25 September 2013

from super-size to superfoods

after running yesterday with my friend justin (a triathlete and speedy runner) he commented about how far i'd come since 2007 when i was a fairly dedicated fast-food junkie.  in fact, when the church that i was working at wanted to shoot a video mockumentary along the lines of "super size me" i was the clear nominee to star in it.

(sometimes i think that when it came to anything that the rest of the team didn't want to touch with a 10-foot pole, they figured that i would be the 'perfect guy' for it - case in point ...)

my wife remembers me on a regular diet of KFC.  my kids recall daddy's breakfast as consisting of chocolate chip cookies and orange juice (net nutritional value = 0).  the point is, i managed to get away with a lot in terms of eating practices because i was blessed/cursed with an unusually efficient metabolic system.

that all began to change when i started to run.

slowly i came to noticing that i felt horrible when i fueled myself with junk.  whether it was high cholesterol entrĂ©es or the bedtime snack of half a party-size bag of doritos, there was immediate feedback during the next morning's workout.  and it wasn't pleasant at all.  this started to deter me from equating 'fullness' with 'fueled-ness'.

then, as i entered the arena of road racing and set particular performance goals, i started to pay attention to the finer points of training - from supplements (including the composition of my multi-vitamins) to pre- and post-workout intake and eating volume and frequency.  i will readily admit to being nowhere near where i could be - my dorito obsession remains (though diminished), and i am not as savvy about supplementation as my buddy stan (a great blog post from him here) - but the truth is "you've come a long way baby!".

so what are my key dietary tactics?
  1. post-run chocolate milk - feels like you're cheating when you're not!  a great mix of carbs and protein for post-workout replenishment.  those commercials aren't just a marketing gimmick y'all.
  2. multi-vitamins - because i know that i'm not on top of things in terms of properly daily recommended values from the four food groups.
  3. chia seed - yup, another convert as a result of reading chris mcdougall's born to run.  i'll sprinkle it on yogourt, on peanut butter toast, in banana-chocolate smoothies.  it just works with about everything, and is a great way to take it carbs, protein, omega-3s, potassium, calcium.  plus being hydrophilic it's a great way to create a slow-release of energy over distances.
  4. beet juice - nothing conclusive here, but some studies have purported to show that beet juice (rich in anti-oxidants and the right kind of nitrates) aids in decreasing blood pressure and increasing transference of oxygen through the blood stream.  not the most palatable drink in the world, but i've found that adding a single sachet of juice crystals (i use President's Choice brand cool delight raspberry) and it's not bad ... not bad at all.
  5. kale - this is the newest member of the dietary regime for me.  heard lots about it - it's probably the 'in-food' when it comes to the health conscious.  another one of these packed-with foods, it delivers iron, fibre, calcium, vitamins A, C and K, and is super-easy to work with.  i'll chop it up and put it on/in just about anything - "no meat athlete" has a great article on how to eat it.

as i say, i'm still learning how to better treat this biomechanical machine of mine.  what are your fueling choices?  i'd love to hear about them!


21 September 2013

2013 erie marathon at presque isle - race report

with all my hopes for a boston qualifying time pinned (literally) on this past weekend's marathon in erie, pennsylvania, i set out to put together what would was intended to be my best 42.195km run ever.

being my first ever 'destination' race, i was up and at 'em early on saturday morning making the 4.5 hour drive across the u.s. border to presque isle state park - site of the race expo and start/finish line.  after a short pause in st. catherines to stretch my legs and fit in an easy 4km jog, i crossed the peace bridge into the united states.  

the border control guard was a riot.  in response to his question about my reason for entering the country, i told him that i was racing in a marathon - to which he quickly said "how many miles is that?".  telling him 26, he continued to quiz me about how many times a week i'd run as well as the average distances.  after about 4 minutes of running-related banter, he simply said "wow patrick, you are the man.  go have a great race!" - and sent me on my merry way.

