Sunday, November 23, 2014

Half Measures

I don't understand the compulsion of runners who train for marathons trying to use shortcut approaches.  I've run plenty of marathons on short training.  I would say that out of the 20 marathons I have run, only 6 of them were done with what I would consider an appropriate amount of training leading up to them.  As you can probably guess those are the 6 fastest marathons I ever ran, 2 were under 2:50 and 1 under 2:40.
1986 Grandma's Marathon
Ran 2:51:42 in hot conditions
Before I met coach Tom Dowling in 1985, my marathon training was haphazard at best.  A long run to me was 10 miles and I had never heard of Arthur Lydiard.  An incredibly painful 3:11 marathon in the spring of 1985 when I thought I was in decent shape led me to Tom.

Following Tom's Lydiard based principles of building a very large aerobic base before attempting a marathon I can honestly say those 6 marathons were the easiest I ever ran.  For each and every one of those marathons I had at least 6 good months of aerobic base before attempting those marathons.  Yet, I continually come across runners who want to train and compete in a marathon with 4 months or so of training, many just running 4 days a week.

I understand that men and women with children cannot run 6 or 7 days a week.  But I cannot understand why aspiring marathon runners don't take the time, ie; months of building up long runs, to run a marathon.  Trying to go from a 10 miles long run to a 22 mile long run in just 4 months is an invitation to injury.

When I ran my fastest marathon, I literally spent a year preparing for it.  The payoff was a 9 minute PR and the easiest marathon I ever ran.  I checked my old running logs and the year leading up to the race.  I ran 25 runs of 16 miles or more, 8 of them were 21 miles or more.  I should add that I missed an entire month early in the buildup due to a hamstring injury 10 months before the marathon and another 3 weeks of training just three months out from the race itself due to a sore achilles.

All of my long runs save one, was at 7:15 to 7:30 pace.  The one was a 26 mile run done two weeks out from the marathon done at 6:55 pace with 5 water stops lasting about 2 minutes each.  A lot of runners I meet feel the need to try and run their long runs at something approaching race pace.  That's foolish at best and defeats the purpose of building your aerobic base.

I did plenty of speed specific training in the weeks leading up to my marathon PR.  It included mile repeats, tempo runs of 6 to 10 miles where I would be at marathon pace or better for at least the last third of the run and plenty of races used to sharpen my speed.

Again, several people I see preparing for marathons seems to forsake running 5K's or 10K's ahead of their big races.  That's a big mistake.  Racing gets you used to using the water stations and dealing with other runners.  Even experienced runners need prep races before their goal race.

My last marathon, in 2010, I was under raced and under trained.  I hadn't run a marathon in 7 years due to several surgeries.  In the 10 months leading up to that 2010 marathon  I had only four runs of 16 miles or more.  I ran only a couple of races leading up to the big race.  I paid the price.  I ran 3:56, my slowest marathon by 40 minutes.  The last 9 miles were a difficult shuffle in extremely hot conditions.  It was on the same course where 20 years earlier I had run 2:39:24 PR.  A marathon without proper preparation is a humbling experiences.  My half-assed training got me exactly what I deserved.

I know that most runners cannot see their way to breaking 4 hours in the marathon.  But with a proper amount of base training, you can make a difficult, brutally tough race, a lot more tolerable.  A marathon doesn't have to mean misery.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Oops Hoops

Usually this time of the year I offer up my first assessment of Kansas basketball.  This will undoubtedly be the most interesting ride since Bill Self replaced Roy Williams in 2003.  An 11th straight conference title will mark Self's best coaching job ever, despite the fact that he has the most athletic team I've ever seen at K.U.

Here's the problem.  When I watched the Jayhawks step out onto the court last night to face Kentucky, my jaw dropped.  It was men versus boys.  Kentucky is big.  Kentucky may have the finest collection of talent since John Wooden ruled basketball at UCLA with Bill Walton at center.  Now don't get me wrong, Kentucky is going to lose a game or two this year, sorry Larry Brown.  Great teams playing 40 games always have one slip up.

