Saturday, October 30, 2010

One more week!

One week to go!  The 2010 New York City Marathon arrives next Sunday.  I'm ready.  Although I've been going through the requisite self-doubting during this taper period, there's nothing I would have done differently.  I've done about 20% more mileage than last year.  My race pace feels nice and easy.  I've maintained 5x a week running routines.  I've had 2 sports massages.  I'm resting well.

So what's next?  The last week is always the hardest, what to do?  Here's my plan:
Saturday:  10 mile run.  Ideally race pace (7:50 minute miles)
Sunday:  3 mile recovery run.  Foam rolling, stretching, ICING!
Monday:  5 mile run.  Race pace.  Roll first, ice after.
Tuesday:  6 mile run.  Race pace, icing!
Wednesday:  Off day. 
Thursday:  Last real run.  5 miles.
Friday:  Hit the expo, pick up number and get a small t-shirt (they go quick!).  Wear comfy shoes!  Water bottle with nuun tablet for hydration.  Then dinner with the family who came in for support.  Ideally a pasta/meat dish for some carbs and protein.
Saturday:  Rest, rolling, light run (<4 miles).  Nuun water bottle.  Dinner a light mix of carbs, protein, and veggies. 
Sunday:  RACE DAY!  Early wake up (5am), get to the race, and go!

Here's my nutrition plan for the race:
Breakfast:  Bagel, orange juice.
Pre-race: 1 Gu Roctane Blueberry Pomegranate, 15 min before (in corral)
Mile 5:  Gu Roctane
Mile 8:  2 Succeed! S! Caps
Mile 11:  Gu Roctane
Mile 12:  2 S! Caps
Mile 16: Gu Roctane, 2 S! Caps
Mile 20:  2 S! Caps
Mile 22:  Gu Roctane
Mile 24:  2 S! Caps
plus alternating sips of water and sports drinks from the aid stations (always taking water with the Roctane).

Post race:  immediately take 1 water bottle of Fluid Recovery Drink (I will give a water bottle with the mix to my family so I can add water and take at the finish).

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Beauty of Sports Massage

Ah, the taper.  I'm now 2.5 weeks out from my marathon and am immensely enjoying my taper.  I'm cutting back the miles and will be running every other day, more or less at race pace (7:45-8 minute miles).  I've done a lot more miles than in the past, but I looked at prior years' data and realized my long runs were actually slower than year.  Hmm.  I still feel in much better shape so I am just doing the runs now at race pace to make sure I know what that feels like and to train my legs and HR to peg there.
Another critical aspect of the taper is to make sure my body stays well enough to get to the start line in perfect shape.  I've done the training, now it's time to go after those nibs and nabs that rear themselves in every marathon training cycle.  For me, I've been blissfully injury free (knock on wood), but I do get calf issues when the mileage creeps up.  Tightness on the inner calf, especially on my left leg, has been the bain of my marathon training.  I've more or less been able to train through it, but last Thursday I thought my legs had just about had it with me!

So the next few weeks are all about foam rolling, icing, stretching, and getting the muscles back into race form.  Yesterday I went for a sports massage with Betsy.  It had been my first massage since I started training for the marathon (I had two over the summer in Seattle during triathlon season).  But I knew I needed it- badly!  It's 60 minutes of blissful pain. 

I told her in advance about the calf issue and she focused on the legs for most of the session.  Some spots hurt when she works them, but I think it's good because that means she's finding areas that need work and can focus there.  She could feel exactly what I had described and was able to get some of the tension out.  I'm taking it a bit easier the next few days to allow the muscles to heal from that "'trauma" (which, yes, deep massage can be) but hopefully they'll be looser as a result.

I already have a follow-up session scheduled for next week, 9 days out from the marathon, to be sure my muscles are good and ready.  For me this makes a world of difference and if I could afford a massage every other week I would do it!  There's a reason the pros get them so frequently.  And, of course, it's relaxing and the 60 minutes tend to fly by!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

NYC Marathon - 4 weeks to go

by Lindsay

The NYC Marathon is fast approaching on November 7.  Personally I'm thrilled that the race is no longer held on Halloween weekend!  It also gives me an extra week to train (not really, but it feels like it).

