Brother on the Run: A Year of Races

A Year of Races – First Quarter

The race season in Michigan really gets going in May and June but never really stops.  Sure, the races get few and far between during the cold months of winter, but there are still races every month of the year.  That got me thinking – why not run a race in Michigan every month of 2016?  I couldn’t think of a reason not to sign up for races and get in a few miles even with snow on the ground.  We might be on fifth or sixth winter but that is not enough reason to stay indoors.

January – Freeze Your Fanny 5K

There is a whole series of races in the winter that take place in Bay City, MI.  Starting in December with the Ugly Sweater 5K and continuing into January with the Freeze Your Fanny 5K.  I signed up for the Ugly Sweater run with some friends and co-workers and despite chilly temperatures had a good run.  The Freeze Your Fanny takes place in the exact same location and seemed like a good recovery run following the Disney Marathon (just the week before).

This is a straight out and back, no frills, small race.  It was a very cold morning in January and while the snow wasn’t falling, there was enough on the ground including some localized ice patches.  I was pleasantly surprised by the number of people who came out for the run – more than I would have thought based on the temperature.  Most people huddled inside for warmth until the last moment before the gun start but once the gun went off, people flew down the course.

I started out fast and probably a little too ambitious given that my knee (remember my Disney comments from the week before) started to hurt about three quarters of a mile into the race. Once I turned down my pace some and decided to take it easy, everything went really well.  I even placed in my age group (there were very few of us really) and got a medal for my efforts.  I had a good time, but this was about as small a race as you can find.

February – Mardi Gras 5K

The third in the winter running series is the same course and set-up as the Freeze Your Fanny.  I was able to convince my wife to come out for this one and even bring the jogging stroller along.  We lucked out on weather and had a nice and sunny day.  The temperature may not have peaked over freezing but it felt much warmer once you got going.

The race was again well put on and attended by more people than you might think would come out for a chilly winter morning run on the water edge.  There were even other jogging strollers and people with their dogs.  We ran into (almost literally) some high school friends of mine and were able to catch up quickly before the award ceremony.  I again placed in my age group (I swear there must only be three of us going to these things) but really was just happy to be out with my family.

For completing all three winter races, I got a special ‘award’.  In my mind I was picturing a hat, gloves, or even coffee mug.  I was wrong.  Each person completing all three events received a wine glass.  Maybe not my first choice but having since put that wine glass to good use, I cannot complain at all.

These races may not have been anything amazing or special but it is a great excuse to get out and do something in winter.  Spending too long indoors is obviously not good but neither is spending all winter running with nothing but snow drifts to keep you company.  To see so many people come up in the cold and get a run in reminds you that it is a community.

March – BARC St. Patrick’s Day Road Races

March was an odd month.  The weather was 60-65F the week before the BARC St. Patrick’s Day Races; it was maybe 35F the morning of the race.  This was my second year running the event and while I think there was more snow last year, I think this year was much colder.

This year 5,000 people had signed up to run the event making it one of the larger (if not largest) in the area – especially for the time of year.  You can never predict Michigan weather in March and this year was just plain cold.  Despite the frigid temperature, thousands of green and orange clad runners came to downtown Bay City in the early Sunday morning for a run.  The event offers an 8K, 5K, and Irish Double (running both races back to back).  I had done the Irish Double last year and set a 5K PR that held for about 9 months, so there was no chance of missing it this year.  With registration limited, I signed up early to reserve my place.

This was also very well put on race.  The streets are closed well in advance and a huge starting corral is set up for the participants.  Fences running the length of a block allow for plenty of spectators to cheer on their friends and family.  There are food vendors and stores are open to support the event.  The community comes together for the race and the parade that follows.

I took off in a mad dash with a co-worker for the 8K but had to fall off pace about half way through.  I really wasn’t worried about it though.  It allowed me more time to enjoy the architecture and old homes that stretch up and down the race course.  I really do like the course which is good because an hour after finishing the 8K, I was lined back up at the start for the 5K with my sister-in-law.  We did a run-walk through the 5K and had a really good time.  Seeing friends, co-workers, and more than one spectator enjoying a morning beer always makes for a good race.  We finished to cheers and our names being announced on the PA before scooping up some refreshments.  Along with the normal water and banana, there were sports drinks and sandwich cookies to enjoy.  We didn’t stay for the parade but instead took our high quality finisher medals and headed for somewhere warm.

