Friday, January 24, 2014

Taper Fun…..random thoughts……

It is a little over a week from the Surf City Marathon and I am as ready as I will ever be.  I have been in week two of the taper with a focus on dropping volume and increasing intensity.  If I could sustain this week’s pace (8:55 per mile) for the marathon I would be thrilled; however, I am a realist.  My PR in a road marathon is 4:42 which is a more respectable 10:46 pace and my final long run I was able to sustain a 10:32 pace.  If I can sustain that pace, I should finish in 4:35….a stone throw from my true goal 4:30.
Getting Mental Prepared
I find that there are certain things that have helped me get ready for any marathon or greater race mentally.  I like to get one new item for the race.  This time around I will be working with new socks. Ok, I know what you are thinking; however, I normally run with Champion socks I get from Target. 
However, last weekend we took the kids to John Muir Beach which gave me the perfect excuse to stop by the San Francisco RunningCompany.  The main purpose was to find out if they carry any FRS shots (looks like they have been discontinued – thanks Lance!); however, I was met by Jorge Maravilla one week after his win at the Bandera 100K (which I didn’t know until after).  I was able to ask about socks since I typically have problems with my Morton’s toe and the rubbing that normally occurs.  He directed me to the Injinji  2.0 mid-weight running toe sock

 I have heard a lot about these socks from the podcast and thought about trying them; however, have shied away from them.  However, with Way Too Cool following closely behind Surf City, I felt the time was right to try something out.  I have been running in them this week and so far so good, I love these socks.  I will post a review soon.
What I love about the San Francisco Running Company is the number of experienced ultra-runners there are that work there and there openness to talk shop.  I have been to other running stores and have gotten some poor running advice or the crazy look when I say I like to run longer distances. But just as it is common in the trail running community, everyone is there to support everyone, so it is easy to talk with even an elite runner in his shop without getting too star struck.
 So part two of my discussion with him focused on nutrition where I quickly found out that this is an area that he has struggled with in the past also but surprisingly is not on any crazy specific diet – only quality calories.  Simple but true.
The third stop, and again this kind of helps in the preparing mentally section, was to the M.H. Bread and Butter Cafe in San Anselmo for a wonderful loaf of bread.  This cafĂ© is run by both Nathan and Devon Yanko who are ultra-runners themselves. In fact Devon has won the San Francisco Marathon a few times as well as was an Olympic Trials qualifier at the last Olympics.  I will have to say the baked goods here are the best in the Bay Area!  Our son Myles got a slice of carrot cake this time and with help from mom and dad quickly devoured it.  I also purchased a large country style loaf to eat over this week.  So yes, buying a loaf of bread to help with my carb loading has definitely help mentally prepare for Surf City.
Finally, I have been reviewing and going over mentally this race.  The great news is that I have run most of it as the half marathon.  I do have some question marks, especially from mile 3 to mile 8 which drops into what looks like a pit.  We will drive this section the day before after we stop by the expo.  I am pretty excited though.  Mile 2 to 3 is up hill so it should help temper me from going out too fast and knowing that I have to do it again at mile 8 going in the opposite direction should set up for negative splits, that is if I can keep a reasonable pace.
All in all, this has stacked up to be a good training session.  The only soreness is my Achilles, but that hasn’t stopped me slowing down.  I am excited to run!
Way Too Cool 50K 5 weeks later
So with all the focus on the imminent marathon, I am not forgetting Way Too Cool five weeks later.   In fact I was able to get a good training schedule from the Hal Higdon site that I will modify for my needs.  My main concern was the week directly after Surf City and not losing my endurance in recovery.  I am modifying the 4 week schedule with the 6 week schedule which allows for a good recovery, a nice build and even a taper for the 5 weeks.
Doing this research lead me to the Marathon Maniacs website.  I have heard a lot about this group over the years, and is definitely promoted on the Marathon Training Academy podcast; however, I never realized that the group is based in my old home town of Tacoma.  In fact, it is one block away from my old middle school.  What is even more exciting is that I would be able to qualify to be a Marathon Maniac if I am able to complete both Way Too Cool and the Diablo Challenge 50K 8 weeks later. The bronze level membership requires three events 26.2  miles or greater in under 90 days.  My three events will be completed in 78 days!
Really this is stacking up to be a great year of running.  Now queue the Beach Boys……I am ready to run Surf City, USA.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

How to Start a Running Group at Work

As I mentioned in a previous post, I have definitely seen an improvement to my pace since the creation of a running group here at my company.  I typically have been a solo runner during lunch at work seeing many of those now who are part of the group.  In fact it took one year and one really good product manager to get all of us together for a weekly run.  The run is now well supported with all different ages and levels which break up into a couple of subgroups of 4 or 5 so that you can push yourself out of your comfort zone or stay at a more comfortable pace.

There are some new runners to the group also who are now running just because of the support of the other runners.  And we also have runners who still run solo (due to the limit of their lunch time) but run the same course since they can see the group coming and going.

