Saturday, April 18, 2009

Video: Ryan Hall's Boston Marathon Workout

Check out the video I just embedded at the bottom of this blog. Shows Ryan Hall on an 8 mile tempo running he completed in 38 minutes! That's an average of roughly 4 minutes and 45 seconds per mile...WOW.

I mentioned in earlier blogs the 90 BPM cadence and forefoot running style used by the elites. This video lets you see Ryan doing both with some great side angle shots so you can really see his running form. Highly recommend runners of all levels to watch this and use the pause/play button to slow down to view individual frames.

If you watch closely, his heels never hit the ground and it is quite amazing how much of the time his body is actually floating in the air like a deer. In particular, check out the video frames from 1:42 to 1:50 as well as 2:05 to 2:20. For all of you visual learners, this is truly awesome. Enjoy!

Friday, April 17, 2009

The 90 BPM songs I listen to when running

After my post yesterday about loading your iPod with 90 Beat per Minute (BPM) songs to help run at proper cadence, I had a few requests asking what music I listened to when running. Well let me tell you, the list below took some trial and error. A few of the songs I would never have imagined listening to, but tried them out since they were 90 BPM and found them to be very inspirational. Below is the list I have narrowed it down to.

Artist, Song Title, BPM
U2, One, 90
Incubus, Drive, 91
Sublime, Santeria, 91
Nine Inch Nails, Closer, 90
ACDC, Back in Black, 92
Jimmy Buffett, Love and Luck, 93
Jimmy Buffett, One Particular Harbor, 93
Cracker, This is Cracker Soul, 90
George Thorogood, Night Time, 90
Red Hot Chili Peppers, Give it Away, 91
Van Morrison, Bright Side of the Road, 89
Stiff Little Fingers, Tin Soldiers, 91
Jimmy Buffett, Volcano, 89
Neil Diamond, I am....I said, 89
Neil Diamond, Forever in Blue Jeans, 90
Neil Diamond, Holy Holy, 89

If you have other songs that are near 90 BPM that are not listed here that you think are great running tunes, please post a comment or shoot me an email so I can check them out. Thanks!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Running with an iPod

Should you use one or not? That is one of the great debates in running community. I for one don't buy the argument that they are a safety hazard and I’m a big fan of wearing one while running. I find it a shame that some race organizers go so far as to prohibit their use and threaten participants with disqualification if they are caught wearing one. I can understand them prohibiting the elite (paid) runners in major events, but not for the majority of runners. Fortunately, there was a recent amendment by the USATF in December 2008 to their rules regarding headphone use. The USATF official rule now states that such devices are only prohibited for those competing in Championships for awards, medals and prize money.

One big reason I'm a fan of wearing an iPod is that I love music and there is nothing like a great running song to get you through the hard part of a hill climb or to the end of a long training run when your body says no and you need that extra motivation to go the extra mile. Another great reason, and perhaps even more important, is that if you put the right music on your iPod, you can use the beat to help you maintain proper running cadence (stride turnover rate). Jack Daniels and many other running gurus have determined the optimum cadence for running (10K to Marathon distances) is 90 steps per minute for each foot. Meaning, your right foot should touch down 90 times per minute.

Most beginning and intermediate runners run with a cadence that is too slow. When this was first pointed out to me, my cadence was only 82 per minute. Figuring out how to run at the faster 90 cadence was a real challenge. I remember that my heart rate went up significantly and it was really hard to maintain. Like most things, the focus on speeding up my cadence led to a number of running stride changes and when I finally figured it out, the result was that I ran much faster with less effort and had lower heart rate. I’ll warn you this didn’t happen overnight and was part of a long evolution in my stride, but will say that it is a journey well worth taking as the end result is faster times, less fatigue, fewer injuries, and great sense of accomplishment. I’ll go more into that journey in future posts, but for now, let me tell you how to leverage your iPod to help you focus on the correct running cadence.

