Tag Archives: marathon training

If you think it’s been colder this winter, you’re right

13 Feb
The Mississippi River near Keokuk, Iowa, was iced over for much of January and February.

The Mississippi River near Keokuk, Iowa, was iced over for much of January and February, which made for great eagle watching but for chilly running.

After my third or fourth run in a row in single-digit temperatures, I was ready to toss in the towel on my outdoor Iowa adventures for the winter.

But I would do almost anything to avoid the dreadmill. It hasn’t always been this way. Just a few years back, if it got into the teens, I would retreat to the warmth of an indoor workout. But as I ran further and more often, I couldn’t stand the thought of heading indoors.

A Cold WinterI enjoy the fresh air — even if it’s especially brisk air. I love the  sights, whether it’s the frozen river, falling snow or an eagle sitting by an ice-hole waiting for dinner to swim by.

But this winter has seemed especially harsh. And in reviewing my training log from the past few years, it has been. Since November, the temperature has been a bit chillier than the past couple of years. And since mid-January or so, it has been considerably colder.

But I’ve managed to avoid the dreadmill by adding an extra layer — or two — and having a ski mask in reserve for those very cold days.

Just as I thought the cold may get the better of me, I’m headed out of state for a few days. It’s bound to be warmer in New Orleans and San Diego.

But then there’s always the hassle of trying to get in a run in unfamiliar surroundings and at odd times. If you want an excuse not to run, you can always find one.

But out as my wife is fond of saying: “Suck it up, Buttercup.”

See you on the roads.

New, challenging goals help keep me motivated to run

21 Jan
Barb shot this photo of me starting a climb in the Potawatomi Trail 50 mile run.

Barb shot this photo of me starting a climb in the Potawatomi Trail 50 mile run.

I often hear of runners who have lost their motivation. Every six months or so, “Runner’s World” publishes a new story on how these folks can get their mojo back.

In a dozen years on the roads, this has never been a problem for me. The stress relief alone keeps me motivated. 

But I think there’s another key to my internal motivation: I am always striving toward a new goal, a new challenge. 

2013 mileage by monthAt first, I wanted to complete a marathon. Then I wanted to complete a marathon faster. At one time, I was working hard to qualify for Boston — although a years-long injury and an acceptance of my limited abilities have prompted me to set aside this goal. Last year, the goal was to complete an ultramarathon — 50 miles in my 50th year.

So what will get me off the couch and onto the frozen, snow-packed roads this winter? The challenge presented by the Bighorn Trail 50 mile run, which will be run near Sheridan, Wyo., in June.

The unknowns of my first 50-miler kept me honest last year. The Potawatomi Trail 50 was nearly double the length of my longest previous runs. It was on a trail and featured some crazy ascents, descents and creek crossings. It started in the dark and, as it turned out, finished in the dark, too. 

The Bighorn 50-miler takes this to another level. First and possibly most obvious, it takes place in the Bighorn Mountains (the web site says that, under certain circumstances, runners may be liable for their own search and rescue costs). It tops 9,000 feet in altitude. Despite the fact that it starts on top of the mountain and ends in the valley, one climb includes more than 3,100 feet of vertical gain. If I don’t stay motivated and honest in my training, this could be a disaster.

There’s another factor that will keep me motivated: I’m running with my niece. And she’s a decade younger than me. Screw this up and Christmas dinners could be embarrassing for years to come. 

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2013 snapshotIt’s probably easier to stay motivated in the coming year when the previous year has been good to you, and that’s certainly the case with me. 

Having just passed the age of 51, I’ve learned that injuries can become a problem. But for the most part, they weren’t a factor in 2013. Sure, my hamstring bothered me off and on over the months. But I have learned that when the dull ache becomes a constant pain, I’ve got to lay off for a few days. 

My total mileage was up in 2013, which training for a 50-miler in the spring will do. And I ran a pair of marathons in the last quarter of the year, although my finishing time in the Belize marathon hardly qualifies me for “running” a race. But when you are in Belize, who cares?

And a review of my training log has helped me determine an area of improvement for 2014. Over the past three years, my annual mileage, monthly mileage and average run distance have all increased. Unfortunately, in 2013, my average weight increased, too, so some sort of weight loss plan will be on the agenda in 2014.

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 RunnersWorld.com.

“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 RunnersWorld.com 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.

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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.

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The Galloway and RunOnTexas items were both referenced in this article at Over40Runner.com.

There’s how many calories in a large Blizzard?!

23 Jan

I came across this informative and entertaining graphic on fast food. I try to steer clear of fast food as much as I can, but I admit I have a sweet tooth. I just won’t be ordering a large anything after looking at this.

Thanks to Fit for a Year for the original post. It’s a good blog worth following.


Click on the graphic to go to the originating website.



22 Jan


In the podcast, two California ultrarunners, Eric Schranz and Scotty Sandow, 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.

The first baby steps on a 50-mile trail

13 Jan

It seems like I began training for my ultramarathon in earnest this weekend.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been building my mileage as I normally would. I’ve stuck to four runs a week with some speed work during the work week and a long run on the weekend. At some point, I may add another midweek run in order to build mileage even more, but it’s been better for the aches and pains to stay with four runs a week.

