Training — Preparing for the Dumbo Double Dare

running-advice-bugOne of the coaches that I am advising came to me with the following question regarding an event called the Double Dumbo Dare, which combines a 10K on day one and a half-marathon on day 2. First the question and then I’ll share with you my thoughts on preparing for such an event.

“I was just assigned a group of people who are doing the Dumbo Double Dare (10k Saturday, 1/2 Marathon Sunday). What should I do differently in coaching a half-marathon training program to handle this so that they are prepared for the extra challenge?”

First, you have to love the name: “Dumbo Double Dare.” I thought that “Goofy Challenge” was funny, but Dumbo is really saying it, isn’t it! We’ve written about the Goofy Challenge in the past. Goofy involves a half-marathon on Saturday and a full-marathon on Sunday. That’s no small challenge. The Dumbo Double Dare is a shorter in distance, but still presents a significant challenge, especially for those that aren’t used to running longer distances.

There are two skills that are at play here for which you are preparing participants. These skills are 1) the ability to run when fatigued and 2) the ability to pace properly to avoid over-running the first race (and thus killing oneself in the second).

As a side-note, preparing runners to “double” itself isn’t a new thing. In track meets, the athletes often have to run 2, 3 or even 4 times over a couple of days. In an event like the Olympics, the runners will have to run qualifying heats, quarter-finals, semi-finals and final events — all of these are their maximum speed. But often in these situations, the distances of the events are the same for each heat. So the twist here is that the two races are different distances and thus this puts a wrinkle in learning to pace the two events.
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Training — You Can’t Give More Than 100%

running-advice-bugGrrrr. . . I was in spin class this morning, and although I loved the instructor, she said something that rubbed me the wrong way. She’s actually just the latest in a series of spin instructors that has used similar language and I want to write about it today. In her most supportive and motivational way she shouted at the top of her lungs: “Come on guys, let’s give 110%!

Giving it your allBaah. 110%. Really? I get it. It’s supposed to mean “don’t leave anything on the table”, but we really cannot ask our bodies to give more than 100%. Giving 100% is plenty, believe me. If you are giving it your all, you don’t need to give more than that. The problem is often that we don’t give it our all, but going above and beyond that is simply beyond what we can truly ask our bodies to give.

Let me step back a minute and tell you another story. A few weeks ago, in yet a different spin class, the instructor starting playing this little trick on the class. He’d set us up for a sprint of a certain amount time — let’s just say 60 seconds. He’d say, “OK, here we go, give it everything you’ve got for 60 seconds!” And then at the end of the 60 seconds he’d say, “OK, keep it going class for another 30 seconds if you can!” ‘Wait a second’, I thought to myself. If I am pacing myself to give 100% for 60 seconds then I can’t go for another 30 seconds. That’s 50% more than the amount of the interval. I SHOULDN’T have anything left at the end of the 60 seconds to give if I had already given it my all. That ‘well’ should be dry. Tapped out. If I can pull another 30 seconds out of that well then I wasn’t pacing myself right in the first place.

Am I splitting hairs here? Perhaps. But let’s think about this as a part of a more holistic approach to our lives. If we’ve constructed a good training plan for ourselves as athletes then that plan will have us working pretty hard and giving all that we have much of the time. There are times that we have to push ourselves and times that we can relax. The sum of the parts adds up to 100% — not more than 100%. If we’re giving more than 100% then we have a problem. Something doesn’t add up. Something will have to give.

So to have an attitude that has us shooting for greater than what we can actually achieve is self-defeating. I would argue that we should craft our thoughts and thinking in the following way: “give everything that you have today, but don’t lose sight of tomorrow and don’t forget about yesterday.” In other words, you want to find the balance that give as much as you can to optimize in your training life but keeps yourself in balance.
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Training — Even the Best Struggle and Bonk

running-advice-bugI wrote a piece a couple of days ago called “Why do the Tough Get Going?” in which I was giving some advice to one of my athletes who had struggled in a series of recent workouts. I related to her in an e-mail later the story that I will tell you later and her reaction was a little surprising to me: “even people at your level have tough workouts? I thought only beginners struggled.” That’s what I want to look at today.

