Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Triathlon Training in the "Off" Season

With the arrival of winter looming for those of us in the northern states and countries we are faced with the reality that triathlon season (and to some degree running season) is shut down for the winter and some of the spring. What is a triathlete to do during the "off" season to maintain or even increase their fitness when they are relegated to the indoors?

Even if races are not on the agenda until next season, I think it is still critical to set goals for ourselves and have a plan we can work from. From everything I have learned, the "off" season should be less intense than racing season, which makes sense. Our bodies need time to rebuild. Yet we still need to train and schedule in key workouts to maintain or increase our fitness levels.

Below is my plan for keeping my tri fitness up during this "off season". Feel free to use my plan as a model or to create your own customized plan for success in the next racing season.

My Overall Goal: To start off the running season in March with a strong impact and to enter triathlon season (May-Sept) rejuvinated and ready to work hard to win.

Sport Specific Goals: 

Swim: swimming efficiently requires a lot of technique. I plan to use this winter to work on technique for different strokes, work on speed and work on distance. My goal is to swim twice a week at least with one workout dedicated to technique and speed and the other a freestyle distance swim aimed at keeping my endurance up to at least 1.2 miles of swimming per session for a total of at least 2-3 miles of swimming per week.

Bike: biking is my weakest sport but I have fallen in love with it. I know I will have to work hard to maintain a good base for the spring biking season. I plan to ride the bike at least three times a week with a combination of spinning classes for speed and technique and using a trainer to log some miles on my racing bike. My goal is to get in at least 40-50 miles on the bike each week.

Run: because running is my sport du jour I will always pay a lot of attention to developing this sport. My plan for the winter is to focus on key running workouts that will have a quick payoff in the spring. My goal is to run three to four days a week and use the following key workouts: a speed day that can be done on treadmill or track as repeats (faster than 5k race pace); a tempo day that focuses in on a 5 to 10k race pace; a longer run day to keep the base mileage up to at least 8-10 miles all winter (I try as much as possible to do these outside when weather permits. The goal is not speed); and finally if I do a fourth run it is a freestyle run or recovery run after a hard day. My goal mileage for the "off" season is 20-30 miles per week.

Core: because core is so important to a triathlete's performance, I am committed to doing core workouts at least twice a week for an hour each. These workouts for me consist of pilates, hot yoga, kettlebell and weight training. The added benefit of core is strength and better body composition. 

Rest: I will rest at least one day a week from all activity - sometimes maybe even two!

So there you have "off-season" plan. I wish all of you a happy and healthy "off" season. 

Monday, October 25, 2010

Top Ten Reasons to Run a Marathon or 1/2 Marathon

There are many reasons to run in general. I could list at least a hundred reasons and benefits from the top of my head right now. That's not the point of this post. The point of this post is to explain why you should consider running a half or full marathon. These longer distances pose different challenges and benefits that will allow you to develop as a distance runner in ways you cannot at shorter distances such as 5 or 10k.

1) The accomplishment:  Probably the best feeling of my life was finishing a marathon. It is an emotional experience and accomplishment like no other.

2) The healthy lifestyle: It's hard to be a marathoner or 1/2 marathoner and not be conscious of how you take care of yourself. Most distance runners are healthy people. It is good for you physically (heart, lungs, better immune system) and emotionally.

3) Fight stress: Ever had a bad day and went out for a run after? It's like medicine. As your feet hit the ground you can literally feel your stress leaving your body. Sometimes you'll experience what people call the "runner's high". It's a great feeling being out there and letting go.

4) Time for yourself: We're always so busy with work and family and sometimes we forget to take time for ourselves. Running can be that time for you. Your hour a day to connect with your body and mind and do something for you.

5) Build yourself up: As you run longer distances and finish races that include 1/2 and full marathons, you will feel the confidence to keep going - both in your running and in other things in your life. Running builds you up and gives you courage and self-esteem.

6) Weight loss or maintenance: For those looking to lose weight or even just maintain a healthy weight, running long distance is a great way to accomplish that. You can also enjoy eating a balanced diet and splurging on things you love knowing that you have that "long run" coming up.

7) Enjoy the outdoors: Distance running is a sport meant to be enjoyed outdoors. As you're planning your longer runs you can explore new places and you can travel to races all over the world and experience new things and scenery. You can even just discover things you don't notice while in a car.

8) Add structure to your life: Many people ask me how I am able to work, take care of my daughter and train so diligently. The answer is scheduling. An endurance athlete has to plan things. When you train for long distance races, you will become better at scheduling in your key workouts. Remember to focus every week on one day of speed (faster than goal race pace), one day of long, slow distance and one day of tempo (race pace) in addition to your everyday mileage.

