Friday, August 11, 2017

Marathon To-Do List

If you're in the heat of marathon training, you're probably 100% focused on your workouts. There's another side to preparing for a marathon that often gets overlooked. I'm talking about getting to your race destination. I'm currently training for my 17th marathon and  I've learned a few things along the way that have helped me out on race day.

Marathon Trip To-Do List
1. Book your room! Marathons are getting larger and larger and it's getting harder and harder to find a room (especially at a reasonable price). Race websites often have special deals at area hotels. If you try to book a room through the race website and all the rooms are full, don't fret just yet. That usually just means the block of rooms the hotel has at the special marathon rate is full. If that's the case, try one of the many discount travel sites like, Travelocity, or Airbnb. When it's just been me traveling to a race, I've even used a hostel. One of my Trips to the NYC Marathon, I stayed in a hostel for a fraction of the cost of a hotel room. At this particular hostel, I had my own room, but the floor shared two large restrooms with showers. It was old and definitely had character, but it was in a great location on the upper West Side. Great little bakery next door. While I was getting my breakfast bagel the day before the race, there was an extremely tall man in line in front of me. Turned out to be Conan O'Brien! The day after that race, I was having lunch in a little restaurant along Central Park. While eating my lunch I heard this very distinct voice behind me. Turned around and it was Regis Philbin and his wife, Joy. So, cool!   
2. Find out what sports drink and/or sports gel will be provided along the course. Either train using what will be provided at the race or decide to carry your own or have family members/friends provide it for you along the course  (the latter is often hard on larger races or on isolated races where spectator access along the course is difficult). Never train using one brand then switch to another on race day.
3. Plan out what you're doing for food while at your race. You've probably figured out your dinner each night before your training long runs. But what are you doing the night before the race day? Will you be able to find food at a restaurant similar to what you've been eating at home? If you plan to eat out the night before the race, research some area restaurants to see which will best meet your needs. Then go ahead and make a reservation. Or better yet, pack your food and eat in the room. If possible, book a hotel with a kitchenette. These rooms usually have a small stove or cook top and refrigerator. Now you'll be able to fix your normal pre-run dinner and breakfast!
4. Become familiar with the race course. No need to memorize every street name and turn, but identifying major hills and other course challenges can be helpful.
5. Keep tabs on the weather. Periodically check  or one of the other weather sites or apps to see what the forecast is for race day; best to be prepared with cold/heat/rain gear than not. 30gal trash bags make awesome rain gear and are great for extra warmth before the race too. Just cut out head and arm holes and you're good to go. Don't need it for either? Makes a great mat to sit on prior to or after the race.
6. Give yourself plenty of travel time, especially if the race is out of town. If going to a new city, it's best to arrive two days before the race. This gives you time to acclimate to your surroundings and a new bed. It also allows you time to get to the race expo without panic that you're not going to make it in time.
7. Pack your race-day clothes and running shoes in your carry-on bag if you're flying. If your luggage gets lost you'll be able to run as planned.
8. Pick up your race packet early. No need to wait until the last minute to pick up your packet. You never know what may come up to delay pickup.
9. Take a sample but don't use a sample. Runners are often overwhelmed at large race expos. Every running related vendor imaginable will be at these expos, each handing you hydration and fueling samples. Take all of these you want, but don't eat any at the expo and definitely don't use any on race day that you've never used on a training run. Same with gear and clothing. Unless you forgot your running shorts, don't wear something on race day that you purchased at the race expo.
10. Have a plan for where to meet your family/friends after the race. No need speeding longer than it took to run the marathon looking for your family. Many races have family meeting areas, but depending on the race, those areas can be huge. If you get to the race site a day or two early, scope out the finish line area and go ahead and pick out an area for you and your family/friends to meet.
11. Layout your racing clothes, shoes, and gear the night before the race. Go ahead and pin your race bib on your shirt. Anything you plan to wear or carry with you while you run, lay it out. This will help you sleep better and save time in the morning.

