How To: Race in Multiple Races

Back when I first started running, everyone I knew was training for one event. We would pick a race – a 10k, a half, a full, and train for that one race. We would build our training program around the race, run it, and then enjoy the feeling of accomplishment. Lately, more and more people are choosing to run in back-to-back races. Some run multiple events in one day, or one weekend. Others have been planning seasons that include three or more events in a series. I’ve tried running in multiple events and I love it! I have run in Tampa’s Gasparilla Distance Classic several times – with four races in two days. I’ve run in Disney’s popular Goofy and Dopey race series, with 39.3 or 48.6 miles across multiple races. This fall, for the second year in a row, I will run four marathons in four weeks. This type of multiple event racing isn’t for everyone, but, if you’d like to give it a try, here are my top tips for multiple event racing success:

  • Plan your season around the events as a whole, rather than around one event. For example, this fall I will run four marathons in four weeks. My goal is to run four marathons in four weeks, not to run one marathon well, with a few extra after that. Planning to run only one marathon, then running four sets me up for disappointment, fatigue, and injury. Plan a training season around your goal – which is multiple events in the season.
  • When running in multiple events, you simply can’t train the way you do for a single event. your base fitness has to reflect the nature of your challenge. When building your base, build a base fitness that will prepare you well for the challenge at hand. This means I need to run high mileage multiple weeks in a row to prepare for my four marathons in four weeks extravaganza. Doing Dopey? Plan to run long runs back to back most weeks, with three to four consecutive days of running. Match the training to the specific challenges of your goal.
  • Let your body be your guide. When you’re striving for a new goal, it can be temping to push through aches and pains. Treat the body well, and listen to its cues. Achieving a multiple event goal requires a healthy, fit body.
  • Find a cross training activity that you enjoy. Engage in it often to prevent burn out and to recovery from bouts of hard running.
  • When you have multiple events in one day, practice running twice in one day. Learn how your body responds to multiple events and work on a rest/fueling/hydrating plan that mimics the specifics of your goal events.
  • When you have multiple events across multiple weeks, every event before the last is part of the training for the last event. Plan paces and race strategy accordingly. Remember that every event you run is preparation for the next, so a tough day or a poor performance is just part of the training process.
  • Learn to recover well and practice recovery throughout the training. Develop recovery strategies that suit you and will work within your goal time frame. Develop a long and short term view on recovery. Think of recovery not just as something done in the days or weeks after and event, but something done in minutes and hours after each event. What you do in the first few minutes after racing, and in the next several hours, can make a big difference. Develop a daily routine for recovery and wellness.  Practice season-long recovery strategies, too, including such as massage, foam rolling, and other body work. The quality of your next race depends on your ability to recover as well as you can in the time that you have before the event.
  • The goal after your first event is to be recovered enough to race again. When races are very close (hours to days), accept that some fatigue will be part of every event after the first. When you have a week between events, use that week to recover, rest, and prepare the body to race again. As the time between events becomes longer, expand the rest/recovery time and start to add in easy-paced running. Use the time between events to maintain the fitness you have, not to train.

Dopey

Racing multiple events can be exhilarating and can add a new challenge to the racing season for even the most accomplished runners. When planning carefully, runners can have great success (and a lot of fun!) running multiple events. Need help planning your multiple event calendar? Consider hiring a running coach. More information on training with Dr. Rachel Runs can be found above, in the Coaching tab.

Hit the Trail

Spring is a great time to add trail running to your training to take advantage of spring weather and enjoy nature. Here are my basic tips for getting started with trail running.

First, find a good trail. No single trail is the same. From wide, crushed rock trail like the airline, or rail trail, to single track cutting through trees, trails offer a wide variety of running surfaces and scenic options. In Connecticut, we are lucky to have an amazing trail system including the blue blazed trails, Joshua’s Trust trails, and a variety of town-maintained trails. Get to know your trail by researching online, or by asking other runners and hikers.

