Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Marathon Training is a Bitch!

My last few long runs in preparation for my next marathon have been miserable. Hot, humid, and sunny. Biting flies. Dripping sweat. Tired. Hungry. Thirsty. I've pretty much had enough. Fortunately, toward the end of each long run, my iPod Shuffle has played the perfect song to keep me going...Quiet Riot's Love's a Bitch. If you substitute "marathon training" for "love" in the's spot on. Especially when played LOUD during your training runs. Gotta keepa runnin'!

"Love's A Bitch" Lyrics...


Loves got me by the ass again
I've been in love since I don't know when
I keep a-runnin' and I don't know why
Love's givin' me a crock of lies
Out of breath and I'm out of time
Misery is what I find

Love's a bitch, baby
Love's a bitch, yes it's crazy
Love's a bitch, baby
Love's a bitch, yeah it's crazy
Love's a bitch!

Like a cat with diamond eyes
Love's power it can hypnotize
Done me in (ha)
More than twice
She'll make you think that it's over night
Your all alone in a room that's wrong
Your body shakes
Your feet are cold

Love's a bitch, baby
Love's a bitch, yeah it's crazy
Love's a bitch, baby
Love's a bitch, yes it's crazy
Love's a bitch! (whoa, ooh ooh, yes it is)
(Oh, oh, oh)

Such a bitch (oh)

Don't you wait, don't stand still
Gotta keepa movin' or you'll pay the bill
Go by car, go by train
You gotta keepa runnin' or you'll feel the pain
Keepa runnin', keepa runnin'

Love's a bitch, baby
Love's a bitch, yes it's crazy
Love's a bitch, bitch, bitch, baby
Love's a bitch, it's crazy
Love's a bitch! (NO!)
It's a bitch!!!!

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Becoming a Fair Weather Runner

I used to love getting outside in terrible weather to run through the elements. Heavy rain and wind? Awesome. Snow and ice? Great. Heat and humidity? Sure. Tons of mud and water? Sweet! 100 miles instead of a 5K? Exactly.

Now that I'm older...and wiser...and have experienced almost all the "challenges" of running, I'm content to morph into a fair-weather runner. I've already run in Death Valley with 122F temperatures and no relief from the sun. I've achieved a sub 24-hour trail 100-mile finish. 300+ miles in one week? Done! Midnight 50-mile run in the middle of the winter darkness? Completed. Wandered the famous Barkley trails in Tennessee? Oh yeah. More than 100 ultra/marathons finished? Yep. Most crazy shit on my bucket list has been achieved. Sure, there are still goals out there, but none really motivate me in an extreme way. I'm definitely becoming a fair-weather runner content to do normal things in my daily running life.

I really enjoy a 10-mile run in 55F spring weather. Twenty-two miles in the Illinois summer heat and humidity...not so much. I know what I enjoy and I'm happy to embrace those simple pleasures. Sometimes that will mean skipping a run entirely, or hitting the treadmill, or starting earlier or later in the day to avoid extreme weather. That's OK. In fact, it's pretty cool. I do what I like to do. Simple. I may have to retire my buffalo nickname ("S&M") since I just don't enjoy punishing myself, and others, on a regular basis. Every once in a while I may need to push my limits, but not too often. Injury-free and pleasurable running is on the top of my list. I like running that makes me feel good. I suppose I'm becoming Mr. Obvious...or the hedonistic runner. It's all good.

See you on the trails...when it's sunny, dry, and cool. A slight breeze is OK too. Happy running. Enjoy the miles.

Monday, June 20, 2016


I'm sick. Or I have bad allergies. Or both. Dang! I've really kept a pretty good lid on my training this summer. Nothing too hard, fast, or long. Rest days when needed. But, I got sick at the end of last week. Maybe it's just bad allergies. I'm stuffed up. Sneezy. Slight sore throat. And tired. I skipped some run sessions last week and will take it easy again this week. I was planning on doing the Kennekuk Road Runner 5-Hour "Dogs and Cats" run on Saturday. It would be a perfect super-long run with support of food, water, and friends. Plus, it is a fund-raiser for the local humane societies. Extra bonus? It's on the Howl at the Moon 8-Hour course--perfect training for that August ultra. I have 5 days to feel better.

