serious running: trail running, races, shoe reviews

Posts Tagged ‘training’

Running Vertical

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010


When I can’t run on trails I like to run races that mirror urban trail running.  Last weekend I got a chance to participate in a unique race: running to the top of 191 Peachtree, a 50-story office building in downtown Atlanta. I was sorta bummed the race wouldn’t be happening in the Bank of America building as it had in years past since BofA is the tallest in Atlanta (and 8th tallest in the US) but at 770 feet, 191 Peachtree ain’t no slouch (it’s the 4th tallest in the ATL and 57th tallest in the US). The race was held as a benefit for the American Lung Association and each racer is required to raise at least $100 in donations on top of the $25 entry fee.


At around 9am on Saturday morning the racers lined up on the street outside of the building and I chatted a few folks up to see what my strategy should be. Everyone I spoke to laughed when I asked if they ran the whole way – most of them planned to walk. One guy I spoke with said he walked the whole thing last year in a time of around 12 minutes which didn’t sound too bad. Heck, I could do almost anything for 12 minutes!

I hadn’t done any training for the race but I still thought it should be possible to jog up at least the first few floors. A couple years ago I used to include stadium step running in my training routine and I was actually sorta good at it. But running stadium steps is a little different than running up 50 flights of stairs – at least you get a break when you descend the aisles.

At the race, runners were sent up the stairs in 10 second intervals to avoid a massive traffic jam. The event was chip timed with mats at the bottom and top of the course. I decided to start off at a decent clip, taking 2 steps at a time and I immediately started passing runners who started before me. Before I knew it I blew past the first water stop (seriously) on the 8th floor. Next thing I knew, I was still jogging at the halfway mark, 25 floors. My strategy was to run up the stairs and walk across the transition landings which helped because I was starting to get dizzy from running around in circles.

By the time I hit the second water stop at the 38th floor I was starting to feel pretty spent and around 40 I have to admit I walked 2 or 3 floors. With one final push to the top, I ran up the remaining levels and entered the 50th floor to a cheering crowd lining the hallway. Gatorade and sweeping views of the Atlanta skyline awaited and after cooling down for a few minutes I took the elevator back down to earth.

I didn’t time myself during the run so I waited around for the results and was surprised at how well I did: 7 mins, 30 secs (9 sec per floor) which earned me third place overall out of about 200 runners. As my brother Chris said, it seems like I may have found my race. With a little training I’ll be back next year, ready to take first!

Tips to Start Trail Running

Monday, April 13th, 2009


So you want to be a trail runner.  Sure, we all do, but you can’t just start running on trails to be a trail runner.  Well, I guess you can.  But, you won’t get the most trail training out of it, run your fastest, or work the right parts of your body unless you practice trail running first.

The first thing you need to do is “train as you fight.”  If you want to begin trail racing then you should start by practicing running on trails.  When training you want to try to simulate the same conditions you will experience during your trail race.  If you think it’s going to run on race day, bring a hose and wet down the trail on your next practice run.  If you think it is going to be hot on race day, wear a lot more layers of clothes.  Try to replicate how you will be feeling on your first trail race during your practice trail runs.

The biggest physical difference is that you will have more lateral movements when trail running.  In trail running you use your peripheral muscles around your ankles and hips more, also your quadriceps and glutes.  So, although you may develop larger ankles, or cankles, from trail running, you will also develop larger glutes which are perfect for sitting on.  It’s like having a cushion whereever you sit down!

The fact is that trails are never perfectly smooth, that’s what asphalt is for, so you will almost never be running at your perfect stride.  Get over it and grasp this concept before hitting the trails.  You will constantly be ducking and dodging low branches, overgrown brush, and low flying birds.  It’s going to slow you down.  Don’t worry, just don’t be surprised and be ready to react.  It’s all part of the fun!

Try to determine your trail race to road race ratio.  If on average you run 4 miles in 30 minutes on the road and 35 minutes on the trail then your trail to road ratio is 1.166 (35/30).  You can use this to determine your goal for a 10k trail race by taking your 10k road race time and multiplying it by your trail to road ratio.  So if you aim to run a 10k in 45 minutes on the road then your goal for a 10k trail run should be 45 x 1.166 which is 52:30.  I know, homework sucks but it will help you in the long run.  Trust me.  I know all about the long runs.