the race expo at presque isle state park's rotary pavilion was well staffed and easy to navigate - mostly because it was pretty spartan.  about 10 windows for race kit pick-up (no ID required) meant that you had your bag in hand within 30 seconds of arrival and then it was time to peruse the five or so vendor tents that were set up.  even though there wasn't much to see, i have to say that i was impressed with the goodies that came with race registration.

yes, you even get socks!

after checking into the "America's Best Value Inn" (courtesy of priceline.com) i met up with stan and his family for supper at the local Eat'n Park.  this was a great find, as i'd never stopped into one before and they have this crazy all-you-can-eat soup & salad bar for something like $2.25.  my spaghetti meal (can you say carbo load?) and unlimited soup/salad came to just over $9.00 USD.  unreal.

bedtime came early, around 8pm.  settled into my nicely 70s-decor room and faded off to la-la land.

race day
between the early morning race start (scheduled for 7:00 am - i arrived at the park at about 5:45 am) and the tree-canopied drive in the park, it was about as a dark as could be.  even after being directed by volunteers to the appropriate parking lot and space, i could barely make out the directions to the start area.

the lineups for the park washrooms and porta-potties was unreal.  i started out waiting for the men's washroom in one of the park buildings, but after a 25 min. wait and only advancing about six feet forward, i decided to take my chances by wandering towards the start area where more porta-potties were situated.  the wait there didn't turn out to be much better, but i knew that i needed to clear my system before getting into the race so i waited - for a grand total of 50 min. in line.  i got into the starting chute just as the Star Spangled Banner was wrapping up, so had about 3 min. to spare.

while warming up in the crowd awaiting the starter's horn, i heard "patrick?  patrick voo?"  odd given that i was about 400km from home in a different country.

it turned out to be patrick connor, a fellow that i'd met twice before at the mississauga marathon (2012, 2013).  in 2012 we were the only two "patricks" in the marathon field and we finished within a second of one another.  crazy small world it is.

as the race started, we moved from a pavilion area onto the path out toward the main road - this meant bottlenecking.  while i did want to start out conservatively, this was a shuffle pace (foreshadowing, folks).  it took about 800m to clear the congestion and find a lane with some other runners aiming to go at about 4:30/km.

i'd promised my coach, rick ball, that i would stick to the plan and the pace band that he'd provided for me.  and for the first half of the race, that's exactly how things went.  i was to cross 10k in 45:00 - i did so in 45:11 (not bad considering the time i lost during the first km).  running the tangents and meeting only two slight incline portions along the route, i hit the halfway mark at gun time 1:35:47, at which point stan (who'd been waiting there since the 7:30 am half marathon start) joined to help pace me through to the end.

the second half started out ok - stan indicated that things looked and sounded good, since my breathing was not laboured and we were able to keep to the 4:30ish pace.  it was at about 27km that the wheels started to come off.

it began as a slight decline in pace.  i expected that there would be tough points along the way, so this was not a surprise.  i tried to power through it, but it was what came next that really was the body blow.

i experienced tightness in my core that was reminiscent of the strange diaphragm spasms that i had at the end of the beaches jazz run. it was increasingly difficult to breathe, and as a result i had to slow my pace down until finally stan stopped me so that we could do an upper torso stretch.  when it was possible to breathe clearly again, we started back out trying to reclaim the pace, if not the lost time - but this was short-lived, as after every 800m or so i felt the full onslaught of this constriction again.  

time began slipping away, and when i finally realized that this was not going to end well, i urged stan to run on as he was hoping to get back to toronto that afternoon to compete in the league championship game with his soccer team (what an athlete!). 

this left me to meander my way through the rest of the race - meander being the operative word, as my hamstrings and calves started to spasm because of the lack of oxygen getting to them during my spurts of running.  eventually the running became staggered sections of shuffling (at about a 7:00-7:20/km pace).  however, along the way i did make some new friends - others who i stopped to encourage (and was encouraged by) as muscle spasms made for stretching and walking breaks.  

