Archive for the 'training' Category


Running Goals for 2011: Looking Back

As has become a yearly right for me, it’s time to review my running goals for 2011 and see how I did. Overall I’m pretty pleased with this year, but there are clearly somethings that could have gone a little bit better.

  • Distance Run: 1500 miles
    Nope – I’m pleased to say that I came much closer this year. However, there were four extended periods where I did little to no running. In March I spent about three weeks in China. I went running once while there and really stuck out, but the bigger issue was that the air was toxic. In August I made the stupid mistake of trying to barefoot and getting huge blisters on my feet. Just when I was getting better I managed to get the norovirus. In September I spent two weeks in Europe. Finally, December was shaping up great to make 1500 miles, but my achilles tendon started to hurt, so rest was in order. I’ll finish the year with about 1375 miles, depending on whether or not I go running today or tomorrow.
  • Marathons: 3 (Grandma’s, Chicago, NYC)
    Yes! Grandma’s Marathon in June was a blast. I set a PR and ran most of it with a friend before she threatened to kill me around mile 22 and told me to go on ahead of her. My experience in Chicago, on the other hand, was downright miserable – hiccups made me want to die by the end of the race. It was so bad that I signed up for the Hartford Marathon six days later where I PR’d. I managed to shave a few more seconds off this PR at New York three weeks later. It was a good year for running marathons.
  • Weight: 170lbs
    Nope – according to my spreadsheet I hit my lowest weight at 173.2. Right now I’m a little over 10lbs north of that figure thanks to holiday bingeing while visiting relatives. Still, I’m about 15lbs better than I was at this time last year.
  • Fastest Mile: 5:50
    Nope – I did only a single one mile race, the 2011 Fifth Avenue Mile. I finished in 6:10. I was happy, although I’d love to see that leading six change into a five.
  • Marathon: 3:30
    Nope – marathon time predictors say to take your half marathon time and double it then add 10 minutes for your full marathon time. If I could do a half in 1:40, then a full in 3:30 should be possible, right? Not quite. While I did drop my PR in the marathon about 17 minutes this year, at 3:57:45 it’s not even close to this goal.
  • Half-Marathon: 1:40
    Nope – I was tempted to call this an “Old-School Boston Yes”. However, let’s be honest, that second digit is still a 4, and for me to make this goal the second digit needed to be a 3. I missed this goal by 23 seconds at the 2011 Brooklyn Half Marathon.
  • Cross-Training: 2 days a week
    Nope – I often manage this in Minneapolis. In New York I lack a bike and fail miserably at this. I rarely cross-trained.
  • Barefoot/Vibram a race of 10k or more
    Yes! – I did this at the 2011 Independence Day Races in Minneapolis. Not only that, I turned in a 10k PR that was a faster pace than my 5k PR.
  • Bench Press My Own Weight
    Nope – I think I tried bench pressing three times this year. Fail.
  • Run to and from Work at Least Five Times
    Nope – by the time I thought about this it was already late September and getting too dark to run on the roads around work in the evening. I never even did this once.
  • Post at Least 50 Blog Entries
    Nope – this blog was a bit more predictable in 2011. Assuming this is the last post of the year I’ll finish the year with 36.

So, what’s the overall conclusion. I didn’t run as much as a I hoped, I didn’t cross-train nearly as much as a I hoped, and I didn’t write about running quite as much as a I hoped. Was this year a let down? No. I don’t feel bad when I set an ambitious goal and I fail to meet them. I think I would have felt worse if I set goals and met each goal – it wouldn’t mean that they weren’t stretching me enough.

Next up, 2012 running goals.


My Own Running Streak Challenge

I’m in a bit of a lull right now. I have no races scheduled for December. No marathons on the horizon. Nothing to really to train for. It’s also cold and dark. It doesn’t get light until nearly 8am and it’s dark by 4:30pm. This is not ideal running conditions.

However, if I want to get better I should keep on running. So what to do? Starting last week I decided that I would run every day this month — even Christmas and New Year’s Eve. I thought I was going to be all original with this, until I found out that Runner’s World was encouraging a Thanksgiving to New Year’s running streak. Well, I started a bit late, but I guess I’m in too.

Then I started to look at my own running stats for the year. From January 1 to November 30 I had run 1277 miles. A new record for me, but still 223 miles away from my goal of 1500 miles for the year.

It's been a Good Year for Running

So, can I do it? Well, that’s the challenge. In may I ran 227 miles, so I’ve done it before, but I’ll need to treat it as though I’m in top training for a marathon. Maybe I’ll need to find a January marathon…

So, that’s goal. Every day this month. 227 miles total. An average of 7.2 miles a day. Eight days in I’m at 60.5 miles – a little ahead of that pace. It’s go time.


Improving form with 100-ups

For the last year I’ve integrated “barefoot” (actually done in my Vibram Five Fingers) running into my regular routine as a method to work on different muscles and improve my form. I’ve worked myself up from only a couple of miles to a maximum of 17 miles this past summer. However, after 17 miles my heels were killing me, which is strange because barefoot running shouldn’t have a heel strike. Observation of my form showed that after long distances running barefoot my form goes to total crap and I take on a flat foot or almost heel strike in some cases. This really isn’t all that ideal, so I’m looking for alternatives.

