Monday, October 29, 2012

Signal Knob Run

I ran signal Knob and mudhole gap. Very uninspired run but got it in

Friday, August 24, 2012

Is Strength Training Important?

I consistently lifted weights from the time I was 16 until I was in my late 20s. Then I started training for Ultras and my passion for throwing around iron quickly transitioned into covering miles. I have tried time and time again to get back into strength training as I believe it could make me a better runner. Time and time again I have pledged to do better and take time from running to cross train. The problem is I always fail. I LOVE to run. I can wake up at 5 am to run in the dark and watch the sun come up, no problem. Getting up pre-dawn to lift weights, no thank you. I will take my sleep any day over that. Maybe my problem is rooted in the lack of progress I see when lifting. If I run consistently I see measured improvement in energy, endurance, resting heart rate, body fat, and the list goes on. When I would lift consistently I did not see any real improvement. So what if I could bench press 10 more pounds this month than last month. Big deal, what does that get me in the real world, nothing. Covering miles, now that is something useful in the real world.

It is not my intension to get scientific here. I am going to go on the assumption that strength training can make you a better runner. There are many extreme cases of this. Here is an article on a guy who only did the basic crossfit workout each day (with no additional running) and was able to run 80 miles in 24 hours. On his blog,, ultra author Neal Jamison has written about and shared others experience with crossfit and ultra running numerous times (here and here) including Adam Eidson's 5:19 finish at Holiday Lake after running only 7 miles in the prior 3 months. Those are some pretty amazing feats for non runners and there has to be something too it. I am not about to go and take up crossfit. No time or desire for that, but I think we can learn a lesson from this. Strength training is important.

Backing up that notion is an article written by Dr. Bill Henderson over on Dr. Henderson sites some studies where strength training of the legs made the subjects better at running. This is attributed to better running economy. I think we are on to something here.

So where does that leave us runners who despise lifting weights? I am a firm believe that to be a better runner you need to put in the miles. So we must find the balance between running and strength training. The balance where weights do not interfere too much with running and everything else we all have going on. This is a question we all must answer. As for me.... I will continue to have a desire to do some strength training, but must find a way to fit it in. Maybe just keeping it basic with pushups, pullups, core, and some lunges / squats will be enough. It certainly is better than nothing.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

6 Reasons To Use A Treadmill

Treadmills have been around for a long time. There is nothing polarizing about them. The "I hate treadmills" camp is strong, but I have a hard time finding anyone in the "I love treadmills" camp. There is also a strong opinion that running on treadmills is easier than running outside on pavement. I am not here to argue this point one way or the other. I for one am on the opposite side of this and think running on a treadmill can certainly be harder than running on pavement outside (given the conditions outside are similar). It is fine if you disagree and I will not say you are wrong or right. What may be harder for may certainly may be easier for you.

There are some major advantages to treadmill running:

1. Uphill Training - Unless you live in the mountains you probably do not have access to a hill that theoretically never ends. A treadmill gives you this. If you do have access to long hills you will have to run down after getting up. This may not always be ideal if you are going for just an uphill workout. I am an ultra runner and love mountainous races. I live in an area with 0 hills. The treadmill is essential to prepare me for the long 1000+ feet climbs of most of the races I run.

2. Speed / Temp Training - A treadmill allows you to hit a pace and stay there. You can turn your brain off a bit and just focus on pushing through the workout. You can easily measure your effort and improvement over a time period based on the same or similar workouts.

3. Mental Toughness - Most people will agree that running on the treadmill takes some mental toughness due to the boredom it brings. With no change in scenery you can quickly get bored. In my opinion (at least in ultras) being mentally tough is just as important as being trained properly. Hanging in on those tough treadmill workouts when your mind is bored and you can easily quit without having to walk 3 miles back to your house or car builds that toughness. Ultras that consist of loops are tough because of this car factor. A few years ago I dropped out of the Umstead 100 miler after 87 miles. I was at my car and a warm fire. If I was feeling that bad at a different point in the race I still would have had to walk it in and who knows, maybe I would of felt better. It is always easier to quit when you can quickly have the creature comforts we are accustomed to.

