Archive for January, 2011


Know Your Calories

(note: this article has been in draft form for a while, seeing the recent post on Lifehacker inspired me to get it out.)

An under-appreciated element of training for a marathon is tracking your daily runs in a training log. A training log is a great way for a first time or experienced marathoner to go back and look at where they were and where they are now. It provides me a great sense of accomplishment when I look at my training log. In the case of an injury I can look back and see what might have precipitated the injury. Was it over training? Running too hard? A change in surface? I track all of these in my running log.

An additional helpful thing that my log tracks automatically is the number of calories that I burned during a run. After a run I can look at how many calories I burned and get an idea of what I need to replenish those lost calories. Although you can’t get an exact count of the calories you’ve burned without running inside of a calorimeter (is that even possible‽), there are numerous tools that give you a close approximation.

One of the easiest ways to get an idea of the calories you’ve burned is to simply use a table. Find a weight that is similar to your own weight and a pace that is about what you did and you’ll get an idea of how many calories you’ve burned. A nice advantage of these tables is that they often contain many different sports, so it’s easy to look up and see how many calories you burned during that game of beach volleyball or that run around the park too. There’s an excellent guide at NutriStrategy that has most sports you can think of and even some less sporting activities such as taking out the trash. If you want to get a bit more advanced, you can utilize calorie coefficients. These numbers tell how many calories you burn per minute of activity per kilogram of body weight.

Pace (min/mi) Pace (min/km) Coefficient
5:30 3:25 0.300
6:00 3:44 0.266
6:30 4:02 0.250
7:00 4:21 0.233
7:30 4:40 0.225
8:00 4:58 0.208
8:30 5:17 0.191
9:00 5:36 0.183
9:50 5:54 0.174
10:00 6:13 0.167
11:00 6:50 0.155
11:30 7:09 0.150
12:00 7:27 0.140

Calorie Coefficients for Running. Multiply Your Weight In Kilograms by The Coefficient and Number of Minutes of Running.

Another way to track your calories is to simply use a website that calculates your calories for you. RunKeeper, a great iPhone/Android app that recently went completely free, will approximate your calories based not only on your weight, pace, and distance, but also utilizes elevation information. It then displays the calories burned on information pages for individual runs and a running total on your RunKeeper profile page. If I were to use RunKeeper as my only log it would require no additional effort to provide calorie counts.

If you want more information than just calories, including expected times for races of other distances, then WolframAlpha can calculate them for you. Visit the WolframAlpha Home Page and enter your information in a format similar to this “194lb 6’2″ 31yo male running 4.33 miles in 39.5minutes” and WolframAlpha will provide a whole slew of information about your performance, including predicted times for races from 100m to a marathon.

Snapshot of Wolfram Alpha Calories

Metabolic Information Generated by WolframAlpha (Click for Full Report)

Of course, there are dozens of other ways to count calories while running. My personal approach is to use a consensus from a couple of different sources and average them out. How do you track your calories for a run? If you don’t track calories, why not?


Running Outside When It’s -10°F and Living to Tell The Tale

In my last post I discussed the gear that I wear for winter runs. However, this covered my gear for New York, and Minneapolis is quite a bit colder. Horribly cold. The last two mornings have been -1°F and -8°F. Cold!

January 22, 2011 Weather Report for Minneapolis, MN

Saturday Morning: -1°F, feels like -14°F. I can hack that right? Oh wait, it's supposed to get colder during the run‽

January 23, 2011 Weather Report for Minneapolis, MN

Sunday Morning: -8°F, but at least there is no wind. Whew!

When it’s this cold I need a lot more gear. I switch to the treadmill at -10°F, so this is extreme. I wear the same base layers shown in the last post, but add a full length pair of workout pants, an extra pair of socks and gloves, a hooded sweatshirt, and most importantly, a balaclava. This usually keeps me quite warm — so warm that I sweat and sometimes get overheated. The sweat causes the creation of some interesting ice formations, as you can see from this picture I shot of myself at the end of my run this morning.

My protected face after an -8°F run

It was perfectly clear skies during my run. All that "snow" is condensation from my sweat. Awesome!

I didn’t realize until after I entered the house that I had a couple of 2 inch long icicles handing from my Balaclava. Although, I was completely aware during the run that my eyes were freezing up. Some folks might say that it’s really stupid to go running in these conditions, but if you dress appropriately you’ll be richly rewarded. Minneapolis on a cold Sunday morning is great. During my entire 4.3 mile run today I saw two other runners and one person walking a dog. I didn’t see a single car and the city was quiet. The view of St. Anthony falls was wonderful and there was no sounds other than my screw shoes crunching over the snow and ice. What a wonderful experience.

Got any tips for running in really cold weather? More specifically, got any hints to keep your eyes from freezing up?


Running is a Minimalist Sport, Right?

I confess, I’m not a naked runner. I’m not one of those people who puts on a just a pair of running shorts — not shirt, no shoes, no iPod, no nothing — and goes out for a run. I think the big reason for that is where I live. It’s cold in both Minneapolis and New York. It also gets dark early and the paths are rarely plowed. In fact, I think that I might be the opposite of a naked runner. Want proof? Here’s a picture of me before a recent evening run:

Me dressed up for a cold weather night run in New York

This is what I look like when I go out for a cold weather run. I'm pretty sure I'd get beaten up in high school for dressing like this.

