Sunday, September 20, 2009

Alpine Races Half-Marathon

After Saturday's 20-mile training run at beautiful Moraine Hills State Park the following day I ran the Alpine Races Half-Marathon.

The weather was very good. Moderate humidity and temperatures in the 60's throughout. Despite the massive mileage run over the prior week I felt good through the run.

Having the benefit of my recent benchmark P.R. from the prior week's Chicago Half-Marathon I knew my ideal pace. Adjusting for my partial fatigue I dialed-in my goal 7:20 pace into my Garmin Forerunner 405, and tried to hang-on. By the fifth mile I knew that pace was a lost cause, however, so backed-down a bit.

I was able to complete the half in 1:38:35, a 7:31 average pace, which put me in 2nd place in my age-group! All-in-all, I was very satisfied with the race and the weekend - particularly as both runs provided me confidence going-in to the quickly approaching Chicago Marathon.


Friday, September 18, 2009

Newton Running Shoes Rock!

Having used Brooks Adrenaline stability shoes for many years I suddenly developed a minor left-tibial stress-fracture in late July. In the subsequent month-long injury-induced recovery period I had ample free-time opportunities to contemplate the causes of my first-time serious running injury and to read the excellent Born To Run book, which highlights the Tarahumara Indians and their startling ability to run for hundreds of miles on a thin sole sandal without injury.

Contemplating these incredible athletes' avoidance of stress-fractures it occurred that my own behavior was largely to blame by significantly exceeding the generally recommended 10% increase in weekly cumulative mileage and running sprints downhill on hard surfaces. Additionally, avoiding injurious heel-landings can be easily accomplished by adopting the type of mid-foot landing utilized by the Tarahumara on a minimal sole shoe.

During a marathon expo I'd met with a representative of Newton Running Shoes, and after trying-on their shoes and familiarizing myself with their technology, I purchased a pair of Newton's Stability Trainers. A good video explaining the Newton shoes technology and design is found below:

Subsequent to switching to the Newton Stability Trainer for all my subsequent races, I P.R.'d every one of them (with the sole exception of a half-marathon run two weeks after another)!  While I have no doubt that my increased fitness level resulting from my switch to KenyanWay is primarily to credit, I'm also convinced that the Newton shoes have been significant contributors to my improved performance owing to my more more rapid leg turnover due to their lighter weight, energy-recovery provided efficiency advantages through the springy forefoot lugs, and landing more healthfully at the midsole of the shoe due to the lower heel.
As initial proof of the Newton shoes' advantage I was happy to set a massive ~5-minute P.R. improvement at the Chicago Half-Marathon - with absolutely no discomfort or pain.

Follow-up Notes:
Coincidence?  I don't think so! I partially credit my Newton shoes in additionally providing me subsequent P.R.s at nearly every race in which I've worn them - without any hint of a return to my former stress fracture, i.e.:

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Importance of Strength Exercises for Runners

First, here's an excellent NY Times video link demonstrating several good knee strengthening exercises.

Secondly, Brent Vaughn, sub 13:20 5,000m runner and former University of Colorado star, discusses the role of General Strength (GS) in his training. While he discusses this topic I've included an "uncut" example of pedestal routine (aka plank routine).

Brent Vaughn on General Strength from CoachJayJohnson on Vimeo.

Swiss Ball Exercises for Runners:

Swissball Exercises for Runners from CoachJayJohnson on Vimeo.

Five general strength routines (excerpted from link). These exercises are best done after training. But if you can't do them then, find another time during the day to set aside a few minutes for this routine. Your running body will thank you for the small investment in time. Demonstrating the exercises is Sara Vaughn, who owns PRs of 2:03 for 800m and 4:11 for 1500m.
Without further ado, here is the first video, which outlines the first phase of pedestal poses and the Myrtl routine.

Running Times: Part 1 from CoachJayJohnson on Vimeo.

The second video features a leg circuit as well as a more challenging pedestal routine than the first video.

Running Times: Part 2 from CoachJayJohnson on Vimeo.

The third video adds leg lifts to the pedestal routine and introduces the "Cannonball cooldown" routine. (Jazz fans will be happy to hear it's named for Cannonball Adderly.)

