there. I will run with some of the campers.”
Will your dad, “The King,” be there? “Most of the time he is. What he does, he kinda cheats a little bit. He comes in to the cafeteria and eats while everybody else is out in the cold running. He never advertises that he’s going to be there. He just kinda shows up most of the time.”
How’s your running going? “I hurt my knee in a wreck (Phoenix, November 2008). I hit my knee on the steering column and I kinda cut back. I just recently started running again in the past six months. I’m kinda out of shape.”
How much are you running in a week’s time? “Not much. Maybe eight miles, maybe 10 at the most. I’m trying to ease back into it.”
What enjoyment do you find in running? “I don’t think people understand how much racing is a team sport. From the driver to the crew chief to the guy who busts his rear end to build those things. It’s a total team effort. At the race track, you’ve got 150,000 people everywhere. You’re in a crowd all the time. What I get out of running is the solitude. When you go out when it’s pouring down rain like today, or you go out and it’s 20 degrees or 100 degrees, it’s just you and a pair of shoes."
What’s the most success you’ve had running? “Every time I make it back to the house is successful. ... This is going to be strange to most people, but I was training for my first half-marathon in Las Vegas. It was in January. I started training, really, in November. I thought I could do it in two months. Little did I know you really couldn’t. But I never ran outside until I got to Vegas. I trained totally on a treadmill. What I’ll never forget was when got to the fifth mile, that was the farthest I’d ever run outside in my life. I’d run when I was in school and run to play sports. I’d run two to three miles plenty of times. So what’s the biggest success? Making it five miles. I thought, ‘Hey, I’m outside and I’m running.’”
Run to Victory web site.
Register for the half-marathon or 5-mile run.

A Big thanks to fellow blogger and friend Eddie Wooten from the Greensboro New & Record who originally published this interview on his Blog, Running Shorts and allowed RunnerDude to repost it here for you on RunnerDude's Blog. Thanks Eddie!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Inside the Minds of a Triathlete: A Conversation With Nationally Syndicated Cartoonist, Author, and Triathlete Jef Mallett

As an endurance athlete I've run many a race from the 5K to the marathon and everything in between. Yet there are two areas I have yet to venture—the ultra marathon and the triathlon. One day I'll venture beyond 26.2 miles, no doubt. But the triathlon? That one has always intimidated me. I think it's the swim leg of the three-sport event (swim, bike, run) that makes me take pause. Something about swimming with hundreds of other swimmers, feet and hands all flailing, that just unnerves me a bit. If I'm honest with myself, though, I think it's more of the unknown that holds me back. Give me a stretch of road to run on, it doesn't matter the type—flat, hilly, curvy, muddy, paved—and I'll be a happy camper. I know exactly what to do. Throw in swimming and cycling and all the sudden my comfort zone is gone and I'm no longer the seasoned athlete. I'm back to square one.

This past weekend I had the awesome pleasure of talking with someone that put me at ease about the world of the triathlete. Award-winning and nationally syndicated cartoonist Jef Mallett recently published Trizophrenia: Inside the Minds of a Triathlete (VeloPress, 2009)—a wonderfully humorous and informative book about the obsessive-compulsive rituals of the triathlete. If the name sounds familiar, you may know Mallett from his nationally syndicated cartoon Frazz, which runs in over 160 newspapers across the country and Canada. You also may recognize his wonderful illustrations in Jamie Smith's book, Roadie: The Misunderstood World of a Bike Racer. Jef also writes a regular column for Inside Triathlon and Triathlete magazines.

When I first began reading Trizophrenia, I didn't have much hope of it being a page-turner. Afterall, I am an endurance runner not a triathlete. What was I doing delving into foreign territory? But I wanted to know more about this unknown world and besides the cover art was very appealing, so it wouldn't hurt to read just a little, would it? In this case, I was hoping that you could judge a book by its cover.

When I opened the book and saw the very first illustration (a swimmer, cyclist, and runner sitting on a couch all three talking at the same time to a psychiatrist who's feverishly scribbling away on her notepad), I realized that I was going to relate to this book just fine.

And fine it was. Except for a snack run and a few bathroom pitstops, I read the entire book in one sitting. The same humor and insight I love about the Frazz cartoons abounds in the text and illustrations of Trizophrenia. I was instantly pulled into the world of a triathlete and soon realized that they may even be slightly crazier than long-distance runners. Somehow I found that oddly comforting. By the time I finished reading the book, I was thinking, "Hey, maybe I can actually complete a triathlete."

Having such a great experience reading Trizophrenia, I contacted Jef to get more insight into the mind of this talented illustrator, writer, and triathlete. Here's our conversation:

RunnerDude: How long have you competed in triathlons?
Mallett: Over the years I've switched from tri to bike and back again, but I ran my first triathlon back in 1981. I wasn't very good, but I was instantly hooked. I was very intimidated at first, but with each race I got better and more confident.

