Sunday, March 29, 2009

It’s Time to Make a Coffee Run!; Plans for the Boston Marathon

Check out the great article in the NY Times on the benefits of caffeine in running performance of all types. I'm agreed! From now on, one hour before all my future marathons I'm going to have a Starbucks Venti drip!

I had a great confidence-building 18-mile training run this Saturday! I deliberately ran it on the treadmill (at 8:30 pace with 1% grade to replicate effort in running with wind resistance), as Chicago's weather was horrible, and as I find the springy surface helps me run easily (though thank God for the iPod and rich content!)

While my right Achilles was predictably tight during and afterwords, it never hurt, so I'm encouraged that I'll run Boston - a mere three weeks away! While it definitely won't be a personal record, I'm happy considering that I've recently come off Achilles tendonosis - and as a result haven't had the full benefit of proper training. April 20th will be my first, but not my last Boston Marathon, so my goal is to fully and totally enjoy the experience - which I know I will!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Patience is Rewarded!

After weeks of struggling with right Achilles tendinosis, countless hours on the elliptical trainer (the exercise closest to running that doesn't hurt!), and gallons of ice, I successfully ran 5-miles this morning with no pain!

As I'm not completely healed the challenge will now be to prevent recurrence of this overuse injury by not overdoing things! I'll instead ease into longer distances by continuing use of the elliptical trainer plus introducing more and more running miles.

Boston Marathon, here I come!!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Why Rocks

After completing many marathons where I used an Excel template to track my training and running mileage, upon hearing an excellent Phedippidations podcast I began using a fantastic on-line training log called It's both extremely easy to use and offers many powerful advanced features.

For example, with simple web access anywhere in the world you can easily input your training activity or race to the site. Additionally helps you easily follow your marathon training plan. Upon choosing one of several already existing on the site (or creating one of your own) superimposed over your training log is your training plan. Of great help is once you've completed your marathon, and decide to run another (it's inevitable that you will!) you can quickly re-set your successful plan to the new race date.

An optional, but highly motivating aspect of BuckeyeOutdoors is participating in 'Challenges'. Doing so allows you, in a friendly and encouraging way, to compete as a team member or individually, which provides motivation to run those miles.

Besides tracking running miles and time training allows you to record your miles biked/swam and your strength workouts as well. BuckeyeOutdoor's creator, Ben Deutchle, is both an excellent web developer and as he's open to new ideas has consistently been improving the site even more.

Bottom line, for both marathoners and simle recreational athletes - check out the site!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Yasso 800s - Great gauge for your appropriate marathon pace

I've made many mistakes in several of my ten marathons. Chief among them has been my tendency to start out too fast, i.e. my not appropriately pacing myself in the first twenty miles to take into account my physical shape and level of conditioning for the event. This begs the question of how I can determine my appropriate pace! An excellent technique to do so is copied below from a Runner's World article by Amby Burfoot which explains the "Yasso 800" method:

When physicists discover a new subatomic particle, they claim the right to name it. Same with astronomers. Locate a new star out there in the way beyond, and you can name it anything you want: Clarence, Sarah, Mork or even Mindy.

I think runners, coaches and writers should be able to do the same. And I'm going to take this opportunity to invoke the privilege.

Last fall I discovered an amazing new marathon workout. Amazing, because it's the simplest marathon workout you've ever heard. (And simplicity in marathon training, as in physics and astronomy, is much to be prized.) Amazing, because I'm convinced it actually works.

In truth, I didn't find this workout. It found me, through the person of Bart Yasso, our race services manager here at RUNNER'S WORLD. But Bart's not much of a proselytizer, while I sometimes am, so I'm going to seize this chance to name the workout. I'm going to call it "Yasso 800s."

Bart and I were at the Portland Marathon last September when he told me about his workout. He was training for a marathon later in the fall, so two days before Portland he went to a nearby track and ran Yasso 800s. "I'm trying to build up to ten 800s in the same time as my marathon goal time," he told me.

Huh? Half-miles in 2 or 3 hours? I didn't get it.

Bart saw that he'd have to do more explaining. "I've been doing this particular workout for about 15 years," he continued, "and it always seems to work for me. If I can get my 800s down to 2 minutes 50 seconds, I'm in 2:50 marathon shape. If I can get down to 2:40 (minuses), I can run a 2:40 marathon. I'm shooting for a 2:37 marathon right now, so I'm running my 800s in 2:37."

Suddenly things started to make sense. But would the same workout apply to a 3 hour marathoner? A 4-hour marathoner? A 5-hour marathoner? It didn't seem very likely.

In the next couple of weeks, I decided to check it out I played around with lots of mathematical equations and talked to about 100 runners of widely differing abilities (from a 2:09 marathoner to several well over 4 hours), and darn if the Yasso 800s didn't hold up all the way down the line.

Now, this is a remarkable thing. Anyone who has been running for a few years, and in particular trying to improve his or her marathon time, knows that training theory can get quite complex. You've got pace, you've got pulse, you've got max VO2, you've got lactate threshold, you've got cruise intervals, you've got tempo training, you've got enough gibberish to launch a new line of dictionaries.

And now you've got an easier way: you've got Yasso 800s. Want to run a 3:30 marathon? Then train to run a bunch of 800s in 3:30 each. Between the 800s, jog for the same number of minutes it took you to run your repeats. Training doesn't get any simpler than this, not on this planet or anywhere else in the solar system.

