Sunday, December 7, 2014

dailymile Aid: Visualizing Exported Data

I stopped using dailymile because when you export your training log it gets spit out in CSV format which looks like this:

On top of this, run distance is spit out in meters and run duration in seconds.

After learning about SAP Lumira at work and downloading the free home edition, I decided my dailymile training log stretching from June 2011 to June 2014 in CSV format was the perfect data set to load into this new tool.

Here's how to export your data from dailymile:

  1. Click the Training tab on top
  2. Then click the Settings tab on the sidebar
  3. Finally, click export

Once this data is exported into .CSV format, the real fun can begin. I won't go into the details, but I used SAP Lumira to slice and dice data into the following charts (I limited the data to January 2013 through June 2014 which is the period through which I most consistently logged runs (mostly manually) on dailymile):

I ran a crap-ton in summer/fall 2013 (6 consecutive weeks of 90+ MPW). I also got hurt after that; no runs logged in November or December 2013.

As I mentioned earlier I logged a bunch of runs manually which meant I rounded down (Badger miles) to integers. My "average" run was an 8 miler.

I always thought giving your runs a "Feel" was a bit goofy (evidenced by 13.65% of runs during this time period lacking any rating at all), but this pie chart sort of makes them a bit more relevant.

After looking at this data and slicing through it using SAP Lumira, I kind of regret moving over to Strava as now an export only yields distinct GPX files instead of basic run metrics in columns like dailymile. Anyone have experience exporting run data from Strava and doing additional analysis?

Questions or comments?

STRAVA AID: Viewing Lap Splits

By popular demand, I'm putting together a guide to viewing manually split laps on Strava's desktop web-interface. Before I start, I want to show the hardware and software I'm using:

I'm using the Suunto Ambit 2S with Moveslink 2 v 1.2.13

I have my Suunto Movescount account synced with my Strava account. So that's how my data is getting into Strava.

Strava's interface doesn't make it too clear how to view manually taken splits as it automatically calculates moving pace and mile splits in its overview tab:

A 4 x 2 mile workout is a great example of a workout where mile splits and moving time/pace aren't relevant.

The "Laps" tab is right there in front of you, but it is unclear what data lies beneath.

This is actually exactly where you'll find the information (assuming you properly took manual splits) you're looking for (repeat distance/time/pace, recovery interval).

I was pretty indignant that this feature was so "difficult" to find and I've talked to more than one user who was having trouble viewing this information so I decided to create this 3rd Party documentation.

Questions or comments?

Monday, November 24, 2014

hansei-kai 2014

In studying for my CPIM certification exams, I have come across the concept of hansei, one of the twelve pillars of the Toyota Production System (TPS, a structure of management philosophy and practices) and more generally a characteristic of greater Japanese culture (or so I've read).

hansei –“reflection,” or "self-reflection," becoming aware of and acting on opportunities for improvement.

Photo Credit: Michael Martineau

In the TPS, both successful and unsuccessful initiatives are followed by a hansei-kai or reflection meeting. The UK Toyota blog elaborates a bit on this:

"An inability to identify issues is usually seen as an indication that you did not stretch to meet or exceed expectations, that you were not sufficiently critical or objective in your analysis, or that you lack modesty and humility. Within the [h]ansei process, no problem is itself a problem."

Lest we become fixated on our failures (even to exceed expectations), it is important to note that the end goal is ultimately to drive positive change. Let me restate this, the goal of hansei is to improve.

For me it can be easy to get stuck in the first step of uncovering and accepting responsibility for failure, but miss the end goal of positive change. One western blogger living in Japan describes hansei in action. He notes how that the goal was not to place blame or make apologies, but, after accepting responsibility for failure, to improve the team.

All of this is a long way to introduce this latest blog post reflecting on my running in 2014 and my preliminary plan for improvement.

I want to keep this initial, annual reflection short as I already include periodic reflections (this of course being one of the purposes of blogging one's training/racing), and I want to emphasize the changes in place and planned. Since the focus of training is racing, I will focus on racing performance.

Early in the year, I started on par with a decent (for me) 3k indoors and my fastest Shamrock Shuffle to date. With these exceptions, I struggled a lot at races that weren't marathons, failing to run faster than 16:27 in the 5k, posting a mediocre 56:17 at 10 miles, and running only marathon pace for the half-marathon. At this juncture, it is important for me to post some faster times at shorter distances both from a physiological as well as psychological standpoint. My result from the Chicago Marathon underlines this point, every mile split was between 5:40 and 6:00. My aerobic strength pulled me through. To capitalize on this strength in 2015, I need to get comfortable running at faster paces.

My plan to get myself to run faster paces features several key components:

1) Establish race goals at non-marathon distances.

In the near term, I am focused on getting into the best 5k shape possible for a 5000m race at Lewis University's Illiana Invite on January 16th. This involves using long runs for aerobic maintenance (instead of race-specific training) and introducing 5k pace and faster repeats, a bit more on this later. Looking further out, I would like to break 26:00 at Shamrock Shuffle. As the season progresses I will set more specific goals, but I plan on running the Soldier Field 10 Mile, the Big 10 10k, and the Bix 7 later in the year.

2) Support faster pace running with a stronger chassis and safe environment.

Injury has been one of the primary factors preventing me from achieving the best of my ability. I am implementing Jay Johnson's now famous Pedestal and MYRTL routines in an effort to strengthen my core and hips, the "chassis" that allows you to take advantage of your aerobic "engine." [This analogy appears in Jay Dicharry's Anatomy for Runners].

I am also going to spend some money and time doing key workouts indoors at DePaul's Rec Center, purchasing the 10 Visit Package (for $110). After experiencing soreness after running sub-7 minute pace earlier this week while it was 15 degrees outside, this plan is only further validated. It is difficult to get fully warmed up when the temperatures drop leading to additional muscle soreness and potential injury.

3) Establish a plan for running faster.

