CJ’s Lessons Learned – Biting Off More Than I Could Chew

As some of you know, I picked up running again in the spring of 2008 after almost twenty years away from it. After finishing Ultramarathon Man: Confessions of an All Night Runner by Dean Karnazes, I was ready to start training for a 100 miler! No sweat, right? I remember how humbled I was after running 6 miles for the first time. After that outing along a treacherous Ohio highway shoulder, I decided to tone down the “100 mile zeal” a bit by signing up for a 50k trail race and a road marathon.

At this point, it was the end of April. The 50k trail race was scheduled for the third weekend in August and the road marathon would be the last weekend of September. Did I mention these would be the very first races I would be running after a 20 year running break? Let’s just skip the 5k, 5 mile, 10k, 10 mile, half-marathon, etc.

I weighed nearly 30 pounds more than I do now and had absolutely no clue what I was doing. No plan, no coach, no rhyme or reason in my training. Just head out the door and see what happens. I was a decent basketball player so I just figured I’d naturally get the hang of this running gig. How hard could it be?

Carnage on the Potawatomi Trail…

By the time the Silver Lake 50k arrived on August 23, the longest training run I had managed was 18 miles. Now I had to run 31 miles on one of the toughest trails in the Midwest…the vaunted “Poto” trail in Pinckney, Michigan. What’s another 13 miles?

When the gun fired at 7am it was 70 degrees with 80% humidity. There were over 40 brave souls who shuffled off into the woods and another 25 in the 50 mile race on the same trail. By the 18 mile mark (coincidence?) of this brutal course, I was a walking zombie. Turn out the lights, the party’s over. My legs refused to turn over any faster than a 13 minute-per-mile death shuffle over the last 10 miles. It’s a scary feeling to be in that kind of misery with so far to go.

5 hours 31 minutes later, I crossed the finish line in 92 degree heat with 85% humidity. I was thoroughly defeated and humbled. What are those famous words we utter after outings like these?

“Never again.”

Oh, but wait. Remember that road marathon I signed up for? It was now a month away and the dread washed over me as I anticipated it while slouched in a lawn chair. I’m not sure I ran one step during the week after the 50k. When would the soreness in my legs subside? Did I do permanent damage? Was the road marathon even an option?

After the Silver Lake 50k…Stick a fork in me, I’m fried

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More Carnage in Akron and Beyond…

September 27th arrived sooner than I would have liked. My body was still having a hard time forgiving me for what I had put it through the previous month. The gun fired and over 3,000 of us began our journey on the streets of Akron. My goal was to run a sub 3hr 30min race. Things were on pace until that mystical 18 mile mark (seeing a theme here?). It was then that I began to experience the dreaded cramping in the hamstrings.  “Nooo…not now!!”

I thought I’d done a fairly good job of fluid intake. Nonetheless, I was forced to pull over to the side of the road and stretch. At this point, both hamstrings began to seize up into grapefruit-sized knots and I was in shear agony. Seeing my discomfort, a kind police officer came over to see if he could help and offered me his bottle of water since I was between fluid stations. After what seemed like 10 minutes, I thanked him and began attempting to run. Imagine someone trying to run with two stiff, straight legs and you’ll have an accurate picture of what I must have looked like. Spectators probably gasped as I hobbled by. Haile Gebrselassie’s marathon world record (broken several times since then) was certainly safe on this day.

Eventually, my stride loosened up and the cramping eased, though not completely. It was a great feeling to finish inside the Akron University football stadium where thousands of friends & family members awaited their loved ones. After all was said and done, I crossed the finish line in 3 hours 45 minutes.

Again, I was humbled. Again, I uttered those famous post-race words…never again.  Did I learn my lesson? You be the judge…a few days later, I signed up for the November 6th Lithia Loop Trail Marathon in Ashland, Oregon. Again, I suffered. A few days after that race, I signed up for the December 5th Tecumseh Trail Marathon in Bloomington, Indiana. Again, I suffered…this time in 24 degree weather while running in 2-3 inches of fresh snow. Had my sanity returned after this outing? It took one more “pain and torture” fest before I finally got the hint. The race that finally broke me completely was the Way Too Cool 50k in Cool, California the following March. I sometimes refer to it as the Way Too “Cruel” 50k.

Lesson Learned…

Something finally sank in after running that last “cruel” race in March 2009. My training was not only woefully deficient but I wasn’t exposing my body to the kind of rigorous terrain I would encounter at many in these races. For example, I lived in Findlay, Ohio at the time where it’s flat as a pancake. The Way Too Cool 50k contains a significant amount of downhill that can grind a person’s quads into hamburger if they haven’t practiced downhill running. Sure enough, my quads were finished in that race by the halfway point. I simply didn’t have access to that kind of downhill terrain in NW Ohio.

