Thursday, April 15, 2010

Please Allow Me To Geek Out With Running Talk...

Since I'm winding down the days before the marathon I thought I would bring in a special guest blogger--a "spglogger," if you will. I'm going to turn this over to my running pal Charlie Neuenschwander to discuss the upcoming week and running in general.

What's your history with running? How and why did you get started?

I started running while in college. At the time, I was taking time off of bike racing (cycling) to compensate for more difficult classes my last two years. When I started noticing my fitness taking a nose dive, I started jogging because it was easy and convenient. It's much easier to throw on shoes for a 30 minute run than lugging a bike and all the clothes around for rides. I ended up really enjoying running, so I simply stuck with it.

I know this last year has not been smooth sailing for you. Talk to me about injuries and coming back from them.

In January of 2009 I ran my first ultramarathon, a 50k (31 mile) trail run put on as a New Year's run by a local ultrarunner. My training leading up to it was less than par for such an event and in the weeks post ultra, I showed symptoms of a stress fracture in my right shin. I took several weeks off (mostly all of Feb) and started running again in March. My naive mind thought I could run the Memorial Marathon with only 8 weeks of prep, which I did and improved my inagural marathon year by about 18 minutes. However, the second or third week after the marathon I started noticing familiar sensations in my shin, this time on the left leg. This injury was slightly more sinister than the last, as every time I thought the injury was healed and began running again it would come back. I repeated this several times over the summer and finally kicked it around September. I learned a lot last year about myself and about being patient. Ever since mid September of 09, I've had the marathon on my mind and have basically been training soley for the marathon all this time. I wanted to make sure I had a very good foundation before I started adding the long runs.

This will be your third time to run the Memorial Marathon and I know you're out for a PR (personal record) this year. What have you done differently, as far as training, to pursue that goal?

I think the most obvious aspect when I reflect on my own training is structure. I've never really laid out a "plan." I've always just run a certain distance on any given day based on how I felt. Don't get me wrong, I still run what I run each day based on how all systems are operating, but this year I've laid out a schedule that I can refer to which reminds me, for example, "this week I need to start intervals, four weeks from now I'll do tempo runs." Having a sort of structure like that mapped out on paper that I can visually see, has kept me on track and the marathon hasn't snuck up on me. We are less than two weeks out and this year I'm not saying "oh I should have done more intervals, or tempo runs, etc." But I still don't get too wrapped up in schedules. Last weekend for example, I missed my last long run because my one-year-old son was sick. I am a family man and have a day job and those things come first. I find that if I worry too much about sticking to a schedule, I'll subconciously be putting running before my family and I don't ever want to do that. I can't help the things that happen outside of running and as a result I have to always stay flexible.

I know you're a big fan of trail running. Do you think those trail miles aid in any way with a road marathon?

Absolutely. There is definitley more work involved in trail running versus road running. 30% extra maybe? I don't remember where I read or who wrote the article that compared the two forms of the sport but there is a quantified measurement out there somwhere. Your heart rate is usually higher even at slower paces because of terrain variation with twists, turns, up and down hills. Muscles in your legs that may go unnoticed during a road run will get their own workout on trails. I generally like to run trails every once in a while just to keep the joints and bones in check and have a break from all the repetitive motions that goes with road running. And its a lot more fun!

One thing I've noticed when preparing for an endurance event is how high my grocery bill gets as I'm pretty much always trying to take in enough calories to keep the engine going! What's your strategy as far as nutrition, both in general and during the race itself? Are you a GU man during the race?