I've not been a huge subscriber to laying out a week-by-week season plan as I've felt like incorrectly calibrated, these types of plans have contributed to disillusionment and injury. That said, I have received benefits from following a rigid schedule when participating in the Boston 365 program (which I'll be co-coaching for 2015!).

Here's the plan I've outlined (based on a Jack Daniel's program) for the following weeks (weeks start on Mondays):

11/24 - 5k cross country (Turkey Trot)
12/1 - easy running w/ strides and chassis
12/8 - 7 x 1200 @ 5k pace w/ 400 jog recovery, 8k road (Rudolph Ramble)
12/15 - Fartlek, 6 miles (hopefully it will be warm in Memphis for this one)
12/22 - 3 x 1600 w/ 4 min recovery, 3 x 1000 w/ 2 min recovery, @ 5k pace
12/29 - 20 min @ tempo, 3 x 400 @ mile race pace w/ 400 jog, 2 x 1 mile @ tempo w/ 1 min recovery, 5000m time trial(?)
1/5 - 2 x 2k @ tempo, 5 x 1000 @ 5k pace, 4 x 200 at mile race pace
1/12 - 4 x 1200 w/ 2 min jog, 4 x 200 @ mile race pace, 5000m indoors (Illiana Invite)

What actions are you taking to make 2015 better than 2014?

Also don't forget, the fourth installment of Two-Something: The Backgrounds, Beliefs, and Secrets of Sub-Three Hour Marathoners comes out tomorrow!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

The Fellowship of the Lakefront Trail

"[Bilbo] used often to say there was only one Road; that it was like a great river: its springs were at every doorstep, and every path was its tributary. 'It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door," he used to say, "You step into the Road, and if you don't keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to.'" [p.74, The Fellowship of the Ring]

It has been some time now that I've thought about what it might be like to run the entire Chicago Lakefront Trail (LFT). I believe it has something to do with learning about Fastest Known Time or FKT runs in places like Zion National Park or Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. A point-to-point-to-point of the LFT (18 miles one way) posed a reasonable next step beyond my experience running the Lakefront 50/50 50k. I do recall discussing with Matt Flaherty or Rich Heffron or both at some point the existence of a Known Time for this run on the LFT. They weren't aware of a posted time. I also checked what appears to be the hub of FKTs, the FKT message board at and came up empty handed as well, presenting a rather interesting opportunity to set a Fastest Known Time for the course.

With injuries and other issues that have plagued my running in recent years, there hasn't really been a good opportunity for me to attempt this run and so I sort of forgot about it. However after attending a screening of a film about Hal Koerner and Mike Wolfe's FKT of the John Muir Trail, the desire to complete the LFT run was reignited.

"'It would be the death of you to come with me, Sam,' said Frodo, 'and I could not have bourne that.'
'Not as certain as being left behind,' said Sam.
'But I am going to Mordor.'
'I know that well enough, Mr. Frodo. Of course you are. And I'm coming with you.'" [p.406]

The Fellowship of the the Lakefront Trail at the 71st Street 0 mile marker
photo credit: Kyle Larson

I may have actually mentioned this desire at the screening to Kyle Larson, I don't recall exactly, but Kyle and I decided to make an attempt at this run following the Chicago Marathon. We were joined by Robby Haas, Kyle's coworker, and together we formed the Fellowship of the Lakefront Trail. I'm pretty indebted to these gentlemen as it would have been a pretty awful time running 36 miles of pancake flat, windy trail solo.

I had plotted a course beforehand, taking into account some of the construction on the path however these plans changed quickly after massive waves eroded parts of the Trail on Friday, October 31st and continued to pose a safety hazard near Oak Street Beach. We did our best to adhere as closely as possible to the posted mile markers, but deviated slightly at Oak Street in order to stay safe:

The blue line indicates the marked trail while the red indicates the actual path taken.

Other than attempting to adhere to the marked path as much as possible, our other rule was that we couldn't use each other's first names for the duration of the run. With transgressors buying the named person a drink for every offense. I devised this rule in order to provide a little entertainment particularly in the early miles where we'd be feeling good, with the wind, and still able to chat. As a result, each member of the Fellowship was awarded several nicknames:

Kyle became Swishy (because of the sound of his pack), Coach K, and Smeagol (see below)

Robby was 'Zoo (because of his hometown of Kalamazoo, MI) and Sam (see below)

I ended up with the nickname Frodo (my balaclava which I wore mostly around my neck formed a hobbit-like hood and as the primary timekeeper, my Suunto Ambit 2s became the Ring)

We collectively became the Fellowship of the Lakefront Trail, running to Mordor (the southern most point at 71st Street) and back.

Starting our run just as the sun was rising, with the still-strong winds from the northeast, we ran comfortably for 18 miles. The temperature was in the low 40s, keeping us quite cool. I took my gels according to my usual marathon cadence of about every 7 miles.

Once we turned, we faced 18 miles more or less into constant wind. As you might imagine, things got a bit tougher here. It was more difficult to stay warm and we were already 18 miles into our adventure. Other than finishing, the highlight of the second half was spectating the Lakefront 50/50. My friend, Eric Baum outsmarted the wind and the competition to win at the 50k distance!

"But do you remember Gandalf's words: Even Gollum may have something yet to do? But for him, Sam, I could not have destroyed the Ring. The Quest would have been in vain, even at the bitter end. So let us forgive him! For the Quest is achieved, and now all is over. I am glad you are here with me. Here at the end of all things, Sam." [Frodo, p.947, The Return of the King]

While we ultimately finished apart, it was a great comfort to have the Fellowship along with me. For the 36.55 mile course, I kept my watch running from the first step to our last (including a bathroom break at St Joe's on Diversey and multiple water bottle refills), taking splits as each of us finished our runs at the Hollywood 0 mile marker.

Kyle Larson - 4:46:11
Robby Haas - 4:30:40
Dan Kittaka - 4:26:28

One last nerdy note: It is interesting to see that for a very small population size, there is an inverse relationship between the total times of our 1600m Fleet Feet Racing Time Trial on Wednesday and our LFT run on Saturday:

*where 1 is the average of performance of the population

What are your "just 'cause" running goals?

