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Saturday, May 18, 2013

Marathon Training with a Baby

Marathon training demands time. Lots of time! You need to find time to do your weekly mileage. You need time for speed work, tempo runs, cross-training, stretching and a large block of time on Sunday for a long-run. And you need also time to rest and recover. Your life changes pretty quickly when you have a new addition to your family.  This little bundle of joy quickly imposes a non-negotiable constrain on your discretionary time. You simply don’t have any. Your nights are interrupted. You go to bed in the evening hoping for six hours of sleep. You might get it, but in two three-hour blocks. You get up and go through your morning ritual making an extra-strong coffee for yourself and your partner who is even more tired and more sleep deprived. So, is it possible, or rather, how is it possible to reconcile this systemic fatigue and lack of time with the demands of marathon training? I pondered this quandary after Jasper was born in January. 

My solution: running to and from work! We live a block from a paved path along the canal that takes me to my office downtown. It’s a 5K run one way and by Friday evening this “commuting” contributes 50 kilometers to my weekly mileage. It’s a pretty decent volume. Once a week I drop by my gym after work and do a quick 10K interval workout on a treadmill. Saturday is my day off. It’s a day when Helen goes for her run and I look after Jasper. After five consecutive days of running my legs need to rest and get ready for a long run on Sunday. Long-run is a bread-and-butter of marathon training. You simply have to incorporate it into your schedule.  And it takes time because it’s “long”. Very often your significant other may have different plans for Sunday morning. Cuddling in bed. Going to church. Family walk in a park. All these are reasonable requests for spending quality time together. And you would love to partake, but deep down you know you should join your buddies at the local running club and be on the road.  It helps if your partner is a runner. A runner gets it. No need to have a “serious talk” explaining why subjecting yourself to exhaustion for several hours often in the freezing temperatures or pouring rain makes you a happier person. In either case, do something nice for your partner during the week to earn a pass. 

Sunday run takes me along the canal to the gym downtown. I do 75% of my planned long-run mileage at the race pace on a treadmill, sort of incorporating a tempo run into my long run routine. It's another solution to work around the scarcity of time. Running back home I often reflect on my training progress and how fortunate I am to get this time off from my parental duties. It is such a generous gift from Helen. Thanks Honey! Couldn't to it without your support.

Run Strong ... and if necessary incorporate running to work as part of your training!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Orange persuasion?

It was supposed be a quick trip to the local running store on Bank Street. In and out. I phoned in advance and asked to put aside a pair of Saucony Kinvara. I finally was able to find my size 13. Being on the outer edges of the Bell curve is often problematic. Many stores don't bother ordering too many small or large pairs. Instead they stack up the most popular sizes to maximize their shelf-space. Running to the store after work on Thursday evening I had some time to retrospect on my loyalty to Saucony.  Introduced in 2009, Kinvara offered flexibility, lightness and minimalist feeling of 4-mm heel to toe drop. They became an instant hit with runners inspired by "Born to Run" and bare foot running trend.  I ran Chicago Marathon in 2010 wearing a pair of white-and-red Kinvaras, did Eugene in luminescent-green, and wore black-and-yellow in New York. Each pair served me for hundreds of miles in training eventually ending up with a worn-out upper often fixed by duct tape. My loyalty to Saucony was strong ... at least that's what I thought when I walked into Sports 4 running store on Thursday evening.

My intended five-minute visit lasted an hour spent mostly trying a new pair of Brooks PureFlow. For years Brooks had reputation as maker of low-end shoes sold at Zellers or Sears.  However, the new "Pure" line is high-end. Designed with a help from one of my favorite runners, an ultra-marathoner  Scott Jurek.  Lightweight, responsive, snug but comfortable, with 3.5-mm drop and wide toe-box, these running shoes, I had to admit, represented a perfect product. Designed for runners by runners. Appealing with its innovation as well as with its color.  These particular pair was bright orange!  I know quite well that colors for a long time have been a secret weapon in the marketing arsenal of any consumer product company. Colors have strong meaning and influence us, consumers at the subconscious level. White means "innovation" as defined by Apple. Red "romance" like on Valentine's day, and pink makes us happier. That's why one of the NFL teams had the visitor's locker painted in pink to reduce the aggression of their opponents. Why am I falling for this marketing trick? I know quite well that this orange was chosen to sway me to buy the product?

