Posts Tagged ‘Jack Daniels’

If your goal is to improve, before lacing up your running shoes, ask yourself:  What is the purpose of this workout?

“If you can’t answer that question, why bother doing the run?” – Jack Daniels, PhD

Jack Daniels who is one of the most respected running coaches of our generation uses that overarching philosophy of each workout having a purpose or specificity in training to put it another way, as the backbone of training plan construction for his athletes.  Prior to putting together my plan for Cottonwood I read for the second time his book “Daniel’s Running Formula” and sent off for one of his training plans to compare his recommendations to what my coach and I had outlined.

Many of the lessons I had learned over the years preparing for marathons were supported in Daniel’s research including the need for various types of workouts to improve your running efficiency (think gas mileage), your endurance (think gas tank capacity), your speed and running economy (think quickness and form) and of course your mental approach to the event.

But one rather obvious lesson I took from my second “read” of Jack Daniel’s book was the thought that each and every workout should have a purpose.  That you should know exactly what you are hoping to accomplish before you lace up your shoes that morning and then go out and execute that workout as intended.

It seems like an obvious concept – but in the past I would sometimes change my plan on the fly based on weather conditions, how I felt or if I simply wanted a “tougher” challenge than the workout on the refrigerator door indicated.  If 6 miles is good, 7 is better.  If 7:25 pace is prescribed over 10 miles, 7:15 is better.  8 hill repeats on the schedule?  I’ll do 10 instead.

Very rarely would I ever run less or slower than prescribed, but often I would do more than what was required.  The problem in that is that every individual workout is just a small piece of the overall puzzle.  Many miles of a marathon training program are meant to be run at a very specific pace.  One that will do the most good – and sometimes that means that it is much slower than you are capable of running.

A good example of this is the weekly long run.  The primary purpose is to build a base for more intense workouts by strengthening the heart and increasing the muscles’ ability to use oxygen.  It also allows your body to recover between hard workouts.  By running this workout too quickly you in fact short-change yourself and do not allow for all of the physical adaptations that the marathon requires by expanding your capillary formation and the improvement in your body’s ability to carry oxygen to the muscles.

Another example would be threshold pace workouts – At 88-92% HRmax, this intensity is aimed to raise the lactate threshold.  In this workout a runner should be able to sustain this pace for up to 60 minutes during racing.  Daniels describe this intensity as “comfortably hard”.  In elite runners, the pace matches their half-marathon goal pace, while less trained runners will run at their 10K pace.  Daniels again emphasizes the importance of keeping the given pace to reap the benefits of the training.

I have tried to focus on two primary goals during this training cycle – as you can certainly drive your self a little bit crazy overanalyzing every workout and every mile run leading up to an “A” race marathon.

1.     Understand the reason behind every workout and always leave the driveway with that purpose in mind.

2.     Do no more or no less than that workout requires.  (Pace, Distance, Effort and Concentration)

This week represents a great microcosm of our overall training plan – 6 runs, 68 miles all with a specific purpose.

Monday – Hill Route Recovery Run

Tuesday – “E” Easy Pace 10-miler.  What I refer to as an “Easy 10” workout.

Wednesday – Track Workout – 3 X 3,200 M w/ 400 M recoveries.  (Threshold Workout)

Thursday – Progression Run, 11 miles decending by :10 per mile from 8:30 min./mile to 6:50 min./mile

Friday – Rest Day – No Running

Saturday – 10 Miles, middle 5 miles at Marathon Goal Pace (6:50)

Sunday – 20 Mile Long Run – “E” pace

Even Friday – a day with no running had a purpose.  After 6 straight days of running that included a race in Holland, TX last weekend and a couple of tough workouts on Wednesday and Thursday – the body needs a break to reload and adapt.  Setting the stage for another tough workout on Saturday morning and a long, endurance building 20-mile run on Sunday.

68 miles, 12 of those miles at Marathon Goal Pace or Faster (17.6%), the rest all run at paces ranging from 7:00 min./mile to just over 8 minutes per mile.

That block rests upon the block set before it, which rests on the block placed before that one.  And so on and so on.

