Slow, but consistent.

This article was originally posted by RandyS at the original HillRunner.com Blogs.

In a couple of days it will be 3 years since I last had a day without a run. I wasn’t planning that; it just happened. For the past 15 years I’ve been nothing but consistent. Usually missing a few days a year, often going 16 or 18 months between days off.

This streak owes more to the fact that I switched my weekday runs to the early morning than to any other factor (perhaps luck, life hasn’t gotten in the way either). Little stops me from going for a workout at 5 or 6 in the morning!

At 55 I’ve come to accept that my PB’s are in the past. Yet, I step out the door every morning, without racing goals, able to enjoy the act of running for its own sake. It took a long time to accept that! I struggled as I slowed; thought of giving up on the sport.

In a way I did give up on the sport; I haven’t raced in 3 years, but I didn’t give up on the activity (logging 2-3 thousand miles a year without a goal race in sight). And after struggling with the frustration of slowing as I age; I’m starting to feel motivated to race again, my new age group means new pb’s. I may race again I may not, but I’ll still get out the door every morning.

Randy

Minimalist shoes and the boom/bust cycle

This article was originally posted by Ryan at the original HillRunner.com Blogs.

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Earlier this week, it was reported sales of minimalist shoes "plummetted" by more than 10% in the first quarter of 2013. It’s being reported that the "fad" is over. People are realizing that minimalist shoes are getting them injured and going back to stability and support shoes. So is this really what’s happening?

I’d argue that, in a way, this is what’s happening but it’s more complex than just that. As with many things (low fat diets followed by low carb diets, for example) the pendulum swung. Through the 1990s and early 2000s, the attitude toward shoes was the bigger the better. Those of us who didn’t want a whole lot of foam and rubber between our feet and the ground were forced to choose from an ever-decreasing list of choices. Eventually, we were down to a handful of "lightweight trainers" or racing flats.

Then came Born to Run. I have some issues with the book (I have been thinking of tackling one big issue I have yet to find an answer to in a blog post but I always feel like I’d just be tilting at windmills when I think of typing something up). However, one benefit is that it swung the pendulum. People began thinking maybe bigger isn’t always better. Unfortunately, as is often the case, the pendulum swung too far, too fast. People went from wearing Brooks Beasts and other similar shoes to Vibram FiveFingers without a proper transition down the line. As I’ve often stated, you can’t go from having your shoe do all the work for you to having it do no work for you overnight without problems. It can take years to go from a fairly moderate traditional trainer to a fairly moderate "minimalist" shoe or racing flat. To go from one extreme to the other in days, weeks or even months is just asking for problems. Even if you don’t need all that shoe, you can’t just ditch it overnight after you’ve become used to it and, to some extent, dependent on it. Worse yet, the message for a while was that minimalism or even barefooting is right for everyone. It will cure every injury, it will make you more efficient and faster. There are no down sides, only benefits.

Not surprisingly, the correction came along. People got hurt, either because they tried to change too fast or because they simply aren’t cut out to run in minimal shoes. People gave up on minimalism. Some people stuck to it because it worked for them but some left. This is what we’re seeing now. Of course, in the marketplace, the manufacturers are usually behind on trends like this. Just like you couldn’t get enough shoes labeled "minimal" a few years ago and they sold at outrageous prices, you’re now seeing a wide selection and prices are dropping rapidly.

What do these market changes mean? Well, there are now more people wearing "minimal" shoes than there were several years ago. I think manufacturers will to some extent keep making shoes for this market. It may be a niche market but it’s large enough that I don’t think Nike, Saucony, Brooks and others want to ignore it. In the meantime, hopefully that pendulum swing will settle to a more reasonable middle ground. People who need more shoe shouldn’t be shamed into getting less shoe than they need to stay healthy. At the same time, people who don’t need so much shoe shouldn’t be ridiculed for wearing racing flats or "minimal" shoes if that’s what works for them.

