Category Archives: General

The Long Run

by ,

Running Long

It doesn’t matter if you are training for a 5K, an Ultra Marathon or any distance in between, your weekly training plan will have one workout in common, the Long Run. It is the bread and butter of running. The Long Run, if it is done right, will increase your aerobic base, will build up your endurance and will boost your confidence. Is the Keystone of any running training program.

Slow and easy is something we hear a lot from coaches when it comes to Long Runs. You see, the Long run has many benefits and here are some of them:

  • Improves Oxygen use and Glycogen stores.
  • Trains the cardio, respiratory and muscular systems to work more efficiently.
  • Maximizes our ability to burn fat and spare our limited muscle carbohydrate (glycogen) stores as well as improving our leg strength.
  • It helps with resistance to fatigue both physical and mental.
  • Teaches patience and discipline.
  • Adapts tendons, ligaments, joints and bones to the stress of running (reduces chance of injury).
  • Increases the quantity of mitochondria (responsible for the conversion of food to usable energy).
  • Improves our focus and determination (especially in longer races).

And the list could possible go on a little longer (pun intended).

How long is the Long Run?

When it comes to the Long Run distance and pace aren’t so important. Time spent on your feet is! Anything between 45-90 minutes our body learns to increase its ability to transfer and use oxygen more efficiently (aerobic). It also builds muscle strength without too much stress.

Anything over 90 minutes our body learns to depend more on fat usage for energy instead of Glycogen (running efficiency). We all have almost an unlimited energy supply from fat but only a couple of hours of Glycogen.

If you are training for long races it is recommended to run no more than 180 minutes during your Long Run. Running for this long helps us accomplish two things. First, your legs will get very tired but will become stronger and better able to handle running for such long periods. Second, you will experience fatigue and have to be mentally strong to simply keep going, knowing that you are going to continue to feel tired. However, it’s important to remember that feeling tired is what training is about.

Besides all of these different benefits, you are also avoiding one of the number-one risk factors for injury. Going too fast, too far too quickly can be a recipe that doesn’t taste too good. If you are new to running start with 45 minutes and add 10 minutes every other week to your Long Run. Every three to four weeks cut back the time of your Long Run to give your legs and body some rest. Consistency and variety will keep you running for a long time!

Run Long

Takis

 

 

The Importance of the Warm Up

by ,

Warm Up to a better performance.

Have you ever started a run and felt sluggish, heavy and thinking “I don’t think I can do this today”? But you stick with the run and things progress, eventually you start feeling a little more confident. Your legs loosen up and you start to gain speed slowly without too much extra effort. Then you enter the specific stage (speed, tempo, stamina workout) of your training run and things are just not happening. If you have felt all this you are not alone. Most of us roll out of bed in the morning or get back home from work and head out the door to “get this run over with” without much preparation. We skip the Warm Up part of our workout.

Well, I’m here to tell you that if you skip the Warm Up you are cheating yourself of your best performance. Don’t fool yourself by saying “I’m not a fast runner or an elite”. It doesn’t matter if you are a 17 minute 5K athlete or a 30 minute one. You may have noticed the “fast kids” warming up before a race and you think “Well their coach tells them they have to”. Yes, and they also run sub 20 minute 5Ks.

A proper Warm Up gets your body and mind ready of what is about to take place. It can be broken down in three parts.

1. Mobility

So what do you need to do for a proper Warm Up? Here are some things I do before every run. First I do some hip-openers, chest-openers, squats, leg swings and lunges about 2-4 sets. These exercises open up my chest so my lungs fill up with more air during my run. Loosen up my hips and joints so they don’t stiffen my run. Mobility workouts, here Matt Fitzgerald describes a few of the workouts you could do before your runs.

2. Energy Delivery system

Right after that I head out the door for an easy mile or two. That gets the heart pumping and Oxygen-rich blood flowing to the working muscles. Warming up the muscles and tendons gets them ready for the hard work to come and will prevent injury. Next, is time for a few running form drills. These will “wake up” the nervous system which is an important part of the Warm-Up. They are great co-ordination exercises. Jason Fitzgerald demonstrates the basic Running Drills in a short video. You’d want to do these on key-workout days and not before Easy or Long runs.

