Saturday, June 29, 2013

Core exercises, planks and running

Admit it, runners, you hate most exercises that do not actually involve running. When you have to choose between running and every other type of movement, you usually let running win. Stretching, maybe you do a little bit, an afterthought -- more precaution than preoccupation. And yoga? You're either intimidated or couldn't be bothered to find the time.

(I fully realize many among you are well rounded athletes -- yes, you are better people than the rest of us. Let us wallow in your awesomeness!)

Hard cores. Working on mine. (Photo: Island Vittles/Flickr)

I fit neatly into the category of exclusive runner for years, easy. Most of my running career has been focused on pure running. I reasoned that if I were to pour six to eight hours a week in training, might as well hit the roads than to 'waste' time on other activities. I know now I'm pretty pig headed in that approach, so I've decided to fix it as I ramp up the training this summer.

Don't get me wrong, in those early years, I got relatively fast -- even qualified for Boston -- based on quality training. Back in 2008 and 2009, when I was doing that training, I was incorporating more strength training on the side.

The conventional (and tested) wisdom was that if you are extremely limited for time, and you want to run fast, you can't ignore that actually running -- fast, hard, long, with recovery -- is your ticket to faster marathon times.

True, but to a point. All the running experts agree that a strong core, flexibility and strength training can extend your performance, and I agree.

Problem is how can you get that extra exercises without adding hours and hours to your weekly training schedule. I've seen countless two-page spreads in Runner's World, or entire sections of my various training books. So complicated.

A strong core -- which includes strengthening your abdominals, hip, lower back and butt -- can go a long way to fix a lot of imbalances as your core is the trunk that your motors (legs) rely on as you push on as an endurance athlete.

Core training, write Pete Pfitzinger and Scott Douglas in Advanced Marathoning, "can eliminate .. imbalances, thereby preventing injuries and reducing the degree to which your form deteriorates as you fatigue during the marathon." Weak abs, they say, allow the pelvis to rotate forward, more stretch on hamstrings which decreases stride length. It may not hit you in a short race, but over a marathon, weak form and imbalances can cause your body to start to break down.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

The view

Today, I started my run in the middle of the city, waiting for the GPS to catch a signal while commuters around me were grabbing a street car. Soon, I joined the waterfront trail, winding my way through lonely car-free paths only to end up finding my way back to the core. In one hour and 10 minutes, I'd traversed 14 kilometres, all the while cars, cyclists and public transit vehicles streamed to their destinations, always in a hurry.

Something about moving on foot at speed. Something different about feeling the sidewalk glide by, about anticipating the rises and falls of elevation when you crest that bridge, or beat the streetlight as it blinks yellow, racing against a streetcar that's forced to stall every minute or so.

My favourite part of running the streets come at moments when you're catching your breath. I don't bounce at intersections, i'm usually gasping for air, enjoying the oxygen-regaining rest. Sometimes it's good to stop. If not just to admire the view.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

When running has to hurt a little

"Final sale, then," she said as I asked her to ditch the shoe boxes as I slipped a half year's supply of Asics into my canvas bag. "Looks like you've done this before."

I nodded. I took two pairs of Asics GT-1000s to the counter at the sports store yesterday, taking advantage of a buy one, get 50 per cent off the next. I'd need the discount and it was assured I'd blow by them -- 500 miles or so each -- by the time the year was 2014.

I was chatting with a co-worker the other day, telling her how I despised the gym, something about the unfit me of a decade ago felt overwhelmed by the ultra fit. My gym are the roads and my living room floor, my treadmill the miles of waterfront trails that stretch for some eight miles in each direction, with nary a stop light.

This morning, I logged my long run, putting me at 1,006 miles or some 1,600 kilometres for the year. At this pace, I'm set to blow away mileage from the past few years (1,400 miles in 2012, 1,700 in 2011, 1,877 in 2010). 

As I've written before, 2013 is my comeback year. After a stellar 2009 race season, I had two choices: Go farther and faster, or take in the long view, focusing on working at being a lifetime runner after working so hard to get that BQ. So in the past three years, the hard training had been replaced with consistent freestyling training. Haven't stopped running marathons, but I haven't been pushing.

