Monday, January 6, 2014

Training for a Half Marathon

I'd like to welcome some of my friends to running!

Maybe it has been part of their New Year's Resolutions or just a general desire to get fit, but several friends have recently asked me about training to run a half marathon like the Inaugural Rock "n" Roll Marathon (and Half Marathon).

Maybe they think I know something because I've carried a sign...

...or simply because...
...and tell everyone about it on facebook.  (...with apologies to my non-running friends whom I drive insane.)

But for whatever reason people feel I might have some ideas on the topic of Running, here are my top 10 suggestions and thoughts...

  1. Run-Walk as advocated by Jeff Galloway.  If you think you cannot run 26.2 miles, 13.1 miles, or even 3.1 miles (5 kilometers), know that you DON"T HAVE TO with a Run-Walk method!  You only have to run for maybe 2 minutes.  (Actually, Jeff Galloway himself typically runs for only 30 seconds or 45 seconds at a time.)  You can do that, right?  Even most starting runners find they can run for at least 2 minutes.  (Note:  There are actually physiological reasons why this is the case where longer than two minutes of exercise typically requires "aerobic" (oxygen-based) metabolism for fueling rather than using the stored energy .  No wonder you are breathing so hard so quickly!) 
    Then, after a 2 minute run, you get a break!  Just walk...for a minute.  Then, repeat for as long as you plan to "run."

    So what does this do?  Most importantly, it engages different systems--fueling, muscles, etc. for your run.  For instance, you give your "running muscles" a chance to rest while your "walking muscles" are active.  You give your body a chance to clear built up lactic acid.  You give your heart rate a break.  And maybe most importantly, you give your mind a chance to recover and take stock of how things are progressing--and if you are running with friends, it's a chance to socialize for a minute.

    A second observation I've had on Run-Walk is that you run faster. For instance, instead of running a steady 11:00 minute/mile, you might run a 9:00 minute/mile pace for two minutes and then walk at an 18 minute/mile pace--for an overall 10:48 pace.  And you'll feel better!  Seriously, try it.  (And I'm talking about distances of maybe 10K and longer--you know, where you might try a 10:00 minute/mile pace at the start but get slower...and slower...and slower as the distance adds up.)  And once you get used to the run portion being (in my example) 9:00/mile, then you'll get faster overall by changing your Run-Walk ratio..

    That is, once you try at a 2:1 ratio, you can increase that to 2.5:1, 3:1, 4:1, and to 5:1 over time as you develop as a runner.  ...but don't go past 5:1 for your long, slow runs.  If you want to run a RACE at something else, go for it.  (I now RUN half marathons without walk breaks--except maybe around water stops--but I still TRAIN using a 5:1 ratio.)

    According to Jeff Galloway, Run-Walk also dramatically reduces the risk of injury--especially for those of us in the 50+ age range!  This makes sense to me because running at a steady-pace for a long duration means you are using the same muscles with no rest--and you tend to ignore signs of strains/pains/injury until it's too late.

    Oh, and for those people who claim "Run-Walk isn't really Running," ask if they don't walk for part of their long distance races!  Even among my strongest running friends, I don't know many who don't walk some during a marathon.
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  2. Train for a half marathon for roughly 13 weeks (= 13 miles) and for a full marathon for roughly 26 weeks.  There are dozens of training programs, and I don't have any specific ones I recommend, but the basics are run (only) three times per week including a long run, typically on Saturday.  And for the long runs, add one mile per week (starting with 3 miles) but once you get to 8 miles, add two miles every other week and take a shorter long run on the alternating Saturdays.  For instance, run distances of: 3-4-5-6-7-8-6-10-6-12-6-14-6 for your 13 Saturdays.  And for short mid-week runs, run 3 miles one day and 5 miles another day.  Ideally you would have specific objectives for these mid-week runs (like hills, speedwork, tempo, lactate-threshold, etc.)--but for your first half or full marathon, forget about all that.  Just get in the habit of running regularly!
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  3. Celebrate your new records/accomplishments!  I loved every time I ran for my longest distance ever! And when it comes to any time goals, forget them for your first race.  (In fact, while I wouldn't suggest taking it deliberately slowly, my father always suggested not to do too well on "pre-tests."  He wasn't talking about running, but if you do too well, you'll have a harder time beating your "PR" (Personal Record) in any future races.)
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  4. Use technology!  I love my Garmin watch, and others find mobile phone apps like Endomondo, MapMyRun, Runkeeper, iRunner, or even Garmin Fit to be encouraging and helpful.  Personally, I tend not to use mobile phone apps and tend not to run with music except on longer runs.  I like the peacefulness of getting outside and enjoying the sites and sounds. 
    Most Garmin watches have an interval timer for your Run-Walk timing, and some of the mobile phone apps do too.  But sometimes simple is best (and the battery lasts longer) using a "Gymboss"...

