There seems to be tremendous interest right now in the health effects of sugar in our diets. Many people say that it is sugar, rather than fat, that is leading people to be overweight. Documentaries like "Fed Up" talk about both the addictive nature of sugar and how the idea of "eating better and exercising more" makes little sense when the environment makes it practically impossible to eliminate sugar additives from your diet in the first place. No matter how hard you try, the deck is simply stacked against you, so the thinking goes. So 21 days ago I set ...
One of my athletes wrote to me today with a great question about using energy drinks — drinks of the non-athletic kind like Red Bull — in their racing and training. Today, we’ll draw a distinction here between energy drinks made for athletes (those that contain primarily sugar and electrolytes) and energy drinks made for daily consumption (those containing stimulants). But first, here’s the question:
I have tried gels and chews and it’s just not for me… I have been running with an electrolyte/ carb hydration liquid, along with water. Toward the end of my long runs, last 3-4 miles I added half redbull half water mixer….
I have been doing pretty good with this combo… What are your thoughts? Any recommendations on energy/carb drinks that i should try?
On the first part of your question, it is just fine to use liquid-based sugars rather than solids or semi-solids (chews, gels or bars). Many runners ask if they “need” to use gels or bars, but in reality most elite runners actually use liquid energy drinks. They do this both because it is faster to drink out of a bottle than try opening something in a package and because being liquids are typically absorbed more quickly. So if that’s working for you then great! Just be careful not to make the mixture too concentrated. If the concentration of sugar gets to be too high, the stomach can get touchy quickly. Note however that these elite athletes tend to train their stomachs to take higher concentrations of sugars than most of us could “stomach” (pun intended), so watch out for products made specifically for elite athletes. You may need to build up to something like that over time.
With regard to the Red Bull you’re just adding another layer of stimulation to the mix. Red Bull and most energy drinks have stimulants in them like Caffeine or Taurine. While these stimulants don’t actually give your muscles energy, they do boost your mental state and this can be important late in a run or race. Red Bull also has sugar in it (both sucrose and glucose), so you are getting more sugar energy from the drink as well. This may be important, because there are many types of sugars and changing sugars can either be helpful or harmful depending on your stomach.
Every once in a while I get a letter or email from a reader that I just can’t set aside. I mean I love answering email, but there are questions and then there are questions and I’ve got a good one for you today. Now this question has to do with masturbation and running; I should start by saying, even before providing the question, that I have no “hands-on” knowledge or experience with masturbation myself. But then coaches many times have to provide advice about “gripping” subjects with which they themselves have not had to “wrestle.”
[NOTE: Sadly, there’s not much serious information out there on this topic, because most people that have written about it tend to want to only joke about it. I’ve already made my tongue-in-cheek comments and for the rest of this article I will try to actually answer the question.]
“My question is how does masturbation affect my running. My legs tend to be sore after doing it. About 2K into my runs I start to feel better, but it does affect my times. I mostly try to refrain from doing this, but we all have those moments. Also, after masturbating, I have this uncontrollable urge to work out. I just want to do the right thing.”
So first of all, I think that I can start by saying that there is no direct impact between running fitness and masturbation. Fitness for running is developed through a mixture of cardio-vascular capacity and the muscular strength in the legs and other major muscle groups that power the body forward. We could start by saying that masturbation doesn’t really “tax” any of the major muscle groups used by runners, depending I suppose how you do it. Masturbation is mostly a hand-arm thing and running is mostly a leg-stomach thing. Perhaps excessive masturbation might give you carpal-tunnel syndrome in your wrist, but it’s not going to fatigue your legs much. Masturbation may in fact leave you feeling fatigued, but this has no impact on your running fitness. On other side of the coin, masturbation is said to relieve stress for many people, so it might actually help some people before a race, but then let’s not see anyone trying this in public.
Today I’m going to share a bit of an e-mail exchange that I had with one of our readers and a friend of mine. She had just finished her first half-Ironman and after kvetching about the race, she summarized in a direction that got a little under my skin. As many of you know, I’m a proud bearer of the “masters” title and it surprised me in how she was comparing herself to everyone else in the field and not giving herself more credit for how well she actually did. You’re going to hear both from her and me in the discussion below that has to do with a concept called “age grading” of performances. Her comments are marked “HER” and mine are marked “ME”.HER: “So what does all of this mean to me? Well as you know in the end I ranked at 813 out of 1,651, which means I finished at 49.2%. That in turn means I was, well in fact average! I finished right in the middle. So I was AVERAGE! And guess what? I’m okay with average. Because here’s what I understand to be true. My results were average but in an event that not every average person ever attempts to complete. It’s really so much like your “slowest of the fast” concept. I’m happy being in the middle of the pack in a sport that not everyone would ever consider participating it! Perhaps if I work hard this will mean that in fact I’m just a little bit above average and perhaps I can improve.”
