Monday, October 31, 2011

How To Create Your Carb-Load Plan

Even non-runners have heard of carb-loading. They might joke about how runners get to drink all the beer and eat all the pasta they want. But there's a lot more to it than just gorging on bagels and beer.

Glycogen is the main source of energy for long endurance runs. Carbohydrates are stored as glycogen in the liver and in the muscles. Your body can store about 2000 calories worth of glycogen. That's enough calories to provide energy for about 18 miles of running. Once this supply is depleted, the body starts to burn fat. Sounds like a good back-up plan, but the problem is that the body takes longer to metabolize fat for energy.

Ever hear of “hitting the wall”? That’s when a runner's body shuts down mentally and physically. The cause is often from depleted carb stores. There’s just nothing left in the tank; hence the importance of fully stocked glycogen stores before the race. It’s also important to keep these stores refueled during the race by drinking sports drink and/or ingesting other quick carbs such as energy gels, chews, or beans about every 30 to 45 minutes during the race.

Back to carb-loading…past thinking had runners ingesting lots of carbs the entire last week of the taper. I’ve found that the last three days prior to the race is plenty of time to make sure you’re fueled up for the big day.

During this three day-period before race day, your carbohydrate intake should increase to 70 to 80 percent of your total daily caloric intake. That doesn’t mean you’re taking in more calories, it just means that of the calories you’re taking in, 70 to 80 percent need to be comprised of carbs.

Not all carbs are alike, Knowing the differences and eating the right kinds at the right time during the carb-loading phase can make a huge difference. Complex carbs are comprised of unrefined whole grain foods such as whole grain breads, legumes, brown rice, and whole grain pasta. Simple carbs are foods made of refined and/or processed grains such as white bread, regular pasta, white rice, packaged cookies, cakes, and doughnuts. Fruits are technically simple carbs too, but they’re very nutrient dense and I would never put them in the same category as a doughnut. Keep in mind that eating a banana will provide quick energy because your body will process it very quickly, while a low-fat bran muffin will sustain your energy needs a lot longer.

There’s no specific menu to eat for this carb-loading phase. There are so many factors involved—likes, dislikes, allergies, digestive tolerance, and on and on. What works for one runner may have another runner praying to the porcelain god (or more accurately the plastic port-a-john god) the entire run.

There are however, some good rules of thumb to follow. The first rule of thumb is to test your nutrition well in advance. It's best to try new foods when you're not in training. If you are training, it's best to test new things early on so you'll know ahead of time what does and doesn't work for you. Then stick to what you know works when it's close to race day.

It's also important to avoid the "Try me! Try me!" barking of the sales reps at the marathon expo. Although the marathon expo can be an exciting place the day before the race, try really hard to avoid much (if any) taste-testing. You never know what may throw your stomach for a loop. Save your sample for after the race

Now that you know the different types of carbs, you need to know when to eat them. To find out what to do each of the three days prior to race day [click here] go to the rest of my article on

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Sunday, October 30, 2011

How Fitness Can Aide in Cancer Treatment

Studies have shown that it is important for individuals who are fighting illness to keep physically active, maintain a positive attitude, and eat a balanced diet. These attributes are known to improve the extent of recovery and the duration of recuperation.

It is natural for an individual to become fatigued and lethargic when battling cancer. The disease and treatment, as well as the emotional toll can be difficult to handle. It may be the last thing that a person wants to do, but being active can improve the coping ability and energy levels of the individual suffering with cancer. This is true for people with cancers that typically have low survival rates like pleural mesothelioma and epithelial mesothelioma and for people with cancers that typically high survival rates like breast cancer and testicular cancer.

Cancer is a stressful condition and unfortunately, stress has been linked to poor outcomes when treating health issues. Physical activity addresses this problem in several ways. A person will experience the release of “feel good” chemicals that lead to a better emotional state as a result of participating in exercise. The added circulation aids the immune system in combating cancer and healing after treatment or surgery. While a person is participating in the activity, it provides a period of distraction for other pressing matters.

The immune process of an individual is elevated when daily physical activity is completed. Anatomically, this is due to the features of the lymphatic system, which mirrors the vessels of the cardiovascular system and relies on it to achieve transportation to every area of the body. A healthy vascular system equates to the ability of the immune system to function at an optimal level.

