Monday, February 28, 2011


The one word that teenagers, tipsy pilots, and runners don’t want to hear. I went in for my VO2Max re-test last week and walked out as a walker, not a runner at least temporarily…"grounded." The wrong diagnosis with the Boston Marathon a mere seven weeks away. While I was confident my heart rate zones have improved over the last nine months following the heart rate training approach, I felt I hadn’t quite got my groove or mojo yet for this Boston Marathon training session.

My VO2Max appointment was with Dr. Inigo San Millan at the University of Colorado Sports Medicine athletic lab. Inigo, a Phd has many credentials including work with Team Garmin. I ask the same question you are probably asking, “why am I in this guys office,” or “I’m in way over my head” as I scan the dude's office walls with autographs from Colorado's elites. The cool thing is that historically, access to such talent is limited to elite athletes, but CU has opened it up to everyday guys like me. This was scheduled to be the follow-up to my first VO2Max study done last May (’10.)

I explained my race calendar (four races in ten months) culminating in Portland this last October. A perplexing (Portland) performance in that I monitored my heart rate during the race which seemed in check (thus my lactate wasn’t going berserk,) so why did I hit the wall so hard so early? (see the above video clip of Portland.) In terms of my current Boston training plan I “chalked up” my lackluster performance to mild injuries at the onset of my sixteen week program. How can my heart rate be low yet I have low energy? I got my answer two paragraphs below.

Be careful of the questions you ask as you may not like the answers. Despite being “amped up” to get on the treadmill and hook up the computer, air mask and tubes, I went with the Dr.’s advice to skip the test and get athletic performance bloodwork done instead. The Dr. explained (far better than I could) that when overtrained, muscles can effectively get trashed (as they often do after an all out effort in a marathon.) Healthy muscles look (as in the image on the left*) as they should under a microscope resembling a basket weave or Life cereal. Healthy muscles can retain the all important fuel for an endurance athlete; Glycogen. Trashed muscles on the other hand look like trashed concrete unable to retain the Glycogen. As Inigo so deftly described it, it’s like trying to hold water in your hands.

The Dr. explained the results, “As suspected, you have muscle damage that for sure is interfering with performance and proper recovery. I am glad that we saw this as it is feasible that this muscle damage was higher last year. Not an issue for your health but definitely an issue for your athletic performance. Also your hemoglobin and hematocrit, although not anemic for sure are a bit low for a male who lives here in Colorado, so this could also impact your oxygen carrying capacity.”

The good news is that he’s suggesting only a layoff of 7-10 days from my all out regiment to give my body the time to repair and resume training. This I presume is that my body reacts positively to the break. I am not an expert, but I’m smart enough to work with many that are. I’ve used the phrase, “listen to your body” before and now I have to listen to my own advice. This last weekend was the first in months that didn’t involve a long run. Part of my solace is that I’ve had a couple running buddies who had to rest in the middle of a training program due to injury only to perform well on race day. I'm trying to think of it as a much needed rest before I enter the last trimester of training. Happy thoughts, happy thoughts...

Footnote to the story: After a visit to my chiropractor today, he reminded me that many things in life can contribute to your ability to defend and repair against marathon muscle damage including diet, rest, and stress. The later went off like a light bulb as I've had much to deal with in life outside running in the last year and a half. More Deepak before bed! Happy thoughts, happy thoughts...

* Source: The Physiology Society

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Target (Store) Heart Rate

Sometimes you have to improvise as a runner in training--especially training in Colorado, or many other states that have endured a long brutal weather winter. Such was the case this last "Track Work Tuesday." During the speed phase of my marathon training plans I have a combination of tempo runs and track work. Tuesday's prescription called for six by 800's (or six half mile repeats with a "recovery" period of 200+ meters between them.) Having started a new job recently and being quite busy with life outside running, careful planning has to go into each run. "Can I squeeze it in over lunch, can I do it in the evening, or am I getting up early to knock it out before my day begins" are questions that run through my head almost nightly as I plan my runs.

