Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Jiu Jitsu

Today my body aches in an old familiar way I have not experienced for far too long.  The muscles in my core, back, and limbs cry out to be rebuilt.  I stand taller, my back is straight, shoulders swept back and my head is held high.  After one night of Jiu Jitsu I feel beat up but also stronger and confident.  The change in seasons has brought about this change in my training, good bye cycling and hello strength training and MMA.

I took up Jiu Jitsu in the fall of 2007 and have since adopted it as my winter sport.  It was easy to fall in love as Jiu Jitsu is a fast paced, intellectually challenging, social experience.  Practical experience is gained, flexibility increased, muscles are strengthened and cardiovascular performance is improved.  A better total body workout cannot be found.

Ten months of running, cycling, and swimming left me in good shape for my return but I am notably weaker.  My arms, never large to begin with, measure over an inch smaller today.  Luckily my mind has remained sharp and I picked up about where I left off.  I plan to split my time between training for the 50K trail run 4 Feb 2011 and MMA / strength training in the coming weeks.  If all goes well I can add much needed muscle and build a solid base for running.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

First Snow

This morning marked the first snowfall of the season.  There wasn't much but I have been looking forward to fresh powder so I can gain experience running in it.  I would like to do the Badgerland Striders John Dick Memorial 50k trail run 4 Feb 2012 but need to build my confidence first and see what works and does not.  The cold weather has been surprisingly rather pleasant to run in thus far.  This is all new to me so I am treading forward with cautious optimism.   
Lake Michigan bluffs with a light dusting of snow
I set out with my dog and made my way to the off road trails.   On the paved trail the way there I stuck to the grass where I could and enjoyed the feel and audible crunch of the still frozen surface beneath my feet.  There were plenty of tracks all along the trail from other trail users and animals that told a story all in themselves.  Getting to the off road trail I felt great relief and was instantly more in tune with myself, my animal, and nature.  
The trail can be seen wrapping inside the bluff
The off road trails were for the most part frozen with a rare slick patch of mud.  The entire experience was very serene yet challenging.  I kept foot turnover very high and greatly enjoyed the challenge of staying balanced on the twisting, winding, sometimes hilly path.  The workout was great with many stabilizer muscles getting put to good use they don't see on the road.
Lefty is at his best in the cold.  I wore a pack so he didn't have to.
Our run came out to 16 enjoyable miles with 4 of them off road trail.  I kept my heart rate low, stayed hydrated, and ate making the run much easier to recover from.  I plan to follow up with 16 more miles tomorrow.  The next few months will be my base period and my plan is to run 3 days a week with back to back long runs on the weekend.  Swimming, Racquetball, Muay Thai, and Jiu Jitsu will fill out the rest of the week.

Any thoughts or resources on winter trail running will be greatly appreciated by me.  It is safe to assume no knowledge of the subject on my part.  My biggest concern at the moment is footwear with respect to traction and water resistance.  I am confident there is plenty I have not thought of. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Miami Rock n Roll 1/2 Marathon

