Troy Conquered 26.2: Part 3

Dopey Challenge in 3 Parts – Part 3: Marathon

0300 comes very early. The family got up though to support the three of us who were running: me, Amy, and Dr.Rachel. Everyone was tired and tired of being in the cold but we had one more day left. It was great having that support especially as we headed off to the buses and the start line. 22.4 miles down and 26.2 are left. It is a crazy long distance, the marathon, and I have no idea why people (specifically me) ever signed up for something like this.

Troy's First Marathon

Dr.Rachel decided to let everyone know that not only was Troy there to run, but he was running his first marathon (awesome shirt sis). The shirt drew cheers and compliments along with the occasional “are you crazy?” from spectators and other runners. Turns out, running 22.4 miles leading up to your first marathon is not normal. Even one of Dr.Rachel’s running friends (also down from CT for the race) was caught off-guard. He had assumed that since I was running the Dopey Challenge, I had run marathons before. Nope, not the case.

As soon as the gun went off for our corral, we headed out. Cold and dark, we had done this three times already. Amy, Dr.Rachel, and I hit our pace and were on our way to hours of constant running fun. We cruised to the 5K marker with Amy and then convinced her to stick with us through the 10K. Congrats to Amy on a longest straight running record. The first 10K felt great, sun was coming up and the temperatures had improved. We stopped for a picture in front of the Castle and kept pushing.

Magic Kingdom is fun to run through and really a highlight of the Disney races. Once you get through it you turn back around and jump on the Speedway for a lap. While there were some cool cars, I could have done without the embankments and harder concrete. Then off we went to the lovely hidden back areas of Disney with the miles and miles of roads tourists never see. The waste water treatment plant was of particular fun though we were blessed with very little wind and cool temperatures making it bearable. This whole time Dr.Rachel is chatting away but I can’t recall a thing we talked about. It was mechanical; one foot in front of the other, just kept moving and gaining distance.

I was amazed at how good I was feeling when we entered Animal Kingdom. We had been keeping a great pace and perhaps too fast. Though Expedition Everest was opening it would have been 30+ minutes and I couldn’t stand the idea of sacrificing the time. We ran by it and headed past Animal Kingdom for the 13.1 miles marker and half way point. 35.5 miles in the Dopey Challenge and all systems were still going pretty well.

The next almost 10 miles are a blur. There was the ‘highway to hell’ and ESPN Wide World of Sports. We had hit about 20 miles and the discomfort (using proper Dr.Rachel terms) was really setting in. I had run 20 miles in training so I knew what to expect but the rest was all new territory. I started to take a few walk breaks and just remind myself that it was only 10K or 5K more. That back stretch at 19-22 miles is tough both physically and mentally. Then you hit Hollywood Studios, quickly followed by Epcot. That changes everything.

Hollywood Studios was fun because people were coming into the parks. The watched in both wonder and bemusement as the sea of sweaty people charged by. Many brought signs, more just brought loud voices to cheer on the runners. It was great. The Boardwalk was lined, absolutely lined, with people — all of them cheering. It was fantastic to see so many out and it really helps to propel you through the end of the run. Things are blurry. It had been a long day, a long week.

Epcot is hard to explain. Tired, hungry, in discomfort, just worn down from days of running you enter the Epcot grounds to thundering music. Dr.Rachel says it is the marathon score they use only for this event. It sounds like something from an adventure movie; epic and blaring. It is the perfect score for finishing the marathon. You hit Epcot, hear the music, see the crowds, and realize how close you are and it is hard to not get revitalized. It is like a switch goes off and all you want to do is start sprinting to the finish line (the one that is still over two miles away).

Immediately before the finish line, there is a choir singing. I don’t know who came up with this idea or which group sings but I don’t know the last time I was so relieved. After 5 hours and 30 minutes of running, the end was literally just around the corner. We turned the corner to see our family waiting in the stands shaking signs and cheering us on as we barreled through the finish line.

At 5 hours 34 minutes and 55 seconds I became a marathoner.

Disney Marathon 2015

Three weeks later and ‘the feels’ still get me to think about it.

 

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: 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.

Troy Conquers 26.2: The Easiest Hardest Thing

In his newest post, my awesome running brother really captures something that’s true about running – it’s the easiest, and hardest, thing I do.

 

It is hard to explain running and the brain worms (the compulsive desire to run a stupid long distance and sign up for races).  I never thought I would be in the position to be a distance runner and still, I catch myself thinking ‘Well, I don’t need that.  That is for real runners.’ Only to realize that maybe along the way, I have become a real runner.  40 mile weeks and marathons; planning days and weeks around mileage; traveling with twice as many clothes so I don’t miss a workout — I didn’t plan this and it hasn’t come easy.  Though maybe it has…

Running, running long distances specifically, is the hardest thing I may ever have done.  It is also the easiest.  Running seems essential to human life in some way and something that occurs without ever thinking about it.
We as a species seem born to run.  I watch my three year old nephew and realize that he runs until he falls over, everywhere.  He doesn’t think about it and has no finish line.  He just runs as though it was the easiest and most natural thing in the world.  And really, running is easy.  It is just falling slowly but in a very rapid pace.  There is nothing magical about it and anyone, yes anyone, can run or work up to a run.  Running is easy.