Two weeks ago I was on the road, but I packed all my running gear and planned on doing 800's outdoors in sunny California while the snow was flying and temps were dropping in Denver. Everything went according to plan as I was hoping to run outdoors with my Garmin 110. I strapped on the Garmin, and turned it on to start seeking out the satellite and discovered a dead battery...argh...I could have run naked without it, but I wanted the deterministic time/pace/mileage measurement so I ran it on the dreadmill. Curses...

No dreadmill hate mail thank you.

I've done a number of tempo training runs (and hill runs) this session, but I was looking forward to running my 800's on the track before work to work on my fast twitch. The weather forecast called for warm weather on Tuesday so I headed out the door early that morning in shorts, my new Brooks Racer ST 5 shoes, Zensah compression leg sleeves and charged Garmin (wasn't going to make that mistake again.) I pulled into the nearby High School parking lot an hour before students would start filing into the parking lot a bit groggy and discovered while the last five days of sun melted the streets and many sidewalks, the track was covered in ice. A quick assessment determined, "no f'ing way" am I running on this.

My improvisation DNA kicked in and I scanned the mental list of nearby three mile routes I could use for the 6 x 800 work. I had to get it in as work was waiting for me in an hour. Lunch hour and after work weren't gonna work. Too many options were too hilly and I wasn't in the mood for hill speed. I parked at the nearby Target parking lot and figured it was reasonably flat heading West. I put in around an 8/10 of a mile warm-up and realized the large block in which Target sat was flatter than the route I attended so I decided to do Target lot six by 800's. Wearing my heart rate monitor strap, I guess more appropriately, "Target" Heart rate speed work. Badump, badump.."

Dumb luck measured the awkward oval at around 3/4 mile so I could run an 800 interval and a (roughly) 200 meter recovery loop with my car and water bottle as the starting point each time around. As they say in the Guinness commercial, "Genius!" I only wish I'd thought of it myself. The comical part was the odd look at the maintenance guy power washing the sidewalks before suburbia woke up to buy their Target goods along with the Starbucks barista showing up for work (you know you run early when you beat the barista to work.) After posting on DailyMile, the comments were equally amusing, "was the parking lot really 800 meters?" No, but damn close--it was half parking lot and half "ass end" of target running behind the store. Not glamorous scenery, but effective.

The week ended with more improv as some dumbass had his Blackberry alarm go off for 10 minutes in the hotel room next door to me this morning which completely whacked my dream cycle and any plans of getting up early to run my planned six miler. In my groggy stupor, I opt'ed for the extra sleep (as I was tired) and work before my morning meeting. Lunch was "out of the question" as I had a client lunch then off to the airport. Plan "C" was a run when I got home to Denver...after a day in Little Rock, the dumbass with the Blackberry, client meeting and lunch, flight home, and six miler. Whew!

Tomorrow? Rest day Friday thank goodness.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Looking Good, Feeling Good

There's a classic line from the Eddie Murphy '80's classic, "Looking good Billy Ray, Feeling good Louis." You can either deduce that I'm an older runner or I watch a lot of Hulu pulling that (line) from my bag. Today the customized Saucony jackets arrived with my local running group; Runner's Edge of the Rockies. The running hoodie was adorned with the local running store, Runner's Roost and Runner's Edge of the Rockies logo stitched on the jacket. (Picture off to the left...note that self portraits are tough to catch anything other than my head and it tends to add ten pounds to my image.)

There's a certain air of confidence you get with certain running gear; a shirt, favorite pair of shorts, or shoes. Is it me, or do you run just a bit faster when you lace up a new pair of shoes?
After a recovery week and a short long run of ten miles today, I returned to Runner's Roost where the store was offering 25%-50% discounts on shoes and running apparel. If running is my addiction, you can imagine what a running store does to me. Whatever your passion is, the store that caters to that passion is a treasure trove for your hobby (or is it Pandora's box?) My regular running shoes are approaching 400 miles and due for the donation bin and I have been shopping for a new track (speedwork) and race day shoe.

The knowledgable team in the store saw me staring at the wall of shoes with my new jacket already in hand and knew I wouldn't leave the store without a purchase. They were correct. The lucky lady was a pair of Brooks Racer ST 5's. Don't tell Asics who I've been extremely faithful to that I've taken on a new mistress.

