Race-Ready In One Week (Or, Runnerly Butt-Covering 101)

Say you go to a cool running store and get all revved up and decide to wing it at a 5k about a week away. Or, say you get a glass of something in your system and pop off with some sort of “pssh, of course I can run that race in a week”-ism (I’m not going to name names). Just say.

Said race will be a wing-it job, for sure, and one hopefully you’d enter into with at minimum of maintenance mileage as regular part of your world at the very least. Of course, we all know that we need more than a tiny little week to prep for a race, but sometimes inspiration and opportunity meet and we find ourselves going there anyway. So, if we must hop into a 5k at the last minute (and plenty of us do from time to time), we can at least put ourselves into the best possible condition to have a good race with one week’s time to prepare, yes? Yes.

Monday: Just get in a few easy miles. Accept that you’re not likely going to run a PR and just loosen it all up. Trying to cram for a race is, well, frakkin’ silly. It’ll get you to physical therapy faster than it’ll get you to the starting line. So, chill, and just have a good run today, and let your brain think about running a race in a few days and feel the race-mode mindset.

Tuesday: Okay, on Tuesday, do a tempo run for the number of minutes it will take you to race the 5k. If you think you can do the 5k in 20 minutes, do a 20-min tempo run with one mile to warm up and one mile to cool down. This run will just remind you and your body and your brain what it feels like to be running faster.

Wednesday: Run a few easy miles. Remind yourself to keep your expectations modest here. I’m all for gusto and doing the impossible and aiming for stars, too, and I’m not saying it’s not possible to pull something incredible out of thin air on race day, but don’t be stubborn and injure yourself. Just use this race as a test to see how far removed you are from your most recent PR and use the results to think about future training and racing goals.

Thursday: Run two 800-meter runs at goal race pace with equal time of slow-jog in between as recovery. The goal here is to run a mile’s worth of distance at the pace you think you can sustain on race day and this short workout will help you figure out what your race pace should be without wearing you out, or making you super sore, blah blah blah. If the two repeats are brutal, the race pace you’re aiming for is too ambitious. Remind yourself this race will be a test to see where you are and leave it at that.

Friday: Run a few very easy miles or just take the day off– either decision won’t make or break the race at this point. Do what feels right, do what’s in your head. It’s pretty mental at this point.

Saturday: Do a good, solid half-hour run then four 100 meter strides with brief recovery slow-jog periods in-between. Do the strides at your anticipated race pace to simulate a strong finish. The speed will wake up you fast-twitch muscle fibers and make the early sections of the race the following day (which will be a bit slower than this, obviously) feel easier.

Sunday (race day!): To avoid going out too fast and bonking out, divide the race into rough thirds. Pull out of the gate with a nice, strong and conservative pace the first mile, say about ten seconds below the race pace for which you’re aiming. For the middle mile, find the groove and settle into race pace. By running first two-thirds with some degree of restraint, you should be able to kick it a little bit for the final mile and make a strong finish. Then, as soon as possible after the race, spend about ten minutes in a cold bath or swimming pool. It won’t feel as good as a hot tub, but the cold water will stave off inflammation.

Ahem, and it’ll help you recover quickly so you can train for real for the next race. I’m just saying.

How To Get A Badass Finish Line Photo

Don’t:

Don’t look down. Don’t bork around with your watch as your cross the finish line. Don’t obscure your bib number. Don’t drag your feet. Don’t make the “shoot me, shoot me now” face. Don’t whack others runners with wild arms. Don’t, whatever you do, don’t cross the finish line with a cartwheel or by walking on your hands– your chip might not connect with the finish line sensor!

Do:

Do run directly under the clock.  Do try to move into an empty space so you get photographed solo (unless you’re crossing the finish ine with another person intentionally, of course). Do lifts your head and arms, either all the way up or out, or with bent elbows at shoulder level. Do make sure your bib number is visisble. Do stride strong. Do smile, and do take a moment and feel proud for finishing– that sort of thing shows.