The Rock 'n' Roll Miami Beach ½ marathon was a great experience.  The unique course offered spectacular views of the city and ocean and a few challenging inclines over the bridges of the Julia Tuttle and MacArthur Causeways.  My wife and I took Friday and Monday off and made a vacation of the long weekend.  My little sister from Tampa, her man and a friend joined us making the weekend even more epic.  This was my sisters fifth half marathon and the others first.  She is a true ambassador to the sport, recruiting two former college football stars to the world of distance running.  It was a great crew and Miami offered endless possibilities beyond racing.
Post race recovery on the beach
The trip to the start line race day was entertaining to say the least.  The night party scene was just winding down as we made it to ocean drive.  Temperatures were near 80˚F and some strong winds on the order of 20 mph had blown in.  The day before the race we all went for a short 20 minute run where the heat led me to revise my expectations for the race downward.  I have been training in the 20˚F - 40˚F band of temperatures, a whole different animal.  Don’t get me wrong, I was happy to trade the 10˚F race day weather back home for Miami.
At this point the heat left me feeling like my brain was too big for my skull
I started farther back in the first corral than I should have and had to creatively maneuver to find some space after the start.  I thought I went out too fast but I must have been downright conservative in comparison to the rest of the field as it wasn't until the 5k that I stopped passing runners and settled into a space that I neither caught nor passed anyone.  At this point in the race the heat was an overwhelming factor.  I drank water at every station and had soaked my clothes with sweat.  I have done 20 milers in the cold without a drink of water in comparison.
The love of my life on her way to a successful run following a metatarsal fracture
The first 5k featured the best bands of the run.  At the 5k the singer from Amanda Zero said “it’s a good day to run a fucking marathon”.  I have to agree with her sentiment though it was only a half marathon.  Pace was a useless metric in the heat and I was keeping an eye on my heart rate and perceived effort – throttling back when I got too ambitious.  The first bridge of the Julia Tuttle Causeway showcased my new found ability to race hills without getting owned.  I feel my focus on aerobic training has made me a much stronger hill runner in a very short time.  I cannot explain the mechanism behind it.  
My sister in the final miles
It was fun to take the long downhill from the bridge and reach mainland Miami.  It is not every day that law enforcement shuts down roads for running and I enjoyed the spectacle laid out before me.  A lot of runners began to fade before the half way point of the race as I began passing in force again.  I was happy to be applying the lessons I learned in a previously failed ½ marathon in similar conditions on this day.  Examination of my splits without context would suggest a poor race but under the conditions it was a steady effort getting stronger.                    
My sister taught me when a girl passes a guy it is called "getting chicked"  She was a fierce and talented competitor who stayed with me to the last mile but I am happy to say I did not get chicked.
Mainland Miami was a nice break from the heat.  The wind provided subtle relief without resistance and there were plenty of water stops and people spraying hoses.  Turning back to Miami Beach on the MacArthur Causeway I was greeted by the strongest headwind I have ever run into, and it was uphill.  The wind would be the main factor for the final 5 miles.  For reasons unknown to me my cadence drops when running into strong winds.  The one regret I have from this race it is not maintaining my cadence, I broke into a slight over stride from this point forward.  The loss in efficiency likely cost me a minute or two and led to increased risk of injury.

There were some long deserted stretches in here and the sun made a prolonged appearance.  I always find when races are divided mentally into fourths it is that third leg that is always the most challenging.  Add in wind, elevation, sun, and it took a lot of focus.  People kept fading and I kept pushing past.  I went for broke and pushed my heart rate near its max for the remainder of the race.
Crossing the finish line and happy to be there
I was thrilled to turn onto the final stretch and picked up quite a few spots in the last mile.  Runners were strung out in front of me and I had no real understanding of how large or small the field ahead of me was.  I was very surprised to learn my 1:32:24 effort placed me as high as it did in a field that included national elites.  A conservative estimate would subtract 6.8% from everyone’s race times under optimal conditions.  Details are on Garmin Connect.

1456 men and 2224 women competed in the event
Almost a year ago I ran my first half marathon on little training after coming back from injury.  It was an incredibly difficult effort and a horribly desperate recovery in the week that followed.  I loved the challenge and committed to improving.  Under far more challenging conditions than my first half marathon I improved by close to 20 minutes.  As this race brings the 2011 race season to a close for me I look forward to what 2012 will bring.   

There is a reason the Rock n Roll race series is popular and it is because they put on one of a kind, well organized events of high quality and reasonable value.  I would do another race in the series.      

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Beets with Avocado and Orange

The January 2012 issue of Runners World contained a recipe for Beets with Avocado and Orange that looks delicious.  It also contains ingredients I consider exotic and as such may be better suited for a restaurant.  I have a simple philosophy in the kitchen and that is to keep ingredients to a manageable level and use seasonal produce.  It reduces waste, saves time, and money.  The photo and recipe brought me to action and I created a simpler version with what I had on hand.   