12. Don't overdress for the race. Rule of thumb is to dress like it's 10-15 degrees warmer than it really is. Your body will warm up at least by that much while running. 
13. Take along some old sweats to the start. You don't want to overdress for the race, but some races have you at the start really early and it can get chilly in the wee hours of the morning especially at a fall or winter marathon. You can pick up old sweats at Good Will or a thrift shop for next to nothing! Wearing old sweats will keep you warm while you wait and then you can toss them at the start. Many races donate the discarded clothing to local homeless shelters. That 30gal trash bag mentioned earlier, comes in handy too for extra warmth.
14. Have your mental strategies rehearsed for Race Day. Don't start out too fast! There's a saying, "Most races are lost in the first mile." That often a very true statement. It's very easy to get caught up in the hoopla of the start and before you know it you're running a minute faster pace than you're supposed to! Hold fast to the pace at which you've trained. You can turn in on later in the race, if you've got extra gas in your tank.

15. Trust in your training and enjoy yourself!

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Let's Cut to the "Chafe"

"Chafe." There, I said it. One of those words, no body likes. As soon as you hear it, you immediately
have a reference point in your memory of an oh-so painful run where you ended up waddling back to you car or even worse a blood curdling Psycho shower scene where you screamed at the top of your lungs during a post long-run shower, only to have your entire family running to your aide for sure thinking you've fallen in the shower or a snake has crawled in with you.

Almost every runner has experienced chafing at some point. If you haven't, I envy you greatly. In fact there is an entire industry devoted to anti-chafing products with quite creative names such as Body Glide, Squeaky Cheeks Performance Powder, Gold Bond Friction Defense, SportSlick, NipGuards, Hoo Ha Ride Glide, Boudreaux's Butt PasteAnti Monkey Butt, and the list goes on. Many of the products target cyclists who have obvious chafing issues, but all the products work the same. Any athlete, no matter the sport, can use any or all of these products.

There's also the standard Band-Aids, petroleum jelly, and diaper rash products that work great too. Unlike normal petroleum jelly and diaper rash products, most of the anti-chafe products are designed without the goopy feel and most are designed not to stain your clothing (although some do a better job of that than others). Some of these products are similar in use and feel to that of a deodorant stick, others are creams, and still others are powders. They all work, but some are more effective and last longer than others. Aquaphor Healing Ointment by Eucerin is great to use on a chafed area after a run.

Band-Aids are often used by the guys to protect their nipples from chafing. Chafed nipples are extremely painful, if not for the runner, then for the spectators who think the runner has been the victim of a drive-by shooting. OUCH!! NipGuards work similarly to Band-Aids, keeping the nipple covered and protected from abrasive fabric. I had a hilarious incident using band aids in a race once. I found these waterproof circle adhesive bandages just the right size. So, I bought the box, pleased with how much money I had saved. They applied perfectly and the adhesive was great. They weren't goin' nowhere. So, I'm running the race, and I notice my shirt protruding at the chest. I'm in the heat of the race, and I'm not in pain, so I continue and don't give it another thought. That is until after the race. When I finished, my chest was really protruding. I took my shirt off only to find that the waterproof bandages did their job perfectly. They were so waterproof that all the sweat inside the bandage got trapped. I had two nice balloon pasties! Now that's a memorable chafe-free run!

So, what causes chafing? There are several things that can set a runner up for chafing. Chafing can result from skin-on-skin contact (very often happens along the inner thigh) and it can result from skin-on-fabric contact (this often is the cause of chafed nips for guys and for ladies chafing along the upper torso and back from their sports bra rubbing their skin). Ladies, I know it's hard enough finding the right jog bra for you and then on top of that you have to deal with chafing issues. Be sure, like with your other running clothing, that your sports bra is made of a breathable technical fabric (usually 100% polyester or a mix of polyester, Lycra, and or spandex.) Test out any or all of the aforementioned anti-chafing products on the areas that seem to be prone to chafing. Body Glide actually makes a Body Glide for Her that is designed for the sensitive areas around the bra line. If you're currently dealing with a chafing hot spot, but you still want to run, try using a product by Band-Aid called Band-Aid Advanced Healing Blister Cushions. You can apply this to the chaffed area and it will protect that area from additional chafing while on the run. These are also great for blisters on the feet.