So far, I've kept up my training plan pretty well.  I've got a good routine with running before school starts in the morning and doing my long runs on Saturday mornings to get them out of the way so I can enjoy the rest of my weekend.  With 4 weeks to go, I am up to 40 miles per week and a long run of 17 miles.  My average pace has been around 8:30 min/mile for the longest runs and 7:30 for the shortest ones.  My goal pace remains around 8:00/mile, for a 3:30.  If I can get down to 7:45 that would be ideal, but maybe not realistic.

What gives me hope is that I have not yet mentally burned out.  I've suffered from this in the past as I try to up the mileage and time right at the end of the season when I need a break most.  My forced break at the end of the summer following my bike fall perhaps let me start this marathon season fresh, both mentally and muscularly.  But the fact that I am not dreading my runs and just wishing the marathon were over is a huge improvement over 2008 and 2009. 

I've also put on a lot more mileage this fall.  I am up to 238 miles since August 1.  With an expected 120 miles to go (45 and 50 the next 2 weeks, then a 2 week taper), I should have 358 pure training miles for this marathon.  In contrast, I only did 264 in my training last year.  So I'll be up 35% over last year, and for marathons the miles is the most important part.

The thing that worries me are weather and nutrition, as usual.  I plan to stick to taking Gu Roctane every 45 minutes,  taking sips of water and sports drink (alternating at every fluid stop), and taking Succeed S! Caps electrolyte tabs liberally throughout the race.  This is usually just enough for me.  But I've never run a marathon in heat and after Chicago (again) I am a bit nervous.  The good thing with a later marathon is that heat is less likely to be a factor.

I have a 19 mile run this Sunday (Saturday doesn't work this weekend).  I'd like to run it a bit faster, around 8-8:15, and still have it be conversational.  At that point I'll really know where to pinpoint my final goals for the race.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Sports Drink Review: A Comparison

Reposted from

In this article I’ll be reviewing and comparing some of the most popular sports drinks on the market including old favorites such as Accelerade, HEED and Perpetuem as well as some of the newcomers on the market such as Gu Electrolyte Brew and PowerBar Ironman Perform. I’ll also throw nuun into the mix as an ultra low-calorie sports drink option.

Why take a sports drink over just plain water?

Water has its place for certain workouts (30-60 min / low intensity); however, once you start cranking the intensity or duration you’re going to need something a little more “heavy duty.” Sports drinks include calories + electrolytes which are critical for endurance athletes. The electrolytes will help you in absorbing and retaining water (preventing dehydration and hyponatremia) while the calories will help you go the distance.

What about protein in sports drinks?
Research results are inconclusive; however, here are some general guidelines. Taking a protein-carb sports drink during a workout can reduce performance for that workout but may improve your ability to recover from that workout. In effect it starts the recovery process early but can sacrifice current workout performance. That being said, protein in sports drinks is probably a good option for training, but a bad option for racing. The one exception may the long course races (ultra-distance running and Iron-distance triathlon). Your best bet is to experiment and find what works for you.

Chocolate Milk?
While there is some research that shows chocolate milk can serve as a good recovery drink alternative, there is very little evidence to support that it works as a sports drink. It is low in electrolytes, has risk of spoilage, and doesn’t sit well with most athletes while exercising.

Sports Drink Comparison Table

Pros: Great taste, mixes well. Has protein to assist in recovery and endurance.
Cons: Low in electrolytes. Uses whey protein concentrate which is not as effective as the "whey protein isolate" variety.
Ideal For: Long endurance (3+ hr) workouts.

Pros: Low in sugar. Kosher certified. 80 serving tubs are a great value!
Cons: Stevia taste may turn off many athletes. Low in electrolytes
Ideal For: General purpose sports drink, those looking for low-sugar option. Lack of protein makes it ideal for racing.

Pros: A blend of carbs, protein, and fatty acids make this a great option for ultra endurance type events. Very high quality ingredients. Kosher Certified. Cafe Latte flavor is caffeinated.
Cons: An acquired taste. Tends to “spoil” if left unrefrigerated or if left in the heat for more than a few hours. Slow to be digested when compared to other options so it may not be a good option for most races*.
Ideal For: Long endurance (3+hr) workouts as long as it can be kept cold or in powder form.

