Marathon Training with Todoist

Using Todoist for My Marathon Training

Lately, I’ve been getting more done in my life by using an app called Todoist. Todoist is a super clean to-do list app, that lets me organize everything I need to do. It reminds me when I need reminding, and rewards me with Todoist Karma points when I am able to cross things off my list. The more vested I have gotten in the app, the more productive I became. I wanted to be able to check things off my list, and get points. Plus, I have a friend that started using it a while before me, so he has a ton more Karma points, so I want to catch him.

One of the first items I did on the app  was set-up so really simple recurring exercise habits I would like to do. Every day, I am prompted to do 50 squats, and I alternate between 50 pushups or 100 situps on a daily basis. These are exercises I can do during a commercial break, or to get my blood flowing during a slow day at work. It’s a little exercise is always good for you to keep me moving no matter what.

After a little while, I got the idea to put my marathon training plan into the app, and to have my schedule handy whenever I needed it. I ended creating a project called “Marathon Training” and created seven weekly recurring events, one for each day of the week. This works nicely since each day of the week lines up with a specific type of run. I gave each day to make it clear what the theme of that run was by the day of the week, and if I dive into the comments for that week, I can see exactly what the workout is that particular day. The featured image above is my set-up for the each of the daily runs. Below is what the comment for my Friday Long Runs looks like. It’s pretty straightforward, and makes it easy for me see what I’m supposed to be doing (As you can see, my Fridays have been been hard to work out right now, but I’ll figure it out).Fr Long Run Todoist

When I complete a run, I got the satisfaction of checking off that I completed that week’s run, and watching it automatically roll to the next week’s run.

Now, this is definitely a very detailed (to say it nicely) way to track your marathon training. But for me, it helped me integrate my running into my daily life, and I can see how my running tasks integrate with everything else that I need to get done. Running is no longer an isolated event in my day, it is now part of the many things I want to get done. The macro view of my day that Todoist gives tells me if I need to rethink my day or prioritize what items can get done today, and what items need to be put off until another day or week.

So far, I have done 14 of my 16 runs as planned. I missed two runs, and felt significant pain when I had to tell Todoist to roll those days to the next scheduled time since I had missed my scheduled runs. I’m going on vacation for six days, and I’m a little worried about the six runs I have scheduled for that time. I am a bit less worried about them right now though, because I know exactly what else I have to on those days, and I’ve already begun mentally preparing my days to squeeze those runs in.

By the way, Todoist Karma points are just a way to track your productivity. Do things on schedule and you get points, and lose points if you fall way behind. As a result, I’ve also become better gauging what I can do in a day. It integrates with just about any platform (iOS, Android, Windows) or tool (Google Now voice recognition, Chrome) you can think of, so it’s always easy to add things to my list. There are some really advanced features, and all sorts of neat tricks. If you are interested in using, I would check out Todoist (Not a paid advertisement of any sort. In fact, I pay them $30 a year for the premium plan)

What are some ways that you have gotten more organized in order to help your running? Any favorite tools that help you get the job done?

Jon Favreau

Running Tips from Jon Favreau

Jon Favreau is not someone that you really associate with running, and nor did I until a couple of weeks ago. I was listening to the Tim Ferriss Podcast and it was an episode when Tim interviewed Jon Favreau. Jon was talking about how he got straight in A’s in college, because he had actually spent time working on Wall Street before he actually went to college. The job on Wall Street was a terrible fit (thank goodness, otherwise without him, there would be no Swingers, Chef, or Ironman as we know it), but it put college in perspective. In college, you are told on the first day what it takes to succeed, and all you have to do to succeed is do exactly what is asked of you. So, that’s what he did.

That thought has been rattling around in my head a lot lately, because I’ve gleaned a lot of meaning from it. Most things are, in fact, pretty easy to succeed at, we just have to do what is required. And often, we cannot even commit to that. We either do something that’s not right to begin with, or we don’t fully commit and allow distractions to occupy our time. But, if you are willing to do the work, and do everything that you know is required to succeed, you’re going to succeed more often than not.

When I apply this to running, it rings just as true. If you want to run a marathon, you should have a plan that will get you to the finish line in your goal time. The most important part of that previous sentence is the plan that is right in front of you. All you have to do is follow it. If you miss a day here or there, that’s probably okay because it’s all about the cumulative effort. but if you fail to follow it regularly, guess what, your marathon is not going to turn out the way you want it to. You might get hurt, you go a lot slower than you had planned, or worse, you might end up having to drop out of the race because you are so ill prepared for the race.