Participating in physical exercise enables a person to maintain energy. This simple fact has a large impact on a person who is fighting cancer. Battling fatigue is a strain that an ill person should not have to deal with in addition to the disease and treatment, this situation has a negative effect on the person’s outlook and stress management.

Body motion leads to a better tolerance of pain in most people. This enables a person to cope with symptoms and procedures much more easily. 

People who remain in motion naturally keep healthier weights and have better blood chemistry levels when tested, showing a better overall function of the organs.

Fitness when dealing with cancer does not mean a person should be able to run in a marathon. Each person is different. Participating in yoga, Tai Chi, gardening, or walking the dog is enough for some people. Discuss an appropriate activity level with the attending physician.

 Liz Davies is a recent college graduate and aspiring writer especially interested in health and wellness. She wants to make a difference in people’s lives because she sees how cancer has devastated so many people in this world. Liz also likes running, playing lacrosse, reading and playing with her dog, April.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

My First Marathon: Vinny's Story

I started running in February a few years ago, after I quit smoking in late November the year before. Like a lot of people out there, I ran in high school and always thought about a marathon.  I found Team in Training and joined up not only raise some money but to keep my motivation in perspective. I figured, if I wanted to quit at any time, I could think about the people that I was raising money for and it would keep me going. I also dragged my sister, Theresa, into the meeting and she signed up for a half marathon
I joined the team for the San Diego Rock and Roll Marathon in June. A local half marathon fell at about the halfway point of our training. Our marathon group got to train with the half-marathoners for the race.  It was a huge group (about 30 of us) running together every weekend and getting to know each other. I heard a lot of great stories and made a few friends.

Midway through the training season, the half marathoners had run their race and weren’t around anymore. At that point, it was just us full marathon runners (only about a dozen). The first time seeing that few of us was a little different for me. I was used to being surrounded by groups of people talking and being part of conversations. So, I started my run and struck up a conversation with a woman who was running about my pace. I had noticed her before and she always ran with her Mother. I didn’t know anything about her at all, but I had about 18 miles to run (my longest run at that point) and I REALLY needed someone to talk to. I didn’t know what to say, so I just said the first thing that came to mind, “So, you left your mother back there huh?” That was around mile 2. I found out through the next 16 miles of our run, her name was Nichole.

During our run we talked about different things, mostly nonsense just to keep the run and the conversation going. I found out she ran in high school, and this was her 4th full marathon. I told her about my life, how I also ran in high school, and how I had smoked for the past 13 years. I explained to her how much I loved a local cross country course. Her eyes lit up and she began to tell me all about her memories of it as well. We made plans to meet there for a practice run on our own during the week. In my high of running my first 18 miler, I totally forgot to get Nichole’s number. Thankfully, she wasn’t as winded from the run, and pulled me aside to exchange.

Midweek we met at the course, Sunken Meadow State Park. We went out again on a run, and didn’t stop talking. We only ran for about 6 miles this time, but still had the same great conversations and laughs. We continued our Saturday runs together, with the team around us, but we also met mid-week by ourselves. After our Wednesday runs, we would stop and get something to eat, to “re-fuel” but more-so to continue our conversations.

Race day finally arrived. We started the race together, running and talking as usual. Somewhere around mile 12, I started feeling it. We were moving faster than I was used to. We were talking way too much, and I was in pain. We both were feeling it. The next few miles were very quiet. I managed to make it to mile 16 before saying, “Go ahead without me, I need to stop for a minute”. I’m pretty sure Nichole knew that we wouldn’t meet up again, but I was determined.

I muscled through what I guess what my “wall” as they put it. Being the Rock-and-Roll series there were lots of people cheering and running. I found a group of Elvis runners, pushing a stroller with a boom box playing nothing but Elvis tunes. I stuck with them for a while. I have to admit, it was pretty cool, and it kept me going. Around mile 24, I did it. I caught up to Nichole. I saw her next to one of the coaches from Team and Training. She was having a very hard time. They were helping her through the end of the run. I wanted to stop and check on her, but one of the coaches assured me she was okay and started to run next to me for the next mile and a half pulling me into the end of my run. Once I crossed the finish line, I was relieved, it was over. I had officially finished a goal I had since high school. I walked around in a daze, and found a spot to sit and just plopped down. After sitting there for a few minutes, I heard my name. Nichole found me and was looking for me to congratulate me. We talked about the run and what we experienced on our 10 solo miles. Then we caught up with the rest of the team.