In that earlier piece, I talked about the fact that the most beneficial parts of our training workouts are the hard parts — the last few miles in which we really suffer. This is true, because it is the response to that challenge that drives the body and mind to prepare for new and tougher challenges that will come later. What I want to make clear today is that this applies at every level, from the newest runner to the most experienced professional athlete. It may happen in different ways, but the tough parts are always there, no matter what the experience level of the athlete.

The way that we bring on the suffering — the tough parts — scale with the level of experience. Someone just starting out might have a tough time running for two minutes, four times in a workout. For that person, this might represent a really difficult thing to do and will drive the body into a need for recovery and adaptation.

A first time marathon runner might struggle in the last two miles of their 12, 14, 16 and 18 mile runs, each one after the other. And each time they may think “why isn’t this getting any easier?” In truth, it is getting easier as they likely wouldn’t have finished that 18 mile run at all had they not done their 12, 14 and 16 mile runs first. Each run just feels “hard”, because as they “get out to the end of their distance” as I like to say, the difficult part kicks in. The “end of their distance” keeps moving out as the season progresses, but as we near it each week we get hit with new waves of struggle and hard effort.
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Training — Why do the Tough Get Going?

running-advice-bugWe’ve all heard the expression, “when the going get tough, the Tough get going.” I was wondering yesterday what it is that makes actually makes the tough “get going”? In other words, when the pressure and hurt is on, what makes certain people shrink away and others rise up to the challenge? I think that the answer is pretty simply put that they want something and have somewhere to go.

I’m reflecting on this because one of my athletes has really been struggling. She’s sent me messages that ask things like “why is this so hard” and “why isn’t this getting any easier?” In fact, this is one of the key themes of questions to us running coaches. And we understand that we’re dishing out hard work to people, so we aren’t surprised by the questions.

There are two things that I’d like you to think about today. The first is the value of the hard work itself and the second has to do with goals and desires. Let’s look at each in turn.

First, some portion of your running workouts are going to be hard, with hard here meaning that they push you to your limits and perhaps beyond them. One expression that you may have heard is that if your workouts aren’t hard then perhaps you aren’t getting much out of them. I think there is nugget of truth in that street wisdom. By pushing the body to our its limits and beyond, we force the body to activate our recovery and compensation pathways, leading us to greater heights and achievements for future performances. By pushing a little further, we are able to push even further the next time.
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Training — How Three Pairs of Gloves and a $2 Hat Saved My Ride

running-advice-bugThis is the story of nine dollars worth of gloves and a two dollar hat — and how they saved my ride yesterday. But it really isn’t about those things. This is really a story about making decisions and taking action when you’re in the midst of a workout or a race. What I hope you take away from this story is that you need to keep focused on making it to your goal and do something about it when something doesn’t go as you planned.

Three pairs of $3 gloves.

Three pairs of $3 gloves.

Yesterday I had set out to ride 100 miles in preparation for an upcoming Ironman distance triathlon. I prepared all of my gear, including a backback full of full or food, spare tubes, money and the like. I was fully loaded to spend several hours out there on the road. The weather called for a dry day. There was supposed to be no chance of rain. It was over 40 degrees (F) out, so it would be perfect weather. I dressed accordingly, wearing what I would consider more than enough clothing for the weather. Multiple layers on top and bottom and — this important — wind-stopping gloves and outwear.

This is a critical detail. There’s a difference, as I was reminded, between wind-stopping and water-proof clothing. I was plenty warm as I set out and for the first 20 miles things were going great.

Then the rain started to fall. The skies darkened. It started to pour. I could see that this was no passing shower. Indeed, for the next three hours the rain pummeled me seemingly from everything direction. My gear was completely soaked. I could feel the water pooling up in my cycling shoes, even despite having neoprene booties over them.

So now I’m almost 50 miles from home and completely freezing and soaked. This where the advice comes in. I had to take an inventory of my options and you need to do when things go awry. My fingers were number and starting to tingle in that way that I knew I wasn’t going to be able to use my hands much longer.
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Training — Dreaming to Better Running Performance

running-advice-bugThere is a new ad that is being played during the Tour de France from the Specialized bicycle company. In the spot, a young boy is riding his heart out, being chased by a professional cyclist. The ad presents the scene as if it were television coverage of a stage of the Tour de France, complete with color commentary, chase vehicles, and the drama that goes along with great cycling pursuits.

