Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Heat Acclimation

Sometimes, even though I understand the higher purpose for which I am doing something, I still feel like an idiot when putting it into practice.  Enter HEAT ACCLIMATION.  This is the process of torturing yourself with mid day runs in ridiculous temperatures to get your body accustomed to functioning, and eventually thriving in these conditions.  Well, a more scientific definition would be:
Upon exposure to heat on a regular basis during exercise, the human body makes a number of changes that allow for greater aerobic performance (duration or intensity) in heat. Most studies have observed significant changes in sweat rate and composition as well as performance when athletes complete workouts for 60 to 90 minutes in moderate heat (heat index 80 - 95F) at least every other day during an acclimation period lasting two to three weeks. Acclimation can be maintained by completion of one or two warmer weather (midday) workouts per week. Fluid and salt intakes should be such that they replace the bulk of water and sodium lost via sweat during any exercise. Athletes should estimate their sweat rates on a regular basis in a variety of conditions (temperature, humidity, wind) as the rate will change as they become acclimated to heat.---via UltraRUNNING Online
The human body is an amazing machine, folks.  The sooner you start to treat yours as a well oiled machine, and less as a garbage disposal, the sooner you will be able to appreciate what it is fully capable of.

Last summer was the first time that I noticed the benefits of heat acclimating.  I added Cactus Rose (a 50 miler at the end of October in the Hill Country of Texas) to my schedule for the first time, and I knew there was a good chance that it would get very hot before the end of this race.  I knew I had to get my body used to functioning in the heat if I would be able to stay strong throughout 50 miles of climbs over rocky terrain, with no tree cover.  So, I added in mid day and early afternoon runs to my rotation.  I didn't do every run at these times.  The rest of my workouts were early mornings when it was still warm, but not scorching.  Towards the later part of the summer, I started to notice something.  Even though the morning temperatures were the same as they had been all summer, these runs started to almost feel cool!  And my mid day runs were tolerable, even though is was every bit as hot, or hotter than it was when I started this process.

Don't get me wrong - my body still reacted the same way to these runs - I would be drenched in sweat by the time I hit the mile mark, but I no longer felt the heat the same way.  Even better - my heart rate no longer soared at a lower rate of exertion like it did in the beginning of the summer.  My body had adapted to these conditions, and I was a stronger runner because of this.

This is where I am in my training for the Big Butt 50k in July.  This race has bad idea written all over it, so the best I can do is prepare myself as much as possible and hope for the best.  Most ultras start at 6, or at the latest 7 a.m., since you will be out there for the better part of the day.  Of course, since this one is July 28th in Clinton, Mississippi, they have decided to forgo the cooler hours and start the race at 8 a.m., well after the sun has risen. In a strange way, I see this as a further challenge, and all I can think is "Bring it on Big Butt" - Yeah, that is just fun to say.

So today I ran 6 miles, finishing a little after noon.  Not sure what time I started - this was a no watch/no GPS kinda day.  It sucked.  My heart rate was way too high for the amount of effort I was putting out, I got a little nauseous a couple of times, and I had to walk for about 30 seconds at mile 4, and again at mile 5.  I also drank approximately 30 oz of water during this run.  Once I got home, I mixed my recovery drink and headed out to the picnic table to stretch, where I left a puddle of sweat, then came inside and wrote in my high tech training log, where I left another puddle of sweat.

I am thankful that through experience, I know that this will get easier.  But, for now, it kinda bites. :)

Thursday, May 24, 2012

My Nutrition Plan (Those that know me are laughing now.)


Since I am just getting "back on the wagon" so to speak with my training, I am also cleaning up my diet.  Somewhat.  While I make an effort to add more healthy items in my diet, I don't completely exclude the bad stuff.  But, I do find that as my mileage increases, I crave the bad stuff less.  When my mileage is peaking, I can't even pick up burgers for my kids.  Just the smell of them in my car makes me gag. My body tends to make its needs very clear.