We are now 12 weeks away from the corral and finishing chute.  747 miles between now and mile 20 of the marathon where all of this will boil down to 10 kilometers.  Every runner at Cottonwood in September is going to have a race plan.  You don’t just show up to the starting line of a 26.2 mile footrace and “wing it”.

We are going to have our plan on our forearm.  Every mile individually scripted based on the specific period in the race, the elevation of that mile and how far we are along the course.  On Wednesday we practiced this very exercise.  Run every mile at a specific pace.  Do not think about the mile before or the mile to come – just execute.

8:30, 8:20, 8:10, 8:00, 7:50, 7:40, 7:30, 7:20, 7:10, 7:00, 6:50.

No mental break.  No daydreaming.  No Wandering.  100% focus.  The run went:

8:26, 8:19, 8:10, 7:59, 7:48, 7:39, 7:28, 7:20, 7:09, 6:58, 6:47.

Dialed in to say the least.  We have a lot of work left to do, but I’m starting to get the feeling that we have something special waiting for us in Utah.  An unlikely place as any on earth for us to run the race of our life.  But I’m starting to think that this just might be our time.

Based on the past there is not a lot of empirical evidence out there that says we are going to break 3 hours in September.  We’ve teed up the marathon quite a few times before and although we have run some good races, we have not had that breakthrough effort.

But something just feels different this go round.  Perhaps I’m not as tied up to the emotions this time.  I’m a little bit more detached.  More scientific and calculating in my approach.  There is going to be plenty of time for emotion on race day.  For now, we’re going to trust our training plan, trust our coach, trust the experts and simply bring our lunch pail and hard hat to every workout.

In the end, maybe we’re just simply not good enough.  I will be able to live with that.

But what if we are?  That is the million dollar question now isn’t it.  What if we are.

Just this week there was an article published by MSNBC’s TODAY Health that shared results from a recently concluded study about the risk of Cardiac Arrest among Half-Marathon and Marathon participants from the year 2000 through 2010.

This study was reported online by the New England Journal of Medicine.

This report examined the number of cardiac arrest cases in runners participating in marathons and half marathons in the U.S. from January 2000 to May 31, 2010.  Of the 10.9 million runners, 59 suffered cardiac arrest.

In an excerpt from the report itself:

In other words, “marathons and half-marathons are associated with a low overall risk of cardiac arrest and sudden death,” write the study authors, a team led by Dr. Aaron Baggish, a Massachusetts General Hospital cardiologist. Cardiac arrest, by the way, is different from a heart attack. It happens when an arrhythmia, or abnormal heartbeat, causes the heart to stop beating — and it can cause death within minutes if the person doesn’t receive medical attention.

“This is a pretty careful study, and it starts to give some more insight into who those people are,” says Dr. Paul Thompson, a cardiologist at Hartford Hospital in Hartford, Conn., who assisted Baggish with the report and has studied the link between running and heart problems. (He has, oh, just a smidge of experience with marathons himself: In 1972, he qualified for the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials in Eugene, Ore., and four years later, he finished 16th in the Boston Marathon.)

One sobering item of note in the report, for a male marathoner such as myself was the fact that out of the 59 recorded cases, 51 were men.  Generally speaking, men run the risk of cardiac arrest at a frequency roughly twice that as do women, but at 86% (51/59), that is a statistically significant point.

You might think that it is simply a reflection of the percentage of total participants being more slanted toward male athletes than female, but the opposite is actually true over the last ten years, where the percentage of women participants is actually“higher” than that of their male counterparts.

The study also spoke to the fact that these incidents of cardiac arrest are very different from a heart attack.  Cardiac arrest occurs when an arrhythmia, or abnormal heartbeat, causes the heart to stop beating — and it can cause death within minutes if the person does not receive medical attention.

Is Marathoning safe for the masses?  To me the answer is pretty clear.  If you have a check-up with your physician prior to starting any exercise program, especially a half-marathon or marathon training program, you are taking the right steps for sure.