Also help us build knowledge of the LFT. If you're aware of point-to-point-to-point times, please post on the boards!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Race Recap: 2014 Bank of America Chicago Marathon

Since I'm going away for the weekend, I want to make sure I get some thoughts written down about this race.

"To enjoy the streets of Chicago you need to smile. 
With all these people you need a big smile." 
- Eliud Kipchoge, winner of the 2014 BoA Chicago Marathon (among other things) via
photo credit: Ruben Gonzalez

First off, thanks for your support!

There is no experience like running your hometown marathon, the crowd support is amazing. I was perhaps more acutely aware of this as my last couple marathons were away from home (Boston and Grandma's).

Running the streets of Chicago this year was like a stroll through my running past as I saw and heard supporters from my earliest years as a runner to the present. My family of origin, my parents and youngest brother, have spectating the Chicago Marathon down to a science. I started running in 2002 when my dad was training for his first and only Chicago Marathon. High school teammate Danny Garcia and coach Humberto Gutierrez, two of the few people I knew who had run the Chicago Marathon in my earliest running years were on the course cheering.

Moving on to my friends from undergrad, there were tons of guys from the Illinois Cross Country and Track Club cheering (Aaron Silver, I needed that pick up in those last couple miles) and racing. Congrats to my former training partner Declan McDonnell for pulling what Matt Newman called a "Kittaka" and debuting in 2:35 as well as throwback racers Matt Peharda and Ryan Tripicchio! I also saw some former River to River Relay buds including JMac (dude, someone else was totally racing in a NBA jersey this year), Kyle Somerfield, and Brent Chatham.

My description of supporters from my Fleet Feet days could probably go on for several paragraphs, but I will say it is always a pleasure to run through mile 10. I enjoyed seeing Catherine Moloznik, Cole Sanseverino, Shawn Lucas, Krissy Czapanskiy (and Bill!), Matt Curley, Peter Mone, and of course Mark Erspamer. Thanks for the pics, Ruben Gonzalez and Lyndsey Baum!

Heh, this is getting long but it's a pretty interesting, at least for me, to review how running is defined by the folks you share it with. It was great to have Bana Negash out there on course. Thanks to TTAU's Michael Martineau for some sweet pics and Mark Wehrman for the company. And finally, thanks to the crew from Bootleg Runners Coalition for the Rainbow Dash, helium pick me up and Jeff Edmonds and crew at the BibRave cheer station for the encouraging words!

I've undoubtedly left more than a few names off the list, but you get the point. I mentioned this in my BibRave review of this year's event, but it bears repeating, 2014 had the best crowd support in the toughest areas of the course in my four years running the event (2010, 12, 13, 14). This of course could all be my distorted memory as 2014 was my fastest Chicago Marathon of the bunch, but I think there is still some truth in there somewhere.

Now onto the actual race itself.

If you want to run low 2:30s, run with the ladies as they tend to be smarter racers than men!
Also: Twin Anchors!
photo credit: Michael Martineau

I started a bit quick. I'm not sure how I missed the first mile split, but I ran what felt like a relaxed split with my teammate and fellow pretzel aficionado, Kyle Larson who was guiding vision impaired athlete Aaron Sheidies. From there things got rolling pretty quickly as I keep the pace under 5:50 through the first 10k, splitting 35:52. The wind was out of the south so things felt pretty relaxed and I dropped my gloves when I saw my folks near LaSalle and Chicago (mile 4).

After turning south at Addison, I could feel that the legs weren't too happy running 5:45s into the wind. I let the pace sag a bit to let my body relax remembering that there was still 19 miles remaining in the race! At this point, I was caught by a group of women including Hansons-Brooks' Melissa White (see Michael's photo). They were probably running high 5:40s while I kept things controlled and stayed comfortable, biding my time until after the half-way point. I was relatively comfortable, but not feeling particularly smooth which was concerning considering the hot early pace and bad memories from previous years. I recalled my general race plan to stay relaxed through mile 15, then reevaluate my goals for the remainder of the race.

Passing half-way in 1:16:17, I tried to stay optimistic. Based on how I was feeling, it would probably not be possible to negative-split the way I had intended. Not only that, but the miles following were exactly where my races the past two years completely unraveled. I found confidence in my ability to continue running (relatively) relaxed 5:50s. Over the summer, I had been bike commuting pretty much everyday, logging 3-5 hours of easy riding per week. This additional aerobic activity helped keep me healthy while maximizing my aerobic capacity however it also introduced more muscle fatigue as my rides and runs often butted up against each other. During training and racing leading up to the marathon, I noticed that it was difficult for me to maintain fast paces, but my ability to run 5:50 pace was nearing the level it was at when I set my marathon PR nearly four years ago in Dallas.

Mile 15 came and went and while I didn't feel great, I also wasn't blowing up. Modeled after Dan Daly's segmentation of the Boston Marathon I used in April and again at Grandma's, miles 15-22 or so are run by feel, focusing on staying relaxed and maintaining the effort. For Boston, this section is comprised of the Newton Hills, culminating in the legendary Heartbreak Hill. For marathons in general, these represent some of the toughest miles for a variety of physiological and psychological factors that I don't have space to discuss at the moment. I ultimately decided it was easier to think about the segment as through mile 21 (where I'd be taking the last of my three GU energy gels, I take one every 7 miles in case you wanted to know).

I honestly don't remember much about this portion of the race with the exception of feeling my form breaking down and slowing slightly. The steps no longer came easily. They were labored and there was nothing I could do to loosen things up. I felt like the Tin Man with no oil. In fact for about 30 seconds or so the arches of my feet cramped up.