Well ... this orange seems special. Reminds me of Orange Princess shown in Ottawa Tulip Festival this week when 20,000 tulip bulbs are sent every year from Holland to Canada as gift for our generosity and hospitality to Dutch Royal Family during the World War II. Or maybe it brings memories of the famous orange that Dutch national soccer team usually wears and truly amazing squad Holland had when Johan Cruyff and his team battled Franz Beckenbauer and West Germany for the championship back in 1974 World Cup .

Back to the running store. My rational brain is telling me to stick with what has worked for so many years. There is always a risk in changing shoes two weeks before a race and even bigger risk trying a new brand of runners. However, my inner voice, now fully influenced by brilliant marketing machine, tells me that those orange shoes are perfect. This neural association with Scott Jurek, Tulip Festival, Johan Cruyff, Franz Beckenbauer is simply too much to resist. It's time to "flow" with my new orange Brooks!

Run Strong ... and chose your colors wisely!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Any Given Sunday

It's Sunday morning. Helen and Jasper are upstairs still asleep. Bodum coffee in the kitchen is tasting great. Time to mentally get ready for a run. I can easily envision what's coming. Have done this routine many times in recent weeks. This is my last long run before tapering for Ottawa Marathon on May 26. Actually, it's a combination of a long and a tempo run done together due to limited time to train during the week. It involves running 3 miles along the canal to the gym. Then I take over one of the treadmills for a couple of hours. 1 mile warmup is followed by 5 miles at marathon race pace. Followed by a short break to re-hydrate.  My shirt is quickly soaked. Good time to change it. Flipping the channel from TSN to SportsNet also adds some variety. One third of the workout is done. Repeat. Repeat. Done. It's time to drink a jar of chocolate milk and slowly run back home carrying a backpack that feels heavy. I'm procrastinating this morning. Maybe it's because this is a lonely workout and I miss doing long runs with friends from Alma. I know my lower back will be protesting again. I can feel the weight and fatigue of several weeks of intensive trainig. A vision of "super" breakfast afterwards is somehow persuading my mind. A glass of wheat beer in the afternoon creates another positive association. I'm sold. Time to do it!

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Why runners should drink orange juice for breakfast?

Vitamin C not only keeps colds at bay. You’ll absorb three times as much iron from your cereal and toast if you switch from coffee to orange juice with breakfast.

As many endurance athletes I have been following typical high-carbs, low-fat runner’s diet that often includes little or no red meat. Only recently I learned that red meat contains type of iron that is better absorbed than iron from plant sources.  Women need about 15 milligrams and men require 10 milligrams of iron a day. Low iron intake may be responsible for iron-deficiency that can cause a reduction of a hemoglobin level.

What about these punishing intervals to increase VO2Max we do as part of marathon training? They increase blood volume that often can cause a decrease of hemoglobin concentration. Additionally, red blood cells break down as a result of impact when a foot hits the ground. "Foot-strike hemolysis" is potentially a problem for heavier marathoners who run high mileage on hard surface. Decrease in hemoglobin level impacts performance due to reduced ability of cardiovascular system to transport oxygen to the muscles.

My training log for New York Marathon in 2011 reminded me recently of my speed workouts at the pace I can't do today. My maximum heart rate is dropping only one beat per minute per year, but my ability to sustain speed has decreased disproportionately faster. Is it time to check the hemoglobin level, or maybe start eating red meat, or alternatively start drinking OJ for breakfast to shave off few precious minutes from the finish time?

Run strong ... and keep an eye on your iron!


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