Later that night, we all went out for drinks and dancing and celebrating. Nichole and I broke away from the rest of the group and went to another bar. We spent the night dancing and having a great time. Some point in the night we kissed, kept dancing and enjoying each other. When we got back home, we kept up our routine of running for a few hours followed by eating and talking for a few more. Eventually we made our relationship "official."

It’s been over two years since then. We've run a few marathons together; even worked our way up to ultras and moved on to 50k, 100k, 50-mile and 100-mile races. We run a lot in the mornings together. We spend our dinners talking about our run, or how we can get our times down. We plan our vacations and long weekends around a race. We look for new local trails to run around and spend time it. We finally got into NYC this year and will be running it together.

My life completely changed because of my first marathon. I found a passion in running that keeps me going, and I found a woman that I can spend my life with who has the same passion. Running has become one of the biggest parts of my life and Nichole has become more than just my running partner, and my partner in life. She is my “sole” mate.

Monday, October 24, 2011

PR* Bar: Great Taste, Nutrition, and Performance!

Several months ago I received some new nutrition bars to sample called PR* Bar. I’ve been sent a lot of bars to sample and most do what they propose they do, but the trick is making one that actually tastes good.  There have been a few that fall into that “tastes good too” category, but not many. PR* Bar is one of the few that has made the RunnerDude cut for both tasting good and delivering what it promises.

Companies are all about slogans and flashy phrases and PR*Bar has one that says “Think of PR*Bar as Fuel for your Dream.” Sounds a bit lofty and I first, I thought, “Hmm…that’s a big statement.” Basically PR*Bar is pulling in the idea of a PR “Personal Record” being something that’s specific to you, your goals, your progress and your results. 

I kind of like the idea that a company wants to help me with my personal fitness goals, not promise that I’m going to look like the fake fitness model hired to say “look what this product did for me” and then in fine print you read the model never even use the product.

So, I decided to give it a try. I also noticed that PR*Bar is the official performance nutrition bar of the U.S. Olympic Team. Must be pretty good if our top athletes are using it.

PR*Bar promises that it’s “fastburn formula” eliminates hunger, increases mental focus, and optimizes performance by controlling blood sugars and using body fat for fuel.  PR nutrition was the first company to offer 15g or protein in a 200 calorie bar. It’s also gluten-free, all natural, and kosher. It’s also free of sugar alcohols and it’s trans fat free.

All that healthy and free of “this and that” usually spells “Tastes Nasty” but PR*Bar actually tastes great. It’s a far cry of the cardboard chew available when I first started running over 25 years ago. The bars come in 9 flavors—Apple Pie, Chocolate Mint, Double Chocolate, Chocolate Peanut, Iced Brownie, Yogurt Berry, Granola Oatmeal Raisin, Granola Peanut Butter Berry, and Granola Peanut Butter. My favorite is the Chocolate Mint. I’m not much of a fruit-flavored bar kind of guy, but the Apple Pie and Granola Oatmeal Raisin is pretty dang awesome too.

The PR*Bar Fastburn Nutrition Program is personalized for you based on your lean body mass, individual requirements, and training.  Anyone interested in losing body fat, enhancing athletic performance, building lean muscle, a great tasting bar, or improving his or her nutrition will benefit from the use of the PR*Bars and the Fastburn Nutrition Program.

Here’s the science behind the bar:
The PR*Bars are designed to enhance your body’s natural ability to burn body fat while maintaining or increasing lean body mass. A diet high in carbs (like many athletes have) can store as much as 40% as fat. Diets low in protein can leave you weak and without the nutrients you need to help rebuild lean body mass. Low-fat, low-protein diets can cause you to feel tired and crave sweets.