RunnerDude: What inspired you to write a book about triathlete life?
Mallett: A few years back I started writing a column for Inside Triathlon. What a great job! I get to write (which I love) and I get to write about triathlons (which I love even better)! That led into me illustrating Jamie Smith's book Roadie: The Misunderstood World of a Bike Racer for VeloPress. In working on Roadie, I thought, hey I can do a similar book on the life and times of a triathlete. Simultaneously, VeloPress was having similar thoughts. The rest is history.
RunnerDude: I love the title Trizophrenia and how it's positioned as an ailment on the back cover even listing the symptoms (delusional spending on expensive equipment), treatment (training and racing to quell the delirious symptoms and create a state of euphoria), and a prognosis (triathletes can ultimately thrive and reach a heightened engagement with life if proper balance is achieved). How did you come up with the title?
Mallett: I'm so glad you like the title. I did a lot of brainstorming and I kept coming back to Trizophrenia. It was so adaptable and so exactly what the life of a triathlete is...a wonderfully chronic, overwhelming, and intoxicating state of being.

RunnerDude: Other than reassuring that triathletes are crazy and that that's okay, is there another message you wanted to convey to the readers?
Mallett: (laughingly) Well, I wanted to reassure the seasoned hardcore triathlete as well as the novice that yes, in fact they are a little bit crazy, but that that's almost a requirement of the sport. I also just wanted to share a funny philosophy of the sport with lots of illustrations so anyone (athlete or couch potato) could learn about the sport and why so many consume their lives with it. There are a multitude of books on how to train for a triathlon. I wanted to share the whys.

RunnerDude: Are there any endurance training books that have influenced you over the years?
Mallett: I read anything and everything about endurance training. I don't use every technique or training strategy I read about, but it's good background. Way back in the 80s, I read a wonderful book The Bicycle Racing Book by William Sanders. Keep in mind, that back in the 80s bike racing was an unknown. If you raced bikes, the public viewed you as a little off kilter. Sanders' book did a wonderful job of sharing with the public the technical, practical, and the emotional sides of bike racing. That book and its message (it's much more than a sport) have stuck with me over the years and I wanted to convey something similar about triathlon racing through writing Trizophrenia.
RunnerDude: How did writing Trizophrenia compare to writing Frazz? Was it like apples to apples or apple to oranges?
Mallett: It was more like apples to pears. There were a lot of similarities (i.e., telling stories, telling jokes), but there were some big differences (i.e., the long-scale timing). Writing the comic is a forced discipline. I have a routine and I get in a groove and I can produce each Frazz within familiar set deadlines. Writing a book was a very different experience. All of the sudden I had to write a big long book in a short period of time. Let's just say that I didn't get much sleep in '08-'09. I always thought I was a disciplined person, but this truly tested my skills. Every time I neared the completion of a chapter, I'd think to myself, "Is it done?" "Is it done?" "Is it done?"

RunnerDude: My favorite part of the book was the "What It Takes" section, particularly the section on "Guts." That section really helped me see how much an endurance long-distance runner has in common with a triathlete. What was the most enjoyable part of writing Trizophrenia?
Mallett: For me it was describing the race itself. It put me right back there in the heat of the moment with all the adrenaline-induced, heart-pounding excitement that comes with each and every race. It was awesome reliving each race. My pulse actually sped up when recounting the events.
RunnerDude: I love your illustration style. I think I'd have a hard time keeping the illustration ideas at bay while doing the writing. Did you ever get sidetracked from the writing by illustration ideas?
Mallett: No, I think very visually, so I didn't get tempted. But now that I think of it, when I write Frazz, the text and illustration happen more simultaneously. So, I'm kind of surprised, now that you ask that I didn't get sidetracked. But somehow I was able to write the text and then work on the illustrations.

RunnerDude: I love how you've added the informative and often very humorous anecdotal footnotes at the bottom of most pages providing further insight into your mind as well as the general triathlete's mind. How important was it for you to write the book with as much humor as information?
Mallett: I have a favorite expression of non-triathletes that I like to call "What for." "What for you want to put your body through that torture?" What for you want to swim, bike, and run all in one event? "What for you want to give up every minute of free time you have to train?" I wanted to help convey to the "What for" crowd (like Sanders did in The Bicycle Racing Book) that the triathlon is much more than a sport. It's a lifestyle a state of being.

RunnerDude: Do you have any advice for someone contemplating their first triathlon?
Mallett: Without infringing on Nike's trademark slogan...."Just Do It!" It's harder in a whole different way the first mile. So stick with it. That initial fear and pain will turn into exhilaration and an awesome sense of accomplishment, but you have to push past the initial shock. Also hang around with other triathletes. Your family and friends aren't going to understand or probably encourage this new sport you've discovered, so find that support amongst your peers. And never stop asking questions!
RunnerDude: Do you have anything specific to say to your readers?
Mallett: Buy the book! (laughing) Come out and race. If you're still undecided, volunteer at a local triathlon event. This will give you great insight into the event and what's involved on the frontline as well as behind the scenes. Enjoy yourself!

RunnerDude: Do you have any upcoming races?
Mallett: I hope to do Musselman in Upstate New York and there's a new Ironman at Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio that I'd really like to do. There's also several local races that I'm sure will temp me.

I'd like to personally thank Jef Mallett for taking time out of his busy schedule to talk with me about his love of the triathlon and the process of writing his book Trizophrenia. Jef really is a cool dude. For more information on Jef and his work, be sure to visit his website.