If you follow a respected training plan either developed for you by a coach or an online program/published program from an expert such as Hal Higdon, Pete Pfitzinger, Jack Daniels, Jeff Galloway or others, you are even further down the right path.

Are there still risks involved?  Certainly.  I lost a friend this year who was stuck by a car while running near his home.  There is virtually no such thing as a guarantee in most things in life – but with each unfortunate incident that occurs at a marathon or half-marathon gets more and more attention that the sport is somehow “unsafe” – it is important to look at all the facts and realize that for the most part – each of us take far greater risks several times every day than do those who lace up their shoes and stare down Lady Marathon on race day.

To those families who have lost someone close to them in races and/or in training – my heart goes out to you.  Losing someone who you care about so quickly is shocking and terribly sad. 

Being able to do something that you truly love is a gift.  It is that which we should remember when we think of those individuals.  If given a choice they would rather run than not.  Train than rest.  Race than spectate.

In a word.  They were marathoners.

Mile 25.5 NYC Marathon 2011

Run on people.

For the article – click here:

Marathoning takes a lot of self-discipline, of that there is no question.

Whether it is making sure that you eat right and take care of your body’s increased and changing needs, making it out the door in otherwise horrible weather conditions or just simply sticking to that plan on your refrigerator door and knocking out workout after workout no matter how much you would like to stay in bed.

The marathon in a way is about stubbornness.  Our bodies are not meant to run 26.2 miles.  That’s not an opinion, that’s a fact – otherwise we would be configured in such a way that we could store enough fuel to cover that distance.

The act of training for the marathon is one of perseverance and coping skills.  You are teaching your body to function differently than intended as well as convincing your mind to carry on when the natural responses are telling it to slow down and conserve its energy sources.  Not giving in and continuing forward puts the “challenge” in the marathon.  It is one of the things I think of first when I meet a new runner and they tell me that they have completed a marathon.

Automatically I realize that we have a shared experience.  They have been to the same edge that I have been to and they didn’t let the race defeat them.  In a word, they are stubborn – just like I am.

What I have come to realize over the course of training for my last two marathons is that it is equally important, perhaps more important, to remain somewhat flexible in your approach to your training program as it is to blindly tick off workout after workout never asking yourself if this is the right thing to do “today”.

There are sure to be workouts that show up on your carefully crafted 18-week marathon training schedule that was put together 2-3 months earlier that simply do not fit the bill for that particular morning.  A tempo workout scheduled 10 weeks in advance may or may not be the best idea coming off of a particularly hard long run the previous Sunday or a day in which you feel a sore throat coming or have a lingering cough. 

Now I would not be completely honest if I said that there were never days when I simply “cowboy up” and run the scheduled workout as planned no matter how I am feeling.  Yes, there are times when I know that the hill repeat session I have on tap for that morning is going to be a tough workout, but I know I can get through it – and because it fell on a day when I was not feeling 100% – it may just do me even more good in my training than it otherwise would have.

That’s the part where stubbornness can be an asset.

But there are other times when you simply need to exercise some caution, move some things around and decide that moving that Tempo workout up in the schedule so you can run it on your home course before a work trip makes sense.  Or shifting hill repeats up two days so that you can recover in time for that 10K that you decided to race as a tune-up on Saturday.

These are the choices that help you get the most out of your training cycle – and just because Hal Higdon, Pete Pfitzinger or Jack Daniels says,“11 miles with 5 at goal pace on Wednesday morning”, that does not mean that you can’t take some creative license with your training plan and make some adjustments.  It is YOUR race afterall.  Take ownership in the preparation for that race so that when you toe the line at the start of that marathon, you know in your heart that you did all that you could to prepare the best that you could for that race on that day.

Today I begin my taper for New York and I thought it was a good opportunity to look back at my original training plan that I created back in June and compared it to the actual mileage, workouts and races I completed on my way to the starting line in New York.  For the most part I stuck to my schedule, hit my workouts when I had them outlined and stayed the course.  But there were a few changes that I made mid-stream so to speak that I think made a good training cycle a great one.

