Tuesday, October 17, 2017


After my recent vacation, I returned home with a souvenir head cold.  Awesome!  So, my planned rest break (other than thirty miles of walking in three days in Italy) was extended, although it was not what I would describe as quality recovery time.  On the tenth day after my last pre-vacation workout, I completed some running hill repeats and a strength workout.  The next day I was tired, a little sore, I had a headache and was still feeling the symptoms of my cold, blah blah blah... I was compiling excuses not to work out.  Even with all my fitness and health-related degrees and credentials and years of experience in the exercise field and in training myself, I still struggle with motivation at times.

Then, I got a message from my good friend, Sarah, through Facebook Messenger:  "Working out today?"  @%$&!  "Well, I am now!!"  I replied.  As I told her, the message was just the kick in the butt I needed.  We continued chatting and I told her what workouts I had planned.  Then, I proceeded to destroy two CrossFit-style workouts and run some hill repeats.  Without Sarah's initial nudge and subsequent conversation, none of that would have happened.

I have written about ten different CrossFit-style workouts for myself, all with time or repetition goals--goals that I can attempt to beat each time I do them.  Over the last month or so, I have improved nearly every workout each time.  After at least two of the workouts, I have had to lie down on the floor for a few minutes to recover.  I have also set power goals for my cycling workouts which I have been doing on my rollers.  During my planned thirty-minute ride over the weekend, I had to stop at about fifteen minutes, because I was exhausted after killing my one-minute power goal during three intervals.  So, my programming is forcing me to work harder.

My point is, motivation can come from different sources.  Sometimes you need a nudge from someone else--look for this.  You can also create your own self-motivation with goal setting.

This is the guy I'm looking for in the mirror
(2010 Tri-ing to Help)

Thursday, September 28, 2017

This Training Cycle

I have shared my goals.  The next logical step is to have a plan to achieve them. I have tried various approaches over the last few years.  Unfortunately, I think my age is working against me a bit.  I think training solo might be limiting my progress a little too--no one to compete with or to push me.  Obviously, I cannot do anything about my age (other than attempt to defy it) and I will still probably train solo for various reasons.  So, I just have to train intelligently and follow my own advice.  Right now, I think that means working harder with consistency.

My current focus is on multiple, short, intense workouts, mostly a combination of the following:

1. Running: hill repeats or 1/4 mile repeats; 3-5 days weekly; 30-45 minutes total.

2. Cycling: on my rollers, mostly 1-minute intervals recently; 1-2 days weekly; 30-45 minutes total.

3. CrossFit-inspired workouts; 10-15 minutes; 7-10 weekly.

Of course, this means multiple workouts in a day, some days as many as three. Full disclosure: I usually plan my workouts ahead each week, but frequently life happens and I do not fit them all in.

Anyway, today's example:

Early-ish morning workout:
35# dumbbell swings with sit ups
x50, 40, 30, 20, 10 for time.

Midday workout:
45# overhead lunge
pull down (using bands)
supine windshield wipers
x10 each for 10 minutes, max number of rounds

Afternoon workout;
Hill repeats x40 minutes

I planned a fourth workout after the run, but didn't have time prior to a work obligation.

Side notes: I train at home, using some bands, an adjustable set of dumbbells, and my body weight.  I also work mostly from home and have a flexible schedule.

It seems to be working.  All the strength workouts are getting faster or I am doing more rounds.  I also feel better at the beginning of my runs--I do not seem to require as much of a warm up.

I will continue with this for a few more days prior to a recovery week while on vacation.  We are going to Italy! Then, I will ease back into a routine over a few days and return to this schedule for a week for sure.  After that, I am thinking I will change my running focus a bit, but continue with the strength workouts as I am doing.

Anyway, time to BRING IT!

Yes!  You too!

Monday, September 25, 2017

Where To Begin?

Since I hurt my foot back in 2012, I have struggled with my fitness level.  Being busy with the move to Scotland and getting settled here did not help.  I have been exercising regularly and currently, I would describe myself as fit for my age--nearly 47.  However, in the early 2010s, I would have described myself as fit, period.  I was competing with athletes much younger than me and was getting progressively faster.  I have not given up on returning to that level, but progress is much slower.

