Gearing UP

gearing-up

It’s time to gear up for spring races in the norther hemisphere. Hopefully, you’ve been following a maintenance program through the winter months. How much you need to increase your miles will depend on where you are at and what your race distance is.

If you have a standard training program you’ve found on the internet (you can find mine above) or in a book, find the week that matches what you have been doing and start from there.

As you increase your miles, don’t forget the two golden rules of running: First, only increase your miles by ten percent each week; and second, every fourth week should be a rest week, reduce your miles by twenty to twenty-five percent.

After deciding where to start and working out the details of your training plan, think back to the things you struggled with last season. It could be loads of things, hydration, fueling during runs, falling a lot, climbing, or descending. Ideally, you worked on these issues while you were doing maintenance, but… Once you have a few things you’d like to work on, brainstorm different ways you can address the problem.

Hydration: this is something you have to stay on top of from the very beginning of a race/run. Find a way to remind yourself to keep drinking. Don’t chew gum because it increases saliva. You’ll drink if your mouth gets dry. Try taking little sips frequently or longer pulls every mile (when your garmin beeps). You could count your steps and sip every one hundred. Keep in mind you need to think about electrolytes too.

Fueling on the go: this is another one you have to stay on top of from the beginning of the race/run. You may want to eat something small before the race starts. Don’t over eat the night before to the point where you can’t eat the next morning. Eating something small every hour is the best way to sustain your energy throughout the race/run. Find different things you can tolerate, in case something makes you sick or is just unappetizing. Try different amounts of food too. It may be easier for you to eat more frequently, even every half hour or twenty minutes, just taking bites of things.

Falling a lot: You might just be clumsy, but I doubt it. Muscle imbalances can cause falling as can not paying enough attention to where you are putting your feet. Maybe your feet are not fast enough to prevent tripping or changing your foot placement once you figure out it’s precarious. Another problem could be your balance and proprioception. Muscle imbalances between your outer thigh and inner cause instability in your lower leg, ankle and foot. Having high arches can also cause some instability. Working on agility training with a speed ladder helps with foot placement and being able to move them quickly. Balance, proprioception, and core exercises will help as well.

Climbing and descending: just do it. A lot. You can also add strength training to your routine; for climbing focus on hamstrings and glutes; for descending, core and quads.

The goal is to go into your spring races stronger than you did your pervious fall races and certainly stronger than last spring’s races.

Superfoods?

superfoods

A superfood is something that is nutritionally dense. Many are plant based, but things like salmon also have made the list. What does it really mean to be a superfood? Is there any research or is it a marketing tool?

There isn’t a set criteria to determine which foods are superfoods. Foods on the superfood list have extra-large doses of vitamins and minerals that can help ward of diseases and support a longer, healthier life, but so do fruits and veggies not on the list. Many of the superfoods are high in antioxidants shown to reduce risk of cancer; healthy fats to reduce the risk of heart disease; fiber which helps with diabetes and digestive problems; or phytochemicals which have many health benefits such as reducing certain heart conditions in young women.

What’s on the list?

Blueberries because they are rich in vitamins, fiber, and phytochemicals (but many other berries are too). Kiwifruit is very similar to berries in its nutritional value. It also contains serotonin, which is linked to depression and sleep.

Beans and whole grains are on the list because of their fiber content, loads of vitamins and minerals which are typically absent in American diets such as manganese. Quinoa is usually lumped in this group but it’s not a grain. It is a great source of protein, vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants.

Nuts and seeds have high levels of minerals and healthy fats. You do have to go easy on them because they are high in calorie, but don’t cut them out of your diet.

Kale and other dark leafy greens such as collards, swiss chard, mustards, spinach, cabbages, and broccoli. These are great sources of vitamin A, C, and K. They also contain fiber, calcium and other minerals. Sweet potatoes and squashes can be thrown into this mix too. Their added benefit is they are sweet and don’t need anything added to them to be loved.

You’ve got salmon, sardines, and mackerel on the list because of their omega-3 fatty acids, which you can also get from many nuts (walnuts are the best) and seeds (flax and chia) as well as vegetables. Omega-3 fatty acids lower your risk of heart disease.