Kentucky exposed Kansas in ways I've never seen a Bill Self team exposed.  This version of the Jayhawks looks like a squad straight out of the Roy Williams era.  They played soft.  Super frosh Cliff Alexander is the only interior beast Kansas has this season.  Jamari Traylor simply shrank when it was his turn to take over the spotlight.  Perry Ellis is a perimeter big man.  Traylor and Ellis never worked the high-low post the way we're used to seeing the Jayhawks play it.  This is really troubling.

Kansas fans will never admit it but they missed Nadir Tharpe.  His presence would have brought the much needed toughness that Self seeks from his point guards.  Frank Mason tried to play the way Self needs his point guard to play, but pushing the ball into the post on foolish runs to the basket only exposed his inexperience.

Worse still, Wayne Selden, who will be expected to be the go to guard this season, is probably K.U.'s fourth best option on the perimeter.  The three freshman, Kelly Oubre, Jr., Sviastolav Myhailiuk and Devonte Graham are already better than Selden.  Kansas will have to be an inside-out team this season rather it's normal outside-in team, unless Traylor finds his inner Marcus Morris and Cliff Alexander can learn to stay out of foul trouble.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Run Florida - World Series Nexus

I watched tonight's Game 7 of the 2014 World Series with more than a passing interest.  You see, I was in the ballpark 29 years ago when the Kansas City Royals defeated the St. Louis Cardinals 11 to 0 to capture Game 7 of the 1985 World Series.  I was doing what I loved, covering sports.  I was working as a field producer for WDAF TV, the NBC station in Kansas City at the time and also the television home of the Royals.  I am and have been a huge Royals fan and attended the very first game ever played in KauFfman Stadium in 1973.

My life in broadcasting has allowed me to witness an incredible number of great sporting and news events.  Without a doubt, the 1985 World Series is at the top of that list.  I had the privilege of being in the locker room as Kansas City celebrated its first world championship. 

I also had the indignity of being arrested while trying to work my way from behind home plate to the first base photo bay by an over zealous Kansas City police officer who didn't believe that my all access pass that was the size of an iPad gave me the right to go to my crew situated there.  Fortunately, Royals PR maven, Dean Vogelar, bailed me out of the dugout jail, where a rowdy bunch of drunks had been tossed for running out on the field. 

It's funny as I reflect back because 1985 is the same year that I resurrected my life as a runner.  I had been semi-serious about my running as I approached age 30.  I had the good fortune that year to work as the assistant cross country coach at Rockhurst High School and the squad's two top runners, introduced me to a private coach who had a big an impact on my life as any individual outside of my mother.  Tom Dowling tapped into my potential and in one short year I dropped my marathon PR from 2:57:14 to 2:49:25.  It proved the importance of structure and guidance when it came to training.  Tom's direction paid dividends for the years to come.

But I started writing about the nexus of Run Florida and Wednesday night's World Series showdown.  It comes not only from my rolling in covering the World Series in Kansas City 29 years ago, but the presence of Kim Hudson, a Run Florida customer, who watched from the stands Wednesday night as her husband Tim, became the oldest starting pitcher in World Series history.  My love of baseball and my love of Run Florida and our valued customers were in a strange nexus indeed.

As much as it hurts that my Royals came up short against the Giants, I'm happy that Tim Hudson's stint on the mound, wasn't the deciding factor.  Besides his wife's loyalty to Run Florida, Hudson has long been one of my favorite baseball players.  He's always someone I wanted on my fantasy baseball team's and in fact was on my team this year, again.  Congratulations to the Giants and to Tim Hudson on finally getting a well earned ring.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

I haven't gone on a wild, drug and alcohol fueled adventure in Las Vegas.  I am spending four days in quite possibly the worst city to try and get a good run in.  If you're staying on the strip, all that lays before you and your feet are concrete.  It is the worst surface imaginable to run on.  Plus in Vegas, there's navigating the pedestrians and the various crazed taxi drivers.