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  5. Speaking of technology, training with a heart rate monitor can be helpful. This helps you learn what heart rate works for you for endurance.  I decided to run my most recent half marathon watching my heart rate rather than my pace, and I got a significant PR and won third place in my age group.  (I found I could sustain a 158 bpm rate for most of the race--admittedly NOT doing Run-Walk.)
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  6. Know that 10% to 20% of your training runs will *suck*.  It could be due to your mood, the weather, or something physical bothering you.  Yet I guarantee that afterwards, even a sucky run will be better than no run!
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  7. Practice "fueling" to see what works for you--and start early (before you "feel" like you need something), but don't overdo it.  For me on a half marathon, that means taking my first 100 calorie "Gu" at 5 miles and then probably again at 8 miles and again at 10 miles.  Any more than that is unneeded, and anything in the last 30 minutes of your run doesn't have time to digest and be helpful.

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  8. Train with friends.  Personally, I find I can do solo runs for about 14 miles, but then I fall apart mentally.  By running with friends, I've run 32 miles (over 50K).
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  9. Be signed up for future races when you are doing one.  OK, so maybe this doesn't make sense if your goal is a bucket list item--a one-time event--but I find that if I'm signed up for a future race, I'm less likely to be disappointed with the "current" race because I know when my next opportunity is to redeem myself if my race doesn't go as planned/hoped.
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  10. AND...Don't be surprised if you fall in love with Running!
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  11. (Bonus Idea)  After your race, enjoy this video--one of my favorite commercials of all time.  (Note:  I own a Honda CR-V, so that's why I like it all the more.)

Enjoy your run!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Blueberries or Blueberry Biscuits/Thins?

I've recently been on a blueberry kick recently...yum!
From Flickr - Some rights reserved by giniger
However, I often want something crunchy (and if I ever have a crunch when I'm eating blueberries, I probably don't want to know what it is), so I decided to compare two kinds of new whole grain blueberry thins/biscuits/wafers...

First, Newtons Blueberry Brown Sugar Fruit Thins...


Just for fun (and health), I threw into the mix some healthful flavored wafers.  Sadly, they aren't available in blueberry, but they are available in a "cinnamon-y cardboard" flavor:

First, I had a bowl of blueberries--to remind myself of what real food tastes like.  Then, I broke each wafer-like thing into moderately small, equal-sized pieces, and observed texture, taste, and after-taste.

The belVita Biscuits won by a significant margin.  They have a slightly different and interesting texture--almost like there are blueberry soft spots in the belVita.  I know, it sounds kind of weird, but it really is a treat.  The blueberry flavor really comes through and lasts unlike in the Newtons Thins where the blueberry flavor isn't as pronounced and doesn't last as long.  While not blueberry, I actually liked the Cinnamon Wafers flavor better than the Newtons' flavor--more flavorful.  The problem with the Cinnamon Wafers is that the lingering taste and texture is where the idea of cardboard sets in.  Because of that, I probably wouldn't rush back for seconds and thirds with the Cinnamon Wafers.

