Training Framework

Training has many different aspects to it, but I think we all have a tendency to focus on the physical running part more than anything else. Running is definitely one of the defining aspects of our training, but our training should include much more than just running.

When anyone asks us what our training looks like, we immediately go to how many miles we’re running and how many days a week. They might as what we’re training for and we’ll throw out the name of our goal race or possibly just the next one on the schedule.

Even if you’ve never really thought of it, our training encompasses more than just running. Training can be broken down into physical, psychological, and nutritional. Making sure you take the time to consider each of these separate from the other, guarantees you’ll be thinking about them and adding them to your training plan in some form.  You can set goals related to each of these different aspects of your training.

Physical training includes your running, strength training and rest days. Running is at the core of our training and it is our goal. We want to run for life not just for the next race and because of that goal all of these other aspects of training get pulled in. Being the best runners, we can be means we need to address speed, endurance, and strength in our training schedule. If you want your training to mean anything, you have to rest. Without rest our body cannot adapt and get stronger.

Psychological training includes strategies for dealing with down times during a race, lack of motivation in training, boredom, going out too fast, and rest. Ultrarunners know finishing a race hinges on pushing past the low points, and there will be low points. Getting through months of training and any injuries takes mental fortitude like you wouldn’t believe. Being prepared for these challenges is critical to getting to the starting line let alone the finish line. Psychological rest is being able to find other things you enjoy that reduce your stress level because if you get injured and have to take time off, you need to have other things you can focus on to get you through and back to running.

Nutritional training includes day to day nutrition and hydration, race day nutrition and hydration, and recovery nutrition and hydration. All runners think about race day nutrition, but not all of them think about their day to day nutrition or their recovery nutrition. The same goes for hydration. Yeah, we all laugh and say we run so we can eat whatever we want, but for most runners eating ice cream, fatty burgers, pizza, and French fries is not going to help you reach your running goals. There may be an argument for recovery though, at least for your postrace meal. Our body gives what it gets. Try different ways of fueling and hydrating your body during training, and you’ll be able to dial it in making your race a success.

Limiting our definition of training to just our weekly running schedule or our next goal race is short sighted and won’t get us what most of us want, which is to run healthy and strong for the rest of our lives.

Winter Racing

From your first winter run, it becomes obvious that the cold weather impacts your performance. Depending on where you live, you’re likely to find holiday themed 5k and 10k races throughout the winter, but there are longer races out there too including a 50k and 100 miler. You can check out the Susitna 100 in Alaska here. 

Not up for an ultra in the winter, that’s alright. Even the 5k and 10k will provide some steep competition, so you’ll need to be training and that means running under the same conditions as what you’ll be racing in.

When you run in the winter, your body relies more heavily on carbohydrates and less on your fat stores. This means you’re going to need to increase your carbs-on-the-go intake while you’re running longer distances. Your muscles don’t contract as powerfully in the cold as they do when it’s warm. This means you have to recruit more muscles to get the job done. You need more oxygen in colder temperatures to produce the needed energy to sustain you through your runs because you need more muscles to help out. This extra oxygen produces more lactate, which means you’re likely to feel like you’re working harder.

Also in the winter, your body has the extra load of making sure you stay warm. Staying warm takes a lot of energy. To help with this, make sure you’re wearing clothing that’s appropriate for the temperatures. Maintaining a constant pace rather than speeding up and slowing down, as you would in intervals, is much easier on your body because it can be really difficult to warm up after you’ve cooled down. Make sure your body is warmed up before you start your run. You don’t want to be sweating, but you want to be warm including your fingers and toes.

Hydration can be especially problematic in the winter because your body doesn’t have as much of a thirst response in the colder temperatures. The problem is you lose a lot of water from not only sweating but breathing. Carrying water during the winter is difficult on long runs. I always recommend a hydration pack because carrying a frozen handheld is just not going to work. To keep your water from freezing add an electrolyte to it and make sure the tube is insulated.

Once you’ve finished your winter race, don’t stand around; get out of your wet clothes and into a warm shower or blanket as soon as you can. Enjoy some hot chocolate by the fire, you’ve earned it.

Hurts to Breath

Diaphragm cramp or side stitches, call it what you like it’s unpleasant. There are only theories as to why you get side stitches when you are running (or doing other sports activities). The most widely held belief is a muscle spasm of the diaphragm and/or its supporting ligaments.

Your diaphragm muscle assists you with breathing while you are running and because your need for oxygen increases when you’re running, your diaphragm works harder. The thought is that it gets tired and/or the surrounding tissues get tired and then the muscle spasms.

The second theory is improper breathing (oh yeah, you can breathe the wrong way). This theory ends the same as the above, a fatigued diaphragm and surrounding muscles which leads to spasms. The difference is breathing too shallow. Shallow breathing means your muscles don’t get enough oxygen and then get tired easier.

So what’s the proper way to breath when you are running? Deep with your belly not shallow into your chest. Breathing deep into your belly opens blood vessels found deep in your lungs and fills your blood with more oxygen. Most people breath with their chest, only filling two thirds of their lungs. To tell if you are belly breathing, lay on your back and lay your hand on your stomach. If your hand rises and falls you’re belly breathing. Most of us have to make a conscious effort to belly breath.

