It’s almost spring! At least, I hope it’s almost spring. Lots of my running coaching clients are training for a springtime race, including a few first time 5k runners. I love 5ks and think they’re a perfect first race. Think a 5k might be for you? Here’s a training plan to get started! Right click and save the picture for your very own printable copy! Or, contact me (follow the link above) and I will email you a pdf of your own.
My brother has been an amazing client, one of the best I’ve ever had as a running coach. Maybe I’m biased because he’s my brother, but he did an amazing job of training for, and finishing his first marathon. Following along as he chronicled it for this blog as been a joy. Here’s his summary of the whole thing:
5 hours 34 minutes 55 seconds.
My official marathon time (even though Dr.Rachel’s Garmin put us at 26.85 miles).
I didn’t care it was raining and getting cold. After standing and walking for 45 minutes, all I wanted was to sit down and eat. The discomfort was manageable, but my mental focus just kept drifting. Exhaustion had caught up and still, I was proud of my accomplishment.
It was amazing to cross the finish line and be handed a medal with Dr.Rachel standing beside me. I couldn’t have done this without her and the rest of my family. Dr.Rachel helped with the training, nutrition, and pacing to keep me going through the race. Wifey put up with me being gone every Saturday and Sunday for months and my neurotic behavior about my mileage every night. The rest of the family was there to support, cheer, and encourage us on. It was a great experience.
It has also been a great learning tool. Through the training, I have learned a lot as a runner and improved as a runner because of it. Dr.Rachel originally asked me to chronicle the training. Much of what has been written are the lessons I have learned along the way.
So to finish off, here is a synopsis of some of the things I learned:
- Each new distance hurts (i.e. discomfort). Some old distances hurt every time. You just have to keep going.
- Benjamin Franklin is quoted as “Energy and persistence conquer all things.” Yes, there is an element of physical health but it turns out running a marathon is just being more determined and more persistent than the road.
- Kits may not make the runner but they go a long way in making it comfortable to run. Invest in a set of high quality clothing for long runs (if nothing else).
- Chaffing happens; nip guards exist for a reason. Vanity doesn’t exist at mile 26.
- Food and water. Water and food. More food. Maybe a nap. Can you nap while eating?
- Bring extra gear – long pants, shorts, long sleeves, t-shirts, arm warmers, blankets, ponchos, etc. Weather changes and better to be prepared than miserable.
- Use training runs to make mistakes – try out different paces and fueling strategies until you find one that works.
- A finisher medal may seem trite but damn does it feel good; good enough to make all the other discomfort silent. If just for a moment.
- The best way to finish is to sign up for another race – I am already signed up for Detroit 2015.
- Brain Worms will consume you.
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!
357 days and 15 hours. January 6 2016. Who is in for runDisney?
Recently, I was approached by the people at Link Laces to review their product. Always willing to try new things, my mom and I reviewed the laces. I found them easy to use and install, but, being a regular shoelace person, didn’t have a strong opinion. So, I asked mom to review them. Mom regularly uses LockLaces and likes the elastic shoelaces. Here is what she had to say:
Link Laces are a elastic laces for shoes replacing standard laces. The package comes with simple instructions to lace, cut, lock, and clip. The laces were shorter than I was accustomed to, but I do not use the last hole on my shoes. The tight spring loaded lock keeps the laces in place.
The shorter length meant a tighter fit when I slipped on my shoes, I tend to pull the tongue out a bit more than these would allow. The clip cinched up nicely and I was ready for the first of several trial uses. On the short walk, they were perfect, keeping the shoes firmly secure but not putting undo pressure on the top of my feet. The next longer and admittedly warmer walk I had problems with the tight elastic laces. As my feet swelled, the laces remained firmly unstretchable. I had to stop several times to adjust the tension for a more comfortable fit. The main reason I want a product such as this is to keep from frequently stopping to readjust my laces as my feet change during my walks. Finally I used the laces on shoes I planned to wear all day. I encountered a similar problem, as my feet changed, the laces did not. It was not a comfortable fit. I continued to try the Link Laces under various conditions and length of time worn, thinking it was just me or the shoes.
I gave the Link Laces a fair chance to work, but for me, not so much. The ease of slipping on shoes and cinching up got me out the door quick, but the trade off was stopping to adjust the laces on longer walks or warmer conditions. It made my shoes just too tight for the long haul. I will pass on adding these to my footwear.
Note: We were provided with complimentary product to complete this review, but were not compensated for the review.
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.
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.
Three weeks later and ‘the feels’ still get me to think about it.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
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:
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.
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.
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.