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.

Brother on the Run: Disney Marathon Weekend

It has been a very long time since I did any writing on running, so I had to look back on the blog to see my last guest post. The last thing I posted on was the Detroit Marathon in October. Life has been hectic since then and I guess it slipped my mind. While my running has not been spectacular, I have done a number of races big and small. As an annual favorite, I once again ran the Walt Disney World Marathon with Dr.Rachel.

The Experience

Disney is always an experience and this year would be no exception. My wife and I like to arrive early to settle into the resort and start getting used to the warmer weather. Having done all my training in the Michigan winter, the heat and humidity of Florida can hit me like a wall at first. This year was even more of an experience when we brought our daughter for her first trip to Disney! I will say that getting through the Disney Marathon Weekend Expo with a wee tiny person was a bit more challenging than I would have thought. Thankfully we went early and were well versed with where to go from having gone in years past.

The expo and grounds were laid out well and we had no issues getting to registration. Lines were short and we were through and shopping for run gear in no time. I always end up picking up a few small things from the expo but this year I was a bit disappointed. The entire slate of official race merchandise did not seem to match the race shirts at all. When I compare the shirts, medals, and pins from 2016 and 2015, it seems like the designs got crossed. It was a little disappointing, but way too much of a first world problem to get hung up on.

Spectator – Half Marathon

I got to sleep in on the first race day this year and instead of running, I watched and cheered for my wife as she and Dr.Rachel completed the half marathon. I really enjoyed the spectator portion of my trip. It was incredibly easy to get around thanks to the wonderful Disney transportation services. I was able to make it to the finish line in plenty of time to see our two runners come down the final stretch and to the finish. Standing there, I started to get a little jealous…..

Runner – Marathon

The big morning came early and thankfully with better weather than 2015. Dr.Rachel and I went as characters from Inside Out this year. I had to dress as Anger and had a lot of fun with the costuming. As we marched our way to corrals, we met up with other Inside Out characters and saw other ingenious costumes. Thanks to another year of running, I was able to start in a higher up corral this year and get going sooner. Waiting around for an hour to start your run is no fun but waiting two hours is even worse.

As we peeled off from the start, I had grand ideas about speed and time. Those ideas were abandoned quickly. It had rained non-stop the day before and the resulting combination of heat and humidity was something I had no way to prepare for. After realizing that it would be better to enjoy the marathon and try not to shrivel up and die in the heat, things became more fun. We stopped for pictures. We talked to people. We checked out the sites. We had a good time. In years past, I have always felt under pressure to race through and get to the finish in the allotted time or to meet some internal marker for time. This year, we instead had more fun with it and ended up with some great pictures. Don’t get me wrong, we still ran hard.

During my last long run, I hurt my knee. I don’t know the technical name for the ligament or muscle that was bothering me but it was a pain and I cursed from mile 19 to 26. The ever helpful medical staff where there with much needed pain medication and when that wasn’t cutting it, some walking breaks helped. Despite the pain, Epcot was great. I really love running through Epcot in the morning and find it to be the highlight of the whole marathon. This year was no exception and turning the corner to see the choir group and know the finish was one bend around was just joyous. My knee even stopped hurting for a bit.

Crossing into the finish, I think I felt the best of all three marathons I have ever run. Sure there was discomfort from the long hot day and the lousy knee, but I have felt a lot worse after a run. We met up with our family and had a good laugh while devouring our snacks. If I had been slightly jealous to see my wife run the half marathon, I entered full ‘medal envy’ status looking at all the runners with Dopey and Goofy completion medals. Just a year ago that had been me and now, sitting with just one medal and a juice box. I wanted more. Needed more.

Brain Worms – Crazy Thoughts

I don’t know about Dopey again; the time commitment and early mornings are a challenge especially with a young family. Goofy. I could run Goofy. Sign me up for 2017!

Guest Post: Have Your Best Run Yet!

I love Clever Training (send me an email to get a code for 10% off!) and buy lots of my training gear from them. Many people know about their awesome selection of running, triathlon, and training gear, but most people don’t know that Clever Training also hosts a great blog with training tips, fun stories, and information about the latest gear. When Ron, the CT Blog guy reached out to me about doing a guest post, I was super excited. I love reading the CT Blog and thought that you would, too. Here’s his post, a set of great tips for having your best run yet. Thanks, Ron!

Have Your Best Run Yet

Any dedicated runner knows that the key to having an amazing run depends on many factors. Perhaps most importantly, it starts with your mentality. Here are a few ways that you can pump yourself up and prepare yourself for your best run yet:

Recognize Negative Thinking

Many runners know that the body can be perfectly capable, but if the mind is not thinking positively, it can have a huge impact on the quality of your run. The trick is to recognize negative thoughts and remember that you have control over them. When a negative thought wanders through your mind, call upon a cue word or song that replaces the negativity with something positive. Focus on the pumping of your arms or your breathing, and you might be surprised at how much easier your run becomes.

