Saturday, June 22, 2013

How to get used to running in the heat...

As the pleasant smell of mouldering baby poop ignites my senses, it can only mean summer has arrived and I need to take out the garbage. For runners, it means yet one more reason to wear booty shorts.

You've been waiting all winter to sport those bad boys!

My method for acclimating to the heat makes it less likely you'll end up convulsing on the black top due to heat stroke. By the way, I'm not a doctor. I'm not a running coach. Heck, I'm not even fast. But I do live in the desert, Las Vegas to be precise, and it gets freaking hot here in the summer.

The Uncle Trentie Method for Summer Running Acclimation

First off I will not include information such as drink lots of fluids. Any dingleberry knows that.

Step 1: Don't be an idiot. Unless you're training for BadWater, there's limits. Be aware of them.

Step 2: Wear a heart rate monitor. Your body has to work harder when it's hot. Sometimes you don't realize just how hard it's working until your tongue swells and you're sprinting from imaginary snakes. A heart rate monitor gives you instant feedback.

Step 3: Run with your heart rate in the aerobic zone (70-80% of your max heart rate). If you're not sure what that heart rate is, simply subtract your age from 180. You should not exceed this heart rate during your acclimation runs. There are other variables you can discover with a simple "heart rate monitor training" Google search. I, for example, can run 5-10 beats higher than that number because I took the time to figure out what my max heart rate really was, but that's for the experts to explain to you. I strongly urge you to study the teaching of Phil Maffetone.

Step 4: Run with your heart rate in the aerobic zone. I included this twice because you will think it's too slow and start running faster. Notice this post is titled how to get used to running in the heat. That's all you're doing. You're not racing. You're not doing intervals. Most importantly, you're not dying. When your heart rate gets above your aerobic threshold, slow down. If the rate doesn't decrease, walk. It's ok. It's 100 freaking degrees. It's ok to walk 20 yards to avoid ending up face down in a piss puddle on Fremont Street.

If you're running in the Vegas desert and see this, you're probably hallucinating.
Step 5: When you have to stop, and you will have to stop, eat an orange slice. If you've ever had an orange slice during a race, you probably found it to be the most disgusting fruit ever created. That's because those oranges have been sitting out in the sun for three hours. Put a few oranges in the refrigerator. Cut them in to fours. Put then in a plastic bag. Put them in your pockets. When you stop to walk or slow down, eat one. They're freaking good. Trust me.

Step 6: Remain near a water source. I happen to have a swimming pool. I understand that in some parts of the country a swimming pool is a luxury. In Las Vegas, everyone has one. When the temperature gets above 95, pretty much every day between June and the end of September, I'll run a loop that passes my house and dunk my head in the swimming pool every 2-3 miles. Sprinklers work to. So does a hose. A bottle of water as a last resort is sufficient.

Nothing impresses the ladies more than a sweaty man wearing nothing but a heart rate monitor dunking his head in a swimming pool.
 Step 7: Run near a park. Parks have drinking fountains.

Of course if you had any sense, you'd run at night or early morning.

In case you were wondering who Phil Maffetone was, it's this guy.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The good and the bad from UVM #2 with tips and advice from a marathon novice

As I was struggling to finish my first marathon without collapsing or soiling myself, I was taken aback by a tall fellow just running along with a happy, goofy grin on his face. While me and many of my marathoning colleagues wanted to end our life by hopping in front of a bus, this guy seemed to be enjoying himself.

I wanted to be that guy.

I was that guy. I'm about to annihilate that runner in the bright green.

The good (during the race)...

Pacing. The most crucial part of my race plan involved the first seven miles, the fastest part of the course. I vowed, however, not to start out fast like most runners do on this course. If I was going to error, it was going to be erring on the side of caution.  I stole the first seven miles. I knew that many of the people passing me on this stretch would be wishing they were me in the second half.

Negative splitting. I didn't necessarily plan on negative splitting, especially with the first half having more of an elevation drop, but I did. I ran the first half in 2:00:55 and the second half in 2:00:00.

Still felt good at the end
Passing people. I passed over 250 people the second half of the race. It was freaking awesome. From mile 13-24, I was thoroughly enjoying myself. I felt strong. Last year I felt exactly like all those people I passed. I couldn't believe how many people were walking. I was 862 at the halfway point. I was 419 the second half and 605 overall. In short, I was that guy.