the 26 mile marker was a welcome sign, and when the final turn was made and the finish line was in sight, i mustered up enough pride to start turning the legs over so that the final leg photographs would be of me at least simulating a running cadence.  

i hung out a bit to take advantage of the chocolate milk, fresh subs, water and cookies.  while munching down i paused to cheer on various other finishers in both the half and full marathons as they came down the finishing chute - all this while still in stunned confusion as to what had just happened to me on the same course.

after a quick change of clothes, i decided that there was no reason to hang out around erie much longer than i needed to and so headed back down the interstate toward niagara falls.  the trek home was long enough for me to drift across geographical and mental states ... i wafted from 'maybe it's time to call it a running career' to 'just take your break until next spring' to 'i hope that boston's sold out anyway'.  stan also texted me with words of encouragement, indicating that he and his wife wondered if i wasn't dealing with exercise-induced bronchoconstriction.  

by the time that i rolled into my driveway i'd settled on the fact that much like one of my running heroes, yuki kawauchi, i would race again.  soon.  

(incidentally, also like yuki, i shaved my head the next day in shame because i felt that i'd let down my coach and running partners)

and with that, i registered the next day for the hamilton marathon.  with seven weeks between races, it will be the shortest break i will have taken between marathon attempts.  it's a race that a i ran last year and quite enjoyed, for the company if not for the result.  but with a steely determination, i am focused on conquering the mountain and coming away with a new personal record. 

so it is that i will leave behind my worst 'serious' race to date.  my only real solace (besides the fact that i managed to not claim this world record) is that in less than two months i will once again try to best this grueling contest.

bet against me if you will.

05 September 2013

insane in the membrane

it's a little over a week until the erie marathon, which is my next race and another (hopefully successful this time!) attempt at attaining a boston qualification time.  while i was bummed that the boston athletic association decided to open up it's registration for the 2014 boston marathon a full week before my race day in erie, i'm hopeful that given the fact that they also upped the number of total possible entrants to 36000 that perhaps i might still have a shot at registering.

but let's not put the cart before the horse.

(i guess that that makes me the horse)

so with boston still in my sights, i'm going to do everything within my power to nab that qualifying time - which for my age group is 3:15:00 or better.  \

and that means that it's taper time.

if you've tried following a training program in preparation for a race, you know about taper madness.  whether you've just heard about it or experienced it yourself, it's more than running lore.  it's a pseudo-scientific affliction that can cause genuine anxiety, irritability and even irrational behaviour.

i've pointed to this article before, but it's worth flagging again as providing a great description of just what constitutes taper madness: http://blog.runnerslounge.com/2008/09/symptoms-and-tr.html

i don't quite become a germaphobe, but i'll tell you what does happen to me:  i become obsessed with performance deterioration.  

i worry that i'm not running enough times during the weeks leading up to the race.

i become convinced that on the days that i do run i'm not putting in enough kilometres.

i dwell on the fact that i should be running faster and faster each time out.

i fixate on the expanding bulge on my waistline because i'm eating the same but not exercising as much.

and all of this makes me believe that i'm setting myself up to run slower than i ever have before ... when i simply know that that's not the case.  all of these things which i believe to be detrimental during the taper time are in fact critical to optimal performance on race day.

running less means that my body is restoring itself from the preceding weeks of hard workouts, and adapting/supercompensating to a new level of fitness.
maintaining my speed now is key to muscle memory and avoiding injury.

the inevitable weight gained will become the fuel that i will need to burn over 42.195 kilometres.

since we're rounding the corner into the fall racing season, i must not be the only one who's having to endure the tapering process.  what about you?  what bugs you about tapering, if anything?

02 September 2013

the method to the madness

my friend and running partner/inspiration trevor morgan has just written a great piece about the lessons that he's learned in and through running.  not just a great athlete, but a great writer as well - make sure you check this out!  http://renaissancenow.ca/2013/09/02/reaching-goals/