Running, running long distances specifically, is the easiest thing I may have ever done.  It is also the hardest.  Running the long runs is just time, a decision to put aside 4 hours of my day to go out and enjoy nature.  To listen to birds sing and see my neighborhood or a park at a calm 5 mile per hour pace.  Getting to that point, getting to running 3, or 5, or 10 miles is hard.  It is hard to get out of bed and strap on shoes to run for 3 hours.  It is hard to push through mile 15 and 17 as feet and ankles and knees all seem to rebel against movement.  It is hard to face up to chaffing and consuming half your calories in paste form.  Running from mile 17 to 18 last weekend was one of the most physically and mentally straining things I have ever done but I did it.  It takes being more stubborn than smart.  Running is hard.

Troy on run

Maybe that is what is appealing about running or what draws people to run until they bleed and can’t walk another step.  While challenging, the challenge isn’t the activity. The challenge is to push yourself into something you never considered possible before.  Running is easy to do but incredibly hard at the same time.

Amazing Holiday Gifts!

If you’re anything like me, holiday shopping is a little bit of “one for you one for me”. I love to find great gifts and this year I’m on a tight budget. Most of the people I shop for are runners, so I’ve collected lots of great ideas for runners. I you need a Christmas gift, a stocking stuffer, a small gift for one of the less-important days of Hanukkah, or a great little Festivus present, look no further.

If you’re shopping for the runner in your life and looking to save a few dollars, head on over to Clever Training, my go-to shop for running gear and accessories. Use my handy Clever Training discount code (Email me for the code!) for an additional 10% off!

Here are my top ten small holiday gifts for runners.

1. Lock Laces – Lock Laces are a great gift, and one that I’ve profiled before. These nifty elastic laces make tying shoes a thing of the past. They are secure, comfortable, and easy to use.

Lock Laces

2. Believe I Am Training Journal – This beautiful training journal was created by professional runners and features quotes, cute drawings, and helpful notes to inspire the female runner in your life. Check out the beautiful jewelry and clothing while you’re on the site.

Believe I Am

3. Win detergent – Keep your runner smelling fresh all year round with detergent specially formulated for technical fabrics. Special detergent is the key to getting your running clothes clean.

Win detergent

4. Oofos sandals – Oofos are seriously the best recovery footwear ever. They are soft, supportive, and come in fun colors for all runners. They’re available on Clever Training – use the code above for a 10% discount!

5. Add A Day Roller – For rolling tight muscles on the go, nothing beats an Add a Day roller. I love mine!

Add a Day Roller

6. Handheld water bottle – Eventually, your runner is going to need to take in some water on the run. I love my handheld bottles and have found a couple great options. Consider the Nathan Quickshot, or the one from the Amphipod line. Both are secure, small, and useful. Get one with a pocket for more storage. Side note – here are my tips for cleaning the bottle once you get it.

7. Pace band – Does you runner have a goal race coming up? Get them a pace band. These nifty little bands list the splits required to hit a selected finish time. They come in half marathon and full marathon distances.

8. lululemon accessories – I love all things lululemon and their winter running accessories are some of the best on the market. Wicking, comfortable, and chafe-free thanks to flat seams, your runner will love a beanie, headband, or gloves from lululemon.

9. Mantra band – Mantra bands are a fun accessory for the female runner. Featuring inspirational statements on a delicate sliver band, the Mantra Band is a great small gift.

Finally, for those of you looking to spend just a bit more, consider #10. A Garmin Forerunner. With low holiday prices, you can’t beat a Garmin. Tracking runs is easy and the new web-based Connect platform makes viewing runs, and learning from their data, a breeze. Hop on over to Clever Training and use the discount code above for a 10% discount!

What are your favorite running gifts?

Troy Conquers 26.2: Pushing Boundaries

Two weeks ago, I sat down to write about setting a new PR for distance: 14 miles.  Prior to that, the longest distance I had ever run was 13.4 miles during the Walt Disney World Marathon in Jan 2014.  Running the half hurt and I was not physically prepared for the run thanks to plantar fasciitis.  The DrRachelRuns training plan for Dopey obviously pushes beyond this boundary, so a few weeks ago I hit 14 miles and a new PR.