What could have prevented all of this? Following the plan that you laid out at the beginning of the training season! You knew that plan was the key, and yet, you failed to follow it. Things came up, you rationalized why you should take the off day instead of run. My favorite example of not following the plan is that you actually ran every day, but instead of running easy on the days you were supposed to, you ran those days hard. On the days you were supposed to run intervals, you ran the whole thing at one speed and didn’t really do an interval. In other words, you failed to stick to the training plan. If every run is done hard, and there are never easy runs, and but you never do the high-intensity training, you are either going to be burnt out for your race and have a bad run, or you will never hit the speeds that you want to hit on your race. In other words, you didn’t follow the plan, and not surprisingly, you didn’t obtain your goal.

It’s a remarkable simple piece of advice and insight: when you know the path to your goal, follow the path. There is absolutely no reason to deviate from that. I like to pair this piece of advice with another saying that I love, even if it is a bit cliche: eighty percent of life is just showing up (Woody Allen).

In other words, the key to running a great marathon is as follows:
1. Show up to your training runs
2. Run your training runs as planned.

My absolute best marathon that I ever ran was in 2011 when I ran a 3:46 at the Indianapolis Marathon. That is the training plan that I have followed absolutely the best, and I hit my targeted distances and times over 90% of the time. My goal for that race was to break four hours for the first time. It’s not a coincidence at all that I was able to obtain those results (setting a personal best by over 35 minutes) and that was the training plan that I had followed the absolute closest. It’s also not a surprise that I have not followed a training plan as well since that race, and that race remains my personal best.

I’m currently training for next marathon, and I’m about three weeks in. I’ve missed two runs out 15, and I have 90 runs left over the next 15 weeks. My first three weeks have given me okay results, but if I really want to have the great run in April, I have to follow my plan for the next 15 weeks. That simple. Thanks, Jon Favreau.

Photo by Genevieve

Nasa Treadmill Small

Rocket Scientist Discovers Best Way to Run

After years of field research, and aerospace engineer (an actual rocket scientist) has determined the absolutely best way to run. It involved hours of analysis, computer simulation models, and interviews with countless of the fastest and most dedicated runners around the world. At the end of this exhaustive study, he determined that the best way to run is as follows:

Do whatever feels best for you that makes running fun and enjoyable.

It really is that simple. Go watch a marathon, as people go by, they all have different styles. Even at the elitist of elite levels, runners have different forms. The more you run, the more your body will evolve into its natural running position, and will become more efficient. If we all could run Usain Bolt, shouldn’t we? No! Bolt is a tall lanky giant. His running is the result of years of extensive, high level training.

Now, this is not to say that you cannot change your running style to be more efficient. But, realize, that is a long, gradual, conscious, process of change and improvement. This can also be dangerous since not all of those corrections will actually help you.

The only caveat to my earlier statement is that the most important way to not run is run injured. By running injured, you cause your body to compensate elsewhere, and can actually cause additional damage to the injury, and damage to previously healthy body parts. When injured, the absolute best way to run is at home resting up. By resting up, you enable yourself to be able to run properly once you are healthy.

So, instead of hating how you run, you should own it. Go to a proper running store and have them do a gait analysis. They will help you find the best shoes that work for your running style.

The second part of that statement is focused on fun.

There’s an episode of Friends when Phoebe goes running with Rachel, and Rachel is embarrassed because Phoebe runs like a crazy woman Later, Rachel learns that Phoebe has a lot more fun in her running. It’s what works for Phoebe. Do what makes it fun for you.

You should be able to plant a smile on your face when you run. Running is a great form of exercise, but you should only do it if you enjoy it. There are 300 other ways that you can get your exercise in and enjoy yourself a whole lot more. So, if that means your best way to run is actually all out in 30 seconds intervals playing soccer, then go for it. Soccer players run a 10K on average through the course of a 90-minute game. But, that’s not the main focus of their exercise. Running is a natural byproduct of being an aggressive soccer player.

If you like running with groups, run with groups. If you like solo time when you run, then take solo time when you run.

Don’t like to run? That’s okay too. Perhaps your running is really on a bicycle. Don’t like exercise, that’s a completely different beast, and I’m not even sure how you came across this article.

Running is such a spectacular experience, that it’s really hard to mess it up. Even a “bad run” is still a good run. It just didn’t go as expected, but ultimately, you did in fact run.