First off, you need to go through your iTunes and locate all the songs that are 90 Beats Per Minute (BPM). There is a program you can download called beaTunes that will analyze your iTunes music to determine the BPM for all songs in your library and update iTunes to show the BPM counts. It is a shareware program that costs about $30, but you can download a free trial to use for a week and that’s all you really need for this project. The program can be downloaded here: www.beatunes.com. They have versions for Mac, PC, and Linux.

Once you install beaTunes, you can sort your iTunes music library by BPM and then add the songs that are roughly 90 BPM to your iPod and use it to run at the right cadence. Overtime, I have narrowed my running playlist to about 20 songs that range from 89 to 94 BPM that get me psyched up while running. Was a bit of a trial and error process of trying out some songs, then deleting them after a run if the beat was not clear enough to make out or the song didn’t have the positive aspects needed to keep me running. Note that 180-188 BPM songs also work great. Also note that in iTunes, you will need to go to the file menu and select view, then view options…then put a check mark next to Beats Per Minute in order to see BPM column in your music list.

When you first try running at 90 BPM, it most likely will feel really fast so don't expect to do it for a long period of time. Just use the iPod beat as a focus point and try to keep up with it. When running with faster cadence, you will most likely need to shorten your stride. ChiRunning is a great book to reference for this and the author Danny Dreyer also goes into why 90 BPM is the best cadence for injury free running. After you practice this a while, you will eventually get used to the faster turn over and find your speed increases while perceived effort level decreases so you can cover more ground with same output of energy. I find that when I get tired, my cadence slows down and I end up working harder. By having 90 BPM songs on my iPod, when I get tired, I focus on keeping pace with the beat with shorter fast strides. Works great!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Great News....Blog Motivated Reader to Register for a Marathon

Just a quick note to spread the good news. Feedback on the new blog has been great and one reader sent me an email blaming me for making him sign up for the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington DC on October 25, 2009.

All kidding aside, he said my posts to this blog was the inspiration he needed and helped motivate him to go online and register today! Was really neat to hear. Very, very cool.

Keep the comments and emails coming. Is great to hear your stories too.

What Running Shoes Do You Recommend?

Thanks to everyone for the positive emails about me starting the blog. Randy Gorman let me know his training for a triathlon in May is going great, but he's wondering if I have any recommendations for running shoes. This is another one of those questions I hear a lot and I've done a lot of trial and error with so here's my experience and opinion on the topic....

To begin, my general opinion is that the shoe manufacturer's have done the running community a disservice by promoting shoes with way too much cushion and support. They've conjured up a ton of hype and technical terms to convince runners they need to buy fancy $100+ shoes to correct their running stride, save their knees, etc. The shoes feel great...like driving a Cadillac, but in my opinion, they do more harm than good. Reason why is they put a bunch of distance and cushion between the runners foot and the running surface, which results in the runner's body/brain losing touch with how their foot/leg is positioned when it strikes and how hard it is actually hitting.

I should note that during the process of figuring out the right shoes, you also need to consider your running form and work on your stride. Running is one of those sports where people just do it and most never think of getting a coach or taking lessons. If you think about it, pretty much every sport you have ever done you read a book, took a lesson, or practiced in some way. With running, people tend to just slap on their shoes and go pound the pavement. I have learned that shoes get in the way and cause us to not pay attention which leads to poor running form. ChiRunning is a great book on running form and Matt Fitzgerald's Brain Training for Runners also has some very good tips to help improve your stride.

Perhaps the best exercise you can do in order to experience better running form is to go to a park and run barefoot in the grass. Remember when you were a kid? Running around at the park or chasing a friend across a large grass field...running barefoot? It was natural and you never complained about your feet hurting. If your chase required you to run down a concrete sidewalk, you didn't stop...you continued the pursuit, running with ease and no pain. If you look at history and pay close attention to the shoes, you will see that runners used to train and race in shoes that had no cushion at all. They were essentially a flat leather sole or thin rubber material in place to protect the foot from sharp objects. Those runners ran as though they were running barefoot. They had to or they would bruise their feet. For new runners, going to the park and running barefoot once a week would be great way to get the feel down then try and retain that same form/feeling when running on hard surface with running shoes.