So, goals (in no particular order):
1. Lose weight; partially for vanity, partially for performance by improving my body composition and my power to weight ratio and, of course, for my health. My measuring device: my favorite black belt--I'm on the second hole and I want to be back in the fourth hole.  Also, I want to be back near my high school graduation weight--175 pounds, around where I was in the early 2010s. Honestly, I do not know what I weigh right now, perhaps 190-195 pounds.

2. Exceed, match, or at least approach my running PRs:
5k, 20:38
10k, 46:43
13.1, 1:37:26
This will be tough.

3. Increase my cycling wattage.

4. Achieve 365 fitness: ready for anything physical on any given day or within a reasonable amount of time for training, e.g. run a half marathon within 6-8 weeks or compete in an obstacle course or adventure race.

5. Stay injury-free.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

I'm Back!

I suppose the main reason I stopped posting is that I got busy with other things, primarily moving to Scotland. You can read about that here. I'm settled now, but I actually considered shutting down this site/blog. However, on a run today, creativity struck and here I am!

I'm going to change focus a bit. I want to continue to use this as an outlet for my exercise expertise, especially since my current work does not provide that. But instead of teaching, sharing information, etcetera, I plan to use it as a sort of exercise journal for myself, providing me with some accountability and discipline. It might help me justify my own training and hopefully promote some discourse. Ideally, others will derive benefit from it as well. 

I plan to keep my posts short. Frequency will depend on my other obligations. I may incorporate Twitter and Facebook as well.

Watch this space.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Drink When You're Thirsty! A summary of Waterlogged by Tim Noakes

Dr Tim Noakes is a South African physician, professor, scientist, and ultra marathoner known to many runners and coaches for writing Lore of Running now in its fourth edition and considered to be the runner's "bible."  At least partially inspired to write this book by the death of a marathoner from exercise-associated hyponatremic encephalopathy, Noakes reviewed and analyzed the scientific research related to hydration in endurance sports, frequently adding his own data.  This research has culminated in his own evidence-based guidelines for hydration, electrolytes, and the prevention of so-called heat-related conditions.  Most of these guidelines have been adopted (in some fashion) by various sport governing associations including ACSM, USATF, and the International Marathon Medical Directors Association.

If you want to know the scientific basis for these guidelines and learn more about the physiology and biology, I encourage you to read Waterlogged: The Serious Problem of Overhydration in Endurance Sports.   Otherwise, I shall summarize here his guidelines:

1. Your body will tell you what it needs, if you listen. (Keep in mind the human body has robust biological controls.  Nothing in nature is wasted; everything has a purpose.  To deny this would be to deny evolution or, if you prefer, the perfection of creation.)
2. So...drink ad libitum, according to the dictates of your thirst.
3. And...there is no need to increase your daily sodium intake above that dictated by your appetite, nor to ingest additional sodium during exercise.
4. Dehydration is not a disease, nor does it contribute in any way to any illnesses associated with prolonged exercise.
5. Much of what you believe about your personal well-being is the result of targeted manipulations by industries whose principal focus is their commercial fitness and not necessarily your health or safety.  (Marketing!)

This advice is contrary to what many athletes are doing.  It is also contrary to the advice I have given over the years.  I am trying to remedy that now. 

I am sure many athletes and coaches will question these guidelines, thinking that drinking less and being more dehydrated or not supplementing electrolytes for example will put athletes at risk.  This is what the scientific evidence says:

Exercise-associated Muscle Cramps or "heat cramps" result from altered nervous control of muscles. Cramps are not improved or prevented by fluid or electrolyte intake.  Recover from cramps with rest, maybe stretching.

Heat Exhaustion is just the condition (heat) under which an athlete choses to stop exercising.  Basically, it is just exhaustion.  It is a condition that the brain uses to ensure the athlete ceases activity before the body temperature reaches heatstroke range.  Fluids and electrolytes will not prevent this.  Acclimatization to the heat will.  Treat this with rest and cooling the body.