Trail running

Once you’ve found a good trail, prepare for the hazards you might find on the trail. If it has tall grasses or thick underbrush, consider wearing pants or tall socks to deter ticks. If your trail is sandy or has small, loose stones, tall socks or gaiters will help keep debris out of your shoes. While many trail runners use specially made trail running shoes, which have more aggressive tread and a closer to the ground feel, they aren’t always necessary. Consider how “technical” your trail is when selecting your footwear and gear. Generally, a more technical trail is one that is, more narrow, winding, steep, or has trail hazards like roots and rocks. Use good judgment in planning your trail run in order to match your trail with your ability.

Next, focus on safety. Take your dog or a buddy, or write your route out and share with a loved one. Make sure someone knows where you are going and how long you’ll be gone. Consider carrying water and a snack. Carry your cell phone and identification for emergencies. Once on the trail, keep your eyes on the trail so avoid rocks and roots. Focus on looking three to four feet ahead to create an imaginary “line” of travel, a plan for where you going to step for the next few steps. This will keep you focused and alert to potential hazards. Finding a line will become easier as you become more comfortable running on the trails. Make sure that you’re alert and be aware of landmarks and trail markings.

When trail running, it’s best to run by time, rather than distance to begin. Trail running can be exhausting at first and it can take much longer to cover the same distance on a trail than on a road. I generally add one to two minutes to my pace per mile, even on trails I know very well. Slow your pace and take time to look around and enjoy the beauty of the trails. Run by time, effort level, or heart rate and avoid comparing your trail pace to your road pace.

Finally, work to improve your trail running performance by including strength and balance exercises into your training two to three times per week. Exercises that strengthen the calves, ankles, and feet are particularly useful. Consider adding lunges on a pad or stability disk, single leg squats, bridges, dead lifts, calf raises, and other exercises using a wobble board or stability disc to develop foot and ankle strength and stability.

Once you’ve tried trail running, grow your confidence by running on the trails at least once per week. Try new trails and make friends with other trail runners. As you grow in your confidence and strength, tackle more technical trails, or sign up for a trail race. Trail running can be a great way to see new sights, meet new people, and enjoy Connecticut’s natural beauty.

Enjoy the trails!

Love the Treadmill

Generally, most coaches, myself included, only recommend using the treadmill for a portion of runs, or when running outside is unsafe during a training cycle. Given that races are generally held outside on the uneven ground, it’s important to get used to running on uneven ground, with wind resistance, and on courses with turns for best race results. The treadmill doesn’t do a very good job of replicating real race conditions since you can only run evenly in one direction on a nice, soft, smooth surface.

Generally speaking, treadmill running is easier than running outside. The moving belt enables faster leg turnover, making it easier to run faster with lower effort levels. The soft, bouncy surface of the treadmill also doesn’t enable to same soft tissue adaptations as running on a harder surface, so soft tissue injury is a possibility when returning to the road. Finally, there are no adverse circumstances on the treadmill – no weather, no turns, no cracks, no lumps and bumps. The body and mind don’t have an opportunity to adapt to the reality of running in imperfect conditions, on an imperfect surface. There is also a distinct psychological benefit to running outside that has been established in several studies. Research suggests that runners simply enjoy outdoor running more, and feel better after an outdoor run. (Side note: as a mental health professional, I find this super interesting. If you do, too, check out this article and this study – put them in Google Scholar for best results)

That being said, there is no evidence that running on a treadmill is detrimental. There are a number of studies to this effect, and the treadmill is a well-established training tool for runners at every level. Most people accept that treadmill running is just fine if it is done well, with proper mechanics, and in moderation.

If  you’re planning to use the treadmill for a portion of your training, here are some great tips to love the treadmill.

First, monitor your form to avoid injury. It’s hard to love the treadmill if it’s hurting you. It’s best to run most of your treadmill runs at a pace that feels easy and use the treadmill for speed work cautiously. The treadmill enables a runner to program a pace and hold that pace long after the runner tires. Running a too-fast pace when you’re tried on a moving belt can result in over-striding, landing with the foot too far in front of the body. Running a too-fast pace on a moving belt can also result in all manner of problems with running form. Poor form and over-striding can lead to hip, knee, ankle, and hamstring pain. To resolve this, monitor your form and your stride rate. If you stride rate is lower than at the same pace outside, you’re over-striding, using the belt to propel you, and at risk for injury.