Despite all this, I was able to get past miles 21 and 22. I believe it was at this point that I did the math and calculated that as long as I didn't blow up, I'd be able to clock in under 2:35. This quick calculation lifted some of my anxiety. I did not feel very good and couldn't run any faster, but I also felt like the pace I had been more or less maintaining could be maintained through the finish. With this and the wind from the south in mind, I decided to make a go at a faster finish once I turned north on Michigan Avenue. Of course seeing my family near 33rd and my friend Mark Erspamer on the 33rd Street Bridge also helped keep me motivated.

Struggling to maintain pace on 33nd Street.
Also this photo proves that this is in fact the Chicago Marathon.
photo credit: Mark Erspamer

While I told myself turning onto Michigan Avenue would be a relief, in fact it was just the opposite. This nearly penultimate mile and a half long stretch would determine the result of the run. Anxiety mounted. I wasn't sure I could hurt all the way to the finish. I did my best to pick up the pace, but I was probably just maintaining if not just slowing ever so slightly. To battle doubt, I verbalized a few times, "I can do this" and tried to accept the shouts of encouragement. Corny, I know. In my head, I knew my body could run 5:59 pace or whatever for another 10 minutes, but my body was trying to convince me to relax and slow down.

I ran a terrible Mt. Roosevelt as my form had deteriorated into a wavy mess and the race was over.

I finished just 15 seconds off of my time at Grandma's Marathon. I thought I was in slightly better shape this time around, however as I mentioned earlier, I've been having a difficult time running faster paces (5k and half-marathon pace). The improved running economy at marathon race pace that comes along with running at faster paces was one of the biggest limiting factors of my Chicago Marathon performance in my analysis.

Ultimately, I am very happy with my 2014 marathon season. I started in the Lincoln Square Athletic Club pool way back in January after not being able to run most of October, November, and December 2013. Boston snuck up on me, but it was also the first marathon in three attempts and three years where I arrived on the starting line without major lower leg pain. Grandma's Marathon reinforced the marathon segmentation strategy I had applied to Boston and resulted in my second fastest marathon ever and my first marathon negative split. Finally, this run in Chicago redeemed the past two years where I wasn't within 9 minutes of my best. My run in Chicago set a new standard of marathon performance consistency.

My goal for 2014 was to get in a full year of healthy running and racing, building a platform on which to break 2:30 in 2015. I feel like I got much more than I expected as I developed a better support structure (thanks, friends), learned an effective way to segment and execute marathons, and broke 2:34 twice. Looking ahead, I am hopeful for success and excited to find my speed again.

For the curious:

I don't have Strava data because I don't use a GPS watch for marathons.

Thanks again for your support! 

What are your goals for 2015 and how do you plan on achieving them?

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Dan's Race Finish Calculator

Hi all, have you ever broken a race in to segments in order to run your best?

My calculator takes all the arithmetic out of segmenting a race by pace. Simply entered the distances of your race segmentation (in miles or kilometers!) and the pace in minutes per mile you'd like to run each segment and the calculator does the rest! You'll get a segment split time as well as your total time.

This allows you see how running difference paces based on course conditions and other factors effects your overall total split times and finish time.

Here's a copy of my Race Finish Calculator that you can save off for yourself.

What do you think?

Monday, September 29, 2014

Happy Belated Anniversary! (Training 9/8-9/28)

I totally missed any type of recognition on the actual date I first posted, however, I did want to take a moment to point out that I've been writing Kansai Kudasai for an entire year! If you are a newer reader, you should check out my first post, What's in a Name, where I talk about the impetus for the blog and more!

Speaking of blog names, I'm going to plug my friend Eric's blog, Baum Temple of Speed, which has a name origin story rivaling Batman's origin story. Eric, brings a unique perspective to the endurance sports blog-o-sphere by including concepts gleaned from expertise in Supply Chain Management and all things mechanical. His guide to spectating, Take Your Spectating to the Next Level, is a chuckle-filled guide to the harder-than-it-looks sport/science of spectating endurance events.

Switching gears, I started to read about the training I was doing leading up to last year's Chicago Marathon. Clearly several weeks out, I felt like I was in good shape, but my left shin was a significant issue. In the week leading up to the race, I wrote:

At this point, it seems like I'm losing the battle to take the shin pain. On dailymile, my friend, Dan M reminded me to try nuking the shin with anti-inflammatory drugs for a bit. I'm taking Monday off and taking some ibuprofen in order hopes it will help me shake some of this shin pain as it is clearly causing me to change my form a bit and put more pressure on my right hip.

One week to go!

Note to self and others: running a marathon with (lower leg) pain severe enough to cause irritation/imbalance is a bad idea. If it is bad enough where you're considering running in trainers like I did, take care! The marathon is a cruel and unforgiving mistress. It may sound simple, but it took me three years of injuries and poor performances to realize the value of showing up to the start line healthy. You may be able to BS a 5k while hurt (I did, setting a PR two weeks before last year's Chicago Marathon), but there is no getting around the fact that a road marathon involves 26.2 miles of pavement pounding that will exploit your every weakness and prevent you from running to your expectations.

Marathons are then a great opportunity to apply the theory of constraints (TOC). The Theory is a management philosophy first described by Eliyahu M. Goldratt and is based around the premise that focusing attention on a few constraints that limit an entire system you can make that system more productive. What were my constraints? Based on my Chicago Marathon race recap and further reflection here's what I'd say:

1) Mechanics constrained by
a) injury to the lower legs
b) muscular development due to the fact I didn't get in longer long runs that would have simulated marathon "time on your feet"
2) Fuel, there are two parts to this one:
a) Constrained by a haphazard fueling plan
b) Constrained by aerobic development, that is to say my ability to run aerobically at my expected marathon goal pace, at the pace I thought I was fit enough to run I was burning fuel too quickly

So in the year following, I shifted my training accordingly, focusing on first running pain-free then on injury prevention, consistent longer long runs both for time as well as at or near marathon pace, practicing a fueling plan and developing trust in certain products, and increasing aerobic capacity.