9) Enjoy the Experience: As a runner you will meet new people, see new places, compete with yourself in new races, rerun old races, create experiences that you may otherwise not have. Most of my closest friends today are runners. They know how to work hard and play hard and enjoy the experience.

10) Charity: Although not a primary motivator for all, it is certainly respectable to run a long distance race such as a marathon for charity or in memory of someone you love, lost or respect. There are many teams that will train people to participate in events. Some of those teams include Livestrong, Team in Training, etc.

Whatever your motivation, I strongly encourage you to get out there and train and race. Run a 1/2 marathon or a marathon. You can do it and you will be able to look back and remember how good you felt about yourself!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Fall Running Know-How

It's that time of the year again in Northeast Ohio. We call it fall. It's a time of beautiful colors, crisp and cooler air, shorter days and tasty treats. However it is also a time of more potential hazards for those of us who are active.

Please be careful and comfortable out there by following these fall running suggestions:

• Be aware of the time. If you run after work then you've noticed the days grow shorter. Running in the dusk or dark can be dangerous so make sure you have reflective clothing and/or a headlamp with you to make sure you're visible to cars, cyclists and others.

• Monitor the weather. If you are running in the rain you should be alert to your surroundings as the wet fall leaves have a tendency to be slippery.

• Dress appropriately. Fall is a weird time for weather. Some days have warm mornings or evenings and others are very cold. Go outside before you run and feel the temperature so you can dress for the actual conditions. Remember you can always remove an extra layer.

• Invest in running gloves and a colder weather hat or headband to keep your hands and ears warm on those chilly fall days. Another great item to consider is a vest to keep your core warm on colder days.

• Although the temperatures are cooler you still need to be hydrated - especially on longer runs. Make sure you are drinking water and sports drinks and fueling as needed for your specific runs.

Follow these suggestions and you should have an enjoyable fall season of running. Now go get out there!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Akron RoadRunner 1/2 Marathon Race Report

First, let me just say what a fantastic job the city of Akron does with the RoadRunner Marathon! It is a very well-organized race! Kudos to the race director, sponsor, volunteers, the locals who come out to cheer the runners on and all the runners who show up on race day! It is a fun and challenging event with a half marathon and marathon course that draws the best local runners around to run solo or as a 5-person relay team.

I ran the half marathon again for the second consecutive year.  I had the joy of running it with my sweetheart Steve this year. He made it a very special weekend for me. Thanks babe.

Friday I hit the expo with a friend at lunch. We had fun looking at all the running goodies and goofing off. I went again after work with my guy because he needed to get some calve sleeves.  After that we met up with friends for dinner at Crave. After dinner we made the trek back to Youngstown and turned in around 10:30...only to be up at 4:30. Oh yes, the life of a runner - we keep some interesting hours! But once you hit the start line it is all worth the sacrifice and extra effort!

On race morning we headed to downtown Akron. Fortunately for us my office is nearby so we got ready there and jogged down to the start a few blocks away. It was so exciting getting lined up with all the other runners and the energy was good as we listened to the national anthem and waited for our cue to run.

The start of the race was fast for me as usual. I tend to run my first mile or two fast (sometimes too fast)!  I guess this is the sprinter in me since I was a track runner years ago. It was a lot of fun running over the newly paved Y-Bridge and my guy was close to me the first mile so that was cool. He would of course get ahead of me soon after with those fast legs!

My goal for the race was 1:40 or better but I didn't quite make it. I had a pretty good first half except that I had to stop and use the bathroom around mile 4 or 5 so that set me back a few minutes. After mile seven I kindof bonked. I'm not sure why. I just wasn't feeling it so I know I slowed down for a little while only to pick back up around mile nine. Mile 11.5 to the finish is intense with a nice 5% hill grade. Oh yah, feels good on the already tired legs. I am just happy I didn't stop and walk any of it as many people were and I don't blame them!  I had a good kick at the end and did my best to sprint into the stadium to my finish time of 1:46:34 (the 1:47+ you see in pic was the clock time not chip time).

My guy almost hit his PR. He ran a 1:34 so he had to wait for me for a little bit. It was so great hugging him after the race and having our picture taken together. My bestie ran a :30 PR to finish around 1:58. I am glad they both did well and I am okay with my time although it was not a PR.

After we ate some food and got our medals, we headed back to my office to get cleaned up and relax for a little while. I think we were all exhausted and ready for a nap!  It was a great day and we all had fun "running the bird"! Looking forward to running it again in 2011 - hopefully with a better time!