Thursday, December 29, 2011

Winter Running Tips - Revisited

Chicago has had a fantastic start to winter.  (If you don't like snow and cold temps.)  It was icy in this 'hood this morning and I thought to post some tips on cold weather running. 

This is February in San Diego.

This is February in my area of Chicago.


"If Chicago had weather like San Diego there would be 40 million people living here."  True, but we don't have that kind of weather in Chicago.  Unless you bounce between San Diego and Chicago, well, you better learn to dress for the cold.  Running outside in Chicago isn't as horrible as many would have you believe.  No need to retreat for the "dreadmill" unless you are doing a specific session.  Running in this cold actually lends to several advantages.

Cold doesn't seem to bother these Chicago area runners.

Deal with the Cold
Tony Robbins teaches about starting with your mental state.  If you are saying to yourself, "This is going to suck.  This is going to suck."  Guess what?  You may get done and feel it sucked.  Start off positive.  I run with a fun group.  Regardless of the weather I wake up thinking, "Man, I can't wait to see John and Dean and tell them that joke I heard."  My first 20 mile run was done at -10 F (warmed up to -2 by the time we were done); I've never laughed that hard in my life for that long.  (Thank you Pat and Bill.)  I didn't feel super tired until 18 and then we only had two miles to go.  The thought of warm coffee and bagels kept me going.  Laughing at breakfast and shooting coffee through my nose wasn't in that visualization - but it was fun none the less.

It is what you make it.

This is "spring" in Chicago.  "Hey, its 38 F!  Wow, is it warm!" Tragic.

There is no bad weather, just poor clothing choices and excuses.
Earlier in this blog I told you my first 20 miler was at -10 F. It isn't that hard.  Dress in layers.  Tech clothing is coming down in price and you could always add an old sweatshirt and cheapo windbreaker.  You don't need to be decked out in Craft Wind Stopper head to toe.  That said...  I LOVE the Craft wind gear.  2XU makes a great cycling vest.  Pearl Izumi has some awesome wind stopper jackets and gloves.  Find what works for you and ask for it for Christmas, birthdays, anniversaries - whatever.  You'll be glad you have that gear when the first spring rides start out at 40 F or if you go to San Diego and it is "cold" in the morning before Swami's ride.  After a few runs you will be amazed at how "warm" 20 F feels.  

Start a little cold
Dress for temps about 15 degrees warmer than the current and expected outside temperature.  If you are too warm you will sweat a ton and that puts you at a greater risk of hypothermia AND in the end you will feel COLDER for dressing warmer.  I use a glove that allows air to pass through.  Once I've warmed up I really don't notice the cold.  

Warm up 
In spite of being cold at the start, allow your body to warm up.  Don't start off at 6:00/mile pace and slow back to aerobic pace.  Everything is cold.  It's only a few minutes of cold.  Suck it up.

Light up
Leave the cigarettes in the car, that's not what I mean.  I'm amazed at how stupid so many runners are.  My car doesn't have an infrared windshield.  I don't own infrared glasses for night driving.  I don't know you are out running at 6pm in 10 F weather.  Wear a reflective vest.  Get reflective tops, gloves, hats and lights.  I'm partial to the Pulsar lights by RoadID and the headlamp from Petzl.  These might just give you that extra split second to dive off the road when "Happy hour Harry" or "Harriet") heads home. **When I'm out on the road I assume EVERYONE out there a) cannot see me b) is homicidal c) is drunk and high d) has a loaded weapon in the car.**  I live where there are no street lights.  This is mandatory equipment unless you have a death wish.  Lastly, be smart.  Where I live and where my in-laws live there have been coyote attacks.  Don't think that a few hungry coyotes won't try and take you down.  Last spring I had three following me out of the forest preserve.  My easy run turned into a hard cross country run as I hoped a fence and got onto the road ASAP.  They ended their pursuit.  These animals are trying to make it through the winter.  Late December through late February they need food.  My running vest was hanging next to the dog food AND I found a few puppy cookies in the back pocket.   

Addition, the trail by me now has multiple coyote tracks in the mud.  I'm guessing that there is a pack of at least three by the debris on the trail (carcasses of smaller animals/geese and feces).  Sounds like a fun trail huh?  Leave the iPod on the table at home.  It will help you hear the coyotes just off the trail.

Trails, Snowshoes, XC Skis and Soccer Fields
Frozen trails can be just like asphalt and concrete.  Go off roadin'.  I run around flood control "hills" and fields a lot.  It keeps me off the same old streets.  Try snowshoes.  They will get your heart pumping.  I XC ski a lot in the winter.  I live right off of a long trail.  It's wonderful fun and my dog can sniff the bushes at the side of the trail too.  Soccer fields... not just for soccer, but also running across them in the winter will get you strong.

Bring Water, Gel and a Towel
I'm amazed at how many folks don't bring water on a run in the winter.  If GSSI taught me anything, they taught me to always have something to drink and extra in the car.  I normally have extra drinks in the car.  I always have a gel with me.  A nice, big, dry towel in the car afterwards can make you feel a lot better too.

