Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Serious Athlete?

Serious athletes: Have goals,have a plan to achieve those goals,recognize that there will be ups and downs along the way, they know what their workout will be when they wake up in the morning and what that workout is trying to accomplish, they don't view the day's training session as something to "get in" between work and what they have planned for the evening, they never rush a workout so they can move on to something else,they recognize that each day running is taking them one step closer to their goal,they think about and evaluate their training daily,ultimately,they view their training and running as a labour of love,an integral part of who they are.

Sunday, August 28, 2011


If you have read the Percy Cerutty bio,"Why Die," you learned about the poverty,depravation and illness he experienced during his childhood years.These hardships and the way he responded helped to mold him into the kind of person he became. Cerutty had the desire and perseverance to overcome many obstacles during the course of his life. A little known fact about him is that in 1945, at the age of 50, he became just the third Australian to run 100 miles in less than 24 hours.This was accomplished after years of poor health. Cerutty knows what he is talking about when he writes on subjects like obstacles, failures and overcoming. He offers the following: "It is said the darkest hour(in human experience) is just before the dawn. Be grateful if you have blundered: proved to be ignorant: made a mistake. It is only through such experiences that greatness can ever be achieved. When you experience frustration: discouragement: even a feeling of futility and hopelessness--it is then you should take heart: resist the temptation to abandon your objectives: to give up striving and trying. It is commonplace in human experience that--when we are about to abandon hope: when we are on the point of quitting--the miraculous occurs: we break through: we achieve(and what seemed only yesterday--the impossible)--the goals we dreamed of: but we must never have ceased believing and working towards those goals. In our moment of desperation something heartening occurs: the letter arrives: the invitation is received:we are added to the 'team'. So: never--whilst you breathe,whilst you have life,entirely give up hope: cease to try: abandon the search: cease doing. No one,until we have turned it,knows when we shall turn the corner, even which corner we may turn! But it is always well to remember: there is no road but has a turn somewhere: there is no problem but has a solution--if we can but find it: that there is no limit to what we may accomplish--at least whilst we have life in us." Perseverance is the key to success,you read this over and over again in the bios on successful people. Unfortunately,most people appear to lack the desire to persist and continue pursuing their goals. That is really too bad because I believe people are capable of accomplishing much more than they think they can.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

A Hurricane and A Bin

For most of the time living on an island off the coast of North Carolina is like being on a permanent vacation. However,there are times when it isn't and hurricane season can make you aware of that fact. It appears that there is a 50/50 chance that "Irene" will pass through the area where I live. With the possibility of evacuation and power outages looming, I just wanted to let readers know that the usual weekend posts may be delayed. On a related note, as I was making preparations to possibly evacuate,I was putting things I value most into a foot and a half by three foot weather proof bin. In my continuing desire to keep this a vanity-free blog I won't go into detail what I put in,but,as for those of you who live for the run, take a moment and consider what things you might place in your bin. You may be surprised at what you decide to protect.I close with this quote which should be remembered whenever we face adversity,not surprisingly it's by Cerutty, "You only ever grow as a human being if you're outside your comfort zone."

A Sometimes Forgotten Aspect

Percy Cerutty writes the following in the preface to one of his books, "To paraphrase the statement attributed to Baron Coubertin,the founder of the modern Olympic Games, and to supplement it: It is not the winning that is important,it is the taking part in. It is not the arrival that is important, but the journeying to. It is not the doing that is important, but the trying to be. All the world admires the trier--and that is something we can all succeed at: be tops in, being a sincere and punishing trier." We should not forget that our participation in athletics is more than whether or not we achieved some predetermined race time or place.Those who focus solely on performance are limiting themselves in regards to what they can learn,experience and enjoy.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Ideal State of Mind

The following is something I came across recently, it is by Dr. James Loehr, who is among other things, a sports psychologist. Dr. Loehr lists what he calls the "12 aspects" that comprise the ideal way to feel if you are going to perform optimally. He developed this list after interviewing hundreds of successful athletes in a variety of sports. I think it is an excellent checklist that appears to cover everything in regards to how one should feel and be prior to competition. Here goes: 1. "Physically relaxed 2.Low anxiety 3. Optimistic 4. Effortless 5. Alert 6. Self-confident 7. Mentally calm 8. Energized 9. Enjoyment 10. Automatic 11. Mentally focused 12. In control".