Run a variety of runs on the treadmill. It’s temping to run the same pace at the same incline mile after mile, settling into a treadmill routine. The treadmill belt’s flat, smooth, uniform surface ensures that you work your muscles and joints in exactly the same way. Too much of the same is a bad thing and can result in repetitive stress injuries. For treadmill happiness (and less boredom!) change up your run, using the treadmill’s programs, or running a variety of speeds and inclines on each treadmill run. I’ve already posted two of my favorite winter treadmill runs – the SportsCenter run and the college basketball run. Here are two other treadmill runs I love:

  1. Commercial Fartlek – Warm up 10 minutes at an easy pace. When a commercial comes on, increase your pace by 30-60  seconds per mile until the commercial is over, at which time you return to the easy pace. Continue on until you reach the desired mileage or time. Warm down by running 5ish minutes at a 1-0% incline.
  2. Character Fartlek – Warm up 10 minutes at an easy pace. Select a particular character in the show/game. When the character comes on, increase your pace by 30 seconds per mile until the character leaves the scene. If the character speaks or does a target activity in the scene, increase the incline by 1%. Once the character stops speaking or leaves the scene, return to the easy pace. Continue on until you reach the desired mileage or time. Warm down by running 5ish minutes at a 1-0% incline.

Finally, make your treadmill run as much like an outdoor run as possible. Even if you could just pop your water bottle on the console, carry your bottle or wear your belt as you might outside. Wear appropriate running shoes, not beat up old gym shoes, and use the treadmill as an opportunity to mimic race conditions. Practice slowing down to drink if you normally do, or wear a race-day outfit that isn’t appropriate for your outdoor conditions (a great option if you’re like me and race in warm weather conditions on vacation during a frigid winter). The more you can vary your treadmill running, and make that running as close to outdoor running as possible, the safer, and happier you’ll be.

Treadmill running

How To: Travel to a Race

I love travel and I enjoy traveling to destination races. If you’re been following along, you’ll see that I run practically everywhere I go and I’ve been all across the country for races. I get a lot of questions about how to travel to a race. Specifically, what runners can and should pack to ensure race-day success is a source of confusion. Here are a few of my best travel tips for runners.

What can I carry on? Tips for air travel.

Bring a small roller or a stick. You can carry on your Stick. You might get some questions from the TSA about the Stick and it’s purpose, but you can bring it in carry on luggage. The travel size Stick is perfect. It fits in standard roll aboard bags and can be placed along the supports in the back of the bag, or on the side of the bag for limited TSA scrutiny. The TSA might ask to see it (and one agent once asked to try it), but generally, it passes without a problem. Another option is a travel sized roller, such as a the Grid travel roller by Trigger Point. The travel Grid roller fits easily in a carry on bag, and is easy to pack around. This one generally results in more questions from the TSA, but putting it in a visible spot in my carry on has resulted in easy passes through security. I use my travel roller to roll out as soon as I get to my destination and again before and after each run. Rolling helps loosen muscles that have tightened from travel.

Gels count as liquids, gels, and aerosols. If you’re flying, they’re subject to the 3-1-1 rules. This means you’ll have to put your gels in your checked baggage, or in a quart size resealable baggie in your carry on. Remember to take it out when passing through security for separate inspection. Chews, and things that are the consistency of gummy bears or jelly beans (think Clif Blocks, Sport Beans) are not a liquid, gel, or aerosol and can be carried normally, as you would any other food. They do not need to be separately inspected.

Body Glide can be carried on separately like deodorant – it isn’t a liquid, gel, or aerosol, so feel free to bring the big stick.

You’re allowed to bring food for your personal consumption. Bring your snacks, race day bars, and any food you like. As long as it doesn’t look like your important protein bars, you’ll be fine through security.