When I first saw it, I absolutely loved it. I mentioned it to a few people because it was so powerful to me. Then I started thinking about why it connected with me so powerfully. The connection comes from the fact that I day-dream like this all of the time. I do it during my workouts. Then it occurred to me that I might be the only one that does this. Thankfully, in asking many of my friends, runners, and cyclists I found they do this as well. It turns out that we didn’t stop dreaming like this when we were ten year-old boys and girls. We still do it today.

Think about this for a minute as a training tool. Imagine yourself in two different scenarios. In scenario one, you are running up a long hill thinking about the work that you have to do after lunch. In scenario two, you are running up the same long hill, this time your brain is firing off color commentary at you. You are being urged on to be the first to break the American Record or to win the Olympic Games. Perhaps you are a surprise story that has shocked the world, because you came out of nowhere to take the lead on the last lap and if you can just hold on, you’re going to be the first American woman over 40 to qualify for the Olympic Trials. I think you get the picture.

These visualizations are actually a great tool for sharpening our focus and pushing ourselves in training. Today’s message really is aimed at those that don’t do this kind of visualization and those that might be able to use a visualization to make more of their training.
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Training — Longer Means Slower, Shorter Means Faster

running-advice-bugAs is often the case, I’m thinking today about a misconception about running because of something someone said to me today. I was running a race as part of my training and was talking with the race director. There were options for 5K and 10K and I had opted for the 5K. I’ll come back to why I was running in the 5K in a minute. But the race director says to me, “Running the 5K? Oh that’s too bad. Why not run the 10K, you can do it?”

Coach Joe Post-Race

First of all, you really should look at a person before you make a statement like this. I was wearing a Boston Marathon jacket at the time. But I digress.

Here’s the thing. People tend to equate “longer” to “harder”. The thinking goes that the longer the race, the more difficult it is. And in one way this is true. For new runners, or runners who are trying to increase their distance, there is something to this thinking. For the fitness and weight-loss interested it might make sense to be testing ones limits and trying to increase the distance — making the longer race “harder”.

But once runners have surpassed this distance barrier, the selection of the distance comes down to the intensity of the workout. Running longer means running slower and running shorter distances means running faster.

We all know this to be true instinctively. Even at the most elite levels this is true. Look at the world records in the marathon and the 5K. Which is faster on a pace per mile basis? Of course, the pace in the 5K is faster. This is true of all distances from 100M to the marathon and the ultra-marathon. As the length of the race gets longer, the pace sustained in the race goes down.
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Racing — Taking The Pressure Off

running-advice-bugOver the past couple of months I have supported lots of runners at their Spring marathons. I’ve been kind of fascinated by a common theme that I’ve heard from some of them. The most common scenario goes something like this. The runner is telling me that they originally planned to run their marathon in X time but that now that something has happened to them, they’re “just going to relax and see how it goes.” I bumped into a couple of such runners out on marathon courses and they looked great, happy, and relaxed. One such runner said to me, “Once I really realized that I couldn’t make my goal, I felt so much better about the race.”

The common theme here is the tremendous pressure that we place on ourselves as runners. What these runners are expressing is a form of relief that they are feeling after loosening the pressure valve and letting themselves off the hook. As I asked one of the runners above: “hey, we knew that you weren’t going to win this thing, so what’s really changed here?” Nothing’s really changed, except that they’ve allowed themselves to experience the race without the pressure that they were putting on themselves.

Pressure is not necessarily a bad thing. The sense of pressure that we place on ourselves is something that helps us perform. When it comes time to endure pain, push hard, or dig deep, it is that sense of pressure that allows us to respond and meet those challenges. But pressure can be a negative thing as well. If we become obsessed with meeting our goals, especially our stretch goals, then we can drive ourselves crazy with anxiety and worry. This just takes away from the experience and makes us feel bad.