So far, so good.  Three months into the year and three Michigan races underway.  I am not sure the temperature was above freezing for any of them but it was still a good excuse to get out and enjoy running.

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.

Race Review: BARC St. Patrick’s Day Road Races

Race season has come to Michigan! Here’s a great race review from my brother on the run. Now that he’s conquered 26.2, he’s keeping his training going with several short races. Here’s his take on the BARC St. Patrick’s Day Road Races:

There are a number of early season races near to my home in MI that somehow are able to draw a crowd despite the chance for cold weather.  This year, I signed up for the Bay Area Runner’s Club St. Patrick’s day races held in Bay City, MI.  The race featured a 5K, 8K, and Irish Double – participants in the Irish Double ran the 8K and then 5K.  This was my first race following Disney. So, I did the logical thing and signed up to run the Irish Double.

March weather can be unpredictable in MI, with the 2014 race being about 14F (I am told).  Luck was on our side though and the day turned out to be relatively nice.  Credit must be given to the nearly 5000 people who showed up Sunday morning to run while their neighbors started grills and drank beer – yes, we saw multiple people with cases of Miller Light.  There is a parade that follows the races so most people are not there to watch the runners but to prepare for the parade.

The packet pick-up offered prizes to the first 750 in line and sure enough, the line was out the YMCA door and down the road when we showed up.  The volunteers and YMCA staff did a great job of leading people through the building to the packet location (and minor expo).  The only slight here is that some of the announcements were not loud enough or repeated frequently enough.  The expo featured only a couple of vendors, but had plenty of information and stands on upcoming races – we grabbed a pamphlet for everything.

Sunday morning weather was on the cold side, but we still headed out for the 9:00 AM race start time.  The course starts in Bay City, near the waterfront gathering on a street corner.  Parking was a free for all.  I had asked at the expo where to park and was more or less told that it was anywhere I could find a spot.  This is a pet peeve of mine – parking should be clearly marked and easy to access.  Had we only been running the 5K, I would have been worried about finding a parking place.  Going so early, we found something close to the race start/finish and piled out.  The race corrals were easy to find and plenty big to hold the 8K runners.

The race itself goes through the historic district of Bay City and features some impressive houses.  The course is flat, fast, and with very few turns – perfect for setting a PR.  Two highway lanes are provided so at no time did I ever feel crowded or have to dash through a crowd of people.  Water was provided and there were plenty of volunteers directing and cheering.  I think the course and set up was great and the volunteers seemed genuinely happy to be there.  My only complaint – there was road kill on the course.  Someone should have checked the path and taken care of this before we started the race (let alone clean up before the start of the 5K as there was plenty of time).  The finish area was great and staffed by more than enough people to direct, hand out food, and hand out medals.

The 5K followed a shorter version of the same path and was broken into a run and a walk division.  With my pregnant wife by my side, we started at the back of the runners and immediately before the walkers.  We both enjoyed the 5K course (save for road kill) and were pleased to see even more people showing up and cheering.  I was surprised when we reached the finish at the sheer number of people who had shown up – though the weather was about 15F warmer at that point.

Everyone who finished got a medal and those of us who did the Irish Double received two.  The medals are of high quality and look great.  The race t-shirts are made of impossibly soft cotton and while simple in design, were well thought out.  The swag for this race was great and with a relatively low entrance fee made for a great day.

Overall, I had a great time on this race and would probably run it again – staying afterwards for a beer with friends while watching the parade if situations allow (they did not this year).  It probably doesn’t hurt that I set a new 5K PR during the 8K run.  It was a great way to start the race season.

 

Troy Conquers 26.2: Part 2

Dopey Challenge in 3 Parts – Part 2: 3 Days and 22.4 Miles

Florida is supposed to be warm, even in January. Florida is not supposed to be approaching freezing temperatures. When we woke for the 5K, the temperature was < 36oF. Even my hardy Michigan constitution was not prepared for the cold. Normally, I have a full complement of long sleeve shirts and long pants to fight off the cold. I did not pack much and I did not pack anything that went with my costume. This is Disney – you have to run in costume, especially when you are only running 3.1 miles.

