CTOTW #7: don’t believe the hype

This is the seventh post of COTW (Coach Tip of the Week). If you want to access previous tips, you can get the full list here.

believehype

Many folks think the last apparel or shoes will increase your performance. Bullsh1t: Do not believe the hype.

Running, exercising is a matter of dedication, it is spiritual and physical commitment. It does not depend on the color of your shirt, the brand of your shoes, the jacket you wear or the size of your wallet. We are all equal in this sport: we all start from the same point and have to cross the same finish line. What happens in between depends (mostly) on you and you only and there is nothing that can change this fact.

You might be tempted to buy all the new trendy stuff, thinking it will make you better and improve your performance. Just be honest, it will not make you better, it will make you feel, which is a big difference. You probably want the new trendy stuff but you do not actually need it. And actually, many runners carry too many accessories but do not need it at all.

You are all set for your first 5K!

You are all set for your first 5K!

Just focus on the basic: all what you need is a good pair of shoe that fits you (and stick to it!), a comfortable short or pant, a tee-shirt and a handled bottle in case you are going very far. You can consider gloves and other light additional gear in case of extreme weather but not so much. Nothing else, the rest is superficial.

  1. Stop thinking the new fancy gear/shoe/whatever will make you a better runner. It will just make you feel better
  2. Instead of focusing on your gear and accessories, focus on your training
  3. Do not use too many accessories, it adds weight, potential discomfort and will ruin your bank account. Keep the money for a hotel room when going to a race

Let me finish this CTOTW with a funny story. Three years from now: when I was working in The Netherlands, my weekly highlight was a trip to Amsterdam  to look if a new issue of Runner’s World was available. Once, there was a review of the Newton shoes and, after reading it, I was really excited and definitively wanted to try them as soon as possible. I thought I would solve all my issues and will make me a stronger, faster runner. Unfortunately, at that time, Newton was not available in the Netherlands and I was not a so serious runner to order them online (plus, delivery there was really expensive). So, when coming in the USA, the first pair of shoes I bought was the Newton. I was so happy that I go for a run the very same day. After one week, I started to experience pain in my knee and kept going. I eventually switched to another shoe but keep thinking the Newton was the best shoe (hey, Runner’s World recommended them dude!) so it must be true! I kept using it until I got injured. Back then I started to use Hoka and never got injured. The take-away: do not believe the hype, stick to the basics, try different things and just keep what works for you, regardless its price, color, size or shape.

 

Nittany Valley Half-Marathon – Race Report

How we got there?

Happy Runner

Happy Runner

During a recent training run, Katelyn, a fellow runner in Pittsburgh told me she signed up for the Nittany Valley Half Marathon! This is a low-key marathon in State College, PA. As I love State College, I wanted to do it. After a long discussion (2 minutes) with my partner in crime over google talk, we were all set to go to this race. We did not take a hotel and drive directly from Pittsburgh to the race. An e-mail was sent the day before the race to indicate where to park. Also, the e-mail reported that this was a low-key race and there was no bag, swag or goodies as in other races.

We parked at 0950am (the race starts at 1000am), head to the starting line and realized that … people have a bib on their shoes and you have to pick up a packet! The website or the e-mail never communicate anything about packet pick-up and we were picking our packet 2 minutes before it starts. Hopefully, the issue was clearly minor and were able to start. The race director took our packets so that we were able to run the race without having to carry our tee-shirts and get them at the finish!

The race

The race took place on December, 14 2014 and started at 1000am close to the Snyder Agricultural Arena. The course starts with two loops for about 2 miles and continues on the road until the end. It is mostly rolling hills with more incline sometimes but nothing really serious. Around mile 10, you pass by some beautiful areas with water spots (Spring Creek). If the weather is great, you can have a really good time there.

Do not get me wrong, this is a very simple and basic course. Nothing really special but the Race Director is friendly, there is not a big crowd and if you are looking for a easy relaxing course, this is definitively a good option to finish the year!