Bart begins running his Yasso 800s a couple of months before his goal marathon. The first week he does four. On each subsequent week, he adds one more until he reaches 10. The last workout of Yasso 800s should be completed at least 10 days before your marathon, and 14 to 17 days would probably be better.

The rest of the time, just do your normal marathon training, paying special attention to weekend long runs. Give yourself plenty of easy runs and maybe a day or two off during the week.

But don't skip the Yasso 800s. This is the workout that's going to get you to the finish on time.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Elliptical, again...

I did 22 miles on the elliptical this weekend. 12 Saturday, and 10 Sunday. Not at all fun, but it's the closest exercise to running that doesn't hurt my Achilles.

Tried a 1/4 mile run - first run since last weekend - and the Achilles was barking and not at all happy, so I laid-off and did a bit more of the elliptical. Grrrr....
While I'm obviously very frustrated with my Achilles slow recovery, I know that my only chance to run - versus walk - the Boston Marathon rests with my not running again until its completely recovery!
Working hard to see the 'glass' as half-full:
  1. By having qualified at Houston in January I'm eligible to run Boston both in 2009 and 2010.
  2. I'm registered for Madison in May and Chicago in October!
There'll plenty of good runs in the future!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Muscle development vs. CV; Importance of proper breathing for endurance athletes

Two good articles worth review:

  1. Discusses how muscle development - versus merely cardiovascular fitness - is essential to improving running speed. This matches my intuition regarding the absolute importance of incorporating tempo runs into your one's weekly workout plans. I found this article through the "Articles" link from

  2. Describes some important breathing and relaxation techniques which allow a runner to reduce their breathing rate, which has a beneficial effect of a reduced heart rate as well:

Thursday, March 12, 2009!

A friend referred me to, a free site which I think you'll like as well. From its large database it provides an extremely easy way to keep track of all of your prior competitive events - and once you record your future plans it has a powerful feature of showing who else is running! While no site comes close to for its unbelievably powerful running log, and virtual competitions, provides a powerful missing element to every runner's repertoire.

Monday, March 9, 2009

2009 Texas Independence Relay

This weekend with 11 friends I had the pleasure of running the 2009 Texas Independence Relay event, which is appropriately described as "The Mother of all Relay Races" as it's 203 miles long and stretches from Gonzales to the San Jacinto Monument southeast of Houston! This event ( drew well more than 150 teams, and was an absolute BLAST!!!

I ran three of my intended four legs for ~16 miles, and really enjoyed the camaraderie of the team throughout the weekend. I felt immense pride as our final runner sprinted to the monument at the end of the second day, and relaxed completely with the team as we celebrated our accomplishment. This event is totally different than running any individual race event I've ever run, since the pride that we felt was directed towards our combined accomplishment. See our uploaded video here.

My only frustration is the slow rate of healing of my Achilles tendinosis, which I discovered to my chagrin continues to haunt me as I neared the end of the first of my five-mile segments. Owing to the subsequent worsening of the condition, and worries about whether I can run the April Boston Marathon scheduled pulled out of my previously assigned fourth five-mile segment, and was very appreciative and gratified that my teammate Dave, back-stopped by Janet, filled in for me.

I'm extremely frustrated knowing that I could have avoided the Achilles problem from developing initially by: 1) NEVER doing speed work on a small (1/8th mile) indoor non-banked track (I should instead simply have simply done the treadmill, which despite its mind-numbing boredom-inducing nature would have been a far better alternative to the frustration I've suffered instead); 2) NOT ignoring the Achilles pain initially, i.e. I should obviously have appropriately rested and begun self-treatment on the first sign of injury, versus largely ignoring the problem .

Oh well, live and learn! Meanwhile, I've found two GREAT links providing excellent treatment guidance for this Achilles condition (which I'm following) at: and

Post-run update: The total time for the DOGs 203 mile run was 28:12:55, and average pace of 8:20.9. We finished officially 41st out of 151 finishing teams. This represented a bit of a set-back as the DOGs last year accomplished 27:36:00, a net slow-down of about 36-minutes. My three legs (all of which were affected by my Achilles): 

The TIR 2009 overall results can be seen at this link.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

More Achilles-related Reflections:

After laying off of any running for over a week, and only doing cross-training (elliptical trainer and cross-ramp) I'm now ~85% healed from my right Achilles tendonitis!
With the benefit of hindsight I realize better the importance of a gentle stretch being incorporated into my regular routine - as well as to help recover from this condition. The type of stretch that is working best for me is to place both my feet on a 6" elevated platform, then while standing allowing my heels to drop naturally - thereby stretching the Achilles tendons. I work hard to not overly vigorously push down my heels, and I discontinue on incurring any pain. I've been successful with two repeats of two-minute stretches, done immediately following a non-impact cross-training work-out to warm-up my muscles / tendons and increase my blood flow. I also realize that in the initial day(s) following development of the tendinitis - where my walking gait is affected via a clear 'limp' and I feel the Achilles tendon pain I take an anti-inflammatory (Ibuprofen) and apply ice directly to the Achilles tendon in order to further reduce inflammation.
Bottom line that works for me is to NOT stop exercise - since a case of tendonitis might take two-weeks to fully heal and as cessation of exercise for this duration would severely compromise training and fitness. Instead I attempt to maintain my cardiovascular fitness via the elliptical trainer and/or the Precor 'CrossRamp' machine - or biking or swimming (though I'd worry more about degradation of running-specific fitness since swimming is more of an upper-body activity). Achilles tendonitis as just another challenge which with good treatment, and avoidance of the HUGE temptation to run on before the condition is fully healed - can be easily overcome.