Monday, June 29, 2009

4 X 1 mile repeats-bread and butta baby

One of the biggest mistakes most runners and triathletes make is that they don’t do much in the way of speedwork. I admit that it really is fun to go out with a friend for a 60-90min run and chat. And there is even a place in appropriate training for that. However, if you are trying to get faster and/or would like to stimulate your metabolism a little more, then here is a great workout to help mix things up without being too overwhelmed. And this kind of workout is very different from the shorter speed intervals that I have put out there before.

WHAT: 4 X 1 MILE REPEATS WITH 60-90 SECONDS REST--Well, that is pretty straight forward and simple to understand isn’t it?

WHERE: This can be done as 4 laps on a track or take out on the road if you have a very accurately measured coarse. At our house, we actually have a meter wheel (yes, we are THAT nerdy) and we have measured this kind of thing. Technically, a mile is 1609 meters, but in order to match the track version we just go with 1600 meters so we can compare times.

WHY: This workout is a great way to do some lactate threshold training. That means that you are teaching your body how to run faster before being overcome by lactic acid. Now, lactic acid is a byproduct of your body burning glycogen for fuel (and this is what you burn as you go FASTER than conversation pace,70% of Max Heart Rate, all the way up to running almost anaerobically which is as short and fast as 800 meters.) The lactic acid produced by the body actually gets constantly reabsorbed and also used as fuel. Cool huh? Well the problem comes when you go fast enough, you create more lactic acid than your body can use and reabsorb, so it starts building up and lowering the alkalinity of your muscle. Your muscle becomes acidic enough that it loses electrical impulses and becomes tough to fire and contract at full strength. Mile repeats help your body begin to adapt to higher lactate levels, become more efficient at reabsorbing lactate and eventually run a faster pace at that higher lactate threshold level before becoming overloaded and shutting down.

WHEN: This mile repeat workout can be done once a week with every 4th week or so either doing only 2 or just resting. Give yourself at least a day of rest before and after before attempting another type of hard day or long run.

HOW: Well, just remember that you have to do 4 of these and you want them AS EVEN AS POSSIBLE! So if you run the first mile in 8:05, then all the other miles should be within 5 seconds one way or another. If you have never done these before then pretend you actually have to do 5 or 6 and that will help you not go to fast on the first one or two. Even when you finish the 4th one, you should be able to run a 5th one IF YOU ABSOLUTELY HAD TO! However, if you are totally wiped out, then you did them too hard. You need to save that kind of effort for a race. And you need to be able to wrap your brain around doing this kind of workout each week. So start easy and build confidence by getting faster instead of blowing up.

WHAT YOU LEARN: You learn two big concepts by doing this kind of workout:

  • First you start learning how to be mentally focused and tough enough to do this kind of work. That will transfer over beautifully to a race since it will develop the many of the mental skills needed to run faster.

  • Second you learn what you can run a 5k or a 10k at! The average pace you run for each mile is pretty much what you should be able to string together for a 5k. So if you run an 8:00min/mile average, then that is the pace you should be able to race a 5K IF YOU ARE MENTALLY FOCUSED. It won’t come easy, but it can be done. Also, if you add about 15 seconds per mile (maybe a hair more or less,) then you have the potential of running a 10K at about 8:15 per mile.

So if you are ready to try something new, then give this a go!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Ice Baths--Recovery on the Rocks

One of the best ways to be able to help your body handle a regular routine of intense and/or high mileage workouts is to plunge feet first into the recovery ritual of ice baths. What does such a bone chilling experience have to offer? The benefits lie mostly in the reduction of post workout inflammation and muscle soreness. Many endurance athletes come back from those harder days feeling much more refreshed the next day if they implement this cheap and easy post workout therapy. In fact this is one of the secrets that elite/pro athletes consider to be a necessary part of training and racing. So, how do you properly bath in ice and survive?

