Sunday, February 16, 2014

SCID Installment #1

Sometimes I get solicitations for running advice, which I feel dumb giving. What seems more appropriate is sharing things that have not worked for me or have simply gone horribly wrong. And thus what will be a recurring segment: SCID (stupid crap I've done).

Meal Timing

There was a time where I ran with reckless abandon. Eat bacon & eggs, run 5 minutes later. Eat a giant "carb load" meal the night before a big race. I don't do those things now because I would prefer to not have to be in constant vigilance that I don't load my drawers mid-run. Let's cover some basic physiology first: it takes your stomach about 2 hours to empty. Running with a full stomach is uncomfortable and for me causes crippling sideaches. I don't know the mechanisms behind this, whether it's from my gall bladder squirting out digestive enzymes or the clash of sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system responses. Whatever it is, it doesn't jive, y'all. After two hours I'm almost always good from a sideache perspective.

The dookie situation is interesting. I've found there's no predictable formula for "eat at time x, meal transit time through gut=x+y. Drop deuce at time z. Lather, rinse, repeat." BMs seem to be more of a circadian thing for me, irrespective of meal timing for the most part (unless Taco Bell is involved, then formula becomes "eat chalupa at time x, endure stomach cramps at time x+5 minutes, fumigate lavatory at time x+5.2 minutes"). Meal size, however, is an important trigger for laying cable. My new formula, that I have yet to find unsuccessful is: wake up early, eat medium size breakfast, large glass water at time x, await inevitable dook at time x+0.5 hours. This has been a vital tidbit to help avoid "messy" situations on long runs.

Runner's Trots are pretty crappy. Having the urge during a race I think is avoidable by following the morning meal rule. But even if the staging area is clear at race time, what about that "carb load" meal from last night still meandering through 30 feet of entrails? This has come back to haunt me (if ghost are apt to haunt one's bowels) at the end and after runs, where I'm writhing in pain as my body rejects the previous night's meal. (Don't ask how I can be sure it was the previous night's meal). So that age-old advise to eat a bunch of pasta before a race? Bad idea. In general, it's just a bad idea to do anything you wouldn't do during training for a race. That's a recipe for surprises. And in this case "surprises" is a euphemism for diarrhea which may or may not be disposed of in a socially acceptable way.

TMI you say? I learned the hard way so you don't have to. Take heed.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Tybee Run Fest Half Marathon Race Report

Final time 1:37

Very happy with that. Yesterday everything came together in ideal fashion and the end result is better than I expected.

The running community is full of advice. Nearly all of the advice is based on personal anecdotes from people with a broad range of experience levels. I've never really known what to do with all the running information out there, so I've tried a lot of different things. After much ongoing trial and error, I have developed the following rule of thumb for what advice is worth my attention.

-Listen to people that have more experience than yourself. Conversely, take with a large grain of salt any advice from less experienced runners. Unfortunately, it is the latter who are often the most vocal.

One of the most measured sources of running information I have found is Written by a former college professor turned full-time running blogger, the perspective resonates with my own. The author was not always a runner and approaches running objectively or discloses his personal biases when he doesn't.

Why do I mention this? Yesterday was a big milestone for me. All the advice I've taken and personal experience from the past 10+ years of running are starting to congeal. Some lessons learned that were made manifest yesterday:

1) Race infrequently. I've made the mistake of signing up for races every month before. And I've done poorly and injured myself as a result. Racing is hard on the body. I push myself much harder in a race than when I am training. That kind of effort is not sustainable physically. Now I race less and train more.

2) Eat for runs >5-6 miles. I like gels because they digest very easily. Yesterday I had a gel right before starting and about 40 minutes in. Additionally, it takes about two hours for your stomach to move a meal on to greener pastures, so I eat two hours before race start. Both of these points have made an enormous difference in my running. Bowels move at the right times (pre-race) and sideaches are a rare occurence as long as eating during the race doesn't outpace use of the food. Unfortunately, there is no hard rule I've found for this. Every run I go on I have to gauge how much and when to eat based on how much I'm sweating and whether or not my stomach is sloshing.

3) Pace is key and without form, pace is unsustainable. Running well is a skill. Anyone can move quickly (well almost anyone). Running sustainably takes deliberate adjustments to and awareness of cadence, posture, footstrike, arm movement, breathing, and knowing when to push and when to ease off. Cadence was the name of the game yesterday. Normally, I'm the guy falling apart at the end of a race. This time I was flying past everyone the last 5 miles. I would catch up to someone, they would try to match my pace taking longer strides and making significant effort to run "harder" I would move my legs faster and inevitably drop them when the two techniques were put head-to-head. Posture is a big deal too. As I've done regular core stregthening workouts, I can keep good posture through longer runs.

4) Train to end strong. Negative splits have been a big focus in my training. I used to go out hard and just hope that I could hold on to the pace. This technique works sometimes for shorter races (5K, 10K), but it has come back to bite me on long runs. It's a great way to injure myself and feel discouraged. Long distance running is a matter of sustained pace. Ending strong doesn't mean sprinting the last 100 yards. If you can sprint at the end of a race, you have clearly not allocated your efforts optimally. I finished at about a 6:45 pace for the last mile and literally could not have gone any faster. I spent all my energy to sustain my pace for 13 miles and no more.

5) How and what you eat matters. There is a really ignorant idea floating around that if you exercise enough, you can eat whatever you want. You'll just burn off the calories. This is what I like to call excrement. In America, meals are traditionally three times a day and they are large and carbohydrate rich. This is not compatible with an active lifestyle. I had an epiphany while doing a 50 mile hike on the Appalachian Trail last summer when I was eating small meals every couple hours all day long and then a bigger meal at the end of the day. It seemed very counterintuitive to eat that way as the 3 meals paradigm was well engrained (pun intended). It seemed like I would starve snacking on granola bars all day. Here's the thing: I didn't starve. I had energy all day, no sideaches, and actually felt good. Turns out my idea of a meal was really more of a binge. The "snack" is my new meal and I've lost 15 pounds of superfluous swelling and fat. I eat high protein, high fat "snacks" all day every 2 hours on the hour and I feel awesome. High carb foods I save for running. The American diet is a great way to spike your blood sugar and tell your body to store fat and be tired. Not great for anyone trying to get out and run regularly. I won't be going back after 30 years of that nonsense.

There's my contribution to the vast wells of running opinion out there. It's a work in progress, but I'm glad there has been significant progress for me. I had a lot of fun racing yesterday.