Thursday, June 30, 2011

Coffee - The Greatest Addiction Ever (i.e. Besides Running!)

I loved this video extolling the virtues of one's daily cup of joe. Packed into this breezy, informative video is a wealth of amazing coffee facts that just might cause you to drop what you are doing and make yourself another cup.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Temperature + Humidity + Wind + Sun; Warm-up?

On this morning's Kenyan Way training run I bonked beginning in the seventh mile, which with the benefit of hindsight was entirely avoidable. What misled me in deciding my target pace was the forecast starting temperature and dew point being 82°F and 74°F, both exactly the same as last Saturday's successful long run. The key difference, however, was today's absence of a breeze (versus last Saturday's average 11 mph wind with gusts up to 18 mph) and the cloudless sky.

In my experience the humidity - more-so than temperature - played the biggest part in my prior melt downs, leading me to frequently parrot the line I've heard from wise old-time runners: "Humidity - not temperature - is the silent killer." While true, the absence of wind and the strength of the sun are also key in determining the exogenous heat transferred to your body, and thus your ability to run at a given pace.

Sadly, the four key factors which determine the rate of heat transferred to the runner's body: temperature, humidity, wind, and sun, are probably too complex in their individual interplay to allow one to confidently assess one's optimum pace. Fortunately, however, we're all equipped with our highly evolved brains, which, presuming we utilize same - and don't become 'slaves' to the Garmin Forerunner around our wrists - should allow us to continuously adjust our pace throughout our run as necessary. Through continuously adjusting our pace via our perceived level of exertion we simultaneously adjust for the heat which is stressing our bodies, as well as elevation changes, our extent of fatigue, dynamic course conditions, etc.. I hope the this lesson re-learned will pay-off on my next warm-weather run: Don't be so mechanical in using my target pace to over-ride my common sense!

On another running-related topic, earlier this week I read with interest a good NY Times article discussing whether one should stretch statically in advance of one's run. Personally I only use static stretching after my run (the efficacy of which was unfortunately not studied). Also not explored in the article are the benefits of dynamic (vs. static) warm-up techniques.

My curiosity thus piqued on my morning's routine iPad perusal of running related articles (thanks Zite!) I stumbled on an interesting article, which included two recommended warm-up routines from Coach Jay Johnson. These look very interesting and I intend to try them out. Thoughts?

Finally, a link to my ever growing inspirational running quotes and mantras.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Running truly is 80% mental

Joan Benoit Samuelson dramatically won gold in the women's marathon at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, the year that event was first introduced for women. Afterward she was quoted as saying: “Running is 80 percent mental.” I fully agree, and this morning's training run demonstrates why.

I ran with the Kenyan Way training group beginning at dawn, on a typical hot and humid Houston early morning. The temperature was already 78F, the humidity was a dripping 90%, and the sun - though low on the horizon - was already baking. I felt drained after only seven miles when we temporarily returned to base for fluids. Despite my growing fatigue I had held onto the group's 8:00 pace for the entire distance, but unlike prior cooler training runs it was truly an absolute struggle. Consequently, I was ready to hang it up, and began to imagine the delicious thought of taking an early shower.

With my mind nearly made I suddenly remembered the commitment I'd given to the friend running beside me an hour before, that I'd run the entire planned 11 miles. So, despite my doubts, I decided to run with the suddenly enlarged group for the remaining distance. The psychological benefit of being part of a group paid off! I was drawn into the group's conversation, and by doing so appropriately slowed my pace somewhat. Before I knew it we were back at base! Afterward, looking at my Forerunner I was delighted to realize that we'd maintained the same consistent 8:00 pace throughout the entire distance - despite the warming conditions.

If you're training for a longer distance race such as a marathon or half-marathon you really should join a group, ideally one such as Kenyan Way as it is led by a great coach who provides individualized training plans and replicates race conditions by providing both sports drink and water every two to three miles. You'll enjoy the benefits of running with others who are at - or ideally slightly faster than - your training pace, will treasure the group's companionship, quickly make friends, and will discover the training benefits to be huge. The latter owing to running longer distances than you'd otherwise manage, and being much more consistent both in pacing and in overall frequency.