Moisture often aggravates chafe-sensitive areas. Heavy sweaters may have more problems with chafing. A runner who normally doesn't experience chafing, may find they're chafed after a run in the rain or after a run when it's been extremely humid. New running clothes are often the cause of chafing. It's good rule of thumb to never wear anything new on a long run and definitely on race day. 100% cotton is another culprit. Cotton is awesome for casual wear, but for a runner it can be a chafe-trap. Cotton retains moisture. This moisture (along with cotton becoming a bit abrasive when wet) can cause terrible chafing where ever the wet cotton fabric is rubbing on the skin. Blisters on your feet? Check the cotton content of your socks. Socks, like your other running clothes, should be made of technical fabric.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

The 15-Mile Freakout

Raise your hand if you're in the midst of marathon training. Raise your hand if you had a recent 14, 15, or 16-mile run that freaked you out? Was it a tough one? Were you freaking out, thinking, "That just about killed me! How am I going to run 26.2 miles?"

You're not alone. I call it the 15-mile Freakout!

Not sure what it is about the 15-mile mark, but it's a common mileage for a mini-meltdown to occur. You're probably about a month into your training and your body is still acclimatingphysically and mentally. You're putting a lot of demands on your body and it takes about 4 to 6 weeks for the body to level out and really start to feel stronger than when you started. Particularly if you're a first time marathoner, mile 15 is typically quite a milestone. It's the bridge from that familiar 10-miler to the new frontier of the yet-to-achieve 20-miler.

The cause of that hard 15-miler can the result of the accumulation effect, just all those weeks of more mileage than you're used to coming to a peak at the 15-mile mark. You're body is fatigued and telling you so. After a really hard run like this, it's fine to modify your training to allow for some extra recovery time. Typically after a long run, you'll have a complete day of rest in your plan. Definitely take that, but also take a second day of rest, if needed. Or, if the next run after your post long-run rest day is a speed workout, make it an easy short recovery run. Allow the legs time to recover.

Often another cause of the 15-mile freakout run is lack of proper fueling or hydration. Up to this point, doing what you normally do for your normal 8 to 10 milers has probably worked fine, but now that you're running longer and your body is needing more fuel and hydration support. This run is often the wake-up call letting you know the one piece of toast and cup of coffe before your long run and maybe a sip of Gatorade or water on the run just ain't gonna hack it. Your 4 months of training is not just for training your body. It's also time for you to figure out how to best fuel and hydrate your body. These training long runs are the time to figure out your fueling regimen--which fuel sources best work for you and your body and how often to take them.

So, how do you survive the freakout? First, take a deep breath. Then understand it's natural to feel this way. Your brain has all kinds of protective mechanisms, one of which is to tell you that you can't do something. But remember that just because you can't do something now doesn't mean you can't do something after 2 or 3 more months of race training. Can you run 26.2 miles right now? Probably not. Are you supposed to be able to run 26.2 miles right now? Definitely not. It's a process. I had one runner once who, unbeknownst to me, put in a full marathon about 3/4 of the way through his training because he needed to know he could run 26.2 miles before running the 26.2 miles on race day. Well, lets just say that peace of mind, gave him nothing but grief and injury. He ended up not running on race day. You can't do something you're not ready for without risking injury. It's not worth it.

If you're following your training as prescribed, taking rest days as prescribed, listening to your body (and coach) and taking extra rest days as needed, and you're properly fueling and hydrating, then  you'll get where you want be on race day. Trust. Believe. Conquer!

Have your freakout. Then move on. You've got a lot of work to do!!

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

If The Shoe Fits

Finding the right running shoe can be a daunting task. Take myself for example. My favorite Hoka, "Huaka" was discontinued. I was at a loss. Several of the other Hoka models just didn't seem to work for my feet. I had previously run in the Altra Paradigm, so I tried that again. But, Altra did something to the sizing and my orthodic no longer worked in the Paradigm. So for about a year, I struggled to find a new long run shoe. Finally, I discovered that the Altra Bondi 5 worked for me. I'm now on my second pair and love them.
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All that struggle and I know my feet and the type of shoe I need. I have great empathy for new runners who know very little about their feet or what type of shoe they need. So, I've worked up 6 tips to help you find the right running shoe for you.

Tip #1: Know the Different Types of Foot Strikes. A runner can be a heel-striker, midfoot (flat foot) lander, or forefoot landing runner.