Gu Electrolyte Brew
Pros: Light taste that goes down easy. Kosher. Blueberry Pomegranate flavor has 2x the electrolytes.
Cons: Doesn’t dissolve as easily. Tip: mix the powder initially in bit of warm water until it dissolves. Then pour in cold water whiel continuing to mix.
Ideal For: Racing. Take the Blueberry Pomegranate flavor if you’re susceptible to cramps or other effects of dehydration.

Pros: Low calorie option with lots of electrolytes. Tubes are amazingly convenient to carry—turn any water source into a sports drink. Kona Cola flavor is caffeinated.
Cons: Lack of carbs mean it’s not the best option for longer workouts or races. Some people may be turned off to the taste.
Ideal For: General purpose exercise / fitness or rehydration.

Ironman Perform
Pros: High sodium sports drink with great light taste.
Cons: Could use more potassium or other electrolytes.
Ideal For: Long distance workouts or races, especially where warm temperatures and high humidity conditions are expected.

Hopefully this comparison shows you there's no "one best sports drink". It largely depends upon the event or workout. Personally I like Gu Brew as my main sports drink for most races and workouts. I use nuun for most of my off season training or for shorter workouts. Ironman Perform appears to be a great option for it's namesake races and other hot weather / long course events. If you like the taste, I think the Hammer products are great choices as well though I am confused why they are light on electrolytes. I think Accelerade needs a "product update" to replace the cheaper whey-protein concentrate with whey protein isolate. Keep in mind that sports drinks with protein are not necessarily going to result in better performance, but may aid your ability to recover and take on tougher future workouts.

*If you’re competing in an ultra distance event or multi-day where a major concern is “will I finish” then this is a great option. It's hard to recommend it for other types of races and I haven't seen any published research on it. Each circumstance is different so please consult your coach for further guidance.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Finding my running legs again

By Mike

The NYC marathon is only 4 weeks away and I'm due for another check-in on my training. In my earlier posts I mentioned I was targeting a 3:10 and was in about "3:20 shape" and some point in the summer with months of training still ahead.

The last few weeks have been tough though. Training has not gone well since the end of August. Up until then it was great. I had absorbed about as much training as training as I could have and was due for 2 weeks of rest leading up to my half-iron race in Sandusky, OH (Rev3 Cedar Point). The only problem was that I had to move my apartment. We hired movers of course (no way I was planning on doing that kind of physical labor during my taper) but as luck would have it, our movers were shall we say... less than competent. I ended up doing 9 hours of physical labor on a Friday two weeks before a half-ironman. Needless to say I was completely fried. My legs felt like dead weights and I was unable to complete even basic recovery workouts for the 12 days that followed.

I still had a great half-iron (5:06) but it was about 10 minutes slower than I planned, losing most of that time on the run (actual 1:41 vs planned 1:32 run split). What seemed to kill me was my ankles... there was just no bounce or spring in my step. With each step I felt like my foot would "stick" to the pavement. I felt like I was at risk of falling on my face if my back foot would have taken just a millisecond more to come forward and support my forward body lean.

Since then I've been trying to get back into running... to find my running legs again. Of course getting sick with this cold/flu thing that's been going around has not helped. I ended up having to back out of a half-marathon tune up race I was planning on doing last weekend. I've probably done no more than 30 miles since Rev3 (4 weeks ago), with ~8 of those miles coming from today's "long run". I had to stop and turn around at about mile 4. My legs couldn't take it any more and the 4 mile return trip was a definitely a slog.

Yes, I admit the last 6 weeks have been tough. The positive thing is that at least my heart rate was low (relative to pace) during these last few runs so I don't think I've lost much cardio fitness. I've just been unable to maintain an effort higher than zone 2 or do anything more than 4 miles without great discomfort. I have 4 more weeks so who knows what will happen but I am very doubtful of my achieving the previous goals I set for myself.

