Sunday, October 26, 2014

Houston Half Marathon

I had a good rest and night's sleep preparing for today's race, and was very much looking forward to it since I thought the weather would be good. Indeed it was a good race, as it was nice to see Rick, Joanne, Kim and Laura during and after the race, and the race volunteers and organization was great. Despite temperatures in the mid 60s the very high humidity was much more draining than I had anticipated, and did not negative split owing to the growing impact of the humidity and the unexpected difficulty of dealing with the up and down contours along Allen Parkway.

From a technology perspective my new Magellan Echo running watch paired by Bluetooth 4.0 to my iPhone 6 with the excellent iSmoothRun App worked great, as it controlled my music and gave me verbal pace and distance prompts through my headphones. Naturally, I ran again in my trusty and excellent Newton Motion III's.

Results: pace: 7:41, 7:22, 7:21, 7:40, 7:37, 7:49, 7:51, 7:49, 7:52, 7:54, 8:17, 7,55, 8:24, 8:18. Div.: #10/136, Gender: #365/2169, Overall: #347/4445. Avg. Cadence: 84, Avg. HR: AVHR, 66 °F, 4mph SW, 83% humidity.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Memorial Hermann 10 for Texas Race Report

One of the many benefits of running a race distance in which you have minimal experience is that you are almost assured of achieving a personal record. Happily, I did so in today's race, with an average pace 30 seconds faster per mile then my prior - much hillier - 10 mile race experience over five years ago.

Chip time: 1:18:31, pace: 7:51, age place; 10/80, male: 147/933, overall place: 184/2,262. Splits: 7:30, 7:32, 7;32, 7:49, 8:21 (sock hurting), 9:08 (sock repair!), 7:45, 7:39, 7:39, 7:37.

I had a great race experience both due to my PR, and as the weather was decent, the volunteers friendly and helpful. I did have a problem though with my pair of Injini toe socks. I'm not sure why, as I've worn them previously without problems, but at mile five they pulled up at the heel pinching my toes painfully and I knew I wouldn't be able to finish. So, I removed the socks entirely which solved the problem, but it was agonizing to sit alongside the road as hundreds of runners passed me. In any case, it was the right decision, as with my painful socks removed I was then able to step up the pace and recover lost time. Lesson learned: on race day only do that which you have done before many, many times.

This is yet another personal record running in Newton shoes! In this case my excellent Newton Motion III's shoes proved their top quality as being completely comfortable and run-worthy even without wearing socks (the first I've ever done so in any shoes.)

Finishing the race in the Woodland's Market Street was fantastic as the race organizers had arranged for excellent food and drinks. Thirty minutes prior to the race beginning the race organizers hosted a kids' K which was also fantastic to see and I enjoyed cheering for all the kids, and their parents.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Why a sub-two hour marathon is inevitable

Yesterday, for the sixth time in the last twelve years a talented runner at the Berlin Marathon set another world record, with Kenyan Dennis Kimetto doing so by an astounding 26 seconds! Finishing in 2 hours 2 minutes 57 seconds this translates to an average pace of 4 minutes 41.5 seconds per mile, a great pace for one mile, and an unfathomable one to nearly all runners for 26.2!

As we move ever closer to the prospect of a sub-two hour marathon, for the many doubters that this day will ever come the situation in my mind parallels the early 1950's. Up until the 6th of May, 1954, few but Sir Roger Bannister thought it possible that a human being would ever break through the four minute mile barrier. Yet, Bannister, a hard working medical student with limited time to train applied scientific principles and succeeded. A remarkable achievement, the veritable flood of runners who soon broke Bannister's newly set record proved that the four minute barrier was solely psychological, and not physiological (read the wonderful book The Perfect Mile by Neal Bascomb.)


Since Khalid Khannouchi set the marathon record in London in April 2002, the record has been broken half a dozen times, on average, once every two years. Interestingly, each of the six world records happened on the flat and fast Berlin course, on average by a 27 second margin.