What’s important is that we are in touch with the pressures that we are putting on ourselves and try to understand where they are are coming from. Are these real competitive pressures that we’re feeling (such as from a true adversary or in trying to set a new personal best) or are we simply putting pressure on ourselves to meet a particular goal? I commonly hear runners say things like, “I just really wanted to run 3:35:00 here at this race.” They are heartbroken when they run 3:37:00 or 3:40:00 or 3:45:00 — but have they actually failed to achieve something that anyone other then they would even recognize?
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Training — The Four Worst Things Runners Can Do To Themselves

running-advice-bugI get asked for advice all the time. Much of my advice is ignored. Often, as I’m telling something to a runner, I can almost see the wheels spinning in their brains thinking, “that’s great Coach, but what else you got for me?” It happens when I tell people something they don’t want to hear. Today, I’m going to tell you the four worst things that you can do to yourself as a runner — and most of you won’t want to hear any of them.

These are the four most common pieces of advice that come up when I’m asked either: “what am I doing wrong?” or “why didn’t I meet my finishing goal time?” And in almost every case, the response is a reluctance to change these very basic things. And it’s not as though these are surprising. They’re just back things that almost always are the things that lead to poor output of training, as compared to the runner’s expectations. They are in fact the worst things that you can do as a runner and they are also the most practiced.

Worst Practice #1 — Running Too Many Slow Miles — There’s sort of two pieces to this first issue. Most runners run too many miles or too many slow miles — or both. The problem here is that running slow miles just teaches your body to run that speed. When it comes to to try to “pull it out” and “push hard” in a race, the speed isn’t there. There’s not enough speed going into practices, so there isn’t going to be speed coming out on race day. The answer is run fewer, faster miles. This is the rub. People often hate cutting their miles and they often hate running fast. But it is almost certain that running faster in practice is going to lead you to run faster in your races.

Worst Practice #2 –Not Running Goal Pace In Practice — If only Coach Dean and I had a nickle for every time someone said, “I’ve been running 10:30 miles in my training runs. I hoped to run 9:30 in the race. Why didn’t it happen?” Bottom line is that runners need to spend time running goal pace in practice. It’s OK that goal paced runs are shorter than the race distance — in fact a 3-5 mile mid-week goal paced run is a great training practice — the idea here is to log mileage at goal pace. If you don’t do it, you can’t expect to run it in practice. I like to think of it this way: if I just wanted to go run world record pace, I couldn’t do it. I can’t do it in practice, so how could I do it on race day? They say practice makes perfect. This is a case where that advice makes sense.
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Training — Get Psyched, But Not That Psyched (Preparing for Intense Workouts)

running-advice-bugOne of my readers wrote in with an interesting comment and question that other day. She said that her track workouts “freak her out” and that she “dreaded them.” She was looking for advice, so today I’ve got some and it goes like this: “Get psyched, but not that psyched.”

What I mean by this is really two-fold. One the one-hand, it is important for all runners to get mentally prepared for races or hard training sessions. On the other hand, we want that mental preparation to get us set, excited, even anxious, but not so much that it tears us down and takes away from our ability to concentrate. Let’s consider this a little further today.

Hard Running on the Track

First, track workouts in particular have the ability to really “freak people out.” If we think about it, this is because the intensity and the effort level on the track are going to be harder than a typical run. These workouts are not “relaxing” or “easy” outings so to speak. But we should all remember that the intensity is within our own control. If we’re pushing ourselves very hard, we always have the option of backing off. The fact that we don’t back off means that we can take the physical punishment — it’s the mental element that is challenging us. We should also remember that track workouts are typically shorter in duration than other workouts. They, in fact, pretty much have to be shorter in order to do them at the intensity that we are seeking to achieve. That means that we can “get in and get out” fast, meaning the pain while possibly acute, doesn’t last that long.

Second, the fact that mentally were are on-edge or antsy before a workout is a good thing. It means that the mind is priming the body to perform. Just as we talk about before a big race, we want to be in a heightened state of awareness. We want to be on pins and needles so that when we need to hit the gas, the body knows we’re serious. Think of the opposite for a moment: if we were to show up at races sleepy, lethargic and with no drive, how would we get ourselves to push through the pain when the pain starts really mounting. Just like before a big test, a speech, a marriage proposal, the fact that our pulses are racing and we’re sweating a little is a good thing to keep us focused and to keep up the intensity.
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