Petzl Tikka2 Plus Headlamp Generic Target Headband Generic Target Tech Shirt Underarmour Cold Gear Compression Shirt iPhone 4 with RunKeeper Spibelt Generic Target Running Shorts Manzell Running Gloves Reebok Compression Running Tights Injinji Toe Socks Injinji Toe Socks Vibram FiveFingers KSO Remix Vibram FiveFingers KSO Remix
  • Petzl Tikka Plus 2 Headlamp – This is a great little light that puts out some serious punch for how small it is. It’s a little expensive otherwise, but I received it as a gift and have been very happy with it. I’ll post a review of the light shortly.
  • Generic Headband from Target – Nothing interesting to say here. I think I got this for $3 from target many years ago when I needed something to keep my ears warm while biking in the winter. It does it’s job, but often ends up very wet and kinda stinky after a run.
  • Under Armour Cold Gear Longsleeve Compression Shirt – The best investment I’ve made when it comes to running in the winter. Compression base layers keep me warm and also keep my nipples from chafing.
  • Generic Tech Shirt from Target – I’ve got a lot of these generic running shirts from Target. They’re slowly being phased out as I get more technical shirts from runs. They’re not the highest quality shirts, but they work quite well and are light weight. Unfortunately, they’re also murder on my nipples.
  • iPhone4 with RunKeeper and Really Beat-up Headphones – I’ve been tracking my runs with RunKeeper for the last two years. It’s been the best $10 I spent for an iPhone app. However, right now you don’t need to spend that sort of money, RunKeeper Pro is FREE until the end of January!
  • SPIbelt – I originally picked this up for the Big Sur Marathon in 2010. I needed someplace to hold my gels and a camera for during the race. I’ve since started using it to carry my phone on any run when I’m wearing long sleeves and it’s difficult to use my armband.
  • Manzella Running Gloves – These aren’t the greatest gloves, but they’re lightweight and keep my fingers pretty dry because they wick moisture away. However, on sub-zero days in Minneapolis my fingers get very cold in them. I also wish they were brighter for safety.
  • Generic Running Shorts from Target – With all the races that give out shirts, you’d think that some would give out running shorts. I could use some more pairs of these guys. In the future I’ll upgrade to a better brand as these guys often cause chafing.
  • Reebok Running Tights – Probably the second best investment I’ve made when it comes to cold weather running. I used to run in athletic pants, but they would only work kinda okay. Running tights are a godsend. Plus, when it’s cold and I have to stand around outside, such as volunteering for a New York Road Runners race, I can wear them under my jeans.
  • injinji Rainbow Colored Mini Crew Toesocks – If my shoes are already gaudy, I might as go all out right? These guys work very well for keeping my feet warmer when running in my FiveFingers and also dramatically reduce the smell.
  • Vibram FiveFingers KSO Remix Shoes – I’m not certain if I’m 100% sold on the hype around barefoot running, but I do run in my FiveFingers. They allow me to connect with the surfaces in a different way, making a run much more fun and also forcing me to use different muscles while running. Ouch, my calf muscles hurt!

I’d love to find a way to go more minimalist, but there also is a safety and comfort element for running in the dark in the winter. I’ve started to periodically drop the headphones, so the only sound I hear is the ambient sound. In addition to being safer, it helps me keep in the zone for running. Beyond that, it’s difficult to think of any way to go more minimalist. Any hints? What’s your cold weather gear look like?


What Does This MRI Mean?

I’ve been struggling with persistent pain in my hip and lower back. The doctor initially believed that it was an IT band issue. Three months of therapy and little progress and we concluded that maybe that wasn’t the problem. The next thought was that it might be nerve damage in my lower back. This led to an MRI, which I got done a little over a week ago. After the experience I received a CD with my images on it. Of course, no guidance is provided about interpreting the images.

Lower Spine MRI

One of the images from my MRI of my lower spine. I'm a little concerned because it looks like my spine is curved.

Here’s one of several images that were on the CD. This is my spine looking either down or up, I’m not certain which. What I’m really concerned about here is the fact that my spine appears curved. I really hope that’s just a result of me not sitting completely flat and being slightly twisted, and not actually a curved spine. Oh well, maybe one of these days my doctor will call me back and let me know what’s really up with it.

Until the, well, I’m getting antsy. I’ve been running small to moderate amounts recently and doing some exercises to improve my core strength. I did a seven and eight miler on Saturday and Sunday. Incredibly slow pace and I had to stop and walk a few times, but they felt good and I didn’t have any pain at the end of them. That’s a start. Now, to get rid of this weight that I’ve packed on since I scaled back my training…

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Marathon Times

2011 NYC Marathon3:57:45
2011 Hartford Marathon3:58:17
2011 Chicago Marathon4:20:16
2011 Grandma's Marathon4:07:43
2010 Big Sur International Marathon4:22:49
2009 NYC Marathon4:37:05
2009 Twin Cities Marathon4:43:28
2009 Pittsburgh Marathon4:14:38
2008 Erie Marathon5:11:40

Upcoming Races

  • Nov 6 - New York City Marathon, New York, NY
For previous races, check out my Race Log