Running Times: Part 3 from CoachJayJohnson on Vimeo.

The fourth video introduces the "Grant Green" routine (more fun for jazz fans!), which adds few new exercises but is more than challenging thanks to its duration.

Running Times: Part 4 from CoachJayJohnson on Vimeo.

The fifth video showcases Leg Circuit #2, which we guarantee to cause a few wobbles the first few times.

Running Times: Part 5 from CoachJayJohnson on Vimeo.

Finally, here's a video link to usage of the Medicine Ball for Runners, which might be of interest:

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Chicago Half-Marathon - 5-minute P.R.!

This morning I ran the 2009 Chicago Half-Marathon. It was a beautiful course, running largely on Lake Shore Drive, and overlooking Chicago's scenic skyline. The course started and finished in Jackson Park and showcased the south lakefront, the Jackson Park Golf Course and the Midway Plaisance on the University of Chicago campus.

I was somewhat apprehensive going into this morning's race, since I've only returned to running in the past three-weeks following nearly five-weeks rest to allow my left tibial stress-fracture to heal. Though the injury is 99% healed, as I'd noticed more worrisome twinges of discomfort while running on hard-surfaces (versus my vastly preferred dirt or gravel trails) I was concerned that the Half-Marathon's course run entirely on concrete might do me in.

Instead, I found no problems at all! I ran the course in 1:35:54, which was a huge 5-minute half-marathon personal record!  I credit, in part, my Newton training shoes, as I feel that they encourage me towards a more natural fore-foot and mid-foot landing that the heel landing style encouraged by my former favorite running shoe - the Brooks Adrenaline.

Thanks to the Sean Wade's Kenyan Way Training Program and my increased dedication to running, biking, or swimming daily I believe that I'm my best shape! I gauge this based on the nearly five minute P.R. achieved on today's run.

Lessons Learned:

  1. Once again, pacing was a real issue for me - and my biggest area to show improvement in the future. While my result was fantastic, I risked a derailment with an initially far-too-aggressive start, and a resulting positive split in the back-half of the run. I believe that I let my fellow-runners drive me to a pace that was unsustainable, as I started very close to the front in Corral "B" surrounded by incredible runners (it was a bit reminiscent of my April Boston Marathon). I started miles 1-3 at a blazing 6:57 pace. Miles 4-6 were run at a more appropriate 7:18 pace, however the final six-miles were at a comparatively lethargic 7:26 pace. While I was happy to see that I had enough 'gas in the tank' to kick-in the final mile at a 7:15 pace I clearly lacked sufficient discipline to control myself appropriately in the initial three miles. I attribute my substantial P.R. nevertheless as due to my overabundance of training for a half-marathon course.
  2. I believe that my Newton Stability Training Shoes kept my out of trouble despite my not completely having recovered from my prior stress-fracture. Despite the course's concrete surface I believe the Newton's inherent stress and impact reduction via landing on the mid and fore-foot versus the traditional heel-landing achieved this improved running stride.
  3. I appropriately carbo-loaded the evening prior to the race, and the morning of. I stayed-away from anything unusual (lesson-learned from my earlier Palos Heights Half-Marathon).
  4. I got to the race over an hour and a half in advance of the event, which allowed me plenty of time to attend to my needs, find the bag drop-off area, and actually warm-up for the race (something I unfortunately very rarely do).
  5. I listened to an excellent mix of New Age music on my iPod Nano, which allowed me to stay somewhat relaxed throughout the entire event (I shudder to think what my initial three-miles would have been had I been listening to a hard-driving rock mix!)
  6. I made much better use of the water stops than any prior run. Instead of slowing to a near walk (a bad habit I've gotten into, particularly in marathons) I instead managed to snag a Gatorade cup, followed by a water cup without any slow down. Since the temperature was in 60's I didn't need to imbibe deeply of the Gatorade - just a swig or two was sufficient. With the water I tossed it over my head providing much-needed cool-down, and allowing me to maintain my strong pace despite the powerful sunshine (the sky was clear throughout the race).
Finally, I happily noted afterwards that Dr. Jack Daniels' highly respected running formula for race predictions, this half-marathon result translates equivalently to a potential full marathon of ~3:19:40! Extrapolating this half-marathon performance and my recent 4-mile run suggests that with proper conditioning I should be able to achieve a further 13-minute improvement in my full marathon time! This is great motivation for the Chicago 2009 then Houston 2010 marathon training.