As part of their coverage of the ING New York City Marathon this weekend, the New York Times is dedicating a large portion of their Sunday magazine to running, including some guest articles from folks like Christopher McDougall, the author of “Born To Run”. This includes a video where McDougall, and, for some strange reason, Peter Saarsgaard, demonstrate some exercises for proper barefoot running called 100-up. In short, this exercise has you almost run in place with a concentration on the proper way to bring your feet back down that will cause minimal injury.

While I’m in taper mode for the NYC Marathon this weekend and I don’t want to try anything new, this seems something that is simple enough that I could do it in my office over my lunch breaks.

Anyone else have good suggestions for simple training exercises to improve form?


A Litany of Excuses

There’s lots of reasons why I haven’t blogged much recently. The main reason? I haven’t been running as much. Since the Fourth of July I have only run a single race, the Twin Cities Duathlon. I was pleased with my performance in the 5k run – 18mi ride – 5k run race, both of my 5k’s were around 23:00. Otherwise not much in my running world. Here’s why:

July was actually a pretty good month. Almost 150 miles of running in. August started off horrible. At the beginning of the month I got the bright idea to do a Friday run barefoot. Normally I do not run on Friday and I do not run barefoot. Needless to say, this did not end well. After 1.3 miles my feet were bloodied and blistered. I could barely walk for the next four days.

I managed to come back a week later with a 20 miler and a good solid week, but then I got the norovirus that I lovingly spread to my wife because I thought it was non-contagious food poisoning. If you haven’t ever had the norovirus, here’s how it works. First, it lies in wait for a day or two. Then it cleans EVERYTHING out of you from both sides and makes sure you can’t take anything else down. Then you’re just left dehydrated and exhausted for a week after. Thus, I missed a whole week of runs.

At the end of the norovirus week I did a 17 mile run and the next day was the duathlon. My knee was killing me, so I took a few days off. Did a 5 miler then a 20 miler. My knee still hurt. To cap off the 20 miler I went and boarded a plane for Europe that evening and spent two weeks in Europe. I didn’t run at all in Europe. Lots of walking, but no running. This was probably a good thing. After some long days of “museum walking” for eight to twelve hours my legs were killing me. Running would have been bad.

I returned to New York yesterday night. This weekend called for a 20 miler, I’m not jumping right into that. I’m going to build some mileage this week after my nice early morning six miles today. On Saturday I’ll run the Fifth Avenue Mile and then on Sunday I’ll do a 20 miler.

This leaves me with a very short taper for Chicago. I had hoped to peak there, now I’m just hoping to finish. Life is like that. I love Chicago, I’m going to love the race. I just won’t be down around 3:30 for it.


Waiting is the Hardest Part

Five days from right now I’ll be running down Lake Superior’s North Shore with thousands of other runners in the 35th running of Grandma’s Marathon. Between now and Saturday morning I’ve got an academic paper to write, a couple of presentations to deliver, two flights to catch, and very few miles on the road. Ah yes, tapering, it’s a little like being injured. You get to sleep in a bit later. You can run a bit slower. You don’t get your usual endorphins.

My runs for the past three days (Saturday, Sunday, Monday) were supposed to be 8 miles, 4 miles, 3 miles. Instead I did 10 miles, 5.5 miles, 5 miles. It may not seem like much to add in another 5.5 miles, but that’s another 33% over what I’m supposed to be running these days. The reality is that tapering sucks. It hardly seems worth it to get up at 6:00am to go for a run that’s only going to take me 20 minutes. I’ve got six miles to run over the next 4 four days. I think I’m going to go insane waiting. I just hope that all this pays off in the marathon.

I can’t wait for Saturday morning.

Keep Running.


It’s all about the rhythm

No blog post for the last couple of weekends because I didn’t have a race to write about. Memorial day weekend was the peak of my training for Grandma’s Marathon where I did 24, 11, and 9 miles over the three day weekend. Sadly, I had to get up incredibly early on Tuesday morning to catch a flight back to rather warm and humid New York, and that’s where stuff started to go downhill.

I fly often enough that I have no problem sleeping on planes. Put me on a plane at any time of day and I can nearly guarantee that I can fall asleep. Often times it’s a little like magic, I board the plane early, side down by the window, and just fall asleep — completely missing the announcements, takeoff, and landing. Air travel truly is some sort of magic teleportation device for me. Unfortunately, this is never “quality” sleep. No matter how much I sleep on a plane I’m still tired. Such was the case on Tuesday. Get into New York around 11am and drive to work and stick around there until 7pm. Drive home and go out for a planned eight mile run up to Valhalla and back. No problem. Ughh. About two miles in I was sore and felt like I was dying. Time to turn around and walk the two miles home. No reason to be stupid and hurt myself during my taper.

Wednesday and Thursday are usually running days too. Not last week. Work calls, and this week it meant busting my ass (and that of my co-author) to get a CSCW 2012 paper out the door. Sadly, this meant 18 hour work days on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. I felt enough like I was going to puke without the bonus of going for a run.

Which brought me to Saturday. A medium distance run of about 12 miles was the plan. No problem, right? It was good weather, I was reasonably hydrated. I felt good. Unfortunately, my old bones hurt like hell doing it. I tried to tell my body that it had only been out of commission for three days, but it wasn’t going to listen. I finished the run at about my marathon pace, but I worked my ass off to do it. Sunday wasn’t much better.

Tomorrow is supposed to be rest. It’s under two weeks to Grandma’s Marathon. Right now I feel like I just need to get a decent run under my belt. Loosing your rhythm two weeks before the Marathon is not such a wonderful thing.

Until next time, keep running.


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?

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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