Three Treadmill Workouts to Boost Your Trail Running Game

I coach a handful of athletes who don’t have access to big hills, especially mid week, but that doesn’t stop them from developing into bad ass trail runners! We work with what we’ve got, which sometimes means treadmill workouts. Like the great coach Jack Daniels said “Don’t waste your time wishing for things you don’t have. Do your best with what you do have.”

The following workouts (depending on how they are executed) can elicit a number of positive adaptions, including: an increase in strength, an increase in power, better uphill efficiency, a higher VO2 max, improved lactate buffering, and extended endurance at a given pace. Work with your coach to modify these workouts based on your current ability and goals.

 

Classic Intervals

 

How it works: Check out the course profile of your upcoming race and determine the average percentage of incline on the prominent climb(s). This will be the percentage you bring your treadmill to during your “on” segments. Warm up with a 20 minute easy jog, then set your treadmill to your estimated race pace for your upcoming event via RPE (Rating of Perceived Exertion) and perform 1 to 5 minute intervals (depending on your experience level, skill level, and the purpose of your workout) 4 to 20 times at your determined incline percentage with equal jogs at zero percent incline in between for recovery. Cool down with a 10 to 20 minute jog.

 

The Yates Hill Fartlek

 

This workout was suggested by one of our athletes; an army veteran and state worker in Washington who was given similar training while serving in the army. It’s become a team favorite!

How it works: Grab a deck of cards. Remove a set (2 of each) cards Ace through Queen. This can be a total of 4 to 24 cards; adjust accordingly based on your experience and skill level. The number on the card coincides with the percentage of the incline you will be running (Ace for 1% Queen for 12%). Warm up for 20 minutes at an easy jog, then set the treadmill to your estimated race pace via RPE. Pull cards at random setting the treadmill to the percentage of incline that coincides with the card you pull. Perform uphill intervals of 30 seconds to 5 minutes (depending on you experience, skill level, and the purpose of your workout) with equal jogs at 0% incline in between for recovery. Cool down with a 10 to 20 minute jog.

Not only is this a great way to elicit the physiological adaptions mentioned in the introduction of this article, but to learn how to adjust psychologically to changing terrain and discomfort on the fly.

 

Classic Uphill Tempo

 

How it works: Look at your upcoming course profile and determine the longest climb(s). Find an average percentage that coincides with that climb. Warm up for 20 minutes with an easy jog before setting your treadmill to your estimated race pace via RPE. Set your treadmill to the percentage associated with your goal race’s climb(s) and adjust the treadmill speed to maintain the RPE associated with your goal race pace. Run uphill for 10 to 30 minutes (depending on your experience, skill level, and the purpose of your workout). Cool down with a 10 to 20 minute easy jog.

 

A lot of trail and ultra runners aren’t fans of the “dreadmill” but the fact of the matter is that it’s an effective item in your tool box that can aid in your success, especially if you’re unable to make it to the trail head daily due to family or career obligations. Executing these simple and effective workouts as one of your quality sessions each week will change the way you attack hills on race day.

Have fun!

Ditch the GPS

GPS is a great tool. I love to use my Garmin for quality workouts where splits matter such as mile repeats on the bike path, marathon pace work, or even for racing Strava segments within the context of on-trail threshold work or race pace simulation. And here at Upper Left Distance Training, we use GPS data integration in your training log to track your runs to the T! This allows me to view your routes, splits, and elevation, which can be very nice for online coaching. But even with all of the benefits, it would do most of us some good to ditch the GPS every now and then.

The problem is that with all of the technology these days, runners are losing their ability to tune into themselves and instead, are relying solely on external feedback such as mile splits and heart rate. While this can be a great tool in certain situations, relying solely on your GPS will limit your potential as an athlete. Our minds (and subsequently our bodies) rely on many cues to regulate our efforts, including our GPS and Heart Rate devices. You will be limited by the feedback from your watch data, so that what you “know” you can achieve will then be based off of the gadgets calculations, instead of your internal data.