ME: While it is very healthy to strive to get better, it is important to understand that we need to compare ourselves to people with whom we’re similarly situated. So when considering averages, you’re missing a very important factor, which is called “age grading”. Although you finished right in the middle of the field as a whole, you’re not average at all. When you take out all the 22 year-olds, you’re way above average. This is why the “masters” category becomes so important. It’s important to recognize that athletes begin slowing down after the age of 30 and you should be judging yourself against women over the age of 40, where the Masters designation kicks in in the sport of Triathlon, because it helps provide more context to your performance.
But remember that there are fewer people competing at that age, so you can’t just look at where you fall in the age group of this particular race. That might be only a few people – or even only a few really fast people – you need a statistically significant sample to judge your performance and this is where age grading comes in. When you consider this, you were way better than average.
HER: “I really don’t forget that I’m in the “Masters” category and that I need to factor in all of those young girls and boys screwing up the average. I get it. But I just prefer to avoid the asterisk of “for her age”! It’s no different when people say “you look great for your age.” What, like if I were younger I’d be ugly or out of shape, or my performance and therefore results would suck? Let me put it in this context for you. Say you’ve just won a race and someone says, “you have such endurance and stamina. It’s was incredible….especially considering your age”……hmmmm. yeah. sucks just a bit, doesn’t it? Perhaps you’ll argue it’s different, but performance is performance isn’t it?”
I’ve had the good fortune recently to race against some very talented groups of runners. There are differences between running against a set of seasoned athletes and a more typical field of road racers made up of different skill levels. You might instantly think that what I’m talking about is speed, but it is smarts that sets these folks apart.
Let me give you an example. In one of the last races that I ran, it immediately became clear that one runner was far and away faster than the rest of the field. In the USATF Northwest Mile Championships, a runner burst out front in the first 100M of the race and do you know what happened next? No one chased him down. There were certainly people in the group that must have gone into the race thinking that they would go out as hard as possible and stay with the leader as long as they could. And even with this race being at most five minutes long, no one attempted to go with him.
Were these runners not being aggressive? Were they giving-in just seconds into the race? Were they throwing in the towel at the start of Round 1? No. They were being smart. There was a recognition that the lead runner’s speed was just beyond what they were capable of, even for such a short distance.
With less experienced athletes, what we might have seen was a “just go for it” attitude. But what would have happened was that these runners would have gone out so hard that soon they would have burned out and then hit the wall. These more experienced runners recognize this fact and immediately adjusted their plans to fit the new information they had about the race.
It was Father’s Day this past weekend, so this is aimed at the guys and dads out there. Here’s a male-oriented question this time: should you wear a shirt when running in a race? There’s both a serious question here and a less serious one, so we’ll start with the serious answer and then move on to consider whether it is really a good idea to go topless in races.First, the question came in response to me posted a picture of myself shirtless from a race. One reader suggested that we might want to do an episode on the topic of “shirtless racing” and we just may do that. There are sometimes strong opinions on the topic. Some people love it and some people hate. I remember the first time I really noticed someone that was habitually shirtless. He was a guy that I ran on a Hood To Coast Relay team with and what I recall was the he was ALWAYS shirtless, no matter the temperature, the hour or the setting. He just liked running with his shirt off, even if he was freezing. In his case, it was a personal choice and he went with it. Back to him later.
Let’s answer the serious question now: do you have to wear a shirt in running races? (There are a number of you smarty-pants out there thinking “of course not” right not, but you are not all correct.) The answer answer is it depends on the competition, the sport and your sex. You see in many official competitions there are both “torso covering” rules and the requirement to be in the official uniform of a team. This would be the case in most track and field competitions and world championship events in which you are required to wear your country’s team uniform. In most sports women are also required to wear their tops in public. No further comment. The sport of triathlon here in the USA is possibly considering adopting a “torso covering” rule to make the playing field more fair between men and women in this space (meaning requiring men to be covered rather than allowing women to go uncovered.)
