Run Green, Greener and Green-ish

greenWhat I dig about this article from Runner’s World is that is gives options for varying degrees of greening up one’s running. For example:

Hydrate

Good: Buy powdered sports drinks and mix them yourself.
Better: Wave away plastic race cups by carrying your own water in a secure container (like Amphipod’s Hydraform Handheld Pockets).
Best: Use reusable bottles instead of throwaway plastic water bottles.

See the rest at Runner’s World.

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Race T-Shirts

I have a ton of race t-shirts. I purge my pile of them fairly often, but the collection grows. I was looking at a brochure recently from Campus Quilt, a company who will sew all of your race t-shirts into a quilt, and it occured to me I don’t recall ever having discussed the matter of t-shirts with another runner.

So, let’s hear it: what do you do with your race t-shirts? Has anyone made a quilt from them? Or something else? Let’s hear it.

The Rehab Diaries: Tips To Address The Injury, Discomfort and Sleep Quality Connection

200140664-001When you’re uncomfortable, it’s hard to sleep. Duh. When our bodies are using energy to heal, the shift in the various physical processes make for disrupted sleep. And, what’s worse, a few nights of poor sleep because of discomfort from an injury leaves the body less-able to heal, then the injury keeps on as a source of discomfort, which leads to more sleeplessness and blah blah blah. You see where this is headed. Nowhere pretty, that’s where.

So, let’s review some healthy sleep habits to have in mind for times of injury and discomfort, for periods of insomnia and, well, just generally. Because good sleep is good for you. Not just good for you, but essential for health.

1. Limit caffeine intake, especially in the afternoon and evenings. Better yet, eliminate it after lunchtime, or entirely.

2. Lay off the sauce. Seriously. Passing out cold after a night of cocktails seems like deep sleep, but nay. It’s not going to be good sleep, and it’s not terribly helpful in the hydration department, either.

3. Don’t run wild right before bed. Keep it mellow in the evening, and wind down, easing yourself into a peaceful, sleepy state in the hours leading up to going to bed. Do get some sort of exercise during the earlier part of the day for optimal sleep, though during periods of injury that may not be possible or limited. Not the end of the world. That’ll come in time.

4. Try to sleep on your back. It’s the ideal sleeping position for your spine, your organs, bodily processes, all that good stuff. I know, easier said than done, too, but possible. I retrained myself to mostly sleep on my back in about a week, and it was no big deal. Give it a whirl. Shove a pillow under your lower back and/or knees if you need to, but give it a try.

5. Try to keep a regular sleep/wake schedule.

6. Minimize noise, light and excessive temperatures at night, though some experts insist it best to keep a room between 65 and 70 degrees to promote good sleep. Try, also, to avoid checking mobile devices and illuminated clock displays for the time, which can interfere with circadian rhythms and thus signal to the mind that it’s time to wake up.

7. If, after 20-20 minutes of trying to fall asleep, get up and do something low-key to switch your mind off instead of letting it race on and on about the sleep you wish you were getting. Repeat as needed throughout the night.

Fight The Bonk: Airport Gyms

ohare-airportIt was one of those “Of course that has to exist!” sort of moments when I heard about AirportGyms. The site’s selection of US and Canadian gyms to help fight the bonk during a layover is pretty in-depth with a gym in or near just about every airport I checked.  But, I wasn’t satisfied with just a website, so I checked out the gym associated with Chicago O’Hare Airport since I’m, you know, right here.  At $11 for a day pass, it’s not quite a bargain by gym standards, but consider that it’s attached to the airport’s Hilton Hotel and is a pretty nice gym. Then, consider that a soggy airport sandwich is about that much and suddenly it seems like an excellent deal. Ish.

How To Navigate A Water Stop

You’d think this might go without saying, but I hear two issues arise again and again with runners in reference to water stops, so I thought we should just go here and get it all out in the open.

Issue One: Mannerless boors sweep in, crossing foot traffic, swiping an offered cup out from under someone else, take their drinks, then throw the cups and remaining water on the ground directly below his/her feet, causing other runners to slip and slide on cup and water.