The good (training)...

Miles. I ran considerably more miles in preparing for my second marathon. I set monthly distance records three times.

Slow miles. The first time around, I did every training run as fast as I could. That was stupid. This made recovery difficult.

Base building. I used a heart rate monitor and applied the teachings of Phil Maffetone to build a strong aerobic base. That allowed me to set multiple prs over the last nine months.

Consistent schedule. I had a basic schedule. Run on Monday, semi-long. Run on Wednesday, tempo or mile repeats. Run on Thursday, recovery (In the building phase I would do 6-8 mile slow runs on both Wednesdays and Thursdays). Saturday, long run. Although I had to alter the schedule because of life, I knew when the week started that I was going to run four times, one would be long and one would be fast.

Long run difficulty. I knew the course had a tough hill at mile 7 and mile 16. I tried to put a hill at mile 7 of medium runs in training and, more importantly, I put a long hill (about 5 miles) at around mile 15 of my long runs. I was also lucky enough to get strong headwinds at the end of those runs too, just in case (there was no actual head wind at the marathon). The uphill segments during the race had little effect on me.

The bad (the race)...

Piss problems. I drank way too much the night before and the morning of the marathon. I stopped five times to pee in the first ten miles and used the port-a-potty at mile 13. It doesn't take a genius to figure out why I barely missed that 4:00 marathon time.

Too conservative. I may have run the first half too conservatively. Oh well.

Tangents. Running to the side of the road to pee five times makes it difficult to run the tangents. I ran over .25 miles too far.

The bad (training)...

Hip. I got injured in the middle of February. Since I'd never injured my hip before, I had no idea that that hip flexor soreness would cost me six weeks of good training. I was really in a groove up to that point.

Fat. I'm too fat. I weighed about 186 for this marathon.

Running from Mediocrity

I finished 605/1471 overall; 402/823 for men; 62/128 for my age group. That's the top half in all three, but still dangerously close to mediocrity. But at least I'm running from mediocrity and not running to it like I had been.

What about Boston?

Well, the ultimate goal is to qualify for Boston. I'm not even close. Will it happen? Probably not. But I'll keep trying.

What next?


Thinking about Running from an Angel Marathon in January or Boulder City Marathon in December. I will not sign up, however, until my weight is 175 or below. My only hope for getting better is to stop eating so stupid.
That's one fat marathoner (with good chi-running form)

Monday, June 17, 2013

How I peed away my goal at the Utah Valley Marathon and why I don't care...

My stated goal for the 2013 Utah Valley Marathon was 3:54. That's not the goal I peed away. It's the 4-hour goal that eluded me by 55 seconds. Here's how it all went down.

First off, I executed my plan to near perfection with just two important glitches: (1) I foolishly said I could easily run a 1:55 half marathon the second half. Luckily, I was not foolish enough to try it when I realized I could not back up my boast; (2) I urinated five times and made a porta-potty stop in the first 13 miles.


I ate well the three days before the marathon and drank well on Wednesday and Thursday. Friday included a long drive, so I didn't drink too much during the day. At night, however, I drank two gigantic Powerades. Since I didn't have to go to the bathroom during the night--I slept from 10 p.m. - 3 a.m.--I figured I needed a little more hydration, so I slammed a glass of water and two Vitamin Waters. Of course, once you get to the starting line, there's plenty of Powerade begging to be drunk.

I met some new friends who I'll never see again and warmed myself by a fire. I warmed up nicely, got the legs loose and went to the bathroom a few times. I figured it was just nerves. Then the race started.

Miles 1-7: My plan had me stealing these miles, and I did. Unfortunately, I stopped four times in the first seven miles to urinate. I decided to run right behind the 3:55 pacer. The first two times I stopped, he would get ahead and I would catch up mostly, but then I'd have to go again and by the fourth stop he was farther ahead than I wished to catch up to. I convinced myself that going slower here was a good idea, so I just kept with the plan and finished the first seven miles in about 62 minutes.

That was two minutes slower than I wanted and 4.5 minutes slower than last year, but I was fine. I had stuck to my plan and considering the pee breaks, I was at just the pace that would allow me to finish well. There were quite a few runners ahead of me that I knew I'd be passing later in the race. That's a good feeling.