If you’re planning to bring a hydration belt or handheld bottle, make inspection easy for the TSA to speed time at security. Be sure the bottles are empty and separate them from the belt if possible. Remove the caps from the bottles so that it’s clear the bottles are empty. I bag my bottles and caps in a resealable gallon size baggie so that can just grab one bag and toss it in a bin. It also ensures that I don’t lose a cap along the way.

After the race, the easiest way to transport your medal home is around your neck. Just take it off at the security checkpoint and put it in a bin. Think that’s uncool? Wrap your medal in a napkin or sock and place it somewhere accessible in your carry on. If you’ve traveled to a big race and practically everyone in the airport is a runner, you’ll be safe to leave the medal in the carry on. The TSA will be familiar with its size and shape. If you’re traveling from a smaller race, or aren’t sure, remove the medal from the bag and place it in a bin to be separately scanned by the medal detector. Don’t be surprised if the TSA officer asks to see the medal and offers you congratulations. If you’ve earned multiple medals, like during runDisney challenges (Dopey or Goofy), keep your medals separate. A big stack of metal is going to attract TSA attention. Separate the medals into separate wrappings and lay them out in a row in the bin for xray inspection.

General packing tips.

Wear your running shoes. That way, you ensure they make it to the destination with you. Not only are they the most important, they’re also the hardest to replace on short notice in an unfamiliar area.

Before your race, experiment with different combinations of gels, hydration drinks, and  foods. You’ll be in an unfamiliar area and may find yourself without your familiar foods, gels, and drinks. If you have more than one go-to solution for fueling, you’ll be much more likely to find what you need. Believe me, it’s very difficult to find a specific flavor or a particular brand of gel at a small race expo. Know what works for you, and what will do in a pinch.

Bring Immodium or other product for digestive upset. You never know when you might need it.

Bring ear plugs, an eye mask, and a sleeping pill. All hotels aren’t equally quiet or comfortable. Be ready.

Consider wearing compression calf sleeves or socks during travel. Not only will the compression provide relief for stiff legs, but it will lessen lower leg swelling and discomfort. Some also say that wearing compression socks or calf sleeves reduces the risk of blood clots during air travel.

Pack your race day outfit together. I use two gallon resealable baggies for this. I put everything I need for my race in one baggie, label it, and zip it up. Then, I pack a second, back up baggie that includes a second full race outfit and associated accessories. Finally, a pack a third baggie that includes incidentals I might need like a rain shell, or a warmer option. I never assume the weather forecast is right and bring extras. This technique ensures that you have everything you need handy when you need it – and that you don’t have to think about it early in the morning. It’s also especially good for multiple race events, Ragnars, and other overnight relays like Hood to Coast or Reach the Beach. Once you’re done with your race, just pop the sweaty clothes back in the baggie and zip it up. Perfect to avoid contaminating the rest of your luggage.

Be sure to pack something else to wear immediately after the race. While you may use the race’s gear check, not having to sort though all your luggage to find something is a wonderful thing.

Stay hydrated. Drink lots of water during your travel. Pack your own snacks so you don’t have to rely on fatty or salty travel snacks.

If you’re traveling internationally, plan ahead for how you will use your cell phone, charge your devices, and eat your meals.

Bring hand sanitizer, wet wipes, and extra paper towels. Sanitize your hands before eating and use wet wipes to clean your travel area.

If possible, travel to the race location before the actual race. Take the route you will take before the race. Estimate and record how long it takes to get there, get organized, and get ready. Look around. Find landmarks, parking, and other important necessities.

Bring small accessories you wouldn’t mind throwing away in case it’s cooler than anticipated. I buy magic gloves (the stretchy cotton kind) in bulk and toss them once I warm up. I also like to use socks as throw away arm warmers. Get some knee high socks and cut the toes off. Instant arm warmers. Finally, a black trash bag makes a great cape/blanket/seat cover in bad weather. I always have one with me.

