A blog by runners. For runners.

Wow I'm wiped and introducing Podrunner

This morning was my 14 mile run with Team in Training as part of my preparation for the San Diego marathon in June. I've been good so far with my training – since February I've missed just one actual training run although my optional cross training days have generally remained optional :-) Of the cross training sessions I have made, it's been 30 minutes of laps in the pool at my gym.
The Team in Training program has a few interesting differences compared to the Hal Higdon plan I did last year for the San Francisco marathon. The first big difference is that the weekday mileage is generally recorded in terms of minutes rather than miles and it doesn't progress as quickly as Hal's plan. The midweek run is reserved for special types of runs and the last 4 weeks have been a series of gradually increasing treadmill workouts designed to help prepare us for the hills of San Diego and build extra leg strength.
The best difference for this program is the support provided by the coaches, the mentors, the other runners and the administrative staff. Unlike last year when I was running solo and facing my psychosomatic aches late in the runs, this year there is at least one person running with me to distract me from getting stuck in my head and people handing me chocolate, carbs and Gatorade at tactical points. Wrapping up a long run you are rewarded with all kinds of simple carbs to help you get fuel back into your body as quickly as possible.
Despite all of this incredible support this run today was a challenge from the start. It was 20 degrees as I left the house but the 15mph wind brought the temperature down to feel like 9 degrees. We hopped around as people assembled at the meetup point and it became clear that my little magic gloves weren't a match for the biting icy wind.
I got a tip from a friend earlier in the week about a great podcast available on iTunes called Podrunner so my iPod Nano was loaded up and ready to go. The Podrunner mixes are also available from his website if you use any other kind of MP3 player and they are well worth the download wait. Each week DJ SteveBoy releases a new mix an hour long of dance music. Every track is seamlessly mixed and pumped to a consistent number of beats per minute. He has mixes ranging from 120 all the way up to a heart pumping 181 beats per minute.
This may sound like a lot but I'll put in a better context. Over a week ago, the training program for TnT mentioned turnover drills and after some research and a great article in Runners World I understood the goal. The powers that be suggest that every runner has their own cadence (number of times their feet hit the ground in a minute) programmed into the way they run and most runners have a cadence around 160. As you speed up and slow down you typically increase or decrease your stride length but your cadence remains fairly constant. This is crucial since as you get older, your stride shortens so if you don't improve your cadence you get slower. Most professional runners are coached to run at 180 foot falls per minute. Sound familiar? 181 beats per minute music fits right in with your goal of faster feet turnover. I'll leave the article linked above to go into more detail about the why and the how but mention that my Wednesday 40 minute treadmill session flew by as I pumped my legs along to a 163 beats per minute track and it was a great workout.
Back to today from that long digression. JP (a great mentor in the program) and I made our way 1.5 miles north from the Wilson Ave parking lot up to the mile 0 marker. Running that way we faced the wind all the way and my lips started to turn numb. We turned to run south and it was instant relief – the wind behind us we pounded 7 miles down the lake front path at a great pace. I had set my iPod to play the 181 beats per minute Podrunner track as an experiment and it felt great shuffling my feet low to the ground and much lighter on my legs. A natural side effect of the faster cadence is that my natural stride length meant we were running between an 8 minute mile and 8:20 for most of the 7 miles south. At the turning point just north of Navy Pier one of the coaches had raced down to meet us with his beautiful Weimaraner to give us some encouragement and get a check on how we felt. This was the last part of the run that felt comfortable.
As we started North again towards the Wilson parking lot the icy wind from our back was against us and doubly biting along the exposed path. Our 8:20 pace stretched to 8:40 and as we charged up the ramp of the North Avenue bridge my legs were screaming for mercy. Just after the bridge was another support crew with slightly frozen Gatorade and candy. Starting back up after a quick break my legs felt like lead. Another mile or so north of there we stopped to get some water at the fountain, still running despite the slick ice forming around the stand. Another stop, another tough restart. I didn't check but I'm certain we had slowed to a 9:00 pace.
Two miles out from home I started to feel a slight pinch in my shoulder and I checked my heart rate monitor to discover I was at 93% of my theoretical max heart rate. Not wanting to push myself to a serious injury and a little relieved to slow it down further we had a fast walk break until it dropped back down to 80% again and then picked it back up a little slower than before. Less than a mile from the finish JP checked if it would be okay to charge off to the end and then hit the gas. I finished the 14 mile run to the sound of cowbells as Tovah and the support crew cheered me home in 2 hours 6 minutes, an overall pace of 9:03 per mile. After stretching, scarfing down peanut butter and jelly pie, munchkins and assorted other goodies, Melissa arrived to ship me home after a brief detour at Starbucks.
Now, after a good long soak in the tub I'm sat with my legs propped up on the edge of the sofa and chugging down water. On a technical note I'm glad I used the band-aids on my nips to avoid the Marilyn Manson look from last summer and the vaseline to prevent the tops of my legs from chafing me like last week. A new issue I didn't have to deal with last year is a side-effect of the Superfeet inserts I have been using to correct the over-pronation of my ankles. I'm not sure if I need to look into a wider alternative because for the 12 mile last week and 14 mile this week I've developed a blister on the big toe of my right foot that really pinches late in the run. It's either the inserts or I need some new socks. I'm going to watch the rest of the Cubs game now so have a great Easter weekend and I'll try and check in next week after my 16 mile run (yes, 12, 14 then 16 – at least I get a break after that in a cutback week).