Hi everyone!
Miles 8-13.1: The long hill at miles 8-9 were a lot easier this year. That may be because they switched sides of the road to run on or it may be I had planned my training runs so that mile 7 meant going up an annoying hill. It's probably both. I only had to stop to urinate once during this section and I rolled in to the halfway point at a shade over 1:58. Perfect. Except I was about to poop my pants.

It's time for an interlude. Because I was an expert, having run the race before, I dispensed important advice to my fellow marathoners. And that advice was if you can hold it, wait until the halfway point to use the port-a-potties. There's a ton of them at the half marathon start. This advice became even more relevant since the course had no other port-a-potties. Apparently, the race director drove the course with the port-a-pottie provider the day before the race, but the port-a-potties were never delivered. Sounds a little fishy to me.

Anyhow, at mile 10, I needed a port-a-pottie. Bad. I was able, fortunately, to will my bowels and follow my pre-race advice to hold it until the half marathon start, which I did. Thankfully. You have no idea what a glorious site it was to round the bend and see a huge line of sea green port-a-potties lining the road. It was angelic.

I stumbled out of the port-a-pottie refreshed and lightened--physically, emotionally and mentally. The contrast from last year's race was stark. Last year, I availed myself of the port-a-pottie as a precaution and crossed the half-way point in under 1:57. But I was toasted. I had run it too fast and was dreading the second half.

This year's race, I hit the half way mark at 2:01 feeling absolutely fantastic and ready to crush the second half.

Miles13.1-21: I spotted the 4-hour pacer about a minute ahead and sped up to catch up to her. When I got there, I liked the pace she was running and tagged along for the next seven miles. I don't remember much from this section other than passing hundreds and hundreds of runners who had made the same mistake I'd made last year. I was experiencing a runner's high. I recall the pacer turning around and telling me I was strong on the hills. That was nice of her.

There was no wall at mile 20. There would be no wall.

Dang, I'm handsome!
Miles 21-24: At mile 21, the pacer stopped to drink water. I took off. I felt strong but tired a bit as mile 24 approached.

Miles 24-26.2: Aw heck! I slowed down. My hamstrings started to cramp and the 4-hour pacer passed me. I laid in wait at mile 25. I needed to finish the last 1.2 miles in 10 minutes. Part of my long run training involved 10-minute bursts at 8-minute mile pace or faster. I had this. Unfortunately, about 10 steps into my burst, my right hamstring cramped and I had to slow down. Dang!

The Finish Line: Ha! Ha! Hee! Hee! I made it. I sprinted the last half-mile and crossed with both hamstrings cramping pretty good. The second half took two hours. That's right: a negative split. I passed over 250 individuals the second half of the race.

Well Done!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Utah Valley Marathon Preview

It’s time for yet another Utah Valley Marathon. For a review of last year’s Utah Valley Marathon, follow the link. Here’s a preview of the 2013 Utah Valley Marathon from the guy who finished a mediocre 856 out of 2056 runners last year. 

We’ll see if I can run from mediocrity this year.

Goal time: 3:54

I included several factors when determining a goal time for this year’s marathon, not the least of which was the excruciating pain I felt last year towards the end of the race. According to every metric/race prediction formula/running expert magical prediction, this is a conservative goal. My half marathon times, number of miles at race pace, Yasso 800s and other random race time predictors indicate consistently that I should be able to log a 3:50 race time.

These indicators dictate, of course, that I train properly for the distance by completing all my long runs and mileage goals, which I have. Here are some tallies since January 1:
  •   I’ve completed 19 runs of 10 miles or more.
  • About half of those were 15 or more miles.
  • The three longest were 19.15, 20 and 20 miles.
  •  The two twenty mile runs were done on May 15 and May 22.
So why the conservative goal? Long runs. I haven’t felt particularly strong on the last two 20-milers. Considering how I did on those, 3:54 is a rather ambitious goal. My race plan, however, isn’t necessarily linked to time, but to effort, meaning there could be a significant swing (either way) in the results. 

By linking my plan to effort—as dictated by heart rate—I can account for weather and other things that pop up during a long race.

