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 🙂

 

**If you’re looking for a powerful recovery aid for those intense workouts or races, look no further than PerfectAmino by BodyHealth. I’ve been using this quality Amino Acid supplement for the past couple years and I also recommend it to those I coach. Give it a try by using code HITZ10 for 10% off your order at BodyHealth.

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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!

6 Running Tips to Help You Run Faster and More Consistently This Year

Do you want to run faster and more consistently this year?  I know I do!  It has taken me a while to become more consistent with my running.  I have ran for exercise for 20+ years, but haven’t seen tons of improvement over the years.

Until now.

With CJ’s coaching and my willingness to be more consistent, I am finally able to run faster and am hitting new goals.  In fact, last month was my first 100 mile month EVER.  I barely met my goal as you can see below, but you better believe I definitely celebrated!  Here’s the screenshot from Connect.Garmin.com below.

First 100 mile month

I have also seen my 5k time improve tremendously and expect that this year I will set my all-time 5k PR.  Here is a chart that shows my progress and how I’m definitely running faster.  I’m still a “middle of the pack” runner, but this proves that if I can improve…ANYONE can improve and run faster. 🙂

5k race times

I’ve learned a few things over the last year and thought I’d share them with you.

 

Running Tip #1:  Write Out a Plan

One of the things that has helped me is to write out a running plan for each week.  Well, actually, CJ writes it out for me.  But, after he writes out my plan for the week, I can mentally prepare myself.  Have you noticed that half the battle with running is mental?  It sure is with me.

Writing out my running plan also gives me a visual reminder to look at every day.  I set my monthly calendar out on my dining room table where I can see it every day.

I use a simple monthly desk calendar that I found at the dollar store.   You can also print out a monthly calendar from Microsoft Word or plan out your runs in a running log.  Use whatever works best for you.  (Yep…mine is pretty messy, but it works!)

running calendar

 

Running Tip #2:  Keep Track of Your Miles

The second thing that has helped me run faster and more consistently this past year is tracking my miles.  I do so through my Garmin GPS watch and their online website, but CJ likes doing it with pen and paper in his Nathan running log.  He now also tracks his miles online using Running 2 Win’s free online tool.

Here’s a picture of CJ’s current Nathan running log.  He keeps all of his logs and then can go back and see what his training was like before an injury or leading up to a PR.  I’m still not as detailed as he is, but at least I am now tracking my miles.

Nathan running log

 

Running Tip #3:  Consider Using a GPS Watch or App

garmin forerunner 110

This is not 100% necessary, but has been something that has really helped me.  In fact, I have a confession to make.  I think I am now addicted to running with my Garmin Forerunner 110 watch.  I feel a little panicked if I realize I left it behind on a run.  CJ uses the Garmin 405, but I find the 110 to be enough for me.

My watch helps me to know how far I’ve gone and at what pace.  Often when I run, I start to think about other things.  When this happens I usually slow my pace without even realizing it.  By wearing a GPS watch that tracks my miles and pace, I can occasionally look down and see if I’m staying at my target pace.

Wearing my watch during races has really helped me to run faster and meet new 5k PR goals as well.  CJ will usually look at the course and my current fitness level and then tell me what pace he wants me to hold during the race.  Several times I have been able to run even faster than the target pace and I credit a lot of that to having my watch and being able to periodically check my pace.

 

Running Tip #4:  Join a Running Group

Have you ever had a day where you just don’t feel like running?  Yep…me too!  We all have those days (even CJ).  And when one of those days comes, it is much more motivating to get out the door when you know someone is waiting for you.  Group runs are also helpful for long runs that you don’t want to do by yourself.

You can check on the Road Runners Club of America website to see if there is a running club in your area:  http://www.rrca.org/find-a-running-club/

We have enjoyed running with several local running groups and have met some of our closest friends through them.  Definitely consider it!

 

Running Tip # 5:  Sign Up for a Race

One thing that ALWAYS helps me is if I sign up for a race.   Simply making that commitment helps to give me motivation to train hard.  It gives me a goal to work towards as well.  So, take the plunge and sign up for a race!  Whether it is a 5k, half marathon or another distance, it may just be what you need to get the motivation to be more consistent in your training so you can run faster this year.

 

Running Tip #6:  Work With a Running Coach

If you really want to run faster this year, you might want to consider working with a running coach.  Some running clubs have coaching built into them.  Or you could try group coaching or even hire a one-on-one coach.

Once I was ready to take my running to the next level, CJ offered to coach me.  He would set up my running schedule for the week, give me tips on nutrition, offer racing advice and most importantly answer ALL my questions.  He has helped me so much!   If you’re looking for a good running coach, I know one!  😉  

 

Conclusion

What other running tips do you have to run faster and more consistently this year?  What has worked for you?  Share your thoughts in the comments below.

 

And if you’ve found this post helpful, share it with others below:

 

**If you’re looking for a powerful recovery aid for those intense workouts or races, look no further than PerfectAmino by BodyHealth. I’ve been using this quality Amino Acid supplement for the past couple years and I also recommend it to those I coach. Give it a try by using code HITZ10 for 10% off your order at BodyHealth.

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3 Holiday Tips to Keep You Running Strong!

Holiday Tips For Runners

I hope this finds you running well as we move into the Winter!  Here are 3 holiday tips to keep you healthy as we move into the holiday season…

1.) Load up on fruit & veggies – as we move closer to Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year, it’s very easy to increase our sugar intake with all the holiday treats available. Make it a point to stock up on healthy snacks and limit the amount of unhealthy snacks you have in the house.  Instead, save the sugary treats for those special gatherings with family or friends. My wife and I love to cut up broccoli and cauliflower and load up a container full to have handy. We then use hummus or Annie’s Goddess dressing as a delicious dip.  Apples and oranges are also great to have available since they’re packed with immunity-building Vitamin C. Apples are also a fantastic source of Quercetin, a flavinoid that helps guard against cold or flu bugs and also has been found to decrease inflammation.  As a runner, lingering inflammation can be an injury waiting to happen.  Refined sugar also creates more inflammation throughout the body.

2.) Vitamin D Supplement – depending on where you live, this can also be a time of year when the sun can be a little more elusive which means our bodies don’t make as much Vitamin D.  For the runner, Vitamin D levels correspond with our immunity which is the body’s ability to fight off disease and illness.  So during this season, a Vitamin D supplement can help boost immunity, especially as we endure more intense training.  Based on research, it’s tough to beat Maximized Living’s Vitamin D3 Complex

3.) Don’t Forget Water! – As the weather gets cooler, it’s easier to back off on water since the body doesn’t alert us as quickly to our need.  A nice formula to ensure you’re drinking enough is to change your body weight to ounces and cut that in half.  For example, I weigh 150 lbs.  Therefore, my minimum intake should be 75 ounces each day.  This number will increase on days when we run.  Water helps flush out waste and toxins. One way to know you’re drinking enough is notice a clear to light yellow color in your urine.  Dark yellow is a sign you’re under-drinking.

Practice these 3 tips over the next couple months and you’ll give your body an extra layer of protection it needs despite the distractions that are inevitable this time of year.

On the Run,

CJ

 

**If you’re looking for a powerful recovery aid for those intense workouts or races, look no further than PerfectAmino by BodyHealth. I’ve been using this quality Amino Acid supplement for the past couple years and I also recommend it to those I coach. Give it a try by using code HITZ10 for 10% off your order at BodyHealth.

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