The week before (three weeks ago), I had limped home after running 12 miles and collapsed on the floor – much to the amusement of my wife.  I hadn’t run 12 miles since July and went out too far before fueling, didn’t carry enough water, and ran too fast through the middle of the run.  I took a day off to contemplate why in the world I was putting myself through such misery then got back to work.  The next weekend, I went out and put up 14 miles.  I was foolish though… again.  At mile 11, the cold and snow had set in along with desperation to finish before my Garmin™ ran out of battery power.  I sped up and lost all semblance of pacing during the last three miles.  I hit both a new distance and new half marathon PR (2:35 woot!!), but at the cost of suffering. These 12 and 14 mile runs were not great but they were done.  I couldn’t bring myself to finish the post as I went out to get ready for my next run; sure that it would be another complete study in misery. I was afraid that all I would have to say was how horrible running is and to abandon hope all ye who enter into this dastardly pastime.

Old Record

Old Record

New Record

New Record

Last week was 16 miles – new territory again.  I went in having learned from 12 and 14; a clear pace goal and fueling strategy based on the previous weeks failures.  As the miles piled up, I was amazed at how good I felt and how well the run was going.  I cruised through mile 10 and felt great through mile 12.  Even mile 14 was feeling pretty good.  The wheels fell off at mile 14.5.  I shuffled and moaned for another 1.5 miles to reach the finish line and immediately texted DrRachel that I would never run again.

Pace Map

I will be out there next week running again and this time 18 miles.  What I have come to realize, these long runs have really helped me to identify issues in my fueling and pacing strategies for long runs.  Each time I feel like death by the end of the run I can pick apart what I did wrong and where.  Going from 5K to Half changed my ideas about running kits and what equipment I need.  Going now from Half to Full I am learning more about strategy.  I had a good strategy to get to 14 and now need to revise to get to 18, 20, and ultimately 26.2.

Recovery the Dr. Rachel Way

All runners have to be mindful of rest and recovery, being sure to allow the body time to rest and heal after hard efforts. I’m not always the best at recovery, but as a coach, I have to help my athletes find the best recovery strategy for them. I’ve tried pretty much everything. Recently, I was recounting a few of my less-than-perfect ideas …

The time I waded in the frigid ocean.

Hood to Coast oceanOr swam in the equally cold Lake Winnipesaukee.

Lake W

“Getting the legs moving” by walking around Disney’s Magic Kingdom all day.

Disney

Or Washington DC.

DC

I’ve tried yoga.

Yoga

But my favorite recovery method? Eating all the calories I’ve lost!

Guacamole

Bread

Starbucks

Coconut

There you have it. My confession – I (foam roll and) eat. And that’s the way to recover!

 

Up the Tempo

As a running coach, I work with a lot of runners looking to increase speed. To run faster you have to run faster, and many runners are hoping to do just that, myself included! We’ve all heard the terms tossed around – tempo, fartlek, and intervals, but many runners aren’t sure how to combine those runs to make a training plan that not only makes sense, but helps them get faster. To start, its essential to understand the different types of runs and the purpose behind them.

Let’s talk tempo. A tempo run is a run that is done at a “comfortably hard” pace. Depending on who you ask, there are several different types of tempo runs. I will focus on the most traditional, the lactate-threshold (LT), or threshold, run.

Most runners have heard of lactate. Lactate is often blamed for muscle fatigue, though it’s really lactate plus some other acidic by-products of metabolism that build up in the muscles. At any rate, as your body works harder, acidic stuff builds up in the muscles and makes them less able to work as hard. You slow down when lactate accumulates faster than your body is able to clear it. When you run at lactate-threshold pace, you’re training your body to run at the fastest pace at which you can keep blood lactate levels pretty stable, thus keeping the muscles going and the pace steady.

A LT tempo run is designed to help your muscles get better at using/clearing the by-products of metabolism so you can run for longer at a faster pace. The more training you do at a quick pace, the longer you can keep blood lactate stable and the higher your “threshold”, or the level at which muscles reach their acidic limit. Basically, by running at your current threshold pace, you increase your threshold pace. Higher lactate threshold leads to the ability to run faster, longer, at easier effort.

To get this great effect, you have to train at the right intensity. There are several ways to determine if the intensity is right. Most experts say that a good tempo/LT pace is the pace at which you could run for an hour, but no more. For me, that’s hard to pinpoint, so I use some other, well established, methods to find the right pace.

  • Recent race pace – LT pace is usually about 25-40 seconds slower than your all-out 5k pace
  • Heart rate – LT pace is around 85% of your maximum heart rate

LT pace will vary based on how you feel, the terrain you’re running, and other factors related to training and stress. To make it a little easier, I often use simpler tests to determine my tempo pace. Tempo pace is about an 8 on a 1-to-10 scale of rate of perceived exertion (if 3-5 is easy and 9-10 is racing a 5k). Tempo pace is also the pace at which you can only utter a few words (and those words make sense), but can’t form a complete sentence.