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Anxiety,Fear and Rest

It's interesting how anxiety,fear and nervousness can impact racing performance. The most obvious way you see an example of this is when a runner goes out too fast.Haven't we all done this at one time or another? Remember that feeling when you've gone through the first 2 or 3 miles of a 10k too fast and then find yourself struggling to maintain pace over the last mile and a half? Eventually, as experience is gained and confidence in your fitness is realized,most of us come to assume control over pre-race jitters and anxiety.I have written about ways of overcoming race anxiety in the past and so much of it relates to using common sense and keeping things in perspective. As we prepare for the fall marathon season,as well as other races, runners need to recognize how another type of pre-event anxiety can negatively impact performance on race day. What I am referring to here is not tapering or resting properly before the big race. Think about it,say you've done the right training for a marathon over the last 6 to 9 months,for some of you it may have been longer, but, when you get to the last 2 weeks you do workouts that sabotage months of carefully planned training. Once again,fear and/or anxiety has claimed yet another victim. There is a time just before your race when the interval sessions and the longer time trials are over. Arthur Lydiard wrote: "You need to keep fresh and sharp to race well: you can't do this if you try to train hard and race at the same time." He especially stressed evaluating how you felt on a daily basis in the two weeks prior to THE race. In keeping sharp, easy jogging is interspersed with days of easy fartlek and short wind sprints. Again, as runners gain experience, they will learn what is the best tapering schedule for them. The key is that they are motivated to evaluate how they feel on a daily basis,not mindlessly following a schedule printed in a book.Something that all of us tend to forget is that rest is as important a component to training as is nutrition and running. Ignore one of them and your performance will be effected. I recall reading years ago that if you didn't train at all for one week you would lose 5 % of your fitness level.That's not much. Of course that percentage increased if you went into a second week of no running. The fact is, you will lose zero fitness if you only do light jogging the week of your race and take a day or two off. If you have done months and months of preparatory work,you must back off (rest),that is simply common sense and being aware of the fundamentals of anatomy and physiology. If you are prone to overtraining and not resting, then you need to put reminders in your training log or leave notes to yourself to get control of whatever compels you to potentially undermine all that training. Have confidence in the work you've done,tell yourself it's now time to recharge and be at the starting line fresh and ready to go.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

To Be

Off to the trails today but will post an article tomorrow. Here is a quote to think about by author George Eliot: "It's never too late to be what you might have been." Boy,would there be anything worse than realizing 10,20 years down the road that you should have gone for it? What are you waiting for?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Post Marathon Nutrition

Athletes who want to learn and find info on all things pertaining to exercise,nutrition and training need only to look to exercise physiologist Dr. David Costill. Known for his decades with the Human Performance Lab at Ball State University,I should also add that for a period of time in his life he ran 70 miles a week while training for marathons. His book, Physiology of Sport and Exercise, is an excellent resource that is able to be understood by us folks who have a minimal background in anatomy and physiology. What follows is a continuation of posts that will pertain to all things marathon. Again,with the fall marathon season coming we all need to be informed and ready.This excerpt from Dr. Costill pertains to post marathon nutrition: "In order to recover as rapidly as possible, the obvious thing is to consume considerable carbohydrates.Probably the first meal after the marathon should be like the last big meal before. If the night before you have spaghetti or some other heavy carbohydrate,the meal after competition should be very much the same. You want to recover as much of that used up glycogen as possible. It takes 3 to 5 days to recover the glycogen. That's part of the problem of recovering from a marathon. A lot of people don't go after the carbohydrates hard enough,and that is part of the cause for the fatigue and difficulties in getting back to running form again." Personally speaking, I wish I had read this a long time ago,recovering from marathons probably would have gone a whole lot better.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Who Needs Tracks?

Lasse Viren, surely everyone knows who he is,right? For those who don't, he won gold in the 5,000 and 10,000 meter races at the 1972 and 1976 Olympics. Now take a moment and consider the magnitude of that accomplishment. It would not be an exaggeration to say what Viren did will probably never be repeated.How he trained was heavily influenced by Arthur Lydiard. Obviously Viren knew how to train because he was a master at being able to peak for the big races. That ability,as Arthur always said,was the true indicator of whether a person knew how to train. Lasse,like Herb Elliott(see July entry, Why I Believe in Fartlek), is proof that excellence can be achieved without hammering out intervals on the track. Kenny Moore wrote the following in an article he did on Viren:"Most of his speed work is not done on the track but on the forest trails or soft roads,and in races. He only went on the track three times all that summer (before the '72 Munich Olympics)." Some would say that this speedwork is what they call fartlek. For those who are uncertain as to what that is,at the end of this post I have a link to a site that gives a fairly good description. So,if you haven't already,consider moving your intervals and speedwork to more natural surroundings. It will make things alot more interesting and minimize your chances for injury. As an aside, Viren did one of the most surreal and unique running videos I have ever seen, it's entitled, Running is Your Life. I would highly recommend it to anyone who is looking for something other than the slick sports bios that seem to be the norm these days. Here's the fartlek link:http://www.coolrunning.com.au/expert/1997c002.shtml