So, here's a typical day:  I start out with something like this:
Before I left home this morning, I cut up green apples, peeled a couple of oranges, and a few carrots.  That was my snack on the way to work.  I also packed yogurt with granola (fruit and veggies don't stick around long, and before I know it I am looking for a Twinkie - which is where the yogurt comes into play).   Mid morning snack/lunch appetizer is spinach salad with kalamata olives, carrots, feta, and sometimes apples or strawberries.  Now I am not going to lie and tell you this is set in stone.  Somedays, you just gotta:

But, I know when I eat the last two options, I feel like this when I run the next day:
I try to pick one day a week when I eat single ingredient foods only, preferably raw and no refined sugars.  So I usually just drink water, black coffee (NOT going to skip coffee), or unsweetened tea if I am desperate.  This has to be a non-training day.  When I run 9 - 12 miles in the morning, a bunch of carrots or nuts are NOT going to make me a happy person.  I look at the raw day as a cleansing day.  

I am by no means a food Nazi, but it is about changing your outlook.  When I am training, I start to look at food as fuel.  What foods will make my body work better.  I indulge and regret it on the next run, but we live in South Louisiana - how miserable would it be not to be able to enjoy our wonderful food?  Sometimes it is worth the price that is paid.


When I first started running distance, my coaches told me I would have to start using Gu.  I had no idea what "Goo" was, but it did not sound like my kinda thing.  Sucking slimy stuff out of a foil wrapper?  I'll pass. But, after a few solid bonks, I began to train myself to choke them down.  

So, for my first half marathon in Nashville, when I was suffering, I figured "If one Gu is good, three or four must be better." Needless to say, I was forced to stay close to the bathroom after that race.  Waaay too much sugar dumped in an already stressed out stomach.  I began to explore other options, and came across:
Nectar of the Running Gods.
They can explain it better than I can: 
The key to sustaining athletic performance lies in optimizing the body's ability to metabolize fat. The conventional wisdom of "Carb-loading" has limitations. The human body can only store a limited supply of glucose as glycogen in the muscles and liver. Furthermore, the body is limited in the amount of carbohydrates and simple sugars it can ingest during physical activity and this amount is not enough to sustain a high level of activity. Fortunately, the body has a plentiful and highly concentrated supply of energy in the form of fat. Training for endurance develops mitochondria, large mitochondria, which increases the body's ability to oxidize fatty acids. VESPA optimizes fat metabolism at all levels of conditioning from beginner to World Class athlete.
 VESPA's key ingredient is an all-natural amino acid complex (in a naturally occurring peptide) derived from the Asian Mandarin Wasp and works by shifting the muscles to metabolize a higher level of fat during physical activity thus stabilizing and conserving glycogen. The brain and nervous system have to utilize glucose to function optimally, however,they require very little. Muscle tissue, on the other hand, when using glucose for muscle metabolism, consumes glycogen at an extremely high rate whichwill eventually result in the commonly experienced state of "bonking" if sugars are not replaced.By shifting the muscles to metabolize a higher percentage of fat as the primary energy source glycogen/glucose levels are stabilized and conserved so the brain and nervous system can function optimally resulting in greater mental clarity/focus and optimal motor skills/coordination over a greater period of time.
VESPA does not "boost" performance.VESPA's effects are subtle and largely un-noticed in the conventional sense.VESPA is not a fuel nor an electrolyte replacement nor an "energy" drink so you won't feel a sugar high or a caffeine buzz (You won't feel the crashes either). VESPA works by optimizing your muscles' ability to derive its energy from a readily available and plentiful source. This allows the athlete to sustain a higher level of performance for a greater period of time (relatively speaking). VESPA athletes commonly find they are not "wiped out" and "craving carbs" after a workout or race and recover faster with lower levels of muscle soreness.

I may not fully understand it, but I know that for me IT WORKS.  I have run 50 and 100 mile races with Vespa, and few other calories, and have never bonked.  If you are having GI issues, or can't take Gu because of the sugar or other ingredients, it might be worth checking Vespa out.

