Sunday, September 28, 2008

New Hydration Plan

ORN: 8.3 miles, R6/W1

“Thank you” isn’t quite adequate to express my appreciation for all the input I got last week after the marathon bonk. Your input was fabulous and triggered a lot more research last week for me. Bottom line; I concluded I both dehydrated and suffered from hyponatremia. In short, I not only did not drink nearly enough fluid but I also sweated out and did not replace any of the essential electrolytes. Together, it explained not only the cramping, nausea and discomfort I felt last Saturday but also numerous other less-severe experiences in years past, both running and non-running. Interestingly, I think my base training plan worked well. I had no soreness in the three days following the race, ran again on Thursday and again this morning and felt great. The problem is hydration, not running per se.

So, I’m sticking with my marathon plan for the rest of the fall. Taking your input and other reflection, I have a new hydration/electrolyte plan, to wit:

  • Drink 30 oz of fluid per hour
  • Take in 500mg+ of sodium per hour, via fluids and food
  • Get calories via a Gu at the bottom of the hour and a quarter Peanut Butter sandwich at the top of the hour

Wes urged me to practice this plan, training my body to take in this level of fluids. Good advice. Fluids on every run, even though I don’t need them, just so I get into the rhythm of figuring out how to glug down 30 oz per hour. This is over double my previosu pace of driking. After two runs, I’ve started to get the feel for it and have sloshed much less than I thought I would. This morning, I just got to laughing about the PB. I couldn’t find any bread as I headed out, only a solitary hot dog bun in the pantry. So I smeared a generous pile of PB on the bun, cut it in half and jammed it in my fuel belt. It worked.

I won’t have a chance for any really long runs between now and the Indy Marathon on Oct 18, since we leave for Italy in two days. So, that will be a test run for how well this plan works. Nothing new on race day?? Well, I’ll push that axiom a bit. I’m hoping to get at least one 10-15 mile run done in Italy, have even found a really cool place where it might happen, but all that will depend on how our sight-seeing plans go. Yet, I understand most of Italy stays up late and starts slow in the morning, whick I hope will prove a perfect situation for a long run at sunrise some day.

I don’t think I’ll have much, if any, on-line contact for the next two weeks, so don’t take it personally if I don't comment. I’ll post links to pix, plus a trip report when I get back. Till then, thanks again, so very, very much, for all your advice. I’m really grateful.

And persevere…this means a lot to several of you, my prayers are with you.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Race Report: United States Air Force Marathon

ORN: 26.2 miles; 5:07:34, R3/W1, then R1/W1, then W; 11:45/mile

Quick Summary

The marathon is a relentless teacher. And I think it is this relentlessness which makes it so appealing to me. Yesterday was yet another prime example. Twenty-one nice miles. Five really hard miles. Dehydration, nausea. Bonk city. Lessons abound. And I need the group here to help me figure out just what happened.

The Gory Details

The race started on time, complete with three, count ‘em, three F-22 Raptor Stealth Fighter planes swooping in from behind and then going into a near-vertical climb over the start pack. When the third plane came over, off we went. One runner nearby quipped “Wow…what we need is to have them fly over at mile 22.” Little did I realize how right she was.

The first five miles wound around the southern part of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, OH. After 5, I was one minute ahead of the splits I had projected in my 3/1 pace. We ducked briefly off base to do a mile or so through the little town of Fairborn. With no security restrictions, the fan base was marvelous, a continuous stream of folks there. I gave high fives to both Batman and Spiderman. A cardboard standup of Barack Obama smiled at me. Ohio is, after all, a swing state. I hit the 10 mile mark 90 seconds ahead of plan.

We wound back into the base, past the officers’ houses, golf course, admin buildings and worked down to the airfield. We looped the north end of the massive airstrip and headed back to the south end of the base where we started. At the 15 mile mark, I was in rhythm, still 90 seconds ahead of my plan. Along there, Jeff joined me, liking the 3/1 ratio I was holding. It was his first marathon and he asked if he could “ride along” with my timer. A couple miles later, we picked up another first time marathoner, Christina. We kept moving, now out of the shade and into the full (and upper 70s) sunshine and asphalt. The three of us came to the 20 mile mark, still a full minute ahead of the projected time. I knew I had padded the last seven miles of my plan by nearly a minute per mile and informed Jeff we were on a 4:45 pace.

Heading for mile 22, up and over a long freeway overpass, I felt the race slip away. A twingly feeling in my legs and feet was the first clue. Jeff was feeling better and worked ahead. Christina got a second wind and eased ahead a little later. The walk-breaks that usually help me through such moments didn’t work this day. I dialed back to a 1/1 ratio and held that for a while, but my mile splits fell to 14 minute range. Around mile 24.5, after a mere 60 seconds of running, I felt my head go woozy and the horizon started to totter from left to right. I recognized the signs of dehydration and realized I needed to simply walk it in. Which I did. With plenty of time to think, I walked, weakly managing to run the last 50 feet across the finish line. And that was about all I had left.