Tips for Running a Marathon

Thursday, March 26th, 2009


One of my friends from the Army was telling me that he is running a marathon this weekend and his goal is to run it in under 5 hours.  Sometimes I forget that there is a whole group of runners out there who’s only goal is to finish the race.  That’s not a bad goal to have, a marathon is a difficult endeavor and not everyone can do it.  Here are some tips for running a successful marathon.  Just remember, it’s not how fast you run, it’s how you finish the race.  A smile and still standing is optimal.

Hydration is probably the most important factor to running a successful marathon (assuming you’ve trained and have the right mental frame of mind going into it).  It is important to start hydrating for a race about a week prior to the event.  Try to alternate between Gatorade and water in order to get the right amount of electrolytes.  It is possible to over-hydrate so don’t put down more water than your body needs.  Only drink water and Gatorade the week before the race and don’t drink anything that will dehydrate.  You can concentrate on dehydrating when are ready to celebrate your accomplishment.

In addition to increasing your hydration intake, you need to load up on carbs.  Doesn’t that sound fun?  You also need to try to get some protein in there.  I typically pay attention to this about 36 hours prior to the race.  I feel like any earlier than that and you use the energy doing other things and the nutrients pass through your body by race day.  But then again I eat spaghetti every night anyways so its tough to tell.  Some nights if I’m in a hurry I eat a can of Spaghetti O’s instead.  I love’em.

Make sure you get in the right frame of mind as you’re toeing the line.  You want to be mentally prepared for your race so think about all the training you have done.  Think about how you are ready to run it.  Imagine how it will feel crossing the finish line and seeing your family or friends.  Think about having to tell them “I didn’t reach my goal” or “I had to walk.”  You’ve got to tap into both positive and negative reinforcement to achieve your goals.  I once dated someone who always told me I was awesome and it got to the point where I thought it was counter-productive.  If I’m already awesome, then why do I have to work hard to become awesomener?  I’m fine with awesome.

You need to have a good race day breakfast.  It needs to be something that has carbohydrates but nothing too extreme that may upset your stomach.  I typically have a couple of plain bagels.  Try out a couple of different breakfast items before your long runs during training and see what feels best for you.  No matter what the type of food it is, you need to have some energy in your body for the start of the race.

Try not to run out too fast.  I wasn’t sure if I should mention this though.  Many races I have gone out a little faster than I had planned but it worked out for the best.  Yes, my first couple of miles may be faster than mile 20 and 21 but it sets a good tone for the race.  It’s puts you in position to have a great time or you can ease off a bit and run what you imagined you would.  However, just don’t get too excited and over extend yourself to the point that you are tired and negative for the remainder of the race.  I did this in the first marathon I ran, first half in 1:30, the second half 2:15.  I didn’t enjoy the second half as much even though it was in the Hollywood area instead of Inglewood.  I lived in Inglewood.

Develop some mantras to keep you occupied and motivate you.  You have to determine what works best for you, but mine is usually, “The faster you run the quicker you’ll be done.”  Please don’t use my mantra though.  It’s mine.  Mantras value is inversely proportion to the amount of people who use it.  If you need one try, “Serenity Now.”  I’m sure no one has ever said that before!

Overall have the right mental state of mind going into the race.  Doing all of this things will give you the confidence you need to know that you are ready and able to achieve your goals.  You can do it.

XTERRA Georgia Trail Run Series

Monday, February 23rd, 2009

This Saturday I’ll be doing a half-marathon trail run in Winder, GA, the Xterra Georgia Trail Run Series “Thrill In The Hills XDURO.” It should be a lot of fun.  I haven’t trained for it necessarily but I am in the middle of a half-marathon training schedule so I should be fine.  Not that that really matters though.  I once had an argument with a buddy about how at any time, no matter if we had been training or not, we could run a half-marathon.  Well, I said I could run a half-marathon at anytime; he said that he could do a full marathon “wheneves.”  That’s what the argument was about.  I still don’t think you could do it bro-seph.