Exotic fruits such as, acai berry, noni fruit, dragon fruit, rambutan and pomegranate, also end up on the list. It’s always fun to try new fruits and veggies, but if you think you’re getting something other superfoods don’t have your wrong.

I’ve also seen the following on the superfood list: goji berries, maca powder, cacao powder, hemp seeds, chia seeds, apples, cranberries, cauliflower, pumpkin, beets, lentils, papaya, seaweed, tomatoes, ginger, garlic, pineapple, spirulina (algae), and avocado, just to name a few.

Bottom line is scientist don’t use the term superfoods to describe any food. It appears that the term has been coined by marketing peeps. The best advice is to reduce the amount of processed food you eat. Buy whole grains, raw sugar, whole fruits and veggies. Eat different colored fruit and veggies.

Returning from an Injury

ready-set-go

At some point we all end up injured and have to lay off the miles or stop running altogether. It sucks but it’s true. We push our bodies to their limit and then a little more. We don’t like to take rest days and many of us over train. We want to build our miles too quickly; we convince ourselves more is better even when we know it’s not (in theory).

Coming back from an injury can be an arduous process. Especially if your heart and lungs are still at top fitness making you feel like you’re going slow and could be going much faster or further. These modifications are not only good for coming back from an injury, but also for runners who tend to be more injury prone.

When you come back, make sure you have good shoes without a lot of wear and tear. If they are close to retirement, it’s best just to get a new pair. Start with low miles and a slower than normal long run pace. You may have to begin with a walk/run if you are coming back from a serious tear or a fracture. Try to keep the big picture in mind—you want to run for the rest of your life, not just for the next race. That’s always my line for dropping out of a race or for pushing through an injury.

Implement the up and down strategy by having a week of building miles and then have a week of lower steady miles. This is critical if it is a reoccurring or chronic injury. Slowly take out the down weeks as you progress without increased pain. A little pain when recovering from soft tissue injury is okay just make sure it doesn’t go over a 4 on a scale of 1-10. Only increase your miles by ten percent each week. If you’re coming back from a fracture, there shouldn’t be any pain.

Once you have removed the down weeks and are starting to build as you were before the injury, make sure your 4th week, the rest week, is really a rest week. Reduce your miles by 25% or even better take a week of gym time using a low impact machine or even running in the pool. Pool running is a perfect way to come back from a fracture because you can use all your running muscles and remove the impact.

As you increase your miles pay close attention to your form and your gait. You should be able to maintain good form. Also watch for an uneven distribution of your weight toward one side or the other. Either of those will cause a secondary injury.

Remember the goal is to come back stronger than before. You’ll get there; be patient.

Hamstrings-How I Love to Hate Them

hamstring

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve pulled/strained my hamstring. I’ve done it doing speed work and I’ve done it by stubbing my toe, which caused me to flip my opposite leg back, throw my arms out into a one legged air plane. But, for what it’s worth, I didn’t fall. That was the last time I pulled it. And I’ve been trying to balance continued training with healing since early May of 2016. Yep. I’ve run a marathon, a 50 miler, 64 miles of an ultra-relay, and three 100 milers.

So here I am with it still hurting nine months later. I went to see my orthopedic doctor. I’m pretty sure it’s healed in a deficient way with lots of scar tissue and thus decreased flexibility and catching on the scar tissue as tendons and muscles slide against one another. Hamstrings take forever to heal because they don’t get a ton of blood.

She was impressed that I’ve been able to maintain my running gait/form enough to not cause secondary injuries. She also confirmed my self-diagnosis. The prescription— eccentric strength training. She says it’s pretty painful but thinks I can tolerate it (yeah I have a pretty high pain tolerance). She’s actually surprised I haven’t done online research and started it on my own (she knows me too well). I admit I’ve been negligent on that aspect of training.

She’s sent me to see a physical therapist twice. Once to learn the exercises and once to follow up. The first appointment is three weeks away, so of course I went back home and did the research I should have done eight months ago. I want to share it with you because I know how prevalent hamstring tears and strains are, how chronic they become, and how easy it is to re-injure them after you’ve done it once.