After the race, I got more and more woozy. I found a place to sit down after getting de-chipped and parked myself for, it turns out, over 45 minutes. It was all I could do to keep from throwing up, the nausea and discomfort was so severe. It was much worse than the rottenness I felt at the end of the Rocket City Marathon last December. My hands, arms and calves were all trembling. I eventually managed to walk the three-fourths mile to the shuttle bus to get back to my car. Rather than driving home, I ended up spending the night nearby with my niece and her husband. The nausea continued for another hour or so, with lots of hot sweats alternating with chills, characteristic of dehydration. Only after I could sleep for while could I get a taste for fluids. Once that happened, I recovered quickly. Strangly, the roof of my mouth felt really out of sorts for the better part of the evening.

So how did this happen? Please help me answer this question!

I thought I had worked out a good hydration plan. I carried my own fluids, starting out with 20 oz of half strength Gatorade. I consumed all of it and reloaded with the same at mile 9. I drained that 20oz and reloaded again at mile 16.5. I had made three porta-pot stops during the race, which seemed a good sign I was still hydrated. Yet, I noticed (but only in retrospect) that between the second fluid reload and mile 21, I only drank about 5 oz. It suddenly became repulsive to me. I simply couldn’t get the half-strength Gatorade down. At a water stop at mile 22, I picked up 10 oz of straight water, thinking it might be more palatable. But it wasn't. I had no desire to drink, even though I knew I needed to drink.

For fuel along the way, I used a tool I had used in training, a bite of a Clif Bar every 20 minutes. That got repulsive to me about the same time the fluids no longer sounded good to me.

So how do I get over this nausea, this revulsion from the very fluids I need? Did I simply lose focus? Do I need to go to another plan? Do S-Caps figure in or some other electrolyte replacement? Did the fact I only got about three hours sleep factor in? I’m sure I’m missing something here. Yet, if I don’t solve this, I really wonder if I should stick with running the marathon distance. I would appreciate your advice.

The Afterword

My oldest sister phoned today, and, after satisfying herself I was OK, asked “Why didn’t you just quit that last mile and a half?” I smiled and told her. I ran this race on a military base in honor of my two sons in the US Army. David found many times in his two deployments to Iraq that he felt pretty rotten, yet carried on to the end. Matt will find the same in his service, most of which is still to come. Countless others in service to our country have persevered, despite their own feelings. All this ran through my mind as I walked the last mile and a half. While I had hoped to finish the race strong and running hard. Yet, my daughter-in-law pointed out this evening my race may have been a better picture of the struggles of many in the military, to simply keep moving, one foot in front of the other, carrying on to the end of the appointed duty.

So I smiled as I walked, realizing this was really nothing compared to what so many have done; simply persevering to the end.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Evaluating Jeff Galloway Training Methods

ORN: 6.7 miles total; 5x1 mile intervals @ 8:26

(Note:  I updated this report on December 4, 2011, with 5 years experience.  Click here for the update.)

With the United States Air Force Marathon only 6 days away, I have little of interest to write about on running…such is the taper. Stepping back, though, it is worth capturing some thoughts about training.

On October 1, 2006, I had a marvelous time finishing the Portland Marathon in 4:21, meeting many new friends on the trip and starting to think I could really whip this marathon thing into shape. One week later, I found pain in my right knee which would not go away. It turned out to be the dreaded ITB inflammation. It was my first significant running injury and I had no idea what to do.

Doctor’s visits, massage, foam rollers; none really eased the pain. I ran very little in the months that followed; I actually bonked and had a DNF in my first marathon with Darrell in December, 2006. As we moved into 2007, I really wondered just what was going on.

Out of desperation, I began to look seriously at Jeff Galloway's system. I was slightly familiar with it before hand but dismissed much of it, because I wanted to be a “runner” not a “run/walker.” Yet, his assertion that his program could help avoid injuries appealed to me.

My first positive clue was his simple description on how to diagnose over-pronation (look at your shoes…if they wear out inside your big toe, you are overpronating). Hmmm…that helps. I took that info to a good running store; they confirmed it all and switched to a motion control shoe.

Then, in mid-January 2007, I just started doing run/walk. Starting very conservatively, with a Run/Walk ratio of 1 minute run/2 minutes walk, I got out the door again. Amazingly to me, I was gently and gradually running, without pain. I stayed with it. I bought two of his books and read them carefully.

Through 2007, I stayed with the program, getting over the “weirdness” of suddenly walking and then running again all through the run. Figuring out how to make a watch do the timing for me and let me just enjoy the run. I did the Indy Marathon in October, 2007 at a 3/1 pace and it went well until mile 23, when I tried to run continuously the last 3 miles. Then I bonked. Yet I felt fine at the end.

The target race was the 2007 Rocket City Marathon. It was there I first met Jeff Galloway, as he was speaking at the pre-race pasta party (photo courtesy of Darrell’s Celebrity Photos, Inc). During his remarks, he casually mentioned he was going to start the race at a 1/1 ratio and perhaps increase that along the way, as weather and fitness allowed. I dismissed his comments as fluff.