Leading up to the 2014 Boston Marathon, I spent time in the pool, nursing my lower legs and scraping for aerobic development. A steady diet of long runs during this build up, got me comfortable running beyond 18 miles again. I was also able to find fuel that I enjoyed using on these long runs and began to trust gels again. Introducing a longer bike commute with my new job, padded my training with hours of additional easy aerobic activity, the foundation of one's aerobic capacity. Finally, racing marathons more frequently allowed for longer efforts at or near marathon pace. I believe I've mentioned this before but pace at Boston equated to about 95% of my marathon pace  at Grandma's making the Boston not unlike one of Renato Canova's very long runs a close to marathon effort.

All of this to lead up to the past three weeks of training for the 2014 Chicago Marathon:

A good set of three weeks, there are three key workouts here, one in each week.

24 miles
Leading up to Grandma's I did this run by time, running about 20 miles in LA's Griffith Park. This time around, I did it on the super fast Lakefront Trail:

This one was my second longest training run ever (the first being a 25 mile run I did back in 2009 leading up to the Chicago Lakefront 50k).

3 x 3 miles
This one was a bit funny as I had a lot of time between reps (15 minutes!), but it certainly gives me a bit of confidence to know I was able to run 5:30 pace or better for each effort.

10 miles alternating pace
This is a new workout for me. The goal here was to average marathon pace for 10 miles, but by running above and below goal pace alternating every half mile. If you've ever done Yasso 800s, consider this the next level as you're never really resting, but you end up running a total of 10 "harder" half mile segments. I was really thankful to have Austin with me for this one as it was mentally tough since you could never really settle in and focus on running an even, consistent pace. I'm taking a lot of confidence from this workout.

This one was quite a long blog, but there was a lot of ground to cover!

Identify some of your constraints. What are some ways you can shift your training to address these constraints?

Long Run - Strava Embed Trial

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Stomach Bug (Training 8/25-9/7)

A Quick, Hand-Updated Snapshot of Training

Due to difficulty getting Internet service set up at my new place of residence, I wasn't able to update my Strava account with this past week's data. I was able to upload most of the previous two weeks and have found a free moment as well as Internet-access so though I am rather uninspired (yet hopped up on caffeine) I will attempt to write a quick update.

August 25-31

After a nice seven week segment where I averaged about 73 MPW, I was forced to take a bit of a down week when some sort of stomach bug derailed my long run on Saturday the 30th. Of course this wouldn't be much of a running blog if I didn't talk at least a bit about my stomach troubles. Typically during training I don't have too many issues as long as I adhere to a few basic rules (Rule #1: Don't eat much within 2 hours of starting a run... that's about it). I noticed I was not feeling 100% on Wednesday or Thursday, but this didn't really effect my training much. So I was pretty surprised to find my intended hard 20 miler in Barrington terminated by stomach problems at about mile 8.

I'm not sure what I was dealing with as my stomach has only recently (2 weeks later) begun to return to normal.

That said, despite not running more than 12 miles on any given day, I was happy to very comfortably run over 60 MPW and get in a decent 1000m repeat workout. My body probably needed the break as I was able to get in a 20+ mile long run five of the seven prior weeks.

September 1-7

I continued to be plagued by stomach issues throughout the week, only able to run stop-free when taking medication (TMI, I know).

Despite this, I was able to get in two key workouts for this training cycle: 3, 2, 1 mile ladder and 18 miles at 95% marathon goal pace.

The first workout, I did with Austin and a bunch of other guys (you know who you are) a the Fleet Feet Racing Wednesday Night Workout. It was a big help to have company for this one! I ran 16:23 (4:00 jog), 10:59 (3:00 jog), and 5:23. I went out too hard on this one, but I really did want to make this one a tough/fast one. My conservative goal was to average 5:30 (~goal marathon pace - 10 seconds) or faster for the workout which I was able to do (albeit not by cutting down) averaging 5:28 or so.

We'll see how my planned 3 x 3 mile workout goes this coming week as I'm substituting the first repeat with the St. Michael's Oktoberfest 5k. So I'm guessing I won't be getting faster as the workout progresses.

For the second workout, we were blessed with unbelievably pleasant running weather (sunny, low-60s, and breezy). Austin, Cam, Andrew, and I set out to run 18 miles at about 95% marathon pace; 6:10s or so. Excluding our single stop for hydration at the 31st Street Fleet Feet Hydro Station, Austin and I averaged about 6:05 pace for the run, well below my targeted goal.

So despite stomach issues and struggling a bit to handle paces faster than 5:30, my key, marathon workouts seem to be going quite well. As stated earlier, 3 x 3 miles is the next key workout on the docket, with 15 miles at marathon pace the following week.

What are your key workouts/key metrics that you use as checkpoints during marathon training?

Monday, September 1, 2014

Tread-iquette alt. Tr-etiquette

Yeah, I just made up a word; it's etiquette for treading the track.

With the recent addition of a real 400m track and synthetic soccer pitch to the lakefront (between Wilson and Montrose) I thought it might be helpful to write a blog about track etiquette.

Isn't it pretty?
Thanks for the photo, Jeff Fine!

I wanted to start by defining etiquette as it helps inform the full purpose of this blog (which probably started with fear that this new facility would be overwhelmed with track n00bs, but has grown in to something more).

Etiquette is a set of expectations for behavior based on a group's norms. It changes and shifts over time, however it provides structure for interactions. This structure helps facilitate interactions among the group, curbing misunderstanding and conflict. On a more positive note, knowledge of this structure is empowering as it builds of foundation for consistency and comfort particularly for new group members.

After working out on one of the only public 400m facilities on the Northside for over a decade, I have come away with my fair share of stories of misunderstanding and conflict around the oval. Emotions run high when runners focused on hitting goal paces collide with kids running wild, soccer players on the infield, and fitness runners. Since this new facility is in a higher profile location than the North Park/River Park track, it is my fear that it might become a pain point instead of the training asset that it should be.

Beyond minimizing conflict between existing facility users, I believe it is in our best interests as track clients for many people to feel comfortable about using this new facility. If usage is good, perhaps the CPD will see the value of such public facilities. Doing a workout on the track could be a foreign, uncomfortable concept for some runners. Exposing as many clients and potential clients to track etiquette basics creates a more comfortable environment making Chicago an even better place to run for everyone.

