Sunday, September 30, 2012

Haribo Macht Runner Froh

I woke up yesterday with a restlessness to get out on the road and run.  I opened our porch door to check the weather conditions and saw that the cool temperatures were also complemented by a clear and sunny sky.  I had a good week of shorter runs this week, but had also been craving a good long run.  It's been almost a year since I've ran longer than marathon distance.  I combed the kitchen for gels, fruit bars, or some other reasonable snack to pack along.

I finally found an old bag of one of my favorites.  I rate Haribo Happy-Cola in my personal top five list of gummy style candies.  Each tiny cola bottle has a satisfying but easy to chew consistency and a flavor that effectively emulates a tiny bottle filled with cola.  I questioned whether a single bag would provide enough calories, and upon looking over the nutritional content I was satisfied that it would.  One full bag contained 580 calories, of which about 70% were from sugar.  Surprisingly, this also included about 12g of protein.

I put the bag in my waist pack and set out on the road.  I ran east through town and was soon free of the traffic and relaxing on the slight downhill grade of Lampkins Ridge road.  After about an hour I consumed six or seven tiny colas without breaking stride.  The gummy bottles were easily chewed and swallowed and only required a minimal sip of water to wash down.  If only these tiny bottles of cola were also caffeinated!

I continued to eat a few every 30 minutes and as the miles counted off and I ran over the hills east and north of Bloomington I managed to totally stave off any hunger.  I stopped once for a refill of my hand bottle at the "Short Stop Food Mart" (13 miles) and then again at another convenience store on the north side of town (24 miles).  At the second stop I filled my hand bottle with a mix of half water and half Mountain Dew.  I had brought a few dollars and offered to pay the price of a small polar pop but the friendly staff simply wouldn't allow it.

Pleased with my good fortune, I finished my last few happy cola bottles and welcomed the kick a little Mountain Dew provided.  Finally, I looped my way around the B-line trail and through the middle of campus.  As I picked up the pace for my last few 7 to 8 minute miles I felt a wave of elation that I rode all the way back to the house.

I had run over 30 miles.  It felt good to run long again, and I had a new snack to recommend to any other gummy candy obsessed runners.

Friday, September 14, 2012

How to Run Commute

I'm always looking for ways to integrate more running into my day.  Run commuting has worked out pretty well for me to add in a few additional miles.  Looking back at the last 7 weeks in my running log, I've run to or from work 25 times.  Otherwise I ride my bike, which is technically cross training but doesn't really require too much effort.

I started run commuting occasionally back at the beginning of 2011.  The initial problems I thought I would encounter turned out to not be such an issue.  Here in the form of a Q&A are the things I wondered myself.

What kind of bag will be comfortable to run in?  Do I have anything that will work?
I tried the typical unstructured cloth race giveaway bag (more of a sack) a few times.  No matter how I tried wrapping the strings, tightening, etc. it never worked very well and swung around way too much to be comfortable.  I ended up using a "fast pack / day pack" sort of bag I got as a gift.  These can be incredibly cheap.  The REI Flash Pack 18 I have been using for almost two years has an MSRP of only 34.95.

The bag has held up for almost two years of use and abuse (carry it on my bike too) and that seems like a pretty good test so far.  It has chest and waist straps so if adjusted and packed well it's extremely comfortable.  The largest load I typically run with includes lunch, a change of clothes, shoes, and a Macbook Air.

What about breakfast, won't a full stomach be uncomfortable to run with every day?
I typically eat for breakfast 3-4 eggs, a grapefruit or banana, toast, and occasionally an avocado as well.  If we have bacon or turkey bacon, I'll sometimes eat that too.  I would consider this a decently protein and fat heavy breakfast.  Even so, after my first few times running with a "fuller" stomach I found it not to be an issue.  The intensity of my running first thing in the morning tends to be low and limited in distance by the commute itself (usually under 3 miles).  That definitely helps.  A full stomach might not be good for a hard workout or race, but seems to be just fine running at a less than 80% of maximum heart rate type effort.

What about clothing?  How can I not hopelessly wrinkle up dress clothes?
So far, packing clothing has worked out well for me.  If I roll a nice cylinder of pants and shirt and make sure these are on top of the bag wrinkles tend to me minimal.  Another solution I have used  some is to just leave a few shirts and pants or dress shoes at work to make packing up everything even easier.  There was one day I carried a poorly sealed container of indian food and accidentally packed it on top of the dress clothes.  This ended in some leaking and curry smell infused clothing.  Make sure to put food on the bottom.

What if I don't shower, won't I smell terrible?
I am lucky in this respect.  Since I work at a fitness facility, I have a great locker room with showers waiting for me at work.  However, I have alternatively showered at home before and just refreshed with some deodorant at work upon arrival.  I've found that showering first still leaves me feeling fresh and clean as my skin and pores were clean to begin with.  So I think either way could work pretty well.  Also if I commute early the combination of low effort, cool weather and minimal sunlight makes a big difference in overall sweat anyway.

How will this affect my workout, since these will pretty much be just junk miles?
First, I don't really believe in junk miles.  Every mile counts for something in the grand scheme of developing fitness.  A few slow morning miles can greatly improve my preparation for "higher quality" runs later in the day.  I've noticed that I feel warmed up and super alert all morning at work after running to work.  This feeling of being completely warmed up remains when I begin a lunch or late afternoon workout.  I've also noticed that my second run of the day in these cases (or even my commute back home) feels even better than if I hadn't run earlier that day.  If I'm beat up from a workout the day before, the morning "shakeout" seems to help my legs feel fresh for a later run.

What about adverse weather?  What if it's really cold or it rains and my stuff gets all wet?
I've found colder weather to improve my commuting experience.  I have battled occasionally with cold temperatures cycling to work where the wind feels relentless in creating discomfort in the body's extremities.  Running has been a great solution to this problem since I naturally stay warm at a higher intensity and slower speed.  Also, I sweat even less in the cold conditions that aren't comfortable for cycling.  When the rain comes, I found a pack cover to be the most important piece of equipment I own.  I found a cheap pack cover that stuffs up into a tiny ball to keep in my pack in case of rain.  Since I'm changing clothes it doesn't matter much if I myself get wet.  Something like this would probably work well, mine is similar.

Those are the big questions I had.  I have been hard pressed to find reasons not to run to work!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Pushing the Pace Early in a 5K

My blog updates have been sparse as of late.  To all you readers of "The Running Yoders" (all 2 or 3 of you), I present the "fall blog series".  The idea of a series came to me today while running, as a way of forcing myself to put up a few posts in a timely manner.

Today, while running a short loop around the neighborhood and trying to briefly pull myself into a 5k effort level I started thinking about how a well run 5k feels.  At least for myself, it is on the edge of extreme discomfort for as long as I can sustain.  I still think one of the most difficult feats in distance running is to truly run the best 5k one is capable of.

When I was thinking back, my fitness and preparation really don't seem comparable in any of my best 5K performances.  In my recollections, only the effort I sustained and pacing strategy does.

There was a good article on The Science of Sport a few years ago (and perhaps again more recently), that had a bell curve showing the pacing of world record performances in several shorter distance races.  I recall reading other articles aggregating PR performances that show a similar pacing outcome.  I think for me (and maybe you) my best 5K can only come from a pacing strategy that looks like this:

Optimal 5K Pacing Strategy by Kilometer

I still think I have no handle on judging 5K fitness, or on really pressing myself to the limit.  I enjoy racing long distances for the most part.  But I keep thinking about pushing myself past the limit for a mile and hanging on for dear life until I can regroup and finish fast.  I still haven't actually settled on a single race for the fall.  But, I'm starting to think about it.