Heatstroke occurs when the core body temperature reaches 42 degrees Celsius.  Body temperature increases as a function of body size and exercise intensity, e.g. average running speed (think 5k pace versus marathon pace). Generally, with sustained exercise, the core temperature rises, but it seems that the body is able to maintain homeostasis, just at a higher (and still safe) core body temperature.  Again, hydration has little effect and electrolytes have no effect.  In those that get heatstroke, it seems to be a function of heat production, because even after they are cooled, there is frequently a secondary spike in core temperature.  Heatstroke can be prevented with rest, allowing the core temperature to decrease periodically.

Most athletes who collapse after a sporting event are suffering from Exercise-associated Postural Hypotension.  The blood-pumping action of the calf muscles, the second heart, stops and the body does not respond fast enough.  The brain doesn't get enough blood and the athlete passes out.  This can be treated by elevating their legs and hips above their heart and head for a few minutes.  Fluids, electrolytes, or sugar will not help.  Athletes should continue moving or lie down after an event to prevent this.

Exercise-associated Hyponatremia/Hyponatremic Encephalopathy is brought on by drinking too much fluids too fast, diluting blood sodium so quickly that the body cannot maintain a safe range.  This seems to occur in predisposed individuals, possibly with hormonal differences: usually slow runners in long events--back-of-the-packers.  It is not related to sodium deficiency.  It was rare if not completely absent prior to hydration guidelines which instructed athletes to drink as much as possible, staying ahead of their thirst.  This was the impetus for Noakes' research and book, leading to his hydration guidelines shared above.

To summarize, athletes do not need extra electrolytes nor do they need to drink any more than their thirst dictates. Doing otherwise will not improve performance or prevent illness, and in some cases, it can actually be fatal.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Bix 7 Race Report

As long as I have been involved in the running community of Quincy, I have heard "you have to run the Bix!" from my fellow runners.  This year, we made it happen.

My wife and I drove to Davenport, Iowa on Friday afternoon.  Our first stop was the race expo to pick up our bibs, chips, shirts, and race-day manuals.  Our "goodie bag" was a virtual one; we received an email with links to discounts at local businesses among other things, the usual.  Walking around the expo, we saw a line of people waiting to get autographs from Joan Benoit Samuelson, Meb Keflezighi, and Bill Rodgers.  I knew (basically) who they were, but I do not get too excited about getting autographs or meeting celebrities.  So, I snapped a photo and moved on.  We did not need anything and we were hungry, so we did not linger at the expo, although it rivaled the marathon expos I have been to.  We found our way to the Clarion, checked in, and had dinner on site.  (Side note: the hotel was okay but, I cannot recommend eating in the bar--horrible service.)

As is usually the case the night before a race, I slept poorly and was up early.  I made my cup of caffeinated coffee and forced down some Pop Tarts--the hotel's breakfast buffet did not start until 7:00, about the time we would be leaving.  I just piddled around the room until it was time to leave.  I thought we would have loads of time, but there was a lot of traffic heading downtown and we had to rush a bit to make it through the porta-potty lines and get to the start early, according to our instructions.  Of course, we still had to wait a while...with over 15,000 of our closest friends.  After a very tasteful singing of the Star Spangled Banner and a flyover of four T-6 Texans, the starting gun fired and we were off!  At a very slow shuffle to the starting line about a block away. 

As I neared the actual start line, I was able to begin jogging, starting up Brady Street Hill--7-9% grade for about one third mile.  This did not thin out the crowd as much as I would have expected.  I was ready to run, but had to weave around slower runners, frequently jumping onto the sidewalk for short stretches at the rare spots where there were no spectators, dodging the occasional walkers.  This set the stage for the whole course.  

Hilly:  According to my Garmin (for what it is worth), the elevation gain for The Bix 7 was 376 feet.  For comparison, my Garmin measured the Hannibal Cannibal 5k at 333 feet, the Raider Classic 5k at 155 feet, the Hannibal Cannibal 15k at 676 feet (which should be just a little higher than the 10k), and the Raider Classic 10k at 321 feet.  Regardless, it was a hilly course.  After the first big climb, the course flattened and then, we descended for a while.  There were a few bumps on our way to the turn-around at the halfway point.  Then, we got to climb back up again, with short respites after each of the few rollers.  Of course, we got to descend the big hill where we started; I flew down this hill, passing loads of people.  At the bottom, we turned toward the finish for our final three-block sprint.

