Tag Archives: runners world magazine

Winter Blues

This has been a rough Winter so far for the North Eastern United States. We’ve had lots of snow and ice storms on a pretty regular tempo throughout the season (actually it started early this year) and we are not in sight of the finish line just yet.



So how does a runner keep up with training during weather like this? Short answer: I’m not really sure. I’m only in my second year of calling myself a runner, and last Winter we barely had any snow at all so I was able to run outside for nearly the entire season. So I am far from an expert, but I can share how I am trying to keep up with everything.

1. Just get out and do it. When there is not snow covering the roads and sidewalks, I force myself to go outside and run. I invested in a couple sets of good running thermals, which I talked about in detail last Winter, and put on another layer or two depending on the temperature and just go do it. I’m typically chilly for the first mile, but after that, it usually isn’t bad at all. In fact, I rather like running in the cold. It is easier for me than running in the hot, humid Summers we usually have around here. I don’t get overheated, the air is crisp and clean, and there is usually no one else crazy enough to be outside running, so I have the sidewalks and paths to myself.

2. Sign up for a race! This is one of my favorite tricks. If I put money down on a race entry fee, I’m going to get up and go to the race. The Winter races around where I live are always a lot of fun and have really good numbers of people show up. Go and get your run on with some fellow running nuts!

The Frosty Finish Line!

The Frosty Finish Line!

3. Either find a gym nearby or invest in a treadmill for your home. I bit the bullet this year and bought a treadmill. I plan on doing a Tech Review post on it soon, so I won’t belabor the details of which one and what it does just yet, but I have it in the basement and it has been a savior to my training plan (my wife’s, too!) This Winter has just been so bad that running outside has regularly been impossible. There are some really great treadmill training programs out there, and pointers on how to make sure your treadmill workout is as effective as going outside is.  Yes the treadmill can get monotonous. Yes the treadmill can get boring. The trick for me is finding something to occupy my mind other than staring at the progress statistics on the treadmill screen. My best trick is putting my iPad up on the treadmill console and streaming a Netflix movie or TV show to watch while I run. I find that I get absorbed into the story and forget (to an extent) about my progress.

So that’s it. No magic tricks, nothing exceptionally out of the ordinary here. I’m keeping my head down and getting in as much training as I can, still keeping my eye on that April Half-Marathon I’ve signed up for (see? money is a powerful motivator!) I’m just as sick of Winter as the next person, and am looking forward to Spring and more sunshine just like everyone else.

How are you making it through the Winter? Do you train? Or Hibernate? Do you have any tricks to share on staying motivated during the cold months? I’d love to hear from you.

My Runner-versary

I read somewhere (probably in Runner’s World Magazine) that you are officially “a runner” after you run your first race.

I ran my very first competitive race on September 30th, 2012, exactly one year ago today. It was Zane’s Run in Sugartown, PA. It was chip timed, and not quite a true 5K, measuring out at 2.8 miles in the end, which was a little disappointing for my first time. I finished in 28 minutes. And yes, that is all from memory. I think it’s like your first date, or the day you purchased your first car, or even your wedding day. Which is why I’m calling today, and every September 30th from here on out my “Runner-versary.”

In the spirit of any anniversary, I think it is worthwhile to spend a little time and reflect on the events of the past year and speculate a little about the next year.

From a year ago today, I am 20lbs lighter. I have raced competitively in over 15 timed events. I have increased my race distance from 3.1 miles (5K) to completing my first half-marathon (13.1 miles). I have gotten my 5K PR down to 24 minutes, which is pretty fast for an old desk jockey like me.

For the next year, I’m already training hard for my next half-marathon, which I will run in mid-November. After that, I’m planning on setting my sights on a full marathon some time in the spring of 2014. Very loose plans on that front for now. I will spend the winter running again, as I did last year, competing in some of my favorite local races like the Shiver by the River series, and the Chris Cringle 5 miler just before Christmas.

My thought for the last year. Something I have noticed frequently when I talk to others about being a runner. Nearly every time, I hear at least two or three excuses why a person can’t run. Then I talk a little about the excuses I used to give for not running. I used to always say my “Golden Rule” was that I only run when I am chased. It would always elicit a chuckle or two, but it was an excuse nonetheless. I used to have trouble with my knees. It was my biggest excuse for not running. It turns out that my knees hurt so much because my legs were weak. Once my legs got stronger, my knee pain disappeared! I mean completely disappeared. I also used to not run because it made me feel terrible. Once I got stronger, lost some weight, and built up a little endurance that went away, too. In fact, I feel worse on days I don’t run now. I certainly understand that some people have legitimate reasons why they can’t run, such as past knee surgeries or the like. Those are legitimate reasons and not excuses. I’m really just speaking to the excuse-makers here.  My challenge to you, excuse-maker, is to create two or three excuses for why you CAN run.

My very first timed race, Zane's Run 5K in Sugartown, PA, September 30th, 2012

My very first timed race, Zane’s Run 5K in Sugartown, PA, September 30th, 2012

Quakertown Rotary Club Run for Youth 10-Mile

This one was tough. There’s really no other way for me to describe it. Easily the most challenging run I’ve done so far. But for my first 10-mile race I think I learned a lot of important stuff, which is why I did it.