On a training run of an hour or less, I don't use any nutrition, I just bring my handheld bottle filled with water and go.  When I get up to weekday runs of 9 miles on up, I bring my water bottle and one gel. My personal favorite:
Once I get to two hours or more, I move onto Vespa.  I could use it for shorter runs, but it can get expensive to use everyday.  And, I always have my water bottle with me.  I know every house along my route that has an exposed faucet where I can refill my bottle. (Because water from a hose tastes TERRIBLE).

When I finish a run of over an hour, as soon as I get home, I mix a bottle of Aftershock Recovery Drink

2.64 Lbs.Fruit Punch
Serving Size2Scoops(80g)
Servings Per Container15
Amount Per Serving% DV*
Calories From Fat10
Total Fat1g2%
Saturated Fat0.5g4%
Total Carbohydrate30g10%
Other Carbohydrate15g
A Proprietary Non Steroidal, Highly Anabolic Formula Consisting Of Muscle Volumizers, Strength And Recovery Agents.
Magnesium Creatine Chelate
Magnesium Glycyl Glutamine
Molecularly Bonded Glutamine
BCAA's (Branched Chain Amino Acids)7.25g**
Joint Repair:1500mg**
(Glucosamine Sulfate, Chondroitin Sulfate, MSM)
Antioxidant Blend:1500mg
Vitamin A1000IU20%
Vitamin C1000mg1666%
Vitamin E60IU200%
B1 (Thiamin)3mg200%
B2 (Riboflavin)3mg200%
B3 (Niacin)40mg200%
B5 (Pantothenic Acid)20mg200%
B9 (Folate)800mcg200%
Alpha Lipoic Acid100mg**
** Daily Value not established
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet
Other Ingredients
AFTERSHOCK Fast Absorption Protein Blend™ (Partially Hydrolyzed Whey Protein Isolate, Lactose Free Whey Protein Isolate And High Growth Factor Ultra-Filtered Whey Protein Rich In Lactoferrins And Immunoglobulins), Glycogenx™: A Polymerized Glyconutrient Providing Cellular Rehydration And Glycogen Replenishment (Long Chain Polysaccharide Maltodextrin), Cane Juice Solids, Natural And Artificial Flavors, Citric Acid, Potassium Citrate, Sodium Citrate, Vegetable Juice (For Color), Sucralose.
Allergen Statement: This Product Contains Ingredients Derived From Milk. Manufactured In A Facility That Proceses Milk, Soy, Eggs, Wheat.

This stuff is AWESOME!  I have tried a few different recovery drinks over the years, and I feel like this is the most complete formula.  Ignore the picture of the pumped up guy on the label.  If you have seen me, you know that is not always the outcome of using it.  What I find is that when I am using it regularly during my peak mileage, I notice more lean muscle definition and I feel great.  The stuff works.

My next post will detail race day nutrition for 50 and 100 milers.  I think you might be surprised by what you learn from that one.

Geaux Run!!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

My High Tech Training Plan

Where to start?  Well, how about my training plan.  I use this term loosely, 
because while I do have a training plan, it is not what you might think.  

1.  I don't train with a heart rate monitor.
While I fully understand the value of using this type of feedback, and I know that if I were to follow a rigid plan that uses heart rate to determine my workouts, I would be a better athlete....well, I just don't want to.  And since I am 41 years old and doing this because I enjoy it, I am not going to.  Period.  :)  I know when I am working too hard for the distance I am running that day and I slow down. I don't want to spend extra minutes putting gear on when I just want to hit the road. 

2.  I rarely use a watch, much less a GPS when training.
When I first started distance running, I was very low-tech.  I wore a cheap Timex purely to know how long I ran.  Most of the time I would forget to start or stop it.  Then, after my first full marathon, my gift to myself was a Garmin 101 - it was HUGE!!  I have small wrists, and it felt like I was carrying a serving tray on my arm.  
And so began this inner conversation:
"I am running too slow, speed up!"
"I am running too fast!!  Slow down!" 
"I know I am almost back to my house, but according to my watch, I need to run another .23 miles.  Bye house."
"WHAT DO YOU MEAN "NO SIGNAL"!!!  How am I supposed to know exactly, to the hundredths place how far I have gone??"
And the best quote from a Garmin devotee:  Near the end of my first full marathon in San Francisco, my running buddy, who was wearing a Garmin said, "Well, we just ran a marathon!!"  Only problem - the finish line was but a speck on the horizon.  We still had almost 3/4ths of a mile to run to get to it.  Instant crash.  Damn GPS.

