Archive for December, 2010

Training for a marathon requires going beyond your comfort zone simply because you’ll increase your mileage each week. Many of you will be running the requisite mileage for the very first time at training. I love when a runner proclaims, “I have never run 10 miles before!” That enthusiasm is infectious and inspiring.

By going beyond your comfort zone you’ll be on the road to discovery. You’ll learn that life is truly lived beyond your comfort zone. Once you realize that, by pushing your physical limits, you’ll be capable of achieving far more than you ever imagined. These incremental accomplishments are the cornerstone for greater challenge and achievement.

How deep into the well of pain are you willing to go to achieve your running goals? In my 35 years of running I have experienced considerable pain whether it was attempting to improve upon my 2:33:13 marathon PR or trying to squeeze in just one more mile on my 112 mile effort in a 24 hour race. I have learned to manage the physical pain quite well but I’ve found that dealing with the mental anguish can be a greater challenge.

It is important that you mentally prepare for the onslaught of pain and discomfort. Your physiology will always be a limiting factor but you have far more control of how you mentally handle pain. I had a breakthrough moment in one of my early marathons when I decided to push the pace when the pain first appeared and I actually felt better. It’s human nature to assume the best way to relieve pain is to slow down. I have learned that you can increase your pace for a short distance and once you return to the previous pace when the pain first appeared, it actually feels easier. It seems counter-intuitive that you can feel less pain by increasing your pace but you should try it. It builds confidence that will serve you well in your running.

Focusing on your form and breathing will also allow you to relax when you’re uncomfortable. Negative thoughts are a natural byproduct of being uncomfortable. Rather than allowing this negativity to consume you and diminish the quality of your run, you should focus on all the benefits of enduring this discomfort (e.g., you are getting physically stronger, mentally tougher and you’ll be able to endure the closing miles of the marathon with greater ease from a mental and physical standpoint because of this effort).

As your coach my aspirations are far greater than simply getting you to the finish line of the 2011 Boston Marathon in ‘relative comfort.’ I want to see you adopt and incorporate the mantra of ‘getting comfortable being uncomfortable’ into all facets of your life so that you’ll place yourself in a position to experience enlightenment and inspiration when you least expect it.

You may actually be the source of inspiration for all the people who live well within their comfort zone!

Racing Records

Runners tend to be quantitative by nature and I am somewhat guilty of that myself. Keeping a journal of races and times allow us to gauge how we have done against the competition and, most importantly, our ourselves. I have posted my racing record simply to put today’s message into context. When I was younger, and to a lesser degree today, my running was defined by numbers. As I’ve gotten older the only true benefit of my racing record is to establish my credibility as a runner/coach. Additionally, as life has gotten more complicated and prevented me from devoting as much time to my running, it serves as a reminder of what I was capable of so long ago and how much I have to appreciate today. While my racing record will show an occassional DNF, particularly at the marathon distance, what it doesn’t show is far more meaningful to me than any race, time or distance. Running in general and racing in particular has taught me more about life than anything else. It has taught me the importance of challenging myself and caring for my health. It’s also taught me the incredible importance of handling failure in the most positive way. I have undoubtedly learned more from my disappointment and failure in running than any PR (personal record) that I have run. And this has undoubtedly proven true in my personal life. Yes, we tend to gravitate to the things that we’ve done well and succeeded at to define us. I have gotten much more comfortable with my shortcomings and failures…but not yet comfortable enough to post them here :-)! But I have allowed these experiences to motivate and inspire me to not repeat them, to appreciate all that I have and to provide a degree of humility about my life. I am painfully aware of my limitations and shortcomings. But I find considerable comfort in knowing that I always have the most positive attitude in everything that I do and that I am willing to pay whatever price is necessary to achieve every goal that I commit myself to. My commitments today include being the best possible father and husband, extremely productive in my work and the most motivating and inspiring coach for the runners of the Marathon Coalition. My racing record is the foundation of accomplishing all these things.

The countless moments that I have devoted to running have taught me the importance of hard work, to deal with pain, agony and defeat; to accept whatever is presented to me in a positive manner and to be enlightened and inspired by those experiences!

Challenges Abound

Posted: December 18, 2010 in Uncategorized

I just returned from another wonderful training run with the Marathon Coalition TEAM. We ran 6 miles to the Newton Fire Station and back. We won’t be together again until January 1st so it should be interesting to see how many runners attend training. I am hopeful that we’ll have an impressive group intent on beginning the year on a positive note.