Sunday, August 14, 2011

I Teach

Percy Cerutty wrote, "I teach: It is not important that we merely compete; that it is important that we endeavor to excel. That means, we do with all our heart and soul that which we find at hand to do. That we leave no stone unturned: no page unread:nothing frustrates us---since with the difficulty is the means of overcoming---and this once we have resolved upon a course of action. There are much more priceless things than winning, especially if the victories be unearned or cheap.It is the training: the way, that is valuable. That winning is only evidence of something and may be valuable, or not. That value is only earned when there has been self-discipline: exhaustive effort: and the development of intelligence through experience and thought. That without these factors preceding winning---winning itself,rather than be an advantageous experience,can hinder the personality---not add to it." Quite profound if I say so myself. Again, Cerutty understands that when seeking athletic success,when approached in the proper manner, it will have a postive impact on all aspects of your life and build character. There is much to think about in the above quote.

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Survivor Shuffle

We've all experienced it before,it's the last few miles of a marathon or long trail race; you're gone,totally depleted of fuel,well on your way to some degree of dehydration;your previously short walking breaks are getting longer and more frequent,you feel as if you're getting no closer to the finish line. What can you do? The following is something you may be familiar with,you may have tried a variation of it.After running several trail races over different distances in the Finger Lakes Trails, I found the following quite effective in getting through the times when the last few miles are agonizing,I call it the Survivor Shuffle. Here goes: Allow your stride to become much shorter(like that's hard to do at this point), as you run(or shuffle) give a slight forward lean to your body,now here is an important aspect to this,make sure you "drop" your shoulders and go to your arms more,even though it may seem as if you're moving them too much,your arms will work with your spent legs to get you through. Lastly,fix your eyes 10 to 15 feet in front of you as you go. I say this because, have you ever noticed when you're spent and depleted, if you focus on a water tower,building or street sign a quarter mile or more away,these landmarks never seem to get any closer? Your body may be telling your mind to give up and walk it in, you don't want to add to this by thinking, "I'm not getting any closer." As Ralph used to say,"there's little tricks you can do to get you through."

Marathon Mileage

As we approach the Fall marathon season, the weekly long run becomes a staple for runners planning to go the 26.2 mile distance. I recall a time when the weekly 20 miler was THE long run you'd do in preparation. I always wondered why the distance wasn't 26 miles or something closer to that distance.In later years, after I experienced a couple of bad "crashes" that occurred somewhere between miles 19 and 25, I upped the time out on my feet during long runs when preparing for marathons.Here are a few interesting quotes as it relates to mileage and doing well in the marathon. The first is from Paul Slovic who did a study during the 70's of participants in the Oregon Trail's End Marathon. He found: "The more long runs taken and the greater length of the longest run,the faster the final time---independent of maximum weekly mileage. In other words,longer runs would be associated with faster times even if total or weekly mileage were held constant." Also,Slovic found that sub-3 hour runners he surveyed ran an average of 9 miles a day. This led him to conclude that anyone wanting to break 3 hours for a marathon needed to run 60 plus miles per week for at least eight weeks. He said this would also go a long way towards preventing drastic slowdown after mile 20 and the subsequent post-marathon recovery that can be quite painful for runners who hadn't done enough mileage training prior. I'm a little out of touch with what is being recommended in today's mainstream running mags and recent books as it pertains to mileage and the marathon,but,no writer is doing anyone any favors by writing that there is a fast way to get ready to run(or race) 26.2 miles. I remember when the marathon distance was perceived as a bit intimidating, hence,people seemed to prepare for it better then they do these days.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Words From the Master

Lydiard said that well-conditioned athletes can remain in top form for months,but,only if they take these precautions: 1. Avoid training and racing hard at the same time. 2. Allow for recovery from races. The reason for this is, now that its racing season, "it's only a matter of keeping fresh and sharp." The beauty of Lydiard's system is that it is so logical; progressive work and stress, culminating with a runner achieving peak racing condition. This condition can be maintained as long as one doesn't keep on with the heavy amounts of interval training while racing. How many of you have seen athletes continue with too many intervals well into their racing season? Arthur summed it all up when he said the following: "Successful training is intelligent training; intelligent training is knowing the why of exercise,as well as what and how."