A diet high in carbs and low in protein and fats increases your blood sugar levels. This causes your body to release insulin. If you have elevated insulin levels it can prevent you from burning stored body fat. You’ll just be burning the sugar from carbs for your energy. If you can stabilize your blood sugar and control the insulin levels, then your body will release glucagon which helps your body’s ability to use stored sugars as well as access body fats that can be burned for energy.

The company also provides a Fastburn Nutrition Program that if used in conjunction with the PR*Bar, the company says will help you achieve impressive results. You select the plan based on your height and activity level. The best part is it’s FREE! I can’t speak on to the nutrition program, but I did use the bars and really like them. 

To use the bars, simply have one with some water a couple of hours before your run or workout. I also discovered that they make a great mid-morning or mid-afternoon snack. It provides the energy needed to pick you up and get through the day without mindless snacking. If you have time, unwrap a bar and microwave it for about 25 seconds. Makes it taste even more awesome.

So, if you’re looking for a nutrition bar that tastes good and really does provide a great source of energy and will help improve your performance, give PR*Bar a try. It has the RunnerDude seal of approval and oh yeah, the U.S. Olympic Team likes them too. 

Note: While PR* Bar did provide samples of their product for me to test, I did not receive any payment for this review and was not encouraged to write a positive review. The post is a reflection of my personal use with the product.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Running Form: A Work in Progress

A couple of years ago I purchased a copy of Danny Dreyer's book, Chi Running, and that was the first time I really began thinking more about the mind-body connection of running as well as proper alignment of your body when running. I began implementing many of the key components of Chi Running in my own running and found them to be very helpful.

Over the years, my copy of Chi Running has become a bit tattered. I've referred to it often and even more so now that I'm training/coaching runners. I even traveled to Asheville, NC to interview Danny for the Blog.

Recently, Danny informed me of a study being done at UNC-Chapel Hill by MAJ Don Goss on the biomechanics of running particularly Chi running. So I eagerly contacted Don and set up an appointment. So glad I did, because it was quite the adventure and the result was quite the eye opener. My running stride has gone from that of a heel striker to more of a mid-foot (flat foot) strike, which Chi Running advocates as a more biomechanically efficient from of running. I've also worked hard on pulling in my stride and shooting for more of a foot landing under the center of my body. This enables you to work with the oncoming pavement rather than against it. It allows for more of a push than a push-then-pull that heel striking promotes. It also requires less muscle activation, so it should take you longer to fatigue.

So, how did I do? Well, the test was on a rather odd treadmill. It has two for each foot. It was rather awkward to run on. At first I ran with my feet on separate belts and then at one point both feet on the left and then both feet on the right belt. It's a rather narrow belt and was hard to keep my balance. Okay, sounds like I'm making excuses, but it was rather "unnatural" to run on. On top of that I' was wrapped in ace bandages at the waist, thighs, and calves. Probes were attached to the bandages as well as my feet. Don explained that these were sensors that the computer would read and then be able to analyze my stride and foot strike.

The outcome of the test was that I'm not exactly the poster child for Chi Running when I run at a faster pace. I tend to revert back somewhat to being a heel striker. Not as severe as I once was, but the videos below do reveal that I tend to land more on the back of my foot (particularly the right foot) than landing midfoot as I do when I'm running at a more moderate pace. I would like to have some one video tape me running outside to compare, because of the odd belt set up of the treadmill and the balance issues I felt, I really never felt able to get much of lean going during the test. So, like I said earlier, not making excuses just now curious what I look like running faster on the open road. The video shows what it shows, and that's good. Just means I have more work to do. While my test may not be able to be included as an authentic Chi Runner, I learned a lot and now know what I need to focus on.

Below you can see me running with all the probes in place. I'm running on just on of the belts in the video (the left-side belt).

The video below is the computer's interpretation of my running form. I kind of felt like I was in a Disney Pixar production. LOL!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

When Last Place Is Better Than First

The other day, Steve, a member of my beginning running group at the Volvo North America Headquarters told me that he was learning to “celebrate the small gains.” He just discovered during  our post-run stretching that he could balance on his right ankle. Something he’s never been able to do. He also shared that he's had fewer calf cramps and has improved his breathing. Steve's excitement over seeing his running pay off in other areas of his everyday life was pretty cool. Earlier the same day, another client at Volvo (Debra, in her 50s)  who is in the Fitness Walking group shared a similar experience. While at a recent weekend beach excursion, she was able to pull the family's wagon full of beach “stuff” up the dune to her car to the amazement of her husband. Keep in mind that not too long ago Debra had a hip replacement.