Wear the Right Gear

Those shoes you bought for 20 dollars may have been a steal, but you aren’t doing your feet any favors. In order to keep your feet going for long distances, you will need to spend a little more to find the right shoe that is properly insulated. In addition, consider switching from cotton shirts and shorts to moisture-wicking workout clothes. This will help keep the sweat from sticking to your body and turning cold quickly. Having the right workout gear for your runs will allow you to go further distances in comfort.

Learn Proper Breathing

Many long-distance runners make the mistake of breathing too much. This deprives your lungs of oxygen because you are not getting all of the CO2 out of your lungs. Your lungs need oxygen to power you through those distances, so slowing down your breathing will relax you and fully give your lungs the oxygen they need, making running slightly easier. If you get a stitch in your side, matching your stride to your breath will help ease the pain.

Stop Setting Rigid Goals

Setting goals can be good for running, but if your goals are too rigid, then it can fill your mind with a defeatist attitude when you know you are failing to hit that goal. If this happens, don’t focus on the failure to meet your goal. Instead, have back-up goals. For instance, if you set a goal to run nine miles and know that you won’t make it by mile four, set a mini-goal of reaching eight miles instead. Change your self-talk be more positive, and it will help keep you motivated rather than having you want to give up in frustration.

Use Others as Motivation, Not Comparison

Theodore Roosevelt once said that “comparison is the thief of joy,” and this is true in the running world. There is always going to be someone faster than you or who can go longer distances, and this is something that everyone should accept. Instead of getting down about this, use that person as a source of motivation for your next run. Acknowledge that you are only competing against yourself, and that’s all that matters for your enjoyment.

Brother on the Run: All the Carbs!

Here’s the latest from the Brother on the Run – he’s training for a marathon and it’s getting serious. His mileage is increasing and he’s hungry. Really hungry. I know all runners can relate.

 

I was told that I looked absolutely panicked when the server tried to take the bread plate from the table.

Sitting at the wedding table with my young daughter, I had not had a chance to grab a roll before dinner.  The rest of the table thought is hilarious as I could only stare in horror as the bread left the table.  I had run 18 miles that morning; I needed some carbs.  Thankfully, the server was only taking the platter to refill it.  When it returned, I grab two rolls and more butter than any one person needed.  Did I mention the running yet?

The sad truth of my weekend was a very long run before a wedding out of state that we almost didn’t make.  As sad as it sounds, the need to get my miles in ahead of the upcoming Detroit Marathon put me into a panic on planning this trip.  The wedding was out of state, which means a long drive and an unfamiliar environment for running.  With a run of 16 to 18 miles planned (required) on Saturday, I had struggled to think of a way to fit everything in.  The easiest action would have been to miss the wedding.  Stop for a moment and consider how sad this idea is – skipping a wedding to get in a run?

Something in me had to be broken.  Miss the wedding for running.  That would be the worst excuse ever to miss a wedding.  Worst.  Ever.

Luckily for me, my wife talked some sense into me and we planned to drive to the wedding on a Friday so I could get my run in on Saturday morning.  In the week leading up to the wedding, I started looking online for running path and trails near the event.  I finally settled on the Prairie-Duneland trail out of Chesterton, IN.  As a part of the Rail-to-Trails movement, the path was paved and 10 miles from end to end with other connecting trails.   The trail was well enough maintained and wide enough for both bikers and runners to pass through.  There were numerous pavilions and frequent enough restrooms.  The biggest issue was crossing roads – many of these interchanges would have high brush that made it hard to note cars and trucks.  Thankfully, I missed the train crossing by about two minutes but that had carried a worry going into the back stretch.

The run went well enough except for losing track of the mileage and going out father than I intended.  I ended up missing meeting a friend for lunch but was able to get my run accomplished.  The wedding was wonderful and thankfully, the infant gave me a convenient excuse to skip dancing and leave early.  My legs were shot and there was no way I was staying up to shut down the event.  I had a recovery run in the morning to start planning.

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.

To Be a Running Coach

I’ve been a RRCA certified running coach for several years. I truly enjoy coaching and helping runners achieve their goals. If you’ve been thinking about hiring a running coach, do it! Coaches can help athletes of all levels achieve goals, stay accountable to a training program, and inspire you to believe in yourself. Still need convincing? Check out my post on reasons to hire a running coach.

This weekend, as part of another role in my life, I sat in on a running coaching class. Doing so as a certified, and experienced coach, has been an interesting experience. I have a few observations.

 

First, there are many types of coaches. I think many people assume that a running coach is a running coach. One of the keys to a positive coaching experience is having a strong goodness of fit between you and your coach. This refers not just to personality, but to training philosophy and beliefs about running. Most of the coaches-in-training talked about their running philosophy – everything from how much cross training to include to how long the optimal long run before a marathon should be. There was some overlap, of course, but many divergent ideas were presented about every idea. Some coaches-in-training planned to forbid cross training other than pool running. Others wanted trainees to run 18/20/22/24 as a marathon build up. Neither of these sounded like great ideas to me, but they seemed to find it workable. Some individuals had strong reactions to ideas presented and were willing to fight over the supremacy of their ideas. Others were open to learning and were flexible in their ideas. If you’re looking for a coach, find one who believes what you believe, or whose ideas sound feasible and reasonable to you. Don’t be afraid to interview coaches to find one whose ideas are compatible with yours? Not sure what the best training strategy is ok? That’s ok! Find a coach who seems interested in you, and who seems open to your ideas. They’ll lead you when it comes to running strategy, but be sure that you and your coach are compatible. Strong goodness of fit will lead to happier training and better results for you from a coach who understands YOU.