Here’s my course and analytics from RunKeeper:

RunKeeper stats from Quakertown 10 mile race on March 2nd 2013

RunKeeper stats from Quakertown 10 mile race on March 2nd 2013

If I drew a fancy little trend-line on my pace there, you can see I was steadily decreasing in speed as the race went on. Overall I’m happy I held up as well as I did. My pace was fairly consistent. Many of those walk-spikes in my pace you can see directly correlate with a steep incline. This was a STEEP course.

Some important stuff I learned on this one:

  1. I ran this race to see if I was physically prepared to take the next step up to a half-marathon. Clearly I am not, yet.
  2. This was the first race where I really had to be concerned with fueling during the race. Thanks to my long-time friends Christy Ianelli and Chneih Lee for giving me pointers on race fuel. Turns out that even though I fueled, I didn’t fuel enough. At about Mile 8 I hit my wall. 
  3. This was the first time I really hit my race wall. Shortly after Mile 8, I simply ran out of juice. My legs felt like they were made out of cement, and my gait turned into a sad shuffle. While I carbo-loaded the day before and fueled before the race, I think I waited too long in the race to start refueling. This was a HILLY course, so I likely burned off my pre-race energy pretty early.
  4. This race was nearly all about fuel for me. I did not feel overly taxed in the cardio-vascular area. Granted I wasn’t running very fast, but I decided on a conservative pace due to the terrain and the distance. I simply ran out of energy in the end. It was challenging to just pick up my foot and take another stride.

New Gear

I had some new gear in play this race that I hadn’t used before. I mentioned in my last post that I got a new pair of running shoes. Those felt great for the most part, but I still need some more time in them. My feet and legs have not yet adjusted to having more support in my feet. That will come with time and training. Not worried. The Cho-Pat knee braces I also mentioned last time work really well. They give my knees a little extra support and help things move the way they should. I’m going to start seriously focusing on more strength training in the coming months so I don’t need such things, but for now, I still need them. At the advice of my friends, I brought along stuff to fuel up during the race. I’ll talk about the fuels themselves in a moment, but to carry the liquid type, I got a Fuel Belt. I found this to be really easy to wear. I hardly noticed it at all, and I loved the ergonomic-shaped bottles. I went with the 8 oz. bottles which delivered a perfect sized shot of hydration without the need to stop at an aid station.

Race Fuel

A couple of posts ago I posed a question about race fuel, and my two friends I mentioned above answered me. I took a combination of their advice into consideration this time. First is breakfast on race-day. I’ve struggled for months to find something I could eat in the morning on race day without giving myself cramps during the race. I finally found something that works for me. This recommendation actually came from Runner’s World magazine. I found that I can tolerate an Ensure shake quite nicely. I drink the shake shortly after waking up in the morning and it doesn’t give me cramps during my run. I also found that I can tolerate a Gatorade Prime gel taken 15 minutes prior to my run start. In retrospect, I think I should have had 2 of the Ensure shakes in the morning before the race. About 30 minutes before the gun, my stomach was growling again. The Gatorade gel took the edge off, but I think I was still hungry going into the race. I’ll experiment with the amounts in the future. For during the race, I picked up some Clif Shot gel chews. These fit very fine in my pocket and I didn’t even notice they were there. These were great. They are like a big fat block of gummy bear. I think I started eating them too late, however. Again, in retrospect, I started the race hungry, but waited until Mile 4 before I had my first Clif Shot. My theory is that I started too late, and was fighting a negative balance from earlier on than I felt it, because by the end, I had nothing, and no matter how many more of those I ate, I couldn’t convert them to energy in time to make a difference. The last part of my fuel formula was Nuun hydration tablets. I put these into the water bottles in my fuel belt, and in my water bottles back in the car. I had some the night before, a little in the morning before the race, 16 oz. of it during the race (8 oz times 2), and about 32 oz. after the race. I really liked the Nuun water. It sat better than Gatorade ever has in my stomach. It had a nice flavor, and during the run was a good shot of electrolytes, fluid, and even a little salt. It was perfect.

Other thoughts

This was a great learning experience for me. I’ve found that distance running is like a big puzzle, and I’m fascinated by trying to figure it out. So I’ll keep experimenting and improving each time. I had a few great moments during the race. I was really nervous about this race ahead of time, because of how long it was. But during the race I had a few nice realizations. As I passed the 5k mark, I thought to myself “I used to think I could never run this far”. Again at the 5-mile mark, I thought “Back in December, this was the furthest I had ever gone.”. Then at the 10K mark, I thought, “Wow, In January, this was the furthest I had ever gone, and I’m still going”.

So what next? On Sunday, March 10th, is the 4th and final 10k in the Shiver by the River series. I’ve run all three previous, and don’t want to miss the last one. Then, I’m going to dial back my mileage for a while. I need to focus on strengthening up my body more before I push it this hard again. My plan is to strength train 2 days a week, and have shorter runs most other days. That will help keep me moving without the stress the longer runs put on my feet and knees. When I feel I’m ready again, I’m going to either do another 10-miler, or perhaps shoot for the vaunted half-marathon of 13.1 miles.