Crowded:  As I said, there were about 15,000 racers at the start.  Some only ran the two-mile event and they turned off before the top of Brady Street Hill.  10,790 of us continued on.  I did not really notice their exit.  We continued to fill the entire street--four lanes, perhaps?  At our first turn, there was a little bottle neck as we entered a divided boulevard with a grassy median.  We were able to take up both lanes of traffic initially, but then, we had to make room for the elites on their return and move out of their way.  (It was cool to see Meb and his peers doing what they do best.)  There really never was a point in the race that was not crowded.  I was weaving in and out of traffic most of the race.  I spent a lot of time on the grassy median too.  I am certainly not complaining.  It reminded me of running trails, where you have to watch where you put your foot on nearly every step.  As a result, your mind is occupied and time passes quickly.  I looked for my friends, my wife, and fellow Quincy-area runners throughout the course.  But, I only saw one person, a former trainee, I knew on the course until another Quincian tapped me on the shoulder about a half mile from the finish.

Spectators:  There were spectators throughout the entire route on both sides of the road.  It was the most festive event I have ever run, I think--more rock and roll than the Rock N' Roll San Antonio half marathon I ran.  People everywhere, a lot with signs.  Bands every quarter to half mile, there was rarely a moment when a band could not be heard either in front or behind.  Davenport really supports the event.

Fun:  In addition to the spectators with their signs and the music, there was plenty of other entertainment.  I saw lots of costumed runners: many super heroes, a group of Marilyn Monroes and a group of Elvises.  There was also a slip and slide set up on the median at one point.  I thought about it, but...  I realized early that I was not going to achieve my time goal.  So, I just continued at a comfortably hard pace and enjoyed the moment.  Toward the end of the race, there was a guy singing Baby I'm a Star by Prince, a song I have always enjoyed.  Initially, it sounded okay, but then he started screaming and sounded just like Prince; totally nailed it!  I was impressed and loved it!  I wanted to go back and listen, but I had a race to finish.  Overall, I would certainly consider going back just for the fun of it.

I felt pretty good most of the race.  Around the five-mile mark, I started to tire a little.  That was during the climb back up to the top of Brady Street Hill.  But, I soldiered on, enjoying the experience.  Despite the challenges, I still managed to finish in the top 20% overall and for master's men.  So, not a bad performance.  I was pleased.  But, for me, The Bix was all about having a good time, at least after I got started.  By the way, they also had nice tech shirts and finisher medals.  I generally am not a fan of finisher medals for shorter races, but I see this medal as a memento for a special event--something to remember the experience.

So, to my fellow runners: YOU HAVE TO RUN THE BIX!!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

2014 Raider Classic & Hannibal Cannibal 5k Race Reports

Having already run a marathon and a half marathon in 2014, I have changed my training focus to running 5k races.  I am enjoying running short and fast!  Also, as my wife and I plan our move to Scotland next year (to be near her family), I am running--no pun intended--out of opportunities to participate in local events.  So, if we are able to stick to our plan, this year may be my last chance to run two of my favorite local races, at least for the foreseeable future.

The 13th Annual Raider Classic was run on June 28 in Quincy.  It was a relatively cool morning for late June, overcast and a little breezy.  For a summer morning in Illinois, no one could complain.  The cannon sent us off promptly (as always) at 7AM.  According to my plan, I took off fast to take advantage of the mostly downhill first mile.  With 250 participants and two turns in the first quarter mile or so, it was a bit crowded initially, but the field soon thinned out.  Just after the first mile marker, the course made a u-turn and it was time to ascend for a while.  Another quarter mile took us to the 5k/10k route split, sending the 5k runners off the street.  We ran along the creek and under the stone bridge, then up a short, but steep dirt path to the South Park duck ponds.  The section from the u-turn to the main part of South Park is mostly uphill; I planned to give a little time back there.  That was easy to do.  From the duck ponds, we climbed some stairs (or took the faster, dirt path right next to the stairs) up to South Park proper and back onto pavement.  Here is where I started to increase my speed again, taking the loop around the park that is mostly downhill or flat for about a half mile.  In this case, however, what goes down must again come up.  So, we climbed the steep hill, taking us toward the park exit.  Then, down again and out of the park, crossing the street to another dirt path and some grass taking us back to the streets, where we turned back toward the start/finish line and sprinted the last block or so.

