Tag Archives: running

Getting Back on the Horse

Tis the season for many new and revived runners and I love it! If being a running evangelical were a career, I’d be set. Running is for everyone and it’s fantastic that it gets included in so many New Year’s resolutions. If you’re starting running for the first time or the 50th time this week, welcome! Take it slow, expect a little discomfort and know that in the near future, these tough first days will be just a memory.

For those coming back to running, there’s some great news coming from the research world that you aren’t starting from zero. Researchers found that once you’ve been a runner, your muscles and the organelles within them never forget that. They may be a little rusty but the framework is still there and you will get back in shape faster than your never-run peers. If you were feeling a little anxious about heading back out there, grab those shoes and feel confident that your muscles know what they’re doing.

Anyone reading coming back to running? How about brand new runners? For the veterans, how do you approach a return to running after a layoff or break?

Lessons Learned: 2014 Cycle

Since I’m in my off season (to which my surgeon quipped so what, 60 miles a week?) and won’t gear up again until 2015, it’s time to look back on the cycle for 2014.

What I Learned

I can tolerate big mileage. I consistently ran 75 to 80 miles a week without injury and within 6 months of surgery without much more than occasional soreness. That being said, I was WIPED all the time and my workouts weren’t as solid throughout. Will and I assume that this is a direct result of never being fully recovered, courtesy of the mileage and of course, medical school.

Heartrate training works well for me, mentally and physically. I’ve had a heartrate monitor for a long time but hadn’t really used it much until this cycle when I started rocking it on every tempo run. It made an enormous difference for me mentally because “all” I had to do was get to 168 to 170 and stay there, whatever that pace was. I found it much easier to focus on the workout and not be stressing over pace and in turn, the paces were much closer to what tempo should be. It was the first time I really understood what tempo pace “felt” like.

I’m not done improving. In the back of my mind, I was worried that I had peaked with running and that working hard would bring no additional improvements. Although I wouldn’t call this a stellar racing year (I only ran 1 PR and had a collection of horrid races), I am thrilled with my marathon PR that came on mileage and just 10 months post-op. I’d love to see what happens when I have some speedwork on board and a totally solid ankle.

What I Need to Work On

Strength training. Right after surgery, I was in the gym almost every day and built a great base to come back to running on. As mileage got higher, however, and school got back into session, my gym time dwindled to almost zero. I’d do squats when I brushed my teeth and the occasional pushup, but I really wasn’t working on my strength and my quads paid for it during and after the marathon. I also need to improve my knee drive and I think strength is part of that.

Form. My form is okay and it’s holding up better in later miles but I still have a tendency to twist my upper body and shuffle my legs. If I’m going to click up another level, I need to get my arm swing working well and my knee drive far higher. Will recently built me a step up box for knee drive and I need to make a renewed commitment to practicing running arms daily.

Flexibility/Prehab. My back and hips hurt daily and if I want a successful open (and master’s) career, I have to get this in check before I’m crippled at 35. Some of this is that I currently sit a lot (which won’t improve over the next three months as I prep for Boards). Some of this is that I am not consistent about stretching and foam rolling. I’ve been working on making foam rolling my first activity of the day and am hopeful this will help.

I don’t have 2015 mapped out yet. I’m waiting on the final schedule from USATF NE to see what the Grand Prix schedule is and on a few other schedule related issues. I would prefer NOT to run a marathon in Spring 2015 (training in the winter sucks, I’m taking the boards in February and I am in Maine for my first rotation until May) but if VCM is the Grand Prix marathon, I am likely to join in. In my perfect world (ha!), I’d spend the first half of the year working on speed, getting a stint in at altitude and then target an early fall half for my OTQ. The marathon is more likely to get me in but almost everything has to go perfectly with a marathon that it can be hard to put all your eggs in one basket.

So my to-do list:

  • Build back up to 75 to 80 miles per week
  • Create and stick to a sustainable lifting regimen
  • Foam roll daily
  • Work on form, particularly arm swing and knee drive
  • Regain some speed and turnover
  • Use heart rate training for all workouts

What’s your 2014 analysis? To do list for 2015?