My wife and I went as Pain and Panic from the animated Hercules movie. It was awesome to hear people recognize us and compliment the costumes – hand made by the wife. I ran the 5K with my wife and took a nice easy pace. It was crowded and for someone who runs solo 99% of the time, it was the most challenging aspect. I understand people will walk these races but fighting through a sea of people who would walk 5-wide across the road was challenging. The run was fun but too crowded for me. After the 5K, it was again off to the parks and this time Magic Kingdom (super fun times).

Pain and Panic

Seriously Florida? It was a cold morning for the 10K again. Thankfully we didn’t get rid of the Mylar blankets and hand warmers from the day before. We needed them again and once again found ourselves in a parking lot for over an hour waiting to start the race. Thankfully, Dr.Rachel had brought us some fantastic Lululemon gear (yay Christmas presents) that got put to use immediately.   We did family shirts as most of the family was running, thus we could layer up a bit better. Just like the 5K, the 10K was crowded and challenging to move through. I had moved back to my wife’s corral and started last which was likely part of the problem. Again, the course was flat and fun for a rather leisurely pace. We finished in good time and good spirits. Two races down and feeling very good we took the rest of the day a bit easy.

Family

Half marathon time. Third morning of waking up at 0300 and prepping to run. We were tired and tired of being cold. The half was supposed to be warmer during the run but the morning was still chilly. I jumped back in to the wife’s corral and started with her again. After about 5 miles we broke and I headed off alone. I was focused on time and making sure I hit my 16 min/mile pace requirement. There was no stopping allowed for miles 6 to 13.1. I picked up the pace and cruised, catching and passing my mother and Dr.Rachel who started several corrals ahead of me. My Chef Linguine (Ratatouille) costume always draws a few compliments and reminds me why Disney is great for races. People are here to have fun as much as they are to run. I can’t say I remember too many costumes I passed besides a family doing a spectacular “Up”. For me, this race was all about getting through and then resting for the big show on Sunday. I got my snack box in time to wander to the finish and cheer on the wife as she crossed.

After running the 22.4 miles it was time for rest, food, sleep, and worry. Three days and three races down! I had done well and was feeling great still. Next up: the marathon.

Troy Conquers 26.2: Dopey Challenge Part 1

In case you were wondering, my brother on the run crushed his goal and was amazing during the Disney Dopey Challenge. I couldn’t be more proud or happier for him. He’s been blogging about the journey to his first 26.2 – here’s how it all went down, in his own words.

Dopey Challenge in 3 Parts – Part 1: Of Parks and Packets

Dr.Rachel always describes it as ‘taper madness’, the lead up to the race when mileage has dropped and the mind starts to waver. It was hard last year for the half marathon but so much harder this year. The last week or two leading up to the marathon had me driving the wife crazy with excess energy and nervous ticks. I couldn’t sit still. I couldn’t shake the feeling I was supposed to be doing something. I put all that energy to work in packing. We cleared the dining room table and laid out running kits for each event; individually packaged, the kits were my carry-on and the only thing that mattered.

Dining room table

We flew in on Tuesday afternoon, getting to Disney’s Pop Century resort in time for a quick dinner and beer with a work friend who was running his first half marathon. Wednesday arrived and like anyone who had plans to run 50 miles over the next four days, I spent the whole day walking around Animal Kingdom. Our Garmin Vivofit put us at 10-12 miles of walking. With the park relatively empty we did everything we wanted to and, since it was my first time at Animal Kingdom, that meant everything. I don’t think we skipped an animal or attraction. It was a great day and a great way to get acclimated to the Florida weather. It was just a lot of walking.

We left the park and headed to Disney’s Art of Animation resort to meet with Dr.Rachel and our parents for hotel check in. Both years we have stayed in the ‘Little Mermaid’ section of the resort and have been very happy with it. Quiet and a bit off the main lobby, it requires even more walking but is less crowded. After check in and unpacking, it was expo time. New this year was the requirement that each runner had to pick up their own packet with a photo ID. Last year Dr.Rachel had picked up my packet so I was not prepared. Chaos. I had no idea where to go or what I was supposed to be doing. Luckily Dr.Rachel shuttled us through the crowds and to each of the seemingly endless tables and booths to pick up our bibs and gear check bags. With pictures taken to prove we did run Dopey, we headed to the Expo to look over all the shiny merchandise. It was loud, crowded, and abuzz with excitement. Things were already selling out in the official merchandise area (this was towards closing) but I was able to find a shirt and magnet to take home.