3. Practice race/training pace

After the energy delivery system is set up and the muscles warmed is time for a few Strides. I only do those before a race or a speed workout. I run the pace that I will race or train for 20-25 seconds to see what it “feels” like for that day. And I only do 3-4 repeats. You’d want to do this right before the race (2-3 min before the start) or the start of your workout and not every time you run.

Once you incorporate this Warm-Up routine into your training it will become part of it and it will feel natural. Not only your performance will improve but your running Form will too.

Run Strong.

Takis

 

The Spirit of Running

by ,

The greatness of the Human Spirit

Running a Half Marathon is never easy. The amount of miles and time allocated to training before the race is enormous. For some runners it can be up to four months and even longer. Week after week, Long run after Long run. We all endure the weather elements and overcome the temptation of staying in bed on Saturday mornings. For some of us our race goal is to set a Best Personal record, for others is to simply finish the race.

During my running years I have come across many runners that have inspired me. Some I have met and others I’ve read about. Last week during the Palmetto Bluff Half Marathon I saw a woman walking around the Start area with a dog. She was wearing a pink T-shirt with the words “Visually Impaired” printed on the back. My curiosity was moved but in a very windy, cold and misty morning my attention was diverted back to the race that was about to start. A couple of minutes later the competitive runners lined up in the front, most of us in the middle and runners with strollers and dogs in the back. Race started.

 

“The Human Body Has Limitations; The Human Spirit Is Boundless”,                                                                                        Dean Karnazes.

I did not see that woman running until after I crossed the Finish line as I waited to cheer runners coming in. Then in a distance, the pink shirt runner appeared with her dog speeding towards the Finish line. A small crowd of spectators were cheering her on.

She crossed the Line with the biggest smile celebrating by punching the air with her fist. Then as she burst into tears she fell to the ground to give gratitude to her dog for her own accomplishment. A display not only of the strength of the Human Spirit but humility. After she accomplished what is impossible to many people she gave the credit to her dog for getting her to here. Her small hero had led her through the 13.1 mile race as he did countless miles before during training. He was a winner too! It was an incredible moment that has moved me forever. I will never forget how everyone around her was also moved. At that moment it was the Human Spirit in display in front of all spectators and runners.

“The true Test of a Champion is Not whether he can Triumph, but whether he can overcome Obstacles.”               Garth Stein

In that woman I could see: Courage, Ability, Strength and Determination. She had accomplished her goal through all that. She had endured the same wind and cold as all of us did. And did not gripe once about it. Her goal to achieve was much bigger than the elements. She and her running mate crossed the Finish line as Champions for that day.

She had displayed the top mental qualities of an Elite runner. Something that a lot of us struggle with and makes me envious of her. So many of us try to improve our running by training harder, faster and longer yet we overlook the obvious, the Spirit Running.

Takis

Corner Perk Cafe

by ,

Corner Perk Cafe, Bluffton, South Carolina.

After our race on Sunday morning we were both cold and a little hungry. The post race menu at the Palmetto Bluff Half was BBQ sandwich and bananas. Since we don’t eat meat we had to venture out for some hot food and coffee. Only a couple of miles away at the Bluffton Historic district there’s this little cafe that serves their own roasts and superb food. The Corner Perk Cafe. We were lucky to find a seat right away as the place was getting busy.

The staff is very friendly and accommodating. The atmosphere is laid back with the leather sofas and table in the middle and also individual tables mainly with seating for two. The decor is eclectic and crafty. But the best of everything is the coffee!!! Shortly after we ordered breakfast the server came back with the coffee. They serve it on a pour-over tray right at your table. So while it drips into your cup right in front of you the aroma of fresh ground coffee is everywhere! This was a very special treat on a cold damp morning after a race. Breakfast arrived a few minutes later. Lisa ordered the French toast which looked very good and she said it tasted as good as it looked. I had two eggs with toast, fresh fruit and cheese grits. For those of you that don’t know what grits are, here you go! — “what the hell is a grit?” Joe Pesci, from the movie My Cousin Vinny.