 

Nittany Valley Half-Marathon Map

Nittany Valley Half-Marathon Map

 

There are three or four water stops that offer mostly water and gatorade. I did not pay attention at what is offered because I do not take anything for such short distance. If you are worried about stopping to the bathroom, there was bathrooms located at the aid station around mile 8. On the other hand, one great surprise during this race was the (probably unofficial) beer stop at mile 12. I saw some friends from the trail community and I was pretty happy to see these guys! I did not take any nutrition or fluids during the race except at this stop!

 

Nittany Valley - Elevation Profile

Nittany Valley – Elevation Profile

 

Once you finish, you can go to the packet pick up site (Snyder Agricultural Arena) where the award ceremony/post-race party takes place. Food is available (Subway is a sponsor) and you can hang out for a while with fellow runners. There are also bathrooms available at the finish line in case you want to change your clothes.

Let’s do it?

Well, this is a very simple and friendly race around State College. You never go off the road but you hit some beautiful spots on the area. Even if this race is not very special, you can do it as a good supported training run. Considering the price, this is definitively reasonable and, if you never visited State College, this might be a good opportunity to visit the city as well! If you end up doing that, consider passing by Happy Valley Brewing, they have a good draft list and good food options, perfect to replenish the batteries!

15352279613_ff3616d630_kPros

  • Easy and friendly race
  • Cheap ($30 + $2 processing fee)

Cons

  • Course on the road only – no trails
  • Bad communication from the race director

Informations

 

CTOTW #6: break, then repair

This is the sixth post of COTW (Coach Tip of the Week). If you want to access previous tips, you can get the full list here.

You do not develop your body by training and exhausting it. In fact, when you are doing a intense physical activity, you are damaging your muscles, bones and other parts of your body. This is why over-exercising will lead you to injury. In fact, this is by resting and adopting a healthy diet with the appropriate nutrients that your body will recover, rebuilt the broken parts and make them stronger.

overtrain

Overtraining might not be the best strategy

For that reason, if you want to increase your strength or endurance, you should rest a lot and adopt a healthy diet.

  1. Do not work on the same muscle group two days in a row
  2. In case you are running every day, vary your workout (for example, one day with hills repeat, another day with a tempo run that focuses on cardio)
  3. Always put a lean protein (chicken, non-fat greek yogurt, tofu, turkey, egg) in your meal to ensure good recovery
  4. Adopt a consistent sleep patterns by going to bed at the same time every day
  5. Do not overeat at night in order to ensure a good sleep quality
  6. If you experience pain, avoid to train hard in this, go easy and let it recover for a few days

References

CTOTW #5: if you cannot run, just walk

This is the fifth post of COTW (Coach Tip of the Week). If you want to access previous tips, you can get the full list here.

Running all the time is sometimes difficult mentally and physically. At some point, you reach a state when you need a break. Some folks in the runner community say you have to keep pushing, even if it hurts. Bullsh1t!

Running should be a something you like, a way to get away from the stress of our busy life, a way to reconnect with our body. Not a torture, something we want to quit right away to come back as soon as possible in front of a screen. Continue to run is painful? Then, walk, take a break for a few minutes.

By taking some walk break, you will:

  1. improve your recovery between several runs (especially useful if you run often)
  2. reduce the likelihood of potential injury
  3. increase your ability to get further: your body will then recover during your walk so that you will be ready to run a few more miles

This is something recommended by several professionals, such as Jeff Galloway. But the same principles are also promoted by the Lafay method for core training. This is not a big surprise because the same strategy applies in many domains when you want to develop a new ability. Success is a long-term investment and if try to push too much too quick and you will fail. Just be smart and keep a conservative approach: push when it feels good and take a break when you do not feel so great.

JFK50: race report

How it happened

Some weeks ago, a friend of mine announced he was running his first ultra. As I wanted to do one, I thought this might be a good opportunity. After checking the website, it appears that registration was still opened. I sent a check of $210 and after a few days, my name was on the registered runners. I was ready for an adventure in Maryland!