I’ve seen this happen in races: “___ is the target heart rate I should be able to maintain for this race.” Great. You’ve just set your bar. Your mind will now act as a governor, not allowing you to break past your self imposed limits. Have you ever seen someone make a kick at the end of an Iron Man before collapsing ? Have you  ever seen someone finish a 100 mile foot race ?  Have you ever heard stories of mothers lifting vehicles off of their children ? Humans are capable of super human feats. That’s a fact that science cannot fully explain. The same holds true, although to a lesser extent, in racing.

Even when using pace per mile to control your easy efforts, we often become reliant on this feedback instead of tuning in to our own bodies. Because of this, athletes will often run too hard in an effort to match up with a pace they’ve been told is their easy pace, when they should instead be listening to their bodies and running even easier for recovery. This is why training by feel can be a far more effective way to train for some athletes. Our bodies are amazing machines and they will provide the feedback we need, we just need to listen. It’s important that you become aware of how you feel at a given effort. The difference between running an 8:30 mile and a 9:30 mile doesn’t matter, so long as the effort was easy and felt easy. The difference between 6:40 pace and 6:30 pace during a threshold run doesn’t matter much, so long as you know what a LT effort feels like.

Past losing touch with ourselves, athletes often get stuck in the data feedback loop with their GPS devices and end up feeling lesser-than by constantly comparing instant external data to their expectations: “This pace is less than what I expected to be able to run”  “I couldn’t run fast enough to get this Strava segment” “My competitors are running faster than me.” “This isn’t enough.” Of course, these are all self imposed expectations that we’re not meeting, but this type of comparison is an unfortunate fact for some athletes who rely too much on technology in training.

The problem too is that when we rely on GPS for every run, we can become stressed by the data: glancing every minute to make sure things are adding up, looking at the split to make sure it was fast enough, wondering why this run felt hard when the GPS and pace calculators tell us it should be easy. This is not conducive to easy, constructive running. We know that stress is stress to the body; it doesn’t differentiate, so why add an extra stressor unnecessarily?  Just as our bodies don’t recognize the arbitrary mileage numbers we’ve given value to in an 7 day period, they don’t always run by the paces in the charts.

It was hard for me to step away from the social validation of Strava, but this is what I’ve been doing for myself recently to reduce that stress:

  1. All easy runs with a stop watch to keep track of time. No GPS.
  2. GPS for any specific pace based workouts (800s, Ks, Mile reps, MP race pace, etc).
  3. GPS with the lap function and pace per mile turned off for tempo and long runs (I then log into Garmin or Strava to see how the splits matched up to how I felt).
  4. At [trail/ultra] races: pace per mile screen disabled. Chrono to keep track of caloric intake. Distance to keep track of aid stations (but don’t do math!).

This is what works for me, and may or may not work for you. Maybe you’d enjoy no watch at all? On a free day when I have nowhere to be, I sure do! Maybe you’re learning to internalize pace and the pace per mile screen is a learning tool at races and pace specific long runs on the road? It’s a great tool that!  Whatever you do, don’t become a slave to technology. Run free once in a while. It will make a world of difference in your training and racing.

How to Avoid a DNF

Recently I went down to Malibu to race the Sean O’Brien 100K in attempt to get a Golden Ticket to the Western States 100 Mile Endurance run. I spent 4 months training specifically for this race, yet 20 miles in, I dropped out. But why?

For most of us it won’t be the weather or the vertical gain or the distance that is the biggest challenge in an Ultramarathon, but our internal battle. It’s unlikely you’ll avoid this battle because it’s natural for the mind to try to stop us from harming the body when you’re doing something that is dangerous and potentially damaging. Our brain is designed to protect us; to be overprotective and to get us home safe. Evolution may not let us avoid the battle completely, but you can certainly minimize the risk of letting negativity overcome you on race day.

My first suggestion? Choose a race that means something to you. You need to have a reason to finish these things. Choose something that excites you and gives you a reason to finish. A good reason. You have to be emotionally invested in what you’re doing or you’ll risk giving up on it. Emotional investment is key to success whether it’s in training, in racing, in a relationship, or at work – you’ve got to care. And not just about shallow things like notoriety, money and success – those things don’t hold up when the going gets tough.