I suppose this is where my answer would be expected to be some profoud, inspiring insight but alas, I really don't pay much attention to my diet. I try to keep some obvious points in mind, though, like a diet of burgers five days per week is not going to yield the best physiological results. I try to eat a mixture of good meats like chicken and fish with a steak here and there. Veggies and fruits I eat when I can and I go for fresh over canned produce. Carbs are mostly in the form of breads and pastas. The last few weeks leading up to a large race like a marathon, I'll shy away from refined sugar (sodas, candy), which to me makes a post marathon Dr Pepper a nice treat. Flexibility here as well as the training schedule I feel keeps me well -rounded. I'll have a burger any day of the week (but not twice in the same week) and I'll take my family out for ice cream if they want to go. I decided a long time ago that I wasn't going to make any diet of mine, the diet of the rest of my family. I'm not going to be the stick in the mud that stays home while family or friends are going out for pizza. These are the simple things in life that make life fullfilling and may be indulgences but in moderation really don't have much of an effect on one's running. And yes, I am a GU man during the race, and water. I will try something this year that I've been training with and as the race gets into the longer miles, I'll have my folks (who always come to the race) have a bottle of Pedialyte ready about midway through. Yes, the same stuff they give to dehydrated children. Have you ever read the ingredients list? Low calorie, but full of all the stuff that is essential to keeping the muscles in working order. I'm going to see if it makes a difference on race day.

In my experience of physical activity so far, I am starting to realize that there are some hidden ratios at work, (i.e. weight/power) The one devilish ratio involved in the marathon is speed over distance, or in other words, pace. Some people can run fast for short distances. Some people can run slower for a much longer distance. The ideal marathoner can do both. Is this concept as maddening to you as it is to me?

Honestly, I don't get too worried about numbers. I know this probably sounds a little contradictory of a competitive runner but its true. Yes, I do pay attention to what I am doing in training, and what my numbers are. I know that in prep for a marathon you need to run tempo runs as part of your regimen. These I try to run at my goal pace for the marathon and therefore the numbers are important. But ultimately on race day, there are so many external factors that you have no control over (the Oklahoma wind for example) that I show up to the start line on race day with the attitude that I will simply run the best I can on this particular day. As far as short versus long distances, I believe in well-roundedness. I would rather be average at both than to be a self-proclaimed specialist. I practice this by participating in shorter distance races as well as the longer stuff.

Here's a question I get asked a lot…what is in your head as you're running? Do you find that there is a difference in your thoughts as you're training vs. a race situation?

I really don't know what goes through my head. Some things I remember, most I don't. I've probably cured cancer but I don't know it. My thoughts during a run are kind of like dreams. I come back to conciousness not really knowing what I was thinking but some bits and pieces I can recall. Sometimes my mind starts playing loops of songs or shows, movies, etc. I think it may have to do with a rhythmic pairing to my cadence or something. More recently that I recall, my mind kept playing about a 30 second clip from the movie Apollo 13. My mind just put this scene on a loop and it repeated itself for a long time until I started thinking about something else, like the events of the previous day or what tasks lay ahead. But Apollo 13? I haven't seen that movie in probably a decade! Beats the crap out of me where that came from. But it got me through a tough run.

What are your plans for next week to prepare mind and body for the rigors of going 26.2 miles? Got any rituals or superstitious activities?

I usually have pizza and beer the night before. A bit unorthodox, I'm sure, but the first time I ever ran a marathon was a Sunday morning where I just simply went out and ran 26 miles to see if I could. The night before that glorious adventure I was at Sauced with some friends eating pizza and having a finely crafted beer when I made the proclamation "I'm going to run a marathon tomorrow." A month later, I ran my first "official" marathon at OKC. So, pizza and beer are sort of a personal tradition, but I wouldn't venture so far to call it a superstition or ritual.

Finally, what are your plans beyond the marathon?

I'm sort of treating this year's marathon as a stepping stone to my next goal for the year and that is to run a 50 mile ultra. Assuming I make it through the next week and a half and the marathon without injury, that is the next large thing on the calendar. I'm concurrently participating with a group that is attempting to run 60 hours in 60 days (which is harder than it sounds), and that is a good motivator to not become too comfortable in a recovery period post marathon, especially since we are already about two weeks into the ordeal. I also have plans to do a couple short distance races, a 5k (possible) and for sure a 10k in June. Long term plans are to run a timed ultra in October in which I will run either a 12- or 24- hour event but I haven't decided which one I want to tackle.

Thanks, Charlie and good luck in the race, pal!


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