Finally, remember that luggage gets lost. Make sure your race day essentials are snug in the overhead bin, or in a bag near you.

Looking for a list of things to bring for a relay, race, or other endurance event? Check out my packing list.

Happy travels!

Drop it Like a Squat

This April, I’m getting Buff and Bendy with my new challenge. Friday’s skill is the squat. Squats are great for runners, helping us to develop power and control in the big muscles in our legs. To get even more runner-friendly squatting power, consider doing your squats on a wobbly surface, like a Bosu, inflatable disc, or even a towel.


Check out my YouTube channel for more great tips!

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Dr. Rachel’s Running Tips!

If you’ve been keeping up with the Buff and Bendy Challenge, you’ll notice that we’ve added tons of instructional videos to the YouTube channel. What’s missing? Awesome running tips. Today, we’re highlighting running form and talking about how to run with the most efficient form. Check it out here (running form video)

Or, visit me on YouTube and clicking on the Buff and Bendy Playlist. Stay tuned – more great videos are coming!

Buff and Bendy Running

How To De-Stink Your Running Clothes

Let’s face it. Running clothes get stinky. Yes, ladies, even our running clothes get stinky. Yuck. I’ve seen lots of discussion online about stinky running clothes and a general sense of horror at the level of stinkiness some clothes can achieve. These discussions inspired me to share my strategy for keeping clothes smelling fresh. It’s simple.

First, a little primer on why running clothes stink – and why they maintain their smell even after washing. When we sweat, we not only sweat out water, but salts, oils, fats, and other organic compounds. We also sweat off whatever it was that was on our skin to begin with, including lotion, deodorant, and the like. While the water part of sweat, and most of the salts, are easily washed out, the other compounds can cling. Ew. Fabrics have pores and the pores in fabric, just like pores anywhere else, get clogged up with these yucky bits. When the yucky bits begin to break down, they stink. The clogged pores also capture more junk, compounding the problem and the smell.

Pre-wash

Immediately after wearing, and stinking up, running clothes, either wash them or hang them to dry out. It is critical to long-term smell to not let the clothes mildew or sit around sweaty. I keep two cheap plastic hampers in my basement near my washing machine to use as dirty clothes drying racks. I hang the wet clothes around the edges of the hamper. Then, when they have dried, I just push the clothes into the hamper to await their turn to be washed. If you’re tight on space, try a cheap round hamper on top of the washer. Even less space, hang them outside, or off the shower rod for a few hours. The drier your clothes can be pre-wash, the better off you’ll be.

Dr. Rachel’s actual dirty clothes, hanging to dry.

Synthetic fabrics

Synthetic, wicking, fabrics are fantastic. But, the same thing that makes them wick makes them stink. The little pores that transport moisture away from the skin are also likely to get clogged. When the pores clog, the clothes stink. To wash, and successfully de-stink your synthetic fabrics, you need two things. First, you need a powder-baed laundry enhancer. I like Oxy Clean, but I’ve had equally good results with Borax. Next, you’ll want a laundry detergent that’s up to the task. The best laundry detergent for synthetic workout clothes is Win High Performance Sports Detergent (use coupon code WIN-ICXZ-EQBV to get $5 off your order!).

I love this stuff! It has a special ratio of cleaning agents to work best on synthetic fabrics and a nice smell (and it’s HE safe for you people with fancier washing machines than I). I wash with WIN every load, every time for workout clothes (and gross towels, too). Wash your clothes in warm or hot water (personal preference, I use warm) with the amount of  detergent required for your load size. For best results, use more water than you think you need. This strategy will ensure that the clothes have sufficient room to move around, swishing the water through the pores. What if you have one of those fancy new load sensing washers, you ask. Trick the machine into adding extra water by using the add clothes feature or by adding water manually. Once your clothes are clean and fresh, air dry or dry in a very hot dryer. I air dry to make up for all the extra water I use. If things are EXTRA stinky (think football gear and the like), add a dash of OxyClean or Borax. Honestly, WIN does the job for nearly all my loads. I can’t say enough how much I love it!