Tread-iquette for n00bs and Veterans Alike

1. Be Cognizant that the Facility is Public
Conflict arises when competing parties assume more ownership of a facility than is reality. It can be difficult to share a space however as long as the other parties are abiding by the law and following posted signage, they have just as much right to use the facility as you do.

In other words, your ability to perform your key workout on the track has as much validity as the pickup game of soccer that is occurring on the infield of a public facility.

2. Be Aware of Your Surroundings at All Times
Treat the track like you would a busy street; look both ways before crossing, move with traffic (counter-clockwise), and if you're slowing or stopping, move out of the way. 

Assume objects (human bodies) will be moving at high velocities around the oval and unless you want to experience the effects of Newton's first law (objects in motion stay in motion unless acted upon by an unbalanced force) make sure you're aware of what is happening around you. This can be particularly difficult after a hard repeat, when it feels like your head is going to explode and you're trying to catch your breath, but if you don't have enough awareness to move to the infield or outer lanes, I would suggest reevaluating the intensity of your workouts (you're probably working too hard).

3. Stay in Your Lane
The inner lane is typically reserved for faster running (for distances longer than 400m). If you plan on warming up or simply running easily on the track, tread-iquette dictates you must use an unoccupied outer lane. If there is a significantly faster party using the inner lane, consider using another lane and the marked staggered start lines for your workout. 

Unlike on a road or path, runners pass on the right instead of the left. Wait until you are clear of the person you are passing before merging back into your original lane. The person being passed should not have to break their stride.

Keep in mind that it is probably safer and more efficient to pass on the straightaways.

There are lots more rules and regulations codified by the sport's international governing body, IAAF, but those principles are the basis for a safe, productive time on and around the track.

What tips do you have for track newbies?

Also, anyone have a nice photo or two of the new facility that you'd like shared? I'm looking for a photo to add to this blog.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

7 Weeks in Infographics (Training 7/7-8/24)

It's hard to believe that it has been almost 10 weeks since I ran Grandma's Marathon! I've been pretty busy with work and moving apartments. I've still been thinking about blogging and have number of posts floating around in my head. For now though, I'll just be posting some pretty, Strava generated summaries of my training since Grandma's.

If you want to see more frequent (daily?) updates on my training, feel free to follow me on Strava. I've migrated from DailyMile to Strava for a variety of reasons the most important probably being better data management in particular upload/download capabilities. I also started logging my regular bike commutes to give better visibility to all of my aerobic activity. I believe these commute minutes played a key role in developing aerobic capacity during my build up for Grandma's Marathon.

Feel free to ask questions via the comments section below or on twitter. Here are three images summarizing the past 7 weeks of training:

Nothing fancy here, just consistent miles with a workout (in yellow) and a long run (dark green) each week. This segment is capped by a 56:17 10 mile at the Crim 10 Mile in Flint, MI (red). 

I will say that some of my long runs were actually workouts. I did a pretty nice 2-3-2-3-2 (mile segments) workout with Kyle on August 16th. We also did a good 4-3-2-1 (mile segments) workout on August 2nd.

As I mentioned, one reason I started using Strava (and the Suunto Ambit2 S) was to track my cycle commutes which I believe is a key factor to aerobic development and injury prevention. More on this at some later time...

Finally, I really like this view. It is essential that you wear some sort of time keeping device and log your workout time regularly (this is where an endurance sports watch comes in handy as Strava can automatically be updated with this information), but it provides a really good top level view of your overall training. I will add that Strava uses your GPS data and only credits you for moving time. This will hurt your overall time spent but help your average paces as they calculate average pace based on moving time only. 

I disagree with using moving time, but I'm not sure if you're able to present the data in another format on Strava. I'll also say that I don't like that Strava doesn't show any of the splits you take during an activity. It will only show mile splits. This adds an additional couple steps if you want your Strava record to include splits for segments not run mile to mile. For example, the splits I took during our 4-3-2-1 workout aren't reflected in Strava as the segments didn't start exactly on a mile split. I could be just a Strava n00b, but this lack of inclusion seems to me a rather annoying omission.

How has your training been over the last 9 weeks?

Are you using Strava?

Read more about logging training in this guest post by Dan Clay McDowell titled "Logging in the Pacific Northwest."

Monday, July 7, 2014

Aside: Three Floyds Brewery Ride

One of my "goals" for the summer was to bike to Three Flyods Brewery in Munster, IN. Particularly after talking with my friend Javier about the Austin to Shiner ride (I guess it's called Shiner GASP) while we were training through Chicago's Polar Vortex for the Boston Marathon.

Since the prospect of doing a long run and an 80 mile bike ride on the same weekend didn't sound too appealing, I decided to schedule the ride after Grandma's Marathon while I would take a break from running. Props to Lyndsey Baum for completing her scheduled 16 miler AND our Three Floyds ride!

Considering the apparent popularity of this ride there weren't really that many good resources to help plan the ride itself (that said, it isn't rocket science), so I decided it wouldn't be a bad idea to write a little aside covering some of the important details for fellow Chicago riders.

Where should I start?

Meet your friends on the Lakefront Path (I can't stand calling it the Lakefront Trail). Did you know you can check the conditions of the path by following @activetransLFT?

We rode from the 0 marker at Ardmore Ave (5800 N). Actually, I got on at Lawrence and rode up to meet the Baums:

Meeting anywhere on the LFT is probably a good bet no matter where you live in the city. During the summer there are public bathrooms and access to water fountains from 5800 N to 7100 S (the South Shore Cultural Center, where the other 0 marker is).

Where do I go after the Lakefront Path ends?

Actually, if you've never been to the 0 marker on the Southside, it's actually not that easy to find. Up until this point, it is pretty clear how to follow the Lakefront Path south, Once you get to 71st/E South Shore Dr, it may not really be clear that you'll need to turn east and continue until the two streets split (you should Google Streetview if you really want to see what it looks like, in fact here's a link).