I do quite a bit of hamstring strengthening as it is because of all the climbing I do. It allows me to take some of the pressure off of my quads which I need to descend. I like to think they are well conditioned since I pass a lot of people climbing even late in a race (and with a painful hamstring).

After reading some research and looking over about ten rehab programs, this is what I’ve put together.I’m not a doctor or a physical therapist, listen to them before me. I can’t diagnose or prescribe anything. It’s up to you to decide if this could help you.

  1. Standing hamstring curl 3 x10 up to 4 x 20.
    1. Use an ankle weight if it’s too easy.
  2. Hamstring catches 3 x15
  3. Bridges 3 x 10
  4. Seated hamstring curl with a band 3 x 15
    1. Knee pulled up as close to chest as possible
  5. Single leg hip extensions on a step 3 x10
    1. Elbows on the step, belly up
    2. Knees bent,
    3. Raise one leg while other heel is on the floor,
    4. Foot is dorsiflexed.
  6. Stiff leg dead lifts 3 x 8-12
  7. Single leg ball pick up10 times
    1. Legs staggered like a lunge only your legs are straight.
    2. The ball is by your forward toe
  8. Lunge with a ball 3 x10
  9. Good mornings with bar 3 x10
    1. Use a pushup bar over your shoulders
    2. Feel a little more than shoulder width apart
    3. Knees slightly bent
    4. Bend at the waist until your torso is parallel to the ground
  10. Norwegian leg curls to failure.
    1. Kneel on the floor (you may want cushion under your knees depending on the surface.
    2. Tuck your feet under something that is low to the ground and can support your weight.
    3. Cross your arms over your chest
    4. Slowly lower yourself toward the floor.
  11. Stretching 2-3 times a day.

Remember to do both legs!

HURT 100 Finisher

hurt-100-2

The HURT 100 was an incredible event. The entire HURT ohana (family) was welcoming, supportive, and showered every runner with the aloha spirit. I would absolutely go and run this race again. It was a mentally and physically challenging course but in the most beautiful 100 mile way. hurt-100-5

The HURT 100 is run in on the island of O’ahu near Honolulu. It’s a 20 mile loop through the rain forests including the tangled surface root systems of the Banyan trees, the clacking of bamboo, and multiple river crossings. Runners complete the loop five times. The total cumulative elevation gain is 24,500 ft and the same amount of loss for a grand total of 49,000 feet of cumulative elevation change. There are three aid stations on each loop with 5-7 miles between each aid station.

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Less than 50% of runners who start the HURT finish the HURT. This year 125 runners started and 54 finished. You have 36 hours to finish the race. There are a lot of things that contribute to a DNF (did not finish). It would be interesting if races started tracking reasons for dropping from a race. HURT is a extremely technical race and I would guess many runners drop because they have twisted, sprained, torn, and broken various body parts. The heat and humidity is also a big factor in the DNF rate because it contributes to dehydration, stomach problems, and blisters/chafing.

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I finished HURT in 35 hours and 12 minutes. Not my fastest finish by any means, but a finish. I had two amazing men jump in and pace for me last minute. They live on O’ahu and run the HURT loop about once a week. It was great to get to know them as we made our way through the jungle.

So what did I learn from HURT? 1. train for the race you are going to run. I added hot yoga to my training to prepare for the heat and humidity. It helped immensely. I ran up and down a lot of stairs (the mountains are snowed in here). This helped keep my climbing and descending muscles strong and made sure I focused on foot placement. I also included agility training (thanks Dennis). If you are going to spend a day and a half running through roots and rocks while going up and down mountains, you  best be able to move your feet quickly.

2. Don’t chew gum while you are running because it keeps your mouth wet and you drink less.

3. if it hurts to walk and it hurts to run, run.

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There is a documentary being produced about the HURT 100. Here is a link to the trailer (which I’m in :0) That’s me in the white hat purple shirt kissing Cody at the finish line). HURT does have an amazing story and a beautiful soul. Every ultra course has it’s own personality and soul. I’t’s comprised of the passion and love of the sport through the race director, staff, volunteers and runners, but then there is this piece that you cannot know unless you run the race. It’s the soul of the course itself. Every race I’ve run has a different personality and soul and they draw different types of runners.

