Archive for January, 2011

Marathon Course Management

Posted: January 19, 2011 in Uncategorized

Having a plan to manage and navigate the marathon course is an important aspect of your race day plan.  I prefer to run on the side of the road in the beginning since it allows me to avoid congestion during the most hectic part of the race.  Runners are full of nervous energy at the start of the marathon and do unbelievable things.

For instance, I was standing next to several runners that were jumping up and down and completely wasting energy at the start of the Phoenix Rock n’ Roll Marathon on Sunday.  I passed them much later in the race and they looked like they certainly could have used the energy they wasted in the starting corral.  Energy management is an integral part of course management.

 I move to the side of the road and attempt to keep a safe zone around me as ease into a comfortable pace and find my rhythm.  I also observe whether there’s a crown or significant slant to the road surface.  If there’s an extreme slant or angle to the road my first choice is to move farther to the side and run on the flat portion of the road to prevent an imbalance in my hips.  Otherwise I will move to the center of the road once the congestion clears.

I then make my plans for the first water stop.  I make a mental note whether the water stops are organized on both sides of the road and whether a sports drink or water is being offered first.  I take water early in the marathon and resort to the sports drink later for sugar and electrolyte replacement.  In Sunday’s marathon I carried red licorice coated with salt and Hammer Nutrition Endurolytes.  I took three Endurolytes every hour and the licorice every other mile until mile 15 and then every mile thereafter.

Once I understand how the water stops are organized, I employ my plan.  I know that most runners cannot wait to arrive at a water stop so the first tables are going to be extremely busy.  The congestion of runners, cups, and liquid is a dangerous combination so I stay in the center of the road until I spot an opening and I safely move to the side and take aid.  I make sure I make eye contact with the volunteer and signal that I ‘m approaching and require aid. 

I wear a straw with monofilament around my neck so I’m able to drink without ingesting unnecessary air  or spilling anything on myself.  I’m confident I was the only runner in the race employing this technique.  I then step to the side and take a few steps of respite to drink and provide my legs a break.  Once I’m ready to run I check over my shoulder and ease back into my pace.  I gather my thoughts and begin planning for the next water stop.

Running the tangents will save time and energy.  If a turn is approaching move to the side of the road that provides the shortest route through the turn.  I noticed several ‘official’ photographers along the course so, if you’re interested in receiving an official photograph, you should ensure your number is clearly visible and try to move away from any nearby runners.  Nothing is worse than receiving a great picture of yourself during the marathon but having a clown in the picture next to you 🙂 .  Please don’t ask how I know this.

The finish line photo is most important!  I cannot tell you how many finish line pictures I’ve seen with the runner looking down to stop their watch.  What your watch indicates is unimportant as your chip time is going to be your official finishing time.  Trust me, preparing for your finishing line photo is an important part of course management.  I’ve had female runners attempt to put lipstick on in the final mile and that’s never a good idea.  Remember the clown I mentioned earlier :-)?  So straighten your number, tuck in your singlet, move anything you have in your waistband to the back, look up and smile….you are a marathoner!

Marathon Recovery

Posted: January 18, 2011 in Uncategorized

The finish line of any marathon is littered with runners that literally cannot take another step.  Their mental focus ends the moment they stop their running watch.  But what you do in the seconds, minutes, hours, and days following a marathon will determine how quickly you recover from the marathon effort.

Completing a marathon can be one of the most fulfilling and empowering experiences in life!  Covering 26.2 miles requires incredible physical effort and mental focus.  The final miles can be spent just imagining running that final step as you cross your finish line.  It’s important that you employ the following strategy upon completing a marathon:

1. Continue walking as your receive your mylar blanket and finisher’s medal.  Your body is more receptive to nutrients in the first 30-60 minutes after a workout or race so eat and refuel as quickly as possible.  I have always preferred chocolate milk and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  This normally requires receiving support from someone willing to have a cooler waiting for you at the finish.  Another top priority is to replace sodium as soon as possible.  V-8 or pickle juice or great sources of sodium.  I ingested red licorice coated in salt so I maintained my sodium levels throughout the run.

