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Happy Turkey Day!

28 Nov

I added a little variety to my Thanksgiving run in Keokuk, Iowa, by creating a GPS drawing of a turkey. I used the Endomondo running app to track the run.

I added a little variety to my Thanksgiving run in Keokuk, Iowa, by creating a GPS drawing of a turkey. I used the Endomondo running app to track the run. You can click on the GPS drawing to go to the Endomondo site.

The turkey itself is not quite 4 miles around. All together, my run was 7 miles.

What did you do for your Thanksgiving run?

Useful links for runners

24 Nov

Over the years, I’ve found a number of resources to help with my training and racing.

And when you spend a number of hours on the road, you also need some way to pass the time; I spend a great deal of my training hours listening to podcasts.

Following are recommendations to web sites that I think many runners would enjoy. Today, I’ve entered these as a post. But the links can always be found at this page on my blog. 

Favorite running podcasts

Looking for something to listen to while you log all those miles? I listen to a number of podcasts from NPR, ESPN and others. But these are some of my favorite running-related podcasts: is produced by Eric Schranz and Scotty Sandow, two California ultrarunners. They interview the stars and studs of ultrarunning — plus they offer their thoughts on the best craft beers. On their website, you’ll find a daily update of ultrarunning news and lots of other useful information. If you need something to keep you entertained while logging your training miles, give this fun podcast a try. It can be found here:

23274_107017422649343_693_qMarathon Training Academy is produced by a southern Missouri couple, Angie and Trevor Spencer. It offers useful training advice, race reports and more. It’s very well done and a good listen. The link is:

endurance planetEndurance Planet actually offers several different podcasts on nutrition, fitness, medical advice and ultrarunning. My favorite is the ultrarunning podcast, which is hosted by Tawnee Prazak and features ultrarunner Tim Waggoneer, aka Lucho. The pair also team up for a podcast called Ask the Coaches, which focuses on triathlon coaching but also touches on many running subjects. And I like the podcasts that feature questions that are answered by two different doctors. All of these podcasts can be found at:

Talk UltraEnglishman Ian Corless hosts the bi-weekly Talk Ultra. The show has a distinctly European or global perspective, but there are plenty of Americans featured, too. The show manages to nail interviews with all of the top ultrarunners from around the world. It runs a bit on the long side — about 3 hours — but if you want to hear from the world’s best, this is the place to go. The podcast can be found as part of his web site at:

McMillan Running Calculator

mcmillan_logoWhat pace should you use for your workouts? What is a good goal time for your race? The McMillan Running Calculator is a useful tool to determine these paces and finish times. Find it at this link:

Athlinks — Compiling Race Results

athlinks-logoThis website compiles race results from around the country into one place, allowing you to track all your results at once. It also displays your results in several different ways, making it easier to analyze them. It’s amazing the race results that this site has compiled. Any big race — and many of the smaller races — that you’ve run is likely in their database. All that said, the site has undergone a major redesign, and in my opinion, it isn’t for the better. The new design makes it more difficult to see all your results at a glance and to resort the results. Even so, it’s a site worth looking up.

Find the site at this link:

Run My Route — How Far Was That?

runmyroute-logoThere are a number of web sites that can help you plan a running route — Map My Run, Endomondo, USATF and many others. But has some of the better features for planning a run, and you don’t have to become a member of the site to use the program.

Find it at this link:

Pace calculator

Three different calculators to help you determine time, distance and pace.

Find it at this link:

Marathon Guide — Choose a Race

mguidelogoThis website lists most marathons across the country and features a number of helpful runner reviews of the races. It also posts news on many of the races.

Find it at this link:

Online Running Retailers

These are two of the largest online running retailers:

This is one of the few places I have found that keeps a good insole with a metatarsal pad (good for those with Morton’s neuroma):

The specific insole I recommend if you have Morton’s neuroma is the Lynco Orthotics L-405. I have tried nearly every type of insole with a metatarsal pad, and this is by far the best. I’ve had a podiatrist look at the insole, and he said it looked like a good one. The insole has been updated since I purchased it last, but I hope they kept the best qualities. The specific link to this insole at the time of this writing is:

Excellent article on blister care

Ultrarunners are notorious for suffering from blisters. As a frequent road runner, I very seldom get blisters. On my first trail ultra, I got blisters in the opening miles and battled them for all 50 miles. The uneven terrain and the extra moisture — either from running through creeks or simply sweating — makes you more susceptible.

This is a great article on how to manage your blisters:

Better runners through circumcision as young adults?

20 Nov

Watch the YouTube video above of Kenyan runner Kipchoge Keino win the 1,500 meter race in the 1968 Olympics. Keino’s victory marked the beginning of nearly 50 years of Kenya’s dominance in long-distance running.

