Archive for April, 2013

The Marathon Therapist

Posted: April 11, 2013 in Uncategorized

I become more of a therapist and less of a running coach the final week before the marathon. Even the most experienced marathoners can work themselves into an emotional frenzy while managing all aspects of their marathon preparation. Just a few of the areas of concern are:

When should I arrive at the expo?
What should I eat in the days before the marathon?
What should I eat the night before the marathon?
What should I eat the morning of the marathon?
What should I eat during the marathon?
Am I hydrating enough?
Am I getting sufficient rest?
How am I getting to Hopkinton?
What should I wear in the Athlete’s Village?
What should I wear to the starting line?
What if I become too warm?
What if I’m not warm enough?
What is the weather going to be on Monday?
Where can my family meet me?
What if I miss them?
What is the best strategy for managing each segment of the marathon course?
What side of Commonwealth Avenue do we run on?
Should I take aid from spectators?
What is the best T-stop for my family to meet me?

These are just a FEW of the questions I have answered in the past 24 hours. The best advice I can offer is to take a deep breath and begin planning your weekend beginning with the expo tomorrow. If necessary, make a list (and check it twice) of everything you could possibly need for the weekend. It can be very reassuring to place everything you plan to have on Marathon Day out so you can literally see what you’ll need.

I always recommend keeping everything simple or you will quickly become a bundle of nerves and excessively neurotic. Keep in mind that your family and friends may walk away shaking their heads, throw their hands in the air and proclaim, “I give up…I’ll see you at the finish line!”

I know one thing for sure, you will be a completely different person after you cross the finish line. You will be calm, you will be normal again…and you will have an incredible sense of accomplishment!

Embrace The Emotion

Posted: April 10, 2013 in Uncategorized

Now that the Boston Marathon is less than a week away, the emotional roller coaster is at full speed. It’s the convergence of two diametrically opposed emotions. The excitement of the approaching Boston Marathon is palpable, the sadness of an incredible journey is drawing to a close. Being a running coach is very similar to being a teacher…I’m on the verge of seeing my students graduate.

I’ve witnessed the incredible impact the Boston Marathon has on runners and that’s the perfect capstone to a training season. Looking back to the first TEAM meeting seems so long ago. I’ve witnessed a complete transformation from a group of people who were uncertain whether they could complete the 26.2 mile journey from Hopkinton to Boston to a unified group of runners filled with anticipation and confidence. Nervousness and uncertainty are constant companions leading up to the marathon…even for veteran marathoners.

Our training is about to cross the threshold from the comfort of training to the reality of the race. It’s time to embrace all the emotions that occur in the final days before the Boston Marathon!

Goodbye Grandma

Posted: April 5, 2013 in Uncategorized

FamilyTorch2

I just lost my maternal grandmother and will be leaving for St. Louis tomorrow after training. Grandma’s certainly hold a special place in our lives and hearts… mine was certainly no exception.

The above picture was taken at the conclusion of my Olympic Torch run on the campus of Washington University in 2004. When I lost my mother to leukemia in 1996, I promised her I would do something significant with my life when I spoke with her the last time in the Mayo Clinic. I didn’t know how I would fulfill that commitment but, not surprisingly, it involved the only skill that I have…running.

I will be forever grateful to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society for providing an opportunity to honor my mom’s memory in such a significant way. Gratitude falls well short of how I feel about all the runners I coached in an amazing 12 year span. Because of their efforts to raise millions of dollars to fund research for blood cancers, I was selected to carry the Olympic Torch.

I cannot imagine the pain and sense of loss a parent feels when they lose a child. I know how painful it was for my grandmother when mom passed the day before her 58th birthday. So when I completed my Torch Run I handled the Olympic Torch to my grandmother and whispered in her ear…’This run is for mom!’ It was an extremely emotional and powerful moment to realize I fulfilled that promise to my mom, and her mother was an important part of it.

I’m so thankful that my grandmother shared in such a special experience. When I spoke with her recently she spoke of how meaningful that evening was. I find comfort in knowing the grief and sense of loss she experienced was lessened on just that day.

She was such an iconic person in my life. She taught me lessons about living a noble and humble life, steeped in selflessness. One of the greatest lessons I learned from her is that any life worth living has to include serving others. By that measure alone, her life was an incredible success.

When I lost mom in 1996 I realized I could very easily get angry or bitter…or I could get busy- turning a tradedy into a life altering experience. Handling grief isn’t always easy…it can be far more difficult than a thousand marathons. But honoring the memory of someone you love and respect, by living a life in their example, has proven the best way to deal with loss for me.

So I will begin that process when I speak at grandma’s funeral on Monday. And I will return to New England with a commitment and desire to honor her memory in the only way that I know how.

Goodbye Grandma…thank you for all that you’ve done for me and so many others!

Less than two weeks prior to the marathon is when the questions about pacing begin in earnest. After 35 years of marathoning and 17 years of coaching thousands of runners, I’ve definitely formed an opinion on this important aspect of race strategy.