When things do get tough (and they will) you’ll need to stay positive. You’ll feel fear, anxiety, anger, and maybe even a little sadness, but all of those emotions can be overcome with positivity. A good way to do this is simply to smile. Smile at other runners, smile at the volunteers, and if no one is around, smile for the sake of smiling. Studies have shown that smiling releases dopamine, serotonin and endorphins (1). This cocktail of neurotransmitters can help to reduce stress, lower heart rate (2), relieve pain, and uplift mood (3). So, next time you’re racing or stuck in traffic smashing your hands against the steering wheel, give smiling a try and see what happens 🙂

If positivity and your commitment to your “why” are not working, think about consuming some extra calories before you make a final decision. You know those Snickers commercials ? Well, there’s definitely some truth in the saying “You’re not you when your hungry.” Your brain’s primary fuel is glucose. It needs it’s fuel to operate and to regulate emotions. For evolutionary reasons we already have trouble controlling anxiety and anger, but given that some of the same hormones associated with these emotions are released when we’re hungry (specifically when blood glucose levels drop (4))  the feelings are often exacerbated until our brain gets what it wants and needs. This is why you may get “hangry” at the office if lunch is late and it’s also why you might not be thinking clearly a few hours into your race. So, before you make any rash decisions, try eating a few hundred calories at the next aid station, jog for 20 minutes, and then make your decision.

If none of these things are working then you need to be honest with yourself and ask “Is it worth it to continue?” In my case, I ignored the advice I give my athletes and picked a race solely because I had the chance of getting into Western States; a race I don’t really care about, but that would get me noticed by a shoe company and prospective clients. On top of a shallow “why” I’d been struggling with an injury effecting my sciatic nerve for almost a year. It was and is manageable, but once I knew I wouldn’t get a Golden Ticket I wasn’t interested in taking the risks associated with running 40 more miles through the Malibu hills. That was my call in the moment and I don’t regret it. I went home and filled my calendar with races that excite me.

We have this unhealthy “Death Before DNF”  mentality in Ultrarunning that perpetuates unspoken shame in those who do drop out of races. To put it bluntly: it’s bullshit. You should never be ashamed or embarrassed of dropping out of race, whether it’s due to a legitimate health concern or simply because you’d rather spend the afternoon on the beach with your family. And if you do find yourself in a situation where you’re considering dropping out of a race, don’t let the thought of what other people think of you dictate what you choose to do. Do what makes you happy.

Choose your races with passion.

Live your life with purpose.

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(1) http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0956797612445312

(2)https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/cutting-edge-leadership/201206/there-s-magic-in-your-smile

(3) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24345483

(4) http://diabetes.diabetesjournals.org/content/50/7/1618.full

What’s it Like to Run a Marathon?

Marathon training is no joke. It’s endless mornings of 5 a.m. alarms, otherwise, after a long day of work, you have to make time for it in the evening. You have to fully commit.

I starting thinking about running a Marathon at the beginning of the year. After a really good run, a run where I felt like I could take on the world, I signed up for North Olympic Discovery Marathon and I had about 5 months to train. The beginning of the year ended up being a tough one too. I caught a 3-4 week long head cold followed by the flu. As soon as I started feeling like myself again, I ended up getting the stomach flu. Those 5 months I thought I had to train for the Marathon turned into 3.
My training was pretty solid though. Probably about 90% ended up being on the treadmill before or after work. Having a little one at home you have to be creative…  the treadmill and I have become pretty close friends. My longest long run was 18 miles due to lack of time and needing to build up my weekly mileage safely. I was nervous about not reaching the 20 mile long run mark, I was hoping to have at least two under my belt before the Marathon, but if you can run 18 you can rally out 8 more miles, right?
The night before the Marathon my husband and I drove up to Port Angeles to stay at a Bed and Breakfast. We picked up our race packets and everything was starting to feel really real! We went to grab some Pizza (of course) and made our way back to the B&B which was about 30 minutes from the shuttle to the start. We went out for a quick 15 minute shake out, laid out our clothes and gear and laid down for bed.
Our alarms went off at 4:45 and I remember reaching over and turning off the alarm while staring at the ceiling and thinking to myself “Shit, shit, shit.” We quickly got ready, had a cup of coffee, a banana, a roll and then made our way out the door.