Joining this event was not just about running but also the opportunity to evaluate the efficiency of the training I set up for myself. I am not a registered trainer but help people and defined my own plan. I wanted to have evidence that it actually works: if I can complete an ultra injury-free, this would shows and proves that the way I trained is sound and adequate (at least for me). In addition, last weeks were though and intense from a physical and mental perspectives. I needed to find an outlet, something that will give fresh air to my mind. Running has always been a good way to meditate, so, I was also hoping that this run will help me to find a way of redemption. Also, the JFK50 is the oldest ultra marathon (first edition in 1963) in the country. More than a thousands runners join this event every year. So, doing it is also an experience for any ultra runner and I was curious to see how it was.

After figuring out the race day details (hotel, packet pick up, etc.), I was all set. My partner in crime will then follow and support me along this 50 miles race. Even if I do not need anything special, having somebody can be useful, especially for your first experience. I did not plan anything special, the only request I had is to have the ability to switch shoes after the trail section, around mile 15.

Planning and establishing the best race strategy

Planning and establishing the best race strategy

The Race Strategy

After signing up, I looked at the race description: aid stations, stops, elevation profile, etc. After few minutes of investigation, it seems that the first 15 miles were the only one with hills (in the Appalachian Trails), that the course had a lot of aid stations all along the 50 miles and that there was a lot of parking for potential spectators. Then, the strategy was quite simple:

  • no nutrition/support,  no backpack. Just a handled bottle and the aid-station food/fluids. Start to drink at mile 8 (when starting the down hill section) and eat around mile 10 (prepare to stabilize the sugar level)
  • no specific drop bag, just ask my partner in crime to come after mile 15 to switch shoes after the hilly section
  • take it easy on the hilly section (first 15 miles on the Appalachian trail) and then, alternate run/walk on the last 35 miles. Try to find my own pace during the run
I am not drinking, I am preparing for my race

Preparing for my race

For the last part, I relied mostly on my last training runs. During a 18+ miles in Moraine State Park, I felt quite good. So, I figured that doing the same thing on a smaller distance would be ok. Also, I completed 40 miles the week end before during the Delaware Half-Marathon and Bucks County Marathon, which are very flat courses. I figured it should be ok to go for 35 miles on flat course, once I crossed the 15 miles section in the Appalachian Trail.

Finally, as for the preparation, I stick with simple rules:

  1. do not overeat or “carb-load”: through the week, I ate a reasonable diet with about 2500 Kcal per day packed with vegetables, grains (almost no meat during that week!) and fat (load the peanut butter buddy!)
  2. do not exhaust my body but do not taper as well: stick to tempo runs, keep doing 10 miles a day to commute but do not try to challenge myself or try to work specific muscles
  3. be sure to get enough rest: sleep between 7 to 9 hours a night all week long

Again, these are very simple rules but this is by following them that you avoid any unexpected issue and make sure you will be prepared on race day.

 

How I get there

We drove the day before the race from Pittsburgh, PA to Hagertown, MD. We got early enough to get the packet at 04pm, check in at the hotel and prepare for race day. We stayed at the Hampton Inn in Hagerstown and could not ask for more: the rate was reasonable ($89/night), the room has plenty of space, the hotel was 15 minutes from the starting line and they were very accommodating with runners (with breakfast starting at 04am on race day!). I could not have asked for more and if you plan to run the race, I definitively recommend this hotel.

Packet pick-up was very basic: you get your bib, get your tee-shirt and … that’s all! The expo is almost significant with very few vendors. There was a Hoka sales with 20% off. Also, before going to bed, we explored the area and ended up at Dan’s pub, a very nice location for beers, sandwich and desert. Everything you need to visit the bathroom at every aid station.

The swag contains few stuff: t-shirt, bib and timing chip. About the timing chip, you have to return it, this not a disposable chip! So unfortunate, especially considering the price charged for this race! The swag could contain more (a sticker, a discount for local food vendors, etc.) and I was disappointed on that side.

The course

JFK50 - Map

JFK50 – Map

The course is pretty basic (see the workout on mapmyrun): you start at Boonsboro (in the main street), go on the Appalachian Trail for 15 miles. Once you get out of the Appalachian trail, you go on 27 miles on a flat trail. The last 8 miles are on the road and you finished in WilliamSport. The start is pretty steep, you have to run on a hilly section. It continues to go up until mile 5 and there are still some part to climb for a couple of miles. Once you reached that point, this is all downhills.