The ST 5 got "high marks" from two of the elite runners who were helping me out with the purchase. What I was looking for was a track and speedwork shoe since my Tuesday speed sessions are now picking up and I will ramp up to 10 x 800's as I approach taper for the Boston Marathon. The new mistress shoe should be light yet have heel cushion (for my Portland Marathon heel hangover) and some "posting" for my pronation issue. Once I slipped in my new custom orthotics and jogged around the store, I knew that was my next shoe. We have a match!

I certainly didn't pick out the Brooks for the color or style as they sport a Boise State or Florida State orange and blue color scheme.
I'll wean myself onto the new shoe, and if I decide to run in them on race day, the question is "what the hell do I wear that won't make me look like a crayola box?" I guess I'll go Tim Tebow style if that's the case--Gator style. I escaped the store without too much damage, but picked up a pair of Zensah compression calf sleeves, and some Hammer product to try out on next weekend's 22 miler (Gel Paks and Endurolyte pills.) The only good news was that two shirts I wanted didn't have my size. I joked in line that I hide my stuff in the trunk of my car or reply, "no, I've had this for awhile" when my wife ask's "is that new?" I'm such a running apparel, supplement and accessory slut. I cave way too easily.

I reflected tonight about my early sales career when I'd read the book "Dress for Success" and explained to my (late) Grandma Lela that if there were two salespeople in that day, the one that looked like he's sold something before is more likely to get the deal than the one who looks like he can't afford a suit. My Grandma replied, "well that's not exactly fair if the other guy couldn't afford it?!" I gotta admit, I spring for a new singlet for each race and make sure I have enough miles (except for my rookie mistake in Portland) on my new shoes for each big marathon.
Don't hate the player, hate the game. I need every advantage I can.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Ice, Ice, Baby

This is an ironic running tip. While much of the (U.S.) running country is covered in snow and ice, this blog tip takes advantage of the frozen tundra by-product. I have to admit that I'm a bit of a wimp when it comes to recovering from a long run...I often seek coffee instead of a more healthy recovery drink and far prefer jumping into a hot bath (spiked with Epsom salts) vs. doing the polar bear plunge. Like many things in running, I know that ice is recommended over heat for recovery and injury. For injury, there's the adage of R-I-C-E; rest, ice, compression and elevation. You can add a fourth ("S") if you have a chiropractor/therapist or home version of "stim" or stimulation--I do both.

With nine weeks and 272 Boston training miles under my belt, my body was "barking" after last Saturday's 20 mile run and a somewhat aggressive tempo run yesterday (see them on my DailyMile profile.) After the eight miler, I spent the rest of the day sporting my Skins compression tights to help with the recovery. Aside from the run stress on the body, I am also dealing with the bursitis in my left heel and some reoccurrence of some muscle issues in my stress fracture area of my lower left leg. I checked out both with my running PT and a podiatrist before I got into the full swing of training (see "Turn your Head and Cough" blog.) I tweeted in the afternoon that my hot tub was calling my name to calm all the negative action in my left leg. A fellow running tweet mate, @LWong76 reminded me to "ice bath first" so I set out to ice down that bad boy last night.

At my last running PT session, I'd remembered a tip my PT passed along which was to start with cold water (not ice water,) and add ice to bring it down to the right therapeutic temperature. I put a kitchen bag into a rubbermaid garbage can and filled it with cold tap water to just below the knee (see the video in the embedded Vimeo clip.) I took advantage of Mother Nature's white stuff and filled a kitchen pot full of Colorado snow and ice from my courtyard. As the recipe called for, I scooped in the white mixture and before I knew it, I had a leg slushy which was wicked cold, but I was comfortably able to handle it. I soaked for several minutes and decided to remove my leg when my skin was tingling and beet red.

Today, I have my leg wrapped in my McDavid compression wrap and things feel much better. Today is a recovery/cross training day so I will likely get some cardio on the bike or eliptical. Nine weeks down, and nine weeks to go for Boston. I see more leg slushies in my immediate future.

About Me

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Average guy w/ an above average appetite for marathon racing and triathlons. Ran my 5th Boston in '15. 3:21, 1:29, 19:21 PR;full/half/5K Opinions & wit are mine