I’d love to see people settle into a state of saying "I want to wear as much shoe as I need but no more, whatever that means". If you don’t need the 17 ounce shoe, try the 15 ounce shoe. If that still seems like more than you need, try the 13 ounce shoe. Eventually, you’ll find your sweet spot. That’s where you want to be. More isn’t always better but less also isn’t always better. Some people will still be wearing the 17 ounce shoe because that is what they need. Others will keep wearing FiveFingers because that is the shoe that works for them.

In the meantime, I’ll keep sticking with my roughly 7 ounce moderately cushioned shoes. In April, I even bought my first pair of "minimal" shoes (see the picture at the top of the post to see what I will be wearing as I head out to run today). They cost me less than the racing flats I usually get and, structurally, are extremely similar. I like the current market. The price points are very nice.

A full week and a 5k!

This article was originally posted by Charlene at the original HillRunner.com Blogs.

My week does not end until Sunday but I already got all my workouts in for the week and with a 8 or 10 mile easy run tomorrow I will be up over 60 miles for the week.

I had a good tempo run on Monday, a fast finish 15 miler in 80 degree temps on Wednesday, and a race on Saturday. The 5k was a last minute decision. It was one of those little town races that are more of a charity walk anyway. The course was flat and traffic free and it’s only drawback was about 13 turns which is a tad bit excessive for a 5k. It ended up to be an almost solo effort with the 1st place man almost a minute ahead of me and the 2nd place man over a minute behind me. The 1st half I felt great and was wondering if I would accomplish great things. I cannot say I felt bad the second half but a tad bit unmotivated to push to the limit. I have this fear that I will crash and burn and that fear can hold me back from really taking off. This is a good fear to have in a half marathon but not a good fear during a 5k. I also misjudged how many blocks I had left near the end due to all the turns and ended up closer to the finish line than I wanted to be before starting to kick. But anyway I finished in 19:06 which is an alright time for me for a 5k. I always prefer to be under 19 but as long as I am under 19:20 I am happy. My PR is 18:44 for 5k. I have ran this PR 3 different times over the past 5 years. I am quite optimistic that this will be the summer that I finally lower that PR. I have a fast 5k in June and another in July and I think that those will be very good places to attempt to push myself to the limit.

Just 2 weeks until Green Bay and I admit that my only plan is to latch on to whatever pace my rhythm falls into that morning. Hopefully it will be a pleasant surprise. Like when you have to force yourself to slow down at the start as the "way too fast pace" feels too easy and you settle in right where you want to be. This would be much better than when you start out right at goal pace and it feels hard already. I am kind of hoping to just stay within the 6:40s.

The running community is amazing

This article was originally posted by Ryan at the original HillRunner.com Blogs.

I just had to drop a quick note on how great the running community is. I was out yesterday doing some half mile repeats. Late in repeat 6 of 8, a couple of runners were approaching me and I recognized one as Dan Held. As we approached each other, he began jumping and yelling at the top of his lungs "COME ON RYAN! COME ON MAN!" You’d think he was cheering for his own kid at the state championship track meet the way he was getting into it.

Here I am, just some average Joe doing repeats at a pace that is pedestrian by his standards and a guy who has run in World Championship races, who was 7th in the Olympic Trials my freshman year of college, is going ballistic cheering for me. Yes, the running community is amazing.

By the way, on the one in a million chance that he reads this, thanks Dan for getting me through it. I was hurting and at that turning point I’m sure we’ve all experienced in hard workouts where you either battle through to a great workout or give in to the fatigue and figure it was still a good workout. I believe I still would have battled it out but that lift just at the right time definitely helped assure that result.

The week that wasn’t

This article was originally posted by Charlene at the original HillRunner.com Blogs.

This week I planned to front load a 1000 meter interval workout and my long run, take Wednesday off, run easy with strides Thursday and Friday, and race the Crazy Legs Classic on Saturday, and then to take an easy day on Friday. Crazy Legs is a huge 8k with lots of great competition and I was hoping to get good insight into my current fitness. As my 1k repeats went great on Monday I was feeling very optimistic.