You may already know a lot of the runners at your company, may even see them at lunch or before or after work in their routine.  You may even talk with them at the coffee counter about the run you just had, what is a great route, what areas to avoid, etc.  But that is all of the interaction you have with them.

So the question is, how do you set up a running group at your company?

What we did at my current company is took advantage of creating a company subscription distribution list.  We call ours “Move.”  Basically, we were allowed to send out an announcement on another distribution list, “fun”, to alert that we would be creating a running group.  Anyone wanting to join was to send an e-mail to our group organizer who then compiled and created the email which included 45 people on the distribution list. Our group running day is on Wednesday, so there is an announcement on Tuesday reminding everyone of the group run.  Typically these are fun and quirky emails but they add to the culture of the group.  Typically we then have 10 show up any given week out of a company of 150.

It is also to have at least a couple of champions in the group, especially if they are across different departments.  That was part of the reason we didn’t run as a group before.  I am in Finance, others in Editorial and Product Development, and don’t forget IT.  Having “plants” in each of these groups talking up the running group on Wednesday as well as making sure everyone knows that everyone is welcome has really helped. 

Besides a distribution list, if your company allows, you could set up a SharePoint site.  At a previous company, group sites were a heavily encouraged activity and were considered important to the culture of the organization.  Work-life-balance was stressed and any type of fitness activity was encouraged.  The purpose was not just a touchy feely thing, but a way to better get control of the health insurance costs of the company.

The SharePoint site is especially great if you are a large company and you want to set up a meeting point for all runners.  It is also great for those who are training for a race of a specific distance or pace.  But again, you want to have those across the company endorsing and “talking up” your group.

There are certain things can be done to have a successful group.  

First, be flexible and adaptable with the ability of the members.  Not everyone can run a 6 minute or perhaps even a 9 minute sustained pace for any duration.  So there should be an understanding that it is ok to drop into subgroups or it is OK to take off at any point of the run if the pace is too fast or too slow.  This is a group activity and not a competition, so egos and titles should be left back in the office.  

Second, as stated above, talk up the group.  Word of mouth is an important factor in the success of your group.  If people know your group as being fun and enjoyable, more people will join and providing other opportunities during the week.

Also, think about the route.  Working near the waterfront in San Francisco we have the benefit of being right on the Embarcadero, a long wide sidewalk without any intersections.  It is easy to run unhindered for at least 15 miles.  That said, a shorter run, maybe 4 or 5 miles will allow for about a 35 to 45 minute run to allow for changing if you have an hour lunch.  We also mix up the route, sometimes running towards Fisherman’s Wharf and the Marina, sometimes to AT&T Park, sometimes throwing in the piers.  Keeping the route ever changing will help keep boredom at bay.

Finally, one of the biggest issues for some about running at work, less joining your running group, is the lack of showers.  The short answer is showers are overrated…. really. But to get them past that thought, you might do your research on alternatives.  You can check out my post on Running with No Showers at work and my review of shower wipes as one solution.

So that’s about it.  Starting a running group at work is pretty simple if you apply just a little ingenuity.  However, you will definitely find rewards, both with your running but also with building a running culture at work.

Friday, January 3, 2014

I Climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in December!

I would have to say, for the most part, December training was some of the best training I have done in years!  I completed over 153 miles of running (I haven’t been over 100 miles in one month of running in 3 years) and that was with one week off for a flu/cold. I also climbed close to 20,000 feet, the most elevation I have climbed ever in one month!  That’s the equivalent of climbing Mount Kilimanjaro at 19,341 feet! 

I did have the benefit of taking a week and a half off for the holidays, and since we don’t participate in the festivities, it was pretty easy to wake up early with my wife and get the mileage in.  She also is training for the Way Too Cool 50K in March and is really working on building her base and endurance.

I will say, though my cycling during December was non-existent.   I normally put in between 150 to 250 commute miles per month; however, with the sub-arctic temperatures (in the 20’s and 30’s in the mornings – cold for this California boy) for most of the month, getting sick one week, and having the rest of the month off, well this means I will have to working back in this volume into my training in the short term.

So why all of the elevation gain when the first up race, the Surf City Marathon, is flat?  I am working on both strength an thinking in terms of the Way Too Cool 50K 5 weeks after and Diablo Challenge 50K in April.

This is the elevation profile of each race:

Surf City Marathon (February 2nd)

Way Too Cool 50K (March 8th)
Source: Way Too Cool 50K

Diablo Challenge 50K (April 19th)


To be honest, I was a bit afraid that with my focus on trail and steep hills that my pace would be affected for road running.  I have made some gains in the past couple of months, especially when taking advantage of the Wednesday group runs.  However,  I found that my road pace has continued to drop, with the most recent 7.7 mile road loop on the Ygnacio Valley Canal trail averaging 9:22. Take out the first mile “warm up” and the pace is 9:02.  Much better than the 9:47 that I had settled into.  So the trail running actually helped instead of hurt this time.

While I felt that I might have bit off more than I could chew with this schedule, it is looking more and more as if things are going to work out fine.  Let’s see how January goes.
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