On the assumption that the next dozen years follows the pattern of the prior dozen, the sub-two hour marathon will be broken within that time. Personally, I believe this super achievement will occur far sooner. First, Kimetto already demonstrated that he possesses the needed leg speed, had he run the full marathon at the pace that he ran between 30 and 35 km. Second, and most important, the mega-motivation of a fantastic financial and fame reward will entice many other talented marathoners to the requisite level of physical and mental conditioning.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Apple Watch, preliminary thoughts on its huge benefit to runners

I believe the newly announced Apple Watch will be hugely significant to all health oriented iPhone users, and especially for active runners since:
  1. Typical runners train on average one to two hours daily. As with most individuals with desk jobs, even runners' lives are otherwise sedentary. The Apple Watch technology, continuously connected to the internet via the user's Bluetooth connected iPhone will operate continuously on behalf of the user, promoting healthy habits including standing more often and taking the stairs whenever possible.
  2. The Apple Watch's familiar, yet new interface, strapless heart rate monitor and accelerometer combined with the iPhone's barometer, cellular-assisted GPS, motion co-processor, an intuitive user interface and third-party Apps will usher unimagined new capabilities.
  3. Cardio-based fitness aficionados of all types will hugely benefit from the Apple Watch's integrated heart rate monitor. It must be noted that this is despite most such individuals already owning a conventional chest strap based heart rate monitor, such as Garmin's or Polar's. The reason that I and most runners rarely use our conventional heart rate monitors is that their straps are typically constrictive and uncomfortable. Consequently, having readily available heart rate measurement conveniently displayed on the runner's Apple Watch with no required chest strap will allow the runner to vary the intensity of their exertion, to share their training with their coach or friends, and via an easy yet sophisticated analysis of the results to see and improve their fitness.
  4. As with many committed runners I am fortunate to train with a group during my long Saturday morning runs during which we follow the coach's pre-planned route (e.g.: one from my Kenyan Way group.) To avoid getting lost along the often complex, frequently changed and lengthy route we study it in advance and bring along a printed copy. A far better solution will that provided by the Apple Watch as the runner can pre-program their route, then allow the Apple Watch's vibration based haptic feedback to silently alert the runner to each forthcoming turn. This capability will help the runner safely navigate while allowing the runner to relax and enjoy varied new routes.
  5. Just as Apple's iPhones' App platform opened the door to new and creative content which hugely extended the leading smart phone's functionality into unanticipated areas, the Apple Watch similarly being open to App developers via the soon to be released WatchKit will quickly grow new Watch-specific Apps. For example, as a fan of the excellent iSmoothRun iPhone App I have been in touch with its developer and am delighted that iSmoothRun will offer an Apple Watch App.
  6. The Apple Watch will allow the runner to make payments for potential expenses incurred during the run from supporting merchants, thereby relieving the need to bring cash for the run.
As noted, the Apple Watch user will need their Bluetooth connected iPhone 5+ phones to enable these capabilities. While many runners are uncomfortable at the prospect of bringing their smart phones on their runs, as I had noted over one year ago I have exclusively monitored my runs' distance and pace using the iSmoothRun App on my iPhone 5, carrying it in my belt or in an arm carrier. The App's periodically announced mileage, pace and cadence generally satisfies my needs, though in the future I will appreciate having this information available at a glance.  

Pending my getting my hands on the Apple Watch hopefully early next year it is premature to be fully confident in these high expectations. Nevertheless, I believe that Apple will help many Americans strengthen their commitment to fitness and health.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Simple Hydration Water Bottle Review

This is a partial follow-up to my recent Hot Weather Running Tips post:

As a Houston runner who trains year round I have been looking for a better hydration solution than the constrictive FuelBelt, or hand-held water bottles which hinder the natural running motion. I then tried Simple Hydration's water bottle after seeing its positive reviews on Amazon, and am glad I did as I love it!

Its unique feature is that it rests on your running short's rear waistband, and nestles between it and the small of your back, thereby requiring no supplemental belt and leaving your hands fully free. As its 14 Oz. total weight is near the body's center of gravity it is barely perceivable, feels comfortable, and you can rest easy as it is BPA free and is top shelf dishwasher safe.

In summer months I like to freeze my water bottle before my runs. With the Simple Hydration bottle it nicely cools the small of my back while gradually thawing its contents, providing a wonderful cold drink of water which lasts me perfectly on my typical mid-week six mile training runs. If similarly used with ice versus water I recommend: 1) Not filling the bottle fully with water before inserting into the freezer the night before to accommodate the expansion of ice and prevent possible damage to the bottle; 2) Placing a thin sock around the bottle to protect the skin while providing insulation to keep the water cool longer.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Newton Kismet Review

Over the past three weeks I've run extensively in Newton's latest Kismet stability running shoe. This includes over thirteen mile training runs on Houston's hard concrete roads, and five six mile runs on the hard steel surface of a cruise ship. As a long-time fan of Newton shoes I really like these too!

One oft-heard comment with first time Newton runners is the favorable impact on their running speed, attributed to the Action-Reaction technology lugs incorporated into the sole, roughly under the metatarsals. In prior Newton shoes the presence of these lugs were typically immediately apparent while walking, as the walker notices to a greater extent the lugs' height.  However, Newton's Kismet shoes incorporate tapered lugs, so the shoe is more comfortable while walking and is therefore more versatile and comfortable.