One important note – never, ever use fabric softener of any kind (including dryer sheets) with synthetic fabrics. Fabric softener clogs the pores and will trap stink in the fabric. What if you already used the softener (gasp)? That’s ok. Follow the instructions for cotton, below, then wash with WIN and hot water to remove any reside. Your fabrics will be fine once you remove the softener from the pores.

Cotton

My running husband still runs in cotton t shirts (I know!) and I can tell you it’s much harder to de-stink cotton, but it can be done. I find that drying them completely before washing helps. I routinely wash my husband’s cotton shirts in warm water and Tide (Cold Water, or the kind with color-safe bleach) with Oxy Clean and dry them in a very hot dryer. Once a month or so, I perform a de-stinking procedure on the worst offenders. To de-stink cotton, you only need regular, household vinegar. Get yourself a gallon jug of vinegar and, for each full load of stinky stuff, add approximately two cups of vinegar to a “soak” cycle. If your machine doesn’t have soak, let it fill and run though half of a wash cycle with the vinegar, then drain it. After draining the vinegar water, wash the clothes in warm or hot water (personal preference) with a powder-based laundry additive and detergent of your choice. Win is safe for cotton, and works well. I also like ordinary Tide. As with synthetics, stay away from fabric softeners, and even the Tide with Febreze in it. Dry the clothes in a very hot dryer.

There you have it – my tips to stay smelling fresh, even if it’s just at the start of your runs. Want to try the best detergent ever? Buy WIN here, using coupon code WIN-ICXZ-EQBV for $5 off!

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How To Clean Your Handheld Water Bottle

After my recent post about handheld hydrations systems (fancy words for running water bottles), I got several questions about how to clean the bottles. I like things clean, so no one who knows me will be surprised that I have a set of steps for optimal bottle cleaning.

Here it is, Rachel’s step-by-step guide to bottle cleaning. Note: This method works well with all types of handheld bottles and the tiny bottles that are a part of hydration belts (i.e. Fuel Belt, Nathan).

  1. Remove the cloth-like bits. To remove the strap on your Nathan Quickshot, remove the lid, squeeze the bottle part with one hand, and lift the dark grey rubbery ring up off the neck of the bottle. I say “lift”, but I mean wiggle, pull, and slide. It will take a little maneuvering. If it doesn’t seem to fit, squeeze the bottle a bit harder. I basically flatten mine, then fold it a bit to make it shorter so the dark grey ring will move. Once you slip the dark grey rubber part off the neck of the bottle, the rest of the strap will slide right off. Set aside. The remove the strap from your Amphipod Hydraform handheld bottle, remove the bottom loop of the strap (the part with the logo on it). The rubber top ring should then slide right off. If yours has a thermal cover like mine, that comes off after the strap.
  2. Soak the bottles to remove dirt and germs. For this step, I use denture cleaner. The denture cleaner will disinfect and will remove any residual odors or tastes (important if you perhaps left a Nuun disc in a little bit of water overnight – not that I have ever done that). Be sure to get the unflavored – NOT mint – denture cleaner. I use a half tablet per bottle. Put the half tablet in the bottle, fill with warm water, shake to dissolve the tablet, and allow to soak. I soak at least 3-4 hours, sometimes overnight, for optimal freshness. I wash two bottles at a time because then you can rest the bottles against one another in a bowl for easy soaking. 
  3. Dump the denture cleaner out of the bottles and wash the bottles and caps with soap and water. Set aside to dry.
  4. Wash the straps and cloth-like bits. I toss mine in the washing machine in a garment/lingerie bag. I suppose you could hand wash the straps, but I am a fan of machine washing everything that can possibly be machine washed. My bottle straps have tolerated repeated machine washing with no adverse effects.
  5. Hang the straps to dry. Do not dry the straps in the dryer – the rubber might melt.
  6. Reassemble the whole bottle, using the same method as you used for strap removal (squeeze and wiggle the straps).

Follow these easy steps for fresh and clean handheld bottles.