Sunday, December 16, 2012
I started with this pic because this is one of my favorite spots on this particular trail. The picture doesn't even BEGIN to do this area justice.
Anyway, we knew before we headed out that it was going to be A.) Cold and B.) Snowing
It wasn't too much of either at the base but that changed pretty quickly the higher we climbed. the snow was pretty light as we crossed the Cascade Link trail so we decided to climb our favorite (and most difficult) trail - Spellman Trail. There are several spots on this trail where the ability to climb is a bonus and on a day in December where so much ice is on the mountain and the snow was beginning to fall, it was that much more challenging. There were unquestionably areas where our skills were put to the test as we navigated some tricky climbs and did our best to avoid the ice that cascaded in sheets in some areas over the rocks.
Here's a nice pic of the terrain:
The REAL fun began once we got above tree line. Fortunately, we had our YakTrax with us and were able to maintain steady footing on the snowy rocks. By now, the wind was whipping and the snow/ice was pelting us pretty good and with just over half a mile to the summit, there was NO WAY we wee backing down:
Buffeted by blizzard stength winds, all bundled up as best we could be, we forged ahead to the summit. The first photo is my wife, Storme. The second is me. The pictures don't tell the whole story but we were fighting ice and wind to stand up for these pictures, but we made it:
Of course, that is only half the story. We still needed to DESCEND. Alot of times, the descent can be more difficult than the descent but we chose a different trail going down - the Red Dot trail, which is still steep - especially coming down from the summit till about halfway down the mountain. Regardless of that fact, there was less ice and no sections we had to climb down. So just a matter of watching our step and being careful. As this photo quite clearly shows, we had our hands (and feet) full.....
Finally, we reached somewhat more level terrain but we had one more concern. It IS winter and it gets dark early - especially in the mountains on a snowy day. We really had to push hard while still watching our step to ensure that we got out of the woods before dark came on in all it's glory. We made it by probably 15 minutes or so as you can tell from this photo:
That photo shows about the last tenth of a mile before exiting the trailhead. It was almost full on dark at this point (we DO carry flashlights just in case). The full hike took about six hours. We were both exhausted but completely exhilarated that we had completed possibly our most difficult hikes and definitely our coldest.
Friday, November 30, 2012
Whether you want to race a short race or a longer race, the results of your endeavour will all come down to your training and race preparation. How you train and how much you train will differ depending on the distance. A 5k requires a different type of training than a half marathon as does a 10k or a full marathon. Whether your goal is simply to finish, or to hit a specific time goal, you have to train properly. For the 5k, it's pretty simple - if you just want to finish, run several times a week for 3 or 4 miles and you should be fine. If you want to set a time goal then you will want to add intervals.
What got me to writing this particular blog entry, however, has nothing to do with 5k's or 10k's. It has to do specifically with half marathons, which alot of runners aspire to but seem ill prepared for. I have raced many half marathons and completed 3 this year alone, setting a PR in each of those races. The REASON I am writing this is because some runners seem to believe that the HM is simply an extension of the shorter races and that they can continue with lower mileage and have a successful race. It isn't important what your goal for the HM is, but that perception will leave you with a bad race and possibly injured.
If you want to run your first HM and your goal is simply to "finish the race", that is fine, but some runners believe they can run 10 miles per week and then show up on race day and be good. They can't. They may finish the race, but then again the odds are that they will be far slower than they anticipated and will be on the course much longer than anticipated or they simply won't finish at all.
AT A MINIMUM, training for a HM should include a base mileage of 25 miles per week with a long run that equals the distance of the race - and that is absolutely bare bones training - no speed work, no tempos, just mileage. And that is if your goal is simply to say you finished. But shouldn't the runner want to finish feeling strong - with a feeling that not only did he or she accomplish the goal of racing the HM but also that they actually defeated the race. After all, racing is all about racing against ourselves and our own expectations. If I go into a race (as I did in September) with the goal of finishing with a 6:45 pace and I then finish with a 6:56 pace, then I'll be disappointed, despite the fact that I set a PR - I didn't reach my goal. In that case, it was a matter of not eating properly before the race (I believe). I'll find out in February.
If you want to race the HM and want to feel GREAT at the end, then you need to do more than the bare minimum. Base mileage should be in the mid 30's or higher - more is better but only to a point, depending on how good a shape you are in. I took the period between training for two HM's to increase my base mileage which is now around 50 miles per week. I WILL hit the 6:45 mark in my next race and part of my strategy for doing so involves higher mileage.
If you want to set a specific time goal for your HM then you are looking at an entirely different type of training. Besides increasing your base, you will also need to work in tempo runs and intervals or fartleks to work on your fast twitch fibers. You will want to EXCEED race distance by at least a couple of miles on each of your long runs and because of the additional strain on your body from added miles, as well as more difficult workouts, you will want to work in a "light" week, where you run fewer miles and don't do tempos/intervals so that the muscles can heal while you do easy runs at whatever pace your legs feel comfortable at. There are many good plans out there for the HM but they all require solid base mileage - the most important key next to proper nutrition for a successful race - no matter what the distance. I'll keep up the high mileage, the long tempos and the intervals for 10k's and 5k's as well but I'll structure them differently for the distance I am racing.