2. Change into comfortable clothes (this will likely require assistance) and continue walking.  Walking allows you heart rate to gradually return to normal levels and continues to provide blood flow to your major muscle groups.

3. Use the stick or foam roller without applying too much pressure to your lower extremities.

4. Soak in an ice bath by beginning in a lukewarm bath and gradually adding ice.  You will be depleted of energy stores so this effort may be as challenging as the actual marathon.  Wearing a hat or top on your upper body will allow you to retain some of your core body heat.  The inclination is to take a warm/hot bubble bath but your muscles recover far more quickly from an ice bath.

5. Continue to refuel and eat in the hours afterwards.

6. Return to physical activity gradually.  Focus more on lower impact activities like spinning, water running, walking and yoga.

7. Use pain as my threshold of when you should return to running.  Incorporate more walking in your initial runs and certainly reduce the pace.

8. Last but certainly not least, enjoy your accomplishment!  You have invested a considerable effort into your marathon preparation.  And if you raised money for a charity you should reflect on the difference you have made in the life of someone else…there is no greater legacy than that!

You are now a marathoner and you will retain that title for the balance of your life!

Phoenix Rock n’ Roll Marathon

Posted: January 17, 2011 in Uncategorized

  I wasn’t sure I was going to make it to the starting line on time due to extremely long traffic backups in the downtown Phoenix area.  My family dropped me off about a mile from the start and I used that as my warm-up.  I entered Corral #1 just moments before the playing of the Star Spangled Banner.  It took me 2 seconds to cross the starting line mat.

I settled in a relatively comfortable sub 8 minute pace and focused on getting comfortable with my stride and rhythm.  Once I arrived at 10K I started easing back down to 7:37 pace and maintained that through the half-marathon in 1 hour 40 minutes.  At that point I felt like I could easily maintain that pace to the finish line unless something drastic and unexpected occurred.

I arrived at Mile 20 in 2:35 and felt like running definitely required more effort.  It was a little disheartening that had I run my marathon PR of 2:33, I would have already finished but I still had 6.2 miles remaining.  Those days are long gone!

I attempted to keep my form together and my thoughts positive.  A lot of runners were either in the survival shuffle or walking.  I had just passed my sister less than a mile ago and had to contain the emotion I felt.  I had written, “For Donna Kaye” on the palm of my hand and as I passed her I held it up.  I had fueled properly and hydrated throughout the run so I had done all the things necessary to be able to maintain my pace.  The reality is that I simply didn’t have sufficient training miles, particularly long runs, to allow me to sustain my pace for the remaining miles.

I slowed considerably the last 6 miles and finished in 3:28:48.  It was a qualifying time for Boston by over 6 minutes but my 3:18 will stand as my qualifying time for Boston with respect to the number I am assigned in April.

I gave my number and my finisher’s medal to my sister as soon as I hugged her in the family reunion area.  It felt so wonderful to have finished and to have run the marathon in her honor!

Now it’s time to recover and reunite with the Marathon Coalition runners on Saturday.  I leave for Los Angeles tomorrow and will be in San Diego for the balance of the week.  I’m also looking forward to reuniting with my family.

While I’m not thrilled with my time, I’m extremely proud of my effort.  I continue to learn so much about the marathon and will take a lot of valuable lessons from the Phoenix Marathon as I prepare myself and my runners for Boston!

Marathon Countdown

Posted: January 15, 2011 in Uncategorized

It’s 6:30 a.m. in Scottsdale and I’ve been awake for nearly two hours.  I’m sitting outside waiting for my family members to wake up so we can return the motorcycles and visit Whole Foods.  This doesn’t bode well for tomorrow because we’ll need to be in Phoenix by this time and we have a late night planned.

Yesterday was another extremely long and adventurous motorcycling day.  The scenery in southern Arizona is simply breathtaking.  It was very difficult navigating the last two hours, particularly as I approached Phoenix and Scottsdale, as I have a tinted shield on my helmet which makes it extremely difficult to see.  I love not having a GPS and figuring out the directions back to the hotel.