Fight The Bonk: Head Trip

It’s true that a good portion of any race is mental. And, it’s true that our minds are capable of very weird things in a race, as well as very awesome things. Here are a few tips to keep your monkeys in check when the mind starts to fall in a hole:

1. Fake it. Pretend you’re in the Olympics, or some other huge event, and you are so about to win and the whole world is screaming– in the stadium, at the television sets, all over the place– for you to win. And you can, as long as you hold off the guy/gal inches behind you. Push that edge then hold it until you feel yourself getting into a better place.

2. Pick them off. Pick an object like a tree or a stop sign, or a loudly-colored short of a fellow runner if you absolutely must be stone cold like that, and pick ’em off. Just focus on running to the target, or focus on passing your target person.

3. Go someplace else. Go ahead and trip out a little bit. Your body will likely keep doing what it’s doing, so mull over an issue, plan a dinner party, imagine cooking a huge meal upon which you’ll feast at the finish line, whatever. Just don’t zone out so much that you forget where you are, what you’re doing, etc and inadvertantly slow down and run off the road.

4. Have an emergency playlist in the reserves. I have a few songs on this short list. Songs that i’ve run with before that I equate with really outstanding running successes. Just the song is mental cue enough to make me feel better. I do this one a lot. It’s my lucky charm for sure.

5. Make a mantra. I hear these all the time towards the end of a race. Some make sense, some absolutely do not. A friend of mine always chants “you’re going home, let’s go home” to herself towards the end of a race, which is cool, and I’ve heard everything from “do it for Billy” to “tater tots” being mumbled in the final miles. Hey, whatever works. I once ran past a Jamba Juice and got “jumba jumba jumba juice” stuck in my head. Like I said, whatever works. Truly.

Bonkfighters: The Marshall King Interview

I’d like everyone to meet Marshall King.

King started racewalking with Team In Training in 2003, having never previously run or racewalked. He walked the Virginia Beach Half-Marathon for Team in Training and was gung-ho for both walking and athleticism. In 2004, he won the men’s half-marathon racewalk division at the Mardi Gras Marathon, and later in 2004, he started walking ultra-marathons, walked two 50-milers and a 50k and all sorts of other races including the race that made him a centurion, meaning he walked 100 miles in twenty-four hours at an event, making him the 61st American to achieve centurion status. In 2007, not only did he decide to run instead of walk, but he also, “…had the opportunity to join Team in Training again, this time as a walk coach.  I love Team in Training!  My wife almost lost her life to Leukemia in 1999, so the cause is very personal.  And I remember how great I felt completing my first event, setting PRs, pushing myself to go faster or farther.  I get teary-eyed watching my teammates cross the finish line.  It’s just a great experience.  I’ve been coaching for three years and don’t plan to give it up.”

Right now, King has set his sights on running seven ultra-marathons in seven months for a really great cause.

Bonkless: How did you come up with the idea to run seven ultra marathons in seven months?

King: Early in 2008 I registered for the Heartland 100, but in the summer I felt like my training wasn’t going well so I decided to skip it.  Then, in September of this year, my dad was diagnosed with prostate cancer.  It was a total shock (as it usually is) and it stirred up a lot of different emotions – fear, anger, hope.  Most of all, I wanted to do something, but when someone you love has cancer there’s not a lot you can do except love them and support them.  Because of my experience with Team in Training I thought of the idea of raising money through racing.  I want to fight alongside my Dad and show him my support, and I want to help the next father who is diagnosed.  The treatments and cures available today were funded 5, 10, 15 years ago.  I’m raising money for the next breakthrough discovery!

I found out that the Prostate Cancer Foundation has a fundraising program called Athletes for a Cure that gives athletes the opportunity to raise money through completing one of their featured events, or through picking their own event (“Any Event, Any Time, Any Where”).  I wanted to tie my fundraising to my mileage, and I wanted to do something that would last a while so I could raise more money.  Finally, I liked the idea of tying racing “endurance” to cancer “endurance.  There is no way to truly compare an ultra-marathon to cancer treatment, but I wanted to endure my events just like cancer patients and survivors have to endure treatments, tests, relapses, new treatments, new tests, and all of the fear that goes along with that.