So the bottom line is that there are times when a shirt is required to play the game. This is mostly the case in officially sanctioned competitions, team competitions and track meets, but it means that you do need to be aware of the rules and come equipped with the proper clothing.
Now, on to the more esoteric question of should you were a shirt in a running race. Well, there are some practical matters here as well. The most important is the temperature. My sense is that men like to pull the shirts off when the weather gets hot and this makes some sense. By taking off the shirt, more skin is directly exposed to the air and this should promote better cooling of the body. The other issue that men sometimes face is the dreaded “bloody nipple” syndrome, in which a wet shirt chaffs their nipples to the extent that they bleed. This stinks. One choice here is to use a kind of a blister pad like “Nips” that cover the nipples. Another option would be the big star-shaped pasties that strippers use, although they may not stay on under intense conditions and might look a little funny (just kidding) and the third alternative is to go shirtless.
“Get up there on the line,” I find myself telling people at the start of races. It’s as if the starting line is going to bite. I was thinking about this the other night at Portland’s Starlight Run and I thought maybe there were some tips that I could pass along regarding the start of these quick races.In a 5K race, the start is critical because the faster runners are going to try to get out and get up to their racing pacing immediately. If you want to be in it, then you’ll need to do some things to avoid getting dropped right away. So here are five tips for starting your next 5K if you’re trying to be competitive.
1. Line up on the front line — Remember these tips are for those that want to be competitive. The first thing is to put yourself right on the front line, not two people back or five people back. If you think that you’re fast enough to run with the leaders, then get up there. If you put even a couple people between yourself and the starting line, you’ll just have to dodge around and through these people if you want to get up to the front once the race starts. This is wasted energy and time when the leaders will be peeling off ahead of you.
2. Elbows Out, Stand Your Ground — In a competitive 5K race where there a lots of fast runners, there will be a lot of jostling at the front of the race. Make a solid frame with your elbows slightly out and keep your feet under you. You don’t need to be throwing elbows at your competitors, but you want to use your elbows like bumpers. As someone gets in close to you, they will be pushed away, rather than crashing into you. In the photo here, you can see the contact the I’m making with the runner next to me. There are actually three frames of this scene. In the first two, ever so briefly we come together, and then in the last we have drifted back apart. Because my stance was strong, he didn’t push me over coming around the corner, which is the way it should work.
3. Find Some Clear Space to Run (or Tuck Yourself In) — The start of a 5K can be quite chaotic. Take a quick look around and decide whether the people around you are a help or hindrance. They can be either. On the one hand, if people are dodging and swerving and no one appears to be leading, you may want to move to an outside and find clear air in which to run. This is usually my approach. I like to set my own pace and see what’s happening. If someone makes a move at the front, I want to go with them — and if I’m stuck in traffic it may be too late. On the other hand, there are races in which the front is organized and working together. In those races, sticking yourself right behind a few good runners will give you a chance to let others do the pace making.
CARLSBAD, Calif. –– A confident Dejen Gebremeskel and a wispy Aheza Kiros gave Ethiopia a sweep of the men’s and women’s invitational races on the 26th annual Carlsbad 5000 on Sunday morning. Both events produced dramatic finishes.Gebremeskel, last year’s runner-up, sat behind defending champion Eliud Kipchoge of Kenya for most of the 3.1-mile race before spurting ahead in the final 100 meters and finishing in 13 minutes, 11 seconds. The time matched Kipchoge’s winning performance of 2010 and equaled the fourth-fastest clocking in history.
By winning, Gebremeskel spoiled Kipchoge’s bid to break the world record of 13:00, established by Sammy Kipketer in 2000 and tied by him a year later. Kipchoge had said prior to the race that he thought he had a good chance of taking down the record. However, he was sidetracked by pacesetter Haron Lagat. Lagat was supposed to take the leaders through the first two miles, but only managed to hang on for just over a mile.
By dropping out, Lagat left Kipchoge to assume the lead. That led to some gamesmanship between Kipchoge and Gebremeskel. Shortly past two miles, Kipchoge signaled to Gebremeskel to take over the lead. The Ethiopian refused, continuing to run just behind Kipchoge. Then when Gebremeskel was only a few steps from the end, he pointed to the finish line, indicating that he was the winner.
“I knew I would win,” the 21-year-old Gebremeskel said. About his finger-pointing, he said, “I got to the finish line first. I pointed because I was happy that I won.”