Dawn and Greg Guarriello attended training today. They have both completed Ironman Wisconsin and Ironman Florida….impressive. I followed Dawn for awhile and admire how efficient her stride is. You don’t accomplish what they have by wasting energy. Bob Connolly and Steven Najarian also joined our group for the run. At one point all four of these runners were side by side and I realized they have collectively run 40 Boston Marathons. I still cannot believe that I have coached Boston Marathoner runners for 15 years now. I consider it an absolute privilege to be given this opportunity.

Colin Peddie from Marathon Sports provided an extremely informative presentation on proper running shoe and clothing selection as well as an overview of the natural running movement. We’re going to spend more time focusing on this ever evolving movement.

As I near the age of 53 I’m increasingly challenged to stay with runners that are nearly half my age. One of my runners challenged me to stay with him during our next 8 mile run on New Year’s Day. I love his spirit and look forward to dropping him on the Newton Hills. I think we’ll begin that test on Heartbreak Hill and turn around and head for the fire station and back. It should be very good preparation for the upcoming Phoenix Rock n’ Roll marathon. I haven’t given in to the reality of getting older and I don’t suspect that’ll happen on January 1st either. I don’t think it will rank up there with Beardsley and Salazar’s Duel In The Sun but I have no doubt it will constitute Hell In The Hills…for my challenger at least.

Deal Them Up!

The Weekly Long Run…

Posted: December 17, 2010 in Uncategorized

The Boston Marathon finish line is that elusive destination where agony, glory and inspiration meet!

Rick Muhr

The weekend run is the longest and most important run of the week. The confidence you gain from this run is the perfect segue to a new and more challenging week of training. Each week should physically prepare you for the gradual increase in mileage and provide a mental boost so that you begin to believe you’re capable of incrementally increasing your mileage each week.

This long run can also cause you to doubt whether you’re capable of finishing a marathon if you struggle during this run. The likelihood that you will struggle during the weekly long run is fairly high if Boston will be your first marathon and the long run mileage is the farthest you’ve ever run. It’s imperative that you maintain the proper perspective if you happen to struggle during the long run.

A challenging run can actually provide a greater benefit to your marathon preparation than one of your best runs. When you struggle with the course, the wind, the weather or simply how you are feeling, you are physically and mentally preparing yourself for the challenge of running from Hopkinton to Boston.

So don’t be discouraged by these challenging runs, embrace them and learn as much as you possibly can from them. Assess what might be the root cause of your struggles and focus on improving that aspect of your training. As your fitness improves so will your ability to effectively manage whatever struggle you encounter.  Managing challenges will allow you to you to manage the agony and completely enjoy the glory and inspiration you’ll experience when you cross the finish line of the 2011 Boston Marathon!

Nutrition 101 (Lori Muhr)

Posted: December 16, 2010 in Uncategorized

As you train your body to run longer and longer distances over the next several months, it will become increasingly important to be sure you are fueling your muscles adequately.  Food is your body’s fuel and the better the quality of food you put in, the better the quality of performance you will experience.   While it is important to make healthy food choices on a daily basis, it is especially important to fuel your workouts properly before, during and after.

The foods you eat every day affect your health, your energy and your mood.  Your eating schedule also plays an important role.   Choosing lean meats, whole grains and plenty of fruits and vegetables will provide you with the best mileage, keep you healthier and boost your energy.  Eating frequently throughout the day will moderate your blood sugar so that you don’t experience the drops that often negatively affect your mood and energy level.  Planning meals and snacks ahead of time and having them on hand is the best way to make good choices.  Hunger usually always wins when given the opportunity and the food choice is usually ‘whatever is handy’- likely not the healthiest options.  Fruit, baby carrots, almonds, or even a peanut butter (just peanuts and salt) and jelly (fruit preserves) sandwich on whole wheat bread, are good foods to have on hand for between meal snacking.

If you are eating well in general, fueling your workouts doesn’t require much more than that.  Timing is important though.  It’s ideal to eat a snack about 45 minutes before a run.   Usually, this snack would be mostly carbohydrates- simple carbohydrates (toast with jelly, banana) are good for a shorter run (under 8 miles) and complex carbs (oatmeal, brown rice or whole wheat pasta) for longer runs.  Training is the best time to determine which fuel sources you like best and which make you feel the best.  Try many options- at the very least, it’s very helpful to know what doesn’t work.