Disney Expo

It was stressful and exhausting – too many miles at the park and too much chaos at the expo to be able to rest immediately on return to the hotel. We spent the night laying out our kit for the 5k and checking the weather report. While MI was a chilly -0oF, Orlando was expected at 35-40oF in time for the race to start in the morning. Arm warmers, trash bags, ponchos, extra layers were pulled from suitcases in order to set for a cold morning and a long day.

To be continued.

Pure Michigan Running

Over the Fourth of July, I headed to my home state, Michigan, for a quick visit. While in town, I couldn’t resist a few races. First up was the Volkslaufe. Volkslaufe (German for “the people’s race” is one of my favorite Fourth of July traditions. What started as a small, hometown race has grown over the years. This year, the race was featured in Runners World Magazine. What I love about the Volkslaufe is that, despite its growth, it hasn’t lost the hometown charm. For example, a giant tractor greeted runners at packet pick up, held in a local event hall.

Volkslaufe packet pick up

My siblings and I were able to easily pick up our packets without waiting in line, and quickly made our way through the tiny expo. The Volkslaufe includes 4 races, a 20k, 10k, 5k, and 2k children’s race. The races are all held on July 4th every year.

This year I chose the 20k, with a course that winds through some of the best Michigan farmland. The weather was perfect, about 75 degrees and sunny. I had on my Fourth of July best, and was ready to run with my sister-in-law (who raced her way to a HUGE PR, by the way).

Volkslaufe

Runners exit town almost immediately and head out past corn fields, soybean fields, and pretty much every other crop Michigan has to offer. The views are stunning and the farmhouses are well-maintained. I loved running through the countryside. The breeze was blowing, the birds were chirping, and the course was smooth. The course began to loop back towards town, over a gorgeous old bridge and along a short dirt road. About 10 miles into the 20k, the course heads back in towards town and through lovely, mature neighborhoods. Spectators were few and far between, but those that were out were enthusiastic. Running behind the classic restaurant, Zehnder’s, the course geared up for its big finish. The last mile or so is run along the Cass River, over a classic, wooden covered bridge, and into Heritage Park. The course is one of my favorites and this year was no exception. The weather was perfect, the course was pretty, and the small-town hospitality was in full effect. It was a great day for a run!

Volkslaufe 20k Elevation

Volkslaufe 20k Elevation

Race Recap: Runners World Heartbreak Hill Half Festival

Mom and I always do something fun for my birthday and this year was no exception. We decided to participate in the Runners World Heartbreak Hill Half Marathon Festival (HHHalf for short). We signed up ages ago, thinking that with Runners World magazine and DMSE as hosts, it would be a great weekend. Unfortunately, like many other back-of-the-pack athletes, we didn’t have the most wonderful experience.

The pre-race communication was excellent. Mom and I were sure we had all the details and were ready to go come race day. We had booked a nice hotel on the Charles River and decided to spend the whole weekend. We got to our hotel easily and from there navigated the few short miles to Boston College, where packet pick up was held. At the pickup, we easily found our numbers and headed to the bib and shirt pick up area. There, we encountered our first problem of the weekend. I was handed two shirts, a hat, socks, a bib, four safety pins, and a race information booklet. And no bag. We were told that the bags would be handed out at gear check in the morning. That was a fine strategy, but there was no way for me to carry my goodies. Had I known, I would have brought something larger than my purse. Luckily, my hat made a handy bag and I shoved everything in as best I could. Later review of the race information booklet would note that for gear check I should use the bag I was given during packet pick up. Hmmm. We made our way around the expo, but didn’t spend much time there thanks to a tuna vendor. Both mom and I can’t stand to be around fish and the tuna smell was wafting around. We made our way to one of the suggested dinner locations – Lee’s Burgers. It was delightful.

Newton burgers

Lee’s is a tiny cafe with all the burger basics. Mom and I enjoyed our burgers, walked around Newton a bit, and headed back to the hotel for an early bed time.