Last night was my most important night of sleep and it was perfect!  I enjoy the days prior to the marathon as I go through my mental checklist and organize everything that I will need tomorrow.  There will be tens of thousands of runners tomorrow so my family will be getting several ‘crazy’ helium balloons today so that I can easily see them as I approach.  One lesson that I’ve learned is that, despite the most strategic plans with respect to meeting friends and family, it’s important not to count on them being there.  Logistics and traffic can me a nightmare on Marathon Day and it’s important to manage disappointment if they’re not where you expect them.  It’s better to treat it as a bonus if you see them.

This afternoon we’re going to the Supercross race in Phoenix and the main event won’t begin until after 9:00 p.m. but I’ve had some of my best races on little sleep.  I always focus on getting a restful night of sleep two nights before the event.

I won’t post again until after the marathon tomorrow!  I love the Marathon Countdown and all that it entails…’s so exciting!

Marathon Excitement

Posted: January 14, 2011 in Uncategorized

The weather in Phoenix the past several days has been absolutely beautiful; mid-seventies and clear skies.  I was very fortunate to be on one of the last flights out of Baltimore late Tuesday afternoon.  We sat on the tarmac for nearly an hour having the ice removed from the plane.

I spent yesterday riding motorcycles with my sister, brother-in-law and niece.  We rented bikes from 3 different locations so, once we completed all 3 transactions, we were soon underway and headed for Tortilla Flat outside of Phoenix.  The scenery was spectacular as we rode through the mountains on some of the most amazing roads I’ve ever ridden.  It was wonderful to spend time with some of my family and observe their excitement of seeing this area for the first time.  The BMW I rode performed flawlessly as I pushed the pace through the most challenging mountain switchbacks.  I love blowing by the Harley Bad Boys as though they were sitting still.  Loud pipes and tattoos don’t improve one’s riding ability.

Now I have to finally start focusing on the marathon.  I’m going to the expo this morning to get my number and review the course and other details for Sunday.  I really have mixed emotions about running the Rock n’ Roll marathon.  I dont feel fully prepared since I don’t have a solid base of mileage to draw on but I’m extremely excited about the challenge of covering 26.2 miles again. 

I haven’t mentioned this to my sister yet but I’m going to run to honor her courageous battle with breast cancer.  She was diagnosed a few years after we lost our mother to leukemia.  Thankfully she recently received a clean bill of health.  It’s a blessing to have her as my big sister.  I love the emotion and passion she has, particularly for her children and grandchildren.  It’s interesting that she has 7 grandchildren at 56 and I have a 4 year old at 52.  We’ve certainly taken different paths in life but are so similar in many ways.  It will be an honor to run with her spirit on Sunday.

My sister Donna with me last July

I love the fear and respect that I feel for the marathon.  The possibility of failure is so exhilarating.  I’ve always pursued testing my limits on so many levels and this Sunday will be no different.  It’s exciting to face a major test and to explore my physical and emotional limits.

I cannot imagine how emotional I will feel when I see my big sister at the finish line on Sunday…it will be a complete honor to run this one for her!

In Honor Of My Sister Donna

A More Holistic Approach

Posted: January 12, 2011 in Uncategorized

As mileage increases so do aches and pains in joints and muscles.  Many runners seek instant relief from pain and swelling through NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs).  The following are an example of NSAIDS: Ibuprofen, Advil, Aleve, Motrin and Aspirin.  While there are minor benefits to using NSAIDS when following the recommended dosage, the inherit risk related to their chronic use entirely outweighs their benefits.

Many runners experiencing temporary relief from NSAIDS feel that taking more can provide greater relief.  This approach can literally raise the risk of a heart attack because NSAIDS can block an enzyme called cyclooxygenase that normally protects the heart.  An additional risk to runners training for a marathon is the dangerous combination of NSAIDS, dehydration and overexertion; all aspects of marathon training.  These collective challenges can push the kidneys into the danger zone.  Recent research has concluded that NSAIDS can actually inhibit the bodies natural anti-inflammatory response.