Once you've made it to The End (the marker is at the northeast corner of the intersection), you'll want to continue down South Shore Drive until you get to 79th Street (1.25 miles). At this point, you have the option of riding on what looked like the recently reclaimed S Lakeshore Drive (which was very beautiful) or continuing on South Shore Drive (which does wind a bit) to 95th Street:

I'm getting hungry...

For the full experience, you'll want to refuel at Calumet Fisheries, a Chicago dive which has been critically acclaimed by the press for years. Be forewarned you won't find any bathrooms here so do you business elsewhere! Also it's cash only...

Anthony Bourdain and the ATM

Regardless of what you do at the earlier fork, you can easily get to Calumet Fisheries as long as you're paying attention for 95th Street, both Harbor Ave and Ewing will get you to 95th:

The Burnham Greenway

If you don't like traffic and underpasses, I would suggest taking the eastern route, outlined as it will connect you to the Burnham Greenway with minimal bustle. The more direct route is to ride Ewing to Indianapolis and get on immediately after crossing under the Skyway:

It may look a little funny presented here, but the X marks where you'll be getting on the Burnham Greenway which lies just south of the Skyway and runs parallel for a half mile before turning directly south.

Follow the Greenway (this is dummy-proof) past Eggers Woods Forest Preserve for about 2 miles. This section is literally flat and straight with a handful of street crossings. Once you enter Eggers Woods, pay careful attention for the only fork in the path (again about 2 miles from where the Greenway departs from the Skyway). Take this left (east) turn immediately to get onto Wolf Lake Boulevard:

Follow Wolf Lake Boulevard to the southern most exit by the Ranger Quarters on to Avenue N. At Avenue N and 134th turn left (east) again. This gets a bit sketchy, but should be fine if you ride smart.

You'll  come to a T (there is a Luke's Gas Station on the northwest corner). At this point you'll have unceremoniously crossed from Illinois into Indiana and 134th will be 136! The T intersects 136th with Sheffield. After turning right (south) onto Sheffield continue right at the fork which should keep you on Sheffield which has much less traffic than Hohman though when Sheffield dead ends at Hoffman, you'll want to get on Hohman which will take you through downtown Hammond, IN!

Riding south down Hohman for about a half mile, look for Sibley St and turn left (east). On Sibley you'll be looking to turn right (south) onto the Erie Lackawanna Trail. If you pass the First Baptist Church, you've gone too far!

About .25 miles after getting on the trail, south of Douglas, you'll want to take the right (western) path which is the Monon Trail.

You're Almost There!

Following the Monon Trail for 4.4 miles will get you to Fisher St, cross Fisher and turn left (east) towards the Walgreens and Calumet Ave. Staying on the west side of the street (the sidewalk is nicely divided for bikes) turn right (south) onto Calumet Ave.

Ride a single mile south on Calumet, looking for Superior (there's a Speedway/White Castle just before Superior, if you're thirsty you should buy stuff to drink at this Speedway). Take Superior to Indiana Parkway and you'll have arrived:

Glorious, isn't it?

Once you've arrived, you'll probably have to wait as you can observe in the photos above and below. But that's why you ride with friends (thanks Eric and Lyndsey)!

Eric and I planning our meals.
(photo credit: Lyndsey Baum)

We arrived around 2:00pm and waited for a good couple hours to be seated (We ate, drank, and were on the road again around 5:00pm). I think you might be able to mitigate some of the wait time by arriving closer to 4:00pm of course this would push back your departure time.

Ultimately, it is rather astounding the number of miles you can bike on paths, away from car traffic. This ride was also done in rather mild weather for July and with a nice tailwind out of the south, expediting our return trip a bit. For complete route information of our trip, check out my Strava posts: to Three Floyds and Back Home.

I hope this was helpful for those planning a similar ride. 

Do you have any questions about the ride?

What are some rides you would recommend?

Sunday, July 6, 2014

To Inform and Inspire (Training 6/2-6/22)

Here's a recap of remainder of the training cycle prior to my 2014 Grandma's Marathon. If you'd like, here are links to the plan I outlined after registering for the race and a recap of the first four weeks of training.

To begin, I'd like to reiterate the goals of the cycle:

1) Stay healthy. By prioritizing workout/long run quality over volume, I hoped to stay healthy. I ran too much the in first week of the cycle. Unlike in other cycles, I realized my behavior was not moving me towards my stated goals and adjusted for the rest of the cycle. I was able to complete the cycle healthy which gave me a lot of confidence going into the race.

2) Practice running Marathon Pace, again by prioritizing quality over volume, I hoped to run Marathon Pace more comfortably than in Boston. I was able to execute some key workouts that I believe really helped contribute to my ability to handle Marathon Pace. Executing these workouts successfully required me to focus on being properly recovered then properly recovering afterwards. For me this meant eliminating "junk" mileage. Though I did supplement my running volume with cross training (more on this below).

Week 3

Training at this point was starting to really become tiresome. My body was tired and I was burning out mentally. I remember desperately looking forward to my 10 day-ish taper. It is in these moments when it becomes necessary to lean on your teammates and support structures.

Monday, I decided, due to lacking motivation and a later than usual run start time, that I would swing by Fleet Feet Sports in Lincoln Square for the weekly 6:30pm "Fun Run." Typically Angelica and/or Brian attend these runs and are usually up for a nice 8 miles to/on the lake. Fortunately for me, Angelica and I were able to get some good miles in.

Nice weather on Tuesday prompted an impromptu double with strides.

Wednesday was my opportunity to really nail a hard mid-week workout. Sort of unintentionally, I ended up racing quite a bit during this cycle. A couple of these races fell on Thursdays so they sort of became my mid-week workout. Despite being registered for 13.1 Chicago the following Saturday, I decided that I had to get in a pretty high volume workout at just faster than marathon pace a pace I could live with.