Driving out to the shuttle the sun was rising and the air was crisp. The forecast for the day was a high of 72 and sunny along the coast (North Olympic Discovery Marathon is a point to point course, starting at Sequim and finishing along the coast of Port Angeles). We parked at the finish and were on the very last shuttle to the start. That was the LONGEST bus ride ever, the entire time I was thinking “This is a very long way, I have to run all this way back? They must be going too far or maybe they missed a turn…”
The start was at 7 Cedars Casino in Blyn WA. It was a nice cool morning and we were able to sit in the Casino and use the restroom. They even had water and coffee for us. My nerves were high and I couldn’t eat or drink anything… I was just looking at my watch anxious to get started.

NODstart

NODstart2

I dropped my bag at the bag drop and stood with the 4:15 corral (HA! If only I knew…) Not soon after we were off! We crossed the street and started on the Olympic Discovery Trail, I felt really good and kept reminding myself that I trained for this and I was ready! The first aid station quickly came up and I ran off to use the Porta Potty (the lines were WAY too long at the start) I lost the group I was running with, but didn’t mind all that much.

NOD3

We took off running. This course was beautiful! It’s on a mostly paved trail through the Peninsula. Trees, mountain views, lakes; the last 5 miles being along the coast with ocean views. I felt really good. My pace was much slower than I had wanted, but my plan was to be very conservative in the first 13 miles, save my energy, and go back to my faster pace the last half. The first half FLEW. I looked down at my watch and said to my husband “We’re already half way done?”

NOD4

Honestly, I was a little bummed that it was half way over, I was having a blast. The weather was perfect, I was eating my gels every 50 minutes or so, drinking gatorade at every aid station, and grabbing gummy bears and oranges any chance that I could get. I was enjoying talking with volunteers and sharing all this time with my husband by my side.

NOD5

Mile 16 came and this is when I started to feel tired. I grabbed a handful of pretzels, but after popping a few in my mouth, I started gagging and decided the pretzels just were not for me. We continued to run and I realized that I never picked up my pace how I had planned which meant I wasn’t going to be near my goal time of under 4:30 (I wanted to beat Oprah!). My time goal was lax and I just wanted to go out and enjoy myself, take in the full experience, and finish the distance at that point, so that is what I focused on.

NOD6

I wasn’t able to eat anything after the mile 17-18 mile point and at mile 18 I was in unknown running territory and feeling nervous about what was to come. I knew these next 8.2 miles were going to be tough. My legs were feeling tired and my hips were feeling a little stiff, but I carried on.

NOD7

Around mile 20 I was walking pretty slowly on the uphills and taking my time at the aid stations. I was chugging along as best as I could. I just told myself “It’s only a 10K now! You did this every morning. You’ve made it 20 miles! Isn’t that crazy? You weren’t able to run three miles just a year ago. GO YOU!”  I was really trying to pump myself up; positive talk people! It works.
The final 6.2 were a kind of a blur. My legs hurt, but I discovered that they didn’t hurt any less walking than they did running. The miles just ticked along as I tried my best to focus on the current mile that I was in. “Enjoy this moment… you’ll never be able to experience this exact moment again.” I told myself over and over again. My legs were HEAVY and it took a lot of will power just to lift them up.

NOD8

The final 5 miles were along the coast. There was a headwind and it was a little chilly, but we were SO close. I asked Korey not to let me stop; to keep me going, and we continued to run. I tried stopping any time he would look away and I did get away with a few walk breaks (mostly little itty bitty hills I didn’t want to run).

NOD9

Mile 24 : “Anybody can do anything for 20 minutes…”
The miles creeped along and I heard Korey yell in front of me “You can see the finish, its so close… we’re almost there!” I looked up and yelled back “Its SO FAR AWAY” (Dramatic, I know.. but it really felt pretty far). I thought about this moment a lot during my weekly runs. How is the last mile going to feel? What about the .2? How am I going to feel? What will it be like to cross the finish line? I watched mile marker 26 pass by and knew we only had .2  to go. Less than 2 more minutes of running. We grabbed hands and took off! I heard and saw my family waiting at the finish line. It was an amazing feeling!

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We were handed water and our medals. We grabbed our drop bags and made our way to the food… and someplace to finally sit down… or kinda do a weird slow fall to the ground.