I have been on both ends of the spectrum relative to managing my pace and have experienced success with both. I’ve worn pace bands and knew precisely where I needed to be each mile of the 26.2 distance and I have employed a feel-based approach. So what do I recommend?

I think it’s important to have a GMP (Goal Marathon Pace) in mind and to know where your pace should be at critical points (i.e., 5K, 10K, 15K, 20K, half-mararathonm etc.), but I have become an absolute advocate of running how you feel and effectively managing the circumstances presented throughout the day.

The best example that illustrates my point is the 2012 Boston Marathon. No one training for Boston throughout the New England winter could have prepared for temperatures approaching 90 degrees on marathon day. And anyone attempting to maintain their GMP soon realized that wasn’t an effective strategy. Those that made the necessary adjustments made it to the finish by minimizing the collateral damage and in ‘relative comfort.’

You can gauge you’re likely performance based on training and racing times in the weeks prior to the marathon. If you’ve been able to maintain a certain pace throughout runs up to 21 miles, you can expect to do the same, or slightly slower, the full marathon distance. Runners that have trained to maintain a certain pace throughout the entire distance of their training runs will be more likely to sustain that pace throughout the 26.2 mile distance. Most runners have their fastest miles in the middle of their training runs and can expect the last 10K will be slower than their average pace.

In reality, you are not going to be able to run any faster than you are capable on April 15th, regardless of what pace you have in mind. Runners are quantitative and obsessive by nature. We want things to go the way we expect. By gosh, we have worked hard for this and we deserve it! But running and life often have different plans. Suddenly the weather isn’t perfect or that pain has developed into a chronic injury.

The runners that experience the greatest success in the marathon are those that are extremely flexible (mentally, physically and spiritually) and adjust to unforeseen circumstances. I recommend enjoying Boston for that it is…the most special marathon in the world. Why would you obsess over time and micro-manage ever aspect of the course.

Runners who constantly monitor their watch tend to become erratic with their pace. It’s similar to driving by constantly speeding up and slowing down, it’s very inefficient and can wreak havoc on your energy stores.

Runners that are obsessed with pace are consumed by the Boston Marathon. The most difficult miles are later in the marathon. Getting to Mile 15 in great mental and physical shape is imperative. You can easily predict your marathon performance based on how you are feeling at Mile 15.

So leave your watch at home on Marathon Day! What???? Yes, I could hear the screams from here. Leave your watch at home and enjoy every aspect of the Boston Marathon…the children seeking autographs in Hopkinton, the fighter jets flying over the starting line, our national anthem, the music along the course, the co-eds at Wellesley College,”YOUR” coach at Mile 15, the ‘exuberant’ Boston College students, and the finish line!

And you won’t receive a finish line picture of yourself pressing the stop button on your watch. Instead, it should be a wonderful picture with an amazing picture with nothing but the look of accomplishment and achievement written all over your face.

I will see you at the finish line!

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, 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!

Boston Marathon Checklist

Posted: April 1, 2013 in Uncategorized

“Imperfect preparation gives rise to the thousand-fold forms that express physical and mental inferiority and insecurity!” -Alfred Adler

It’s never too early to begin planning for Marathon weekend and beyond. Here are my recommendations that will hopefully provide some basic guidelines to ensure you’re as prepared as possible for the marathon. This checklist has been developed over 17 years of coaching marathon runners for the Boston Marathon.

I hope that you will offer any additional recommendations!

Marathon Weekend Checklist

• Rick Muhr •

Copyright: Rick Muhr•Head Running Coach•Marathon Coalition ©

Ÿ Be sure to bring your driver’s license and your Runner Passport Up to the Hynes Convention Center.

Ÿ Save the bag that your number comes in as this is the bag that you will drop off at the buses returning to Boston once you leave the Athlete’s Village for the starting area.

Ÿ When visiting the John Hancock Sports & Fitness Expo DO NOT INGEST ANY OF THE SAMPLES BEFORE THE MARATHON!

Ÿ Most of the Boston Marathon apparel that you see in local stores and at the Expo will be on sale after the marathon at significant savings.

Ÿ Don’t wear anything that you purchased at the Expo in the marathon.

Ÿ Try to get your number and Expo visitation over sooner rather than later. As the weekend progresses, this area becomes far more hectic. You want to minimize the stress as much as possible before the marathon.

Ÿ Saturday night is your most important night of sleep. The odds are that you will not sleep as well Sunday night.

Ÿ Don’t introduce anything new or different into your diet before the marathon.

Ÿ Start organizing EVERYTHING that you think you’ll need before/during/after the marathon now.

Ÿ Check your shoe laces to be sure they don’t require replacing. It can be disheartening to break a lace just before the marathon.

Ÿ When you affix your number to your singlet DO NOT attach the bottom of your number to your shorts. You will understand why if you have to use the restroom.

Ÿ You can improve the circulation in your legs if you elevate the foot of your bed several inches Saturday and Sunday night before the marathon. This results in your legs not feeling as tired.