To recap, in order to run properly you should do the following: – go out and run – have fun while doing it

It’s really a simple formula. Perhaps, breathing air is the only other thing that might simpler for us to do. In fact, you are able to run and breathe at the same time. Only stopping your breathing will stop your running. If you run so much that you can’t breathe, you may be doing it wrong.

Just for your reference, your author is in fact an aerospace engineer, has run computer simulations of people running, and has spent hours watching the running techniques of other runners. Olympians all run different, and weekend warriors all run different. There’s a reason why you can get passed by a 70-year old during a race, and you may pass a 20-year old that looks twice as fast as you. We all run different. But, we all should enjoy it.

Photo credit NASA of Astronaut Steve Swanson running on the International Space Station.

Running New Zealands famous Routeburn Track

My Personal What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

I love Haruki Murakami’s book What I Talk About When I Talk About RunningInspired by this, I would like to share what I’m talking about when I talk about running:

Patience. Running was a great way for me to learn patience. Think about training for a marathon. First, it takes months to train for it. You spend an hour a day for four to five months to ensure that the four hours (or less or more) on that magical Sunday are the absolute best running moments you’ll have in recent memory. That is a lot of work for, hopefully, a lot of reward. What if race day turns out to have bad weather or just have a bad run? Has all of that work been for nothing? Hardly not. I laugh at that notion. HA! It’s about the experience. It’s about the friends that you’ve made along the way and daily sense of accomplishment you got by hitting your miles. Bonus points if you made new or better friends by training with other runners for your race.

Then, after having run a marathon, when I look at projects at home or at work, I realize that things will get done, and that there will be great moments, and slow ones. Ultimately, I will be able to get things done simply by putting the effort into it.

Absolutely nothing. There are days where I have run for 45 minutes, and I could not tell you a thing that I thought about. I just ran, focused on the road ahead of me, and made sure I got there. My mind feels clear and cleansed afterwards. It’s a truly deep form of meditation, that also gets things going. If it’s a run first thing in the morning, I don’t even feel like I’m awake until the third mile. Then, I’m already halfway through my run, and I realize that sometimes just going out and doing things is the absolute best way to get things done. Nike really had it right with Just Do It. I really don’t think they realized how profound a statement that was when they launched that ad campaign.

Control. Sometimes, running is all about control for me. If things are getting crazy at work, at home, or most likely, at both, running becomes a moment to pause, reset my brain, create a plan, and get back control of my mind and my time.

Health. It’s so cliche, but in my case, my family health history has many incidents of various forms of cancer, Parkinson’s disease, and high cholestrol. I need to be healthy, because there will be a time when my body will revolt against me. I am not being pessimistic, but rather I see maintaining my fitness as an opportunity to maximize the now so that I can maximize the later as well.

Running may be the ultimate metaphor for so much in life. At times, it’s about the struggles in your life: other times the successes. For me, running is a sign of personal improvement. The more I run, the more I improve. Most importantly, I believe talking about running is an easy way to talk about what is on your mind without really talking about what’s on your mind. Maybe that’s why runners really like talking about running. To them, runners are talking about everything else when they are talking about running. Every achievement is an opportunity to celebrate simple pleasures in life that we often don’t celebrate. So, when I tell you, “I’m happy I woke up to run at 5am to run with my running club. Not only that, I ran 6 miles and was able to push hard for the last three miles of it at my marathon pace,” there is a whole lot of backstory to and I’m not bragging. Rather, I’m telling you everything important in my mind and my heart at the moment, and the physical part is a really small part of it.

I like to think of a marathon or 5k as thousands of races occurring at the same time. Very few are racing to win that particular race, but almost everyone is racing to achieve something else: a weight loss goal, building a sense of achievement through a PR, doing something fun with their friends, not feel alone that day, or just seeing if they can actually finish the race. Runners are highly welcoming group, and anyone who puts on a pair of sneakers and runs is a runner. It’s a pretty simple formula. I was a runner when I ran 12 minute miles, and I was a runner when I ran 7 minute miles, and I’m still a runner as I run 9 minute miles. A runner is a runner is a runner.