You stay in the woods until mile 15.5 on a technical, rocky section. Runners not experienced with trail running should be very careful and watch out for potential rocks that might be hazardous and let you fall. Once you get to mile 15, this is flat until mile 42. The route is very scenic, which helps to avoid the boredom of the elevation. You can see the river, the waterfalls and the nice color of the fall season.

Once we get to mile 42, you go on the road (some parts have to be shared with cars!) for the last miles. This is not very steep but rather rolling hills. Some appreciate coming back on the road, other are totally mad at seeing some hills. Obviously, once you get to that point, your brain is not longer able to feel the difference and just keep going until the finish.

 

JFK50 - Elevation Profile

JFK50 – Elevation Profile

 

 

20141122_094252

Coming from the Apalachan Trail

 

Race organization

You start the day at Boonsboro and meet at the High School. A pre-race meeting takes place were basic instructions are given (do not litter, take care on the trail for rocks, eat your veggies, etc.). After that, you walked about a mile to the starting line in downtown Boonsboro.

You can start at two different times: 5am or 7am. The early start (5am) is dedicated to charity runners, senior athletes or people that completed 10 JFK. Other folks asked to start before and they were denied. I assume the race organizers have a good reason but obviously, I do not understand the rationale for such a decision: road closure are already effective, insurance is already paid for early starters, so, if somebody wants to start early, why it is not possible to let him go? Considering the entry fees ($210) and that the race was not sold out (heck, considering the price, this is not such a surprise!), it is hard to understand why they made such a decision. For some people, making the cut-off is difficult and completing this race is just a dream: why not letting them start early so that they can increase the probability to make it to the start line? For sure, there are constraints for the cut-off (for obvious safety reasons, letting runners in the dark is just not responsible), but the reasons for not letting people starting early are more difficult to understand.

JFK50 cookies - Photo by Harriet Langlois

JFK50 cookies – Photo by Harriet Langlois

Overall, the race is pretty well organized: there are aid station very regularly so that you do not have to carry any nutrition or more than a bottle of water. Also, when being appropriate, roads are closed (especially for the first miles and the last eight miles). In the Appalachian Trail section, there are a few spots with volunteers that are able to provide first aid support (in case you fall). Overall, the support is very good and appropriate if you plan to make your first ultra/50 miler.The race volunteers are wonderful and there are stations every 2 to 5 miles (so you can do the whole thing without support). I ran the race with a handled bottle of water and just rely on what was provided at the aid station. All stations has basic stuff you can expect at an ultra: M&M’s, P&BJ sandwich, pretzels, etc. Some of them provide even more: aid station 19 made cookies with “JFK50″ on it (see picture), aid station 34 was offering home-made cookies served by Santa and aid-station at mile 38 had red velvet cake! JFK50 is probably the race you can eat more calories than you spend (which is probably true for all ultra races by the way).

My fantastic crew

Fantastic support crew

 

Also, at mile 34, I see a guy with an incredible (the Disney movie) costume, a lot of US flags that was cheering. This is the type of support that give you extra energy and help you when you are in a down time/period at that moment.

There are spectators area over the course at mile 15.5 (after the Appalachian Trail section) , mile 27 and mile 38. It can give the opportunity to a friend, family member or whoever you want to cheer and potentially give you new clothes, items, nutrition, etc. My girlfriend came at each spectator spot and that was a huge motivation: knowing that somebody is waiting for you is a motivation and help you keep pushing during the last miles before the spot. The spectator spots seem very well organized as well, with plenty of parking for everyone!

 

The finish

The finish area was simple on the outside: the finish mat and … nothing else! Then, you have food, massage and the award ceremony inside the High School in Williamsport. Volunteers are making and distributing various food items (pizza, pulled pork sandwich, etc.). A nice thing is to be able to have a shower (with hot water!) in the gymnasium, which is appreciated after such a race!

