Tabatas: Under-appreciated fitness boosters

I hurt myself today. ~ N.I.N.

Ah the Tabata. Some people hate them, others love them. In the moment, they can be the bane of my existence but after rocking out a few sets, I really tend to notice the benefits. For the uninitiated, a Tabata can be applied to virtually any exercise type (cycling; swimming; push-ups; chess, I assume) but since I am a runner, I tend to knock these out while running. Go figure. Here’s the formula:

Go as hard as you can for 20 seconds
Rest for 10 seconds
Repeat 8 times
Feel free to do multiple sets

Four minutes (per set) of activity doesn’t sound like much, but if done correctly, these can really help boost your fitness. I tend to replace strides with one Tabata on Fridays and will work in multiple sets as part of my Tuesday interval training. Just keep good form, really work the 20s and you’ll reap the benefits.


I Accidentally Signed Up for NYC

I’ve made a huge mistake. ~ Gob Bluth

You read that right. Back in May, I decided, with about 17 minutes to spare, to sign up for NYC. Given last year’s shenanigans, I didn’t think I had a snowball’s chance in hell of getting in. But low and behold, less than 12 hours later, I got the nod. I guess I’m running NYC this year.

So I have been training, ramping up my miles, trying to get some consistency in the books. June and July featured some decent weeks, but very little consistency of volume. The last couple of weeks in July started to show some promise and I have managed to follow up a 48 last week with another 48 this week (and I might just have to go out for a double today given that this morning’s run went well and was pretty mellow). But I’ll take the 48 regardless and consider it a good kick-start to the next 12 weeks of more focused efforts.

This week’s training featured some highs and a couple of lows:

  • Monday: 3.8 in 40 on trails. Overall not a great run. Ran in my NB MT10s and though this one started out okay, my legs went a bit dead about half way through.
  • Tuesday: 7.05 in 1 hour hill play. Headed up to North Boulder Park and after a couple miles of warm up, did some hill repeats. I would consider this particular effort to be in the 6 range on a 1-10 scale. Didn’t feel great but got them done.
  • Thursday: 8.05 in 1:16 on trails. After missing my Wednesday window due to work constraints, I shifted things to Thursday. This was actually a pretty decent effort sans-watch with some good sized hills so I was pretty pleased with this one.
  • Friday: 3.95 in 45 on trails. This… was not a good run for me. Intended to throw in a Tabata but after a couple reps really, REALLY wasn’t feeling it. So I walk/jogged back home. Ugly. Guessing I was dehydrated or something.
  • Saturday: 9.58 in 1:12 Tolland Road 10K. Tempo efforts at altitude are always tough to judge. On one hand, I knocked this out. On the other, it wasn’t a particularly strong effort if you look at the numbers. But I’ll take it. The item that made this workout AWESOME is that, after living up in the mountains 2-days -shy of 20 years, I finally saw my first mountain lion. Really super cool.
  • Sunday: 14.89 in 2:15ish on trails. Fairly mellow 8 miles then tossed in some quicker tempo efforts in the last 6. Overall, felt great on this one. Ran with Mark Plaatjes’ crew, which was a lot of fun.

So with 12 weeks to go before NYC, I am still playing things by ear and am planning to let the training dictate my strategy for the race. I would say that I am pretty much on target at this point when compared to where I was last year prior to Eugene. I’d benefit from a few more road miles but am not willing, just yet, to completely abandon trails so we’ll see how I can work in mileage increases in the coming weeks on the slab.

This week was a bit nuts when it came to juggling work and running as well. Lessons learned include: Don’t get too uptight if things don’t go completely to plan; Be sure to get in your long run; Don’t force it if you aren’t feeling well but give yourself time to settle in. On two occasions this week I had less-than-stellar runs. I didn’t let it bother me and just moved on to the next workout without investing too much time in worrying about the previous day’s performance. You are going to have bad days. Don’t get too caught up with these.

On a final note, I am really looking forward to tuning into the IAAF World Championships starting next week. This year marks the 20th anniversary of Mark Plaatjes’ marathon win. I am guessing the U.S. men don’t have much of a hope this year but perhaps one of the women can uncork a good race. Here’s a link to the schedule.


Cross Training

Like Roy Cormier with the coconut lotion ~ Beastie Boys

I haven’t done much updating of late. Lots going on with my business as well as trying to appreciate some time off from more structured training. Instead of getting outside and pounding out the miles this winter, I have been focusing my efforts on more “season-friendly” fare this year and have been doing a lot more nordic skiing to stay active, promote a more balanced fitness approach, and give my mind/body a bit of a break after several years of pretty much non-stop, focused training. In a word, it has been good for me.