I recommend a much more holistic approach.  While aches and pains are an inevitable part of marathon training, the healthier approach to reducing pain and swelling can be achieved through proper nutrition, ice baths and a regular post-run icing routine, rest and cross training.  The following foods contain natural anti-inflammatory agents: pineapple, papaya, wild Alaskan salmon, shiitake mushrooms, blueberries, broccoli and sweet potatoes.

So before you seek instant relief from NSAIDS, consider adopting a more holistic and healthier approach by relying more on rest, icing, cross-training and proper nutrition!

Small Investment…Huge Return

Posted: January 11, 2011 in Uncategorized

Developing routines can provide a significant return on a relatively small investment.  For instance, I’ve gotten in the habit of doing 20-30 minutes of push-ups and core strengthening every morning.  My running has definitely benefitted from this routine.

Routine implies doing something similar and that is only true to a degree for me.  Lori gave me the P90X workout several years ago and I absolutely believe in the premise that you benefit more from confusing the muscles by doing something different each day.  While being creative or doing something new every day with core strengthening is challenging, I try to incorporate as much variety as possible. 

There are many benefits to having a strong core and upper body; in running and beyond.  I undoubtedly run hills better, breathe easier and become less tired at the completion of my runs because I’m able to sustain my form throughout each run.  Beyond running, having a strong core and strong upper body ensures I have better posture and become less fatigued.  I’m also able to accomplish tasks like shoveling snow or carrying 40 lb. bags of pellets from our basement to our stove upstairs without any difficulty.  Limiting or preventing back issues can also be attributed to a strong core.

I recommend assessing your overall fitness to identify areas requiring improvement.  Develop a plan to improve these areas and you will not only feel better but you will be more likely to achieve your running goals, particularly on April 18th 2011.   

 That will be a small investment of time and effort that you’ll be happy you made!

Celebrate The Milestones

Posted: January 9, 2011 in Uncategorized

It’s important to celebrate the milestones along the journey of training for the Boston Marathon!  They can range from being more consistent with training, cleaning up your diet, reducing alcohol consumption, running 10 miles for the first time or beginning to believe that you can make a significant difference in the world!

It’s easy to focus exclusively on the ultimate goal of finishing Boston in relative comfort but it’s a collection of smaller accomplishments that sets the stage for success in the marathon.  Take a moment to consider our kick-off and all that you’ve accomplished in that brief 7 week period. 

It’s beneficial to write down all the things that you’ve accomplished with respect to your training, fundraising efforts and your lifestyle.  Conversely, I encourage you to also identify the areas that may require more attention.  We tend to focus too much on the things we do well and not enough on the areas needing improvement.  Balancing the scale between these two areas is the recipe for success.  It’s empowering when you commit to changing something in your life and accomplishing that task. 

Self-assessment is critical in all facets of your life.  I’ve trained a lot of extremely fit runners that were completely bankrupt in other areas.  I’ve been well served by the mind, body, spirit methodology but it’s taken years of incredible commitment and continues every day.  I still fall short of my expectations regularly but the one constant is my commitment to operate in the spirit of continuous improvement.

Celebrating the milestones isn’t exclusive to you!  Lori and I attended a surprise 40th birthday party last evening of an extremely dear friend.  While running, particularly training for the Boston Marathon, can be all-consuming, it’s important to have balance in your life by not becoming too isolated from all the people you love and care about.   Meeting so many new friends last evening reminded me that life is not just about running and that other people have priorities and desires that are as important to them as running is to me. 

You will rely heavily on the support of family, friends and colleagues in your marathon training and I encourage you to express your gratitude to everyone offering encouragement and financial support.  I learned long ago that nothing significant in life is ever accomplished alone.  While you will be the Rock Star on Patriot’s Day in April, there will be a lot of people who set up the stage for you along the way.