Many scholars and scientists have sought the answer to the question: Why are Kenyans such great long-distance runners?

In it’s own inimitable style, Radiolab tackles that question in this podcast. You can read books on the subject, you can read magazine articles on it, but this 25-minute podcast is worth your time.

In the story, NPR’s Gregory Warner explores the many factors that have led Kenyans — and specificially the Kalenjin tribe — to dominate long distance races over the past 40+ years. Among the many factors are:

  • Diet
  • High-altitude living
  • Mileage run over a lifetime, beginning as children
  • Socio-economic benefits derived from running success
  • Genetic differences that benefit runners

But perhaps the most dramatic — and, for me, headline grabbing — reason for the Kalenjin success is their self-nurtured ability to withstand pain.

Faced with an extremely taxing and painful rite of passage shortly after puberty, Kalenjin children spend years preparing themselves for the ordeal. And since the ordeal includes a unique manner of circumcision, it’s easy to understand how the Kalenjin can endure the pain of a measly marathon.

Give the podcast a listen. I guarantee you’ll be enlightened and entertained.

♦ ♦ ♦

Here are links to several other interesting topics mentioned in the podcast:

Training by heart rate instead of pace during a sultry summer — Duh!

16 Oct
Posing with Barb before part of her 50K run at Jubilee College State Park near Peoria, Illinois. This is one of my last training runs before the 2013 Des Moines Marathon.

Posing with Barb before part of her 50K run at Jubilee College State Park near Peoria, Illinois. This is one of my last training runs before the 2013 Des Moines Marathon.

In early September, I wrote a post about training in the heat and humidity. The summer’s heat was dragging on, and my training pace was dragging, too.

What effect did these conditions have on training pace? According to a couple of articles I referenced, high heat and humidity should be expected to add up to 3 minutes per mile to your training pace. Here’s my earlier post.

The question I couldn’t answer at that time, however, was: Would the slower training pace have a negative impact on my race results?

According to this article in Runner’s World, the tough climactic conditions still can translate to good results when the weather moderates. Using an example of a specific pace and a specific heart rate, author Susan Paul wrote:

A large part of training is related to the heart rates achieved during training. Even though your training pace has slowed down, your heart rate will still remain in the 120 bpm range and possibly be even higher because of the adverse weather. Your body becomes conditioned to that heart rate range regardless of the actual run pace. When the weather cools down, and you run at that heart rate, you will find you are able to run your 9:40 pace and probably even a bit faster after slogging through tough conditions!

It was like a light bulb turning on for me. It was both an “aha” moment and a “duh” moment.

I’ve done some training by heart rate, but because of technical difficulties with my heart rate strap, I tired of that method. But I listen to the Endurance Planet podcast on training runs nearly every week (great podcast, highly recommended), and Dr. Phil Maffetone’s training method is a frequent topic on the podcast.

In a nutshell, Maffetone says subtract your age from 180 to find your optimal heart rate for training. Consistently train at this aerobically appropriate heart rate — no matter the weather or the hills or whatever — and you can expect to see an improvement in your training pace over time. If you don’t, there are other stresses that are depressing your results.

But the key to this method of training is to maintain a steady heart rate. Nearly every week, podcast hosts Tawnee Prazak and Tim “Lucho” Waggoner are asked if the optimum training heart rate can be adjusted — because of the time of day or the nutrition consumed or because the questioner is a well-trained athlete. As Maffetone himself indicated on the podcast one day, if you allow variations in the heart rate, you aren’t training by that method.

Even though I haven’t been training by heart rate, that variation in heart rate due to the stress of heat and humidity resonated with me. Any attempt to maintain a specific pace was going to result in an increase in heart rate that was going to be hard to maintain. But if I allowed my pace to slow so I could maintain a certain heart rate (or a certain level of perceived exertion), I would maintain a steady level of training.

So my pace decreased with the harsh conditions. Will my race results suffer? Susan Paul says “not necessarily so.”

I guess I’ll find out when I run the Des Moines Marathon on Sunday, Oct. 20. A number of other factors may impact my race results — the temperature that day, my race day nutrition, pacing, et cetera — but I do feel better about my summer training.

When is an ultra run like a prize fight?

13 Oct
A face plant on the second lap of the course gave Barb a black eye and a swollen lip, plus several other bruises.

A face plant on the second lap of the course gave Barb a black eye and a swollen lip, plus several other bruises. This photo was taken the day after the race.

If the weather is nearly perfect, and the trails are dry, the light is good and there are no obstacles per se, how does a trail runner come out of a race looking like she’s gone through a 10-round prize fight?