Get Loopy
Instead of running a hard loop like the Home Economist (Fisher Nut) in Barrington, IL - run the out and back first.  If you can handle that a few weeks then go for the full run.  No sense in getting eight miles from the car and realizing you are bonking badly or can't run another step and now will freeze solid as you walk back to the car.

Eat Right 
When you are expending energy to stay warm your bodies immune system will need more fuel to fight illness.  Taking something like Zone Diet's fish oil, vitamin C and CoQ10 will help you stay healthy at a cellular level.  Think this is a joke?  Look at the people around you who eat like crap relative to those who don't.  Who is sick more?  Who has more energy?  Who is happier?  Additionally, there was a recent British study that found taking fish oil helps cure the winter blues.

Lastly, when you run outside in the morning and the sun starts appearing earlier and earlier you will feel better in the spring having toughed out a winter running season in Chicago.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Stupid Human Tricks & Workouts

Honest, R rated reading ahead.  You've been warned.

A lot of folks have these last two weeks of the year off (or take them as vacation to travel/be with family). I think its great.  What I'd like to warn you about is being roped into dumb workouts that could end up slowing your progress as an athlete.

1) 100 x 100 on the 100 or any other long, boring set.

This is a swimming workout of 100 yards or 100 meters (depending on your group) where you swim 100 repeats of 100 yards/meters on an interval.  Skip this workout.  

There are many reasons: 1) If you haven't been doing (aka: going) 6,000 - 8,000 yards in a long session for several weeks, you risk injury or strain on your shoulders 2) Long slow distance equals long slow athlete 3) Monotony 4) Mental engagement in the session.  Monotony does not equal Ironman success.

Personally, If I am going to do 10,000 yards - I'd like some thought behind the session.  Trust me.  In college, my coach was all about big volume.  Volume is good to a point.  But then you need to BLAST out of that steady rhythm and funk.  Swimming is a great place to do it, if done wisely.  100 x 100 or 40 x 200 are good sets if used properly and there are intervals that CHALLENGE you mentally as well as physically.

You still want to do 100 x 100 because "you've always done it"?  Fine... try this: 

10x 100 Warm up - 100 swim, 100 back, 100 kick, 100 pull, 100 swim (repeat); no rest into the next set
10x 100 @ 30 sr 100 free, 100 IM (still part of the warm up); no rest into the next set
10x 100 @ 30 sr 100 free, 100 back; no rest into the next set
10x 100 @ 20 sr pull, breathing every 3/5 by 50; no rest into the next set
10x 100 @ 10 sr build each 100
5:00 rest / bathroom
10x 100 @ 40 sr; long and smooth - every 4th lap any stroke but free
10x 100 @ 30 sr; every 3rd lap head up 25
10x 100 @ 20 sr, build each 100
10x 100 @ 10 sr, strong
10x 100 @ 5 sr, all out


20x 100 Warm up @ 15 sec rest (swim, kick, IM, pull, swim)
40x 100 build 100s to fast 1<5 6<10 etc @20 sr
5:00 rest / bathroom
40x 100 - 2 hard, 1 easy @ 10 sr

There... that is a much better (and interesting) 10,000 yards.


2) Going "balls out" during an endurance cycling workout.

I teach a 2 hr computrainer workout on Saturday's.  There are a few guys who are riding TOO HARD. I have spoken to them. I've lowered their wattage.  I've slapped heart rate monitors on them.  They still ride with their ego (euphemism) for their brain. 

Long sessions are just that... your long ENDURANCE session.  Now, if you haven't been used to holding a certain wattage for a 2 hr session, then you should build into that now shouldn't you?  

I swim approximately 3,000 - 5,000 yards before the long computrainer session.  Once looking at my heart rate on the warm up sets, I lower my wattage accordingly so my power AND my heart rate are in the "right zone".  

Make no mistake... I WILL be cracking down on the macho men/women this in January sessions.

3) Running HARD with the long run group.  

Similar to the Saturday computrainer macho men, I see this every long run to.  I do my long run on a different day now thanks to my coach.  (Yes, I have a coach too.  I believe coaches who coach themselves are just like a lawyer who advises him/herself - they have a fool for a client.)

There is a guy who tries to hang with me on my long run.  Now, before the usual people get all excited about what I just said, I'm not exactly setting land speed records.  I'm running my pace for "base building" type workouts.  This clown comes out around the same time EVERY long run and when he gets around me... he surges.  Go for it.  Then he slows down and says, "Come on.  Let's go fast."  (After he takes his iPod out of his ear.  YES... I think iPods are stupid when you are running outside.  If you use one outside... stupid is as stupid does.  That is a blog entry for another day.)  I refuse every time.  "I'm doing a base workout. Have a great run."  I encourage him to go on.  Alone.  

4) Eating because you did _________ workout.

I call this justification eating.  I did a (fill in the blank) workout, therefore, I can eat like a 16 year old.  Those days are gone you dusty old fart.  Trust me, I know.  My waistline resembles lazy eating and NOT workout out.  I don't see many Jenny Craig or WeightWatchers commercials with an ab like mine.  Well... its not that bad.  I have a "five pack".  Unfortunately, I'm three abs short. 