What many don’t understand is that Steve's and Debra's experiences are what fitness is all about…celebrating the small gains. Before you know it those small gains add up to huge life-changing gains.  Getting up off the couch and taking that first walk really can lead eventually to completing a marathon. It all starts with that first step. 

New York City Marathon co-founder Fred Lebow once said, "In running, it doesn't matter whether you come in first, in the middle of the pack, or last. You can say, 'I have finished.' There is a lot of satisfaction in that." That was definitely the case this past weekend for myself and a client of mine, Rhonda. We ran the Triple Lakes Trail Half Marathon in Greensboro, NC and came in last place.

Distraught? Let down? Disappointed? Hell no! I’ve run a lot of half and full marathons over the past 25 years. My half-marathon PR is 1:30 (not too shabby). But the Triple Lakes Half Marathon at a finish time of 3:58:59 will stand out as one of the most inspirational and moving races I’ve ever run. 

Rhonda and her husband Row came to me several months ago. Rhonda was on a mission. She was turning 50 and wanted to run a half marathon to celebrate this milestone. Row was along for the ride to support, Rhonda.  Many 50-year-olds run half-marathons, but what set Rhonda apart was that she was not a runner and had over the years endured 7 knee surgeries. Rhonda has a passion for tennis and has played most of her life. It has taken a toll on the knees.  I could see she was determined and after passing her fitness assessment, we set to work on achieving her half-marathon goal.

The first session we had, I took Rhonda and Row out for a run/walk. I noticed that Rhonda was heel-striking and knew this would more than likely aggravate her knees. So, I showed her how to land with more of a mid-foot foot strike underneath her body. She took too it immediately and said after that very first session, “That’s the first time, I’ve run without pain.” That one small change made all the difference in the world.

Rhonda and Row continued the run/walk workouts on their own, hitting the trails most weekends. They also continued their training sessions with me coming every Sunday afternoon for a 1-hour workout. We worked on building upper-body, core and lower-body muscular endurance. While Row (in his mid 50s) was initially along for the ride to support Rhonda, he discovered he enjoyed the workouts as much as Rhonda.  I’m not sure who was inspired the most, Rhonda and Row doing the workouts and getting stronger every week, or me watching them get stronger each week.

Rhonda watched how Row had taken to the workouts and was really improving as a runner and she wanted him to run the half-marathon at his own pace and do well. She also knew he wouldn’t leave her alone to run the race on her own. I realized this too and offered to run the race with Rhonda. One of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

I met Rhonda and Row early on race day and the journey began. It was a chilly morning. Both Rhonda and Row were over dressed and each had a Camelback hydration unit strapped to their backs. Looking around they laughed realizing they were overdressed and were probably over “watered” too for a half. I told them they had on layers they could remove as they heated up and better safe than sorry with the water. 

It wasn’t long after the starter gun sounded that Rhonda and I were in last place. We held on to that title till the very end. Rhonda’s goal from the very beginning was to finish. Time didn't matter. All she wanted to be able to say after finishing was, “I gave it my all, I finished, and I finished strong.” And that she did.

We kept up a 4-minute run 2-minute walk for a good portion of the race. The course was tough, covering four different trails. The last segment was on the Owls Roost Trail which is quite hilly and has several technical sections. The challenging terrain began to tug at Rhonda’s knee, so we walked a good portion of this final trail and enjoyed the beautiful morning, deep in the woods, winding around gorgeous Lake Brandt.

Rhonda said that at each milestone birthday she’s done something adventurous.  At 25 she went sky diving. At 30 she went to Greece. At 40, she and some girlfriends went to Vegas (I’m sure it’s never quite been the same) and at 50 she ran this half-marathon. She’s already contemplating what to do for the big 60.
Towards the end of our half-marathon journey, the full-marathon runners began to pass us. First just one, then two, then the first female marathoner.  Each time, Rhonda gave a shout out, “Looking strong” “Keep it up” “You’re amazing!” All I could think was, “No, Rhonda. You’re amazing.”

