Do you ever look at runners’ Strava or Garmin Connect data and wonder if they are training too much or not enough? That is exactly what most runners do, too much or not enough. If you have followed my blogs since the inception, then you know I always say too much is not better than just enough. There is a point of diminishing returns. No more bang for your buck. Writing checks your body can’t cash. It happens folks, I see it all the time. It is hard to know when to say when because that is different for each person.
My programs are like other programs as they have endurance work, hills, speed, and tempo. Everything other than aerobic work is considered “quality sessions”. However, my programs are customized to my runners needs. Often, even they don’t know what they need, but when I see their run data, I get a good idea of what they need. When I get to know their true desires, motivation, support system, and personalities, I know even more. My main concern as a coach is that my runners get around injury and improve performance and/or health. I don’t want to throw everything including the kitchen sink at a runner that is new to me. But that isn’t set in stone. They may be able to handle it. Same with my experienced people, I may find it is best to pull them back. There is always a time and place to progress and regress my runner’s program.
This brings me to the story of Chris. She recently trained for her third marathon with me. I first met Chris more than two years ago when I went to give a seminar to a running group she belongs to, the South Bay Sole Sisters. At that time, she approached me to ask about a pain she was having while training for a marathon that was a couple month away. She ran her race and a few months later she sent me an email with the title, “I need a coach”. We started working virtually together and she ran a 20-minute personal best at her race! Within days, she was talking to me about running another marathon. I said, “Why do you want to run another one”? Her reply, “Well, I think I can do better”. After a couple of months, training for her second marathon with me started. She ran another personal best, this time by four minutes.
As you can imagine, it was not long before the words, “another marathon” came whispering out her lips. After another couple of months, training for her third marathon with me began, which she just ran last weekend. About three months ago, she had a setback, an on the job injury that affected her running. She sought therapy with a chiropractor and I gave her exercises. Long story short, I had her take a week off running and took away all quality sessions when she returned to running. From that point on it would be all aerobic work. I told her that she could still have an awesome race with just easy, aerobic training. But why take away all those workouts that can benefit her on race day? She believed she had a work injury and I believed that we could not ignore that maybe her body is tired. Maybe she needed more rest between marathons. I knew what she did in the previous two training seasons and I believed her training needed to be regressed, not progressed. I knew she still had good chances of having an awesome race with easy running because I know all the quality work she did to prepare for the last two races. She trusted me because I had already earned her trust by guiding her to improvement in the past and putting her safety above everything else.
As you can see in the attached photo, she did in fact have an awesome race with another 16-minute personal best and achieved her Boston qualifying time off the NEW Boston qualifying standards. These results are not by chance my friends. They are from experienced, one on one coaching with personal relationships as the pillar to success. No, I don’t do group training, I do individual virtual training and it is in fact a labor of love.
Congratulations Chris! Her story is awesome. I hope you feel inspired to share with your friends on Facebook.
This week the recreational running community was floored by the change in the Boston Marathon qualifying standards for the 2020 race. The previous time standard change occurred for acceptance into the 2013 Boston Marathon. Changing of the standard over time is nothing new, however runners that were on the verge of “aging up” into a new (slower) time standard, remain working towards the same time goal that may be just beyond their reach, or at least it seems that way.
If your chosen marathon course and race day weather is favorable to achieving your best, you have trained appropriately and are conditioned to achieve your goal, the difference between you meeting your goal or missing it by seconds to a couple of minutes comes down to race day tactics. Notice I mentioned favorable weather to achieve your best. Who remembers the headlines from the 2018 Boston Marathon? Rain, wind, more rain, and more wind, which made for miserable conditions. Even with race day conditions that saw many of the elite runners drop out before the race started and the race winners running 12 and 20 minutes slower than the male and female course records, respectively, a record number of qualified runners applied for the 2019 Boston Marathon, yet were turned away, because faster runners in their age group capped off the accepted field.
The weather during the Boston Marathon is like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates; “you never know what you’re gonna get” until race day comes. This may be one of the many reasons that makes the Boston Marathon so special and runners return year after year if it is possible for them. Knowing how to handle adverse race conditions can help make it more enjoyable or less miserable, depending on if your glass is half full or empty. The 2018 Chicago Marathon is on the horizon and as of now, the forecast calls for rain. Rain? Will there be wind? It can’t possibly be as cold in Chicago in October as it can be in Boston in April, can it? I wouldn’t know, I live in San Diego.
Luckily, this blog post isn’t about what I don’t know, but about what I do know. Let me give you some information about the body and how it works and for crying out loud, do not run with a rain poncho when running a marathon or long distances!
I think everyone knows normal body temperature is 97.7–99.5 °F and when exercising, our body temperature rises, so we need to thermoregulate. This is a balance between heat production and heat loss to maintain core temperature. Heat loss works through conduction, convection, and evaporation during exercise. Moisture wicking materials allow for heat loss by convection and evaporation. Let’s get hypothetical for a moment. If you are running 26.2 miles in the rain in a rain poncho and it is only 65 °F as the Chicago forecast predicts for the coming up marathon, that poncho is going to act like an oven. It will not allow for convection, the transfer of heat from the skin to the air to occur or for evaporation to occur, which is how we lose 80% of generated heat to maintain body temperature. Rain poncho in the rain makes sense when standing around spectating, but racing 26.2 miles, no it does not make sense and puts you at risk for hyperthermia.
Don’t get me wrong, the above was not the scenario at the 2018 Boston Marathon. Due to cooler temps with the rain and wind, those runners were faced with hypothermia, which is low body temperature and it occurs when body heat loss exceeds physiological heat production. This is a hard one to visualize. You lose more heat than your body produces. This is about staying warm while exercising in the cold, but it is hard to visualize because how does one stay warm yet not too warm while exercising? This is why you have always read to layer your clothes in colder, rainier conditions. The layers matter though. You need to have moisture wicking materials as the base layer and you also need the outside layer to wick moisture as well. Some rain resistant materials do not allow for wicking. Just as those materials keep moisture out, they keep moisture on your skin and make you colder. The colder you are, the more your body will shiver as a response. Interestingly, in 2006 the American College of Sports Medicine noted that shivering increases your metabolic response by 5-6 times, which means your body requires more fuel to maintain the response. Who would have known that running in colder weather would require more fuel? It does anyway if you are shivering. I suggest that runners that wish to start with layers, start with a short sleeve shirt on the bottom and a long-sleeved shirt on the outside. The long sleeves can be tossed at some point. If you choose to have the long sleeves as the base layer, you are committed to the long sleeves for the remainder of the race. If you feel inclined to wear a light jacket because of rain, make sure it is wicking material and a quarter zipper pull over is a great option, so you can at least unzip a bit if needed or keep it zipped if needed.
Adapting to the elements on race day makes a big difference on how you enjoy the race or even achieve your best. If you didn’t read my blog post, “The sub-2, you, and the BQ” from 7-2-18 on runwithgina.com, please do.
Good luck to all those that are running the coming up Chicago Marathon. Race smart, including dressing smart!