Issue Two: To first-timers, the whole water station looks like a big crazy mess, the thought of trying to drink and run seems difficult, so the stations get skipped and the runner is under-hydrated.

Both scenarios are ripe for bonkiness.

So, here’s what you do:

For starters, think of it all taking place in bird’s eye view, and think of each runner as a car on a highway. You wouldn’t (or, hopefully not, anyway) swerve suddenly from the far left lane to a right exit in your car, and it’s no different on foot. There are a lot of people around you, some running straight through and passing up the water station, the rest pulling over for a drink, too.

As you spot the water station, gradually pull alongside the tables and slow down as you enter the station area. Be mindful that you’re running on wet ground, and that everyone around you is trying to either do the same or push through. Anyway, slow it down and fall in. Slowing down momentarily at a water station is worth doing to ensure proper hydration.

There are usually several tables, with several volunteers in front of each. You want to aim for an early table, so you can avoid having to stop or backtrack should you miss the handoff or spill, but the first table is usually jammed with people, so perhaps aim for the second. Most of all, consider the traffic and the fluid type (water or sports drink) and act accordingly.

When you pick your table and are getting close, extend your hand and make eye contact with one volunteer as you get closer. Some find it useful to say loudly and clearly “water” or the name of the sports drink if each station offers both. Then, also loudly and clearly, say thank you when you have the cup in your hand. This lets the volunteer know you have it securely, and.. well, these folks are volunteers and probably got up and out the door before you did and they did it for your sake, so be kind to them.

Pinch the cup to prevent it from spilling and hold it for a few strides. Tilt your head and pour the drink into one side of your mouth. If you drink it straight, most of it will likely dump out. This might be something you want to practice. It’s simple enough when you get the hang of it, but it does feel strange the first couple of times you try it.

If you feel like you need to slow down to a walk in order to take a drink, tuck in behind someone else who is walking, don’t just start walking and risk having a bunch of people crash behind you. Also, if you feel you’d rather stop completely and take a minute to have a drink, pull over away from runners and walkers. This keeps traffic flowing. Again, think of the bird’s eye view and think of every runner as a car on a highway. You wouldn’t just stop suddenly, you’d pull to the shoulder first. Same deal here.

Similarly, don’t pull over gradually then leap back into the race in someone else’s path. Ease back out gradually, and work your way out to the center flow of traffic again.

Anyway, after you drink, despite the fact that you’re probably seeing many crushed cups underfoot, don’t just drop the thing straight down, and don’t pitch the empty cup into the barrels lined up at the stations unless they’re clearly marked as trash cans, because many of these large drum cans actually have water in them on race day. Instead ball it up and either pitch it out of the way, far to the side if there are no trash cans ahead or hold it in a ball in your hand and dispose of it when you next see a trash can. But again, if you must pitch it onto the ground, get it to the side of the road so nobody slips on it. Water station areas are slippery anyway, and the paper cup litter on the ground makes it even more slippery. (I’ve slipped on a cup during a race before and cut my knee, and it totally sucked; it hurt the rest of the race and the chump who threw it behind him had no idea. The upside, though, was that I ran a great race because I was determined to catch up to the guy and tell him he needed to scrounge up some manners on the quick. I never caught him, but the race time was good. Still! At the same race, a friend of mine got hit in the eye with a crumpled paper cup being thrown at eye level. Be mindful with the cups, people. I can’t emphasize that one enough.)

Before leaving the station, grab a second cup and drink it, too. Or, on hot days, many runners will drink one and pour the second over their head. Again, the few seconds lost at the hydration station can be regained out on the course because you’re properly hydrated. That said, unless it’s really hot, this probably isn’t necessary at every stop. And, two cups is plenty, no need to hog the water supply intended for everyone.

My final suggestion, readers dear, is to make a point, at least once in your runnerly life, to volunteer at a water station. You’ll never look at them the same way again.

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.