Service was great and the food was excellent. Ok, I know you cannot mess up eggs and toast but the grits were so good and the fruit (pineapple and melon) very fresh.

This place is worth coming back although we don’t live here. Is one of these places that we are so glad we found and it filled all our needs for that day.

Menu

Mmmm now I’m craving coffee!

Takis

Palmetto Bluff Half Marathon Race

by ,

 The Palmetto Bluff Half Marathon and 10K 2017

This race takes place in Bluffton South Carolina, USA, in a beautiful setting at the Palmetto Bluff exclusive gated community. Not fully built yet so most of the route is on nice wide paved roads surrounded with nothing but Southern Oaks, Pine trees, Palm trees and of course a lot of Palmettos. Starting the race early on Sunday morning adds to the serenity until the roads are overtaken by runners. About 700 registered runners take part, with the majority running the Half.

Race Report

This is the 3rd year I’m running the Half Marathon here. The first year I set a PR on this course. Last year I ended up walking a lot (bad choice of running shoes…a long story). This year my goal was to finish the course at a good pace without hurting my knee. As you may already know I have had knee issues the last couple of months. Not looking for a PR but a good solid run. A benchmark, if you’d like, to build on from here.

The weather

Overcast with light rain in spots and mostly misty. The temperature at start time 51F degrees. Breezy most of the time with gusts of 15 to 20 m/h. This could be a problem.

The Race

Runners were summoned to the Start line. The race is chip-timed so it doesn’t matter where you start from. it times you from the moment you cross the Start line till you cross it again on the way back to Finish. A very young lady (13 y.o) delivered us the National Anthem in an Amazing way and the race started shortly after that.

A thick crowd of runners made its way through the picturesque Town Center of the community. Within a few minutes we were out on open road with nothing but trees surrounding the course. The runners starting to settle into their paces. I was between 8:50 and 9:05. It felt within my comfort zone and wanted to keep it there. The first 4 miles went by quickly. The wind was not so bad. The tall trees that surrounded us blocked most of it. Rain and mist had cleared but it was still overcast. Miles 5 through 7 the course turned and the wind started to be noticeable but not too bad, yet. At mile 8 we came upon a surprise, the road pavement ended and now we were on a hard packed dirt road with loose gravel. Not good! It was about a third of a mile and we got back on pavement. Until now I had been pretty steady holding the pace around 8:50-9:05.

Later in the race

Suddenly the route turns slightly to the left and at an open field we have the wind head on for a mile and a half. There were moments that the wind was literally stopping me. My quads started to burn trying to push through this wall of resistance. Finally, mile 11 and we turned again from the wind and gave me a chance to compose myself but I had burned a lot to get at this point. At mile 12 we turned again and again facing the wind.

The last part of the race

By now we were back at the Town Center and the wind channelling through the buildings was coming strong at us. This was the worst part. Now the wind was at it’s strongest and I was spent. With only less than a couple of hundred of yards left we made a turn to the Finish to realize the course was short by almost a quarter of a mile, 12.89 miles to be exact not 13.1. Much to my surprise because the course had been spot on the last two years and it was USATF certified. This year they had to change the Start/Finish line and someone messed up. Official time 01:58:25. Happy with the knee and the effort!

Race support

Aid stations were placed throughout the course from 2 to 3 miles apart all offered water and Gatorade and with two of them stocked with GU. As far as I know they had enough to supply all runners. Volunteers were great directing the race but crowd support almost non existent.

Post race

The medals were nice as usual. The event provides everyone with water bottles, coffee and bananas. With your race entry you also get a coupon for a cup of beer crafted by a local brewery and a coupon for a BBQ sandwich. Sorry vegetarians you can have all you can eat bananas and maybe that is what happened since they ran out early.

Overall this is a good small venue and most likely I will be back next year!

My fuel: GenU (x2 servings) 30 minutes pre-race, water during the race, one Humma Plus Gel at mile 10. Water, a banana and a bagel (I brought my own) post race.