The plan

I’m using the results from last year’s race (4:12:57 finishing time) to shape my race plan this year. It is important to keep in mind that I am a more capable runner now than I was a year ago. I’m looking for the 4:00 pacer and letting him or her start out two minutes before I do, hoping to catch him around the half way point.

Miles 1-7: Other than the final 10-k, this is the most important section of the course. Last year I ran it in 58:35—too fast. I figured since it was almost entirely downhill that I could get away with it. I was wrong. 8:22 miles were still too fast.

This year I plan to steal these miles. I’ll strap on the heart rate monitor and not let my heart rate get above 147. This takes discipline, especially on rested legs, even more discipline perhaps than finishing the last 6 miles on dead legs. If I am able to master myself, these miles will seem like nothing more than a nice warm-up. 

Because the miles are downhill, I can keep the heart rate down without going too slow. If I
can get these seven done in under an hour (8:34/mile), I’ll be happy. I will not speed up, however, to accomplish it.

But wait. That’s only 12 seconds per mile slower than last year’s pace, which ultimately led to you wanting to hurl yourself into the canyon at mile 10. Yes, but I am a much more capable runner this year than last year, and if I’m not, that’s OK. I’ll run it slower. 

Miles 8-11: Last year, I ran these four miles in 36:19. Pretty good considering the two mile steep incline starting on mile 8. This stretch probably led to my demise more than any other part of the course. 

This is an OK section to run a bit slower than goal pace. And I plan on it. I will allow the heart rate to increase on the uphills. If it gets to 160, I‘ll slow down. Once I crest the hill at the 10-mile point, I will give my heart rate a chance to decrease before hitting my stride once again. If I can hit these four miles around the previous year’s 36:19, I’ll be very pleased. If not, I won’t panic.

Miles 12-13.1: Last year, I did these two miles in 20:05. Why so slow? I stopped at the porta-potties to take care of business. These miles are also characterized by hilliness. I do know that the first half of this marathon did me in. I finished it in just under 1:57. I had completed my last long run in training four weeks before the marathon. The longest run I had done during that month was 11 miles. I was cooked at this point. 

That will not happen again.

If I finish the first half in under two hours, I feel good about my chances of hitting 3:54, although the closer to 1:57, the better I’ll feel. This is true if, and only if, I follow my race plan—especially the first seven miles. I ran an 8:25 pace for 15 miles recently that included a 1:50 half marathon. I also nailed a 1:49 half marathon on an extremely hilly course not long ago. I ran a 1:52 half marathon on a recent 20-mile run (full disclosure: I flamed out the last four miles).

All these efforts involved wind, heat, hills or a combination thereof. Basically, what I’m saying is I don’t need to have perfect running conditions to bag a 1:55ish half marathon, even if it is the second consecutive one. 

The key, however, is to not burn up the first half. I’ll repeat this. The key is to not burn up the first half.

Miles 14-16: These miles, I believe, are mostly downhill. Last year I ran them in 27:18. Mile 15 was my last sub-9-minute mile. By mile 16, I was done.

At around mile 15, I’ll check my heart rate only to make sure I’m not red-lining. Otherwise, I’m running by feel.

Miles 17-20: The last significant uphill ends around mile 18, notwithstanding some hilliness to the end of the canyon—the canyon feels awfully confining at this point. I ran this section in 40:30 last year. If I run it in 40:30 this year, I can forget about finishing in under four hours. It’s during these miles I have to run that fine line between not burning myself out, but keeping up a fast enough pace.

Miles 21-26.2: Last year I ran 21-23 in 28:12. I felt great. I had pounded a Gu at mile 20 and was keeping up with the 4:00 pacer. I hit the wall, hard, at mile 23, running the last 3.34 miles in 42:09. I didn’t see the 4:00 pacer after the mile 23 marker. I just wanted to finish.

I have no strategy for the last 6.2. Whatever I have left, I’ll give. If it gets me across in 3:54, I’ll celebrate. If it gets me across in 4:00, I’ll celebrate. If it gets me across alive, I’ll celebrate.

Food and Drink

I made a big mistake by not eating or drinking enough the two days before the marathon. That will not happen again. Last year I stopped at every water station. I won’t do that this year. But I will make a concerted effort to eat more. I will grab a Gu at every opportunity and drink Powerade at minimum every other stop.

On second thought, my heart rate monitor's been annoying me lately. I'm just gonna run by feel.