Why? Well, shoot, I had read all his stuff, and from his target times, I convinced myself I could do a 4:15 and, boy, was I primed. And it worked…well at least for 16 miles it worked. My 9/1 run/walk target ate me alive on that hot and humid day and the last 4 miles were a real death march.

Contrast my experience that day to Jeff’s. Reviewing the race results, I went across the half-marathon mat at 2:07:33, a full 13.5 minutes ahead of Galloway’s 2:21:05. But, somewhere around mile 17, I recall hearing a bunch of light-hearted chatter amongst runners gaining on me as I sunk into the sludge of fatigue. Sure enough, it was Jeff and his merry band of followers, looking quite fresh. I looked at Jeff as he passed me and said to him “OK, now I believe you.” He simply grinned, as if to say he’d heard that sentiment many times before. He finished in 4:45:53, nearly 10 minutes ahead of me. And I suspect he felt pretty good at the end, unlike the nausea and trembles I had.

Both long-time readers of this blog then suffered through several months of my self-flagellation following the race. Not only was my ego damaged, but my knee acted up again…not ITB this time, but some sub-patellar inflammation. I strongly suspect dehydration had a major factor in that knee problem. So, back to basics for the spring. Less aggressive R/W ratios, shorter races and some relaxation. More emphasis on hydrating well during training. Galloway also suggested runners over age 40 run only every other day.

So I further modified my training pattern. It worked for shorter races. Five half-marathons in 9 weeks went well; four of the five with negative splits and each beat my target times for the race.

Then, the 6 hour trail run in July; I went very conservative, with a 2/1 ratio, plus walking up the hills on a warm, muggy day in the Indiana woods. 27.5 miles and no Wall in sight. Amazing.
My summary assessment of Galloway's method so far is it seems to work. Something about the change of muscle use during a run, from running to walking, seems to allow rest or change that avoids damage. I do most of my shorter runs at a 6/1 ratio; long training runs I back off to 5/1 or 3/1. All of that works. I don't fully understand why, but I can sense it, both as I run and after I run.
What I have not seen as working is Galloway's time prediction methods. I've worked through it and it always predicts I'll run a race a lot faster than I can. I'm not sure what to think about that. Yet, since speed is not a big issue to me, this issue is less of a problem. The big plus is simple; no injuries all this year; each race has been enjoyable; negative splits are a rush.

So, this brings us to my fall series, with three marathons in fairly close succession. Will all of this focus on injury-free training work out at the longer distance?? I truly don’t know. So stay with me as we see what this two-year-long experiment brings about.

The plan for the Air Force Marathon this Saturday is simple; run a 3/1 and stay with it throughout. Carry my own fluids and sip on every walk break. Eat two Clif Bars during the race. The weather forecast right now is helpful, though far from perfect. Start temps in the mid 50s, heading to the low 70s by the end. Can I carry it to the end??

Thanks for listening; that in itself takes real perseverance.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

A Busy Fall and Not Just with the Marathons

ORN: 12.4 miles, 2:04:30, R6/W1, 10:03/mile

It’s gonna be a busy fall, so much so it makes my head spin a bit. Here’s the rundown.

Today was the last long-ish run before the USAF Marathon. I looped through the Purdue campus again. The first home football game of the year had a noon kickoff, so the campus was quite alive. The route gave me one lap around the Purdue Band, formed up, getting ready to perform. The drum cadence and brass sound from a 300-person Big Ten marching band is pulse pounding.

The Marathon is on September 20. I’m really looking forward to it. I settled on the plan for that race this week, thanks to some long email discussions with my nephew John. I’ll run a 3/1 run/walk ratio, seeking to carry that through the entire race. I’ll make the decision on pace at the last minute, depending on weather. The aim of three marathons this fall, though, is to educate myself on just how to finish a marathon. I do not yet understand that fact.

Four weeks later, I run the Indianapolis Marathon on October 18. A fall-foliage spectacular with segments through a state park on the outskirts of Indy, it presents a hilly final 3 miles which will be a further challenge. I ran it last year; can I improve this year? How will it finish?

Seven weeks after that, it is the St. Jude Hospital Marathon in Memphis. With hopefully very cool temperatures on December 6, I will see if I can apply what I’ve learned during the fall.

Just for grins, there’s another “event” this fall which really adds to the busy-ness. On September 30, Gretchen and I leave for 11 days in Italy on vacation! My three sisters and I, along with our spouses, will spend a week together at a rented place 90 minutes west of Florence, just 18 km north of Pisa, the city associated with the word “Leaning.” October in central Italy should be awesome. We can’t wait. I’ll be recovering from USAFM. The Indy marathon is only 6 days after we get off the plane in return. My thinking is I just get in some semi-regular runs in Italy and it will have to be OK.

Yeah, it’ll be hectic. Blogging and commenting may be sporadic. But, man, does it sound like fun.

And we’ll persevere right through all the craziness.