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Dena Evans

Dena Evans

Dena Evans joined runcoach in July, 2008 and has a wide range of experience working with athletes of all stripes- from youth to veteran division competitors, novice to international caliber athletes.

From 1999-2005, she served on the Stanford Track & Field/ Cross Country staff. Dena earned NCAA Women’s Cross Country Coach of the Year honors in 2003 as Stanford won the NCAA Division I Championship. She was named Pac-10 Cross Country Coach of the Year in 2003-04, and West Regional Coach of the Year in 2004.

From 2006-08, she worked with the Bay Area Women’s Sports Initiative, helping to expand the after school fitness programs for elementary school aged girls to Mountain View, East Menlo Park, and Redwood City. She has also served both the Stanford Center on Ethics and the Stanford Center on the Legal Profession as a program coordinator.

Dena graduated from Stanford in 1996.

App_logoUpdated by Rosie Edwards

“Just put one foot in front of the other! “  Seems easy enough, but how does your stride really work?  Understanding how you run can help you to understand what stresses and strengths your body has as it covers ground day after day.

 

Running is differentiated by the instant where both feet are concurrently airborne, as opposed to walking, which always includes one foot on the ground.  Some describe the running stride in two phases, support and swing, while others divide the stride into three stages[i] four stages[ii], two stages with multiple stages within these larger divisions[iii], five stages[iv], and more.

 

Regardless of how the stride is divided, many of the ways in which the stride is discussed cover similar ground.  Like the chicken and the egg, as the first one ends, the next one starts, although some have strong feelings regarding whether or not the stride should technically begin at toe-off or while the foot is in the air[v].  For our purposes, we’ll begin with the lead foot about to return to the ground, the hamstring and gluteus contracting and preparing to absorb the coming contact with the ground.  Watching an athlete running on a treadmill helps to more clearly visualize this aspect of the stride.  The leg anticipates pulling the body past the ground underneath and the large muscle groups on the back of the leg in particular help to initiate this pulling motion as the lead foot heads toward the ground.

 

Once the foot hits the ground, the body absorbs the initial contact (whether heel, midfoot, or forefoot), with a bending leg and a collapsing foot (pronation), as the muscles contract to control the joints and effect of the shock caused by gravitational forces[vi].  If bouncing on a trampoline, the trampoline can provide the absorption and return forces needed to propel oneself up again.  In other words, one can bounce on a trampoline with straight legs as the leg muscles aren’t required to contract and extend to return the body to the air.  On the solid ground, the legs must provide the absorption and propulsion.  This requires them to bend and give.

 

Next, the weight of the body travels forward in preparation for the toe-off from the forefoot.  This response is not unlike a rubber band or a spring.  The joints and ligaments of the foot flex and contract to allow transition from the initial landing point on the foot, to a point where the foot is absorbing maximum downward stress, to the toe-off where the hip flexor is extended and the opposite knee is flowing forward and up.

 

When the foot leaves the ground, it cycles underneath the body, and follows the knee forward and downward to ideally land underneath the body to efficiently recreate the cycle again.  As speed increases, the amount of time spent during this portion of the stride increases and the reciprocal percentage of the time during the stride spent on the ground decreases.  The dynamics of this portion of the stride vary widely, depending on hip flexor flexibility and strength, naturally occurring angles of the body, length of our legs relative to our overall height, and current speed.

 

As with all parts of the stride, each runner brings their own physiological idiosyncrasies to the table.  However, each of our strides, rather than a forgettable, automatic process not worth a second thought, is rather an amazing series of actions and reactions that we demand from our bodies thousands of times in a row in even one run.  There is debate about how much we can change our strides to resemble those of the Olympians on TV, or even the winner of last weekend’s 5K.  Each of us, however, have the opportunity to increase the chances we can continue to stride as our best version of ourselves, by being mindful to strengthening and balance exercises in our legs from foot to hip, and by seeking to increase flexibility and avoid prolonged muscle tightness.  Even if your stride isn’t perfect, these steps can help you resist and postpone fatigue, and stay healthy enough to continue training your legs to move you to the finish line as best they know how.



[i] Dugan, S. and Bhat, K. (2011). “Biomechanics and Analysis of Running Gait” Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Clinics of North America http://demotu.org/pralados60/files/2011/05/DuganPMRCNA05running.pdf : p 612 Retrieved August 6, 2013

[ii] Parker, Ron. “ The Running Stride” http://www.trackandfieldcoach.ca/the%20running%20stride%20with%20photos.pdf Retrieved August 6, 2013

[iii] Phillips, Matt. “Introduction to Running Biomechanics”  http://runnersconnect.net/running-injury-prevention/running-biomechanics/ Retrieved August 6, 2013

[iv] Barreau, Matthew. “The Five P’s of Running Form” http://www.brianmac.co.uk/runform.htm

 

[v] Novachek, Tom. (1997) “The Biomechanics of Running”  Gait and Posture, Vol. 7. http://www.elitetrack.com/article_files/biomechanicsofrunning.pdf p79-80 Retrieved August 7, 2013

[vi] Dugan and Bhat: p. 609

 

 RelaxJeff Foxworthy, before he was famous for hosting a game show asking if we were smarter than fifth graders, became a household name in many parts of America by asking simple (humorous) questions by which one could identify oneself with a particular (colloquial) demographic.