Age: 20/373 (top 5%), Males: 444/5794 (top 8%), Overall: 512/13519 (top 4%) 7:19 1:35:54.


Friday, September 11, 2009

ABCs of Running and Fitness

One of the absolute best running-oriented Blogs is "RunnerDude", which I encourage you to regularly read and subscribe to. You can do this via his link at Here's one of his recent, and in my opinion best postings, which I have requested his opinion to post (my minor annotations are reflected below in italics):

RunnerDude's ABCs of Running and Fitness
Print out RunnerDude's ABC's of Running and Fitness below and post it on your fridge. Whether you're just about to start a running or fitness program or you're already an avid runner or fitness buff, sometimes a little reminder of why all this exercise is beneficial is helpful. So, when in doubt, look over this list. Highlight or star the letters that mean the most to you!
RunnerDude's ABC's of Running and Fitness
Aerobic Training—Aerobic activity is one of the best ways to help fight off cardiovascular disease as well as a host of other health problems. Recent research has even shown that aerobic activity is even better at holding off dementia in older individuals than mental exercises.
Balance—Create a balance in your life of family, work, fitness. Easier said than done, but it's all too easy to put off fitness goals because of other areas of your life. View fitness as a part of each day. Involve your family in your fitness activities. If you can't get in that hour-long run, maybe you can get in a 20-minute walk or do 25 pushups while watching your favorite television program. Being flexible about how you squeeze-in your daily exercise can help keep you fit and motivated.
Caloric Intake—Make sure you're eating enough calories! The average male needs about 1500 calories and women 1200 calories just to sustain their normal body systems! That doesn't included calories needed for extra activity, not to mention intense training.
Diet—Eat a well balanced diet consisting of Carbohydrates, Protein, and Fats. 45-65% of your calories should come from carbs (complex carbs are best), 10-35% of your calories should come from protein, and 20-35% of your calories should come from fats (mainly poly- and mono-unsaturated). If you're in training for a marathon you may be at the upper end of the carb calories, you may even exceed the 65% during the carb-loading phase a few days prior to the race.
Eccentric Phase—Most resistance training involves a concentric phase (shortening of the muscle) and an eccentric phase (lengthening of the muscle). For example in a chin-up, the concentric phase is pulling yourself up to the bar and the eccentric phase is lowering yourself back down. Often more focus is put on the concentric phase and then we quickly zip through the eccentric phase. If you count to four slowly as you go through the eccentric phase it's like getting an extra workout.
Functional Training—Don't limit your gym workouts to machines that only work one joint or muscle group. Incorporate more functional exercises that support your sport of choice. If you're a runner, exercises like squats and lunges (with or without weights) are much more functional than the leg extension machine.
Group Runs—Finding a group to run with can be very beneficial. Long runs are much more enjoyable with a group. Early morning running or evening running is much safer in a group. The motivational and support aspects of running with a group can be very beneficial during hard intense training.
Hydration—On race day, be sure to drink 16 oz. of water 2 hrs before the start. This gives it time to go through your system and be voided. During the race drink 6-12 oz every 15-20 minutes. Water is fine if the race is no more than 60 minutes. If the race is over an hour, sports drink should be used to help replenish the body's glycogen stores and electrolytes.
Intervals—Intervals are one of the best ways to burn calories as well as increase your speed and build endurance for short-, mid-, and long-distance runners. Intervals are not the only form of speedwork, however. Hillwork and fartleks are also great ways to burn calories, increase speed, and build endurance.
Jump Rope—Hate the treadmill? Try jumping rope. Jumping rope provides one of the best cardio workouts while at the same time giving the entire body (lower, core, and upper) a good workout. [Click here] for more information on jumping rope.
Keep at it—Have a bad run? Not meeting your goals? Don't give up. Take a day or two to re-evaluate your goals and the strategies you're using to reach them. Are you overtrained? Are you undertrained and expecting too much too soon? Consult with a fellow runner or fitness professional to get some guidance on next steps. Don't quit.
Log—Logging your miles/workouts/nutrition is a great way to keep track of all that you've accomplished. It will also help you track down the source of a training injury. You can keep a written log or check out many of the online training logs such as Athlinks, DailyMile, and RunningAhead.