Bright and early Saturday morning, mom and I prepared for the 5k. We would have the 10k later that day. We knew that we would pay for parking, but we didn’t know that there would be no re-admittance. That meant that if we wanted to stay for any speakers or other fun events, we had to wait on campus all day, without food. While we had wanted to see the speakers, that didn’t seem like fun, so we parked and planning to head back to the car after racing was over for the day. Parking was close to the race start, and we made our way to the start and got lined up. The race was mass-start, but people generally seemed to have lined up well and it went smoothly. The 5k course was well marked and wound around a nice little lake. The hills were small and the views were lovely, so we were happy. As soon as the 5k was over, we grabbed a water and bagel (no yogurt for us and the bananas were gone) and lined back up for the 10k. The 10k was a big disappointment. Mom was planning to do her first race with hills. Being from Florida, she has only ever raced flat courses. The 10k had a posted cutoff of 15 minute miles – no problem for mom. I had inquired early in the registration process about the 15 minute miles time cut off and was told that there would be a mass start and 15 minute miles counted from the gun. The printed material also noted that the 15 minutes would be counted from the gun. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a mass start. There was a wave start and the 15 minutes was counted from the start of the first wave, not the last. We started 11 minutes after the gun, effectively making the cut off 12 minute miles – and we weren’t the last wave. We were shocked. There was no way mom could do 12 minute miles with the hills. It was disappointing and unexpected. We are very careful about the races we choose and this one, given its advertised openness to back of the packers seemed like a good option. Soon enough, we were asked to move on to the sidewalk. That was fine, but what really bothered me was that the race officials were cleaning up. There wasn’t much assistance at water stops and all the signs were either gone or being removed. The course wasn’t well marked – luckily it’s pretty easy to go out and back on Commerce Avenue.

HHHalf 10k Elevation

HHHalf 10k Elevation

The course had the famous hills and was an enjoyable course. I liked that much of it was on the shady path and I liked seeing the famous Newton scenery. Overall, it was a great race – just one detail that impacted our enjoyment. At the end of the race, we got a water and a bagel. We were offered a bag of chips and a yogurt, but took neither. Both of us were hot and hungry, so we went to a local restaurant for lunch. Not wanting to pay to park again, we went back to the hotel to rest.

The next day, I ran in the HHHalf half marathon and mom cheered. I was in the midst of a major allergy attack and had taken a massive quantity of allergy medicine, so I wasn’t the happiest of runners. I felt lethargic and hot. And, that whole bit about allergy medicine plus running equals heart palpitations – totally true. Luckily, I found a nice lady from Kentucky, who I ran with most of the race. The course headed out into Newton, through some lovely neighborhoods, and up several of the famous Newton hills. When I signed up what I hadn’t thought about was that I would go OUT via the hills AND back via the hills. It was crazy hilly! It was pretty hot, so I ran a conservative pace and had a great time. I chatted with folks around me and enjoyed the camaraderie of the group of runners. It was a fun race.

HHHalf Elevation

As a long time runner, the joy of seeing all the famous Boston Marathon landmarks. I enjoyed the race and found the course well-marked and the volunteers mostly helpful. At the end, I was once again treated to a bagel, water, chips, and yogurt. As hungry as I usually am after a long run, I headed straight for BoLoco Burritos. I had seen their restaurant and recognized it from Ragnar, so we treated ourselves to a huge burrito and headed home.

All in all, it was a fun weekend. As far as the races, they were less wonderful than expected, but still a great experience.

HHHalf

Twelve Ways to Avoid Running Disaster

 

As you may know, this summer I’m coaching for Fleet Feet West Hartford’s Half Marathon Training Program. One of my favorite responsibilities as a coach is to pass words of running wisdom along to my runners.

The race is less than a month away and I’ve been thinking about potential race-day disasters (always the optimist). In an effort to help my first time half marathoners avoid problems on the run, I offer today’s installment of Dr. Rachel’s Running Wisdom – Twelve Ways to Avoid Running Disaster:

Disaster!

Prevention

Solution (whew!)

