Category Archives: Running

A Run with Zozi Guru Dean Karnazes and Awesome Lessons Learned

Two Saturdays ago, I had the awesome opportunity to do a run with Dean Karnazes who is part of the Zozi Guru program.

The day was beautiful and the run was out in Big Sur. We ran through groves of poison oak which was not fun, but the day was sunny and not cold and more than made up for stressing about whether or not I was going to get a ton of itchy blisters.
I’ve been following his exploits ever since he wrote Ultramarathon Man which is a great read. Since then, he’s been an inspiration to me as an Ironman triathlete and marathoner. Endurance events take a certain mindset; some people can’t enjoy the long hours on the road but you gotta be able to last to the end. Somehow, I’ve come to enjoy the long hours out on my bike, or running on the road. After I fixed most of my running issues, I too have come to just love running for the sake of running.
Thus, it was a real treat to run with him and hear some of his philosophies on running and on life. Here were some of the stand outs:
Technology is Great for Kids Especially in Keeping in Touch
Dean recounted a conversation with his wife on whether or not to give their kids mobile phones at such an early age. His wife was skeptical, but he prevailed. Later, he travelled away to race and after the long race, he texted a picture of himself at the finish line and his kids responded within seconds! Since then, his wife became a believer. Since Dean spends a lot of time away from home, technology has helped keep in touch with his family no matter where he is.
Overspend on Bringing Family to Races, Make it Something to Look Forward To, Not Dread
Dean likes to make each race he attends a major event for his family. Since he does so many of them and sometimes they are in very remote places, he overspends on them to make them extra special. In this way, he makes his races something his family looks forward to, rather than avoiding because they aren’t fun to go to.
Training Distance is Very Individual
I asked Dean about typical training programs for ultramarathoning. I noted that some of them I found on the internet ran never over marathon distance. Was that enough to complete a 100 mile race? He told me that in his travels, he has met some great runners who only train up to marathon distance, and some that train nearly up to the distance of the race itself. He is of the opinion that some can race well by training only marathon distance, but some need to train longer distances. It is very individual and the only way to find out is to try it yourself.
Runs with High Leg Turnover
This is consistent with current run form teachings – higher turnover prevents overstriding and is less stressful on the legs.
For Downhill He Uses Wider Stance
This is something I discovered myself. When I go downhill, I take a wider stance and run down hills almost crab-like. This was in reaction to the fact that I sprained both ankles, one after another about 2-3 months apart when I trained for the Honolulu Marathon (and didn’t run because of it). I attributed to the fact that my feet were too close together and as a result, when I caught the edge of my running shoe, it caused a sprain. With my feet further apart, this was much less likely to happen. It is also more stable when you are moving fast downhill.
I am glad he tells me he does this too.
Balance in Life is Overrated
I found this to be the best comment of all.
He mentioned that he would go run a marathon nearly every day out of joy and for training. But then he pointed out he had kids, a wife, and a full time job – not to mention travelling and doing speaking gigs. We then wondered – how the heck does he find time to run a marathon every day?
That’s when he gave us the secret. Yep. Balance in life is overrated, especially when you love what you’re doing. Just suck it up and do it all.
Love it.

