Monday, January 27, 2014

Running Hacks

've compiled a list of twenty-seven running hacks. Not necessarily training advice, these tidbits pertain  to everyday running lifestyle - the products, fashion,  and habits that can make your running world great*

I.  Shave speed stripes on the right side of your head.  Less drag on the outside = easier left turns on the track.  I've taken fluid mechanics.  Would I lie to you?  Plus, they're intimidating?

II.  How to get rid of side cramps on the run: breathe rhythmically with your footfalls, exhaling every four steps and taking the time in between to inhale evenly.  Exhale the moment your foot hits the ground on the side of the cramp until it goes away. This really works.

III.  Just keep running.  Let's say you amass 50,000 miles in your lifetime at an average of seven minutes per mile.  According to Einstein's theory of Special Relativity, time will move more slowly compared to the couch potatoes around you, and you will save 1 / 134,217,728th  of a second relative to them.  I know what you're thinking.  If you're dreaming in the third level of inception, though, that's enough time to blink one more time in your life. Worth it.

IV.  End Saturday Nite with a Miller Lite to rehydrate.  #BrewCity

V.  Iron.  Man or woman, boy or girl; you should get your levels checked.  I became a totally new runner when I began taking ferrous sulfate after finding my ferritin level was low.  I also heard eating calf liver works.

VI.  If you're doing an out-and-back run on a cold, windy day, run the first half into the wind and come back with it.  Otherwise, you'll be running the second half sweaty and into the wind and you'll need a Ton-Ton from Han, who shot first by the way.

VII.  Vaseline.  Gold Bond.  Use them.  Gotta keep yourself greased up.  Don't end up like the tin man.  Or more accurately, Meat boy from Super Meat Boy.

VIII.  Pedialyte.  The stuff you give babies when they have diarrhea.  Because our society's fascination with the word 'electrolytes' is actually somewhat grounded in science, and this replaces them like no other.  Sip it all day.

IX. If someone heckles you from a car window in a positive way, good for you.  If someone heckles you from a car window in a negative way, the smart thing to do would be to ignore them.  Or you could yell exactly what they said back at them in your favorite voice.  Nicolas Cage, The Dark Night, and Gollum work pretty well.

X.  When running on the treadmill, make a habit of setting the incline to 1.0%.  This will simulate normal running more closely and reduce treadmill induced soreness and injury.

XI.  Keep your Achilles Tendon warm in the winter.  Don't expose it to the cold air - wear high socks, tights, etc.  Onset of Achille's tendonitis is highly correlated to running in cold weather.  According to a study by

XII.  Halfway to two-thirds of the way into long runs, eat something.  Bring a calorie dense item since you're running with it. (not twenty pounds of celery)  I've used Powergels and graham crackers to begin the recovery process before the run's over.

XIII.  Using your sock to finish doing your business in the woods is not a running hack.  You will develop a blister, compensate for it, and be rewarded with a knee problem or something.  Bringing toilet paper on runs is a running hack, however.

XIV.  Wet running shoes?  Stuff them with balled up newspaper overnight and they'll be dry for your next run.  Or you can be like my dad and put them in the oven... actually don't do that.

XV.  Do things that have a strong placebo effect, but make sure to pretend there's no placebo effect.  This can include wearing compression socks or arm sleeves, taking vitamins, and stretching.  Click here if you disagree.

XVI.  Assess what motivates you.  If you're running to get nice legs, a great tan, or for the social aspect, I've got some news for you.                 You're doing it for the exact right reasons.

XVII.  Wear short shorts.  But never on top of half tights.  This is how the non-running public identifies and forms their opinions about us, and we wouldn't want to disappoint or confuse them.

XVIII.  On out-and-back runs, run a minute or two longer than half the desired total run time out, since you'll probably negative split back.  This will help you avoid running in circles when you get back to base looking like a chicken with its head cut off.

IXX.  After a race, take care of your gear.  Remove the position stickers before washing shorts to avoid gunk.  Unpin your bib number: the pins can rust into your singlet if it's sweaty.  If that does happen, remove the little rust stains with some lemon juice and vinegar.

XX.  If you've run a half marathon or marathon, make sure you have a 13.1 or 26.2 sticker on your car, or it doesn't count.

XXI.  Increase your stride frequency.  Higher turnover translates to a more efficient stride.  On runs, you can count the number of times your left foot hits the ground and multiply it by two.  (Elite runners tend to have stride frequencies of 180 hertz or more.)  Make a conscious effort to increase your rate on runs and it'll slowly become natural.