Warning: Posts in Blogosphere May Be Rosier than Reality

MirrosI love blogging and even more, I love reading other running blogs. There’s something about reading someone’s first hand account of training, of racing or even of life as a runner that makes the running community feel even more tight knit. Increasingly, however, I find that reading other blogs causes me to compare myself to other runners and not always in a positive manner. For example, with so many people in my speed-clique running Chicago this year (which is the same weekend as Albany), I’ve found myself anxiously comparing workouts and progress. When I have a bad workout or rough run, it’s not many steps to a total running meltdown. Granted, this can happen on in-person teams too (I see it as a coach all the time), but sometimes I suspect the digital component heightens anxiety and comparison because we just have to believe what people are writing.

I went on a big unfollow streak this week after reading one too many disingenuous and borderline dangerous blog entries from a fairly big name blogger. I never should have followed that blog as long as I did; she complains about extreme exhaustion but keeps hammering 10 miles a day, runs through stress fractures and serious injuries and generally sets a horrible example of what it’s like to be a runner. After unfollowing her blog, I started to go through my Reader and remove other blogs that didn’t feel like brothers or sisters of the road. If you truly love running every single day and always have perfect workouts, my assumption is that you are either lying about them or you aren’t actually doing them. Everyone blows workouts once in a while. Everyone has days where they just really don’t want to fucking run.

Laurel has written about this before, as have others. It’s not that most little bloggers like ourselves try to be cheery all the time, it’s just not as fun to write about bad runs or races and no one wants to be the Debbie Downer of the Interwebs. The reality is, however, that running is hard and sometimes not that fun. We still get out there and do it every day, but we’re not exactly skipping down the sidewalk. As I go forward with this blog, one of my goals is to find the balance between inspiration, motivation and reality.

In the spirit of honesty for anyone else who finds themselves playing the comparison game, last week SUCKED for me. My mid-week workout was slow and I felt like I was dragging concrete pins and on my Sunday long run, I only did one section of tempo running when I was scheduled to do two. At 7 weeks out, it was disheartening and terrifying and I cried to Will more than once that I didn’t know if I wanted to step on the start line in October.

Am I alone in this? Anyone else find their perspectives swayed by what they read on blogs?


Recently Read: Mistakes, Proper Arm Form, Faking Confidence and Do I Need a Coach?

This cracked me up this week. I hope this isn't my purpose on the planet.

This cracked me up. I hope this isn’t my purpose on the planet.

In the perennial debate of how should we run, another study concludes that the “best” form is basically whatever you do naturally. This conclusion is one we’re seeing more and more as running becomes extremely mainstream and “form coaches” attempt to make money off the shufflers, the T-rexers and the paddlers. Yes, some form quirks are highly inefficient but we should all aim for small adjustments, not total overhauls.

Pacing matters. We’re all guilty of getting overexcited at the start of a race or chasing someone down a sidewalk on a recovery day. Appropriate pace and correct perception of pace, however, is critical to top performance. One of my big foci this training cycle is to be more attuned to effort; I’m doing this by using my GPS, my own RPE and a heart rate monitor to compare what I feel to what my body is reporting that I feel.

This TED talk really deserves it’s own post but I don’t know enough about the psychology of body language and don’t have time right now to delve into it. That being said, it’s just a beautiful clip with actionable suggestions to help you on the starting line, in the board room or basically anywhere where you need confidence but are likely to lack it. It’s something we’ll be working on as a team this fall and I’m so looking forward to seeing the results.

Finally, although there should be an enormous caveat to vet anyone claiming to be a coach, this article is a good example of how coaching can help athletes of all levels. With the proliferation of free online plans, I’ve also observed a proliferation of injuries from plans that don’t (and couldn’t) accommodate individual needs. Can you complete events without a coach? Absolutely and many do (I did for years). Can you maximize your potential without a coach? I’m not so sure about that.

Good Eats: Fennel Apple Salad and Black Bean Sweet Potato Enchiladas

Fennel Apple Salad

One of the beautiful and challenging things about a CSA is that you get foods you’ve never cooked with (or sometimes never heard of). We’ve ended up with two bulbs of fennel this summer and although I love fennel, I’ve never worked with it before. The first time, I just roasted it on the grill with garlic. The second time, I was determined to use it in a more creative manner and foundĀ this recipe from the Purple Foodie.

Fennel Apple Salad

Fennel Apple Salad

I made this salad to go along with pork tenderloin on the grill and it was the perfect companion; my only suggestion would be to not mix the salad until just before serving. I tried to prep too early and the mixed greens were a little soggy.