Support on this course is ... incredible (photo by Jimmy Wilson)

Support on this course is … incredible (photo by Jimmy Wilson)

One of the main disappointment I got was that my girlfriend paced me during the last 3 miles. Good opportunity to have somebody to run with before crossing the finish line. Obviously, considering that I was close to the 9 hours finish, it really helped me to avoid walking and make it under 9 hours. As she started to step away from me in the last feet, I asked her to join me. I wanted to cross the finish line with her, holding hands and take a picture of this achievement together. When arriving, the guy from the timing company asked us if she had a bib and we say “no”, did not ask to leave but grabbed her and was about to push her away. While asking pacers not to cross the finish line is ok, being violent and rude is clearly not ok. I have to admit that it really diminished my experience, especially at the finish, one of the highlight of your day. Again I understand the rule, but it has never been written in the instructions or notified by the dude.

Homemade cookies at Aid Station 34 (photo by Jimmy Wilson)

Homemade cookies at Aid Station 34 (photo by Jimmy Wilson)

After the race, I discussed the matter on the facebook page of the race to share this experience and the comments astonished me. Some folks reported that it was normal and they were thankful to the guy for not letting my girlfriend crossing the finish line. But this rule was never written and they are many races you can cross the finish with your pacer. Beyond these considerations, this fact highlights a big difference in this community and the competitive approach of some folks.

From my perspective, I still does not understand some folks are so inquisitive, aggressive and appropriate with others: running is not about achieving a goal or a time. This is about finding yourself, being happy. Engage, with others try to establish a connection in a society where we are more and more lonely and where we are more careless to each other. If I want to cross the finish line with somebody else, as long as I (or she) did not cheat and does not diminish the pleasure of somebody else, who cares? If this means a lot to me to cross the finish line with the person that is part of this adventure since several months, is it the business of somebody else? Is that such a big deal? Does it change the experience from other runners? I do not think so and after reading comments and considering the time wasted to argue, it showed me what I do not want to be.

After discussing with some folks, I see an interesting fact that would interest many preachers of the “carb-load”. A 56 years-old dude finished the race in 7:45. But what is amazing is that the dude proved that many new training techniques and buzz products are bullshit: he fueled himself only with water and 5 pieces of dark chocolate. Nothing else. I admire such folks with a contrarian approach that demonstrates running is more a matter of training and dedication than using the right gear or adopting the last trendy product.

Pacer disallowed to cross the finish with its associated runners? Nothing in the rules!

Pacer disallowed to cross the finish with its associated runners? Nothing in the rules!

 

 

 

 

 

Waterfalls before coming back on the road (photo courtesy of Jimmy Wilson)

Waterfalls before coming back on the road (photo courtesy of Jimmy Wilson)

 

Let’s do it?

The JFK50 race is a big deal: is a part of the ultra-running community in the USA! If you are looking for a good first ultra marathon, that is definitively a good easy one with a flat and scenic course. There is a good support to do it without having to carry nutrition. The volunteers are amazing and this is a pleasure to run from aid station to aid station. On the other hand, this race is expensive for what you get (the swag has nothing special) you can really find something cheaper with a similar support (think about the Groundhog Fall)

The JFK finisher medal

The JFK finisher medal for the 2014 edition

Pros

  • Amazing volunteers (homemade cookies anyone?)
  • Good support: spectator spots well organized, lots of folks for aid station, road closures, etc.
  • Easy route for a first 50 miles
  • Scenic view for … well … a lot of miles!

Cons

  • Expensive ($210!), sounds like the Disney of ultra-marathons
  • The swag is very basic (especially for that price)
  • No possibility to ask for a 5:00am start so that it might be hard for slow runners to make the cut-off

Links

CTOTW #4: Keep It Simple and (very) Stupid

This is the fourth post of COTW (Coach Tip of the Week). If you want to access previous tips, you can get the full list here.

 

Carb-loading is bullsh!t and is rather a way to stuff your stomach with a ton of bad food what will makes you hit the bathroom stop before crossing the finish line. Fueling your body is not a matter of a meal before race-day but rather adopting good and sound nutrition guidelines. Running a lot of miles does not allow you to eat whatever you want and is rather a good reason to stick to good nutrition strategy that will help you to replenish your batteries and build stronger muscles.