We crossed that finish line almost 4 hours after starting and I’ve never had a smile so big on my face as I did throwing my arms up with Rhonda’s in victory as we crossed that finish line.

Monday, October 17, 2011

My First Marathon: Chris's Story

My (Chris Hazzard's) first marathon was Los Angeles 2011 (only 6 months ago!). Prior to training for LA, I was not a runner; I was a guy who occasionally ran short distances for exercise and didn't enjoy it. In fact it was painful. I would go on a running kick, and jog two or three days a week for a few weeks and then fall off and not run (or really exercise at all) for months on end. When I did run, it was never more than two or three miles, which when you are not a runner, is just long enough to make you really not want to do it.

This all changed (slowly, mind you) last October when my brother-in-law, Geoff, threw out the idea of running the LA Marathon together in March. He had run the Honolulu marathon a few years before and had been wanting to run another, and he knew that I was interested in running one. Now, when I say 'interested' I mean that in the vaguest of ways. It was something I thought about as a bucket list item. I knew many people who had run a marathon and figured at some point I would too. That was it. Though nervous at first, with Geoff's encouragement I began training. We used Hal Higdon's Novice 1 program and once the running became routine, I started to enjoy it. Something about the challenge of pushing toward a goal that I wasn't sure I could conquer really drove me.

When the day of the marathon finally came I was nervous but extremely excited. The camaraderie and excitement of everyone waiting in the coral at Dodger Stadium was contagious. The weathermen had predicted rain and as of that morning it was overcast but holding off. Cloudy and cool, the day seemed perfect. The announcer said the gun would go off in two minutes. And that's when it started. The rain. It had held off until now, two minutes before the start of the race. On cue the entire crowd let out one unison groan - there's something amazing about 19,000 people all sharing a reaction. On top of the weather, Geoff had hit the insane marathon traffic getting off the freeway and didn't make it to the start by the gun, so I ran without him knowing we'd find each other on the opposite side of the finish line.

When the gun went off we finally started moving and I couldn't believe it was actually happening; I was running a marathon. The rain was steady but not unmanageable, however that didn't last. The steady rain quickly turned into a downpour. DOWNPOUR. The type of rain you try to avoid driving in. For the first ten miles I took care to not step in puddles thinking I would be able to keep my feet fairly dry, however this became a ridiculous exercise. Somewhere between miles ten and eleven I ran through a river on Hollywood Boulevard and gave myself over to the fact that I was going to get wet. 

This was a turning point for me. The first ten miles had been fun, but as soon as I let go of any concept of what dry was the race became a lot more fun. This was good, because the rain somehow got worse. Around the halfway point it hailed for a brief period (at least I think it was hail - it hurt like hell). Yet the attitude of the people I was running near was not put off by the weather at all. Instead we saw it as a challenge. When the rain would pick up there would be loud screams of delight like cheering for your favorite band, and sometimes even laughter. At several points I saw others look to the sky and say, "Is that all you got?" The experience was incredible.

I finally crossed the finish line with a time of 4:43:06 and an incredible feeling of accomplishment. My first marathon redefined what it meant to be wet and the horrible weather only added to my overall high of the race - I knew I would never forget it.

The best thing to come out of my first marathon is that I am now a runner. I caught the running bug, big time. A few months after LA, in July, I ran the San Francisco marathon (this time actually getting to run with Geoff and we both set PRs! 4:29:46) and I just completed the Long Beach Marathon (my third), which was on October 9th. Running has grown to become something I love, it's my time to think, to set goals and to push myself. I've got a lot more marathons in me, but I will definitely never forget my first, LA 2011.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Winner of the Saucony Cortanas is...

Congratulations to Wayne Ball, the winner of the Saucony Cortanas! A Big thanks to all the participants in the contest and an even bigger thanks to Saucony for providing such an awesome giveaway!

Next Product Review/Giveaway
What would you like RunnerDude to review next? Do you have a particular running-related product that you'd like RunnerDude to "test drive"? Send me your ideas to and I'll see what I can do. Be sure to put "Product Review" in the subject line of the email. Thanks again for all your support. If you're so inclined, cast your vote for RunnerDudes blog at The Top 100 Running Sites. Thanks!