  • A heel-striker lands with his/her foot ahead of his/her center of mass landing on the heel first and can be neutral, over-pronate, or supinate (under-pronate). A neutral heel striker lands on the heel then the forefoot lands with an even follow-through as the runner pushes off with his/her toes. A heel-striker that pronates, tends to land on the outer heel first, then as the fore foot begins to land, the ankle drops inward and the runner tends to follow through more on the big toe rather than all of the fore foot. And a heel-striker that is a supinator or under-pronator, lands on the outer heel and tends to remain on the outer/lateral portion of the foot toeing off the outside of the fore foot. A neutral runner will typically do well with a neutral shoe with cushion. An over-pronator will typically need a stability shoe that has some type of arch support to restrict the amount of inward roll. There are various levels of stability from mild to strong. Just because you pronate doesn't mean you need a strong stability shoe. A supinator typically uses a neutral shoe with cushion too. A supinator does not need additional arch support which would only push his/her foot outward even more.
  • A midfoot or flat foot runner lands with his/her foot  underneath or closer to his/her center of mass. Because of this, a midfoot lander lands on all of the foot at once. This is why midfoot is sometimes referred to as "flat foot." Flat foot often has a negative connotation, but in running it's a good thing. Landing on more of the foot and not on the heel, often lessens the amount of pronation or gets rid of it altogether. It also lets the runner have more of a fluid push-off instead of a pull-then-push which a heel striker does. This more immediate push creates less impact and lets the body work like a shock absorber. A midfoot lander typically doesn't need a lot of extra support in a shoe because of the fact that they are landing on more of the foot all at one time decreasing or completely eliminating that heel-to-toe movement and chance of inward roll. Now sometimes a midfoot lander can still have ankle issues and may need some stability, but usually not as much as a heel-striker.
  • A forefoot lander is very similar to a midfoot lander in that the foot lands underneath the body or very close to the runner's center of mass, however instead of landing on all of the foot, this runner lands on the forefoot or metatarsals of the foot. Like the midfoot landing, the forefoot landing also lessens the amount of pronation or gets rid of it altogether. It also lets the runner have more of a fluid push-off instead of a pull-then-push which a heel striker does. This more immediate push creates less impact and lets the body work more like a shock absorber. A forefoot lander typically doesn't need a lot of extra support in a shoe because of the fact that they are landing on just the front of the foot. A forefoot lander typically needs a flexible shoe. Some may need some cushioning in the forefoot area.

Tip #2: Know the Deal About Drop and Stack: Drop and Stack are current buzz words in the running shoe industry. What are they and how are they different? Well, allow me to back up a little. The barefoot craze that began in 2009-2010 started researches and runners alike thinking about a more natural way of running. Since bare feet is not such a great concept for running shoe companies, they soon began to play around with minimalist shoes. Soon you saw everything on the market from shoes with toes to running sandals. Nothing wrong with these shoes and they are still around today, but they didn't seem to work for the masses. A traditional running shoe has a heel-to-toe drop of about 12 mm. This higher heel tends to promote a heel-strike. Midfoot or forefoot landing fosters more of a natural running form. Kind of painful just thinking about running barefoot and landing on your heel. So, since the minimalist shoe market wasn't meeting the needs of the majority of runners, shoe companies began playing around with still providing cushion and support, but with a lower heel-to-toe drop. Several shoe companies such as Saucony lowered many of their mainline shoes from a 12mm drop to an 8mm drop. This seemed to go over well and soon other shoes with even a lower heel-to-toe drop of 5mm or less began to appear. Altra is company whose shoes have a zero drop. They are completely flat, but unlike minimalist shoes with no support, the Altra still provides various levels of cushion and support. So what is stack? Stack refers to the thickness of the shoe's outsole. Often the term maximalist pops up when talking about stack. Hoka is a running shoe company that produces maximalist running shoes. These shoes have a thick stack meaning the bottom sole of the shoe is very thick providing maximal cushioning. But, this stack has a low profile meaning the heel-to-toe drop is very minimal (around 2-5mm). It's a fairly flat shoe with a tick sole.
If you are a runner who is wearing a traditional shoe with a 12mm heel-to-toe drop, and you're thinking about going to a lower drop shoe or a shoe with a lower drop and thicker stack, keep in mind that you need to transition into these shoes. These shoes are great, but you'll be using muscles in different ways when wearing these shoes and you need to allow time for your body to acclimate to the differences. Start with short easy runs of a couple miles then over the course of a couple weeks, gradually add a half-mile to a mile to runs building up to your regular running distance.