From a nutritional perspective and "normalizing" each to 225 calories as a serving, the belVita Biscuits and Newton Thins each provide about 3g of fiber--that's only 10% of what you need in a day (assuming a 2000 calorie/day diet).  In contrast, the Cinnamon Wafers provide 11g--or about 40% of your needed fiber.  I guess I won't get much fiber from my crunching.  The Newtons are slightly lower in sugar and but also slightly lower in protein, but there's a bigger different in the TYPE of fat.  The Newtons have saturated fat whereas the belVitas don't, and over half of the fat of the belVitas is monounsaturated (i.e. good fat) vs. almost no monounsaturated fat in the Newtons.  That makes for a second advantage for the belVita Biscuits.  Interestingly, the Cinnamon Wafers have a higher percent of their calories from fat than either of the others.

Another advantage of the belVitas is that they are packaged in a group of 4 biscuits (230 calories) vs. the Newton Thins that come in a package like cookies are typically packaged.  That means unless you are disciplined, you'll probably eat more Newton Thins because, well, because "I'll have just one more."  And that is, by far, the worst part of either of these--it's not that they are particularly bad for us; it's that we eat too MUCH of this sort of junk.

An interesting observation is that they are both made by Nabisco (which is a subsidiary of Kraft Foods).  Nabisco also made Blueberry Newtons, but they discontinued them a few years ago.  I like (Fig et al) Newton Cookies, but after looking at their nutrients, I noticed that they are considerably worse than any of the above--a lot of sugar and little other redeeming value.

Which takes me back to the blueberries themselves.  Per calorie, they have roughly the same amount of fiber as the Cinnamon Wafers with none of the fat.  So why was it I was eating anything but  raw blueberries?

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Lotusphere 2011 & Running

(Historical Post:  From February 3, 2011)

I'm always a bit saddened at the end of IBM's Lotusphere in Orlando each year yet looking forward to the upcoming year considering the innovative steps we at IBM are promoting.  This year's Lotusphere message of "Get Social.  Do Business" transcends our products and has the potential to revolutionize how companies work.  My personal focus at IBM is on helping companies create "Exceptional Web Experiences"--something we have been doing for a decade--but now IBM Software allows "Exceptional Work Experiences."  Think what facebook and blogging have done in your personal life and apply that to your work life!

...but, I'm straying off the mark here.  This is my personal blog.  My technology blog is at Polleck's Portal Ponderings (if and when I get around to blogging there).

The personal thing I kicked off this week was training for my annual 5K in April.  Typically, at best, my training happens in April since my target 5K is usually the last Sunday in April.  Since that will be Easter Sunday this year, the 2011 Race of Grace in downtown Raleigh is scheduled for Sunday, May 1, 2011...

I've "run" these since 2005.  (OK, OK, I admit--based on the speed, most of you would call it a "fast walk.")  My goal is to improve on my fastest previous time of about 33 minutes in 2005 because I've gotten slower since 2005 with times ranging from 35 to 42 minutes for the 5K.  I'm not getting any younger, but maybe I can still improve my time before my "big" milestone birthday this December.

In any case, instead of staying up late each night helping close down the bar at the Dolphin (precisely, I think it's called the "Lobby Lounge") and then dragging myself out of bed early for breakfast meetings, this year I resolved to head to Picabu for my free refill of Diet Coke well before midnight and then up at 5:45am to meet my running buddy for the week--my good work friend, Bennie Gibson.  It turned out there was a nice running path between the Dolphin and Disney Studios...

(Picture credit:

It's about a mile each way, which gave us nice (and fortunately short) runs each morning--"fortunately" both because we had breakfast meetings and because even two miles was a bit of a challenge.

One lesson learned:  I've got to practice pacing myself.  I run too hard, and then I'm out of breath.  The other thing I learned was that even though it was shorts-and-t-shirt temperatures, it was still dark at 5:45am!

As you can see from the route pictured above, I got to try out my new Garmin 405CX GPS watch this week.  We were running between 12:00 and 13:00 minutes per mile.  That's not going to get me to my 33 minute 5K goal, but it's always difficult to run with someone new.  As guys, we don't want to run too slowly and seem like wimps, but we also don't want the other person to have to say "whoa, slow down."  I still don't know if this was a good pace for Bennie, but it was plenty fast for me after not enough exercise over the holidays.

Now, I'm looking forward to a weekend in Orlando with my son, Scott.

[This blog post is dedicated to Bennie Gibson, my running buddy this past week.]