Once you’ve found the right intensity, the next step is to determine the amount of time to spend running at that pace. A good tempo run should have an easy warm up and cool down, with a period of comfortably hard running in the middle. There are three usual types of tempo runs, short tempo runs, classic tempo runs, and long tempo runs. Easy, right? A short tempo run might be a 12-25 minute run with a pace at the fast end of the LT range. These shorter tempo runs are best for short distance race preparation, like 5k or 10k training. A classic tempo run includes 25-40 minutes of steady running at LT pace, and is a great run to include in the training plan for any distance. Finally, the longer tempo run, a tempo run that’s done at the high end of the LT pace range, with that pace held for 40-60 minutes, is a great run for runners training for longer distances. Longer tempo runs have the added benefit of training the body to run in a slightly uncomfortable state for longer periods of time, a mental and physical skill essential for success at half marathon and longer distances.

If you’re hoping to get faster, a tempo run is a great run to add to your training plan. Start with one every 10 days or so, and move up to one tempo run, or other speed-development run, per 5-7 days of training. Now, let’s get speedy!

My Pace or Yours

One of the best parts of being a runner is the opportunity to inspire others. I coach other runners and I love seeing them achieve their goals. I also have a great time as a professional pacer. I work with MarathonPacing, a great marathon and half marathon pacing company, and absolutely love the work that I do as a pacer. Recently, I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to pace two great races, the Mohawk Hudson River Marathon and the Wineglass Marathon events.

The Wineglass Marathon and its associated events is a great weekend of racing in an adorable town. Wineglass takes place in Corning, New York, a charming small town famous for the glass company and museum.

Corning, NY

The race runs through nearby towns, past farms and small communities. It runs over small bridges and past forests full of turning leaves. The scenes are lovely and it’s one of my favorite half marathon courses around. This year, like last year, I paced the 2:30 half marathon group.

Wineglass 2014

I had a great group. We ran together, told jokes, and had a great time. I coasted into the finish with perfect timing and a very happy group of finishers.

The next weekend, I was signed up to pace the Mohawk Hudson River Marathon, pacing the full marathon group. I had the assignment of pacing 5:30, the course cut off. I was to be the last place finisher and guide runners who were close to the course cutoff. The Mohawk Hudson River Marathon is a great event in Albany, New York. Albany is a great town, with a charming old fashioned down town. The race is well organized and supported by a local running club.

MHRM

The race begins at a  local park, with lovely views of the changing leaves.

Mohawk Hudson

Running the course cutoff is a funny thing. Turns out that no one wanted to just squeak in at 5:30 – they wanted to crush their goals. I ran along the bike paths near the river mostly alone, but enjoyed the views and quiet connection to nature. The course is almost entirely run on bike paths through suburban parks. It’s really very nice with a few gentle hills in the middle. I loved the course and enjoyed working with my team.

Pacing is a wonderful thing and one of my favorite things to do as a runner. Next up for me is the Palm Beaches Marathon in Florida in December. I can’t wait!

Troy Conquers 26.2: Shut Up Legs

Here’s a great piece from my brother about his first run with me!

 

Mistakes were made – that is how I categorize more than half my running. Whether it is signing up for things I shouldn’t (Dopey 2015!), starting out too fast (4 minute miles are amazing!), or running too far out on an out and back. Mistakes were made and now I suffer.

I volunteered to help Rachel move to her new home in Connecticut a few weeks ago as any good brother would. I know how much work moving is and understood what I was signing up for in that regard. However, Rachel decreed that while I was in Connecticut, I would join her running group for a taper run and put up 12 miles. Ok. Fine. Moving is a tremendous amount of work but a decent run should still be possible.

I was wrong. Mistakes were made. While I knew how much work moving would be, I did not know that Connecticut had hills. No one told me about this. I expected gentle rolling valleys with beautiful trees just starting to turn colors. The hills, no these mountains, in Connecticut were more than I could handle and had no preparation for attacking. Behold my normal training run (11 mile in MI):

Michigan Run

 

Elevation change of 28 feet and that is because I purposefully ran down to the river and then back up a hill. I try to add in inclines whenever I do a treadmill workout but those are by no means a HILL workout. There is one course I like to run that does have some gentle rolling hills. But not this – this is CT and this was too much.

CT Run

Garmin tells me 401 feet of gain and 362 feet of loss.

After spending two days moving Rachel I was not able to tackle the mountains of Connecticut for the full 12 mile run. I had to drop out at 8.5 miles and was very thankful to the Fleet Feet coaches for getting me back to the store and helping on cool down. As someone who had never been to Connecticut, let alone run there, I have to give a lot of credit to the running community. Not only are there more runners than I am used to, they tackle these mountains (to me) with an ease I could not.

Next time I will know what I am getting into and come planning to run hills. I just may have to train to come to CT to train again.