I'm probably going to just continue training by feel and trying to put on as much mileage as my legs can comfortably handle rather than following any sort of training plan. We'll see what that translates to come race day so at this point I won't be making any predictions.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Ironman... now in 5150

So the World Triathlon Corporation (WTC), owner of the Ironman brand and Ironman and Ironman 70.3 race just recently launched a new race series... the 5150. The 5150 represents 51.5km which is the cumulative distance of the very popular Olympic distance triathlon. They've already branded a number of popular races with the 5150 moniker including the following:

US Domestic Races - 2011
March 13 Miami International Triathlon (Miami, Fla.)
May 1 St. Anthony’s Triathlon (St. Petersburg, Fla.)
May 15 5150 New Orleans (New Orleans, La.)
May 22 Memphis in May Triathlon (Tunica, Miss.)
June 19 Washington D.C. Triathlon (Washington, D.C.)
June 25 5150 Provo (Provo, Utah)
July 10 Boulder Peak Triathlon (Boulder, Colo.)
August 7 Nautica New York City Triathlon (New York, N.Y.)
September 4 Hy-Vee Triathlon/5150 U.S. Championship (Des Moines, Iowa)
September 11 5150 Lake Lanier (Gainesville, Ga.)
October 2 5150 Lake Las Vegas (Henderson, Nev.)
October 23 5150 Galveston (Galveston, Texas)
November 12 5150 Clearwater/5150 Series Finale (Clearwater, Fla.)

International Races - 2011
June 5 5150 Frankfurt (Frankfurt, Germany)
June 12 5150 Klagenfurt (Klagenfurt, Austria)
July 9 5150 Zurich (Zurich, Switzerland)

Seems like a brilliant business move on the part of the WTC (which itself is owned by PE firm Providence Equity Partners) to take advantage of the growing sport of triathlon. It's the latest in a series of steps the WTC (and Providence) has taken to leverage the value of their investment and Ironman brand. Just this summer they teamed up with Powerbar to launch a new line of sports drinks and recovery drinks--this on top of countless other products bearing the Ironman brand. It seems smart that they didn't actually combine the words Ironman with 5150 for fear of diluting the Ironman brand with a shorter and "easier" Olympic race format--as an Ironman finisher I'm actually quite glad they're keeping the terms separate.

Hopefully the move won't affect race fees as they're already rather expensive for some of these races and that the races continue to be run in a high quality manner. More information is available at

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Does stretching prevent injuries?

By: Michael Donikian, NASM-CPT, USA Certified Triathlon Coach

The short answer is no. There has been a great deal of research on the subject including a recent study conducted by USA Track & Field (USATF). For the most part, these studies show that a pre-exercise stretch routine provides no injury-prevention benefit (nor does it cause any harm).

Does this mean you should stop stretching? No, for two reasons:

1) The USATF study showed that athletes who had a stretch routine but were then randomly assigned into a "no stretch" group for the purpose of the study were more likely to develop injuries than those who did not switch regimens. The study implies that any drastic changes in routine can lead to injuries (not surprising at all). When starting any new training program be sure to gradually build up to it.

2) It depends on the type of stretching routine used. Most studies use a static stretch routine which is considered the least effective type of stretching. In addition they use a very broad stretching routine that targets all muscles equally whether they need stretching or not. I see stretching as a precision tool designed to be used on tight muscles or muscles with limited mobility not as some sort of generic warmup. You know that saying.. when your only tool is a hammer you tend to see all problems as nails.

I would like to propose a study as follows. Create three randomly assigned groups. One group will be assigned the "no-stretch" warmup, one group is assigned a generic stretch routine as a warmup, while the final group is assigned a coach who will design a custom stretch/warmup protocol for each athlete using a combination of dynamic stretching, PNF* stretching, and light cardio warmups. The athletes in the latter group will also conduct regular check-ins with their coach who will modify the warmup protocol over time to meet the stretch needs of the athlete. The coach will provide no other guidance.

The aim of my proposed study will be to not only show the merit of stretching vs non-stretching but to also show the merit of a targeted stretch/warmup protocol designed by a trained coach.

Absent this proposed study, my general recommendation for injury prevention is to begin every workout with a light cardio warmup and some foam rolling. I then like to throw in some dynamic stretching or other dynamic warmup drills before beginning my workout. I like to end all workouts with a light cooldown followed by some icing. Avoid heat as it promotes inflammation, which will only further aggravate any injury. As always please consult your coach before making any change to your workout routine.

*Dynamic Stretching and PNF Stretching are two types of more advanced stretching protocols that involve movement through the stretch. Both these types of stretching have extensive research searchable on