Monday, October 10, 2011

And the Winner Is.....

And the winner of RunnerDude's Blog's Ugliest Runner's Feet Contest and the $75 Gift Card is Steven Pavao of Hilo, Hawaii. Steven says his feet have been in a constant state of black, falling-off toenails as long as he's been running and he's run 25 marathons to date! Congrats Steven!

A big thanks to all the other entries. You guys and gals certainly had some gnarly looking feet. Also a big thanks to all the readers who voted!!!

New Contest!
Don't forget to enter for a chance to win a free pair of Saucony Cortona running shoes! To learn more information about the shoes and how to enter [click here].

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Shoe Review: Saucony's New Cortana

If you're wanting a more flexible responsive shoe, but tend to be a mild to moderate overpronator and still need a little support and guidance, the you may want to check out Saucony's new Cortana. It's gotten rave reviews and won several awards including "Best Debut" from Runner's World Magazine, September 2011 and "Best New Shoe" in Running Network's 2011 Fall Shoe Review.

I've always been a big "the proof is in the pudding" kind of guy, so while reviews go a long way with me, I still like first hand experience to make my final decision. Saucony sent me a pair of the Cortana about  two months go and I've been testing them ever since. In this case the "pudding" is pretty dang good.

While not really a minimalist shoe, this shoe is like a souped-up racing flat. It's very flexible, but also provides a touch of guidance. It contains Saucony's PowerGrid technology the entire length of the shoe which is what provides great cushioning. The other feature that I really like is the 4mm heel-to-toe offset. This "close-to-the-road ride" really helps promote more of a midfoot or forefoot strike. The shoes are very light weight at only 10.7 oz.

I've run exclusively in the Cortana since I received them in August. I've done short tempo runs, speed work and longer runs up to 14 miles. In each case, the shoes were very supportive while at the same very flexible and cushy. The only thing that was a drawback was the the upper began to fray pretty quickly near the ankle area. For a shoe in this price range ($145), I expected the upper to last a little longer. Now this may be due to my particular stride, but I've not had other Saucony shoes' uppers wear so quickly. I think it's just the particular fabric used. The fraying doesn't affect the shoe's performance at all however and wouldn't keep me from purchasing a second pair.

So, if you're looking for a low profile, flexible, responsive and cushy shoe, I highly recommend the Cortana!'re in luck! Saucony is giving one free pair of the Cortana away to one lucky RunnerDude's Blog reader!

WIN A FREE PAIR! To enter, simply send an email to Put "Cortana" in the subject line and your full name in the body of the email. You have until Saturday, October 15th to enter! Each email will be assigned a number in the order that it was received. Then the TrueRandomNumberGenerator will be used to select the winning email number. The winner will be announced on the blog on Sunday, October 16th. Good Luck!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

My First Marathon: Peter

I'll say it upfront: I finished in 3hrs, 29mins, and 56secs. My aim was 3 1/2 hours, so that number looks like the perfectly executed race. Read on...

Preparation, if that's the right word, consisted of me only doing one thing different from my weekly running. Hearing somewhere that I should do a 3 hour run 3 weeks before, I did. After 2 hours, I had to loosen my shoelaces 3 times as my feet were swelling up. So I also heard that taking Advil would help. Some say take 1 before the start, others say 2 halfway through, then another 2 at 3/4 distance. 

I did a taper of sorts in the week leading up, ate a little more, then really went to town on that old wives' tale and had a huge bowl of beef tortellini the evening before. All the above added up to getting me into the shape below:

Left home at 5am as the year before. Damp cold this time, so the blue gloves again. My aim was 3hrs 30mins, which would mean matching the previous year's half marathon pace. I found a feature on called "pace bands", which you can print off after entering your target time. It states what your total time should be at each km, useful tool for anyone wanting to keep a set pace. A-Chang stood on the left of the course, so as to get a head-start on the dash to Starbucks.