Ÿ DO NOT WEAR THE SHOES YOU ARE PLANNING TO WEAR IN THE MARATHON TO THE ATHLETE’S VILLAGE. I have seen countless runners walk through wet grass in their marathon shoes before the race. Wear an old pair and change into your marathon shoes after you leave the Athlete’s Village and are on pavement.

Ÿ Double knot your shoes but not too tightly because your feet are going to swell during the marathon.

Ÿ Bring several large garbage bags to Hopkinton (several to sit on in the grass and one to punch a hole in the bottom and use as a poncho.. Bringing a folded piece of cardboard or a small foldable chair that will fit into the bag you will drop off as you depart the Athlete’s Village will provide a greater degree of comfort.

Ÿ Bring a marker if you want to write something on your arms or legs before the marathon.

Ÿ Writing your name on your singlet may seem like a good idea if you think you’ll benefit from the encouragement but I would not recommend it. You want to recognize the people who REALLY know you when they call your name from the crowd. It gets a little annoying, especially for the people running near you, to constantly hear your name being called.

Ÿ Don’t forget the sunscreen and be sure to apply it even it’s going to be overcast. The back of the neck and the back of the knees are two areas extremely vulnerable to sunburn.

Ÿ Coat your feet and areas of friction liberally with Body Glide before the marathon.

Ÿ Remove all jewelry before the marathon. Fingers and toes tend to expand quite a bit during the marathon.

Ÿ Wearing sunglasses will keep your face relaxed and will actually conserve energy.

Ÿ I carry a small sponge with me to douse with water and wipe my face during the marathon.

Ÿ I also carry a small straw with me to sip through at the aid stations. You want to avoid taking in excess air as it can upset your stomach.

Ÿ GET TO THE ATHLETE’S VILLAGE NO LATER THAN 9:00 A.M.

Ÿ Leave the Athlete’s Village for the starting line no later than 9:45 a.m. and enter the corral that corresponds with your race number. You will be allowed to move back to a corral with higher numbers but you cannot move forward.

Ÿ If you plan to check a bag in Hopkinton and retrieve it in Boston, you should do this on your way to the starting line. The buses will have a range of numbers posted on them so simply go to the bus that has your corresponding number.

Ÿ Your official running time will not begin until you cross the starting line and activate your Champion Chip. None of the times posted on the marathon course will have any relevance to you so simply monitor your watch if time is important to you.

Ÿ Here is the best strategy for running Boston: Run the first 5 miles extremely conservatively, allowing your body to completely warm up and minimizing the damage of the extreme downhills. Most of your faster running should occur from miles 5-15. Throttle your pace back as you drop down into Newton Lower Falls just after mile 15. Miles 15-17 can be the most challenging and mentally demanding of the entire marathon. It’s important to prepare for these two miles long before you arrive. Once you take a right on Commonwealth Avenue (Fire Station at Mile 17, cut back your pace slightly and focus on efficient form and breathing all the way to the top of Heartbreak Hill (Mile 21)I will then evaluate how I’m feeling and then push again the final 5 miles.

Ÿ The best way to complete a marathon is with even and negative splits. Negative splits are simply running the second half faster than the first. This is not very easy considering the second half is more difficult than the first. But if you run conservatively the first half you’ll improve your chances.

Ÿ Your goal should be to get to mile 15 in relatively good shape/condition.

Ÿ If you have friends and family meeting you along the course be sure you know which side they’ll be on as you are running. Be sure that you reference ‘your’ right or left side as you’re running. I recommend having them carry a helium balloon so you can spot them immediately.

Ÿ I don’t recommend taking aid from any of the spectators. While good intentioned, there could be bacteria on their hands (remember the aforementioned samples at the Expo) that could adversely affect you.

Ÿ If you wear a watch during the marathon please don’t shut it off as you cross the finish line. You don’t want your finisher’s picture to be of you shutting your watch off. You will get an official time after the marathon so the time on your watch is really meaningless.

Ÿ Be sure that your number is completely unobstructed as you approach the finish line. Otherwise, you risk not getting a picture of your finish.

Ÿ Once you finish your goal should be to continue moving and eat and drink as quickly as you can. Be sure to accept the mylar blanket the volunteers will wrap around you.

Ÿ Take a moment to glance down and appreciate the medal they will also place around your neck once you finish!

Ÿ Taking a hot shower is possibly the riskiest part of your marathon day. Keep the temperature moderate and have something non-alcoholic to drink while showering. Keeping the door open, if possible, will also help prevent the humidity from building up.

Ÿ Check it with your respective Charity at the Westin to let them know you have finished and are okay. My cell phone is 508-353-6699 and I will be monitoring this number all weekend.

Ÿ I don’t recommend running after the marathon until the pain completely subsides. Walking and low-impact activities are more beneficial in the days following the marathon.

Ÿ Walking and cross training will be instrumental in your recovery.

Ÿ Take the time to thank all the people who were instrumental in helping you accomplish this incredible achievement.

Ÿ I will always be grateful for the opportunity to play a small role in your amazing accomplishment…thank you!