Takis

 

 

 

 

To Pee or not to Pee

by ,

 

Okay I know the title grabbed your curiosity but this question comes up often in many runners heads while doing long distance races. I have witnessed more than once, especially during Ultras, runners shorts been soaked with pee. Gross, I know but is a fact that some runners rather sacrifice a pair of shorts than seconds off the clock. It happens to a lot of us, that sudden urge to pee especially when we are out for a long time. During training runs is not a real issue but in a race it can be. Port-a-potties aplenty on the course but who has time for that, right? There is actually a scientific explanation for this urge and is called: stress incontinence

stress in·con·ti·nence
noun
  1. a condition (found chiefly in women) in which there is involuntary emission of urine when pressure within the abdomen increases suddenly, as in coughing or jumping.
    If you have ever experienced this condition you may want to read this: peeing on the run . Now as far as the other nature call while running, well you guys are your own…..I’m not even going there.
    Run Strong

How does the shoe fit?

by ,

                                                  They say that running is an inexpensive sport. All you need is a pair of shoes, shorts and a t-shirt. In some cases running can be also done barefoot and even in the nude although the latter is not recommended. For most of us running is a very simple pleasure and can be enjoyed in it’s simplest of forms or you can add gadgets and expensive sportswear to fit your budget. One thing that we all need though is a shoe that “fits”.

Runners shoes must be a good all around “fit”, by that I mean not only your feet feel good in them but also that the shoes are made for you depending on the amount of  Pronation you parents gave you at birth.

For some of us when we run, the outside of the heel makes contact with the ground first, as we transition the foot naturally rolls some to the inside and then we toe-off from the front middle of the foot. That is called Normal Pronation (or Neutral Pronation). Some of us tend to roll our foot more inwards after the foot lands (Over-Pronation) and others tend to roll outwards after the initial land of the foot (Under-Pronation  a.k.a. Supination). Every one of us lands, no pun intended, somewhere in between all these different forms. Unless you can determine what type of Pronation you have by looking at the soles of an older pair of athletic shoes

Source: Runner’s World and DukeHealth.org

you may want to visit a reputable Running Store near you to have a gait analysis performed (everywhere I’ve been was Free) and they will put you in the right shoe. This is a sure way to make your running experience more comfortable and it will prevent unnecessary injuries.

I have met many people who say ” Yeah, I tried running but it hurts too much to run”. If they only knew…

 

 

Yesterday the training schedule called for Cruise Intervals. At 60°F the temperature was great but the 95% Humidity was a killer.
A couple of miles in the run my Garmin buzzed “run for 2000 meters” and I started pushing the effort to about 8:30 m/m pace which is my slower side of the Cruise Interval range (8:30m/m – 8:05m/m). It was almost a struggle to keep the pace for the duration. I did not carry water on this run because it was a 3 mile loop and I had the chance to grab a sip of water from my bottle every time I ran by my car. This was also a new route for me with a lot of uneven pavement which made things a little more challenging since I mostly running on flat roads.

When I finally finished my work out walked to my car to get the last out of my water bottle I realized how much I had been sweating during the run. My shirt was a darker color from wicking sweat and my legs were covered with sweat droplets. During the Winter we don’t think much about hydration and Electrolytes because…well is Winter. On my ride back home I was thinking to myself if I had made this workout harder than it should be by not hydrating properly before and not taking electrolytes.

Tomorrow’s workout is a Steady State Run. Weather predictions are very similar so it will be Hydration and Electrolytes and see what difference will it make!

Adidas Boston Boost 6

by ,

Adidas Boston Boost 6

The last pair of Adidas Bostons have arrived. The 2017 model will soon be out to replace the 6s. This is my 5th pair of Bostons. Adidas improved on the already great Boston 5 last year but I honestly don’t think they can improve it any more. I love this shoe! All my long runs are in the Bostons. They have a very comfortable feeling from the time you lace them on. The shoe has an amazing “energy return” all the way up to the end of it’s life which for me, average built 142lb runner, is around 350-400 miles (yep worth every penny!)

I ran close to 1500 miles in 2016 and 90% of that millage was done in the Bostons. It is the perfect hybrid running shoe between training and racing. I keep two pair of Bostons on rotation during training and one pair only for racing. I also run with a 4mm drop shoe for shorter distances just to change things up and strengthen different parts of legs/feet.