 

Marty and MCM medal.jpg

How Dropping Out of a Marathon Made Me a Better Runner

It was a perfectly cool October day for a run. I was on Mile 10 of the 2009 Marine Corps Marathon (MCM) and feeling great. I passed my fiance (now wife) and my roommate cheering me on by the Lincoln Memorial and things were going smoothly. As I continued past them and towards Hains Point, I began to think that I might have an okay marathon after all. My training had not been where I would have liked it, but in general, I was in better running shape than I had been in previous years.

Hains Point is the tip of a little peninsula that sticks out at the bottom of Southwest DC. Runners and Cyclists frequent it because it is a great place to do a three mile run or ride loop without worrying about cars. Other runners avoid it like the plague because it seems like there is always a headwind, no matter which direction you are running. I belong in the second group of runners. During the MCM, Hains Point is also known for low crowd support in an otherwise well-supported race. To help with that, I like to believe the MCM organizers did something smart by putting the halfway point of the race at the farthest part of Hains Point. This gives people a mental victory in the middle of the race’s lowest point. Unfortunately, for me, that was my last victory, as the wheels quickly went flat and came off.

I began to have my legs seize up on me. I was getting passed by individuals that I had passed an hour before. Around Mile 14, I began to switch off walking and running, and by the time I got back to my fiance waiting at Mile 16. I was in serious pain. I’ve felt this kind of pain in previous marathons, but those marathons were at Mile 23 or 24. This one, I still had another 10-miler to go. I was also only a mile from my apartment. So, I did what any reasonable runner in agony and not thinking clearly would do, I walked off the course, and received my very first and only Did Not Finish (DNF).

As soon as I got home, and the pain had subsided, I very quickly began to wallow in self-pity. Instead of an overwhelming sense of achievement I had been hoping for, I now felt doubt about my own abilities to run and to finish things. While I knew exactly how much worse it would have gotten for the next ten miles, it could not stop from thinking that I had made the wrong decision. My fiance came by and brought me a stuffed monkey to cheer me up. We named him Marty, short for Marathon, that’s him in the picture above.

It took me a couple of hours to decide that I had come to a decision point in my marathon training, and my life as a runner. How was I going to let this impact me? I decided that if I was going to commit to something, I had to make sure I allowed myself the time to do so and I had to set myself up for success. I started seeing a trainer and running much more regularly. I did not loaf on my long runs and made sure to make the time for them on the weekends. Not surprising that six months later with actual commitment, I was able to knock 18 minutes minutes off my personal best in the marathon.

While I to do this day hate that I dropped out of that marathon, I realize that in doing so, I was able to set a low point that I never ever want to approach again. That gut wrenching feeling of failure comes up every single time I don’t want to climb the next hill, or go the next mile. It is a sick disgusting taste that I never want to go through again.

While counter-intuitive, by dropping out of the marathon, I made myself a better runner. Since then, I have lowered my personal best in the marathon another 56 minutes to 3:46, and completed a half-marathon in 1:41. With each improvement in the marathon I’ve made over the past few years, I got a feel for exactly how committed I needed to be in order to overcome the next time hurdle in my running. Knowing what I know, I’m not certain if I would actually want to finish that marathon. I’ve learned so much from it. Marty’s medal there with is from the 2012 MCM that I finished in 4:24 a mere month after finishing the Berlin Marathon in 3:53. Both would have been personal bests when I dropped out in 2009. Through failure, I found success.

What have you learned from your failures? Please comment below.

Get Ready to Race!

Tips for Selecting Your Next Race

With the fall race season winding down, it’s time to rest, but more importantly, it’s time to find your next race.  I think picking out a race is almost as fun as actually running the race. It’s all of the excitement, without any of the work.  By Week Four of your training, you may be regretting signing up for the race, but selecting the race, will be glorious. With that in mind, here are a few tips I’ve figured out over the years to make sure that the race itself is every bit spectacular that you thought it would be.

What’s Your Goal?

What is the main thing you want to accomplish when you do this race? Do you want to run a fast race? Do you want run a new distance? Do you want to run in a new state/country/continent? Do you want to qualify for Boston? Some goals will be easier to meet than others, but once you know what you want out of your race, you can do a proper job of selecting a race that will help you achieve that goal. A good example would be selecting a spring marathon so that you have a reason to train through the winter and be beach ready for the summer. A bad example would be selecting a hilly marathon in June to get your first Boston Qualifying time (hills+heat = slow).  Set yourself up for success.

Is There Time to Train?