Since going Paleo I have replaced many of the grains I eat with roots, including beets.  Avocado, oranges, and beets are all staples in the kitchen these days and taste delicious by themselves or as an addition to other dishes.  The ten ingredients of the original recipe can be cut to four with good results.  Not only is the dish paleo it is also vegan and vegetarian.

Beets with Avocado and Orange.  Beets turn everything they touch purple.

4 small-medium Beets
2 Avocados
11 oz Mandarin Oranges
½ Lime juiced

The Runners World recipe called for boiling beets.  I prefer roasting them as they retain more flavor and moisture.  Preheat an oven to 350 F.  Cover the beets and cook for an hour.  Let cool and peel / dice.  Peel, seed, and dice the avocado and toss with the juice of the lime.  Mix the beets, avocado, and oranges together and enjoy.  

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Embracing Aerobic Training and First Marathon

The month of November marked a decided shift in my running away from high intensity short duration efforts to long duration aerobic efforts, culminating in my first marathon this past Sunday.  I have learned a lot about endurance and myself by pushing my limits in this unfamiliar territory.  Naturally there is still much to be learned and attempted.  This is an exciting new space for me and I hope to continue to see large gains from this change in focus and concentrating on base miles over the coming months.

The best way to quantify the previous paragraph is in terms of time and heart rate.  Of course doing so cheapens the sensations and challenges that accompany actual human endurance feats, but serves to establish a reference.  Short duration represents efforts between 30 and 90 minutes.  High intensity represents anaerobic efforts at a steady pace that began greater than 80% max heart rate and feature significant cardiac drift to maximum heart rate.  Long duration reflects efforts greater than 2 hours.  Aerobic efforts are those that take place at a low heart rate and feature no cardiac drift at a sustainable pace.
My most loyal training partner is tireless and unstoppable in the cool weather and has been packing our food and drink for long runs.  Here he is excited to go.
I have spent most of my life with a simple training philosophy of pushing my body to its limit quickly out of the gate and staying there as long as I can. It has served me well and I have seen much improvement in the half marathon space as such. To reach my full potential and conquer marathon plus distances I will need to better balance my training. Such heavily weighted anaerobic training has always yielded faster race times for me in short distances and comparatively slower times in long distances when using equivalent performance race tables. Conversely heavily weighted aerobic training yields the opposite result.

My first marathon was nothing special, just a training run with my dog the Sunday after Thanksgiving.  The weather could have been better at 37 F and 18-22 mph winds but to fully appreciate the best we have to experience the worst.  I split the run into three sections and took a food and water break for the dog and I at miles 9 and 18.  The first nine were easy with the wind at my back, the second nine more challenging into the wind and the last 8.2 miles were 100% of the effort.  I have never had so desperate a recovery by the time I finished.  My animal was annoyingly strong and capable.  All the details are on Garmin connect.

Cold, wet, and less excited after being caught in the rain the last hour of a 3 hour  run.
I can only describe the run as a failure, the last 10k were a terrible struggle and I found my limits well before I finished.  Had the run gone well I would have learned little, failure is the greatest teacher and as such the run was a great success.  There is plenty for me to adjust for future efforts from pacing to food and water intake etc...  Now that I have experience at this distance I can better understand and appreciate the training theory that accompanies it.              

I have long been aware of the concept of high mileage training to include recovery runs but dismissed the notion as junk miles. After failing to conquer my first attempt at a century ride, and other experiences cycling I began to rethink running. Seeing the writings and accomplishments of runners successfully utilizing high mileage training plans further fueled my intrigue, notably Britt of ChicagoRunner Girl. Excellent accounts about the merits of recovery runs by Patrick Mahoney at Endurance Athlete Project and of base training here and here by Will at An Ultra Runners Blog greatly aided in my acceptance and understanding of aerobic training. I am thankful to all for sharing their accounts.