There’s a quote that people in TNT often use in their fundraising efforts, and it works just as well here: “I run because I can. When I get tired, I remember those who can’t run, what they’d give to have this simple gift I take for granted, and I run harder for them. I know they would do the same for me.”

The other reason I picked ultras, and started with Heartland, is the realization that none of us is guaranteed the time to do what we want to do.  This would have been the third time I had registered for Heartland and not even started the race, and I realized that I couldn’t keep putting it off.  Who knows what could happen at any time, so I decided to seize the opportunity.

B: That’s so true! So, which races are on tap?

MK: The Heartland 100 Mile (Update: Complete! 28:25:21), the Rockledge Rumble 50k on November 8,  SunMart 50 Mile on December 6, Bandera 100k on January 10, Cross Timbers 50 Mile on February 21, the Three Days of Syllamo (50k/50 Mile/20k) on March 13th, 14th and 15th and The Texas Marathon (x 2) on April 5 – I’m going to run the race in reverse before the official start, then run the official race.

B: In reverse! Cool! How can we best support your efforts?

MK: The best way is to donate to the Prostate Cancer Foundation.  You can make a direct donation through my website. Another fun way to support me is to make a “per mile” pledge (just email me your pledge).  You can make your donation after I finish each race.  That may make it easier for some people to donate since your pledge is spread out over seven months.  I’ll be racing 439.2 miles, so suggested pledges are:

$1.00 per mile = $439.20
$0.50 per mile = $219.60
$0.25 per mile = $109.80
$0.10 per mile = $ 43.92
$0.05 per mile = $ 21.96
But I’ll take anything!  A $5.00 pledge is $5 more to help beat prostate cancer.
B: How are you training for this undertaking and how do you anticipate your running will change by race number seven? Do you suppose your body will begin to adapt and run each race more efficiently?
MK: When I train for ultras I train more and train more slowly.  Typically I run three days during the week, between 6 and 10 miles, and one of the days is hill training (not easy here in Dallas!).  On the weekends I try to train both Saturday and Sunday, between 20 and 35 miles.  For example, I’ll run 20 Sat./25 Sun., then maybe 30 Sat./20 Sun., etc.  Just mix it up.  But I feel like the long back-to-back runs are the best way to simulate the fatigue and aches and pains that occur during ultras.

I definitely hope to see some improvement in my running by the end of this seven month cycle.  I hope to be stronger, more consistent, running more and walking less, and faster overall.  Ultras are really no different than marathons or half marathons in that respect – if you do them consistently, and train well, you should see some improvement.  There’s a great quote about this: “One of the good things about distance running is, if you work hard, if you’re consistent, it’s going to pay off in the long run.  You don’t need to get fancy with things….Distance running is pretty much a no-brainer.  You work hard, you put the miles in, you’re going to get better.” ~Ed Moran, Pan Am 5k Champ

B: Where can people go to get the facts about prostate cancer?

MK: That’s a great question!  I hope that one result of my racing and fundraising is raising awareness.  I’m planning to have some racing shirts made that spread the message.  Prostate cancer has a 90% cure rate, but it has to be found early.  Early screening is so important!  So I hope that someone will hear my message and get himself checked out.  There are a number of websites; here are three that I think are good:

You heard the man. Please give as genersouly as you are able to Marshall King via his website and show your support for a fellow bonkfighter!

Quick Bonkfighting Tip: Chasing Dubya

If you find yourself unable to find time to run, remind yourself that President George W. Bush runs everyday. From there, ask yourself if your tasks are more plentiful or greater than the President of the Frakkin’ United States (granted, he has “people” and such, but let’s forget that for the moment). Then, depending upon your feeling about him, either use his dedication to running as inspiration or, not to be outdone, get in your shoes and go chase the figurative Dubya.