Monday, August 8, 2011

Some Thoughts on Drugs and Sports

I don't claim to be an expert on drugs in sports but I have read enough about the subject in recent decades to be alarmed and discouraged by what I've read. Drugs seem to be a part of every major sport in the world today. For a few examples we can look to the home run champions of years past and present who denied ever using drugs despite getting dramatically bigger and more muscular as they aged, or to the stars of track like Marion Jones,Ben Johnson and others,who after testing positive, continued to say they never did illegal substances. Does anyone really believe that any of the top 20 finishers at the recent Tour de France haven't used some type of performance enhancing substances? I mean,how many of those athletes have been busted in recent years for postive drug tests? I had to laugh when cyclist Alberto Contador's positive test for a banned substance was dismissed because his claim that it was a result of eating a "tainted" food was accepted. It's interesting how questionable assertions like this can be believed while there are ongoing efforts to find Lance Armstrong guilty of drug use.Determining who's "using" in many sports these days is difficult for different reasons. In pro baseball for example, the inhouse screening procedures and the baseball union make catching cheaters extremely difficult. This may be the same situation for pro football but I am not sure. It wouldn't be a stretch to say baseball and football have adopted a "we really don't want to know" mindset because they don't want any more bad PR. I say this because why haven't they allowed an independent testing authority to oversee testing of their athletes? In running,detection of banned substances like EPO,hGH,IGF-1,CPO and certain other drugs, which work to cause the body to deliver more oxygen to the muscles, are difficult to detect,especially if they're stopped prior to when an athlete knows he'll be tested. However,there are ways you can tell something "fishy" is going on, and that is by simply following performances. Dramatic drops in existing world records is one way. An example, in 1988 we saw a female sprinter set world records in the 100 and 200 meter distances with times that were way under the existing records for those distances. Her records still stand today and may not ever be broken. Another,anyone have any thoughts about the existing women's marathon mark? As in pro baseball and football,changes in body structure and appearance are often evidence of cheating by track athletes. Ben Johnson,Marion Jones and Regina Jacobs readily come to mind. There are too many other sprinters and field athletes to mention here. Ben Johnson, just prior to the '88 Olympics gave no indication by his performances that he would run a 9.79 to win the Gold in the 100,especially considering the start he had at that race.But,sure enough, he was caught and then a few years later he was caught again. Few people know this but in 2000, gold medalist in the 1972 Olympic marathon,Frank Shorter,co-founded The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. It is now the agency that oversees drug policy and testing for all American athletes who are competing in the Olympics,Pan-American,and Paralympic Games(including all trials). As mentioned previously,Shorter was probably denied Olympic Gold at the '76 games because he finished second to East German Waldemar Cierpinski,one of the many athletes from that country whose records later revealed they had been given illegal drugs.It's all very sad. It's sad because character no longer seems to matter in so many areas of sport today. Read the paper and a week doesn't go by without stories being published confirming this statement. When I first started putting this article together I thought the # 1 reason why it was wrong to be a drug cheat was: records in individual sports are rendered fraudulent,and the credibility of those respective sports are forever destroyed. Then I thought of a bigger reason, I recently read somewhere that our children are being impacted and influenced by "athletes" who choose to cheat,lie and deceive. They often see these people being honoured, defended,rewarded,and incredibly,portrayed as victims by the media. Our kids deserve better,they deserve the truth.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Lessons From Ralph