Black Bean and Sweet Potato Enchiladas

We got a ton of rain here today, which had me in the mood for comfort food. I’ve had these enchiladas on my list for a while and although I made significant modifications to this recipe, I was thrilled with the results.

Sauteing the filling together

Sauteing the filling together

My modifications were:

  1. Tiny Spice Company Beri Beri spice instead of Chili Powder (we were out)
  2. Cooked and cut sweet potato (I refuse to grate anything)
  3. 1 cup of Cabot Pepper Jack cheese
  4. 14 corn tortillas (I prefer them to flour)
  5. Skipped the scallions and frozen corn
Enchilada sauce in the blender and the incomparable BeriBeri seasoning

Enchilada sauce in the blender and the incomparable BeriBeri seasoning

These enchiladas were AWESOME. Enough spice to be interesting without burning the roof of your mouth and filling enough for even the hungriest house.

Piping hot!

Piping hot!

Love a filling meal on a rest day. Double power!

Love a filling meal on a rest day. Double power!

Do you have a CSA? Weirdest item you’ve ever received? What’s your favorite summer side dish?

Check Your VO2 Max in 12 Minutes

There’s a saying in cross country that State Champions are built in July and it’s true, much to the chagrin of coaches who battle summer jobs, family vacations and Netflix as they mumble on about summer mileage. For the most part, my team does an excellent job of getting summer runs in. We use a number of tools to encourage people to keep up with their running, including online running logs to which the whole team belongs, captain’s practices throughout the summer, training camp and time trials. Time trials are an excellent way for athletes to check in with themselves and for coaches to monitor progress throughout the summer. We don’t expect PR performances; after all, most athletes who are running are at peak mileage with no speed work. We do expect to see hard efforts and a good approximation of how things are going.

One of my favorite “reality checks” is one that you can do yourself. This is perfect for someone with a fall marathon on the calendar that doesn’t have an interim race scheduled or for someone coming off a base building cycle. It’s a simple test: warmup, then run as many laps as you can in 12 minutes and enter the results into the Cooper calculator. The calculator isn’t a perfect estimate of VO2 max, but it’s a good litmus test for training paces and progress. Used at regular intervals, it gives a great estimate of fitness improvements and possible race outcomes. Try adding this into your training plan once a month and see how much progress you make!

We’ve done three time trials this summer: one 3K time trial on the cross country course, one 5K race on our home course and one 12 minute test. Before the season starts, we’ll do a mile trial and one more 3K trial. All of the information from those efforts helps me to evaluate how well summer training went, design workouts for training camp and select early season teams.

What tools do you use to monitor your fitness? Have you ever had the full VO2 max test? How do you motivate yourself in a time trial setting?

Week in Review: 7.28.14 to 8.3.14

This one will be brief, since most of my runs were on my daily road trip posts. All in all, it was a solid adaptation week with a good workout in Memphis and nice easy mileage in San Diego. It’s been unusually humid here (92%) and even rained yesterday. The terrain is dead flat, however, making it a great place to prep for the flat Albany course.

Monday: 7.5 miles in Harrisonburg, VA.

Tuesday: 5 by 1 mile at faster T pace in Memphis, TN for a total of 9.8 miles.

Wednesday: Scheduled off day, prorated at 7.6 miles. Full body lift and 10 minute jog.

Thursday: Unplanned off day, due to the breakdown of our car AC in the Arizona desert.

Friday: Amazing run in Coronado. 10.4 miles that were the fastest “easy” miles I’ve run since before Philly.

Saturday: Feeling the travel, time change and humidity today. Slogged through 9.2.

Sunday: Long run, slogging a bit again due to humidity. Decided not to do the workout because my legs were dead and got a solid long run in instead. 15 miles, due to my strict instructions not to run more than 2 hours. Hip core afterward.

Mileage Total: 60 miles. Perfect adaptation week before I go back up to 80 for next week!

July Mileage Total: 296 miles, up 30 from June. Hoping to break 300 for August.

Tomorrow is my last day in California before I pop on the Monday night red eye home to Burlington. I’ve had a blast on our trip and really enjoyed seeing a whole chunk of the country that I’ve never seen but am also ready to get home to Will, the dogs and our little yellow house.


Day 1: Burlington to Harrisonburg

Our first day was a lot like the first few miles of a rough run. You aren’t sure you’re going to make it and you question all of your choices. At some point, however, the remaining distance seems doable and you grind through.