I ran the race at my limit, finishing first in my age group and 18th out of 167 5k runners, five seconds short of my course PR.  I was pleased with my performance.  As I have come to expect from Andy Edgar's Raider Classic, it is possibly the best-organized race in the area.  Specifically: the course was clean and well-marked; there were ample volunteers; the race started precisely on schedule; results and awards were prompt.  Also: the award tiles are unique; a very nice, technical t-shirt; and, they have door prizes!

The 19th Annual Hannibal Cannibal was held on July 5, 2014.  It was also a nice day for the time of year--cooler than usual, overcast with a light wind; certainly not the norm for the Cannibal.  As usual, there was a big crowd: nearly 1100 runners and walkers across the three events, 5k, 10k, and 15k.  The size of the crowd always adds to the race day excitement and indicates that the planning committee knows how to organize an event like this.  I took off fast again on the opening, flat quarter mile or so, banking a little time before the hills.  We turned onto 79 and started our first hill over the bridge still somewhat crowded, but the hill started to slow down a few people and thus, spread us out.  After a flat-ish section past the bridge, I bombed down a short decline before starting the first big climb--there are really only two on the 5k course.  I settled into my pace, slowing down a bit.  The crowd certainly thinned out as we climbed for perhaps a half mile.  The 5k runners turned around near the top of the hill as the runners going longer continued on.  Then, we were able to enjoy descending for a while before we started the second major climb of the 5k course--Lover's Leap.  I think it is about two tenths of a mile up, averaging 14% grade, peaking at around 20% at one point.  The majority of participants walk up Lover's Leap; I always refuse to.  I just shortened my stride and leaned into it, slowly passing people as I climbed.  I am sure my heart rate was maxed out at the top, but I kept going, making a u-turn at the top and trying hard to keep my feet under me as I headed back down the relative mountain.  After Lover's Leap, the route is nearly all down hill, so when I returned to 79, I just relaxed and leaned forward, flying downhill.  I made up a lot of time descending, but not as much as I lost going uphill.

Again, I was racing at my limit.  I finished eight seconds off my course PR and apparently earned second in the master's men division.  I was 39th out of over 800 racers.  It was another satisfying performance and an enjoyable Cannibal.

Over the years, I have been involved in many discussions comparing these two events.  Here are my conclusions:

1.  Both races are tough.  When you cross the line at either event, regardless of the distance raced, you cannot help put feel an enormous sense of accomplishment.  All finishers have risen to and conquered a significant challenge.  The question often discussed is: which is tougher?  I have run all distances at each event at least once.  I believe the Cannibal 5k is tougher because of the two hills.  My Garmin told me the elevation change is three times greater on the Hannibal course.  Conversely, I think the 10k course in Quincy is tougher.  It has more total elevation change (I could not find my Garmin data to quantify it) and you are always running up and down and turning.  You cannot get into a rhythm like you can on the steady climbs in the Cannibal.  The off-road sections in Quincy also add to the challenge.

2.  Both races have been around over a decade and overall, have their processes honed.  As a participant, both events seem to run quite smoothly for the most part.  I do have one complaint regarding the Cannibal though.  Last year, I ran the 15k and received a medal for third place in my age group.  I later realized that I had actually earned fourth place--no medal for me.  This year, I received a medal for third in my age group, when the official results show me at second place in the master's division.  (I am awaiting confirmation from the race director and/or the timing company.)  The awards were relatively prompt, considering the size of the event, but accuracy should be the highest priority.

3.  Both events have their unique character.  The Cannibal is big, at least for a small town race.  It has the mythic climb of Lover's Leap and the local novelty of a 15k event.  While the Raider Classic is nearly perfect in its execution and has a cross country feel to it.

Personally, I like them both for several reasons, but mostly for the significant challenge of each of them.  If I never run them again, I will cherish the memories I have from them both.

ADDENDUM:  After emails to the timing company and the race director, I received this in the mail.