Fueling on the run is a vital part of your training because it will help you maintain your energy and your blood sugar for the duration of your workout.  It’s so important to stay ahead and not let your tank become empty- once you bonk, it’s tough to get back.  It takes time for your body to assimilate food, so allow for that by eating before you need to.  For example, if you are doing a 12 mile run, you might take your fuel at mile 3 even if you are feeling good.  Take your fuel early and often.  By the time you use up what’s in your tank from pre-fueling, your “snack” will be available to fill in that energy gap.  Be sure to try different kinds of fuel sources such as energy gels, or candies such as jelly beans, licorice, jolly ranchers, or whatever is palatable and portable.   Don’t be concerned with nutrition for this part, your goal is simple sugars to fuel your brain mostly (via your blood sugar) and give you energy for the duration of your run.  Your muscles use mostly the glycogen that has been stored from your general eating and post workout refueling.   It’s so important to experiment with fuels so on race day you’ll know which to avoid and which to tote along. 

After your workout, your muscles are like sponges ready to absorb nutrients for repair, and storage for your next run.  Feed them!   Timing is important for this, so eat as soon as possible and within an hour of exercise.   The ideal food for recovery is a combination of protein and carbohydrates in a 1:4 or 1:3 ratio.  So, if the food has 5 grams of protein, it should have about 15 or 20 grams of carbs.  More important than the ratio of protein to carbs is to just be sure the food has some protein for muscle repair and carbs for glycogen.  Good choices of recovery foods would be a turkey sandwich on whole wheat bread, yogurt, a bowl of whole grain cereal, a *Bananarama (see recipe below) and even chocolate milk.  Remember, post-run fueling is mandatory and will make a difference in how you feel during your next workout.

Use your training runs to train your body to accept and utilize fuel.  Having a wide variety of fueling options will help your confidence on your long runs and during the marathon because you’ll know which foods to accept and which foods to avoid at all costs.   While it’s a good idea to always carry your own fuel, you might find yourself in a situation where you’re on empty and needing fuel, the aid tables will likely have something for you if you know what to take.   Proper fueling isn’t rocket science, but it’s what will make the difference in whether you complete the marathon ‘in relative comfort’ and or not at all.

*Bananarama

In a blender, add the following and blend on high:

1 banana

1 cup vanilla yogurt

2 TBSP peanut butter

Ice

Keys To Success

Posted: December 15, 2010 in Uncategorized

My Boston Marathon training schedule is not etched in stone!  Many of you find comfort and motivation in precisely following the schedule you were given at our kick-off several weeks ago.  But you will be better served by accepting that circumstances will eventually prevent you from completing one, if not many, of the scheduled runs.

Your goal should be to achieve the total weekly mileage.  One of the more common mistakes  is trying to make up for a missed run by adding the missed run mileage to the next run.  You can suddenly come close to doubling your longest run and risking injury.  Nothing is more frustrating than being forced to miss several runs because you injured yourself.

I recommend that you err on the side of caution and being conservative.  The best rule of thumb is not to increase your long run by more than two miles of your longest run in the past 7-10 days.  For instance, if your longest run in the past 7-10 days is 5 miles then you should never run longer than 7 miles.

It’s beneficial to also take regular walk breaks during your runs.  You’ll be able to sustain better running form and efficiency throughout your runs and prevent injuring yourself.  I recommend walking for 1 minute for every 9 minutes of running.  It’s important to ease back into running at the end of each walk segment.

The key ingredients for a successful marathon training program include consistency, moderation,  closely monitoring how you feel and finding comfort in adjusting your daily runs based on the circumstances of your life!

Balancing the Scale

Posted: December 14, 2010 in Uncategorized

Preparing for a run should begin long before your take your first step!  You need to have eaten well, be well hydrated, dressed properly and mentally prepared.  How many times have you surrendered to the reality that the first mile or two are going to be nothing short of absolute misery?

That is a self-fulfilling prophecy that you have the ability to change and control.  I won’t deny that the first mile or two will likely be the most challenging and least enjoyable.  But you can slow your pace by 1-2 minutes per mile than you expect to average for the remaining miles of your run and allow your body to acclimate to the rigors of running.  Your heart needs time to pump blood to your major muscles in an effort to fully oxygenate your body.