This year, I've realized what I've been missing in those years, and when the bombs hit Boylston, I realized I wanted to again go farther and faster -- if not to get back to the form I know I can get back, but as an impetus to regain all the great things advanced training can get you.

For one thing, I'm eating better, focusing on eating like an athlete (more on that later). I'm bringing back core and upper body work. I'm starting to pound out the miles -- tempos are back, as are striders and these marathon-paced runs. Track work is on the horizon.

Truth this, this is a little hard. I need to get more sleep, I need to focus on eating and hydrating, and I need to nail these runs.

Last night, I was exhausted, and in bed by 9:30 p.m. I woke up at 6:30 a.m. and was out there for a half marathon distance, with 8 miles (13K) at pace. My quality pace: 4:52, 4:52, 4:42, 4:44, 4:41, 4:37, 4:39, 4:36, 4:44, 4:35, 4:34, 4:34, 4:31, 4:35, 4:35, 4:29, 4:42, 4:22, 4:19.

So I ran a trainer half marathon in 1:38:35. Pretty mind blowing, right? Getting back to where I was? Not quite yet.
Two weeks ago, I botched up a four mile tempo run, couldn't quite keep up 4:25 kilometre pace. I sucked it up and went out again the next day, nailing the run -- even having run 19 miles in two days. Last week, I did the first 10x100 striders I've done since the summer of 2009. All that, yes, it hurt, just a little. But in the way that's so good.

Heat is coming but the game face is on. Now that 1,000 miles are down, it's really time to get the work done.

Monday, June 10, 2013

2013 fall marathon training - 18 week, 55 mile Pfitzinger-Douglas

Training begins today for my fall marathoning season. I'm using the Pfitzinger-Douglas Advanced Marathoning 18-week program, peaking at 55 miles, though I'll probably add a few miles here and there for recovery.

LT runs are lactate threshold, or tempo, runs, done at 15K to half marathon pace MP runs are marathon pace runs. 10x100 are typically striders, controlled 'sprints' to work on leg turnover Trackwork (5x600, etc) are at 5K race pace and happen later in the program

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Every day is running day

Today I woke up to my social feeds announcing it was #nationalrunningday, a day to celebrate running in the United States. When I looked a little deeper into who was putting the day together, I saw that the day has the support of a lot of the major running bodies -- the marathon majors, Running USA and the Oregon Track Club, among others.

I thought about the need for a running day this afternoon, when a running buddy and I met for a run (8 miler for me). It was our usual Wednesday catchup run, where the pace slows enough to chat about what we've been up to since the last time we went for a run, about how our prep for the Chicago Marathon would begin in earnest in a few days.

As we met, he handed me a souvenir, a wristband for Boston he picked up in New York last weekend, the proceeds go to The One Fund.

Run Now wristband

These wristbands, like those famous yellow ones in the past, are a signal to others, and made me remember that we are running's best ambassadors.

Sunday, June 02, 2013

Longing to stray

I was looking to lock it down -- the calendar was set -- and commit to another summer of training for marathon season. It's looking like it's going to be a lot of work to get back to where I was a few years ago, but I'm looking forward to it. In any case, the plan was Chicago Marathon on Thanksgiving weekend as the goal race, then follow it up with Scotiabank a week later as a fun run, then maybe do my seventh MCM two weeks later.

Um, yeah.. about those plans. They've been interrupted in the best possible way, a detour that will take me through five boroughs of the Big Apple in November, the 2013 New York City Marathon!

In 2010, I took a massive victory lap after getting my BQ, running five marathons mostly for fun, including my first Boston Marathon. That fall, I capped it off with three marathons in four weeks, ending with a memorable New York City Marathon.

The experience was so amazing that soon after I ran the NYC Marathon, I found myself filling out the application, reentering the lottery. I knew the odds were not in my favour but I figured why not keep on trying. The race was phasing out the "three strikes and you're in" rule, but I had luckily snuck in. So I didn't get in in 2011, or last year, so I figured this year I'd get my third strike for a 2014 NYC.

Maybe my lucky charm was tweeting at race director Mary Wittenberg this past Wednesday right before they held the lottery, where they would select 4,500 out of 33,000 applications, or a pretty good 14 per cent chance.

Then this.