How do draw up an ice bath? Ice baths begin with filling the tub with cool water that you can still handle getting into. While it fills, go grab a bag of ice and your recovery drink! Then, throw on a long sleeve shirt, keep your shorts on and jump into the cool water. It will take a minute or two to get used to the cold water at which point you can dump the bag of ice into the water. You will need to sit in the tub for about 10-15 minutes depending on how cold it actually is. The colder the temperature, the less time you need. So, if you only want to spend 5 minutes in the tub, then drop the temp to the lowest safe temperature of 45 degrees F. Otherwise, keeping it at 50-60 will work just fine if you sit for the longer time. And really, sitting longer is not that big of a deal because once you get numb it is a lot more bearable. Just grab a magazine and read for a little bit.

What do you do if you don’t get home from your workout for a while? Don’t stress, the ice bath will still work. Also, if you finish your long run, trail run, hard bike ride or whatever near a cool body of water or river, then dunk your legs right then and there before going home. The sooner the better… for sure.

How often should you use ice baths? If you have time, then you would jump in after any hard or long day. It is okay to use cold therapy often and regularly. At the very least, take an ice bath after those few key hard and long workouts that you have maybe never done before and are really trashed after.

When should you take a hot shower after the ice bath? Following cold with hot is a very common therapy practice. Right after is okay, but waiting 30 minutes is better. Whenever you get in, you can spend a couple minutes doing some light stretching to help restore flexibility to the muscle tissue.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Deb's Favorite Breakfast.


Long gone are the days of cold cereal. It was a step I had to take given that I discovered in my early thirties that I was having insulin problems and came from a family of diabetics with a lot of health problems. As an endurance athlete, trying to limit grain intake can really complicate a breakfast where oatmeal reigned supreme. My initial concerns were: how do you meet your carb needs when they are high? Is protein at breakfast really necessary? Should I have fat if I am trying to lose fat? After much research and study, I came to the conclusion that breakfast really is extremely important and if you do it right, your body will do a better job at performing well, feeling well, and looking well.

My first 2 changes were adding a full protein serving to my breakfast as well as using fruit as my main source of carbohydrate. Protein is just a must to give your body the amino acids it needs to repair and to create an even insulin pattern. Whole fruit is a perfect choice for a low to moderate glycemic carbs that will stick with you longer than you think when combined with whey protein or eggs and some fat. Even on my early swim days when I am really hungry by breakfast, I totally look forward to my fruit and protein breakfast. As long as I have had my recovery drink immediately following my swim, then I am cool with using fruit as my solid food choice. I do protein shakes quite often in the morning if I haven’t worked out yet. The recipe I use is on And yes, I do use 2-3 tablespoons of flax oil a day in those shakes. But on those days when I want a “real” breakfast, my favorite breakfast by far is a scrambled egg omelet with TONS of onions (a great antiviral and blood clarifier,) spinach, tomatoes and feta cheese. I then add good sized pear to that and I am ready to rock. No headaches, no 10am crashes or energy swings, just feeling good, feeling full and properly fueled. To top it off, this is how all 5 of my kids eat too. The rare organic Shredded Wheat with no added sugar is a treat for them. Lucky kids, ehh?

Deb’s Favorite Scrambled Veggie Omelet Breakfast
½ onion chopped
1 cup baby spinach
¼ cup chopped tomato
1 TB feta cheese
3-5 egg whites--depending on body weight.
1-2 egg yolks
Sea salt
Fresh ground pepper

In a bowl, scramble eggs, salt, pepper and feta. Set aside. In a non-stick pan, cook onion until translucent and then add spinach and tomato. Cook for only 30 seconds or so. The spinach should still be unwilted. Make sure heat is now only on medium and then pour egg mixture over the top. Cook it slow enough so the eggs don’t ever brown. Stir every minute or two. It should take about 4-5 minutes to slowly cook the eggs. The spinach will wilt by the end. Dump onto a plate, add plenty of fruit and you are ready for a breakfast fit for a champion!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Hawaii 70.3--a comedy of errors