Barefoot Running: The Beginning

OK so I’m a believer and now I’m going to give it a try. For the last 4 weeks, I started barefoot running, or more accurately running in Vibram FiveFingers. My favorite is the Sprint but it doesn’t look like they make those any more since they are not on the Vibram site – they may have been replaced by the Seeya.
The Sprints are great because they are easy to get my feet into and have the strap across the instep to give a little assurance that they do not fly off when I run. Otherwise, I would have bought the Classics. Well, we’ll see when I have to buy new ones…
So I chose to start out REAL slow. I went out running 10 minutes only, with 30 seconds running and 30 seconds walking. I did this only twice a week. It was definitely enough to start – I was already having minor adaptation issues.
My sports medicine guy and I have been talking about the potential adaptation issues that may come up when starting barefoot running. Of course I began to exhibit some of those issues.
The arch of my foot began to be sore intermittently. My flexor hallucis longus (click on the little 15) was very tight on and off, starting from my foot arch, running around my ankle, and up the back of my lower leg up and into the calf.
My sports medicine guy and I talked about springs. Recent research is starting to show that we store a lot of energy in our muscles and utilize it to help us move when we release that energy. When we run barefoot, we want to run on the balls of our feet. This makes our arch structures work harder, harder than they are used to because we’ve been walking in shoes for decades. Plus, we’ve probably been heel striking so much and our nervous systems for walking have totally wasted away. So I’ve been waking the nervous system up in my feet and legs, to get them slowly to adjust to running barefoot. But during that adaptation process, it can mean tight and sore muscles. And if I ran too much too soon, then it could mean all sorts of problems that could take weeks or months to recover from.
I read The Barefoot Running Book First Edition: A Practical Guide to the Art and Science of Barefoot and Minimalist Shoe Running by Jason Robillard which had some great advice on how to start out. But I chose to start out even slower than that. But also, they advised staying as relaxed as possible.
After 4 weeks I’ve managed to get to 15 minutes of running, with 1 minute of running and then 30 seconds of walking. When I ran, I focused on relaxing to the max. I ran with my feet just gliding over the road, with each step I made sure I placed my feet gently down to the ground to minimize contact forces as much as possible. I made sure my legs were moving exactly the way I wanted them to.
Every week I see my sports medicine guy who works my muscles with ART and Graston technique. He gets my tight muscles to release and make sure they are loose and functional again. My enemy is the buildup of this tightness with no release, which will surely cause problems later. When I cannot see him, I hit my muscles with rollers and my own Graston-like tools.
After only 4 weeks, I feel that I am just gliding fast across the road. No more stomping, or relying on the cushion of my running shoes to compensate for muscles which refuse to absorb shock any more. In fact, I feel that my stride has improved a lot when I do not run in shoes, meaning the path that my legs move through when I run.
I will report back after a few more weeks of this. I hope to be running upwards of 1 to 1.5 hours by the end of the year, and also hitting the track for sprinting as well.

LA Marathon 2012: Rookie Mistakes, Nervous System Fail, Semi-Retirement

Well it’s been almost a week since I ran the LA Marathon last Sunday. Last year, I ran it in a rainstorm and nearly went hypothermic (see LA Marathon Race Report 3-20-11: Misery Redefined. I had hoped to redeem myself this year but it was not redemption I got.
The forecast was for rain again and my brain just sulked at the prospect of running it yet again in cold rain. Saturday before the race, the rain came down midday and I looked out the window at cloudy, wet skies and really was not psyched to run at all. If I had woken up to rain race morning, I was determined to just stay home and quit.
Here was my first rookie mistake: how can you run a race when you’ve already psyched yourself out before it even started?
Training before the race had not progressed well. About 2 months before, I was doing some Turkish Get-Ups with kettlebells and managed to strain some muscles in/around my left quad at the knee. This set off a chain reaction in my nervous system where if it started to get sore, my fascia would clamp down on my knee – first my left, and then a complementary reaction in my right knee. I never let the strained muscle heal completely; my time was short to the race and had little time to take off. So I trained through it. However, it was exacerbated by the fact that I added weekly mileage too fast. Normally I would add about 15 minutes each week. During this build, I decided to just add about 25-35 minutes each week. Looking back, I’m sure that this build was too much for my strained muscle and it kept bothering me, creating tension that would arise in response to high stress during the latter part of my long runs.
Second rookie mistake: Adding too much mileage during the training build.
This all caused my nervous system to flare up. By the time race week came, my quads were in a perpetual state of flex. Never felt anything like it. I did no running at all in the last week just to let them calm down. They finally came down to some semblance of relaxation before the race, but they needed a full detraining to reset them from flexing too much in response to race stress.
Add to that the fact that I wasn’t sleeping well in the weeks before all added up to a heightened nervous system that always ready to go, but never let me calm down enough to recover. There was also stress in finding time to run 3 hours; winter training meant reduced day time hours, as did responsibilities with my family. I managed three 18 milers but I usually like to do at least one 20+ miler, if not two, before a marathon.
Heading into Sunday morning, I woke up at 330am, wishing that it was raining so I could just call it quits. But the roads were dry so I got myself up and prepped, and drove out to catch the bus to the start.
The race itself was not very eventful in memory. I was not psyched to start, so I went out easy although I hit the half way mark past 1:50 so I was on pace for a sub-4 hour finish.
As for the rain, it turned out to be a nice sunny but cool day with whipping winds but thankfully no rain at all. I was very happy to be wearing a cool waterproof running jacket by REI called the REI Airflyte Running Jacket with eVent Fabric. Although it was not raining, the jacket was very breathable and it cut the wind amazingly well.
The sub-4 hour time was not to be. My nervous system acted up at around mile 16 when muscles around my right knee started tightening up. This lead to successive tightening up and down the kinetic chain, into the anterior tibialis and up my inner quad up to my hip. There was also stiffness and pain in my right foot arch and around the inner ankle bone.
The tightness in my right leg soon caused a reaction in my left leg in nearly the same places although not as worse. Soon it became painful to even move my right leg in running form; I had to stop and walk every few steps to calm it down. Then I would run and it would tighten up again. I tried to find some movement pattern where it would not flare up in tightness and pain and tried to vary it in little ways, but to no avail. This went on all the way to the finish line where I finished in my worst marathon in years at 4:46.
Well, no such luck with redemption. But it’s OK. I resolved to semi-retire after this race in any case. Having kids and being back in the work force just made long runs too hard to manage. I already gave up on triathlons and Ironmans, and now I’m passing on marathons and focusing on my swimming and half marathons, Total Immersion swim coaching, and my strength building work. Time for new challenges and phases in life….