Tip #3: Visit Your Local Running Store. Go to your local running store to get fitted for a pair of shoes. but be a discerning shopper. You really can't tell what type of shoe a runner needs by having him/her walk. Walking is completely different from running. 99% of walkers are going to heel-strike (land on the heel first then follow through and toe-off.). Around 80% of runners are heel-strikers of some sort, so the chances of the clerk determining you are a heel striker are good, but what if  you are in that 20% who are not heel strikers? What if you are a midfoot or forefoot landing runner? Also the severity of pronation or supination can be very different between walking and running. So, if you're buying loafers, have them watch you walk. If you're buying running shoes have them watch you run. Running shoes are a big investment for most runners, particularly new runners who are not used to shelling out $100-$150 for a pair of shoes. So don't be timid. Ask questions. Also a good running store is going to allow you to try on as many shoes as needed to find the one that fits best and feels good to you. Notice I said "to you." If you feel you're being pushed into a particular shoe. Walk away. Recommendations are great, but the decision should be yours. Now keep in mind, if you're buying a pair of shoes because they're "cute," then you are all on your own. LOL! Make your purchase based on need and comfort, not style. I learned a long time ago that sometimes the shoe I need may be butt-ugly. But, butt-ugly and pain-free sure beats a tortuous, but cute run.

Tip #4: Let Your Feet Do the Shopping. Have an open mind. Best not to go into running shoe shopping thinking, "I want this brand or that brand." Let your foot pick the brand. There are some brands of running shoes, I think look really cool, but they just do not work with my feet.

Tip #5: Give Your New Shoes a Chance. New shoes are just It will take a few runs to break them in. If there is an obvious defect in the shoe causing discomfort, head back to the store, but otherwise, give them a few runs. Most stores have a good 60 or 90 day return policy even if you've run in them. Usually if you're returning shoes you've run in, they'll give you store credit.  Be sure to check out their policy before leaving the store.

Tip #6: Wear Your Running Shoes for Running. Typically running shoes are good for 300 to 500 miles. Whether you get 300 or 500 miles out of shoe really depends on the shoe and how quickly you break them down. Many running apps such as Strava allow you to keep track of shoe mileage and will email you a reminder when you reach a certain mileage. As mentioned earlier, walking is very different than running and will breakdown your running shoes differently than when you run in them. This can shorten the life of the shoe and can compromise the effectiveness of your shoes on the run. So, purchase a different pair of sneakers for knocking-around in and keep your running shoes for running.

Monday, August 7, 2017

A Conversation With My Camelbak

Funny how some runs are very uneventful while others become quite memorable. Today's was quite a memorable one. Besides, the loose pit bull I made friends with by turning and running in the other direction, the drug deal I witnessed, taking a picture of two cyclists (one from Colorado and one from Virgina) that asked me if I'd mind taking a pic of them (they referred to me as "Nice Guy"),  and seeing fellow runner and friend Amanda Coble at Lebauer Park and a drive-by honking from Lisa Garrison,  I had a lot going on in this run from the get go and I knew that as I started out.

First, I was trying my new Bondi 5's without my custom orthodics. I've been wearing Bondi 5s and love them, just wore out the pair I had. This time, however, I was trying the new pair with regular sports orthodics and my metatarsals pads instead of my custom orthodics. The custom orthodics seemed to be pushing my feet outward and I already tend to do that, so thought that extra outward push might be contributing to my Achilles issues.  Love my Hoka Bondi's. Took me a year to finally find a long run shoe after my previous one was discontinued. Yes, I know some don't like the Hoka. There's one professional in the area that seems to think they are the anti-christ. Ha! But for me they have been a savior and work well.