1.  I raced more.

I added an open water swim/run the week before my first triathlon to gain some open water, swim in a crowd experience.  It was invaluable even though it required me to reduce my morning run from 8.3 miles that day to 6.2 miles and race 1.9 miles that night.

The week of my triathlon I decided to skip my Thursday run and instead bike and swim.  It reduced my run mileage by 8 miles that week, but the 15 mile bike and 2,250 meter swim made me more confident for race day that weekend.

I added a Labor Day 10K running on a Triathlon Relay Team at this year’s Austin Triathlon.  It increased my run days that week from 5 to 6, so I decided to run long on Friday morning and shorter on Saturday so I could take Sunday off to get ready for the race.  My mileage stayed the same, but I changed the order of the two workouts to make sure I was ready to give a quality workout on a Monday – a typical rest day for me.

I decided to race the IBM Uptown Classic one week before the Denver Half-Marathon, meaning I would have three straight race weekends in the middle of marathon training instead of 2 in three weeks as I had originally planned.  It resulted in a new 10K PR at IBM and a great confidence boost leading up to New York.  It was in fact the best technical race I have ever run.

2.  I Added Mileage.

Because I was going to be racing three straight weekends in late September – early October, I decided to add 16 mile long runs on Tuesday morning after the SI Labs Marathon Relay and the IBM Uptown Classic.  Both races were 6.2 mile events held on a Sunday where I would have normally had 18 mile and 20 mile long runs scheduled.

By adding two 16 milers instead of a typical 8.3 mile Tuesday workout – I was able to keep my mileage up and not “peak” too early – protecting my actual taper period where a reduction in mileage will allow my legs to snap back and have a lot of bounce for race day in New York.

I also “tacked one on” here and there throughout the course of my marathon training cycle making a scheduled 16 miler in fact 17 miles or a mid-week medium long run 12 miles instead of 11.  I did this judiciously, making sure they were not after a particularly hard workout the previous day, but I did this fairly often, increasing my daily mileage totals.

3.  I skipped a workout when needed.

A lot of experts will tell you that if you are able to run 90% of your scheduled workouts you are going to be just fine for race day.  That a nagging injury, soreness or illness will invariably rear their head at some point during your training cycle and that you are better off just skipping that workout than trying to run through it.  Even worse is the idea that you “owe” that workout to the training cycle and you should go out and run it on an off-day or combining it with another “easy” workout.

Missed training days are simply missed days.  It is smarter and better for you to just take the extra rest day and move on with your schedule.

Through Sunday I had 89 runs or races scheduled and I was able to make 88 of them.

On Thursday, July 14th I had been fighting a cold and had a slight fever.  By missing my workout I would have back to back days off combining Thursday with my Friday rest day.  Skipping the workout and getting some extra sleep was the exact right call.  I rebounded quicker than I would have otherwise and ran my scheduled 8 miler on Saturday and my 17 miler on Sunday.

In the grand scheme of things those 8.3 miles I missed on the 14th of July amount to a single speck of sand on a beach.  I am no worse for wear and in fact I may have jeopardized even more workouts by trying to push through the onset of illness.

So when all is said and done we will have run 96 out of 97 workouts if things go according to plan over these last two weeks amounting to 948.35 miles.  Compared to our original training schedule – that is an increase of 8.11%.

Actual NYC Mileage compared to scheduled

But even now I am still listening to my body and making adjustments.  Normally on Tuesdays I would run an 8.3 mile recovery run after yesterday’s final 20 miler.  But given the fact I am only tapering for two weeks instead of a traditional 3, I am going to reduce each run this week by 2 full miles, making tomorrow morning’s 8.3 mile easy run an even easier 6.2 mile loop.

I am going to run by feel, leave my watch on the counter in the kitchen and in fact, I may not wear my GPS watch again until my Saturday shake-out run prior to the Marathon on Sunday.  All the work is done.  Now it’s time to get my body and mind right and prepare to be one stubborn son of a gun on November 6th.  I’m not going to cede a single inch on race day – just strap myself in and fight for every second.

I only have 10,800 of them after I cross the starting mat in New York City to make my goal time.  I’m going to need every one of them.