So, this is why I wrote this blog post. I want YOU to have a successful HM and I want to stress that the best chance you have for that to happen is by having solid base mileage that is high enough for the race you are intending to race. Please don't go into a half marathon with a 10 or 12 mile per week base and the intention of simply finishing, expecting that you will feel good coming out the other end. You may well be able to, but the odds are against you.
Good luck and keep running!
Friday, November 16, 2012
The other day I was reading an article that stated that every year 80% of runners suffer an injury.
I think this is an extraordinary claim. I know a lot of runners and injuries happen but I think the article I read failed to take several things into account. First and foremost - running attracts a lot of new participants who are prone to injury because they don't know what they're doing. Second, alot of people run on trails, which is also inherently dangerous and can lead to sprained ankles, knees, etc...
So I got to thinking about all of this and I have some thoughts on the subject. Novice runners, especially may want to take note of what I want to say but (of course) you have no obligation to listen to what I have to say. But, as a runner who has logged countless thousands of miles (going to have 2000+ this year alone) and finishes in the top tier in my age division regularly, I feel like I have some experience that might be worth passing along. I mean, after all, I've had my fair share of injuries over the years and I've learned alot.
So, with that in mind. If you are just starting out, or haven't been at this for too long - GO EASY.
Sure, you may want to race in the future (most of us do I think) or you may simply be a recreational runner, but injuries will set you back and may even discourage you from running and it doesn't need to be that way. My first run 5 1/2 years ago was a 2 mile jog down the street and back. Nothing amazing, but it was a beginning. I made the same mistake most new runners seem to make - I tried to do too much, too fast. And I got injured (on a regular basis I might add). I tried to add too many miles too soon. I tried to go faster than what my body was trained for or ready for.
PUSHING YOURSELF too hard and too fast is, I believe, the biggest cause of injuries in the sport. Even seasoned veterans fall into that trap sometimes, but it's less likely. It isn't your shoes. Any decent fitting running shoe that you feel comfortable in will do for the most part. Some people do, of course, have issues with over pronation and such (google it) or under pronation or some other thing that will require them to have specially fitted running shoes but that isn't true for most of us.
Another cause of injuries is people who go into a race completely unprepared for what they are doing. I've been to many races where people who were completely not trained tried to (for instance) run a half marathon. We had (have) a runner on these very forums who was set to run a half marathon but wasn't putting in the mileage. I tried as much as I could to encourage this person to increase their mileage. Their goal was to finish without a specific time in mind, which is fine, but they were only running about 4 - 8 miles per week. I tried to tell them they needed to work up to at least one long run every two weeks that exceeded that distance and that they should be putting in a MINIMUM of 25 - 30 miles per week. That person pretty much ignored my advice and I wasn't shocked when they reported back that they became injured during the race. Haven't seen them since either. That is a lesson I hope I can impart from their experience. Yes, it is bad for them, but hopefully we can all learn something from it.
Something else you can do to try and avoid injury is to alternate which side of the road you are running on. Roads have camber, for runoff, and that means if you are ALWAYS running against traffic, you are placing tremendous strain on the same muscles all of the time. You have to change sides, if only for the peace and mind of your joints, tendons and muscles. Take my word on this. Again, you can google it, however, if you think I'm missing something. If you have sidewallks, use them (they are flat) or, if you have roads where you can do it, run in the middle.
The recommended increases in distance are around 10% per week. Don't be shy to do less and give your body an easy week every few weeks as you increase your mileage so it has time to heal and get ready for more miles.
Learning how to recognize and differentiate muscle and tendon soreness from actual injury is NOTHING that anyone can teach you. It is simply learned. We will almost all get injured at some point or another. Not all of those injuries are running related - they could happen at work but effect our running. I tend to ignore tendon issues because with some heat and ice they generally resolve themselves without further intervention. Muscles are a different matter. A pulled muscle in a calf or thigh will sideline you. They are usually caused by running more miles than our bodies are ready for and though ice and heat will help, you will still miss a few days, at least.
Again, learning to listen to your body and knowing when to ignore the minor aches and pains that we all feel and recognizing a true injury is an art that cannot be taught. Only experience will be able to teach you when you can continue and when you should not.
Finally, let me leave you with this. Injuries happen in every sport. The key to prevention and minimization is knowing what you are doing and listening as best you can to your body. There is lots of advice out there. Sports doctors are great when you are having real issues but most injuries are simply a result of overuse and improper running technique. Do more research on how to build your mileage and how to protect your joints and tissues from injury on the roads and even when injuries occur, you will be better prepared to deal with them, recover from them and get back on the road where you belong. Don't let injuries stop you from running, even if they do occur. Quitting isn't an answer. Smart running is.
Thursday, November 15, 2012
Years ago, while doing my usual overabundance of research - in this case, how to be a faster runner, I read something about every run should have a purpose. I didn't really "get it" if you know what I mean. I was new to the sport, just learning how to train and wanting to improve my racing times. But the whole concept simply eluded me.