Several folks already discuss this topic (such as Galloway with his book on running nutrition or Karnazes that talks about his nutrition strategy) and the rules are pretty simple. Just need to stick the the KISS (Keep It Simple and Stupid) rules:

  • Seek for efficiency: avoid empty calories and bad fat. Want carbs? do not take candies (sugar without anything else) but whole wheat bread (low Glycemic Index, fibers, vitamins, etc.). want protein? stick to non-fat greek yogurt (yes to the additional pro-biotic) or fish and avoid the fatty beef patties! A better switch guide is available in the “Eat Smart” section of “Eat Move and Love”)
  • Moderation and balance are keys: avoid extremes, do not follow strict rules or guidelines. Do not follow any extreme diet (paleo, vegan, vegetarian). Rather than decrease your weight, it will decrease the size of your wallet and over consume your time and sanity. Also, indulge from time to time, having a beer, a glass of wine <whatever-is-not-part-of-your-daily-diet> should be an exception, not regular. But it is totally fine to make exception from time to time.
  • Plan ahead and stick with whatever works for you: stop wondering what you are going to take for dinner. For your daily routine, try to know what you like, what you can process and makes you feel good. You can also plan ahead and cook ahead of time so that everything is already prepared and you know what is your food intake (in terms of calories, nutrients, etc.)

 

Eating the same dinner every day can be ... well ... boring

Eating the same dinner every day can be … well … boring

In fact, most of people think that having a daily routine seems boring, but at the end, this might be efficient for you: you will not have to think about what you will eat, once you composed healthy meal, you can then focus on something else (family time, work, planning your training, etc.).

Also, many people usually ask when they should eat. The old following proverb still apply:

“Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper!”

By taking most of your food intake during the first part of the day, you will ensure you get enough nutrient to fuel your body. In addition, avoiding heavy meals at the end of the day ensures that you do not overload your body with too much food that might then creates discomfort when sleeping. If you are looking for meal examples and other recipes, some are available on the recipes section of “Eat Move and Love”.

CTOTW #3: Forget the carbo load

My grandma used to tell me: “you need to eat in order to run all these miles” Also there is this old saying: “your body needs energy!”. Bullshi!t!

During your training, your body adapts its metabolism and improves its ability to burn fat and turn it into energy. After a certain period (about 45 minutes to 1 hour), your glycogen stores in your muscles are depleted and your body starts to take energy from your fat. That is why you need to (1) not overeat to prevent stomach aches, (2) be prepared to consumes food on your run to get immediate energy and (3) work on getting your body used to transform fat into energy.

For sure, you will need enough fuel to put your ass to the finish line. But overloading your stomach with plenty of sugar (because honestly, most carbs are just sugar) will rather trigger GI issue, bloating and eventually make you sick in the middle of the race. On top of that, carbs (and sugar) are rather factors of diseases and contributors to get diabetes. There comes the question of why you run: if you run to be healthy, getting your body be used to a ton of sugar is just counter-productive.

Your grandma can still argue that you still energy before a long run but in fact, as race day is coming, your training is reduced and, if you do not change your diet so much, your body get (and store) more calories. What matters more is to be sure that your body is well healed and rested. Make sure you get enough sleep during the week before the race.

 

carbload

On the other hand, you need to get enough energy during the run, not before. Your glycogen store (long story short: where your muscles keep the energy before taking it from fat) can last for about an hour. So, make sure you get energy during the run. Energy bar, gels or anything else you want and are able to handle. The idea is to maintain the sugar level within your body rather than playing with it like a roller coaster. Finally, selecting the food you can get during your run is something you have to try while training to avoid any inconvenience on race day. Recently, a trail-runner drops into a course in La Reunion (La Diagonale des Fous) because he did not store his food in a fridge. He got food poisoning, got sick and eventually dropped.

Healthy Salad that follows current diet trends

Healthy Salad that follows current diet trends, best solution for planning a trip to the bathroom at mile 6!

So what should you eat before race day? Same thing as you are used to. Stick to food you can easily process (vegetables, soup, etc.) and do not overeat so that you avoid any GI discomfort and any sleeping issues before race day (an overloaded stomach can trigger discomfort when sleeping). On my side, I eat the same thing as I do every day (mostly peanut butter toast for breakfast, lentils/bean soup for lunch and tomato soup with peanut butter toast for dinner). If I am outside and hang out with some friends, I might take something else (even a burger) but it does not really matter because I stick to healthy rules all week long (which is most important than eating crap all week and just stay healthy before race day). Again, the most important is to stick to healthy choices most of the time and having some exceptions from time to time.