So, I became a GPS addict - never running without it, and nearly suffering whiplash from the amount of times I looked down at my wrist during a run.  I soon upgraded to the next model, which looked something like this, but it was red:

We have moved from serving platter to laptop size now.  And the model in this picture has chunky arms compared to mine.  I am surprised I never suffered any repetitive use injuries from lugging these things around.  

This addiction stayed with me throughout all of my road races.  It wasn't until I started training for my first 50 miler when I was able to break free.  Because much of the training for these races is based on duration of runs and time on your feet, distance is not as much of an issue.  The GPS went in the drawer, and the old running watch came back out.  Temporarily.  Once I ran my first 100 miler, my outlook on the sport changed a bit.  I rarely wear a watch at all now.  I have an idea of the approximate distance of most of the routes around my house, so I just run.  The only time I wear a watch is if the run is going to be a couple of hours or more, and I need to keep track of my nutrition.  Once in a while when I don't have a set route, or I want to map out a new one, I pull out my Soleus GPS watch and take off.  It does give you the freedom to wander a bit, and once in a while that is a good thing.

3.  Even a non-runner can understand my training schedule
Once again, I know that using something like this would probably make me a better runner:

124 m run7 x 8005 m run45 tempoRest6 m pace12
134 m run7 x hill5 m run50 tempoRest10 m pace20
145 m run45 tempo5 m run5 m paceRest6 m run12
155 m run8 x 8005 m run40 tempoRest10 m pace20
But, like I said, I enjoy running and I would like to keep it that way. Here is a glimpse into my training plan:
Pretty complicated.  I'll try to keep it simple.

There it is.  My current month. 
I know.  Fascinating, right?

Here's the month of July showing my peak weeks for Big Butt.
See - there is a little bit of strategy to it.

I follow a pretty simple plan that I have figured out works well for me.  In many ultra training plans, there is heavy emphasis on back to back long runs.  When I was training for my first 50 miler, I followed one of these plans to the letter.  An hour and a half on Saturday and two hours on Sunday?  Sure!!  Before I knew it, I was spending a lot of time in Dr. Keith Terro's office (more on that later - Keith is a miracle worker, I tell ya!).  

Now, I rarely run back to back long runs.  When I do, it is during my peak weeks when I have to get in anywhere between 65 - 100 miles in a week.  As much as possible, I try to run every other day.  I have found over the miles that this is the best way to keep my body healthy.  I usually climb in mileage for two weeks, then drop down a bit for the third week, then repeat.  

In training for 50 - 100 milers, you have to get in some LOOONG runs.  Like all day.  And, while I love to run, I would rather not run 10 hr training runs if I don't have to, so I sign up for lots of races.  They are like training runs, but over beautiful terrain (always trails), and they have aid stations. (No matter how much my friends love me, I have yet to convince them to work an aid station for my long runs.  I call it lazy, but you can call it whatever you like.) :))

Each season I decide what my "A" race is going to be.  Last year was the same as this years - the Rocky Raccoon 100 miler.  I then set my schedule about 9 months out and choose races that fit.  I did this last year, and was happy with the results, so I am doing it again this year, just starting a little earlier with the Big Butt 50k.  So, my year breaks down to: 9 months of training, with over half of that at pretty high mileage, 1 month after the 100 miler where I do very little if any running, and two months after that of leisure running - mainly to spend time with my running buddies. 

 After my goal race, I am usually pretty spent both mentally and physically.  I don't even think about running until I WANT to again.  It is important to get back the desire for the sport.  This usually works out because my body needs this time off to heal.  When I do ease back into running, if ANYTHING hurts, I immediately take off another week.  I am a big fan of being healthy.

Well, if you made it all the way through this post, you deserve your own buckle.  I will add more details as time goes on, but that's enough for today. :)

Make something great happen!