Deadlifting for Faster Running Update

Back in April of last year, I wrote a post on Deadlifting for Faster Running. A reader commented and asked:
10 months on, how have you progressed?
It has been an interesting 10 months for sure! After the LA Marathon 2011, I found time to concentrate on weightlifting and to try out which has worked pretty well. I had to back off ASRspeed and lifting when I managed to get into the NYC Marathon 2011. I raced that and then got back onto ASRspeed and strength development.
I started with a measly deadlift max of 175 lbs and now I’m at 215 lbs. My goal is 2x my body weight which makes my goal 290 lbs for 2 reps. In reading a lot of strength books like Easy Strength by Pavel and Dan John, I have found that if you can deadlift 2x your body weight, then you’re a decent athlete. OK so now I have a goal. Still, I wasn’t a very strong kid and never had any real strength training – only bodybuilding which didn’t do diddly for my ability to generate power for things like running.
In other strength metrics, I regularly practice jumping up to an 18″ plyo bench. Still not too impressive, but for a skinny guy like me it’s pretty good.
The real measure of success was my running. I used the 200m distance as a measure of sprinting speed.
When I started running 200m for time, I did it in 45 seconds.
I then altered my running form which was to adjust my body lean to get my center of gravity forward of my legs. This magically dropped my speed to 39-40 seconds in one session.
Subsequent strength work and using the ASRspeed protocol then slashed my 200m time to 34-36 seconds where it stands now – and that’s even after running 800s in between the 200s in a structured workout.
I am gratified that Barry Ross’s theories have proven true for myself. In the past, I have dabbled in weightlifting for triathlon but was going about it all wrong.
I hope to see even more improvement in speed as I approach my goal of 2x my body weight in the deadlift.

Eliminating Gluteal Amnesia

I’ve pretty much come to the realization that gluteal amnesia has been a major cause of leg problems during my running and cycling.
All we have done all our lives is just sit around. Surely that is what I have done up to now. I sat in class, I sat to study, I sat in front of a TV, I sat in my office in front of a computer for countless hours. And all that resulted in my glutes forgetting how to fire. The fact that my glutes are not participating in any of the kinetic chains related to running or cycling means other muscles are overworked, get injured faster, cramp up during a race, and a host other problems.
By reactivating the glutes, the whole kinetic chain of muscles works more efficiently and better, being more resistant and tolerant of heavy and long efforts. By the way, you’ll also run/cycle faster too; isn’t that our real end goal?
To combat this, I started on a program of getting my glutes to activate in the kinetic chain again. Here are the things I’ve done:
1. First, I learned how to Hip Hinge. Hip Hinging is critical for performing the exercises that will activate the glutes. If you can’t Hip Hinge, any potential exercises you would do for glute activation endanger your spine and back so make sure you learn how to do this.
Prevention of proper Hip Hinging can be the result of a nervous system which is unused to letting the hips hinge like that, and tight and/or weak muscles in and around the hips. It is possible that a program of stretching and physical therapy is required to help speed the muscles and nervous system to allowing this movement to happen.
I managed to figure this out on my own, but there are a number of exercises to help pattern the movement. Here is a good one:

I practice Hip Hinging whenever I can, especially if I am squatting down like when I’m playing with my kid. Or if I’m reaching down for something on the ground. Or going from standing to sitting. I make sure that my hips are hinging correctly in any kind of squatting type movement.
2. I then had to learn how to flex and tighten my glutes. Pavel describes this as “closing off the sphincter.” It’s not a bad way to start learning, but ultimately the glutes are to the side of the sphincter but you can start figuring out what nerves to fire in order to flex the glutes. I practiced flexing both at the same time, and also each one side separately.
3. Next come exercises to engage and activate the glutes, whereas previously they were completely inactive and other muscles were taking up the load. The core exercises I use, in terms of movement, are the deadlift, Bulgarian single leg deadlift, and the Romanian single leg deadlift.
It would be highly advisable to rehearse the movements with only body weight before you try extra weights like dumbbells, kettlebells or barbells. Go to a gym and perform the movements in front of a mirror multiple times. Make sure your form is perfect each time. Then once you have some mastery of the form, then you can move on to using weights.
If you don’t rehearse the movements with body weight only, you could really hurt yourself. This is what happened to me when I tried to find my 1 Rep Maximum in deadlift and didn’t have proper form nailed down. The moment I stopped and found help was the day after I hit a max and my back was bending down due to the heavy weight, and my back was very sore for 2 days afterwards. This was completely avoidable. I could have really messed something up badly in my back.
This is why I mention this now before I list some demonstration videos of the deadlift, Bulgarian single leg deadlift, and the Romanian single leg deadlift which all show weights being used. But read onwards to see how each one is done, and practice them without weights first, and master the form before adding weights.
4. After I get the hang of Hip Hinging, then I started into deadlifting via Tim Ferriss’s 4 Hour Body, Pavel Tsatsouline’s Power to the People, and Barry Ross’s Underground Secrets for Faster Running. My blog posts on this subject are: Deadlifting for Faster Running and I also give a description of deadlift form in Deadlifting is HARD (and Dangerous). A great video on form is here:

The key here is to squeeze your glutes at the top of the lift. This really helps the body learn how to engage them during the lift. Later, you can attempt to maintain flexure of the glutes all the way from the bottom of the lift to the top. If you can do that, your glutes are on their way to be activated.
5. I also started doing some single leg exercises to isolate the glutes on each side. The first is the Bulgarian single leg deadlift. Check this video out:

Key point again is to squeeze the glute at the top of the movement, a bit awkward with this exercise, but still doable. Also, there is a temptation to flex the quads in an attempt to get up. Resist this and focus on the glutes instead. You will be amazed that you can get up by using more glutes, and without doing what feels more natural which is to use your quads.
This is also a great balance exercise, so do each movement deliberately and slowly so that you don’t lose your balance and tip to either side.
Start with no weights, practice/master the form, then try very low weights, like 10-20 lbs and move up from there. A lot of people like to use 2 dumbbells, one in each hand. I like to use one dumbbell, held by the hand that is opposite the leg that is forward. This provides a bit more stability challenge to the core and body which I like.
I started with only 4 reps with body weight each side and my glutes were sore the day after! So start with low reps and body weight, do only one set on each side to start and then move up from there.
6. The second glute isolation is the Romanian single leg deadlift. Check this video out:

The person in the video is using two dumbbells which you can graduate to after you practice and master form without weights. Once again, I like using one dumbbell for more of a balance/stability challenge, the dumbbell held by the hand opposite the leg that is placed on the ground.
Key points are, keep that slight curve in the back and do not let it curl forward – very bad! You can bend the knee of the leg that is on the ground. Watch your balance, use your leg behind you to help counterbalance your body going forward. Maintain focus on your glutes during this movement.
Again, I started only with 4 reps with body weight on each side. Start low and move from there. Always maintain strict form; fatigue is the enemy of form! If your form falters due to concentration/focus or fatigue, stop immediately and take a break.
The bigger brother to the Romanian single leg deadlift is using a barbell with both legs on the ground, bending down with the bar and then standing straight up while keeping both legs in a slightly bent, braced position. I would recommend mastering the dumbbell version first and on one leg before attempting this one. This move is much more advanced and requires more mastery of bracing your upper body and back against the stress of a heavy barbell held with both hands. I do not think it is necessary, however, in a program to help runners or cyclists. The single leg deadlift is more than adequate.
7. This one is really tough but awesome. It’s the Natural Glute Ham Raise. Check this video out:

This move is REALLY HARD. The first time I tried it I could not even lift my nose off the ground at all! If you try from the high position and lower yourself down, you’ll end up face planting for sure. To do this move requires not only strength, but also activation of a chain of muscles down your back, glutes, and hamstrings that you’ve probably never ever used before. But as Barry Ross says, people with strong hamstrings never ever get injured during running. So this is worth aspiring to. For a better process to mastering this move, see this video which shows the Assisted Glute Ham Raise using a pole or lat pulldown bar:

Much safer to start with as you won’t faceplant and embarass yourself in the gym!
8. I’m not in love with other movements on the ground but you can try them and see if they work for you. I’ve tried these:
Bridge Exercise
Quadruped Hip Extension
Single Leg Bridge Exercise
I haven’t found them to be as effective as the deadlifts and glute ham raises. Nowadays I mainly use them when I’m travelling or not at a gym, or just want to switch things up. There are many others that you’ll find if you search on the internet.
9. After you start on a program of glute activation, now you need to integrate this into your daily life or else they’ll just get amnesia again!
First, stop sitting. Stand or squat if possible. Hard for sedentary workers, but do what you can. Sitting is the enemy of activated glutes.
Second, whenever you squat or bend down, practice your hip hinging. When you bend or stand back up, focus on the glutes as you come up. Resist flexing the quads to get up. Keep activating those glutes!
So far so good. I’ve been doing all this since about March this year and things are looking up. My speed on the low end is climbing, and I think the glute’s contribution to the kinetic chain is showing in the speed increase as well as less muscle problems.

100 Up for Better Running

Chris McDougall is the author of one of the most awesome running books ever, “Born to Run”. I’m a big propenent of running on the forefoot and I’m trying to perfect my running mechanics to make myself run injury free and also with maximum efficiency. This simple exercise/drill called the 100 Up helps with training your nervous system and muscles to run with more efficient and injury proof form.

I’m going to start to incorporate this simple exercise/drill into my weekly routine.

NYC Marathon 2011 11-6-11 Race Report

This is a bit late but finally getting to this!
To recap, the build to this NYC Marathon was only about 2 months. Very short, but I got there without too many problems in my muscles.
NYC was very chilly, although there was a warming trend. The morning of the marathon was still very chilly – 42 degrees or so! I got out there early as usual. Nearing the start of the race, I of course butted my way up as far to the front of the line as I could get. But with 45,000+ people racing, I realized that the field was going to be full no matter where I would be – there was just too many people.
Everything was going great until I hit mile 18.5. Here is a screen shot of my pacing from my Garmin 305 watch.

I was at a very fast pace, just racing by perceived effort to the edge of my threshold pace. But as my pacing showed, and what I remembered from the feeling in my legs which were getting tighter and tighter, I was slowing down bit by bit.
I did manage to hit mile 13 at 1:43, or about 1:42 at my chip time. This was on pace for a sub-3:30 finish, assuming I could hold that. But of course I could not.
At about mile 18.5, I cramped which ruined my day. You can see the HR drop on these graphs, along with my pace.