Pittsburgh EQT 10 milers, 2014 edition

Hungry to pace!

Hungry to pace!

On Sunday, November 09 2014, I ran the EQT 10 miler in Pittsburgh. I was honored for being selected as a Pacer for this race and has to stick to a 8:30 min/mile pace for 10 miles.The race starts in Station Square in Pittsburgh and go for 10 miles in the Western part of the city. At that time of year, the weather can vary a lot. It can be the perfect running condition or just let you miserable for a while. Hopefully, this year, it was great!

You can pick your packet on Thursday at Fleet Feet in Pittsburgh or on Friday and Saturday in Station Square. The bag contains a nice long sleeve tech shirt from North Face, some goodies and discounts for local shops. The expo is really minimal with few local vendors and shops but, as I am not a big fan of race expo, it did not really matter. But if you are looking to shop for running gears, they are great shop in the area!

Going to the race can be challenging. Parking is very packed in the garage in station square and it is better to come early to be sure to be on time. We were on site at 0650am and parked just at 0715am. If you want to be on time, avoid the long and packed lines, park in downtown and walk (or run!) to Station Square! As Fedex provides a drop bag service, you can easily walk there, wear a coat, drop it at the package drop and have it back at the finish line!

Pacer on duty

Pacer on duty

The race started at 800am with several waves depending on your pace. Everything goes very smoothly. The route goes on the West End bridge and let you discover the West part of the city. Unfortunately, it is not very scenic and does not offer the best of Pittsburgh: you run mostly in the industrial area and, when passing nice neighborhood, the route avoids them so that runners go in side streets. This was a deception because you do not run through the cool neighborhoods that use to cheer runners. Instead, it shows creepy parts of Pittsburgh. Why starting in the West of the city whereas the starting line is close to an active neighborhood (South Side)? Why we do not go through the Mexican War Street or even East Ohio Street? This is unfortunate that the route does not highlight Pittsburgh’s neighborhood, this would be a good way to attract people, invite them to discover more of this city and sign up for the marathon. The marathon route is great and Pittsburgh folks are great to cheer and be supportive. Having a EQT route that covers some parts of the marathon would be a great idea! This would just shows how this city (and its marathon) is so great!

EQT Route 2014 version

EQT Route 2014 version

The elevation profile is not too bad and the race director did a great job to avoid big hills. This is something that definitively scare many runners coming from other cities: Pittsburgh has the reputation to have many hills. So, when pacing, runners often ask when is the next hill or when are we done with hilly sections. Hopefully, the course is almost flat (look at the elevation profile below) and the average runner should not have a hard time during the race. Also, there are water stops (with water and gatorade but no gels/food – which is totally not necessary for 10 miles!) and aid stations. After crossing the 10 miles mark, you get a finisher medal and walk through a line with water, food (banana, bagels and probably other things I forget!) that ends in Market Square in Downtown (where you can get coffee from various vendors!).

EQT version 2014 - Elevation Profile

EQT version 2014 – Elevation Profile

If you are considering to sign up for a fall race, the EQT 10 miler is definitively an appealing one. Good support, nice running weather (if you are lucky), this is a great simple fall race. Even is it would be nicer with a better route, the swag and the finisher are nice and considering the other races in the area, it will probably become one of the must-go fitness event in the area.

Useful informations

CTOTW #2: Cross your train or hope to drop

Cross-training or not cross-training? The question has been around for a while in the running community. If you want to last and continue to run for long without injury, there is no debate: cross-train. Running requires not only the support from your legs but from your whole body. Other muscles will support your efforts, either running, lifting big stuff or having fun with friends when skying during winter. By training other parts of your body, you will not only strengthen your other muscles but also improve your cardio ability, improve your breathing and no longer look at a guy with strong legs and thin body.

 

Well, do not overtrain!

Well, do not overtrain!