Not only am I coming around fitness-wise through some pretty consistent work on my skate skiing but I am getting more and more jazzed to ramp my running back up. Not just for racing (though I have some ideas about that) but to really plan out a few adventures for the coming season. I love road racing but REALLY miss trail adventures. Last year’s 4-pass loop got me thinking about other “epics” that I could plan and put together for the Spring/Summer of ’13 and I have a real desire to bang out a bunch of 14ers this summer as well. This will probably lead to a marked reduction in my ability to burn quality top-end speeds (which detracts from another, albeit dumber, goal of running a sub-5 mile) but I may see if I can achieve some balance this season and hone both my speed and longer-distance abilities. Not the best combo but I know that some other runners have managed to figure out how to put these two together so I may give it a whirl. I was able to get my top-end back in decent shape very quickly after Leadville in 2010 (e.g. this) so may take that approach and knock out some adventures this summer then leverage that strength and endurance fitness for a fast marathon in the fall. We’ll have to see.

So back to nordic skiing for now. After getting some tips from my buddy, Ben (local hard-man and LT100 top-15er), my ability to actually enjoy skate skiing improved markedly. Two tips: Focus on your timing/rhythm and point your outside hand in the direction of the turn on fast descents. It is interesting how something as specific and technical can actually have applications outside of its seemingly narrow focus. I have actually made some adjustments to my running form based on what I have learned skating. Two more weeks until Eldora closes up shop then the trails should start to open up. I am looking forward to logging some miles on my favorite patches of dirt but in the meantime, you can catch me working on my form, enjoying the much-needed snow, and getting even more psyched for the coming season.

See you out there.


Stop digging…

Dig deep. ~ The laces on my Brooks Launch shoes

The ramp-up to the San Francisco Marathon has been less than stellar and the past couple of weeks have produced efforts that put me in serious question-mark-mode for the race. I’m still going out and will still run some portion of the event, just not sure how much actual racing is going to get done.

Though I haven’t felt particularly snappy since Boston, the first big warning sign came a few weeks ago when I “raced” the Slacker Half Marathon. This race wasn’t on my radar but my teammate, Susan Nuzum, was racing it so I thought I’d join her in the fun and/or games. She went on to win the women’s event (at least her second OA win this year), and I hung with her for about 3 miles before starting to really wonder what the hell I was doing at the event. I raced hard for another two, stopped briefly to see if that would help me feel better, then raced for another mile or so before packing it in and just jogging down to the finish. Not a good day, to say the least. Susan was quite nice to throw out a lot of excuses for me (altitude, downhill course, wasn’t my day, etc.) but clearly something wasn’t right. I felt great on shorter, intense efforts (repeats, tempo runs, and the like) but anything with a sustained, maximal effort was not working well for me.

So I got some blood work done and scheduled one final “test” run before setting any goals for SFO. This was to be a paced, half-marathon-distance run in Boulder with Susan and Mark Plaatjes teed up to pace me to what would hopefully be a 1:26ish half. Susan and I started on the Boulder Creek path and ran into difficulties early on due to path closures caused by flood conditions along the route. No sweat, slightly slower pacing and route adjustments could accommodate these set-backs but fairly quickly it became evident that I was just not able to sustain the kind of pacing needed to log a fast time. By about 6 miles in I was struggling to maintain marathon pacing and soon thereafter called it a day. The way I was feeling was corroborated by my blood work which indicated low ferritin levels. So we assessed the likelihood of my being able to have a satisfactory go at a good time in San Fran and decided a goal adjustment/race switch was in order.

Of course, a week later (and a ton of supportive food from Rach ingested) and I am starting to feel a LOT better so things are still a little up in the air. I may switch races and run the first half as a race, stay in the marathon and just run it, or do a full experiment and run by feel with zero expectations. I do know that I can wait until the last minute to make any decisions and so, at this point, am going with that option so as to not rule anything out. I do know that whatever decision I make will be done with the goal of not putting myself further in a hole from which I won’t be able to dig out.

As always, I’ll keep you posted.


Quick update…

I ran. I ran until my muscles burned and my veins pumped battery acid. Then I ran some more. ~ The Narrator

Been a bit swamped of late but that hasn’t stopped the shenanigans. Raced in a 2K event last Thursday (Uni-Hill 2K in Boulder). Placed 8th with a time of 7:19 which is a little slow for 2K but not too bad on this hilly course. Training is going well and I have been logging solid 50+ mile weeks with some cross training thrown in the mix (yoga mostly, but I actually swam at the gym on Sunday for a bit). Did a really hard workout with the Gijima crew yesterday. Give this a whirl if you are in the mood for a killer run:

  1. Warm up for a couple of miles
  2. Find a long, steady hill
  3. Run up at a sustainable, but soul-crushing pace for 3 minutes
  4. Jog down for 3 minutes
  5. Run up for 4 minutes. Try not to cry.
  6. Jog down for 3 minutes
  7. Up 5 minutes. Don’t worry about what others think of you openly sobbing.
  8. Down 3.
  9. Up 5 again. Start to question your own sanity.
  10. Down 3.
  11. Up 4. Same pain, less duration.
  12. Down 3.
  13. Up 3 but then really stretch it to about 4:30 to finish on top of some heinously steep hill. Puke on your teammate’s new Hokas.
  14. Cool down for a couple miles.

Yeah. Marathon training is fun.


[edit]: No Hokas were harmed in the production of this post.

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