A Half Ironman is a really long way no matter how you look at it. So why not spend that time wisely and pass the miles along the Kohala Coast of the Big Island? Well, Hawaii 70.3 is most certainly that salt and pepper, sugar and spice kind of course. Hard, but beautiful. A hot and hard run tempered first with a cool and calm swim. And the bike? Thank goodness that whatever goes up must come down! So after two and a half years of hardly no racing, I decided to give it a go. Not just a little, but a lot. My journey towards getting back into race shape started Oct 1st with the ultimate goal of grasping one of those rare Hawaiian Ironman World Championship slots given to only 1 or 2 in each age group. Going into it, I knew that the capability and training I had was enough. I was nervous, but excited to finally race hard. And when that day finally came on Saturday, May 30th, I pulled out all the preparation and laid out a race that went well in many ways. But, in a 1300 person race where there is a high percentage of other competitive athletes, mistakes cannot be made if you are trying to lay claim on the much sought after prize of a ticket to come back for the full Ironman.


So much of what goes right in a race is done well before you get there so most of this list comes from preparing properly. But that is the point! If you do your homework, there are not many surprises come test day.

· Strength—I spent two good 45-60 minute sessions in the weight room each week from Oct 1st until about mid-March. From then on I did maintence core work and let the strength work come mostly from sport specific workouts. I also sought after outside help as I had never had anyone teach me the right way to squat, deadlift and clean. So, thanks to Joel Hatch at BASICS, I learned more than I ever wanted to know and lifted, at times, more than I ever would have wanted to lift. Big thanks to Joel for pushing me to tears when I really needed it and letting me rest when I needed it more. Oh and for all the fun functional exercises too! Me luvs them kettlebells.

· Speed and Power—the anabolic focus of a majority of my workouts paid really big dividends on race day. I felt strong and much more capable of handle a tough course and a tough environment. It was a beautiful feeling to not be intimidated by the hills on the bike and then be able to have the strength and speed to actually run after coming off said hillfest.

· Endurance—I will never forget what Ironman 70.3 world champion Samantha McGlone said about volume for a Half Ironman. Do one longer 4-5 hour swim/bike/run workout a week and then stay shorter and faster on the rest. DONE! I did 4-5 of those longer workout to adapt my body to the full distance. It worked. I felt mentally, physically and emotionally capable of being in the game for that long since that is what I had practiced.

· Massage therapy—I have gone to Nate Graven, the best sports massage guy ever, twice a month for over 5 years now. I consider it required, especially when I decide to combine all the above training elements. Solid training requires an even more solid sports massage therapist. Nate has helped keep me injury free for a really long time as well as gotten my body ready to be worked at full capacity come race day. And believe me, my body tried really hard this year to fall apart, but Nate just wouldn’t let it happen!

· Taper—Resting during the weeks before the race almost killed me. My least favorite part of training for sure, but vital. I felt totally ready to go when the gun went off.

· Nutrition—Perfect! One of the big purposes of those longer workouts, was to dial in my nutritional requirements. I DOUBLED my carb intake to 100 grams of carbs an hour, made sure I had some protein and amino acids(endurox and gu packs,) figured out how much fluid I would really need and went heavy on electrolytes. I was at about 400-500 mg of sodium (and other minerals) an hour. Once I knew, I just made sure to DO IT on race day. I felt as energetic as I probably could have throughout the race, peed in T2(in a porta potty this time…don’t ask me to clarify that) and had NO CRAMPS. Rockin!

· Attitude—Eventhough there were mistakes, I was happy to be there and truly wanted to do the best I could. When the going got rough I would just tune EVERYTHING out and remind myself to race like a warrior. No complaining, just racing. And with that, I made my mind as quiet as possible and let my body do what I had trained it to do.


The only comfort I have from the following three items is that they are all easily fixable. But, they are things I want to kick myself over because “I know better.” They are a great example of what kind of dumb things a person can do when their race brain is not fully turned on. And even though I still placed in my age group anyway, I was irritated enough after the awards ceremony to want to throw my special Hawaiian wood bowl into THE OCEAN!