Even though I feel wiped out, it's still better than a full-blown illness...or an injury. My brother, training for same marathon, strained his calf. He's been out for 2+ weeks. If he slowly comes back to training (we have 41 days to go), he should be able to run/walk the full marathon. No records, but it would be his first marathon finish. Hey, I suppose that counts as a personal record!  I wish him well in his return from injury.

With 6 weeks to go, I basically need 2 good long runs, then a taper. Tiny bit of speed work would be a bonus, but potentially risky. Overall miles, with long runs, is more important. I'll be OK. I think. No turning back now. I have my plane ticket to Seattle and I've registered for the marathon. It's go time!

Interesting correlation with my heart rate variability (HRV) using the Elite HRV cell phone app. Had my lowest morning "readiness reading" ever (3/10) on the weekend. I'm usually around 8-9. The readiness scale is 1-3 = red (bad), 4-6 = yellow (caution), and 7-10 is green (good). It was a 4 this morning. Still suffering (or recovering). No run today.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Heart Rate Variability (HRV) for Running

I'm a bit of a running nerd. I like to document what I'm doing. I do lots of heart rate training. I check my morning pulse/HR. I track distance, time, pace, elevation, cadence, weather, etc. I look at trends over time. Trends during a single run. If it can be measured, I've probably tried to track it! My newest addiction is heart rate variability (HRV). This is the variability between individual heart beats. In general, the more variability, the better. Very low HRV is a sign of over training, stress, illness, disease, etc. Several HR monitors can provide this data, I happen to utilize the Wahoo Tickr HR monitor. It's ANT+ and Bluetooth capable so it works with my Garmin watch and also several Android or iOS phone apps. I use the Elite HRV cell phone app. Here is a brief summary of HRV from the Elite HRV folks.

Resting heart rate is a great way to track recovery and over-training. Lower resting HR is good. Elevated resting HR is a sign of stress and needed rest/recovery. Similar data is correlated to heart rate variability (HRV), but in the opposite direction. A depressed (lower) HRV reading is a sign of stress and needed rest and recovery, while a higher HRV tends to be affiliated with fitness and readiness for a strong performance. Elite HRV app has you set a baseline and tracks you over time to provide a daily "morning readiness reading." You measure your HRV each morning (over about 2.5 minutes in a relaxed state) and it provides a "readiness score" from 1-10 (with a corresponding red-yellow-green status). It also tells you whether the reading is sympathetic (stressful) or parasympathetic (deep recovery mode) in nature. Perfect 10 is nicely balanced and ready to perform! I've tracked mine for just over 3 weeks and certainly find ups and downs that seem to be connected to tough workouts (like a long run or speed session), stress at work, or rested and recovered body. My hardest workouts seem to depress my HRV the most 2 days later (although my reading is slightly depressed after 1 day too).

I still need more data to really figure out what is happening with HRV and how it relates to stress, rest, and performance. I have yet to race since I've tracked HRV. One nice bonus is the software also tracks basic resting HR (low, average, high during the 2.5 minute readiness test). And it archives HR and HRV (plus mood and any notes you add). I can see this being very useful over time. I've already noticed a slight decrease in my resting HR (which is good!). I'm becoming more fit while I concentrate on aerobic endurance. I have a few more long runs before my July 31 marathon. It'll be interesting to see how my HRV varies with intense training...and racing. Will a hard marathon impact HRV more than a 50-mile trail ultra? What about a 5K? Tempo run? Intervals? More data is good, right?

Will this improve my training and racing? Will I be a better runner? Maybe. If I'm rested and ready to go (higher HRV), then I can push the workout. If HRV shows a lower reading, then I need to take it easy and rest or do a light active recovery run. There is some evidence that a program based on workouts that revolve around your readiness (based on HRV) have higher impact and better outcomes than a pre-defined workout program. Here's a snippet from a article:

The study concluded that, “The timing of moderate and high intensity training sessions according to HRV is more optimal compared to subjectively predefined training.” In other words, following a training plan out of a book or off of a website may not optimally improve performance. (Read more at "Can Heart Rate Variability Help Runners Optimize Their Training?")