It has taken me YEARS to "get it", if you will. My training improved because I received help from more experienced runners and my training runs had purpose, I simply wasn't realizing it at the time. Thankfully, the person training me did and I finally "got it" today, while I was doing my morning run. I figured since I had my ephiphany, I would share with those of you who are still trying to figure it out.
There are several types of "training runs" which will help to improve your performance and make you a better runner in general. They can be broken down into categories:
1. Long run
2. recovery run
3. tempo run
4. intervals or fartleks (essentially the same thing)
I consider these to be the core workouts of a successful training plan and will all have different distances and speeds based on the length of your upcoming race and the goals you have for that race. Each of these runs has a purpose and even if you understand the goal of each run, you may not understand the purpose - that was where I was stuck. So, I'll try to help.
1. The long run has a single purpose - to train you for endurance, period. It is not to "recover". It is not work on speed. It is to build endurance. Believe me when I tell you that as a novice or even intermediate runner, this is the only thing you are shooting to get out of this run. If your goal race is a 10k then you probably want to do a long run of 10 miles. Why? Because you will build your endurance beyond the point of what your race distance is, making that race that much easier. It is worth putting in the extra miles and will pay off big on race day.
2. Recovery runs have another purpose - to give you a moving recovery after a hard training run. A long run would be a hard training run that is pushing your limits. The next run should be a recovery run. Even if you take a day off after the long run (or the tempo or interval runs), you should do recovery runs. Recovery runs are done at an easy pace - conversational pace, if you will. These runs are absolutely essential in a training plan and should (as I've learned) always take place before you do another hard training run. That is it's sole "purpose" - to allow your body to recover while still putting in some miles.
3. Tempo runs have a different purpose than either of the first two. This run's purpose is to train your body to run at pace for a long period of time. These runs, by the end of training should be approaching your goal race pace and, in my opinion, should be fairly close in length to the distance you are going to be racing - to allow your body to get used to what it will experience on race day.
4. Intervals or fartleks have the purpose of training your fast twitch fiber muscles. They will also improve your cardio for race day by pushing your cardio system to it's max. Intervals can be used in an alternating method with hill repeats (intervals on a hill). Hill repeats will not only serve the purpose of building your cardio strength but also your power which definitely comes in handy on race day.
This goes back to the original point of what I read that day. EVERY run should have a purpose. It should do something to help you to perform at your best on race day. If you aren't planning on racing, then of course, none of this pertains to you.
If it is your first race and you simply want to finish with no specific time goals then you should focus on your long runs and building your base mileage - which will help you to finish your race in fine shape.
Currently, I am between training periods. I run 5 - 6 days a week at a comfortable pace with only one goal in mind - building my base mileage. I don't do fartleks or hill repeats or tempos or any of that. I am simply building my base so that when I begin training again, I have a higher mileage to start from so that I can increase my training intensity for the next race.
I hope this helped to make "purpose" understandable and also helped to explain the purpose of each of the runs in an understandable way. Or maybe I just spent the last 15 minutes typing this for no apparent reason other than I felt a need to do so.... :-)
Tuesday, May 29, 2012
One of the most important *things* I've gotten from running is confidence. I have done things I never would have thought possible. I've run marathons. I've run 6 minute miles at 50 years of age. I've pushed myself beyond limits that I didn't even know existed for me and I will beat this as well - *this* being the heat. Running has given me so much when it comes to my belief that I can overcome anything that I no longer feel there really ARE any limits. But I still have one more thing I need to beat to be a complete runner - the heat. The heat has been my worst enemy but really, the enemy is within.
Despite everything I've done and all that I've accomplished, I still wilt in the heat but I am bound and determined to beat that as well. Today was a perfect example. It was 85 degrees and super humid when I went for my run this morning. I only did 7 miles but halfway through I already wanted to slow down, take a break. So I didn't. What I did was push harder. I made myself ignore the temperatures and focus on the run, on my form, on my breathing. Anything but the heat. It worked, but it was only 7 miles. I need to make that happen at 10 miles and 15 miles and 20 miles and I am determined that I will. Summer is only just getting here and I know that there are many more hot and humid days to come and my training is only going to intensify over even what I did this past winter and spring and if I am going to succeed at that training, I will NEED to conquer the heat. There are no buts or ifs about it. I have to defeat the heat and I WILL defeat the heat. And how do I know this? Because running has taught me that with perseverance and will power, I can accomplish ANYTHING. It has helped me to stop drinking. It helped me to complete my degree program. It helped me to set multiple PR's in one racing season and to push through a grueling half marathon in high temps and humidity just a few days ago - but I was wilting and my pace slowed below what I thought I should have done and I am determined to not let the heat get the best of me again.
If you are a new runner, or not so new runner, you too will learn to overcome obstacles and limits you didn't even know existed but you will do it because that is what running will do for you if you take it seriously enough and work through those things that intimidate you and overcome them.
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