4. Race Simulation - Treadmills allow you to simulate a race course and reduce its length. A coach I had a few years back put me onto this idea. Break down your race into %incline of every segment and then simulate those climbs and flats/declines on the treadmill. This has really caught on as some treadmills now have a capability to upload a gps track and they will automatically change the incline based on real world data. I am going to write a post on this sometime soon and go into more detail about my manual way of doing this.

5. Time Saving - Unless you live near the hills or track you want to train on a treadmill can save you time (especially if it is in your home or at your work). I have a treadmill at my house and my office complex has one in its workout room. I can easily do a run at lunch or anytime at home. This gives me more time due to less driving, money savings on gas, and more time with my family.

6. Climate - Sometimes the weather is not cooperative even for experienced mountain runners. My former coach had a top of the line treadmill because he lives at high altitude in Colorado. The winters are snowed in, but he still had a need to get in quality workouts. This guy is no slouch as he has won the Vermont 100 and Leadville 100 twice. In my case the summers are hot and humid. This weekend the low is 80 with a "real feel" of 90. The high is 100 with a "real feel" of 115. I am sure I could go out and hit my long run in this weather if I ran at night and went really slow. I am choosing the treadmill instead. I know I will get a better workout this way and not be exposed to the heat and all the possible ailments it brings. I am not training for a hot race so why should I expose myself to this extreme heat when I can run a Race Simulation instead?

I hope you will consider the treadmill as just another tool to help you reach your goals. It can hold a key place in most runners training and can be very helpful in reaching your goals. In the following months I am going to continue to expand on each of the above points and hopefully give some more insight into how the treadmill can be a useful training tool. So what do you think, are treadmills useful to you or are they nothing more than "dreadmills"?

Snowy Evening

This classic Robert Frost poem was on a sign near the end of Umstead a few years ago when I ran it. It really sticks with me when I run, especially the last verse. 

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

–Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Foundations of Training: Influences

My training is based on a few different sources and life experiences. I ran my first ultra, the Holiday Lake 50k, in February of 2008. I had no idea how to train. I was not a marathon runner and had only been running for a year. I had only run 3 half marathons prior to this experience. That summer I ran the Laurel Highlands Ultra. I fell apart and walked it in a few minutes under the cutoff. I had finished but I had paid a hard price. I was hurt and hobbled. The next day I was on crutches and was like a zombie roaming around. 

Sometime after that I started to work with Paul Dewitt. Paul taught me how to train and different workouts do conduct for different reasons. For the first time every workout had a reason. This was something new and shaped how I train and introduced me to hill training and the treadmill.

I have always followed the blog  I Run Far. When I heard I Run Far editor Bryon Powell was publishing a book I immediately pre-ordered it from him. Relentless Forward Progress is highly recommended, especially for the training plans that Bryon presents. 

Within the last few months I have been using a heart rate monitor. I purchased the book Heart Rate Training and was hooked. The book is an essential tool for anyone training for any distance of race. It scientifically spells out what levels of effort cause what physiological changes within your body. I am an engineer by career so precision and science are second nature to me. 

Over the next few weeks I am going to break down the specific workouts I have been running while training for my 100. I will relate how Bryons book has helped me to build up my mileage and keep speed work in check and how Heart Rate training plays a significant roll in every run I complete.

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Beginning

I used to have a blog, but it died a slow death from lack of time and motivation. I hope this offering will last a little longer. My desire is to share who whomever is out there a little piece of my life while I train for the Old Dominion 100. It is hard training for an ultra while balancing a family and a career. God is necessary for me to get this all done. Ultimately I want others to see it can be done, to see what worked for me, and learn from my mistakes.