XXII.  Dancing.  In my experience, a night of dancing actually recovers the legs.  You get dynamic stretching, plyometrics, and euphoria all in one dose.  Best done the night after a race.

XXIII.  Peruse Google Maps in satellite mode whenever you're in an unknown place and want to go running.  It's great for finding trails, green space, and sketchy parking lots.

XXIV.  Lose weight / achieve race weight by eating more often.  Instead of taking in two or three big meals a day, keep the insulin spikes low by eating lite meals every two hours.  Your metabolism will churn around the clock and you will feel great.

XXV.  Alternate between two pairs of trainers.  Run in pair A on odd days of the month and pair B on the even days.  With the rest, the material in each will last longer which means you save ca$h.

XXVI.  Use running shorts as underwear.  You will be ready to run in any situation.  This really solidifies your identity as a runner.  Not sure if this works for girls.

XXVII.  Let yourself do things that make you happy.  Running is not always about unyielding sacrifice.  It's about channeling yourself through one outlet during training and on race day, but being a full person otherwise.

* I do not purport to be an expert on any of the above made claims.  I am not a coach, physicist, pharmacist, cartographer, nutritionist,  masseuse, sports psychologist, fashion designer, or comedian.  Really, I'm just a guy.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Run The Story

C'mon, get him all the way in... Dammit.
Damn her, Thetis, for failing to fully immerse her son Achilles in the River Styx.  He, made only partially invincible by her act, ultimately fell by his heel, with which she held him under, not touched by the chilly, black water. Achille's end was Hector's arrow to this sole mortal piece of flesh, and today, us runners suffer the vestiges of Thetis' mistake in the guise of Achilles' tendonitis.  It doesn't always halt training like stress fractures or serious illness do.  But it has a way of punishing good faith training by competitive (read: stubborn) athletes.  Lingering, then withdrawing and encouraging, again returning and dismaying.  And so, when I felt Hector coming back for the kill late this fall, we immediately played it safe and took some time away from running.

Not much time.  I have no right to complain about injury given what many runners go through, missing entire seasons and years of training to broken bones, Lyme disease, coffee tables, you name it.  I prefer to draw positives from injury and the associated lull in the waves.  Coming during an effective intermission in my career, this most recent bout of Achilles tendonitis timed itself well, relieving Part I: Student-Runner and Part II: Professional Runner.  (Stay tuned for the epilogue, Joe Runs 100 Miles and Drinks 100 PBR's In One Week at Age ___.)

I used the extra time to mull over one question: why do I want to run and to win?  I sought a concise answer - the pillar of my purpose, season to season and day to day.  Awareness of purpose beats sickness, injury, motivational lows, and the naysayers.  Instead of blindly throwing thousands of miles and hundreds of workouts into a mysterious black box and hoping for a good result, I wanted to get inside and take control.  I was looking for a few words I could sharpie on some paper and tape to my bedroom wall.  Something that would take me, day by day, to 2016.

It was hard working through the bullshit; the multitude of superficial reward systems we set up: personal bests, chasing mileage, roaring crowds, victory laps, award stands, descending order lists, traveling, media coverage.  So many things that motivate me seemed egocentric and impure.  Or maybe I was being too harsh, seeking a sugary answer to an interview question.

All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages.
- Shakespeare, As You Like It

I arrived at this: By the time I've shuffled off this mortal coil, I want to have written an absolutely enthralling story.  Not with a pen, but with my feet.  One featuring great running accomplishments and the events that brought me to them.

So I put on my wall: Run the Story.

Those three words contain the instructions for training, everyday.  Mileage, paces, race tactics, recovery, workouts, strength, strides, injury rehab, planning: encyclopedic knowledge by now, but driven  and motivated by the story.  The story holds me accountable.  It gives me reason to run.

Nine days into winter training camp in Tallahassee, FL, Zap Fitness is working hard for the track season.  We have a special mix of personalities and types of runners that I'm enjoying training and living with. In the best week of training I've had since May, I've completed two strong workouts (Fartlek + 200m hills and 9 x 800), brought strides back into the equation, and had good long runs coming off that Achilles injury.  I always forget how quickly fitness and that feeling of confidence comes back after a break.

My next race: Mile at the Boston University Terrier Invite on January 25, with perhaps some Distance Medley Relay action the day before.  After that it'll be a 3000 in early February, date TBD.