Those of us who live for the run recognize that there is much to be learned from the veterans of this great sport. I always kind of chuckle when I see ads for books,programs and seminars that tout "a new and better way" to achieve running success. I say this because the ways to running excellence were discovered decades ago and have been validated and confirmed repeatedly since. If you have read the bios of the greats of our sport you realize this. Recently I spoke with Ralph Zimmerman about training. For runners who don't know who Ralph is, I would ask that you go to my Jan.30,2011 post entitled, "On Running Mentors and Friends" before reading the following. I will briefly mention a couple of Ralph's career highlights. At 37 he set an age group mark for the marathon,running 2:18:55 at Boston. A year later at the Mardi Gras Marathon he ran 2:17. I'd be remiss not to point out that he ran the Olympic Marathon Trials in 1980. As you can see,the man knows training and racing. When we spoke, I asked Ralph to tell me some of the things he did that helped him to become the kind of runner he was. One of the first things he said was that he loved to run,he loved the training and he loved the racing. Another comment that stood out was,"there are no shortcuts,too many people are looking for shortcuts in their training." He cited some of the people I call the mileage moderation advocates of the 80's and 90's as impacting negatively on the sport. At this point I will say a few things,although Ralph was a follower of the Lydiard system and spoke with Arthur from time to time,many of his workouts were distinctly Stotanesque. He often trained in the country at a place called Chesnut Ridge Park,an area that was remote and loaded with hills. Here he did gut busting time trials and tempo runs,as well as a variety of hill workouts. Another area he trained at was in Buffalo at Delaware Park around a 1.8 mile loop. Prior to his first sub 2:20, Ralph said he'd go to Delaware Park each day and run 10 laps,he did this because "mileage was what you did if you wanted to get good." What follows are some random thoughts from Ralph on training,in no particular order: when running reps,say multiple sets of 4 reps in a set,Ralph found that there was a tendency to let down a little on the 3rd rep,he said he always made a point of reminding himself to work the 3rd one because, "you're always going to get through the fourth." In looking over his marathons,he discovered that he had a tendency to go a little off pace in miles 15 to 20. Again, Ralph said he made sure that when he hit mile 15 he reminded himself to maintain speed during that section." Note here folks,he realized what all great runners and coaches know,you have to think about and evaluate your running and racing if you want to improve.Something else, "I never used a watch when I raced,I ran how I felt." What Ralph meant by this is that many runners,if they don't hit their projected time at the mile markers,tend to get too worried or preoccupied with this,potentially causing them to alter their race plan,or worse yet,mentally give up. What toughened Ralph for races at all distances? Try hour long runs where he did an easy 5 minutes to start,followed by 5 minutes hard, then 5 minutes easy,then 5 minutes hard, then 5 minutes......all the way to the end of the hour.If that isn't a Cerutty workout then I don't know what is. One other workout I was very familiar with,time trials around a 3.2 mile hill filled loop called"Big Mother" at Chesnut Ridge Park. Ralph staggered the starts with him starting last and chasing us,inevitably picking us off one by one. All the runners who did this workout ended up running their best times for the season. There is more I could add but that's for another time. I close by saying,thanks Ralph,thanks for your guidance and encouragement.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

On Coaching

Often I hear or read about people asking if they should have a running coach. I think for us mere "mortals" it isn't necessary. When I use the word mortal I'm referring to those of us who will never be toeing the line in a national championship, much less an Olympics. Of course, it goes without saying that kids in school and college need a coach. As a coach myself, I understand where providing some informal advice,direction and feedback can be helpful to an athlete but I am always amazed at how many runners are quite willing to give up their hard earned cash to be coached via internet or telephone. It is not my desire however to disparage the well intentioned coaches that do this. The key words here are well intentioned. Something I do see is alot of runners who want someone else to do their thinking for them when it comes to training and schedules. They are frankly too lazy to seek out the right program and prefer that someone else just tell them what to do. As I have written before, what works for one runner may not necessarily work for another. If you truly want to run well, isn't it worth it to take the time to study and look into which program will be right for you? Cerutty said that he wanted his athletes to eventually be able to formulate their own training programs. He did add that as a coach and an athlete he would be available to provide input,advice,and encouragement along the way. Ideally, that is the way to go, the athlete determining his or her own way.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Frivolous Activity?

It's interesting how people who don't run often have certain opinions of those who have a long and deep commitment to it. It's not unusual to hear some folks say that our love for athletics is excessive and misguided. In the following quote Percy Cerutty writes about this and offers his opinion: "Athletics is still looked upon as possessing a freakish and juvenile quality only to be valued every four years---at Olympic Games time---is put a bad last in the national scheme and evaluation of things. Success in business--even if the successful one dies before fifty! success in politics,success in almost anything is valued before success in the real business of living,living healthily,actively,artistically." What makes the above even more insightful is that it was written in 1959,a time when the "world" was less materialistic than it is today. Unfortunately, career and how much one has, tends to determine whether or not one is viewed as being successful in the eyes of others. For committed athletes success is a subjective term, not determined by having this or being that.