One touch lesson I learned for this race: Have a bathroom break before leaving home and at the event start. I only went at the event start, and there was more, erm, left. Even if you don't need to go, take a "CC" to make sure anyway. CC stands for "confidence crap". Once the race was underway, things went well; first km was as expected, way too quick, upon which I dialed the pace down. After about km 4, I felt movement rumblings. Oh s***. As it happened, I had been comfortably going 10-15 seconds per km quicker than goal pace, so had a couple of minutes in hand when I decided at km12 to use the port-a-potty at the roadside drink station. This wasn't going to hold for another 2+ hours, I reasoned, plus the stop is at the bottom of Shaganappi Trail, the course's major (though not all that tough) hill. While doing my business, I knew I wasn't the only one when I heard some loud steps, the next door slam and a muffled "dammit!"

There will be no more problems from here on, was my firm, errant belief. Anyway, up the hill, and past Market Mall for the first time at around km20, the leaders came past the other way, about 8km ahead. 2nd place looked a bit like one of those alien photos with his shaved head and orange compression socks.
It had got pretty quiet by now as the half-ers had long since turned around - there were 3 times as many of them. It was quiet enough to remember a rabbit running across in front of me, giving applause to a steel band, and a high school kid doing violin
practice on his front garden as I went past.

Varsity is not a neighborhood I know all that well, and it was here that my feet started to swell. 2 Advil and I felt my feet deflate a bit. After this, and just before Market Mall again, I got to 27km which was the furthest I'd ever run. Only 15 more. "What a bloody long way to run" I said, as the crowd of runners passing Market Mall for the first time in the opposite direction from me got quite thick.

As I descended Shaganappi Trail, last place was coming up it, followed by a police car. Shortly after, I overtook the 2 last placed half-ers, followed by 2 officials on bikes. They were smoking. The 2 runners, that is.  By now, at around km30, my legs were starting to feel empty, running more on momentum than energy. Countdown the bridges. Crowchild. Pedestrian bridge. 14th. 10th. C-train. Prince's Island. Centre Street. Edmonton Trail.
It was between 10th and the c-train bridge, around 30 seconds ahead of schedule that my right hamstring suddenly got shorter and my right foot nearly kicked up into my backside. A few quiet "ouch"s, and straightening it, I hobbled to the roadside. I did several angry stretches, then a deep breath and made myself break out of a too tempting walk. I had to run with my right leg straight, like a clich├ęd pirate. A couple of hundred meters later, and it just relaxed so normal running could restart. A medic on a bike pulled alongside, "how you doin'?" "Good" I said, somehow smiling at the same time.
Last drink station, and as I drank this last cup of Gatorade, my brain told me that it was going through my stomach and trickling into my muscles. Weird. Must've been part imagination, part muscle fatigue.

With 2km left, I phoned A-Chang. She had apparently won her race to Starbucks, found an armchair, then dozed off. My phone call woke her up. The finish line wouldn't be too crowded by this time though.

I was now roughly 40 seconds behind, so decided I was going to still achieve my aim despite all that had gone before. Now then, some people might say "come on" to themselves or something like that. Not me. No, for some reason my internal mp3 played the end music from Top Gun, voiced over by Yoda telling me, "Do or do not. There is no try." Something in that last Gatorade perhaps.

I overtook a couple of runners at the end, and I recall grunting on the finish straight as I saw the clock.

It was satisfying therefore to have clawed back time lost from mistakes made, something I hadn't done in a running race before. All this at my first attempt at the "king of distance races".

One final tip I acted on was to avoid sitting down straight after finishing. Junk food never tasted so good once I finally did. 
Be sure to check out Peter's blog, A Touch of the Runs!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Cast Your Vote for the Ugliest Runner's Feet !

Drum roll please...brace yourselves for some pretty gnarly looking feet! Below are the brave souls who bared their soles for the chance to win a $75 gift card. Take a look at each photo. Study them carefully and make your decision as to which pair of feet should be crowned Ugliest Runner's Feet!

To cast your vote, look to the right of this post and click on the letter that matches the photo shown below that you feel is the ugliest pair of runner's tootsies. You have until 12:00AM on October 9th to cast your vote. The winner will be announced on the blog on Sunday, October 9th. Best of luck to all the participants!

 Your support with a Vote for RunnerDude's Blog at The Top 100 Running Sites is greatly appreciated.