Once you’ve settled on a goal, make sure you have left yourself enough to actually achieve that goal. While you think you may be ready to run three marathons in three weekends, make sure you have time to do some lots of training that will simulate that physically for you, so you can set expectations for that race.  If you do pick a race where you don’t have enough time to fully train for, you may need to rethink how fast you may be able to run it.

Can You Afford It?

I’ve met so many runners that all of their money goes into gear, race fees, and traveling to the races. Which is great, if you can afford to do that. If you can’t afford it, you may need to relook at other race options in the area. The NYC Marathon is now $255, while two weeks later, the Brooklyn Marathon will run you $95. Both get you running in New York City in the fall. The experiences will be different, but so will the impact to your wallet. I love traveling for races because it’s a great way to see a lot of city in a short amount of time. But, you need to not break your bank at the same time.

What’s Your Family Going to Do While You Race?

My wife and I have a deal now, if I want to travel for a race, there has to be some other compelling reason to go there (new city, other event going on, getting to see old friends).  When I ran the Lima marathon in May 2014, two day afterwards, we did the three-day Inca Trail hike to Machu Picchu with friends that flew down to join us on the trail. So, while I ran the race, my wife and our friends had a breakfast along the race route and cheered me and other runners on. It was a win-win for everyone. By the way, my legs held up great on the trail. I trained for that by doing ten-mile runs right before doing two-hour hikes so that my legs were used to that sensation. I digress, my point — make sure that there are things for your family and friends to do while you are off running your race. Some will cheer you on, others will want to enjoy their vacation.

Don’t Forget to Enjoy Yourself

That’s the point in all of this running, after all, isn’t it? Seriously, there are other ways you could maintain your health and make friends than running around covered in sweat. You should be out running because you’re going to enjoy it no matter what. Have fun, live a little.

Your Turn: What’s Your Advice on Selecting a Race?

Image courtesy of Nate Burgos.

Kona at Lincoln

Why Everyone Should Run With Their Dog and How To

For the past six months, my best running buddy has been Kona, my two-year old Labrador-Boxer.  He now easily runs three miles at a time a three or four days a week, which is a fair workout for the both of us. It’s really easy to love running with him.

He always has a smile.  He loves running. Whether with me, or chasing a Frisbee or another dog, he is always smiling. Running should always be fun, and Kona has made it his mission to focus on that element of the run.  Not only is he smiling, but his presence often makes other runners and passersby smile. Who doesn’t love a running, happy dog?

Good running partners stay close.  Kona is always close.  Even though he could put more space between us, he prefers to stay close to my hip. I’ve run with plenty of people who prefer to start together and each run their own pace.  Normally,  I’m okay with that, but with one exception.  Often, these runners stay twenty feet in front of me for like miles.  We’re not running our own paces: we are running the same pace, twenty feet apart.  Kona doesn’t do that. He really is the ultimate wingman.

Getting here was not without its issues.  Like most things, Kona had to be trained to be this model running dog.

  • Dogs like to sniff and do what comes to mind–including, not running.  For a while,  Kona refused to run in a direction that was away from our home.  He would hit the deck and pull the leash, which would feel like him trying to pull my arm out of its socket as that force was levered though the arm holding the leash. It was clearly not pleasant for either of us. To solve this, I got him a new action harness and me a hands-free waist leash. Now when he pulls, it’s not nearly as strong as it all goes straight to my center of gravity, proving to be mostly ineffective. He very quickly gave up on this behavior.
  • Kona loves to run, but usually all out for a short time at something of interest.  This was a bit different kind of running.  We built him up following the Pooch to 5K program. This helped him get used to running a little bit a time. It also gave a time for the human to be trained to run with him as well.

Yes, the human had to be trained as well.

  • Potty breaks. Make sure that before running,  you do a short walk and give your dog plenty of opportunity to do his business. I usually try not to stay until he goes,  or we’ve been out for at least ten minutes. Now, when he gives me a strong pull, which happens infrequently, I know there is a movement on its way.
  • It’s the dog’s run, not yours. Kona is going to run the pace he wants to that day. Just like us,  if he had a busy day of play the day before, he might be a bit slow.  I think of his miles as bonus miles. I do try to schedule his runs for easy days or as cool down runs, but if that’s convenient.  I never think I can do a speed or tempo workout with him.
  • I feel like Batman. With the waist leash, I have a thing of poop bags connected to it. With the summer heat, I carry a small bowl and water. House keys too.  Definitely carrying more stuff than I normally like too.  This goes back to my point, that it’s his run, not mine.