I was a Marathoner. I never thought in a MILLION years that I would say those words. The entire experience was amazing. I enjoyed every moment (even the not so good ones). I did exactly what I set out to do: I had fun. Isn’t that what running is supposed to be about?

If you’re considering running a marathon, DO IT! Take the plunge.

Marathon Tips For Beginners

So you’ve decided to tackle the beast! 26.2 miles. Besides having a sound training plan and working with a knowledgeable coach, here are a few tips you should consider.

First off: Gear. Use it. Know it. Love it. LOVE YOUR GEAR. Any small gear issue will be exacerbated over 26.2 miles (and even more so in an Ultra) so it’s important that you know your gear and know what to expect from it. Here are some questions you should be asking yourself:

Shoes: Do they fit properly? Do they feel good to you? Do they cause any hot spots during long training runs?

Socks: Do they fit properly ? Do they slide down after too many miles or when they get wet? Are they moisture wicking?

Shorts: Have you done long runs in them? Do they cause any chaffing? Do they have pockets for gel packets?

Shirt: Does it fit well? Is it moisture wicking? Does it cause any chaffing?

Bra(ladies): is it supportive? Does it provide “coverage”? Do the straps dig into your back? Does it put pressure on your neck ?

Your next item of importance? Caloric intake. You burn roughly 110 calories per mile (give or take). This all varies from individual to individual based off of your fitness level, race speed, age, sex, and various other factors, but let’s use me as an example. I’m a 5′ 10″ 140lb male.

In general, we burn 1 calorie per kilogram of weight per kilometer run. To find your weight in kilograms, simply divide your weight in pounds by 2.2.

For me 140lb /2.2 kg/lb = 63.3kg

Calories burned during the marathon = 42.195 (marathon distance in kilometers) x 63.3 (weight in kilograms) = 2,670 calories total calories burned during the race.

The faster you run, the more carbohydrate you will burn as fuel. I’ll be running at at least 70% of my VO2 Max, which puts me close to a ratio of 65% carb cal / 35% fat cal burned. If I burn 2,670 calories / 26.2 miles = 102 calories per mile. 102  calories x .65 (65% carbohydrate as fuel per 102 calories burnt) = 66.3 calories from carbohydrate per mile run. 66.3 carbohydrate calories per mile x 26.2 miles = 1,737 calories from carbohydrate during the race.

Now we need to figure out how much glycogen can be stored in your body. Leg mass (where usable glycogen available for running is stored) is roughly 21% of your total body mass for males and 20% of your total mass for ladies. Take your weight in kilograms (your body weight in pounds divided by 2.2) and multiply that by 20 or 21 percent. For me that would be 63.3 kg x .21 = 13.29 kg. Multiply the amount of carbohydrate calories you can store per kilogram to find your potential storage. For me, 13.29kg (leg mass) x  80 (carb cal stored per kg.) = 1,063*

If I only have 1100 calories (max) stored as glycogen in my legs and I’m going to burn 1700 carbohydrate calories, I need to figure out how to consume roughly 600 more carbohydrate calories throughout the race to try and make the wall as bearable as possible. No easy feat! It’s important to practice this in your long runs and Marathon Pace work. As a beginner you’ll be running on the lower end of the effort spectrum, simply worrying about conquering the distance. In that instance it’s not quite as important to worry about the specific numbers, but keep the importance of fueling in mind.

Last, but not least… Body Glide! This could arguably be added to your gear list, but it makes such a big difference, it deserves it’s own mention. I can’t stress it enough. Find a body lubricant you like and lather up! Toes (even in between) thighs, nipples, armpits, anything that rubs and any spot you believe may get chaffing; lube it up! I’ve seen people’s nipples bleed. I myself have had the inside of my thighs bleed. If you forget this, it will not only be one of the most painful runs you have ever completed, but THE most painful shower you have ever taken afterwards (unless you’re a burn victim).

 

Those are our tips for beginning marathoners! Of course, there are many more aspects of training and racing to be considered, so don’t hesitate to contact us if you feel you would benefit from some guidance.

Cheers!

 

* Referenced equations: Humphrey, Luke. Hansons Marathon Method. Boulder: VeloPress, 2012. Print.