After a string of races where I felt I had significantly under performed, my hope was that my legs were fatigued and that the strength I had built with all of my consistent running would eventually lead to faster running and racing. For Wednesday's workout, I drew on memories of comfortably running a three mile segment of a workout well under 16:00. If I could get close to 16:00 on my last rep I would be content (all this despite the fact I wasn't running much faster than 16:00 through 3 miles during races at this point).

Though I didn't manage to quite hit 16:00, I was pretty happy with how the workout played out:

"I was a bit disappointed that I didn't get any brutally difficult marathon type workouts in during this cycle. I did 3 x 3 miles on the lake half into the wind and half out of the wind, taking 4 minutes between reps: 17:01, 16:45, 16:19. I was very happy with this workout though it left me very tired."

Just to be safe, I took the day following completely off.

I've run a half-marathon in June for four of the past five years. I use this run as a barometer of my fitness going into the big summer training months. 13.1 Chicago as served as this barometer for three of these tests thanks to a couple free entries. This year's edition featured very tolerable weather (I ran my slowest half marathon ever here in 2011), but my big Wednesday workout and general fatigue prevented me from running very quickly:

"Wasn't 100% sure how the legs would respond after my very hard effort on Wednesday. Ended up just sort of running 5:45-55 pace for the whole race. One gear. I'm hoping since I did it on dead legs that this is pretty close to marathon fitness."

These words read as somewhat prophetic as I ended up running nearly exactly double my 13.1 Chicago finish time in Duluth (1:16:47 at 13.1, 2:33:26 at Grandma's). I like to think that it wasn't so much premonition as finally understanding what marathon pace is supposed to feel like. Previous cycles, I had gotten too much confidence from fast, hard workouts. A 17-18 miler with some very fast running mixed in is good training stimulus, but these runs made me overconfident when going into a marathon and didn't provided the appropriate aerobic stimulus necessary to run my intended marathon goal pace without blowing up. I'm pretty sure, easy to moderate 20 milers would have been more beneficial in retrospect.

Week 2

After one of the hardest weeks of the cycle, I was very happy to be done with workouts long, marathon type workouts. That said, two weeks is a long time to just sort of run aimlessly. Workouts (that you're slightly scared of) provide a very nice stimulus with intermediate goals and a mini recovery cycle. As you can see I didn't get too creative (I think I ran the exact same route 3 times this week). My goal here was to rest from marathon pace running while continuing to run somewhat consistent volume. I ran 2 hours for my final long run. This was probably a bit too long in retrospect, but I took off the day following so I don't feel too bad about this one.

I also did a mid-week 6 x 1k which went pretty well:

"Did 6 x 1k with Strubbe, Javier, and Andrew: 3:21, 3:15, the rest were around 3:10. Pleasantly surprised to feel decent during this one. Pretty cashed after the 6th one though. 2 min recovery between reps."

After so much running at or around marathon goal pace, I thought it might help break the week up and be good to do a bit of running at 5k pace.

Finally, due to additional rest/fitness coming around/boredom, my runs became much faster on average (let's say from ~7:45 average pace to more like 7:00).

Week 1

The first half of this week was an extension of the previous week. I was sick of running 8 milers, but I was also afraid that if I didn't run at least 8 miles, my body would stiffen up and not feel very good. I was very relieved to make it to Thursday prior to the race as I more or less let how I felt finally dictate how I ran. I was sick of running so I basically just warmed the legs up.

Friday, I alternated fast/slow 200s on the track for 1600m with a mile warm up and cool down. I wanted to get the blood flowing a bit faster as I knew I'd be sitting on the plane. Little did I know I'd be driving!

I was pretty happy with how my taper played out. I'm not a fan of cutting mileage significantly since I don't feel like I'm running too much mileage to begin with, however I did feel like reducing intensity 10 days out while keeping volume consistent, then slowly dropping volume until you're just relying on your body seemed like a good way to taper down for a goal race.

Unlike my first two marathons where I feel like stumbled on success, my previous three less successful cycles  (four if you count failing to even start in 2011) along with this mini-cycle taught me a lot about what sort of training I need for low 2:30s fitness:

  • Appropriate recovery, typically incomplete recovery in order to simulate the fatigue of the marathon distance, prioritizing recovery before and/or after key workouts in order to stay injury-free. I think Luke Humphrey does a pretty good job describing this in Hansons Marathon Method, he calls it "cumulative fatigue." I'd also lump in self/preventative care. I've been able to find a routine that has kept my lower legs from preventing consistent training so far.
  • Longer (hard) long runs (I count my 2:42 in Boston as one of my key long runs as well as my 2:49 in California). Now this idea is very Canova-esque as my Boston run was about 95% of my Grandma's effort for 100% of the marathon distance.
  • Some running at faster than marathon pace, 5k pace for me (including a few races). This will not feel very comfortable or build your self-confidence much, particularly if you're used to running faster at shorter distances.
  • Regular cross-training. I didn't really included this in my earlier write-ups as I've never viewed bike commuting as training, but I certainly spend enough time on my 11 mile round-trip bike commute to count these efforts a significant aerobic stimulus. I plan on starting to log these consistently for my next cycle. I realize now that when I was running well in the marathon, I was also doing a pretty decent bike commute on a regular basis.

Finally, I also drew a lot from Matt Flaherty's 2:25 at the 2013 Napa Valley Marathon which occurred after he was sidelined for much of 2012. Taking off the final two months of 2013 and spending January 2014 splitting time between the pool and the roads, I had my doubts about getting into low 2:30s shape this calendar year, but it certainly helped me to review Matt's record and not put too many limits on my own running. I also took a lot of ideas as well as inspiration from Rich Heffron's build up to the 2013 Grandma's Marathon where he posted a nice 2:31:21 PR. Rich started his build up in 2013 at nearly the same time I did in 2014 so it was very helpful to track my own progress against his. My hope is that someone else will be able to use these blogs to join Rich and I in the Chicago-area low-2:30s club! Thanks guys!

What resources have informed and inspired your running?