Anywho...back to the memorable run. So, first there was the possibility of shoe/foot woes on this run. Second, I was trying out a new method for hydration. I usually carry a handheld bottle. Never have liked how the hydration belts felt on my waist. The only problem with a handheld is that I have to plan my routes where there is either a water fountain on the route or a convenient store where I can get more water/Gatorade. Not too terrible of a problem, but it does limit where I can run. As my 16-year-old often tells me, "First World Problem, Dad." But even still, thought I'd try one of the hydration packs that you wear on your back. Ultra runners wear them a lot. So, the day before the run, I headed over to REI. After picking myself off the floor, upon seeing the cost of these packs, I started pilfering through to find the cheapest one that worked. Not only were they overpriced, they were all big and bulky. Finally, on a separate isle I found a smaller pack that held 50oz. I tried it on and it felt pretty good. My hand held holds about 22oz, So, I thought 50oz would be awesome. This was less than half the price of the others ($50). Pleased with my find I headed home. After getting home, I discovered why this pack was cheaper. It was a hydration pack for kids! Kind of apropos since I often buy my shirts in the kids department. Those are cheaper too! (There are a few benefits to being a small dude.)

I'm behind on my marathon training. Lots going on between work, vacation, training my runners for 21 different half and full marathons and going to visit my mom who has Alzheimer's. My training tends to take a backseat. I'm about 3 miles behind in my long runs, so today, I really wanted to get in my 12 miles so I wouldn't get even further behind. Last week's 11-miles was rough. I ended up running later in the day and the heat got to me. Another reason I was looking for a better hydration solution. So, this morning, I filled up the "Kiddie-Camelbak" with 40oz of water and added two Nuun electrolyte tabs. I've found that using plan water with the electrolyte tabs and then using the GU packs (Chocolate Outrage is my favorite) works really well with me and my tummy. Gives me what I need without that Gatorade hangover. After putting in the tabs, I let it sit for a while before closing the top, so all the effervescent bubbles could dissipate and not get trapped in the bladder of the kiddie-camelbak causing a geyser-like eruption when I first opened the hydration valve.

Finally ready, off I go. Immediately, I was not happy with all the sloshing going on behind me. Sounded like a washing machine on my back. I'm thinking..."This is going to dive me crazy!" Before even reaching the one mile mark, I'm trying to think of places I can stash the pack at the halfway point. No way I'm going to be able to tolerate this for 12 miles. I keep running. On top of the slosh, the sippy tube keeps popping me in the chest. Another annoyance and possibly a chafing catastrophe! So, in my head I'm already writing the "Dear John" letter to my new Camelbak. No way this relationship is going to last.

Mile 3 ticks by and I'm well into my mental letter. While listing all the benefits, I have an equally
long list of annoyances of why we can no longer continue this relationship. Then an odd thing. I'm at mile 6. Had the slosh disappeared? What about the chest popping sippy tube? Gone too? Hmm... maybe I need to rethink this "Dear John" letter. By this point, I've ditched the letter and I'm talking out right to the pack. Here's my conversation:

Me: It's not you it's me. You are doing a great job. I just can't take your incessant sloshing.
Kiddie-Camelbak: Think of it as a soothing ocean tide caressing your back.
Me: Are  you crazy? It's driving me nuts! Not to mentioned the hydration tube whacking me in the chest with every stride.
Kiddie-Camelbak: Well, possibly it's because you bought a kids pack which isn't designed for man-boobs.
Me: I prefer to call them pecs and I don't think the size of the pack is the problem. Maybe if I just tuck the tube here it will work better.
Kiddie-Camelbak: Maybe if you reduced the size of your man-boobs...I mean pecs that will help.
Me: You're a real comedian. Hmm...maybe if I twist this tube a little here and tuck it there, ahh, that seems to work.
Kiddie-Camelbak: Real genius here.
Me: Okay, now that I have that problem solved. I'm actually getting use to the sloshing sound.
Kiddie-Camelbak: Yeah, I believe all that sloshing is your hydration you'll need on this run. Why not take a sip?
Me: Wow, that was pretty easy.
Kiddie-Camelbak: Go figure.
Me: (around mile 8) You still there? I almost forgot you were there. You stopped riding my back. Get it? Riding my back? Ha!
Kiddie-Camelbak: Now who's the comedian
Me: (mile 11) Where's the sloshing sound?
Kiddie-Camelbak: I believe you've sucked down just about all the water.
Me: Whaaaa? You mean I drank 40oz on that run?
Kiddie-Camelbak: Well, from how soaked your clothes are I'm thinking you needed it.
Me: Man, it wasn't even that hot/humid today. I'm thinking we might be able to work this thing out.
Kiddie-Camelbak: I already knew that.

Check out my run on Strava: