Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Counting Sheep: Runner's Guide to Good Sleep

There's a misnomer about runners and running. Training for a single marathon averages 500-600 training miles. Most people think;

"You must be in great shape!" (For the most part, I'd say this is true.)
"You must have insane energy!" (This is where we start to differ on the topic.)

I was going to say that after running 500 miles, the last thing you want to do is do it again, but that's not true either. We go straight back to the next race (sometimes with a brief break,) but we're all "right back on that horse" logging tons of miles and pushing our body's limits. Just like Forrest--we get TIRED from all that running.

Back to what we can all agree on, to perform at a high level, or even "get through" a marathon training plan, there are three+ fundamental aspects to training;

1) The training plan itself. Do not deviate (unless due to injury or illness, or unforeseen circumstances.)
2) Nutrition. Runners vary widely on this. Elites do not. Their bodies are their temples and they watch their nutrition very closely. I've had to work on this one myself.
3) REST. Nearly all training plans have a rest day (or cross-training or slow-paced days,) but for the average runner (including myself,) you need to "re-charge" the battery. This not only means taking the occassional day off from training, but it also means, get some good sleep!
3)+ I won't elaborate here, but I'd also add strength and stretch routines is the third "pillar" of a strong marathon training plan.

Back to the sleep piece, we have ALL had training runs where we simply "did not have it" that day. With life, work, family and other interupts, it's impossible not to have these type of days, but one thing that's within your control is "banking" sleep to "re-charge" that battery.

Research shows that "most of us" get an average of seven to nine hours of sleep in a night. Pro athletes? They can log ten to twelve hours of sleep in a night. I suspect that's a combination of "recharging" but also--they're TIRED! I'm not an elite athlete, but like many marathon runners, we've all had that Sunday afternoon where we completely "crash" on the couch from being exhausted after the long run that morning.

I should add the 3++ aspect to training and that's "listen to your body!" If you are tired, you need rest.

Casper is an innovator in the mattress, sheets, and pillow market that decided that "grandma's" old box spring and heavy mattress needed an overhaul. With a complete line of products including their uniquely designed mattress they are also promoting "Sleep Like a Champion: Sleep Tips for Athletes." No pun intended (some are eye openers, and others are common sense."

I will add two bonus tips to the above infographic and those are sleep tips prior to a race. One is that the first year I ran the Boston Marathon, I watched the video of the course in the John Hancock booth which gave me "goosebumps" but one thing that stood out from the many experts talking about Boston is that the most important night of sleep is not the night before (you're a bundle of nerves and won't sleep a lot anyway,) but two nights before. Plan to get a full night's sleep two nights before a marathon and you will be much fresher on race day.

The second and last bit of sleep advice was from Meb Keflezighi's book "Meb For Mortals (reviewed HERE.) Meb also acknowledges that the night before a race is tough to completely "zonk out" the entire night. He has some of his early morning race fuel by his bedstand--no point in tossing and turning without benefit. He starts fueling, then tries to get back to sleep.

What sleep tips do you have or have been successful in your training?

Friday, January 20, 2017

Strike Ten: At a Running Crossroads

This is starting to get old, or perhaps I am.

I started my improbable run journey at the age of thirty nine. I never ran in high school, or any level for that matter. In Jr. High, I was diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondylitis which isn't the "card you want to pull out of the deck" as a runner of any distance. I've largely ignored the arthritis and grown to love the sport of running and triathlons. Perhaps too much. One year I ran four marathons in over sixteen months (I realize there are twelve months in a year.)
Contemplating my run future

I have defied the odds and have done pretty well. 2013 was my "defining year" running in my third (of eventually five) Boston Marathons. I broke twenty minutes in a 5k, and qualified for the New York City Marathon with a 1:29 half marathon that same year. 2014 is perhaps when the "wheels started to come off." I crashed (hard) in the Rocky Mountain State Games triathlon that summer and nearly died in the hospital (HERE.) I recovered, and added to the list of my injuries over the years which include;

Stress Fracture of the tibia
Torn Hip Labrum
Femoral Acetabular Impingement
Broken Ribs
Separated Shoulder
Torn Shoulder Labrum
Skin Cancer
Stress Fracture
Fracture 5th Metatarsal

Each time, I was stubborn and determined so get back to the sports that seemed to define much of who I am. The good news was that each injury had either a recovery period or a physical therapy routine that I attacked as vigorously as I attack my sport. Each time I bounced back. In 2016, I dealt with two foot fractures and once again rebounded to start training for the New York City Marathon. A month prior, I had likely the funnest destination race weekend I've ever had at the Runner's World Half Marathon and Festival in their home town of Bethlehem, PA. I was an ambassador for Runner's World at the race and everything seemed to be going well including a podium in my age group in the half marathon. Somewhere towards the end of the half, my knee felt a little "wonky." Something I've never had on my list of maladies are knee problems. It didn't hurt and I dismissed it no doubt numbed by beer, the fun, and the elation of winning at such a prestigious race.

A couple of weeks after the RW Half, I had my last long run before New York City. I was on the road in Seattle and planned an extra day to get in my run on the waterfront. Once again, my knee felt odd, but went from wonky to uncomfortable towards the end of the run. The following day, my knee swelled up and I feared that perhaps I "tore something." "Oh god, not again," I thought, would injury "bounce me" for the second year in a row from the New York City Marathon. Before New York, I had another personal trip to San Diego to finally meet my run buddy Liam. I limped up to meet him and iced my knee all weekend before booking (yet another) visit to my ortho at Steadman Hawkins in Denver.
Finishing strong at RW Half--1st effects of sore right knee

The good news was there was no tear. The other good news was he said I could run New York. Whew! The bad news was there was a look of concern that seemed greater than normal and he shared that I had deterioration of the cartilage in my right knee (Osteorarthritis.) There was also a bonus of a bone spur. Dr. Jeremy is a runner himself and knows how much I love the sport, but for the first time, he asked me if I'd consider cycling instead of running. (Perhaps he forgot about the Rocky Mountain State Games.) I slightly discounted the conversation except for the fact that he said I could race NYC. At that point, I was in "taper mode" and ran very little the couple of weeks prior to my third world major. Two days before New York City, I felt "ready" as I logged my last short run in D.C. en route to the race. I had a contingency plan (to simply head home vs heading to New York) as the weekend before, I was unsure if my knee could handle 26.2 miles.

Instead of flying home from D.C., I went on to complete my fourteenth marathon (race recap HERE.) It wasn't pretty, but it was beautiful. Not pretty in that my knee was surrounded by KT Tape, yet beautiful in that, I loved the race, I loved the experience, and I was jubilant. Other than the fact that I pulled up like a gimp horse in Central Park around mile 24 with a hamstring. No doubt due to all the tension in my entire right leg. Once again, my knee was sore afterwards, but the medal and being able to finally wear the finishers jacket overshadowed any pain I felt.

From there, I took time off to rest my body thinking that this would somehow go away. I've slowly added some miles in the last few weeks and felt an itch to wear a bib again so I raced a 10K this last weekend. Ironically, this was my first 10K ever...yeah, I know. Hard to believe. I've raced over sixty times and this was my first 10K. I wore my KT Tape and added a Zensah knee brace. Once the gun went off, adrenaline "kicked in" and I raced (not ran) 6.2 miles. I sensed that the really fast guys weren't out there this morning, and with an "out and back" course, I could see who was ahead of me and who was behind me--dude behind me was a "heavy breather" and never caught me. Ha! Take that!

Once again, I had the same combination; jubilation and sore and swollen knee. Shit! (at least on the second part.) Jubilation in that I came in third overall in the race and first in my age group. The swollen knee was once again a concern. I've been googling the topic and it aligned with my Doctor's prognosis. It's not great. You can heal a bone, or use physical therapy to heal many things, but you can't grow back cartilage.
Pulling up "gimp" at NYC Marathon

I've tried to be an inspiration to others in the sport of run racing and triathlons. I had an inspiring conversation with a young boy who was all of ten or eleven years old on Sunday at the race. He was looking at the race directors race results printout taped to the plywood sandwich board next to the coffee trailer. The young lad found his name, but wasn't sure what he was looking at. I helped him discover that he too came in first in his age group. I literally patted him on the back, and congratulated him, "you came in first!," I told him. His smile looked familiar as it looked like mine minus a few wrinkles. I'm hoping this will inspire the young lad to take on the sport and embrace it as I have.

I'm not sure why I share his story other than it is diametrically opposed to my situation. I'm starting to think for the first time that I have to think about what I'm doing to my body and how I want to live out the rest of my life. I'm not ready to give up sports, but I have to start thinking differently about it. Perhaps that means shorter races and a heavier focus on triathlons. Tactically, it definitely means running fewer times a week and alternating with swim and bike which isn't such a bad thing. I'm a big fan of Altra shoes, but also the Hoka One One Cliftons. The later has a much cushier (is that a word?) than other running shoes. Running on natural running paths versus road running will also have to happen.
My last race and 1st 10k

Lastly, I may have to rethink marathons. I may have to be content with accomplishing five Boston Marathons and "tacking on" the accomplishment of running Chicago and New York City. I'm holding out hope that perhaps I can find a way to complete the World Majors, but it will perhaps be running them versus racing them, but even that seems unlikely today with my knee unable to manage six miles. I also need to realize that perhaps I'm being selfish as there are some that would do anything to run Boston just once. I have an online run friend (Gelcys from Runner Unleashed) who has a brain tumor and scoliosis; yet she always has a smile and a positive attitude every day. My knee seems trivial compared to the battles she wakes up to each day. I also want to be able to bend over and pick up a grandchild when that day comes (hopefully, not until my kids graduate.)

Right now my emotions are all over the map (kinda like this post.) I fluctuate between reflection, resolve and depression. It's tough to process. Once again, thank you for reading and hearing me rant. As usual, I will find a way to pick myself up again and lace my run shoes. If anyone has dealt with similar knee issues, I'd love to hear from you. Post comments below or email me: ty@seekingbostonmarathon.com. I (k)nee(d) the support.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Patriots Day Movie: Reflecting on Running Boston That Day

My interview with Josh Cox two days prior on Boylston
I was in New York City over Thanksgiving and decided to take in a movie to rest from all the holiday hustle and bustle. As I nestled into my seat with my buttered popcorn and Hot Tamales, the theatre went dark. I always arrive early to the cinema to catch the previews. One of my favorite actors, Mark Wahlberg, lit the screen and I inched forward in my seat to see what movie was coming out that I'd certainly see. He was wearing a police uniform, but then a more familiar scene presented itself. He was a Boston cop and the movie was Patriots Day; the movie about the Boston Marathon bombing.

My heart skipped a beat and there may have been an audible gasp. My son looked over at me wondering what my reaction might be and uncharacteristically, touched my arm. All the emotions of April 15, 2013
started to flood my senses. I had heard they were making a movie about the bombing tragedy, but the preview caught me completely off guard. The brief clips were quite familiar; particularly the Boylston finish line flags that were the backdrop to the best marathon performance I'd ever had. My body had no injuries, and my professional coach had me in the best race condition in my life for the race that day.

The movie preview (and subsequent previews) I've seen on T.V. bring back a number of memories.

When I returned home from Boston to Denver after the bombing, my wife and I had a delayed reaction realizing how close I'd come to a horrible situation. I was more concerned about my wife as a spectator on the sidewalks that day versus myself. We coped with feelings of mortality and what could have happened. I've had many people ask me to recall my story from that day in fascination; what happened, and where was I when the blasts went off. My still vivid recollection from that day;

The finish line of the 2013 Boston Marathon
Within a mile of the finish, I went under a viaduct looking for friends who were supposed to be there cheering us on. I saw Bart Yasso (from Runner's World Magazine) and yelled out his name (we'd met once before...among the hundreds, or thousands of runners he's met) thinking he'd yell out encouragement in my name. He did, and it gave me extra energy (the best energy I've had in a marathon after mile twenty.) I rounded Hereford onto Boylston, and my gait and posture was strong. My race day photos would later show a runner who looked like he was at mile thirteen, not mile 26.

I ran past the Starbucks where I was earlier in the weekend and was the location of backpack number two. I looked for my wife as this was the spot she'd watched me from along the mailbox right across the streeet in my previous Boston Marathons.

Along Boylston, I kicked into "high gear" on my sprint to the finish, I saw the finish line flags which were so prominent in all the video that would come out in the coming days. I passed Marathon Sports where I bought "last minute" gels the day before and passed the plastic M&M character on the sidewalk that would also be a victim in the first blast.

After the race, I was to meet my wife then head over to nearby Loews Hotel to meet other runners I'd trained with. Just as we exchanged a sweaty kiss and hug in the reunion area, we heard a sound I will never forget. As I explained many times to those that have asked (I don't mind talking about it,) it sounded like an alley dumpster had been dropped off a roof...and not from the second floor. It was loud.

It was odd as everyone looked around briefly, wondering, "what was that?" Moments later, we'd hear a second similar noise but slightly muffled. That would make sense as it was further from the finish line in front of that Starbucks. Again, no one really paid any notice to the noise and everyone went about their reunions. Growing up in suburbia USA, I'd never heard a bomb go off before. The closest I'd come to that were the M80 illegal firecrackers we set off in the cul de sac in my childhood neighborhood

Quickly dismissing the sound as perhaps an electrical transformer that blew, we walked another short block to the hotel and reunited with my much faster friends. Everyone was in full celebration with lots of cold beer flowing when others started to straggle into the bar with cryptic reports of what happened. All eyes turned to the T.V. and jubilation turned into horror as coverage began to tell the story of what had happened. I was numb but soon realized I'd better let loved ones who were following the race online know that I was okay. Phone lines were either intentionally "jammed" or congested beyond operation. I could not get a hold of anyone. Back home, my daughter was a senior in high school, and one of her best friends approached her in the hallway at school asking her if her dad was okay. "Why?, she later told me. "There was a bomb at the Boston Marathon." She knew her dad was there...no doubt she advertised in pride to many of her friends that day.
News coverage unfolding in the hotel bar

My daughter would tell me later she was pissed I didn't get ahold of her first but rather her "aunt Kim" who's the un-official family newswire. Our update finally went out over Facebook and would later see a flood of friends and family comment and thank God we weren't injured (or worse.)

My theory was that the culprit(s) had certainly had an escape plan. I envisioned, a walk, a bike ride, a subway, then train perhaps up to Canada then who knows where. It didn't feel like and would later learn it was not domestic terrorism. These were bad guys who hated America and decided that the Boston Marathon was "mom and apple pie" and would crush the infidels. They'd later learn (as Wahlberg quotes in the movie,) they messed with the wrong city.

The race euphoria disappeared and we decided we wanted to get back to the solace of our Beacon Hill home we'd rented. A reporter stopped to interview me still in my Boston Marathon finisher's jacket. I don't know who she was, nor did I see what channel she was from. Once in the Beacon Hill condo, I showered and the effects of the day started to settle in. Throughout the night, we heard helicopters. We were graciously offered to stay an extra day as I canceled my business plans for that week in Boston. The day after, we walked the city and saw that the Boston Commons had turned into a militarized zone in stark contrast to the revelry the day before where runners boarded the buses there to start their "once-in-a-lifetime" event.

We left Boston before the following weekend's events unfolded with the eventual capture of the "bad guys." It was unnerving to think they hadn't fled the city as I theorized. They partied and caused more carnage before one died and the other was captured in a tarped boat in a quiet neighborhood backyard. I honestly felt a bit numb the weeks following the marathon. I returned a month later for that business trip that was postponed and went back to the finish line area to see all the memorials that took over Boylston. It infuriated me when Rolling Stone Magazine featured one of the culprits on the cover. I threatened to boycott my local coffee shop and book store when I saw the cover. F*ck him.

Returning to Boston the next month
All of those emotions slowly faded as life went back to normal and I returned to Boston the following year (2014) with heightened security and throngs of "Boston Strong" statements. I had no fear in returning. I felt it was a statement that their cowardly acts took lives and ruined parents dreams, but it made the city stronger and wouldn't impact my life. Marathon runners are known for endurance and resilience and Boston is a notoriously tough and proud city. What were they thinking? I think Wahlberg has it right. They messed with the wrong city.

That brings me back to the opening of the movie. I have mixed emotions about going, but I know I will go see it. My mom grew up going to the theatre when tickets were a nickle. She would take us to movies growing up and became part of my life as I take my wife and kids to movies and we debate with my boys about Wahlberg's movies. My son Jesse doesn't like his voice...or is that Matt Damon? We watch the Oscars and Golden Globes and bet on who will win. Yes, movies are part of the American fabric and my life. They can't take those liberties away from us.

Did you run Boston in 2013? Do you plan to see the movie regardless of whether you ran it or not?

About Me

My photo

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