Fight The Bonk: Endurance Athletes and Fasting

A friend of mine, who is Muslim, is a runner, and has said before that she plans her running year around religious fasting holidays. Ditto my friend who is Greek Orthodox. I’ve never specifically made a point to not be in training during Yom Kippur (a major Jewish holiday involving 25 hours of abstaining from all food and water) though it has always seemed to work out that way. But this year, as I meshed together my training schedule and the holiday calendar, I realized I was going to be fasting forty-eight hours before my long run, which, if you ask me, has bonk written all over it. (Luckily, it’s a long training run and not, say a race. However, the Chicago Marathon is this weekend, so I’m sure a few other folks are wondering about all of this, too.)

Anyway, I’m one to try and troubleshoot my way out of tough spots and figure out a win-win situation. So, that’s what I did.

Obligatory disclaimer: Now, before we begin, let us not launch into a debate of fast or not to fast, as it is purely a matter of personal choice. Whether you, reader dear, are pro-fasting, anti-fasting, or altogether indifferent to fasting is perfectly valid and reasonable, as are your personal feelings about the nature of human beings and the universe. I’m only offering options and information for those who do observe fasts, or for people who coach people who fast, in order to help people out. Also, due to the nature of my experience and the information I was able to find, this focuses more on a one-day-only fast. I would love to hear from people who observe multi-day fasts about the ways they maintain their fitness and health during said periods. Lastly, while I welcome all comments, we’re just going to examine the aspects of fasting which might concern an athlete.

Capisci? Great. Let’s begin.

First, it’s important to understand the physical processes the body undergoes at various stages of fasting. The good news is that, to the best of my knowledge, there isn’t any fast that involves running around and expending a lot of our energy reserves, so at the very least, our exertion levels during a fast will be very low. “Fasting done for one day is not likely to do any harm for healthy individuals like athletes,” says Talli van Sunder, DPT of Being Healthy TV. In this post series, Modern Forager explains the physiological processes involved with fasting in great detail over six posts. But, the short version goes like this:

Food contains glucose, in some form or another. As we digest food, some of this glucose is stored in our muscles and liver as glycogen while the rest of it fuels our brain cells and intestinal absortion cells (erythrocytes). So, if we go about 6-ish hours (give or take two hours either way) without giving our bodies more glucose (via eating), that glycogen store in the liver is called upon, at which point said glycogen is converted right back into glucose to fuel our bodies. Got it? Good. So, this glycogen store can last about 12-ish hours before the body looks to the muscles’ stored supply of glycogen for fuel and can go a day or so in that manner. But, to protect its muscles from being damaged, the body, smart little machine that it is, steps in and makes a temporary switch, leaving the glycogen in the muscles alone after a point and focusing on fueling off of our stores fat cells instead. Blood glucose, then glycogen stores, then stored fat.

As most of you are aware, the literal definition of “bonk” is the point when glycogen reserves in the liver and muscles become depleted, totally derailing an athlete mid-event. So, you can see where fasting and endurance sports might potentially be at odds. The body’s search for fuel reserves inside the body is to keep us alive and functioning until we find more food, not, say, for running a race.

That said, step one is to prepare. Let’s take a look at things athletes can do to prepare for a fast in the days and hours beforehand. First, it’s always important to hydrate, but it’s very, very important to hydrate pre-fast, with water, of course, but also, just before the fast begins is a great time to hydrate with an electrolyte-replacement sports drink (Be mindful of the sugar hidden in some sports drinks, though). Placing our bodies in top-form before a fast will only help us both through the fast, and after. Planning far ahead is a good move, too. Say, ten or so days ahead, and work to get your blood sugars regulated and not spiking in either direction by eating quality, low glycemic index whole foods of complex carbohydrates and proteins while paying attention to eating at regular and slightly shorter intervals to keep blood sugar levels on an even keel. Coach Adam from Racing With Purpose adds an excellent point, too, that:

“…nutritional addictions take between four and 10 days to overcome from an irritability and blood sugar/insulin standpoint, and the two Jewish holidays are so conveniently spaced to fit this. …as endurance athletes one of our main objectives is to regulate our blood sugar and insulin response to optimize the use of fuel and avoid both spikes and crashes of energy levels…  If you withdraw off of these [foods and habits that de-regulate blood sugar levels], your cravings are eliminated and your blood sugar is moderated before you begin your fast, life gets a whole lot easier on Yom Kippur and for a lot longer afterwards. Consider this your pre-fast taper.”