It’s those pesky tree roots on a narrow single-track trail. At least that’s the story my wife, Barb, is offering.

Barb was looking for an extra challenge as her 50th birthday approaches in early 2014. After I did a 50-mile trail run earlier this year, I suggested she try an ultra — and she bit.

She thought 50 kilometers (31 miles) was crazy enough, so she decided to run the Farmdale Trail Run, which includes a 30-miler. To make it a 50K, she added a 1-mile jog before the race even began.

Due to the federal government shutdown, the race was moved in the last week to Jubilee College State Park, which is located just north of Peoria, Ill. The original site was supposed to be just south of town, but Farmdale is operated by the Corps of Engineers.

There were a few showers in Peoria before the race started, but when we arrived at the park, the trails were dry, and the conditions were really perfect for a run.

The course was mostly under tree cover, single-track and — although there were some steep sections — along rolling hills.

Barb wanted to complete the run in under 8 hours, and she kept up a very steady pace and met that goal, finishing in about 7 hours, 43 minutes.

The biggest challenge was staying on her feet, but she wasn’t alone. Despite the nearly perfect conditions, there were a number of tree roots on the single track, and if you weren’t careful, it was easy to snag a foot. I noticed an inordinate number of runners who came across the finish line with their shirts covered in dirt or their arms and legs covered with trail rash.

But I think Barb got the prize for the day. She fell at least once on every lap, and she did an epic face plant on her second lap and rolled into a log. That resulted in several bruises, plus a swollen, black eye and a fat lip. Trying to take a drink from her water bottle on the next lap, she just laughed. Every time she tried to squirt in water, it dribbled out the side of her mouth due to the fat lip.

One more example of women being tougher than men.

The day after the race, Barb is sore and tired, and her shiner has made for a hell of a conversation piece. She said she looks like she’s been fighting for Team Miesha, referencing the UFC television show.

But after a few extra ibuprofen, she’s doing some chores and made a great seafood chowder for lunch.

I think she’ll forget all about her sore muscles by the time the Belize marathon rolls around in early December. At least I hope so.

♦ ♦ ♦

If you’re interested in doing a trail run or an ultra, there’s an active group in central Illinois. Check out these links:

♦ ♦ ♦

And if you haven’t read my post about the 50-miler I did earlier this year in nearby Pekin, Ill., here’s a link to that article. It’s a great race, and it also includes 100- and 150-mile options.

1,000 miles run in 2013

16 Sep

Monthly mileage 2013Sunday’s long run pushed me over the 1,000-mile mark for 2013, which means this has been a good year for a couple of reasons.

First, it means I’ve been able log miles on a consistent basis, something I wondered about four years ago when a strange ache at the ischial tuberosity curtailed my efforts for nearly two years.

I still suffer the aches and pains of age and training, but I have learned to listen to my body. I can hear the whispers of the normal pain from training. But when the aches begin to scream, I am now smart enough to take some time off.

Several times this year, I have cut mileage when the aches increased their protests. But there’s only been one week where I recorded zero miles (two weeks after the ultra), and there have been only a handful of weeks when I have run fewer than 10 miles.

Second, I was able to tackle a new challenge — an ultramarathon — and that new challenge added a whole new level of fun to my training and racing efforts. I ran my ultra in early April, which is why my highest mileage months were in January and March. (A couple of trips in February and some aches led to fewer miles that month.)

My average run exceeded more than 10 miles in January and March. In the past year or two, I have pretty much confined my runs to Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday-Sunday. The roughly every-other-day schedule gives my body more time to rest, but it also forces some sort of cap on weekly mileage.

The ultra, the Potawatomi Trail 50, presented a major challenge. I’ve now completed 9 marathons, and I know I can tackle that distance. But I wasn’t sure about covering 50 miles on a trail in one session. That unknown distance increased my focus. The trails presented a whole new set of challenges themselves. And I enjoyed the physical effort and the mental challenge that the trail ultra posed.

I still have two marathons planned for the remainder of 2013.

In late October, I’ll run the Des Moines Marathon, which will be the fifth time for that race (third time for the marathon, twice in the half marathon). Last year, I stumbled to an awful finish in Des Moines. After a strong start this year, I had hoped to set a new PR there and gain a bit of redemption. But some unplanned rest at times throughout the summer means my training isn’t where it should be. So this year, I’ll keep telling myself “Run a smart race,” and my goal will be to beat last year’s disaster.

In December, I’ll run the End of the World Marathon in Placencia, Belize. It will be my first international marathon and my first trip to Belize. The goal there: Have fun and finish. A race in a tropical locale, accompanied by my wife and good friends — I can’t see any way I won’t reach my goals for this race.