Hearing the coaches-in-training talk about developing training plans based on their strongly held beliefs about what works *for them* was a surprise. I’ve always been a bit of a science nerd. I read a great deal of literature about the science of running and have let the science dictate my own training. I usually try training plans myself before asking a client to run that plan. I study the literature and read the books – I believe the science and value the science over my own experience.

Finally, it’s clear to me that people love running. The coaches-in-training were passionate, engaged, and vocal about their belief systems. It was wonderful to be in the company of people who love running as much as I do.

Summer running

Texts from Marathon Training

One of the best experiences of my running life has been completing the Dopey Challenge with my brother and a close friend. Running through the parks side by side with my brother is one of the most amazing things I have ever done. Part of what’s made it so fun for me has been being with him on his journey as he trained for the marathon. It’s been funny, challenging, and a true joy. Since we live in different parts of the country, the training process has been chronicled in a series of text messages to each other. Here are some highlights – a representation of what training for a marathon is really like.

October – getting the running bug

I made a decision. 2015 I want to run the Detroit Marathon. Yup. Gonna happen.

I had popcorn. And someone brought in homemade chocolate chip cookies. Totes for realz. I want that cookie…

Oh. I has a sad. Ate back all the calories from running today. Food is too delicious.

Gah. Something in me is broken. Going to an Arkansas wedding this weekend. On the internet looking for running trails.

November – mileage gets higher…text revolve around food.

I hunger. I must feast. That is how I have felt all day.

I have snacks hidden and hoarded. I will not be denied.

I feel like a squirrel prepping for winter. Eating and hiding food to eat later all at the same time.

I spend too much time running of thinking of running right now. Literally I have spent lunch planning and writing in excel my fuel strategy.

December  – things start to get serious and race planning begins.

13 is no worry anymore. Which is nice. And 16 was easier today. That last mile is killer though.

Working recovery now.

My goal is to enjoy the 5, 10, and half. My biggest goal for the marathon is to ride the ride and cross the finish line.

40 and pouring rain. Not running today outside. Rest day! Christmas miracle!

Post-race.

357 days and 15 hours. January 6 2016. Who is in for runDisney?

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.

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

Troy Conquers 26.2: The End is Nigh

For the past several months, I’ve had the great pleasure of coaching most of my family members for the Disney Marathon Weekend races. It has been a wonderful journey, and great fun to see each of my family members growing through the training. The best part of coaching my family has been working with my brother as he trains for his first marathon – as part of the Dopey Challenge. I am so deeply proud of him that it stuns me. Every time he achieves a new goal, I am filled with pride. The best moment was this:

Troy's Garmin

The text he sent me following his *second* twenty-miler. He’s amazing. I even got a little misty-eyed reading his texts. It has been truly my pleasure to see him finish this training. Here’s his take:

I ran the Volkslauf 20K in Frankenmuth, MI on July 4, 2014 as my first long race (more than 5K) since Disney in January.  I had trained well through the summer, but missed long runs or workouts along the way.  Still, I dropped 2 min/mile off my expected half marathon time and finished without injury.  It was a success.  The next day, I ran a 5K with Dr. Rachel as a shakeout and a glimpse as to what would come in January again.  I had never done back to back races and probably very few back to back runs.  But that was the future for me – training for Dopey and running back to back to back.

Thus, I consider July 5th as my training start date for the Dopey Challenge.  I started out following the Disney supplied plan. Then, in September, I switched to the Dr. Rachel prepared plan.  Since then, I have followed it as best I can; running through Lake Fayetteville in Arkansas, West Hartford in Connecticut, treadmills, and the Pere Marquette Rail Trial here in Michigan. Since training started, I have logged 406 miles running – 113 of which came in November alone.  Even as temperatures have dipped in Michigan, I have stayed outdoors; trying to avoid the mistakes and injuries of last year.  Staying healthy and getting stronger (running) has been a huge priority.  I have missed out or skipped out on things so much that I am sure my friends and wife are sick of hearing “I would love to but I have to run tomorrow”.  But the end is nigh.

In an early post (August,) I had mentioned my weight loss goals.  When Dr. Rachel visited for the Volkslauf, besides being my running coach, she also helped me with changes to my eating habits.  I don’t say diet.  I still drink beer, eat pizza, and grab fast food (sometimes while still in running clothes).  Nothing has been cut but instead portion size monitored and better decisions made.  I am down 48 pounds, feeling better than ever, and I think it has translated to better, faster run times.  The holidays are a hard time to skip the eggnog, the cupcakes, and the thirds at family dinner.  But the end is nigh.

There are 15 days, 15 hours, and 8 minutes (as I write this) before the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend.  While I expect some of my new habits will carry with me into the future, the end is nigh.