Blister! Buy socks that include either some synthetic material or wool. Thickness depends on preference. I prefer thin, with reinforced heels. Test your socks several times before wearing them in a race. Some people have luck with applying BodyGlide, or taping blister-prone areas with KT Tape or regular athletic tape prior to adding the sock. Ill-fitting or old shoes will also create blisters, so make sure your shoes are right for your feet. It’s also wise to carry blister-specific band aids if you’re prone to blisters If you notice a blister starting mid-race, don’t wait until it’s gigantic. Adjust your socks, retie your shoe, and give it another mile. If you are carrying a blister-specific bandaid , now’s the time to use it. Failing that, it’s time to get creative. I have used a leaf as a blister barrier. Some races offer Vaseline at the medical stations. A little Vaseline on the budding blister can sometimes help. If nothing seems to help, take off your sock and try that. Worst case, a blister won’t kill you.
Chafing! The best way to prevent chafing is to wear technical running apparel that is designed for fitness. What you wear is personal preference, but be sure that you test anything you intend to wear in a variety of conditions before the race. Do not wear something that you bought at the expo or your race t-shirt unless it’s that or naked. If you notice a bit of chafing, act as soon as possible. The salt in sweat will exacerbate chafing, so wash the area often with water (it’s great to wash the area at the water stops). Many races will have Vaseline or BodyGlide at first aid stations. If you see one on the course, stop. If you see a course official on a bike, ask what they have. You might be able to get something that will help. In a pinch, lotion, chapstick, and even deodorant will work as an anti-chafing balm.
Cramp! Ensure that you’re properly hydrated before the race and in the week leading up to the race. Drink some water, or take some electrolytes at the first sign of cramping. Walk, massage, or stretch the cramped muscle. Drink an extra cup of water.
Stomach upset (morning of)! Don’t eat anything new the night before a race. Go for something tried and true and heavier on protein just in case. Eat something bland and stomach-friendly before the race. Ideally, you’ve practiced eating a number of different things before the race and are prepared with a list of foods that you can tolerate.
Stomach upset (mid-race)! Don’t eat anything new before or during the race. Hope for the best. Sip water. Sipping cool water can help. Slow your pace and focus on deep breathing. Consider reducing your intake of electrolyte drinks or fuels if you know that carbs are a problem for you.
Side stitch! No one really knows what causes side stitches, so your guess is as good as mine. Some people think that applying pressure directly to the stitch works. Others suggest stretching the abdomen by leaning away from the stitch. Others suggest deep breathing, coughing, and yawning. I suggest trying them all. Sometimes, side stitches can be an early sign of dehydration, so make sure you’re hydrating properly.
Shoelaces won’t stay tied! Check out this neat guide to shoe lacing on Runners World, or another on Katie Runs This. Triple knot those laces and keep going!
Headache! Consider taking ibuprofen or another pill of choice, but don’t overdo it. Pain relievers can mask pain that tips you off to something bad going on. Headaches during the race may be a sign of dehydration – make sure you’re hydrated. If you need a pain reliever, most aid stations will have something.
Sick with a cold! Only take a decongestant if you’ve had experience with them prior to running. Some people experience adverse effects, ranging from mild to serious. Consult your doctor if you have questions or need advice. Perfect the “farmer’s blow” and hope for the best.
Breathing doesn’t seem right! Practice a variety of breathing techniques during training runs. Learn ways to relax on the run and to calm yourself, and your breathing. Try coughing or sighing. Many people find that the more they focus on breathing the worse it becomes. A sigh or a cough can trigger a resetting of the diaphragm. If that doesn’t work, try breathing in a three part breath, feeling breath in the chest, ribs, and belly.
Aches and pains during the race! Practice good training – rest, massage, stretch, foam roll, and treat your body right. Kinesiotaping (using KT tape, the best thing ever) can help support muscles and joints pre-race. Most large race expos will have KT taping. If not, learning the technique from a PT or sports medicine professional can be useful. Stretch, walk if you need to, and honor your body. If it’s something more than the normal aches and pains, stop and evaluate the situation. There’s no shame in DNFing one race to focus on healing and running happily into the future.
Embarrassing race photos! I’m sorry. I have no advice. Every single picture ever taken of me in a race is horrifying. I either look like I’m near death or being chased by zombies. Smile when you see the cameras and know that pretty much everyone looks hideous in race photos. If you need cheering up, check out this Tumblr devoted to terrifying race pictures. Their tagline – “if you look good, you aren’t working hard enough”. I like it.

Race Entry for One?

Like so many posts, today’s is inspired by a conversation I had with a running friend. The question we were discussing – do you prefer to race with a group of friends, or race alone?

My first response was that I like to race with friends. After some thinking, and some running, I’m still pretty sure I’d rather race with friends, but there are reasons to go for the race entry for one.

As someone who’s involved in the running community, I’ve built wonderful friendships with my fellow runners. I have had the most fun running as part of a great team (and even winning one race in the team division!). Friends are there to support you when it’s 34 degrees and sleeting and racing doesn’t seem like such a good idea.

Running friends wait in the corrals with you, cross the finish line holding your hand, and make even huge events seem friendly.