After that, it was a constant cycle of walk about 2-3 minutes until the cramp spasm goes away, and then run until the cramp started again.
I still managed a 4:02 chip time but it wrecked my 3:30 goal time.
Observations and learnings:
1. It is possible for me to build to marathon fitness in only 2 months. It verifies my previous coach’s teachings, which is that you can build to endurance racing fitness by ramping volume only in the last few months of training, rather than maintaining a volume program for longer periods of time.
I would not recommend this to beginning marathoners. I think there are many variables that make it possible for me to have built successfully to marathon fitness in so short of time, not the least of which that I have now many years of endurance racing under my belt.
I signed up for the LA Marathon 2012 in March next year. I hope to build, starting Jan 1 so I’ll have about 2.75 months to build to that race. This is still not the typical 4 months or more that I usually like to have to build to a marathon, but having done so with NYC I feel confident that I can do it again.
2. The cramping problem is one that I have faced for many years. At the NYC Marathon, the day was relatively cool so temperature was probably not the factor in making me sweat too much and lose too many electrolytes. I also was taking electrolyte pills, about 1-2 per hour. My best guess is that I did not have enough strength to maintain my level of effort over the full 26.2 miles.
To remedy this, I am back on my Russian strength building program and hope to be deadlifting over 200 lbs by the time Jan 1 rolls around. I need to be stronger at a 3:30 pace or else I will risk cramping again.
I am back on my ASR Speed program and will be working on my speed, as well as strength building, until the new year. Then I hope to use a fast build to the LA Marathon, like the one I used for the NYC Marathon.

The 2 Month Build to NYC Marathon 2011

A little under 2 months ago, I posted that I got into the NYC Marathon and was going to attempt to get from zero fitness to marathon fitness in about half the time I would normally allocate to this kind of race.
To recap, on my long run, I planned on building 15 minutes each week starting with one hour but given the 2 months, I could not allocate any weeks for recovery, as per a standard periodization training plan (ie. 2-3 weeks of heavy training, followed by a week of less heavy training to recover, then repeat). So I kept building 15 minutes per week and let the time in between the long runs be more variable as I adjusted for the weeks where I may feel the need to rest more.
Within the week between long runs, I would run a treadmill neuromuscular workout and then a track workout. The treadmill workout would typically be no more than 20 minutes and only functioned to help condition my nervous system to move my legs at faster speeds. These fast speed intervals were no more than 20-30 seconds, and I managed to raise that up to 4 or so intervals at 12-13 MPH, with about a minute rest in between.
The track workouts started with 400m repeats until I got to 8. Then I started on a simple 800m progression which began with 4, and I got up to 6. By this time, there were only 3 weeks left before the marathon and I began doing mile repeats of about 4 times, with about 3-4 minutes of rest in between. Remarkably, I managed to PR on both 400s (1:21), 800s (3:01), and also my mile repeats (6:46).
I find that traditional notions of fitness do not explain thoroughly enough for me of my new PRs in speed. However, I do attribute it to two new things I started this year: the ASRSpeed program and Russian strength training techniques.
Quite frankly, I’m a weakling. I do not have real strength in my legs to withstand the constant activity of running. I may have muscle, but I did not have the ability to activate the strength inherent in them, which is a function of activated muscle tissue and the nervous system. Regular training does not give enough focus to these two areas. After improving my strength and nervous system via fast run training and deadlifting, I am pretty sure this is why I am running faster now as I build towards the marathon.
But when I began the build, I only weightlifted once a week, as opposed to twice a week before. Although the strength training program was supposed to not wipe out my body as traditional bodybuilding might, I still found that strength training often could mean a tough run day the day after lifting. So I chose to just lift one day for maintainance and slow strength build while I focused on running.
I did go to ART every week as long as I was in town. This was to relieve the muscle adhesions that would form from my fast build to the marathon. I also used my TPMassage Roller twice a day. It was important that I did not let my muscles get too tight due to the fast build or else I could really get injured and I could not afford any time off.
For crosstraining, I swim every day in between running. This both helps me recover between runs, and also supports the run training through stimulation of my metabolic system.
So far so good, my body is holding up. I have only 1.5 weeks until the marathon. This week, I am gauging my recovery from my last long run of 21 miles last Friday. If I feel good enough, I may attempt another 21 miler, or if I am not recovering fast enough, then I’ll do 18 miles and then have a week long taper. I don’t want to arrive on race day with tight legs but am trying to maximize my training and allow enough time to recover fully for a good race. This will be an interesting experiment – normal dogma says that a two week taper is preferred for a marathon, but there are those who are pushing their training up to the limit, gaining training benefit from it, AND still can arrive on race day fresh enough to do well.
We will see…