Muscle—Don't be afraid to add a little muscle. Women, especially, tend shy away from adding some muscle because they don't want added bulk. Runners (men or women) tend to do the same thing. But one of the best ways to lose weight is to add muscle, because it increases the metabolism thus burning more calories. Runners, remember that a stronger upper body can help decrease the chance of fatigue later in a distance run. Once your form starts to go, then everything else starts to fall apart in a distance run. Runners can focus on endurance resistance training by using lighter weights and up the reps.
Nutrition—Proper nutrition is vital to a healthy runner. If you're not providing your body with the quality energy it needs, it will not be able to perform at optimal levels. Want to know the amount of each food group you need daily, [click here]? Another great site for nutrition information is
Open Mind—Be open to new fitness ideas and new training methods. Be careful not to get caught up in a fitness fad, but allow yourself to try different things like yoga or functional resistance training to enhance your overall fitness.
Protein—Protein is a vital macronutrient and is important in the repair of muscle tissue, but you only need a certain amount. In the case of protein, more is not better. The average person only needs .8g of protein per kilogram of body weight. Endurance athletes require 1.5g of protein per kilogram of body weight. Resistance training athletes require 2g of protein per kilogram of bodyweight. Research has shown that the body will not use more than 2g of protein per kilogram of body weight and in fact extra protein can end up being stored as fat as well as harm the liver.
Quality Workouts—Running the same distance at the same intensity level day after day is not going to help you improve. Be sure to throw in some focused quality workouts, such as speedwork (intervals, hillwork, fartleks), tempo runs (running a 4- to 8-mile run at a pace slightly slower than race pace), and long runs (a longer-distance that's run about a minute slower than race pace).
Rest—Be sure to include rest days in your training. A rest day doesn't have to mean no activity. A rest day could be a short slow run the day after a long hard run. But, sometimes your body doees needs a "real" day off. You'll be surprised how much better you'll run the day after a rest day.
Stretching—Dynamic stretches are best before a workout. Dynamic stretches are more sports specific and require more range-of-motion involving more joints and muscle groups. Squats, lunges, buttkicks, and high-knee skips are great dynamic stretches for runners. For more examples of dynamic stretches [click here]. The more traditional static stretches (stretch-and-hold) are best after the run or workout.
Thirst—Don't wait until you're thirsty to drink. Often if you're dehydrated, your thirst mechanism will not work.
Unload—Use your runs and workouts to unload all that stress you've accumulated throughout the week.
Variety—Just because you're a runner doesn't mean you can't do resistance training or throw in some cross-training. Adding a little variety to your training routine can help build a more balanced, stronger body as well as help to keep your training fresh and fun.
Winner—Even if you never place in your age group at a race, that fact that you're out there running or in the gym working out or both, makes you a winner in the life race. Your quality of life is going to be that of a winner both physically and mentally.
X-Training (Cross-Training)—Break up your weekly runs with some cross-training such as cycling, walking, the elliptical machine, and/or swimming. These lower-impact forms of training will still give you a great cardio workout while giving your joints a rest. These cross-training exercises will also work different muscle groups that may not be used (or not used as much) in running.
Yoga—One of the things runners (and most athletes in general) need is more flexibility and better balance. Yoga is a great way for runners to gain this flexibility and balance.
Zen—Using running as a time of meditation or reflective thinking can do wonders for relieving stress.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

I'm Back!!

Thanks to giving my tibia sufficient time to heal I've successfully begun running over the past several days! Naturally, I'm overjoyed to finally be back on the running trails again... particularly since the Chicago Marathon is only five-weeks away, and the Chicago Half-Marathon (which I may partially walk depending upon how I feel) is only one-week from now. I'm grateful for the good advice provided by my many running friends, and am satisfied that thanks to biking and pool-running I've managed to maintain relatively good fitness in the interim.