If you look at today's elite marathon runners, their shoes have more cushion than say 30 years ago, but not much. The shoes these runners use are very light weight and often referred to as racing flats. When you study their form, the first part of their foot to hit the ground is the forefoot (ball of their foot) just like you did as a kid when you ran barefoot. By landing on the forefoot instead of the heel, their body is able to use the calf and soleus muscles along with the achilles tendon and other tendons/ligaments as a system to absorb the shock. Better yet, this system actually loads itself with energy during the stance phase that results in more explosive push off...and done correctly...helps propel the runner forward (more on running stride in future post).

Using one of the top selling running shoes promoted by the major manufacturers, it is virtually impossible to run with good form. The large amount of material built to keep you from pronating gets in the way causing heel to strike first and all the cushion squishes down to absorb the shock for you so you miss out on that build up of energy in your lower leg that significantly improves running economy. Resulting in your running requiring more effort to cover the same amount of ground...and a feeling of slogging it out to get your body down the street.

I started out with a pair of shoes that had all kinds of bells and whistles because I had calf muscle issues and was concerned about the wear and tear on my body. After reading a similar article, I decided to try some lighter shoes and immediately noticed an improvement. Even the weight of the shoes was a big improvement allowing my legs to run more freely without being encumbered by heavy running shoes.

Eventually I found a shoe from Saucony called the Fastwitch 3. I've used that shoe for all 4 of my marathons and all of my training the past year up until about 3 weeks ago. The Fastwitch 3 weighs in at about 7.3 ounces and has pretty minimal support. It is billed as a race shoe for 10K up to marathon distances. I think it is a great shoe for people in transition because it still has a fairly substantial heel cushion for heel striking which you will need until your lower legs get strong enough to maintain forefoot running the whole distance of your long runs.

Recently I tried out the new Asics Gel-Hyperspeed 3 running shoes. They were released to the market in January this year and boy was I impressed. Weight wise they are similar to the Saucony Fastwitch 3's coming in at 7.1 ounces. However, the shoe is substantially different in design whereas it is intended to be worn by forefoot runners only. The heel is noticeably smaller and does not get in the way. Interestingly, the thickness of the shoe in forefoot area is more than the Fastwitch 3's, yet the material is so dense that it doesn't interfere. I have now run quite a few training runs with these shoes including a 21 miler last weekend and am happy to report they are awesome. For what its worth, these shoes also happen to be the ones currently being worn by American marathon runners Deena Kastor and Ryan Hall so they've got great endorsements by America's elite distance runners.

The first time I ran in them I noticed it was easier to run landing on my forefoot. It felt more like barefoot running. I had all the protection I needed and the shoes were so light it was as if I was running barefoot. I also noticed some changes in my stride and believe the change has resulted in an improvement in running speed.

So...the bottom line is you need to choose your shoes wisely. Some people will have no choice due to physical limitations, but most people can and should experiment with less cushioned shoes that allow them to get back in touch with the road. Road Runner Sports is a great place to shop during this process. I have no affiliation with the company. I just like their return policy, which is a no questions asked 60 day period where you can buy, try, return, buy, try, return...over and over until you find the perfect shoe. Unlike other stores, RRS lets you actually run in the shoes and return them dirty. My suggestion is to buy a couple pairs of different shoes from RRS and make sure you sign up for their annual membership as that is required to get the 60 day return program. Then go for several 3 to 6 mile runs in them. If anything strange pops up, take them back and try different ones.

Be sure to look at the shoes with minimal support. They refer to these as "natural". Nike has a good one called the Luna Trainer and also the LunaRacer. Super light, but amazingly comfy. Asics has the Gel-Bandito and the Hyperspeed 3's. Saucony has the Fastwitch 3 and the Grid Type A2's. Once you look at those shoes, you will see all the other majors like Adidas have their own lightweight racers and you can try them on too.