Of course God laughs when one plans anything (esp running) and my plan abruptly changed late Thursday night as I came down with a horrible stomach virus that made me wish for death numerous times between bedtime and sunrise. I only seem to get stomach viruses every few years right before races. Friday was not a whole lot better as the most I managed all day was to get out of bed to clean and disinfect my laundry basket. It is hard to be sick when you are Mom and esp when Daddy is away but my own Mom did come to take my littlest one to the farm as he had the day off from school.

I decided quite wisely to cancel my race plans on Saturday and hoped to at least get in my other quality workout for the week on Sunday. My appetite and strength failed to return however and today I set out on my warm up to the track worried that it was too soon for a hard workout. I decided to attempt a tempo run but to back off if it felt icky at all. The temperature had risen from 50 to low 70s degrees since Thursday so I was a little worried about being under hydrated in temps although mild not what I an acclimatized too.

Once I got to the track I noticed a young man training for a Special Olympics Track meet. He told me he came early to practice to enjoy the weather. He also asked for help in training for the 3200. I had a tempo run planned so I thought for a moment and suggested that I run in lane 8 and that he run in lane one but that he should just run every other lap with me. I was hoping to do 5 or 6 miles but only ended up doing 2 as I decided that my body needed one more day as the 2nd mile did not feel right. This was most likely just the right amount of running though for my new friend before his regular practice and he did very well and impressed me with his work ethic.

My appetite finally came back several hours post run so I know that I will be ready to do this tempo on Monday. I only ended up with 36 miles for the week but that was not bad for only 4 days of running. My half marathon is only 3 weeks away and I am not too worried about missing a few days. One low week due to sickness is not so detrimental to training when one has 4 months of good mileage stacked up already this year. The next two weeks I will work hard, then taper one week, and hopefully be in peak condition for Green Bay. That is the plan anyway….

Clues & Lessons (race recap)

This article was originally posted by Andrew A. at the original HillRunner.com Blogs.

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Yesterday, I donned my BTC racing kit for the first time — first race this year and first race since October ’12 — for the Boulder Distance Classic 5K. Overall, training had seemed to be going well, though it had admittedly been diminished the past few weeks. Regardless, I was excited to finally get to race and the weather was getting really nice. My race execution was what I had planned: get out to an aggressive start and cruise through the first mile, pick it up for the second mile, and then push hard in the third mile. However, that plan left me with a finish that was not at all satisfactory, even given the slow nature of the race course: 35th overall in 18:57. I laid it all out there, showed up and ran the best I could on the day. I make no excuses, yet I am wondering about what reasons might be holding me back from racing faster. First would be the aforementioned flimsiness of my recent training. The structure itself is sound, it could just use more volume, which I will be correcting. I am also reminded of the ancillary strength training I have not yet implemented. Aside from those details, I have been feeling significantly low in energy lately (including the morning of the race) and in reading a NYT article today that mentioned symptoms of sleep disorder it occurred to me to start being more disciplined in getting sleep. The other possibility (which lack of sleep would lead to) is adrenal fatigue, so I will also be cutting out coffee and alcohol for the next few weeks to see how that helps. The good news is that I am confident in both pinpointing clear issues and knowing steps to take to work on eradicating them. It was also good to be around the team at a race, there was a really good group energy there to keep my mind off my disappointment. The great news is that two guys I coach had really good races, plus I now have photos of me racing in my new club uni!

http://acountrecourant.blogspot.com/2013/04/clues-lessons.html

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Race report – Deer Run – 5K

This article was originally posted by Ed at the original HillRunner.com Blogs.

My reports are not nearly as good as Ryan’s are but here goes.

I made sure to get to the race early – I like being very early so I can be relaxed. After getting my race packet I went back to my car and ditched my warmer clothing. The weather was very nice and the winds very light – I was happy with the weather conditions. I pinned my bib on (glad I brought my own pins as they only provided two) and the turned on my Garmin to go for a 2 mile warm-up run.

I ran at about an 8-8:15 minute per mile pace for the warm up and was sure to run the final half mile of the race to end my warm-up. I noticed they were setting up timing pads at the start/ finish line and I checked my bib. There was no chip! I went to the check-in area and they directed me to a spot behind day-of registration where they were handing out the timing chips. (I wish he told me that when he gave me my packet at check-in.)

I strapped the chip to my ankel and did some light stretching. As race tiome drew near I did a few strides at about 10 MPH – just a bit faster than I planned on racing. I lined up near the front and had the usual flashy dressed folks that looked like big time runners but I knew they were not – but that didn’t stop them from lining up at the front. They started counting down to the start from 10 but said go on what would have been five. Not cute buddy!

I jockeyed around the wanna bes and the "I led for 2 seconds" people and found a nice place to lock in my pace. I kept checking my Garmin (bad habit and bad to do) but I would catch the pace dropping a bit and I would push it a bit to stay in the 9.5 MPH range or better. I held well through the first two miles passing a couple people here and there.

Right around the two mile mark some guy pulled up right next to me and was very close – I mean close! Like in my personal space close. I shaded right a bit and he followed – I slowed a tiny bit and he did as well. I turned my head slightly towards him and then kicked about a block before a turn. I gave it a pretty good kick thinking I would leave this guy with a hint of stay away from me. As I went into the turn I looked and saw the guy had fallen WAY behind. Mission accomplished but at what price?

I had planned on trying to pass as many people as possible in this last mile and then give it my all for the last quarter mile. There were not to many people ahead of me but I worked my way up on one guy but he was fading becuase the guy ahead of him was pulling away from him (but not me.) I passed him with very little race course remaining and was about 10-15 seconds behind the next guy. I started pushing it very hard trying like mad to catch the guy in front of me but needed another 30 feet to do it.

He got me by 4 seconds – dang it! I might have been able to gain those seconds earlier in the course but I don’t know. I worked very hard for this one. 11th overall and 3rd in my age group at a 6:15 pace. Not too bad for an April race!

Effects of sports drinks in mid-distance road racing

This article was originally posted by Ryan at the original HillRunner.com Blogs.

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For terms of this post, I’m considering anything 90 minutes and under to be a "mid-distance" race. For most of us, that would be somewhere between 15K and half marathon at the upper limit.

This is something I’ve often wondered about. We know our bodies can store enough glycogen for about 90 minutes of running so how useful are sports drinks in a race of less than 90 minutes? Your body already has enough fuel on board, does it really help to top off the tank?

This study suggests the answer might be no.

What does this tell us? Well, we might be just as well off with water as with a sports drink during a race that is less than 90 minutes long. Topping off the tank doesn’t appear to do anything for us. This is good news for runners who have sensitive stomachs and may not be able to handle sports drinks in shorter, more intense races.

Of course, as with all studies, this finds that on average sports drinks don’t help. Your results may vary. However, if you have trouble taking a sports drink during a shorter, more intense race, don’t get too worried about it. Especially if it gives you problems, you might be better off without it and the person next to you taking one may not be gaining a performance benefit anyway.

Running in a Small Town

This article was originally posted by Charlene at the original HillRunner.com Blogs.

This is an uncomfortable post for me to write. But sometimes uncomfortable things should be talked about.

I live in a small town where very people run. I am known by strangers as, "The girl who runs." I am used to people asking me in the grocery store how far I run each day and that is something that I am sure you all encounter.

A few things though the last few months have started to trouble me. I have always felt safe running. My only worries for my own personal safety have only been about traffic or falling. Like I stated before people often use my running as a way to start a conversation or introduce them self to me. Usually those conversations are quite normal. But lately some of these conversations have been strange. Like people say things that they really should not. Like things that make me think that they might have a somewhat unhealthy interest in my running. I am not a person that is easily offended and as a long time regular of the dive bars in this town I have heard about everything and am quite used to the more suggestive comments that people sometimes make. Most of those comments are actually pretty normal considering the people that they come from. I have some friends in low places. Those type of comments or cat calls no matter how crude are not what I am writing about here.

People sometimes slip up and say more than they mean too. Sometimes this is just a small slip like instead of saying that they see me run they tell me that they watch me run. But then there was the lady in the van that stopped me one day and told me how worried she was about me as she she had been monitoring my weight and my running for years. She repeatedly asked me to get in the van with her. Perhaps she wanted to abduct me and fatten me up -JK. She was an odd one but harmless but the incident did cue me in to the fact that people that I did not know were taking more of a notice of my hobby than I was comfortable with. I think every runner struggles with feeling a little bit self conscious at times but as the years go by we would like to think that we just blend in.

I do a lot of my speed work at the HS track as there are very few safe places to run fast around here. Sometimes there are people there as the infield is used for various practices that do not involve the track. I go ahead and do my workout and just make sure that I stay out of the way and do not run down any small children. One night at a social function a man asked me if I run at the track to show off my body to the dads and the boys. This was the most offensive thing that anyone had ever said to me in my entire life. One other man recently asked me if I think about him when he drives by me. But he stated it in a way that indicated that he thought I ran to attract his attention. Both of these men are from the Dad practice group at the track and are of a profile (married, mid forties, ex jock, and giving off a certain vibe) that way back when I got boobs I decided should be avoided.

Obviously, I sense a lack of respect for female athletes behind these comments. I know that many people perceive women who train to be competitive with all having eating disorders but the whole running to attract male attention really threw me for a loop. That to me is an unhinged rationalization that reminds me of those stories of juries acquitting rapists because the victim was wearing a mini skirt. These comments also lead me to believe that perhaps I am watched more than I ever thought. Part of this is that commentary in general on my running has been increasing in frequency to the point that my friends notice and tell me how weird it is that so many people bring it up. I still feel safe in my little town but I got to admit this totally creeps me out.

Race report: Pike Lake Trail Run

This article was originally posted by Ryan at the original HillRunner.com Blogs.

I was looking for a race to test out my legs some but not worry about times or beat myself up too badly. When I saw this race on the calendar, I couldn’t resist. Times mean nothing when running at Pike Lake due to the extremely undulating terrain so I wouldn’t find myself worrying about running a certain time. No matter what time I run, it doesn’t matter. Further, I figured the trail aspect would save my legs a bit and, this time of the year and with the recent large amounts of rain we have had, ensure times would even mean less. So I signed up and was off to the races.

In the past week or so, I got to the point of expecting a very muddy course. As the race neared, I noted the forecast overnight temperatures in the 20s and decided a bigger concern may be ice. Still, a good reason to break out the cross country spikes either way. So that was my decision. With the cold forecast, I also made some race uniform changes. When I got to the race and felt the biting wind, it was settled. Tights and a long sleeve shirt over a short sleeve shirt. Add in a hat and gloves and I had my racing uniform set.

At warmup time, the temp was 25 and I don’t want to know what the wind chill was, given the strong wind coming off Pike Lake. The only saving grace was that most of the race would be in the wooded hills of the park so I’d be sheltered from the wind. It’s hard to warm up in that but I managed. Unfortunately, I believe the start was a little late so it was hard to keep warmed up but I managed with some additional strides and form drills.

As the race started, the 5K and 10K/half runners went different directions, which allowed me to at least figure out who was in the 5K. A couple of 10K/half runners jumped out in front of me and, while my legs weren’t too anxious to get off to a fast start, I didn’t want to lose contact so I hung with them. After a bit of time to loosen up, the legs decided to get going and I think the guys in front slowed down a bit and I took over the lead. Pretty quickly, the lead was growing to a fairly significant margin.

Then the start of the climb up to the top of Powder Hill. This is roughly a 450 foot climb from the start of the race to the top of the hill so we’re not talking a little climb. It also had a few downhills included so, while the net climb might be 450 feet, the gross climb was more than that. I began encountering 5K participants, some of whom even though they looked back and saw me coming did little or nothing to give me space to pass. Fortunately, it was on the mostly uphill portion of the course so I had more control and was able to work my way through with little to no trouble.

As we approached the top of the hill, we split from the 5K. They leveled off, relatively speaking, while we continued the climb to the top. As I was approaching the 55 foot observation tower near the top, I felt conflicted. The sign at the base of the tower said turn around. However, I remembered the course instructions from the website, specifically:

…towards powder hill tower, up tower, turn around, back down and out…

So what do I do? I have about 3 seconds to decide. I’m in the lead by a fairly significant margin. It’s still early enough in the race that, even if I lose the lead, I have time to gain it back. I don’t want to win partially by cutting the course. So I head up the tower. I start running but, on the first flight of 8 steps, I nearly trip because the steps are so small. So I walk the rest of the way, 2 steps at a time. On the way down, again because of the small steps, I walk down, 1 step at a time. As I’m going back down the tower, I see 6 runners turn around at the base of the tower. Either they missed the message I saw online or I chose to follow the wrong instructions. After the race, I asked the RD and he said we were not supposed to go up the tower but I didn’t know that at the time…obviously.

So now I gave up what I figure was at least 2-3 minutes, very possibly 4-5 minutes, and I went from a very solid lead to 7th place. I have time to make this up, though. So off I go to make it up. Right now, I’m somewhat mad at the guys who didn’t go up the tower because, remembering the very clear instructions online, I was sure we were supposed to go up the tower. I think I fed off that anger a bit and brought all 6 of them back in fairly quickly. Then I was back in the lead and extending it fairly quickly. Then the fun of the course began. I remember some snow and ice from the winter that hadn’t yet melted on the course somewhere but I can’t remember quite where. More fun than that, though, was the biggest "puddle" (more like a pond) on the course. We had already run through some mud spots and a couple of places where a boardwalk was laid out so we could avoid the mud pits. Now, though, I was staring at a small pond on the trail. It extended the full width of the trail and into the woods on each side. After the race, I was told there was a path around it with small flags signifying that was the path for us to take. I didn’t see it while out there, though, so through it I went.

This small pond had about 1/8 to 1/4 inch of ice on top from last night’s solid freeze and was nearly knee deep. When I first hit it, I didn’t know what I was going to hit. I knew it had ice on top but didn’t know if it was a thin film of ice or thick enough to trip me up. It turns out it was thick enough to trip me up. I crunched into the ice for about 2-3 steps at full speed, heard the guy behind me say fairly loudly "oh shit", then my foot got hung up on the ice. I kept my feet under me but I had to slow down to keep from tripping on the ice the rest of the way. By the time I got out, I was soaked from waist down and freezing. Fortunately, the freezing part only lasted about 1/4 mile.

From that point on, the worst was over. A few mud patches but nothing bad. A few hills but mostly downhill. As I had been doing whenever the opportunity presented itself, I opened up my stride whenever I could and tried hitting a nice race pace. I cruised through the remainder of the course, knowing I had a solid lead so not pushing to the full extent I could but at the same time trying to give an honest effort. I encountered some 5K participants along the way but they were spread out enough now that they weren’t too hard to navigate around. Essentially, other than one unmarked turn that I slowed a bit for before just taking a guess (and, fortunately, guessing right) it was a pretty uneventful last 1-2 miles. I cruised in with a pretty healthy lead for first place. I have no idea what my time was. Between the challenging course and adding on a fair amount of time climbing the tower, I honestly don’t care what my time was. I went there to race with no worries about time and that’s just what I did.

It was a good first effort of the year. It’s always nice to start off the year with a low key win and it’s nice to start off the year not having to truly redline it out there and without beating yourself up too badly.

While the race has some organizational challenges to improve upon, I love the course (and I now know it…as long as they don’t change it on me next year) and that to me overrides the problems. I’m never certain I’ll be going back to any race except Al’s Run but I’m reasonably certain that, barring scheduling problems, I’ll be back next year.

Sorry I don’t have any pictures. The mud I picked up on my back alone would have made for some classic images but it wasn’t meant to be I guess.