The point of this blog is to talk about concrete and avoiding it at all costs.  Asphalt is much easier on your joints than concrete.  In fact, Arthur Lydiard, the late great New Zealand coach, who invented the concept of long, slow distance, preferred that his athletes train on asphalt over grass or dirt trails.  Now that one may leave you scratching your head.  Here's Lydiard's reasoning, footing.

Lydiard wanted his runners on a smooth, reliable surface, especially if they were doing a tempo run.
Grass or dirt trails rarely offer reliable footing, unless you're running on a golf course.  Think about all of the crazy angles your feet end up at when running on a trail or on a cross country course.  It's hard on your muscles, tendons and joints.  Unless you train regularly on trails, running them on a whim will provide your body with a shock.

As for Las Vegas, I always head south off the strip and into the neighborhoods.  There are less people to deal with and a lot less traffic.  I actually found the University of Nevada Las Vegas track on my five mile run today and may make the 2 mile trek to it for a softer, safer, monotonous run on the tartan there.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

As For These Shoes...

Forgive me my obsession about running shoes, but I saw these on Facebook Tuesday and I felt it important to tell the story behind these battered Adidas. These shoes carried an American to Olympic glory 50 years ago.

On October 14, 1964 in Tokyo, Japan, Billy Mills became the first and only American to win the Olympic gold medal at 10,000 meters.  Mills lived in my hometown of Lawrence, Kansas where he went to an Indian only high school called Haskell, after leaving his home on the Sioux reservation in South Dakota.  Haskell is now a four year college and is still a school for Native Americans.

Mills went to the University of Kansas where he enjoyed a great deal of success, but nothing that would foretell the Olympic gold that would come his way after he graduated college and joined the U.S. Marines.  Mills wasn't even considered the top American contenders at 10,000 meters in 1964.  A rambunctious high school boy from Spokane, Washington, Gerry Lindgren, despite his youth, was considered a medal contender.

Lindgren sprained his ankle a short time before the Olympic final.  Mills wasn't on anyones radar.  He was so poorly thought of when he went to the Adidas representative to get some shoes they turned him down.  Mills headed to the Puma representative who immediately agreed to give him shoes.

Back in 1964, when it came to running shoes, top track and field athletes had two choices, Adidas and Puma.  The German shoe companies were owned by brothers who hated each other and were equally bitter rivals when it came to snagging athletes to run in their shoes.  Asics, New Balance, Brooks, Mizuno and Saucony simply weren't players at the time and NIKE didn't even exist. 

When Adidas got wind that Mills would be wearing Puma they relented and gave him a pair of their shoes which he wore to victory.  During the medal ceremony Mills wore a pair of Puma's to acknowledge their help in getting him the shoes that he really wanted.

Those blue shoes bring back a lot of memories.  I owned a pair of blue Adidas Tokyo's through high school that looked a lot like those famous spikes of Billy Mills.  They were my favorite spikes to wear in cross country.  I wish I still had them.

I've been lucky enough to meet Billy Mills on a couple of occasions.  He's truly an inspiration.  Go to YouTube and watch his 10,000.  I dare you not to get goosebumps. 

Monday, October 13, 2014

What's In A Shoe?

A shoe can break or make a runner.  I found it out the hard way 24 years ago while training for a particularly hilly marathon.  I developed a nasty case of achilles tendonitis.  I tried a cortisone shot and within two weeks the searing pain was back.  It was then that I figured out the new Nike Skylon's were the cause.

I had run in Nike's, mainly the Pegasus, for the better part of the 1980's.  Nike really started tinkering with their shoes at the start of the 90's and quite honestly, many of their trainers are not very good anymore.  That injury sent me to the Asics GT 2000 series and that was my go to shoe for the better part of the next decade.