· Swim start—simply stated, I did not go out fast enough. With 1300 people going at the same time I put way too much thought into where I thought I was and what effort I was giving the first 500 meters rather than just swimming as hard as I can! I got caught in the log jam next to a couple hundred swimmers that were not as fast as I was. I could not go around them by this point, so I was stuck swimming much slower than I should have by about 2-3 minutes. So, next time, I will do what I normally do in a race. Swim very hard for 400-500 meters, don’t think, you will recover!

· Bike leg—my long rides paid off, but I lost focus after the turn around a Hawi. I didn’t realize either how hard I will still have to work coming back. So it is better, to assume nothing, work everything and trust that the bike legs can take it. I know that they can because I have pushed it before and survived. And staying focused comes more easily after a race or two under the belt as well as the right race attitude.

· T2—So one of the race volunteers told Guy that the race staff would take everyone’s bike so we didn’t have to rack them ourselves. Wrongo! I did have to rack my own bike! The problem was that T2 was different than T1 so I had NO. IDEA. where my bike was supposed to go. I had the distinct priviledge of being misdirected in transition and running the full length of T2 before being directed back to the entrance where LOW AND BEHOLD, my bike rack was located only 4 slots in from said entrance! Yep, ran right by it! Totally my fault too, not the volunteers. I should have looked at T2 the night before like I usually do. I would have figured out more of what was going on on my own and at the very least, seen where my bike number was. So what was I thinking about the night before the race? Apparently, not T2! It cost me a little less than 2 minutes.

So how far was I from a slot to Kona after 5 hours of racing? 3 minutes…Ugh! Fix the swim and T2? In like Flynn. Fix the bike, even better!

Overall, I loved the experience. Great race, great venue and great effort. So much to feel good about and I suppose I am glad I really didn’t throw the bowl into the ocean..sort of. And what did Guy have to say? “So, are we coming back next year?”

Monday, June 1, 2009

Race Fitness--Sharpening the Saw

In the world of human performance, people have goals that they seek after with dedicated passion.  Most commonly people are after a certain “time” or “place” goal and find a key race to try to make it happen. There are many bases that have to be covered before that race.  In most cases, athletes set out to learn whatever they can so they are training in best way possible.  Good workouts are designed to increase fitness as well as skill sets so that what you do race day is automatic.  However, it seems that to be able to achieve 100%, one must consider the aspect of race fitness.  Race fitness is the fine tuning that occurs and brings out the last 2-3% of possible race performance.  We all know that at some point, you will only put together a race effort on race day. And that is wise, since too much racing leads to overtraining. So how do you sharpen the saw without braking the blade?

1-2 races are all you need before your “a” race. 
These races can occur between 2-8 weeks out. 
If you are prepping to race over an hour, then keep tune up races to an hour or less. So you don’t need to run a marathon to prep for a marathon that would do more harm than good and sprint tri’s work just fine for any triathlon distance.
After the “practice race” make a list of what needs to be fixed.  This could be pre race ritual, pacing errors, tactics, equipment problems, clothing, nutrition, outlook.
Pay close attention the mental focus you had and look at where you may need to sharpen it.
Always spend plenty of time focusing on what you did well. Chances are that you really did 97% of it right and you want to not only feel good about it, but keep doing that part right! 97 out of 100 cats are already in the bag, right!

So, just a little bit of tuning up goes a really long way.  A 2-3% performance gain may not seem like a ton, but it may make a huge difference in whether or not you reach your goal.  It also helps prepare you emotionally to handle the stress and mental sharpness required when the going gets rough and the body just wants to stop.  Race fitness will also help you decide how much you really want what you think you want.  If you come home from your “practice race” fired up, kicking yourself over the errors, and foaming at the mouth because you want to give it a better go next time, then it has served its purpose. You will show up to your “A” race much more with the nuances worked out and ready to give just that little bit more. 

Next Monday will be the Hawaii 70.3 race report. A story of the 97% that went just as planned (some great practical tips that worked like charmers) and can bring you a very long way, but how 2-3% of small errors can push you one slot out of your goal.   

It’s a good thing that there a lot of places to meditate by the ocean.