During the fast, taking an easy walk mid-day isn’t an awful ideal, either, to slightly raise insulin levels. No hoofing it, of course, but a gentle stroll and stretch can boost the system significantly. Keyword, though, is gentle. And, gently tweak your workout schedule if need be as well, not only to avoid exercise during the fast period, but first before or after as well.

Then, after the fasting period, it’s important to consider the best ways an athlete can help his/her body return to training, both nutritionally (ie, what type of nutrition is most important and urgent at the end of a fast?) and physically  (what body processes are the most compromised during a fast? In what ways should an athlete coming off a fast try to be the most productive? In which ways should s/he give it a little time?).

The first order of business at the end of a fast is, of course, eating. It is super-important though, to not over-eat when breaking-fast, with the ideal scenario being a small meal to break the fast, followed by a healthy snack before going to bed. And, what you eat is important, too. van Sunder says of fasting, “The important thing for athletes is to drink and eat a healthy meal before hand and do the same afterward….eat a healthy meal that is easy to digest. Protein is harder to digest than carbohydrates.”

Iin my experience, eating a very healthy, low-glycemic carbohydrate with a lean protein first upon ending a fast is the best way for me to ease out of fasting, as a straight high-glycemic carb tends to make my body react with a burst of insulin and a sudden jittery, high. And, that’s not what I’m going for at all. Even-keeled is the name of the game to fight off this potential bonk. And, of course, go back to hydrating immediately, too– water, of course, and also electrolyte-replacement drinks (remember, sports drinks can suffice for electrolytes, but some of them have as much sugar as a can of coke, so watch it) or juice, and I like to add a banana, or at least part of a banana, a short time after breaking fast to get my potassium levels back up to par, while continuing to hydrate throughout the night. Then, as mentioned above, add a small, healthy snack shortly before going to bed, keeping the blood sugar as leveled out as possible.

The following morning, eat a good-sized, healthy breakfast, and keep up the hydration. To run that day, pay close attention to how you feel. Perhaps bring along an extra gel or GU or Shot Blok, just in case a little reinforcement is needed. And do the carbohydrate + protein post-run meal after that is customary (I know we all have our post-run to-go meal.)

This sounds like a lot of information to process at once, but once you do it once, it’s an easy routine. And the ability to not miss a beat in either area of our lives is worth the extra effort. But again, this really only troubleshoots a one-day fast period; I would love to hear comments, experiences or insights from folks who observe longer fasting periods.

Bonkless Lovefest

You know what I really like? Raising money for a great cause while training for an event. In fact, I feel like I don’t really pick my next race, but that life has a way of picking my next race for me. By that I mean, sometimes issues appear in our lives and we’re made aware of opportunities to raise money for said cause. I’m all for that. Sometimes, we just feel prompted to act on behalf of a cause without a personal event prompting us to do so. I’m all for that, too.

So, here’s what we’re going to do today, folks. Who is raising money for a running, walking, cycling or other endurance event right now? Let’s hear it. Leave a little info in the comments section below about the event, perhaps share with us why you’re participating in this event, along with a link to your fundraising page. Seriously, just shout it out. I’ll update this post with your info as you post. Sound good? Great.

I’ll even start, in case you’re shy.

In December, I’m running the St. Jude Half-Marathon on behalf of a very tiny member of my family, who is being treated there currently. I’m fundraising here.

See, that wasn’t so hard. Who else is fundraising for an endurance event?