When I moved to Fort Myers in 2003, I immediately saw a return of plantar fasciatas which had bothered me about six years before when I was still running 50 plus miles a week.  That's when I found Mike Pemberton and thus a shoe love affair was born.  Mike put me in Mizuno's and boom, the plantar disappeared just like that.

That started a running conversation (excuse the pun) with Mike about running shoes and what different shoes do, both good and bad.  It took Mike more than three years to get me to run in Newtons.  That was a real change for this avowed hell striker.  But that move led me back to lighter trainers and an ongoing affinity for the Saucony Kinvara.

But enough about me, I want to write about what Mike and I see on a weekly basis from runner's, both experienced and inexperienced.  They walk into the store with a beloved shoe that look like it's been beaten to death, the runner  oftencomplaining about injuries.  Most of the time the problem is they have run in the same shoe for a year or even longer.  If you're running in the same shoe three to four times a week, you're going to get six months out of them at best.

The other mistake is the everyday runner, using the same shoe day in and day out.  They come in two or three months later wondering what's wrong with the shoe.  What they don't understand is they've put six plus months use of shoes into one pair.

Shoes need time to recover.  The EVA that the shoes are built on compress and a 24 hour break allows that EVA to return to its original shape.  The other thing about EVA is that it deteroiates over time.  It has about a one year life span and then it begins to lose all of its cushioning properties.  That's why it's a bad idea to hit the cut out tables at the big box stores because shoes many times are DOA.

What I'm getting to is that if you are running five times a week or more, you really need to run in two pairs of shoes.  I've been doing it since the late 70's.  I usually rotate between three shoes, the Kinvara, my Newton Kismets and the HOKA Clifton as a recovery shoe.  That's not unusual for a dedicated runner.  I know some runners that use three to four shoes, not to mention their racing flats.

The point is, different shoes do different things.  They work different muscle groups.  In fact, as I prepare to start increasing my long runs I'm going to have to think about investigating into a heavier training shoe that can withstand a 10 mile plus run. 

The shoes are an investment in myself.  Two pairs of running shoes will help stretch the life of both pair.  In the long run (excuse the pun), you'll get more miles for your buck if you double down on your purchases.

Monday, September 29, 2014

The Red Line

Rolling along Monday evening on a four mile jaunt I looked down on the asphalt path that runs along 6 Mile Cypress.  I noticed some thoughtful soul had re-painted the half mile marks that show up along the five mile path that stretches from Daniels Parkway to Colonial Boulevard.  It reminded me of the importance of interval work when training for an important race, even for half marathons and marathons.  As I pondered the countless half mile and mile intervals I've run, something else occurred to me.  Running races ahead of a half marathon or marathon is equally important.

Preparatory races get your ready for your goal races.  It allows you to practice your strategy.  Running a few 5K's or 10K's before a longer race like a half marathon or marathon sharpens that edge.  Regardless of whether you plan on running a marathon under 3 hours, 4 hours, or 5 hours, a handful of races leading up to the big race is important.

This picture was taken about one month ahead of a marathon that I ran in Kansas City.  I'm leading an old training partner, Stephen Greer, over a bridge in Leawood, Kansas in a mid-September 10K race..  It told my coach that I was ready to run a marathon.  Because he wouldn't let me run intervals, (that's another story) I had to race to sharpen my speed.  Time and again it was a proven formula for the half marathons and marathons that I would follow.

You naturally run faster in a race.  The sheer force of the crowd of runners carry you along to speeds you normally can't hope to attain in a training run or during interval training.  I write about this as I see a group of hopeful men and women prepare with Coach Mike Pemberton for upcoming half marathons and marathons this winter.  You can log all the miles you want, but without some pace work, intervals, tempo runs and racing, those goal races won't be nearly as satisfying as you would like.

But that red line is a double edged sword.  Too much racing, too much speed work, will take an edge off of all of that work you've put in for that big race.  The red line can be your friend, but if you cross it one time too many, you can pay a heavy toll in injuries and illness.  Something to consider as we enter the road racing season.