NYC Marathon 2011: Two Month Build from Zero to Race

Right before Labor Day, I got word that there was an entry available to the NYC Marathon. Of course I jumped on it and now I’m entered. The only hitch was…I had only two months to prepare for the race!
Normally, I like at least 4 months to prepare for a marathon. It gives me plenty of time to build, and also use periodization to rest between 3 week build blocks (I use 3 weeks, the usual number is 4 weeks; this is 2 weeks of heavy work and then followed by 1 week of lighter effort to recover). I also like to spend more time at longer distances/longer times (ie. 18-20 miles) building my tolerance to maintain tempo speeds.
But this time, I have only two months to get to marathon shape! The last marathon I ran was back in April: the LA Marathon. But since then, I have not run distance but focused on strength building with deadlifting (see Deadlifting is HARD (and Dangerous)), short distance speed ( Ultimate Speed Training), and swimming as I am going for Total Immersion coach certification soon.
Looking at the calendar, I planned out my next 2 months. For my long run, I knew from past experience that I could build about 15 min/week relatively safely. If I could get up to 3 hours of running at least once, preferably twice, I knew at least I could finish the race.
Thankfully, the calendar looks like there are enough weeks to start at 1 hour for my long run and then building each week by 15 min and then right before the marathon, I should have time for 2 weeks of 3 hour runs. However, I would get no rest via normal periodization training blocks. Thus, I would have to be careful in my build.
Next, I would need to build up my anaerobic speed capacity at the low end. These would fill out the other 2 workouts of the week. One would be a neuromuscular workout on the treadmill, focused on training my nervous system to move my legs as fast as possible. The second would be a track workout, starting gingerly with 400s and hopefully moving to 800s and then a few mile repeats by race day.
For injury prevention during this build, I planned to use my TPMassageBall QuadRoller at least once, preferably twice a day to keep my calves and flexor halicus pliable and not tight. Those muscles seem to get tight very easily and I must make sure they do not get too tight for too long. Otherwise, that might wreck a training week and I don’t have time for that. To help further, I am making sure I take Sportlegs supplements and Acid Zappers to keep lactic acid from collecting in my legs and causing further tightness and soreness.
I would continue my deadlift/bench press/weight lifting but drop that back to once a week and maintain my strength.
As of this week, I have run up to 1:45 and things seem OK. I am running conservatively out and then pick it up for a gentle negative split on the way back.
It was painful running 400s. The first day I tried to run 10×400 but ended up only running two laps, even if those my fastest ever 400s. The next week was much better, running 8×400 at slightly slower, but still faster than my fastest, 400s. The speed increase here was definitely gratifing. However, my “stirrup” muscle chain, running from the inside of my left lower leg around the bottom of my foot and back along the outside of my lower leg, was very sore. I had to give time to let that recover.
It will be interesting to see how fast I race NYC marathon on only a two month build. I hope that my LA marathon fitness comes back, and that all my swimming and weight training has paid off. Ultimate Speed Training