My intuition about the effect of Newton's tapered versus standard lugs is that a bit less energy recovery results, and this may result in a slightly slower running speed.  This impression is reinforced from Newton's own marketing material which uniquely includes the word "fast" in reference to the POP 1 design of the Motion and Gravity, and not the POP 2 design of the new Kismet or Fate.  However, any running speed reduction of the Kismet versus the Motion, if present, is insignificant.

As a major advantage for first time Newton buyers the low $129 MSRP of the Kismet will hopefully encourage more runners to give them a try.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Hot Weather Running


I have been asked to participate in a forthcoming Runners Round Table podcast on hot weather running, and feel myself to be well prepared owing to having run for over fourteen years in hot and humid Houston. With the caveat that I am not a physician, and am simply sharing my personal experiences, the following are my related thoughts.

Heat acclamation helps, but it is no panacea:

The heat-acclimated runner quickly produces large volumes of sweat upon the initiation of exertion in hot conditions. This quick and voluminous sweat response results from the body's prior training in similar conditions, and the resulting trained response provides essential cooling through the typically highly efficient heat transfer mechanism called evaporation. However, under high humidity the effectiveness of evaporation is severely diminished, and as such the runner quickly becomes at risk of overheating due to their rising core temperature.

Repeated stimulation and use the sweat glands allows them to become much more effective at minimizing the losses of critical and life-sustaining sodium and potassium electrolytes. Though a heat acclimated runner's sweat is therefore less salty than a non heat-trained runner's, a dangerous low blood salt condition called hyponatramia is a serious risk for all runners. This risk is heightened amongst relatively new marathoners who are often unwisely instructed to "drink even if you're not thirsty and at every aid station" so dilute their body's electrolytes by excessive fluid consumption, compounded by inadequate heat acclimation resulting in greater electrolyte losses through their sweat.

Personally, while running in hot and humid conditions over ten miles in length I supplement my body's electrolyte stores by taking Succeed S!Cap (a buffered sodium and potassium capsule) approximately every 30 minutes. As it is important to take the capsule with fluids I align the supplement's timing based on Gatoraid or water availability. Conversely, for shorter mid-week runs I drink only water and do not take any electrolyte supplements, though do incorporate additional salt into my diet based on taste.

Humidity is the silent killer:

While for most Americans the absolute temperature is the primary determinant of whether the outside conditions are perceived as hot, for experienced hot weather runners they look first at dew-point. Why?

As noted previously the reason is that our bodies reject heat primarily through sweating. An interesting fact is that human beings have more sweat glands then any other mammal, and it is generally believed that this physiological attribute provided our distant ancestors a survival advantage. Again, when the dew point is high, the resulting high humidity renders sweating as a cooling mechanism largely ineffectual.

Nevertheless, there are solutions available that allow us to continue running, with due caution:
  1. Slow down!  Pace yourself for the hot conditions, and not for the cooler conditions which most of us remember our ideal pace to be. In this regard slavish obedience to one's target pace set on our Garmin Forerunner or GPS-integrated smart phone App can quickly lead a runner into heat problems, simply by running at a too fast target pace that is not adjusted for the conditions. Personally, though a cool weather low 8 minute per mile runner, under hot and humid conditions I routinely run between a 9:30 and 10 minute mile pace.
  2. Negative Split!  As a dutiful follower of Kenyan Way's Coach Sean Wade, I follow his prime negative split mantra, i.e. to run the second half of every race and training run faster than the first half. Doing so, especially in hot conditions, provides its greatest physiological and race-tactical benefits.
  3. Listen to your body and only drink to thirst!  Nevertheless be aware of your sweat rate per mile run, and how this varies based on weather conditions. Towards this end I suggest maintaining a log of your hot weather runs, capturing temperature, dew-point, wind speed, the amount of sun, and finally your weight (without shoes) at the beginning and end of each run. By doing so you can easily determine how many ounces that you had sweat per mile run via your measured weight difference (in pounds) multiplied by 16 then divided by the number of miles run. As I always drink only to my thirst I have never returned from a run weighing more than I had at its beginning (an indication of potential hyponatramia.) In the rare event that my weight loss is greater than 2-3% of my pre-run weight (an indication of dehydration) I realize that I simply hadn't had access to sufficient fluids to fully quench my thirst.
  4. Stop for for cold fluids roughly every two miles.  Running with the Kenyan Way group this is easy, as the coach supplies us ice cold drinks every two miles. On your own self-made runs I suggest immediately beforehand pre-deploying along your route frozen bottles of Gatorade, or carrying a frozen drink whose contents are thawed while simultaneously cooling your hands.
  5. Run at the coolest time of the day, dawn.  Not only will the early morning cool conditions make your run easier, but from a health perspective you will breathe far less potentially lung damaging ozone and particulates. Runners are typically unaware of their lungs' vulnerability to ozone damage, which results from the massive volumes of ambient air respired.  As ozone is typically found in the highest concentrations in the late afternoon, which results from the effect of UV radiation upon ozone precursors in the atmosphere, this is one more reason to run in the early morning.  Besides being the coolest time of day, the vehicular traffic is lowest as well.
  6. Dress cool!  I once conducted an experiment on myself on a hot and humid day in which I ran the outbound half of a training run wearing a thin singlet running shirt while monitoring my pace and heart rate. I then removed my shirt and ran bare chested back to the starting point, while running at such a pace as to hold my heart rate at the same approximate level as it had been beating during the outbound leg. Afterward, the benefit of dressing cool was obvious as the return leg's pace was at least 15 seconds per mile faster!
  7. Run on a shady path with maximum exposure to wind.  If necessarily exposed to the sun, periodically reapply a broad spectrum sunscreen and wear sunglasses with UV protection. Use extra caution at higher elevations.
  8. What to do when you get too hot nevertheless?  Find shade and place ice packs to the neck, fold of the elbows and behind the knees. This will cool the blood passing through the major arteries and veins, thus cooling the target organs. Don't force-feed cold water, instead, allow water to be slightly cool before drinking. Forced ice cold water can create the condition of shock.
______________________________
Good input to the article from a good friend, former assistant coach and long-time runner: 