CARLSBAD, Calif. –– Eliud Kipchoge, the 2010 Carlsbad 5000 champion, is returning for Sunday’s race, not only seeking another victory but also a world record. Kipchoge, the 26-year-old Kenyan, has every reason to be optimistic.“He was very disappointed he didn’t do it last year,” said Matt Turnbull, Elite Athlete Coordinator. “He was in good shape, but it was very windy at the start. Now, he knows what the course is all about. He’s been training hard for it.”
The weather forecast for Sunday calls for ideal running conditions with the temperature in the low to mid-60s and a little cloud cover.
“He’s in better shape this year,” Turnbull added. “If we don’t get the winds coming off the Pacific, it could be worth 8-10 seconds to him this time.”
Last year, Kipchoge won in 13:11, making his move after two miles and finishing seven seconds ahead of the field. Kipchoge’s tireless training already has paid off this year; he has set personal bests for 3000 and 5000 meters indoors.
CARLSBAD, Calif. –– Off her past two performances in the Carlsbad 5000, Ethiopian Aheza Kiros should be considered the favorite for the race’s 26th running on Sunday, April 3, 2011. However, there is a strong international field arrayed against her, including Americans Christin Wurth-Thomas and Jen Rhines.
Kiros, the 2009 champion and 2010 runner-up to world record-holder Meseret Defar of Ethiopia, has a 5,000m personal best of 14:56.33 on the track from 2009, and has run 15:26 at Carlsbad. The 25-year-old Ethiopian, who lives in Addis Ababa after growing up in the Tigray region, began running at a young age and almost always won her races during physical education classes. By the age of 16, she was representing her school at the All-Ethiopian School Championships, winning the 5,000m. Now, she is mostly a 10,000-meter runner and represented Ethiopia at that distance at the 2007 World Championships.
In addition to the two top Americans, Kiros can expect challenges from Pauline Konikwiang of Kenya, seventh at the recent World Cross Country Championships and the national junior record-holder with a 5,000 PR of 14:45.98, who is making her debut on the roads; Olesya Syreva of Russia, the European indoor silver medalist over 3,000 meters, the national indoor record-holder for two miles with a 5,000 PR of 15:19.96; Eloise Wellings of Australia, the 2010 national 5,000 and 10,000 champion with a 5,000 PR of 14:54.11; and Adrienne Herzog of the Netherlands, the national record-holder for two miles with a 5,000 PR of 15:34.37.
Meanwhile, Wurth-Thomas and Rhines should be in close pursuit of Kiros. Wurth-Thomas, the 2008 U.S. indoor champion at 1,500 meters, the 2007 and 2009 outdoor runner-up, and 2008 Olympian, is looking to improve her endurance by running a 5k.
I feel like I’ve written a million articles espousing the idea that pacing is important to marathon running and road racing. I’ve said it in a lot of different ways, whether it be that even pacing is a great strategy and understanding that pacing is important. Pacing, pacing, pacing, I seem to say over and over again.
Yet, I’ve never said it this way: pacing is power.
Let me explain. In a 10K race this weekend, I did what I normally do — I went out at the pace that I wanted to run. I ignored what the other leaders were doing and “let them go”. It might have even appeared to the other five guys at the front of the race that I was a bit aloof or unaware of what they were doing. There was a moment about 1/2 mile into the race when one runner moved into the lead and everyone else needed to decide what to do. All the others guys went with the leader. I kept running my pace. And there was this one runner that even gave me a look as he went by that kind of said to me, “see ya’ round buddy.”
They may have been thinking that I was going out conservatively, but what I was really doing was running my pace. I have a keen sense of it and I wasn’t going to get sucked in to running someone else’s pace. I know, as you should know, how fast I can run. I also know how many people can sustain speeds faster than me — and you should know that as well.
But here’s the thing. Every time I write about pacing and every time I start out a race trying to run an even pace, I always have this thought that I’m being conservative. And somehow I think that people may read what I’m writing and think that I’m telling people to not be aggressive in their racing. It’s as if by saying that people should pace themselves, I’m somehow saying that they can’t win.
That’s the last thing that I’m saying. What I’m really saying is that you need to know the pace that you can sustain for the entire race. And when you do, a funny thing happens. You watch the people around you go out too fast and then you reel them back in. One at a time, you go by them. They say, “nice job man” and “dude, you rock”. And they are fading, dying, slowing down. They are being aggressive at the start. What you should do is be aggressive at the finish.