Get your shit together.  Some days it's a bitch and a bummer.  This is what it takes.  No food or drink tastes as good as fast feels.  

No excuses.  

Losers say, "I'll try my best." 
Winners go home and have sex with the Prom Queen / King.  

Thursday, December 22, 2011


In a few days, the gym will be packed.  People will be trying to get "fit".  Looking for the pump.  Or to get into a certain sized swim suit for spring cruises (or at least not look 40+ in their current swim suit.)  It's interesting I think of fitness and racing.  I say how I think about it because who is to say if I am right?  I think I'm right.  You be the judge for yourself.
A long time ago, a former athlete started lifting a lot and got really strong, impressive looking muscle.  He drank protein powders and ate nothing but steamed broccoli and baked chicken.  He was ripped.  Then, a girl he met at the club challenged him to try an aerobics class.  He did it! It was fun.  It nearly killed him.  The next day he decided to run one mile "warm up" before starting his lifting routine.  When he returned to the gym, he was completely shot and could barely finish his lifting routine.  Hmm, he thought.  Maybe I should start swimming in the 20 yard pool again.  The former athlete eventually figured out that being strong does not consittute "fit". 

This went through my head when a good friend (who was always overweight in the "old" days) emailed me saying he had opened a supplement store in another state and that he was lifting and participating in natural bodybuilding competitions.  He is ripped!  I was shocked.  He looked like a head on a picture of Arnold Schwartzeneggar's body.  I asked him if he wanted to go for a short run before lifting (as I was headed to the gym too) and he said, "Oh, I don't do any cardio."  When pressed on this subject, he stated he was worried he'd loose "mass" and his "shock and awe" factor of his size.  We talked about his strength relative to his fitness and it was very interesting.  He can bench 300 lbs. like it is nothing, but he cannot do a set of bench then 10 push-ups and another set of bench.  Interesting.  Same for every muscle group.  So let me get this straight... you can bench 300 lbs., but only if it is in a gym and you haven't done other exercise? 


Any real world exercise is better than a 'gym exercise'.  Think Rocky IV....

Yes, even chores can be a workout.
We talked about cross-fit, triathlon (and other real world events like the Death Race or Urbanthon).  I think races like the "Urbanthon" will become more popular - and quickly.  It won't be about who is fastest or strongest, but who can combine strength and speed in the real world. 

Without getting into my methodology in coaching cycling or triathlon - there are certain sets and types of workouts that need to be done at certain times of the week or in a specific workout.  Missing those sets and their timing hurts your fitness.

In the end, racing is about fitness.  More fit.  More able to handle heat, cold, wind, waves... you name it.  Fit, is more than just lifting a weight or pushing a pedal.  It's about moving mass.  I am not in shape and look like a "gamer" next to my friend.  However, I was able to knock out some impressive bench sets of 15 reps (while doing push ups) as I waited for him to do six reps.  All this AFTER swimming 4,000 yards and then running 6 miles in about 50 minutes at aerobic pace.

So... who is more fit?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Viva Las Vegas! 1/2 Marathon Race / Week Report

Wow... what a week.  15 athletes.  Everyone running in different directions like marbles on a cement floor.

The race itself (Rock 'n Roll Marathon and 1/2 Marathon - Las Vegas) was fine.  A bit crowded and a zig zag at the finish were interesting - but at least not lonely.  Fun crowd.

Pre-race I had a brush with greatness.  I got to briefly talk to Meb Keflezighi in the hallway.  Seemed like a very nice man who was genuine.

What went well -
1) Day pre race - had fun.  No stress.
2) Race pacing was solid.  x:xx as per the goal.
3) Found some of my athletes on the course.
4) I ran 19+ miles.  Not all at goal pace - but 13 of them were.  I turned around and went back out to find my athletes and run with them.  I'll take that right now.  My "long" run was 8 miles going in.  (though I did several 8s in a week and a lot of swimming and cycling)  Still... a long way to go before I'm even "awful" at running again.  Next year... I'll meet everyone at a restaurant/bar.
5) Running Vegas at night was FUN!

What I'd change -
1) I'd bring my laptop. Pre-race the RD (in my opinion) didn't give us good enough information regarding the location of gear check and other logistics.  Knowing what to expect now... I'd like a rematch.
2) I'd have all the folks meet the first night we got to Vegas.
3) We'd have team race kits.
4) Arrive earlier.  Too many people squeezing in and out of the race venues.

In all, I'd endorse the Rock 'n Roll Las Vegas 1/2 (not the marathon).  The half was fun and reasonably under control.  The full marathon (unless you are under 3:45 pace) was not a real fun race for many. Crowd movement was a bit of an issue.  A drunk woman ran into me at mile 8 holding her beer.

Post race - more restaurants at the hotels need to be open.  After a shower, it was 10pm and Sunday night (even in Vegas) restaurants were closed.

Decent race that I would do again.

Any takers?