I think point #3 is the most important to know your sweat rate.  I understand that every pint of sweat typically has 500 mgs of sodium therefore after loosing a few pints of sweat the sodium replacement becomes critical.  While an experienced runner may be secreting less sodium, as a rule of thumb I try for one Succeed S!Cap (330 mgs of sodium) per pint of water.  

Another suggestion is for longer runs if you carry a water bottle with an electrolyte drink (gatorade), spiking the fluid with a 1/4 teaspoon of sodium is a good way to get sodium in the body early and easily.  There has very little impact to the flavor of the gatorade by adding a little sodium.  I usually use a 1/4 teaspoon for a 20 oz bottle, so if the fuel belt is used then perhaps an 1/8  would be better.  By getting the sodium in the body early on a long run defers any sodium deficient problems.  

This affects people the most who perspire heavily.  Signs are those whose clothes are soaked before others, shoes get soggy wet and those who cramp.  Dizziness and cramps are signs of dehydration and when attempting to re-hydrate either on the run or after the run, sodium is a must either in pill form or food.  Salty but tasty foods - tomatoe based foods like pizza, red pasta sauce, salsa, store or restaurant made soups.  Potato chips are salty but not really healthy. 


Additional good input from a physician and friend:

The body functions best within a certain temp range 98.6+\- 1.4. As body temp rises the risk of organ failure increases. The body keeps cool primarily by evaporation conduction convection and radiation. When you exercise in hot temps the latter 3 are out and when it's too humid there's no vaporization gradient for sweat to evaporate so that becomes less effective. If you're "conditioned" you can tolerate the effects better but invariably you too will succumb to the heat. The risk is much higher in the first couple of weeks of training in the heat and any acclimatization is gone after only a few weeks of being back in a temperate environment. As you note running at dawn when humidity is less as is temp is safest. There's a reason why marathons are run mostly in 60-70 degree weather. 

Monday, April 21, 2014

Meb Keflezighi, Boston Strong!!!

I was extraordinarily lucky in January to meet Meb Keflezghi at the Houston Marathon Expo, and to hear his heartfelt and inspirational personal story in overcoming unbelievable adversity.  A naturalized U.S. Citizen originally born in Eritrea he rewarded his adopted homeland by earning an Olympic Medal and winning the New York Marathon.  His sincerity and gratitude to the United States, his family, the community and to God touched me deeply.

As a long-time Boston Marathon fan, shocked in 2013 by the senseless acts on Boylston Street, I was delighted during this year's Boston Marathon to see Meb personify the "Boston Strong" spirit.  He courageously ran strongly from the beginning of the race, and never faltered.  By doing so he clinched for the United States the Boston Marathon win for the first time in over 30 years, and simultaneously rejuvenated the city's and the country's spirit.

With incredible gratitude we wish Meb our full and hearty congratulations!
Meb, crossing the finish line, just ten seconds ahead of the charging second place finisher!

Meb, tearing up during the award ceremony
Boston Strong!