Your mental preparation also plays an integral role in staying focused in these early miles and setting the stage for an enjoyable run.  When the ‘demons of doubt’ start to dominate your thoughts you have to fight them off by reminding yourself how fortunate you are to be running at all.  And how wonderful the balance of your day will be because  the sense of accomplishment that you feel as well as the physical and mental dividends you will reap are considerable.

I try to begin each run with confidence and not with the attitude of ‘I cannot wait to have this run over!’  There are two vital ingredients in this process.   I embrace the reality that my mental focus has to be rock solid in the first two miles so I remove all doubt and negative thoughts and focus completely on all the benefits of running.  Secondly, I try to remain smooth and efficient throughout my run.

Running should be a rhythmic activity and certainly doesn’t need to be an act of punishment.  I take short efficient steps at a stride rate of 180 steps per minute.  Imagine a little old grandmother running across a frozen lake.  She takes little short steps so that she doesn’t slip.  Yes, I could have used a ‘little old grandfather’ but I envision someone falling!  I make sure that my feet are landing exactly where I want them to (i.e., midfoot) and I’m rolling though my gait cycle as efficiently as possible.  My breathing is relaxed and I pretend that I am holding a butterfly in each hand…I don’t want to hurt them.  I also envision I having ropes on either side of my body and I am simply reaching for them and pulling myself forward.

The key is to remain completely relaxed and efficient, particularly in the beginning of each run and at the end when I am most tired.  I envision being a pilot and constantly going through a mental checklist (e.g., good attitude, smooth and efficient form, protecting the butterflies with relaxed hands, reaching and pulling with the ropes, short strides, etc.) and before I know it I’m enjoying the closing miles of my run.

You can also get more enjoyment from your running if you’re successful at balancing the all important scale of mental and physical preparation!

Great Running!

Marathon Dreams

Posted: December 13, 2010 in Uncategorized

“We are different, in essence, from other people. If you want to win something, run 100 meters. If you want to experience something, run a marathon.”-Emil Zatopek,  Czech runner who won the Olympic gold medal in the 5,000, 10,000 and the Marathon in 1952

The start of the Marathon was moved from Ashland to Hopkinton in 1924.   You will certainly begin to appreciate the magnitude of what the small New England town will feel like on April 18, 2011 when we complete our 20 miler just 3 weeks prior to the Marathon!  As we arrive there will be excitement in the air as thousands of other runners, many of them charity runners, will be preparing and departing for their final text over some of the most challenging miles of the Boston course.

However, there is a seismic gap between what you experience the morning of the 20 miler and the morning of the actual start.  On April 18th the excitement level is beyond your imagination.  There will be helicopters hovering above the start when you arrive, you’ll likely proceed to the Athlete’s Village and attempt to calm your nerves before dropping the items you want at the finish line onto buses parked along the route to the start.  Volunteers will check your race number to ensure you’re entering the correct corral.

Once you enter the corral you’ll likely be a bundle of nerves.  You’ll connect with the runners next to you and undoubtedly feel their nervous energy.  Once you hear the national anthem and the fighter jets fly over, you know the start is just minutes away.  Take a deep breath and close your eyes for a moment and reflect on all the work that you’ve done to get to the start.  Most importantly, remind yourself that patience is a virtue and the importance of running conservatively the first few miles until you settle into a rhythm.

You will be so tempted to run too fast at the start because of the initial downhills and the seemingly endless flow of runners passing you.  Simply remind yourself that many of these runners will likely be walking on the hills of Newton from miles 17-21.  I have always felt the halfway point of the marathon is not at 13.1 miles but actually at mile 20.

You have a lot of work to do long before we ever arrive in Hopkinton but it’s important to look ahead nearly 5 months and begin to appreciate why you’re making so many changes and sacrifices in your life now when most of your friends, family, and colleagues are simply going about their normal lives.  When they are cheering you from the sidelines on Marathon Day you will need no other reminder of ‘why’ than the encouragement from the people who are most special to you and the tens of thousands of other spectators that dream of one day running the Boston Marathon!