 

The nature of this additional activity will impact your performance, the development of your strength and the impact on your running abilities. So, chose carefully and select something that will

  • exercise other muscle groups than your legs (arms, abs, chest)
  • develop your cardio vascular capacity (improve your breathing capacity)

Some ideas about potential activities? Swimming an hour, riding your bicycle, using an elliptical (that uses both arms and legs) or lifting weights are good activities that will complement a good training plan. As for running, start slowly and increase the intensity and duration every week or two weeks. The goal is not to set new records but to exercise other parts of your body. As for running, these activities are not expensive (you can find a pool in many gyms or university and you can even use body-weight training – I personally use the Lafay method, I will develop that later)

 

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One key is to find the right balance between all these activities. A common rule is to run three to four times a week and cross-train two to three times a week with the following rules in mind:

  • Alternate the cross-training with running: it will then let enough time for each muscle group to recover. Using the muscles break them, they are growing when sleeping and resting.
  • Do not have two activities the same day: you will be at risk of over-training, potential injury and do not let the muscles to heal and recover
  • Keep at least a rest day (you can still go for a nice walk to exercise!)
  • Take your time and do not push too much: it would then has a side-effect on your running training program (not enough juice in the tank to run).

What I am doing? I run about 10 miles every day and cross-train every two days during 20 to 30 minutes by using body-weight training or swimming at a medium intensity. Push-ups, abs (everything from the Lafay method) all positions that could train your body using your own weight (it just adapt the workout activity with your weight – the heavier you are the harder!). For sure, my muscles are not exceptionally big and I do not look as s body builder but is this not the goal. On the other hand, it provides enough support for running every day 10 miles and be able to keep running more than 80 miles a week injury-free. Again, this is a matter of setting goals and objectives and, in that context, cross-training seems to work, hope it could help you as well!

CTOTW: Your body is your buddy

This first Coach Tip Of The Week (CTOTW) is simple, basic but fundamental: treat your body as your best friend. Running, exercising and maintaining a healthy lifestyle requires a strong support and neglecting one part impacts the other. Nurture and understand this relationship, learn from it because you will stick with it forever. This symbiosis is essential:

  • listen to him: when you are injured, your body will tell you you have to stop pushing, take a break and rest. Failure to listen will result in injuries, soreness, change of mood, etc. Needless to say, it will impact more than your physical or fitness performance.
  • ask him for support: when you will need it, your body will then provide the power you need to run, lift and do whatever you want. Once you know how your body works, you will be able to push for more.

 

bestbuddies

 

How to start? This is pretty simple, stick to some basic rules:

  1. value your body: maintain it (wash it, cut your toenails). Let your body feels he is wonderful and desired. How can you be confident in something you do not value?
  2. sleep: it will give a rest to your mind but also to your body. We will come back later on this topic later but this is during your sleep that your muscles are built: running, weight-lifting or swimming destroy your muscles, you rebuild them (stronger) by eating the appropriate nutrients and resting. Do not keep awake lately: most of the time, you do not do useful stuff lately and second, you have less time to recover. Learn how much sleep is enough: if you wake up tired, you do not get enough.
  3. eat well: treat your body as a temple. Choose the appropriate nutrients when eating, avoid the stuff that will make you feel miserable. Do not overeat but also do not be anorexic as well. Of course, there are exceptions and we will discuss that in a next post. Learn what is good for you: try different recipes and watch the consequences during the next days.

 

eatinggloberito

This sounds very simple but this is by sticking to these rules that you will successfully improve your performance without impacting the rest of your life. And if these rules are simple, following them is not so easy, there will be many moments when you will be tempted not to follow them. This was highlighted recently: In 1979, 2,500 men were asked to follow five simple rules – eat well, work out, drink less, keep their weight down and never smoke. Nearly four decades on, just 25 pensioners have managed to stick to the plan. But they are all far fitter and healthier than the volunteers who gave up. In other words, stick to these rules, you will save your health, money and probably sanity.

This first CTOTW not discuss specifically a training plan or some particular running advices. On purpose: most of the training also comes from some rigorous living guidelines. It focused on some essential pre-conditions that will help you, not only to train but adopt a more healthy lifestyle.