And finally, my relative good health this year means I should meet my annual mileage goal and set me up for a new challenge in 2014.

Coming into 2013, my mileage goal was to exceed what I ran in 2012. In 2012, I was finally able to run a couple marathons — after a two-year hiatus — and I wanted to stay healthy enough to build on that in 2013. So far, so good.

And that has me thinking about 2014.

The Illinois ultramarathon was a ton of fun, but I’d like to take that a step further in 2014. I love Wyoming, and we’ve spent some time in the Bighorn Mountains in the north-central part of the state. And that makes the Bighorn Mountain 50 mile run attractive. Registration doesn’t open until January, so I’ve got plenty of time to plan and prepare.

I’m sure there will be additional challenges pop up between now and the end of the year, but with three-fourths of 2013 behind me, it’s been a good year.

Marathon training: Is it the heat and humidity or is it me?

12 Sep
The sun begins to break through the clouds on Mississippi River Road on a September Sunday morning. We've started on long runs before the sun comes up this summer to avoid as much of the heat as possible.

The sun begins to break through the clouds on Mississippi River Road on a September Sunday morning just north of Keokuk, Iowa. We’ve started our long runs before the sun comes up this summer to avoid as much of the heat as possible.

The heat and humidity of summer can’t end soon enough for me.

Training for a marathon during an Iowa summer is enough of a challenge, but it seems that this summer — and particularly the waning days of summer — has been especially taxing.

Usually, we can expect some relief in the temperatures and the humidity in September. But in the past couple of weeks, we’ve had some of our most extreme conditions.

On Sunday, the high temperature was 102 degrees fahrenheit. I avoided the worst of that by starting my long run before the sun came up. But I couldn’t avoid the humidity, which hit 86 percent during my run. That climatic combination proved debilitating. Weighing myself after completing the run, I found I had dropped 8.5 pounds. No wonder I felt sluggish.

I turned 50 earlier this year, and I keep anticipating the day when my age will negatively impact my training, despite my best efforts. I may have reached that point. Or it may just be the recent extreme weather.

According to “Galloway’s Book on Running” by Jeff Galloway, you should adjust your race pace by 20 percent for temperatures in the 80-85 degree range.

And what’s his suggestion for adjusting your goal pace above 85 degrees? “Forget it.”

If this was truly the case, there wouldn’t be a Badwater 135 ultramarathon, which runs through Death Valley every July. But you get the idea.

I did experience this phenomenon firsthand during the Country Music Marathon in April 2009. After an excellent training cycle in the winter and early spring, I felt I was ready for a PR effort in Nashville. But the CMM was hit with some of its highest race-day temperatures to date, and — not bright enough to adjust my pace — I struggled to the finish line in the 89 degree weather.

But the conditions have been even worse lately. At least the humidity was low during the CMM. During my current training phase, the humidity has routinely been in the 45-85 percent range. This has served to further impact my training and training times.

In Sunday’s especially high humidity, I was forced to alternate running and walking intervals by the end of my 18 miler. My legs were shot. I couldn’t muster the energy to keep pushing.

But humidity and heat are a nasty duo.

You should adjust your pace by 2 minutes per mile for temperatures between 80 and 85 degrees, according to a chart at the RunOnTexas web site. But when combined with humidity that is above 60 percent, you should add 3 minutes per mile to your pace.

Subconsciously, I know that the heat and humidity will negatively impact my training. But after a long summer, I was wondering if it was just me or my age or something else altogether.

It’s important to recognize that feeling sluggish on a sticky day doesn’t indicate a lack of fitness or a lapse in mental toughness—it’s your body’s physical response to a stressful environment, according to this article on

“As humidity increases, thermal strain and premature fatigue increase exponentially, and so running at your normal pace will feel very difficult,” said Dr. George Chiampas, medical director of the Chicago Marathon, in the story.

My research on the impact of heat and humidity on training has helped me feel better about my recent training runs. But nowhere have I found an article that helps predict if the training struggles will be reflected in a decreased race performance.

I guess that’s a question I’ll answer for myself when I line up on Oct. 20 for the Des Moines Marathon.

♦ ♦ ♦

Have heat and humidity affected your training runs? Your races? Can you quantify how much the weather conditions have impacted your pace? Offer your thoughts in the comment box below.

♦ ♦ ♦

The Galloway and RunOnTexas items were both referenced in this article at

12 May

“The true measure of a runner isn’t in time, but rather in the effort it took along the way.”

Coach Jenny Hadfield,
Ask Coach Jenny blog,

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