The third theory is we don’t time our breathing with our foot falls properly. When you are running try inhaling for three steps (right, left, right) and then exhale for two steps (left, right). This five-step rhythm will alternate your exhale from your right foot plant to your left. You have to think about it for a while when you’re first learning to do it, but it will reduce your side stitches. Practice it for a few minutes every mile and pretty soon it will become automatic. If you are climbing a hill or doing speed work, change it to a 2:1 ration for inhalation and exhalation.

The fourth theory is poor running posture, aka running with your shoulders rounded and your upper body bent forward. One belief is that hunching over like that compromises nerves in the abdominal area and then they become irritated and trigger the pain you feel and call side stitches. The other belief is that the hunching puts more weight on your diaphragm which causes it to spasm and get tired.

The final theory is dehydration. I’m not going to go into this one. We all know it’s critical to hydrate before, during and after our runs. We know we have to take in electrolytes if we’re running for more than about 60-90 minutes (depending on pace and temperature outside: faster and hotter=more electrolytes).

Bottom line: breath deep with your belly, use rhythmic breathing, pay attention to your posture, and hydrate.

Graduation

’tis the season of graduation. Every May and June, thousands of people graduate from high schools, colleges and universities around the United States. So with graduation on the brain, how do you know you’re ready to graduate to the next race distance?

There are multiple opportunities for graduating in our life times. Each time we achieve a new level in any aspect of our lives we could say we have graduated. When most people think of graduating, they think of transitions in the educational setting to the next level.

Our youngsters graduate from kindergarten, elementary school, middle school, high school, with their associates degree, bachelors degree, masters degree, and doctorate degree. As far as running goes we move up from 5k to 10k; 10k to half marathon; half marathon to full marathon; marathon to 50k; 50k to 50 mile; 50 mile to 100k; and 100k to 100 mile.

Basically, you graduate when you successfully complete a course of training. That’s all fine and good, but when it comes to running how do you know you have “successfully” completed a course of training?

Many runners don’t begin with the shortest distance and work their way up. They just jump in where they want too. Some proceed to longer distances and others stay where they are comfortable. Here we are talking about those runners who want to move up in distance, although there is nothing wrong with staying put. It’s a personal lifestyle choice because as you move to the next level, your running impacts more and more of your lifestyle.

We know the training that goes into each level of achievement is more difficult than the last.  It takes over our lives a little more with each step. It can change our sleep needs and nutritional needs. It changes the way our body functions (usually for the good but there are injuries too). Our time commitment to running increases and we develop friendships with new people.

We learn about new skills and absorb new information by reading books, blogs and magazines. Our vocabulary increases as we throw out the latest terminology such as being chicked, attitude training, Athena class, Clydesdale class, bandit, aquajogging, and PR. We learn a lot about our  bodies including various tendons, ligaments and muscles.

We put into practice the skills we have learned from the prior level such as foam rolling, stretching, tempo running, packing drop bags, how to stay awake and run all night, how to manage stomach problems while running, and hydration.

You’re ready to graduate when you develop the enthusiasm, drive and grit to take on the challenges of the next level even though you don’t know everything about them.

 

 

 

 

 

Gearing UP

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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.

HURT 100 Finisher

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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.

Winter Hydration

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Just because it’s cooler outside doesn’t mean your body doesn’t need to be hydrated. The body’s thirst response is reduced by up to 40% in the winter. When you get cold your blood vessels constrict slowing the blood flow to your extremities which is why your hands and feet typically get cold first.

In the winter we don’t always feel sweaty, but that doesn’t mean you’re not sweating. It means your clothing is doing its job. Winters in Utah are very dry, more try than the summers actually, because the water in the air is frozen. I have to put lotion on a few times throughout the day and my hair frizzes nearly every day. This dry frozen air can increase your chances of becoming dehydrated, so don’t neglect this critical aspect of your winter training.

Another contributing factor for winter dehydration is losing water through your lungs. The colder the air the more water vapor is present in your breath. You can see it when you exhale. It freezes and you can’t breath it back in.

The first step in maintaining your hydration is developing the habit of taking sips throughout your runs. Frequent small sips of water is easier on your body and reduces the risk of becoming dehydrated. If you wait until you want to guzzle the water, you have waited too long and are now trying to play catch-up, which is never a good place to be in.

Next is your clothing. Maintaining a comfortable body temperature allows you to have more stable water and electrolyte loss. Wear layers you can take off and put back on as needed.

Be aware of how much you are drinking. This is huge because many of us get in our zone and we don’t really pay attention to how much we are sweating or when the last time was we sipped on our water or how frequently we are doing so.

Winter hydrating can be a challenge if you run outside in temperatures below freezing. There are insulated handhelds and hydration packs (snowboarders and skiers use them). You may need to break up your run to keep your water from freezing or get a really nice friend who is willing to bring you water every so often.

If you are using a hydration pack and it’s not insulated make sure and blow the water out of the tube and mouth piece every time you take a sip. If you leave it in the tube, it will freeze leaving you with nothing to drink.