When you race with friends, you have someone with whom to share the silly details of the race – the ride to the race, the dude in the kilt (see above), the terrible food, and the terrifying pota-pottie at mile 9. Racing with a friend ensures the jokes, memories, and silliness goes on long after the race is over. Running friends can challenge  you to be your best at races. No one knows what I’m capable of more than the friends that I run with regularly, and they push me to be my best. Without a certain running friend, whom I was determined to beat in a grand prix style race event, I wouldn’t be an age group winner.

I love my running friends and I treasure all the wonderful memories I have from our shared races. I am so honored to have so many wonderful friends and so many who love to race as much as I do.

But, there’s something to be said for entering a race alone and leaving with new friends. Without friends to serve as my social cushion, I am forced to talk to new people. Often, those new people are pretty cool. Runners are a fun bunch. In fact, I’ve met several enduring running friends at races. We started as strangers and ended up close friends. There have been other races at which I’ve raced alone and loved the solitude of being one within a group of many.

So, my fellow runners, what’s your answer? Race entry for one, or for many?

Why Hire a Running Coach?

As a coach, I might be biased, but I think that everyone, even casual athletes, can benefit from running coaching. Most runners who hire coaches don’t hire them because of a lack of knowledge about running. In fact, most runners can learn much of what they need to know by exploring some of the many books, magazines, or websites devoted to running science. So, why hire a coach? Runners, walkers, and endurance athletes can benefit from a partnership with a coach for many reasons – here are some of the most common reasons for hiring a running coach.

  1. Accountability – One of the most common reasons for hiring a coach is to have someone to whom the runner/walker is accountable. Just knowing that someone was monitoring my workouts, and would know if I shaved a mile off the end of a run, was highly motivating for me. I never thought of myself as a running slacker, but knowing that someone else would see every detail of each workout made me pay closer attention to my running, and I ran harder when I might have been tempted to cheat. Accountability is also important for new runners/walkers and individuals who want to lose weight through fitness. Working with a coach to plan workouts adds a higher level of commitment to, and investment in, each workout.
  2. Fresh ideas – The best coach-athlete partnerships should be creative and dynamic. A good coach will help you build your training and will offer fresh, new ideas to invigorate a training plan that might have become stale.
  3. Confidence – Working with a coach can help even the casual athlete to build confidence. Achieving mini-goals, like target paces or distances in workouts, feels great and can help your training by building a sense of success. Good coaches can also help you avoid some of the stupid training mistakes we all make, like pushing too hard, or adding distance too quickly, by serving as another set of eyes on your training.
  4. Intensity – I love running, and if you do, too, you might have the same tendency as me – running the same pace, the same routes, and with the same running friends over and over. It’s comforting and easy to do the same workouts. Working with a coach is a great way to build intensity into workouts, pushing you out of your comfortable pace, route, or workout.

Any of the listed reasons, and an infinite number of personal reasons, can lead to the beginning of a great coach-athlete partnership. Most coaches offer a variety of services, and many coaches will offer personalized service recommendations. Coaches generally work with the athlete to develop goals for set time periods, including long and short term goals. Then, the coach and athlete work together to determine what services would be appropriate for achieving those goals. That might include training plan development, in which the coach makes a personalized training plan for the athlete, traditional coaching, in which the coach monitors the athlete’s progress, making frequent updates to the training plan, or something else. Some coaches work best with a particular type of athlete (i.e. those whose goal is an age group win at a major race, marathoners, or fitness walkers), others offer more generalized services.

Once you’ve decided to hire a coach, you need to find one.  First, you’ll need to decide if you’d like to work with an in-person coach, or a distance coach. Many coaches offer distance coaching services, including some famous ones like Greg McMillan and Hal Higdon. A great place to start is the Road Runners Club of America (RRCA.org). They have a coach finder application (you can search by state and see coaches in your area). They also have useful articles about coaching and hiring a coach. A good coach will be willing to talk with you about her services before you commit. Talk with the coach about the services she offers, and your goals. Inquire about the coach’s preferred training group (i.e. does she work with walkers? Does she do plans with run/walk intervals? Does she work with marathoners? etc.) and the ways in which she works with athletes. Learn about her style and how your work together might be. If you have questions about the coaching process, ask!

For more information about my coaching services, check out my coaching page.

I urge you to consider hiring a coach – it might be just the thing to shake a summer slump or prepare for amazing fall races.