 

Mahalo to my HURT ohana and all my readers.

Appreciation

appreciation

Sometimes we get so caught up in our busy lives that we forget to stop and really appreciate what we have right in front of us. It really hits us hard when we lose something we under appreciated.

Our health is one of the things most people take for granted. If we look around our immediate environment we’ll see others who are struggling with their health. We all have family members and friends who are dealing with some health condition that limits their ability to do some things.

I’m guilty of this same thing. There are a few circumstances where it always hits me though: race day and long runs, which in many ways are the same thing. Maybe it’s just the endorfins that make me stop, literally, and look around me realizing how lucky I am to be out in the mountains running.

I’m very conscious  of what I put into my  body and try to make good decisions about 90% of the time, but even this level of awareness hasn’t saved me from taking my health for granted.

It’s more than just our health that gives us the ability to run. Our friends and families give us the freedom and space to do our running thing. Our socioeconomic status gives us the ability to take the time off to run or not have to work two jobs. Running also takes a certain amount of financial means, not as much as other sports (cycling or triathlon), but shoes can get expensive even if you are not running in the top brands.

The condition of our country plays a role too. Can you imagine trying to be a runner in a country riddled with war? I thank my guardian angels I am able to run safely in the mountains, the city, and the neighborhoods near my home.

Another one is the availability of food and clean water. Running burns through a lot of calories and without enough food to eat on a daily basis would be difficult as would running without enough clean water.

Appreciate the gifts you have been given and don’t waste them. Work hard when you are out there and show your gratitude do those who support you in your efforts.

Pollution and Running

air-pollution

Aerobic activity is healthy and everyone should be doing it a few times a week, but what about all the air pollution? Running in air pollution has the potential to cause serious health issues.

I am fortunate to live in an area where the air pollution is generally low enough that there are minimal risks when running out doors. In the winter months, that changes. I live in a valley and the cold air traps the pollution down in the valley as shown in the picture above. Yuck!

I can see it in the air, a brownish yellow fog. I can smell it in the air, exhaust and dirt. I can feel it when I breathe, thick and irritating.

I cough up mucus. My nose is congested. My throat is sore.

Pollution consists of both fine particulate matter and ozone gases. Both are bad, but the particulate matter causes major problems because it settles in your lungs causing inflammation and irritation. It can also get into your bloodstream. When it gets into your blood vessels, it causes them to dilate blocking oxygen and blood from reaching your muscles. It also lowers your body’s ability to create a protein, which breaks up clots.

But what about running?

When you run you inhale more air, ten to twenty times as much air, and you pull it deep into your lungs. If you are breathing through your mouth, the air bypasses the natural filter of your nose. Which means, all that thick yellow fog is making itself at home in your lungs.

Those with asthma, diabetes, heart or lung conditions, or lower respiratory disease should avoid being out in the pollution and definitely should not be out exercising in it.

For the rest of us who are relatively healthy, you should think twice. Running in the pollution especially long runs, which put you out in the yellow fog for hours at a time, is probably not a good idea. It can damage your airways and increase your risk of developing asthma. Oh and there is the chance that it will increase your risk of developing cardiovascular disease(heart attacks) and lung cancer too.

Experts in the air pollution area say don’t give up on exercising outdoors because the benefits to exercise outweigh the damage especially if you take some precautions.

So what do you do?

Monitor the air quality in your area. The internet is the best way to do this. Most areas have a website dedicated to reporting air quality and keep it updated by the hour.

Run indoors on a track or treadmill. I know it is not the most fun, but it’s better than cancer. On Sunday, I ran my second long run on the treadmill.

Run where the air is safe to breathe deeply. On Saturday, I went to a higher mountain valley to run where the air is clear. It was slightly colder than where I live, but at least I could breathe.

Reduce the time you are out there. If you must run outside, shorten your run and try to time it for when the pollution is at its lowest if possible.

Stay away from major roadways.

Take an extra rest day and hope it clears up the next day.