From that point forward, I decided not to sign up for races in which I couldn’t properly train on similar course terrain & grade. I would do a much better job researching the course layout and knowing the specifics of things like fluid stations, course markings and elevation gain/loss. If I was going to continue this wonderful sport of running, I owed it to myself (and my body) to learn from my failures and also to glean knowledge and wisdom from more experienced runners.

A nutritional lesson learned…

In the Silver Lake 50k race, I broke one of the cardinal rules in the area of nutrition…

Thou shalt not introduce thy digestive system to a new food or drink on race day!

Have you ever looked inside your race bag of sponsor goodies and decided to try something in there for the first time…on race day? This is precisely what I did a few minutes before this torturous 50k was to begin. Inside the race bag, I found a Clif Shot “Double Espresso” flavored gel. I thought to myself, “Mmm, I need all the energy I can get going into this race.” I quickly downed the 100 calorie pouch and almost immediately felt the caffeine coursing through my veins. Unfortunately, my stomach would protest about 30 minutes later, having never experienced this flavor previously. Talk about high octane fuel!

It’s a good idea to stick with fueling sources that your body has been used to during training. It’s also a good idea to find out ahead of time what the aid stations in your races will offer in terms of food & fluid. If Gatorade will be served, you may want to practice using Gatorade in the weeks leading up to race day. How about gels? Will the race have GU? Hammer? Clif? Your other option would be to bring your own food or fluid of choice. Either way, try to eliminate as many surprises as possible on your big day. After all, you’ve trained too hard to have something like nutrition ruin your race.

May you never bite off more than you can chew…but if you do, may it digest well 🙂

 

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Choco-Caramel Almond Delight Smoothie

Choco-Caramel Almond Delight Smoothie

Choco-Caramel Almond DelightWith summer come those rising temperatures that leave us sweating buckets. Here in Colorado, we’ve already experienced quite a few 90+ degree days and we’re just finishing up June! I know, I know. Those of you in Texas and Florida are now rolling your eyes due to the fact that you’re used to those 90 degree days with a WHOLE lot more humidity involved. Some of you reading this might even be 100+ degree veterans.

I’ve long been a believer in the benefits of drinking smoothies, especially for post-workout recovery. Smoothies taste even better during the summer time when you want something cold and refreshing. They’re also very easily digested and allow your body to make the most of that nutrition in a short amount of time.

You chocolate lovers are going to absolutely love the following smoothie recipe I’ve adapted from one of the recipes in my book Smoothies For Runners 2.0. Whether you’re a runner, swimmer, cyclist or all three, this smoothie is going to light up your taste buds and provide some lovin’ for your body.

Smoothie Description

Sometimes we just need to splurge and enjoy a decadent dessert. With this smoothie, you can enjoy the flavors of chocolate, caramel and almonds while also gaining some quality nutrition. Almonds are high in vitamin E and have also been shown to reduce LDL-cholesterol as much as first generation statin drugs. Almonds are a very satiating snack with 6g of protein per serving (about 22 nuts). Who knew that going nuts could be so healthy?

Ingredients

  • 1 cup chocolate almond milk
  • 1 frozen ripe banana
  • 2 pitted medjool dates (soak ahead of time to soften)
  • 2 scoops BodyHealth PerfectAmino Power Meal dark chocolate flavor (use code HITZ10 for additional 10% off)
  • 1 Tbsp. almond butter
  • 1 Tsp. almond extract
  • Almond slices or dark chocolate chips for garnish
  • BONUS – for a sweet & salty flavor, put some salt around the rim of your glass like you would for a margarita.

Blend all ingredients until smooth

Nutrition Facts

560 calories, 118g carbs, 19g fat, 12g protein

Training Tip

If you’re going to splurge, whether it’s a decadent smoothie or another sweet treat, you might as well earn it by clearing some hard-earned calories with a nice long run. Studies have shown longer, slower runs to be very efficient at fat burning. Many runners will differ on their definition of a long run, but I believe 90 minutes or more will begin to tap into those fat stores as fuel. Most of us will agree that food always tastes better after a long run!

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CJ drinking juice

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Caramel Apple Cool Down Smoothie

Caramel Apple Cool Down

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Oatmeal Protein Balls

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CocoMint Christmas Cheer Smoothie

Christmas smoothie

FacebookTwitterPinterestemailBaby, it’s cold outside! But smoothies can be enjoyed all year round. Here’s a seasonal smoothie recipe from my book Smoothies For Runners 2.0. This is a great recipe to bring out during the Christmas season with mint being a constant theme. The fresh peppermint leaves will ensure that this is technically a green smoothie. […]

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Cinnamon Roll Recovery Smoothie

FacebookTwitterPinterestemailFor you smoothie lovers, here’s a quick video we did while making the Cinnamon Roll Recovery smoothie. It’s basically a cinnamon roll in a glass! You can find this recipe along with 23 more delicious smoothie recipes in my latest book Smoothies For Runners 2.0.   **If you’re looking for a powerful recovery aid for […]

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