I’m anxious to see what Adidas has in store for us this year. As I already mentioned there isn’t much room for improvement with this shoe. Only one thing…..Adidas please come up with different color options this year other than the solid black, white and solid navy blue. Let’s add some flair to our feet for fun and safety!

Always keep a couple of pair of good running shoes on rotation while you are training. Retire your shoes once you start feeling your legs getting fatigued soon after the start of your run. There isn’t a good measure of millage that a shoe should be retired at. That depends on various factors as in the type of shoe, the runner built, the terrain you mostly run on and how efficient of a stride you have. Always go by how it feels. If your last couple of runs were not feeling good in the same shoe but the runs in the alternate pair were okay then you know is time to put this pair out to pasture!

Fresh legs = Happy running

Takis

 

 

Hooked and Got the t-shirt to prove it!

by ,

It has been a long time but I still remember the day that I came home through the garage door into the laundry room kicked my shoes off and shouted “Honey, I just ran one mile!!! Did not stop once,  it felt hard but now it feels amazing”.  Still on-the-high of that morning’s run I started searching for a 5K race in our city that was two – three months away to allow for proper training.

I found one! I signed up and got the T-shirt to prove it! After 12 weeks of training I lined up at the start line. This was an inaugural race and a very small one. Only 187 runners participated. Among them my oldest son, my daughter, my nephew and his girlfriend. They had all been inspired by my excitement about running and had signed up and trained for the race.

Race Day

It was the first Saturday of June and in the Southeastern United States it can be pretty hot and humid and It Was! I remember it was 82 degrees and about 100% humidity it was the kind of weather you want to be by the pool or at the beach not running on asphalt.

The horn went off and the race clock started ticking. Runners and walkers alike took off on a grassy area that circled a pond and you could feel the heat rising from the ground. About half a mile in the race we had cleared the pond and the grass and now we were running on asphalt. At this point I was feeling great. I was passing runners left and right, literally.

Rookie mistake

A mile in the race and I started feeling out of breath. I had started the race too fast for my abilities. When that happens you are using precious energy all too fast and guess what? You don’t have enough to finish the race. By the time I reached the water/aid station (mile 1.5) I was walking. Grabbed a cup water thanked the volunteers and took off running again having recovered some after walking. It did not last very long and I was walking again. That went on till we turned the last corner and I could see the Finish line. People, family and friends were standing by and were cheering on the runners as they were turning in for the final 250 yards of the race.

The Finish Line

Out of nowhere my energy came back. Felt strong almost as strong as I felt at the beginning of the race. In front of me was a guy about my age and my competitive-spirit whispered to me as it didn’t want him to hear “you’ve got to pass this dude” and I tried, I gave it all and as soon as I got next to him the dude started speeding up. With 25 yards left we were both at all-out speed and he got in front of me right at the Finish. I didn’t care. I just ran a 5K, I finished a Race. I was a winner! I had ran (and walked) it at 32’40”. The short race came to the end quickly and they announced through the loud speaker that it was time for the awards.

I got hooked

They were doing what is called three deep Age Group Awards and Overalls. The overalls are 1st 2nd and 3rd Overall Male and Female and the Age Group is normally in 5 year increment groups for male and female separate. They started with the overall winners and then moved to the Age Groups. When they got to mine the first guy in my A.G. had also placed in the Overall category so he was skipped which means it gave my group’s 4th guy a placement in the 3rd place and an award. They started to announce 1st place then 2nd place and 3rd place. Nope, none of these names matched mine but honestly did not expect it. But wait….the 3rd place guy is walking up to get his award and picture with our Age Group….that’s the dude. The guy that beat me at the Finish Line. His time 32′.38″ he got me by 2″.

On the drive back home all these thoughts were running through my head….What if I had walked 5 steps less….What if I didn’t stop for water….What if I hadn’t started as fast?  I would be going home with an award today. I was so close! That did not really bother me but it light a fire in me. Later the same day I started looking for my next 5K race. I was hooked!

This is how it all got started. A few years fast forward, I crossed the finish line at the Bad Marsh 50K Trail Ultra-marathon (that is 31.07 miles). By that time I had run several races mostly 5Ks, a couple of 10Ks and a couple of Half Marathons.