So take some time to contemplate all that you’ve accomplished to this point in your training and revel in all that has changed in your life in 7 weeks.  Celebrate your milestones with everyone that has supported you because your achievements are as important to them as they are you!

Lori and I ran 10 miles with the Marathon Coalition TEAM this morning.  It was so nice to have her join us for the first time this training season.  I certainly hope she’s able to join us more often but it’s challenging with the busy lives of Rider and Macie Jo.  It’s equally challenging finding a high school babysitter that’s willing and capable of arriving at 6:30 a.m.  Ashley has been our babysitter for all of running dates so she’s accustomed to our lifestyle.  She mentioned that NONE of her friends babysit for couples that go running together.

The roads and sidewalks were covered in snow so those conditions made running more challenging.  I felt like I had run far more than 10 miles afterwards.  In the final miles I began thinking about having my chocolate milk and oatmeal afterwards so that helped to sustain my pace!

However, I was so tired that I fell asleep within 15 minutes of returning home.  I slept soundly for two hours and awoke to the Breaking News that Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (D-Arizona) had been shot at point-blank range in Tucson, Arizona during a regularly scheduled Meet and Greet with her constituents; an absolute tragedy.  Lori also lost her college roommate this week after a courageous battle with breast cancer.  Her daughter is in her final semester of high school.  Events of this nature certainly serve as a reminder of the importance of enjoying every moment of life and to express our love to all those that we love!

 The highlight of today’s training  was having one of my runner’s from the 2010 Boston Marathon join us.  She shared with me a gift that her mother provided recently.  Samantha kept an amazing blog during her training and her mother had it perfect-bound into a desktop view book…what an amazing chronicle.  I was so touched by the following:

“Dedicated to my inspirational coach, Rick Muhr.”

I posted the following message on Sammy’s blog and it was also contained with the aforementioned message:

“It is an absolute pleasure coaching you.  In 14 years of marathon coaching, you’re near the top of the most coachable list.  I love your amazing enthusiasm, your constanct smile, and the life in your eyes that can fill the world!  The marathon will impact your life forever and you’ll be a better person as a result of this effort.  It’s been an honor being your coach!”

One of the many benefits of being a running coach for the Boston Marathon is sustaining friendships that I develop with the runners.  Their spirt sustains my effort to be a better coach…a better person!


Return To Normalcy

Posted: January 7, 2011 in Uncategorized

I am so grateful today is the final day of our sales meeting.  It’s been similar to a family reunion in that we were so excited to see one another on the first day but we’re all ready to say goodbye.

I am looking forward to returning to my normal routine.  The Marathon Coalition TEAM will be running 10 miles tomorrow in the hills of Newton.  It should be an interesting run for me since I haven’t run since last Sunday.

I will be evaluating the fit and wear pattern of everyone’s shoes tomorrow.  I’m always surprised by the number of runners that have ill-fitting or the wrong shoes.  Runner’s tend to wear their shoes too small.  The best rule of thumb is to allow for a thumb’s width of room between the end of the longest toe and the end of the shoe.  There’s a lot of inconsistency in sizing among the manufacturers so focus more on how the shoes fit rather than the size listed on the box.  It’s always better to get fitted after a run or later in the day because your feet will literally expand by the end of a run or the conclusion of the day.

I look forward to being with all the runners and getting re-engaged with their training.  We won’t be having training next Saturday (January 15th) because I’ll be in Phoenix with several of my family members from Indianapolis.  We’re all renting BMW motorcycles and spending 3 days riding.  On Saturday evening we’re going to the Phoenix Supercross and seeing the best dirt bike riders in the world compete indoors.  On Sunday I’ll be running the Rock n’ Roll half or full marathon, depending on how I feel.

I certainly don’t feel like I’m capable of improving my Boston Marathon qualifying time so I suspect I’ll run the half.  Thankfully I won’t have to make that decision until I’m well into the race and able to determine what my best choice will be.

But now I’m just looking forward to returning home this evening and being with my family!