We hit impressive weather yesterday including a lightening show that rivaled the 4th of July along with horrific construction traffic. All told, our “easy 10 hour travel” took us almost 13 hours. We arrived in Harrisonburg around 9:45, pulled out running clothes and went to bed.

This morning I got up bright and early to get an easy hour of running in around James Madison University. It was totally quiet on campus and they have TWO tracks. Unfortunately neither opened til 7:45. I was a little nervous as a Tarheel running through anything labeled Duke, but figured a dog was better than a Blue Devil.

The other highlight of the day included a text from Will that he’d locked himself out. Thank goodness for friends with big cars…

Today we’re headed for Memphis. Here’s to 12 hours on 81 and 40!






Running Road Trip 2014

We've been doing selfies since way before they were cool.

We’ve been doing selfies since way before they were cool.

You’ve all met my sister Suzanne here before. She’s my much funner, much younger (although people always think she’s older) sister and we’re heading out next week on a grand adventure across the United States. Suzanne is moving to sunny San Diego from Boston and recruited me to come along for the adventure. We’re looking forward to odd rest stops, regional fast food and seeing parts of the country we’ve never seen before.

20 something years of making these faces at each other

20 something years of making these faces at each other

I’m also looking forward to running in different parts of the country. When you run 70 to 80 miles a week, things can get a little stale. You know you’re a runner when you recognize that someone has trimmed their hedges or planted new flowers because you run by everyday. Thus, when Suzanne picked her departure date and our route across the country, I immediately started researching my running options. We’re staying at Marriott family hotels as we go across so there’s always a gym/treadmill option but I’m hoping to enjoy the outdoors as much as possible. Because I’ll be in new, unfamiliar places, I’ll bring my phone with me and actually be able to get pictures on my runs! I learned this lesson after a run in Findlay, Ohio where I grossly misjudged a map and ended up running along the side of a highway for a while.

Day 1 Burlington to Harrisonburg VA: I’ll run before we leave and then do a shakeout run when we get to the hotel

Day 2 Harrisonburg to Memphis: Harrisonburg is home to James Madison University, so I’ll do my morning run around that campus before we shove off.

Day 3 Memphis to Amarillo: We are lucky to be staying right near the “Green Line” and a huge park set up for runners in Memphis, so I’ll do a workout here.

Day 4 Amarillo to Scottsdale: Amarillo is full of big, huge blocks, so if the weather is amenable, I’ll run some huge squares for recovery.

Day 5 Scottsdale to San Diego: Unfortunately, Scottsdale isn’t a runner’s haven, so I may be on the treadmill for this unless we decide to take a roadtrip north to Flagstaff. If we do that, I’ll be huffing and puffing at 8000 feet and loving it.

Once we get to San Diego, the running should be incredible. I’m also excited to see Abbey and get to do some of a long run with her; she was my running buddy here in Burlington until she moved out there last year and I miss her terribly. I’m guessing that long run will fly by.

Love you Suzy! So excited for your next adventure!

Love you Suzy! So excited for your next adventure!

Have you run in any of these places? How do you fit running in while traveling? Favorite regional fast food stop?

Overbearing Sports Parents

In my few weeks off this summer, I have a lot of things on my to do list ranging from “get organized for Step 1” “run 80 mile weeks” and “recover from MS1.” Also on that list is to work through the Mind of the Athlete materials in an attempt to improve my coaching for the coming season. When our new AD started at MMU, he was huge on Mind of the Athlete and purchased a license for all interested coaches. I’ve generally liked what has come through on email thus far and am really looking forward to having time in the next two weeks to work through more of the materials. I expect it will benefit me as both a coach and athlete.

In a recent email, the following graphic came through and stuck with me. I’ve been very lucky to have limited experience with this as a coach and suspect that overbearing parents are less common in cross country in some part because so much of the competition goes on away from spectator eyes. That being said, our team is not not immune and at our parent meeting later in the summer, I will be bringing up some of these issues so that all of our athletes have a calm, supportive racing and training environment.

Overbearing Sports Parents

From a Mind of the Athlete e-newsletter; all credit due to them!

What experiences do you have with overbearing sports parents? Were your own parents overbearing? Do you see this when your kids play sports?

Edited to Add Link to the Mind of the Athlete Blog where this came from: