Terrorist attack at Boston Marathon

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

I’m still catching up myself on what is going on in Boston right now. It appears two bombs detonated near the finish line. Initial pictures I’ve seen are not looking good. I won’t post pictures here for those who don’t want to see them. If you do want to see what seems to be the most commonly used photo, see the link below:


I’ll update here as I’m able and as I get updates. Mixed messages now but it sounds like runners are being rerouted away from the finish line. If anyone has more details or finds updates before I post them, please don’t hesitate to update in the comments. I’ll be doing the same.

A Tale of 2 Tempos

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

I am excited for tomorrow morning as I get to track four friends racing Boston. This definitely brightens up what has been a very gray couple of weeks. All of them are prepared to run great races and I will be so happy to watch them do so from my computer screen. Plus I think that either Shalane or Kara will come through in a big way. Hopefully there will be lots of me cheering like a freak all morning.

Last week was a very good week of running with an excellent tempo run of 6 miles @ 6:32, a 5×1000 workout, and a 15 mile long run to total up to 60 miles for the week. I was feeling really good about the direction my fitness was going and excited enough to sign up for Crazy Legs for the first time ever. In the past I have not ran this race due to the lack of seeding for those who have not ran the race the previous year. This year it appears that they will seed the newbies so I can only hope I will not start behind a wall of walkers.

This week was a crappy week of running. It was a cutback week so I aqua jogged with a friend on Monday, ran easy the next 2 days, took Thursday off, ran a crappy tempo run on Friday, ran on the TM on Saturday, and was blown around like a kite today for a total of 41 miles (plus an hour of aqua jogging) This endless stretch of cold damp weather really makes me a bit depressed and achy. The tempo run was crappy as I just was missing a gear and could not run fast as I averaged 6:57 for 6 miles. I think the effort did feel much more like an aerobic threshold rather than a Lactate threshold. I was not hurting in any way but just could not speed up. I did think about lengthening it out from 6 to 8 miles but the cold drizzle just was not convincing me that I wanted to be outside any longer than the cool down home. I have not yet mastered dressing for cold rain/30 something degree weather. My outside layer is always soaked with rain and my inner layer is always soaked with sweat.

Today I am trying to keep down the negative thoughts that occur after a week of poor running. It is hard to be excited about an upcoming race after a workout fail. One bad workout does tricks on my head and even leads me to wonder if all the good workouts this year have been flukes. I also think that this cutback week just did not do what it should have for me. This may be because I always choose a certain week of the month for a cutback or because each day had the crappiest combination of weather possible. Give me a dry 20 degrees any day over 30s and rain. I read on a blog today about taking two consecutive days in a row off instead of a cutback week. I kind of like that idea so you will have to all weigh in and tell me what you think.

This next week is gonna be better though as I WILL get my groove back and my poor sister is now 41 weeks pregnant so that means that I will be visiting a new baby boy this week.

Doping with thyroid medication?

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

This Wall Street Journal article prompted a lot of discussion yesterday about whether or not our sport has a new doping problem in the form of thyroid medication.

It’s always tough when medication for a genuine medical condition can also be a performance enhancing medication, as some people think this thyroid medication could. As I began reading this, I instantly thought of the fact that asthma seems to stricken track and field athletes at higher rates than it occurs in the general population. Anti-doping agencies allow inhaled corticosteroids for athletes suffering asthma with a "Therapeutic Use Exception" (TUE), which basically means they are granted permission to use a normally prohibited drug due to a medical condition that requires the drug as a part of treatment. There is no doubt that some of the athletes do have asthma and need the corticosteroid. There is no doubt that others are skirting the rules in order to use a performance enhancing substance.

I get the sense that this is the next generation of that issue. As of now, the thyroid medications being used are NOT banned substances. However, should they be banned? Typically, the drug cheats are ahead of the curve in figuring out what works and what doesn’t. It would not surprise me at all if, in the near future, we discover that these drugs are in fact performance enhancing in otherwise healthy athletes.

The question is what happens when this occurs? There are certainly some athletes who truly have thyroid conditions and require the medication to function normally so I’m certain a TUE will exist for these drugs. It already appears elite athletes are suffering from these thyroid conditions at far higher rates than the general population. If this is found to be performance enhancing, what will be the requirement of proof that you need this? Will TUEs for thyroid conditions become popular?

One of my favorite sports science bloggers has already written about this and I generally agree with him. I think this should be a banned substance that is only allowed with a TUE. The concern would then become how to test for the need. The current "quick" test seems very questionable and sounds like it may turn up a lot of false positives. Steve Magness mentioned on Twitter that this test could be used as a preliminary test and there is a follow-up test that is available that, as I understand it, could determine whether abnormal hormone levels are due to a problem with thyroid function or are related to other non-medical factors, such as the hard training that all elite athletes perform. I think this follow-up test should be required in order to get the TUE.

This is a very sticky and still developing topic. Does anyone want to share their thoughts at this point?

Tragic story out of Sun Prairie, WI

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

Some of you have probably already heard about this story. In short, a woman named Maureen Mengelt from Sun Prairie was out on a training run Sunday afternoon when she was hit by a drunk driver. She was taken to a local hospital but died at the hospital.

I was informed this morning that she was a long-time runner who had run the well known Syttende Mai 20 miler in Stoughton (near Madison) over 20 times. I’m sure she will be deeply missed in the running community over there.

Fortunately, it looks like law enforcement is throwing the book at this driver. It seems too often like incidents of car vs. walker/runner/cyclist are not treated so seriously. Excuses are made for the drivers and charges are usually minimal, if anything more than a civil fine of sometimes less than $200, even in the case of serious injury or death.

I’m posting this for two reasons. First, if anyone wants to follow this story, I can post follow-ups in the comments. Second, please be careful out there. I hate intersections, especially freeway exits. Drivers don’t look out for anyone not in a car, if they do see you they often assume you will get out of the way even if you have the right of way and they are incredibly unpredictable at intersections.

Running by effort

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

I think I sometimes drive the runners I coach crazy talking about efforts. Easy, 10K effort, 5K effort, half marathon effort. These are common phrases in discussions.

Just this past week, I’ve had discussions with three runners I coach on what exactly these efforts mean and/or why I prefer training by effort over other methods, such as pace. I may explore this topic further in a future post but I’d like to share some high level thoughts on a few key points that I believe make training by effort the best way to train.

1) Training by effort helps you learn the correct effort to run a race at. You’re going to make a few mistakes when learning a new skill like running by effort. Would you rather make those mistakes and learn from them in a workout or in a race? Why is this skill important in racing? Read on…

2) Training and racing by effort allows you to adjust for variables on the fly. Once you’ve honed your skill to run by effort, you will naturally adjust for things like adverse (or more ideal than expected) weather conditions, course related factors such as hills or even factors such as the lack of sleep you got last night or the stress of a bad day at work. Running simply by pace won’t account for these factors and will leave you running a less than optimal pace/effort level. Running by heart rate may help you with some of these factors but it won’t do much when your legs are fatigued because you helped your friend move yesterday. Also, your heart rate doesn’t always respond to all stresses in an expected way and doesn’t always respond to your effort level instantly. If you fine tune your ability to feel your effort, you can know instantly when your effort level changes. Relying on heart rate may leave a delayed response. You’ll find out before disaster strikes but will you find out in time to adjust for an optimal performance?

3) Running by effort ensures you’re doing the workout you intend to do. When trying to stimulate a physiological response from our training, we need to hit a certain effort level. Depending on some of the factors mentioned above (weather, course factors, life factors leading to more or less stress than usual) a given pace may be too fast or too slow to best target the training stimulus we want to focus on. If you’re doing a workout that should target 5K pace/effort but you take the workout to the hills, you have to back off your pace. How much? Every hill is different. It’s hard to tell without going by effort.

4) Running by effort removes your succeptibility to technological glitches. Just last week, I had a run where my Garmin flaked out. It had me starting far from where I actually did start and reported a first mile of 3:31. No problem. I wasn’t relying on it so I just ignored it and figured it was just a stopwatch for that run. What if I was relying on it to set my pace? Would I have been lost until it locked into my location? What if this happened on race day and I was relying on it to set my race pace?

Effect of weight loss (dehydration) and muscle break down on performance

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


Writing about another study (I promise this blog won’t become all about reviewing studies but this will be a part of it). This time, a study of how weight loss as a proxy for dehydration and myoglobinuria as a proxy for muscle breakdown are related to reduction in muscle power. Essentially, the idea of this study is to determine what the correlation is between late race muscle fatigue and two commonly held explanations for that muscle fatigue.

In a break from commonly held assumptions, body mass loss (the proxy for dehydration) did not seem to affect muscle power output. Participants in the study ranged from gaining body mass to losing more than 4% of body mass (that would be 6 pounds for a 150 pound person) during a marathon but loss of power output was not correlated with body mass loss.

On the other hand, there is a quite strong correlation between myoglobinuria production (the proxy for muscle breakdown) and muscle fatigue.

What does this tell us? Well, I would still strongly suggest not ignoring fluids during a marathon, especially a warm weather marathon. However, don’t go to extremes. I recall a few individuals telling me that I should follow their hydration plans because they actually gained weight during marathons. Why should we believe that this is ideal? It’s been shown that the best marathoners tend to lose weight during marathons, typically in the range of 5% of body weight but some even more. Now, we have more evidence that this singular focus on hydration may not help.

Instead, we should be focused on not breaking down our muscles. So how do we do that? We train our muscles. Nothing all that new here. Lots of long runs, lots of volume at faster paces. In addition, though, I think this suggests again the importance of not going out too fast. If you go out too fast, your muscles are going to break down earlier. This will reduce their ability to keep performing at an optimal level earlier than if you go out on pace or even negative split a bit.

With Boston coming, here’s another thought. The early miles are downhill. Getting too carried away on early downhills will damage your muscles, especially the quads, even more. We all know (I hope) it’s important to not get too carried away early at Boston. This likely explains one reason for that. Your muscles will break down earlier and you’ll again lose your ability to perform at an optimal level earlier than if you play it safe on the early downhills.

Starting a running blog

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

Yes, I have been drinking tonight and that has spurred my desire to start a running blog. I would never do this out in the blogosphere as I just don’t think I have thick enough skin to take some of the negativity or drama that I sometimes see targeted at some of the bloggers I follow. I really don’t want any of that in my life. As for the blog I just plan to post my weekly mileage and any random thoughts that I have about running or life in general. I am always trying to improve at both.

About my running; As of today I have 696 miles logged for 2013. Some were fast, many were slow, and a few 1k intervals were really fast. Way too many miles were on the treadmill due to the splendid ice accumulating conditions we had this year. I have a half marathon in May and I feel really good about where I am at right now in my training.

As for me; I am selectively compulsive and tend to take things to extremes but only about certain things like running, being on time, my shoes always being just right for my outfit, and clothes, shoes, and hair in general. Oddly though, I do not feel the same way about my running clothes and will wear them til they fall apart. I even raced a goal half marathon in a 5 year old dingy tech shirt with paint on the sleeve. When it comes to running it is all about the running and not at all about all those extra things that stylish runners need.

For a compulsive person though I do have a messy house. I just was not programmed to be tidy as much as I was programmed to get the miles in every day or shop for just the right pair of heels. A friend of mine told me that she cannot get out to exercise as she cannot bear to leave the house if there is a dirty dish in the sink. Entire kitchen can be trashed and I just see it as one more reason to leave for a run. You can always clean a kitchen to perfection even if the dishes were piled up by the sink for a week but your own body is not so forgiving if you do not work out. Not that I let my dishes pile up for a week. I learned long ago that the best cure for an untidy house is fewer possessions so I only have about a one day supply of dishes. And that last sentence is most likely the best advice I will ever offer on this blog.

My hobbies besides running are looking at red cowboy boots on E-Bay and trying to make sure that my kids grow up to be adults that are not annoying. Not that I am never ever annoying but you always hope for better for your children.

This year compared to last

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

Just wanted to put it out there that this year while inconsistant is leaps and bounds over last year at this point.

Last year 1/1 through 4/3 I had only run 22 times for 83.83 miles and I still had a pretty good racing year.

This year 1/1 through 4/3 I have run 40 times for 258.63 miles.

I know I should have had nearly 500 miles so far but I have plenty of time before my goal races to step it up and work extra hard. Looking forward to the five races I have planned for the year.

Breaking news: Hill repeats are good for your 5K

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


Hill repeats will of course help if you’re racing here

Well, maybe not exactly breaking but a recent study backs up what we’ve known for some time. It also adds to the picture a bit.

This study found that hill repeats of any kind improved a runner’s 5K performance by about 2%. That’s a pretty significant number. For a 20 minute 5K runner, 2% would be a 24 second improvement.

What I found interesting here is that they looked at repeats at different intensities and how that affected running economy and 5K performance. The result was that the highest intensity hill repeats improved running economy the most but, to quote the author, "there was no clear optimum for time-trial performance". In other words, while running economy improved most with the highest intensity hill repeats, other factors played into making 5K performance gains similar across all intensities.

What to take from this? First, hill repeats are good. No news here. Second, high intensity repeats are great for running economy. This shouldn’t be a huge surprise. We’ve known that short bursts of high intensity work are good for running economy already. That’s why we all do strides, even marathoners. Many runners would already at times take those strides to a hill to get a little more intensity. Third, there are other benefits to longer repeats. Again, we already knew this. That’s why hill repeats have been popular for decades.

So why am I writing about something that just tells us what we already know? First, it’s always good to make sure the science confirms what you already believe. Second, it never hurts to remind ourselves of what we’ve already known. We all know strides are good for us but I know I’ve forgotten this lesson at times and gotten away from doing strides. Have you gotten away from hill repeats? Maybe this is an opportunity to consider whether it would be a good idea to add them back.

Barefoot running: It’s about how you run more than what you run in

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


Another study on barefoot running is out. I find this one to be of particular interest because it’s asking a question I would like to see asked more often: is the benefit of barefoot running due to what you’re running in (nothing or next to nothing) or how you’re running (eliminating the heavy heel strike)? I have my opinion on this answer but I’d like to see science back it up.

This is a small study (only 12 runners) so it hardly closes the book on the question but it’s a step forward in beginning to explore the question.

As for the answer itself, it seems to conclude the same thing many people, myself included, believed. The benefits (and risks) of barefoot running have to do more with how we run (forefoot plant) when barefoot than what we’re running in.

Specifically, the runners, whether wearing shoes or not, gain shock absorption when switching to a forefoot plant. Going barefoot and keeping your heel plant, not surprisingly, increases injury risk. The risk of switching to a forefoot plant, also not surprisingly, is an increased load on your calf muscles. Specifically, the gastrocnemius, which is the outer muscle of the calf.

What’s the takeaway of this? Here’s what I’m taking out of it. If you’re going to consider minimal or "barefoot" shoes or barefoot running itself, remember, the shoes are a tool. It’s not the shoes that improve your running, it’s the form changes that the lack of cushioning in those shoes forces. At the same time, proceed with caution. Your calves will need to work harder than they are used to if you currently heel plant. As with anything, build up slowly.

In other words, the same thing some of us have been saying for years, going back even before Chris McDougall’s book was published.