Once again, the book Four Hour Body by Tim Ferriss has me trying one more new thing!
For the last few months, I’ve been working on my strength through Russian techniques (see Deadlifting is HARD (and Dangerous) and Deadlifting for Faster Running). I’ve seen some definite increases in my track workouts, having dropped from 39 seconds to 37 seconds for a 200m run (that after dropping my time from 45 to 39 seconds simply by altering my form and in addition to my normal weekly treadmill neuromuscular speed training).
But having no real race goal in the foreseeable future, I cracked open my copy of Four Hour Body and engaged with, the automated website training program built by Barry Ross using some breakthrough research from Rice University (see High-speed running performance: a new approach to assessment and prediction by Matthew W. Bundle, Reed W. Hoyt, and Peter G. Weyand) which is able to predict the final distance/time or time/distance of a runner from a few meters to a run of about 4 minutes. Then using this algorithm, Barry Ross and his colleague, Ken Jakalski, created a training system which removes two old ways of training:
1. Workouts of set distances and set number of repeats.
They cite the problem here is that a runner is always holding back in order to make sure they make the requisite number of repeats, and therefore, never trains at his maximum potential.
2. Running overdistance.
Running overdistance makes runners too tired and reduces top speed by its very nature to improve the energy system.
They and the researchers at Rice University figured out that for maximum speed, you don’t want to train the energy system but rather you want to train the muscles which the energy system fuels and reduce their rate of fatigue.
You first run a time trial. Then the website takes that data and returns workouts for you to perform. The workouts are in the form of distance and a goal time. You are NOT given a set number of repeats to run; instead you run full out each time until you can’t achieve the goal time, at which time you stop. If you hit 10 repeats and are still under the goal time, you stop. The website then makes you retest the time trial – in theory, you should be faster this time!
Without any races on the horizon, I decided to give this a go. In theory, if I get faster at short distance, this should make me faster at long distance as well. Also, it would be a complement to my strength building program from the same Barry Ross.
To prep for this, I got some blue masking tape to tape lines on a track. I also bought a Ultrak 495 100 Lap Memory Professional Stopwatch (using a wristwatch timer is OK but not ideal due to button position and pressing them on a full sprint).
Then I also bought a CST – MeasureMark 31-10M Single 4-Inch ABS Plastic Wheel Measuring Wheel in Meters/Decimeters to measure out the workout distances given by the website. You need this because the workout distances are not standard distances of any sort. Plus, I could never figure out track markings no matter what.
It also helps to bring some objects that you can drop on the ground to mark distances before you tape. I actually found some discarded pieces of flat plastic that worked great. Sometimes I end up just using the plastic and not taping the track ground.
I went to the website for my first workout, which was to run the time trial. This was 3 repeats of a 10m run, with a 25m fly-in (headstart, so that you are at full speed when you hit the start of the 10m). The second time trial was a 300m run, with 5m fly-in.
For the 10m run, my times were: 1.42s, 1.50s, and 1.49s for an average of 1.47s. My 300m time was 53.9s. I entered these into the website and then got another workout. The next workout I did the following day as I was not sure about taking days off or frequency of workouts per week. (The workouts seemed short enough that I could potentially run every day or nearly so – well this proved to be false.)
This workout was 40m repeats with a goal time of 6.30s, and rest interval of 4 minutes, and as many as I could before I could not hit the goal time. I used a fly-in of 25m although the website didn’t specify exactly how much. My times were:

Repeat Time (sec)
1 6.04
2 6.10
3 6.10
4 6.10
5 6.08
6 6.14
7 5.80
8 6.05
9 6.00
10 6.02

I was under the target time by about .3s and was able to do this 10 times. So I called it quits and came back to enter the info into the website, at which time it asked me to run the time trial again.
One thing I found out was that this is more stressful on my body than I thought. Even though I had a whopping 4 minute rest interval which allowed almost full recovery, the hours after and certainly the day after left me sore. Full-on sprinting was a new stress on my body and while I tried to do my best at maintaining a soft but rapid footfall, it was still enough to make me more sore than I thought.
I think that I will adapt to this workout, but I don’t think that I could do this every day. I think my starting workout week will be ASRSpeed workouts twice a week, and then a 1 hour run added in. In the past, I have found that without at least one 1 hour run per week, it caused my overall fitness to drop where my track workouts were hard to make gains week over week. I will intersperse this with my strength training regimen, which is talked about on the website but gives no details, and my swimming.
More on this later as the months progress – I had entered my goal race as a 400m and my previously my fastest recorded 400m time was 1:27. I am hoping that this training program added to my strength training will improve that time, as well as my marathon times.