Where It All Begins

 

Early Morning Date

Posted: December 12, 2010 in Uncategorized

Sunday is my favorite day of the week.  Time seems to slow down somewhat and I am afforded the luxury of spending more time with Lori, Rider, and Macie.  It’s the time that Lori and I have our weekly date in the form of a long run.

It’s wonderful to have several hours with just Lori catching up on all the news of the past week and our plans for the upcoming week while running together.  Dinner and a movie are also always nice but nothing is better than running together.  Lori has gotten into such great shape that I sometimes fail the ‘talk test’ when I’m reduced to single word answers. 

We had a wonderful evening last evening attending a holiday party in Arlington at the beautiful home of Dawn and Greg.  We trained them for several Boston marathons and now they have both completed numerous Ironman competitions (i.e., 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, followed by a 26.2 mile run).  Impressive!  The house was full of athletes…I love being around others that place such a high value on their health, their families and friends, and living life to the fullest.

I travel the country so much and see more and more people that lack self-control and poison themselves with food, alcohol, and smoking.  I would welcome a much smaller world filled with people like we shared the evening with.

It’s cold and sleeting but I cannot wait to begin our run in just a few minutes.  I know we’ll push one another beyond our comfort zone and I welcome the challenge.  I also welcome the alone time that I’ll share with the person that has given so much to me and continues to inspire me to accomplish more and more. 

I hope that your day holds as much promise and that you are able to share it with the people that mean the most to you.  I feel blessed that I continue to be so enthusiastic about my running after 35 years.  Coaching the Marathon Coalition runners is instrumental in my enthusiasism.  I love to teach and feel so invigorated by their questions and desire to learn…their desire to make such a huge difference in the world and the lives of others!

Their example inspires me to be a better runner, a better coach….a better person!

Update…

Lori and I just returned from an amazing 13 mile run.  It rained the entire time and the footing was treacherous at times.  We ran an extremely hilly course so the sense of accomplishment is considerable.  I felt great during the entire run even after running hard with several of the young guns through the Newton hills yesterday.

We returned and discovered that Macie Jo and Rider had spent the entire time doing chores that we hadn’t even mentioned to them.  Now that is a great feeling, particularly after just an incredible run.

Now it’s time for Lori’s secret oatmeal concoction, a hot shower, and a relaxing afternoon.  I’ll be posting specific information this week on the Boston marathon course and proper fueling before, during, and after a run.

Rick’s Top 10 Running Things

Posted: December 11, 2010 in Uncategorized

Running is one of those activities that requires minimal gear.  It could be as basic as a couple of pairs of running shoes, tights or shorts, a top and sometimes an outer layer.  Of course, there are a few more wardrobe requirements for winter weather, but nevertheless, not much more is needed… unless you are Rick.:-)  Rick doesn’t do anything simply.  If he’s going to participate, he’s going to do it big.  So, the following is a list of Rick’s Most Favorite Running Things.  It wasn’t easy narrowing this down to 10, so maybe he’ll post another list another time. In the meantime, you might like to add a few of these items to your Christmas list…

1. Garmin Forerunner– GPS for the serious gadget person… measures distance, average pace, and heart rate.  It stores information for analysis and can be downloaded to your computer.

2. iPod– Gotta have good tunes on a long run.

3. Running Shoes– Newtons (3 pairs), Nike Free Everyday (8 pairs), K- Swiss (2 pairs), Asics DS Trainer (4 pairs)- For any mood, every day.

4. Compression Tights– Hold your muscles snugly and aid in recovery.  Like a full body hug.

5. Pro Stretch– Helps stretch the calves.  Great for after a run while drinking chocolate milk.

6. Chocolate Milk– (Probably should be number 1.)  Full of protein, carbs, calcium and vitamins.  Great post-run drink to aid in recovery.  Delicious too!

7. The Stick– Best muscle massaging tool.  Use pre and post run to stimulate blood flow to your muscles to warm and loosen them. 

8. Epsom Salts Bubble Bath–  Dump a whole carton of Epsom Salts in a tub of hot water, add lots of bubbles, your favorite book, light a candle or two, jump in and soak!

9.  Body Glide– It’s not what you think… apply it to any spots that might get chafed to prevent chafing.

10. Red Licorice Coated in Salt– Throw some licorice in a baggy, add salt, and voila, the perfect fuel for a long run. The salt replaces electrolytes and sugar keeps your glucose level up.