Another quick note is sizing. You want the shoe to be snug, but you also need to make sure you have enough room at the toe. I have found the best fit to be where my foot has no movement side to side...the shoe is quite snug around my foot...and I have about an inch between end of my toe and tip of shoe. Anything less and I get black toenails and blisters on my toes. I normally wear a size 11, but my running shoes are size 12.5 or 13 depending on the manufacturer so make sure you size up when buying running shoes.

In summary, finding the right shoes is personal and requires a lot of experimenting. You also need to take into consideration "how" you run and focus on improving your running stride. Together, the right shoes and improved running stride will result in more efficient running that is faster and pain free. Hope this helps. Good luck and enjoy the process.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Chicago Marathon October 11, 2009

It's official. I got my start corral assignment and confirmation from the good folks at the Chicago Marathon. The last two years have been unusually hot so I'm guessing this year we are in for some great, cool weather.

If you are interested in running this year, register online now before they reach max capacity. The race has max of 45,000 runners and I heard this week they are approaching 40,000. Here is link to website: http://www.chicagomarathon.com/CMS400Min/Chicago_Marathon/

So much to do, so little time

Isn't that the truth? Sitting here typing this at the good old age of 42. In many ways, seems like I'm in my early twenties...at least until I go to stand up and the aches/pains set in.

I started this blog to share my stories...the success, the injuries, the trials and tribulations...that I have encountered along the way as I've gone from a back of the pack beginner to a solid mid pack runner who with any luck, will qualify for Boston this year.

Many people ask me why I run marathons or how in the world do I do it. I've gotten that question enough now that I decided to share my story on how I got back into running. Hopefully this will motivate you or someone you know to start running too.

Looking back, I had a long history of being extremely active growing up, but my life became consumed with work when I founded a high tech startup called IP3. At the end of 2007, I reflected on the past year and decided it was time to get back in shape and come hell or high water, I was going to run the Rock N' Roll Marathon in San Diego on June 1, 2008. I did it in 1999 so knew my body could go the distance. I just had to start training and make it happen.

A little background on my recent running experience, I really didn’t do any running in 2007 and could not do any exercise in January 2008 due to sinus surgery. When I did my first training run February 10th, 2008 I weighed in at 205 pounds and about 25% body fat. On that first run, I could only run about a mile before I had to stop and walk. I had pains in my lower legs and feet plus lots of thoughts going through my head about how this was crazy. Good news was I had already committed to running the marathon and knew I had no choice except to figure out how to get my body in shape. A big goal like running a marathon is what I needed to stay focused.

Over the next month I changed many things. For starters, I did some pretty radical changes to my diet like cut out pasta, bread and other processed foods so I could regain control of my insulin level and fuel my body correctly. I also read many books on nutrition and running, which lead me to Omega-3 fish oil, which is now something I take on a regular basis due to how it aides the recovery process and reduces inflammation similar to Advil, but naturally. I spent time with a running coach and a sports medicine doctor to get my running technique perfected and tried out a variety of shoes. I also found a very, very good sports massage therapist who worked magic to fix my aching legs and all the knots in my calf muscles.

The whole process was an amazing experience and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Each step of the way, I was tweaking things and improving things to run more efficiently, reduce risk of injury, get stronger, run faster, run farther, etc. I had a lot of challenges, but also a lot of victories along the way. It was both amazing and exhilarating to push through mental barriers and physical barriers. Another huge side benefit is that my cholesterol and triglyceride levels dropped like a rock to a point where they are so good that my doctor just about fell out of his chair the last time I was tested saying something like “I can’t believe it. Whatever you are doing, don’t stop”.

Over the past year, my weight has dropped to 180 and my body fat is now about 12%. I’m able to wear clothes that I hadn’t been able to fit in for many years and I just feel so much better. Best of all, I did finish the Rock N' Roll Marathon and did so pain free! Went on to complete the Chicago Marathon in October and set a PR in Phoenix at the Rock N Roll Arizona running 3:52.

I've learned a ton along the way. Many people ask me for advice so figure best next step is start brain dumping into the blog. Hope you like it and please add comments. Thanks and may you too have many more days of happy running!