Back to the trail run.  I haven’t been trail running as much as I should lately and can’t wait to get out there in the woods.  I should be getting some new trail running shoes in the mail this week.  I think I’m going to run in them this race.  I’ve always thought the best way to break in new shoes is with a long run.  Breaking in new shoes is like pulling a band-aid off:  all at once!  On the Dirty Spokes website they say about this race, “This is great single and double track off-road running experience. The race will start on the powerlines (required for spacing) but will soon lead into the woods. The terrain is made up of a little bit of everything, rolling hills, climbs, single track, double track, roots with some technical sections. The course is beautiful and offers something for every runner truly wishing to ‘ditch the city’. Nestled in the woods of suburban Atlanta lies a true gem. Well groomed system of trails with gentle slopes and beautiful scenery will leave you breathless (if that doesn’t, the 13.1 miles will). Once you descend into the woods, you will forget your in the city. As a matter of fact, you will come to know why we follow the creed ‘Ditch the City’.”  It looks like they still have spots available.  Go check it out if you are in the area.  I’ll be the guy wearing a hip SeriousRunning T-shirt.  I’m awesome.

What is it about trail running that inspires us so much?  Is it being out with nature?  Is it feeling like you are the only one around for miles?  I personally like the extra challenge running on trails elicits.  I don’t find too many things “extreme” unless it involves a cliff and a parachute or something like that.  That’s pretty gnarly.  But when trail running I get the challenge of a technical course and the feeling of pushing my body to its limits.  Dehydration is extreme…that’s why I drink Mountain Dew.

I hope you get out to do some trail runs this weekend.  Bring Tony, two chicken salad sandwiches and turn your hat backwards if you want to be really extreme.  Just make sure to be cool or Tony may tell you to “step off.”

(If you did not recognize the last two sentences of this blog as a references to a Seinfeld episode about being extreme I am sorry.  I owe you two sentences…well, 4 now)

Always Have A Flexible Running Training Plan

Sunday, February 22nd, 2009

So from the Running Down a Dream blog series, the first comment I received from someone was that I should talk about my training and about the different work-outs that I do.  Which is pretty much the one thing that I said I wouldn’t write about.  Well, you want to hear about it, you got it.  Maybe it will help someone in their training.  Maybe it will motivate some people.  Maybe it will help keep me accountable in my own training schedule.  Or, or, maybe it’s some sort of cool training plan that you’ve never even heard about.  What?  We’re not in the tree?  Don’t worry.  We are in the tree.

I’m training to run a half-marathon below 1:25.  I’ve never raced a half but ran a 3:24 marathon about a year ago on only 6 weeks of training.  It was back in my “I can do anything” post-Iraq phase.  I did it though.  I’m on week 4 of a 9 week training schedule.  I really like this schedule because it loads a lot of the miles on the weekends and keeps the miles during the week down.  That is why I’m running a half, I just don’t have the training time it takes for a full right now.  I’m doing the “expert half-marathon” training plan posted on this website under training plans.  We’re working on this feature in the website but here you can see what training plan I am following by strolling down to “expert.”

I’m not religious about my running training schedule.  I do every planned run but sometimes find the need to switch rest days and long runs around to fit my social life.  I know the schedule is made up to give me the optimal build and recovery periods but it is not necessarily optimal for my life.  Maybe I’ll rest, not run the 6 miles Saturday calls for and make it up on my Monday rest day.  That is what I’m going to do this weekend.  I hung out with some friends unexpectedly on Saturday and decided to switch my schedule around a bit.  I mean, I know that’s not the best for me going into Tuesday’s intervals, but I’ll still hit my interval times.  It just may hurt a bit more but it is worth it.  I think that while you can be serious about running, you can also maintain a healthy social schedule around your early Saturday morning races and long training run Sundays.  You have to live a flexible schedule where you can socialize, work, and train in unison.  Yeah, you probably won’t be on the couch/tv scene too much, but it is worth it to keep all of those things at optimal levels.  You just have to be flexible.  So do the butterfly stretch and get limber!

I’m also doing a half marathon trail run this weekend at Thrills and Hills XTERRA trail race series and substituting it for a 16 mile run.  Depending on how tough it is I may add a couple of miles to my Sunday run.  Keep it loose.  Have a flexible lifestyle.  Trust me, everyone around you will appreciate it.