Not a runner? There is one exception to the it’s his run rule–you can use the pooch to 5k program to jump start your own running. As your pup gets used to the pace, so will your body.

If you’re dog appears to be struggling with speed,  slow it down. If she appears hurt, shut it down and confer with her veterinarian. You may want to ask your vet before starting a running program to okay it,  and if there are any limits that should be set for your particular dog. (We waited until Kona was at least a year-old because of concerns hip dysplasia,  which is common with large breeds. Our vet prefers lots of shorter runs of 2-3 miles compared to longer 4-6 miles runs)

Remember, to always obey laws and traffic signals.  No one wants your puppy to have a road accident.

Featured image is of Kona and I being DC tourists. He’s such a ham for the camera.

Boston Marathon Finish Line

Three Reasons Why Qualifying for Boston is Really Hard

The obsession of many a marathoner is the Boston Marathon. It’s the closest most of us (me included) will ever come to being an elite runner. In a world where every race is run for yourself, and yourself only, Boston has become the benchmark that we can all compare ourselves against. Running Boston itself is an amazing experience (so I’ve heard), but for those who qualified to get into Boston, it’s more of a victory lap than a marathon. While I will get to that starting line eventually, I’ve figured out three things that I need to master in order to be able to toe that line on Patriots Day.

You Have to Train and Train Smartly I was flying home with my wife five years ago, and I was reading her Runners’ World on the flight. This particular edition had training plans to help you get down to various different marathon times starting at five hours all the way down to three hours. It was only then did I realize the amount of training I was doing was not going to cut it. I was running three days a week, no speed work, no intervals.  For the four and half hour plan, there was way more work required than I was putting into to what I thought was good training to help me drop to get to Boston. How was I going to get to Boston if I couldn’t even master the 4.5 hour plan? It’s pretty obvious now, but I need to follow a plan and intensify my training if I was going to have any shot at Boston. Just running was not going to cut it. I needed to run smarter. I needed to train.

Garbage In, Garbage Out I love running, because afterwards, I get to eat.  After a nice long run, you’ve probably burned an extra 1000 or 1500 calories, and can indulge a little bit. The operative words there are indulge and a little. You body needs fuel to run, and it needs fuel to recover.  A healthy of mix of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates will help you recover and get ready for your runs. The biggest issue is that after that long run, it’s very easy to overeat and actually consume way too many calories. Because, you know, you earned it. What you actually earned was higher performance for future runs. By over-indulging, we’re basically negating some of the benefits of that long run. I’ve found when I eat a balanced diet and don’t overeat, my runs feel better. I’m going to feel a lot better if I don’t have to worry about running off a meat hangover or feeling bloated from a ginormous milkshake,   More importantly, my body will have the tools it needs to stay fueled during a run, and to recover after a run.  If you feed your body properly, you will see improvements. Those improvements mean minutes off your time.

Will Power and Focus Yeah, it’s almost a bit cliche, but what ties the two previous items together is the ability to focus on the task at hand, and the will power to avoid the things that would detract from them. It’s easy to skip a run or eat too much, but by focusing on the goal and exercising will power, you can make improvements and stick to the schedule. This has been where my personal shortfall has been. I have never been able to find the balance between all three of these things such that I am able to perform to my theoretical maximum. I’ve gotten better over time, and now it’s about figuring out what worked and doing more of that.

What challenges do you face in your training that keep you from reaching your goals?

Featured image courtesy of Wally Gobetz

Sweet Tea

Sweet Tea, The Great Refueler?

When I ran the Berlin Marathon in 2012, I came across something that I had never fathomed before, and I was a little surprised to find in Germany–Sweet Tea. Chilled, fully sweetened, black tea in plastic cups, ready for thirsty and glycogen-depleted runners to consume during the race. I would have expected something like this in the South or Midwest of the U.S., but not Germany. And, you know what, it was glorious!

The black tea offers up a bit of caffeine to get you moving, it’s gentle on your stomach, the cold cools you, and the sugar helps you refuel.  After taking my first glass around mile 15 kilometer 24, I could not believe I waited that long to try some tea during the race. I quickly took every opportunity to refuel with tea.

Since then, I’ve tried to mix sweet tea into my training runs. It always performs as expected, which is how it did on the first days. If you like to pick-up your drinks along your race, another one of the nice things about sweet tea, is that sweetened tea in a bottle or can is often cheaper than sports drinks, and offer the same amount of sugar and much more caffeine.