I have lengthened my two midweek runs further than I normally would for marathon training. This week, I did a pair of 7-milers on Tuesday and Thursday. If I’m going to tackle an ultra, I’ll need more mileage under my belt.

Getting in extra miles during an Iowa winter means not letting a little snow or ice stop you. Here, I've added 5/8th-inch sheet metal screws to the bottom of some of my older running shoes.

Getting in extra miles during an Iowa winter means not letting a little snow or ice stop you. Here, I’ve added 5/8th-inch sheet metal screws to the bottom of some of my older running shoes.

But the biggest change from my usual training plan came on my weekend runs. I have made two key changes: 1) I’ve lengthened the pair of runs, and 2) I’ve moderated the pace.

I actually ran my longest run on Saturday instead of Sunday, but that change had more to do with the weather. The forecast called for the temperatures to drop all weekend, so I did a 15-miler in the mid-30s on Saturday and a 6-miler on Sunday with temps in the teens.

I’ll continue to combine back-to-back long runs on Saturdays and Sundays, working up to a 3-hour run on Saturday and a 4-hour run on Sunday. I may need to go further than that, but for now, those are the times/distances I have planned.

My second change was in my approach to the longest run. Instead of running at a constant pace for the entire run, I alternated 5-minute run segments with 1-minute walk segments. This keeps the body fresher longer. And that certainly seemed to be the case Saturday, when I still felt pretty darn good at the end of the 15 miles.

The run-walk method is used by some marathoners, and promoter Jeff Galloway says many runners can finish faster with this approach instead of the steady state approach. But for ultramarathoners, the key is to feel good for as long as you can. Many runners will use the run-walk method and walk up any hill. After all, unless you are an elite runner, the goal is to survive and keep moving forward.

The run-walk will test my patience. On Saturday, I just wanted to keep going, make some progress, get that much closer to done. I had to keep telling myself to be patient. But that will be key for a 10- or 12-hour ultramarathon effort.

I still haven’t totally committed to an ultra. My mileage is a bit behind where it should be, and I’m always wary of reaggravating my hamstring. If I have to rest that for any length of time, my timing will be shot.

There aren’t many ultras around, and I’ve found one only a couple hours away in Illinois in early April. The Potawatomi Trail Run 50 looks like a fun race, so even if my planning isn’t perfect, that’s the race I’m aiming for. I wish it was a bit later, but it is what it is.

And the new challenge has me jazzed. I’m looking at my training from a new perspective and learning all kinds of new things. So I’ll hope for steady progress over the next weeks.

Interesting year on the roads

31 Dec

All in all, 2012 was a good year for running.

I logged 1,174 miles in 2012, which was nearly a 40 percent increase from the 845 miles logged in 2011. Since I had set a goal of topping 1,000 miles at the beginning of the year, I was pleased.

As you might expect, my average run distance increased, jumping to nearly 7 miles from 5.3 miles. My overall average pace was a bit slower, which shouldn’t be too surprising since the run distance increased. But on the brighter side, the average pace for a run under 6 miles was a bit faster.

The last few miles were tough, but the feeling was sweet at the finish line of the Rock and Roll New Orleans Marathon.

The last few miles were tough, but the feeling was sweet at the finish line of the Rock and Roll New Orleans Marathon.

A nagging hamstring injury had kept me out of marathons for three years, but in 2011 and 2012, I learned how to manage the problem a bit better. This year, I rarely ran more than 4 times a week. And when the hamstring bothered me, I’d take extra time off, backing off for a week or two several different times throughout the year. If you are smart, when you get older, you realize that you can no longer just power through an injury. That’s been a tough lesson for me.

I was able to run three marathons in 2012. New Orleans in March was the highlight, setting a new PR. I ran my first trail marathon in September, although I should have stuck to the plan and made the run just another training day. And I ran the Des Moines marathon in October.

After a high in the spring, the fall was actually a downer. My times in the September and October races stunk, and I really had high hopes heading into Des Moines. But I learned a couple lessons: you can overtrain and you need to leave room for a taper.

I had been toying with the idea of an ultramarathon for my birthday in early 2013 — 50 miles on the 50th birthday had a nice ring to it. But that won’t happen. I needed to take some time off after the October race, and I haven’t ramped it up enough to make 50 miles in just a few weeks. But I may still log the 50 miles in my 50th year.

Despite the highs and lows, it’s been a blast. I’m thankful that I’m healthy enough to run. I love being outside, whether it’s 15 degrees or 90 degrees, whether it’s a sunny Sunday morning in May or a dark Tuesday night in December. I can watch the eagles along the Mississippi River and the turkeys in the nearby woods.

It’s fun to travel to races around the country, to see new places and to cut loose with family and friends. But there’s also a special satisfaction in lacing up the trainers, relieving some stress on the roads around Keokuk and simply reveling in the workout.

How were your workouts in 2012 and what do you have planned for 2013?

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