It really was a mind-blowing experience for me, because I drink a ton of iced tea on a daily basis at both home and work. It’s my favorite post-run drink. Often slightly sweetened, brewed strong, and with some ice is my favorite way to drink my tea.  But, the thought never once occurred to me that I should be drinking that during my long runs instead of after my runs.  I’m glad I have seen the light on this.

What are your favorite homegrown refueling methods?

Featured image courtesy of Cassia Noelle.

Fall Running

Five Mental Tips for a Successful Fall Race

Now that Labor Day has come and gone, it’s time for everyone to start focusing on that fall race, whether it’s a marathon, 10K, or triathlon. For some, it may be just three or four weeks until your race, while for others, you still have a full two months before race day. No matter what your situation is, these five mental tips will help your prepare yourself to maximize your race to be every bit successful that you thought it would be when you signed up for it months ago.  These are all lessons I learned racing, and a few of them, I learned the hard way.

Check the Race Day Weather in Advance

Fall races are supposed to feature crisp fall weather that is perfect for racing, which is why there are so many fall races. However, things don’t always go as planned. Rain, wind, and snow are all possibilities during a fall race. Or, most tragically, summer lasts a little too long and its 70 degrees at the start, which will make the runners the only ones cursing the beautiful weather. By checking the weather in advance, you can make sure you have the correct gear for the race. Most importantly for me, I am able to start mentally preparing for the adverse conditions, and how I would prepare for it. This paid off for during the Indianapolis Marathon, when I knew there would be a 20 mph headwind during the easiest part of the race, making it not so easy. I was able to plan in advance how to run the race to account for that. Without that mental prep, I probably would have gone out too fast, and then would have hit a (wind) wall when I thought I would be resting and have nothing left for the second half of the race.

Look at the Race Map Before You Race

Same as checking the weather, looking at the race map will help you figure out several things. You’ll be able to see where the difficult portions of the race will be, and how you will run your race there. If you have family or friends meeting you before, during, or after the race, you can plan that all out. You can also pick out a few landmarks to look forward to during your race to give you motivation. It’s great to know where organized crowd support will be as well. If you are running a new race in a new town, some of these steps may be difficult. Overall, the more you know about the race itself, the more successful you will be.

Layout Your Gear Out the Night Before

This is straight out of grade school, but by getting your gear ready the night before, you will not risk forgetting something in an early morning haze. You should even lay out your breakfast and any morning beverages. Leave nothing to chance and use no brain power, you’ll need that for the race. Most importantly, you may realize you forgot something important (glide, Gu, shorts, sneakers, bib) and can take a quick run to Target to rectify it the night before. Otherwise, you’ll be fretting about it 45 minutes before the race. Once everything is out, you can go to sleep knowing everything is ready and get beautiful restful sleep before the big race.

Run Your Race

So much excitement happens on race day, and it’s really easy to get caught up in the energy or excitement of the day.  There are going to be a 1001 reasons why the race you planned to run goes out the window. But, that doesn’t mean you can’t return basics. By now, you know exactly how hard you can push your body, and what is the appropriate level of effort that will get you to the finish.  You can always fall back on your personal level of effort. Everything else will fall into place. Don’t worry if you are passing too many people, or being passed. If you are running with a level of effort that you know you can sustain for the whole race, you will have a great personal race.

Have Fun

Running is supposed to be fun. Don’t lose sight of that. I am very competitive, and I always want to improve on my previous best. I realize that is not always going to happen on every single race. Sometimes, it’s bad weather, sometimes, it’s bad training. But, by the time race day rolls around, I’ve defined what successful will be for me that day.  I ran a half-marathon in May that I was not prepared for at all; I hadn’t trained much, and I thought if I could do it in 2:05, that would be great. I had a good first few miles and realized that it might be possible to break 2 hours. I pushed for it, but ended up at 2:00:37.  Thirty-eight measly seconds shy of a sub-two hour race. Was I upset? No! I destroyed my time goal of 2:05. More importantly, I finished the race without a meltdown, which was my real, unspoken goal, because I knew I had not trained for the race at all.  When I got to the finish, you better believe there was a huge dorky smile on my face.

Mentally preparing myself for all the external factors (Weather, Race Course, Gear) and internal factors (Running My Race, Having Fun) allows me to enjoy every race, and I hope that doing so will help you too.

What do you do to prepare for a race?

Featured image courtesy of Vincent BrassInne.