 

Even if you have been running for several years, you may still be in denial about whether or not others should consider you a “runner.”  Here at runcoach, we’ll let our inner Jeff Foxworthy allow you to decide if you have crossed the Rubicon from a person who runs to an actual, bonafide, dyed in the wool, “runner” by asking a few simple questions of our own.

 

Take heart, even if you answer yes to each of these, at runcoach, you are among friends.  We’ve all done at least one of these a few times…

 

If your foam roller is now “too soft”….you might be a runner.


If you fall ill and your initial concern is whether or not you will have to take a “0” in the training log…….you might be a runner.

 

If you have eaten a gel packet for a snack, even when you haven’t been, or are not currently running……you might be a runner.

 

If you when you see John Hancock’s signature you think “Boston Marathon” instead of “Declaration of Independence”…….you might be a runner.

If you wear your running shoes on the plane for regular travel because you are willing to risk your other clothes being lost, but your running shoes are non-negotiable…..you might be a runner.


If you deliberately save old sweats for race day throw-aways……you might be a runner.


If I say “Heartbreak” and you say “Hill” instead of “Hotel”……you might be a runner. 


If you have started to wear your Garmin occasionally as a regular watch….you might be a runner.


If you stop your watch at stoplights and/ or run up and down the sidewalk until the light turns and you can cross…..you might be a runner.


If you have ever given someone bad driving directions because you know your current neighborhood, town, or location better via the pedestrian paths…..you might be a runner.


If you have jogged circles in a parking lot for the sole purpose of ending on a round number for minutes or miles for the day or week…..you might be a runner.


If you know your personal bests from 5K to the marathon by heart…..you might be a runner.


If you have ever run a couple extra miles at the end of your run for no other reason than it was a nice day…….you might be a runner


If you look forward to traveling west because you’ll naturally wake up early and can get a run in…….you might be a runner


If you can’t help making mental notes of inviting dirt trails and smooth bike paths alongside the road while you are driving…..you might be a runner. 


If you have made the decision to join a community of athletes training with the best individualized, online training on the web…..you might be a runner, and we’re glad to have you aboard!

 

Running can be a life-changing activity, a passion, an outlet, sometimes (hopefully not often), it can even feel like a chore.  As many long-time runners can attest, running can also teach many lessons that are readily transferable to a wide array of life situations.  Some of these examples are encapsulated in the encouragement runcoach (like many other running coaches through history) gives you along your training journey.

 

Run through the Line

Running, belief, commitment, and a willingness to see the task to completion are crucial components to success.  Many times a premature decision to evaluate a project or a race midway through eliminates the chance to enjoy the fruits of your labor, or a change of fortune in the late stages of the race.  Marathoners go through rough patches, and can weather them and find success if belief and commitment are strong.  Many a start-up or a long term project has also gone through a dark season or two before things finally look up.  Commit to running the race until completion, and earn yourself the chance to enjoy the good that might still be possible.

 

Plan your rest days into the schedule

Although not every runner keeps the same schedule of rest vs. training days, every runner has a better chance of avoiding injury and training interruptions when they are able to plan regular rest into their schedule.  Try to push through when rundown, or ignore a nagging sore spot, and an unplanned, and much less convenient rest period might be just around the corner.  Similarly, a non-stop schedule of work and stress can often adversely affect our health.  Although we don’t always have control over our schedules, most would agree a balanced life includes times of planned relaxation and recharging for the next challenge.

 

A positive attitude makes an enormous difference

Life and running have their fair share of challenges and unanticipated roadblocks.  Depending on your perspective, many of these are temporary, and loom frighteningly large or completely manageable.  When you retain a fundamental belief that a viable path exists out of your current bind, and when you attack a problem with the belief that the problem has a knowable and doable solution, you have a much greater chance of success than when a defeatist attitude emerges first.  Get through that mid-race rough patch by reminding yourself of your training and the strength it has given you.  Pick your way through a tricky professional patch by relying on the skills that have brought you to that point.  Stay positive, and it will soon take the idea of giving up off the table.

 

Pace yourself

Life is a marathon, and not a sprint.  We say this because we understand that a marathon takes a great deal of patience, training, and learning to succeed.  We also understand that if you start out with a pace that throws caution to the wind, then your end result might be a bit unpleasant.  A life a thousand miles begins with a single step.  Stick to your plan, keep a steady, confident tempo, and arrive on time and in one piece, both in life and in the race.

 

Practice Makes Perfect

This saying, along with its cousin, “Perfect Practice Makes Perfect,” reminds us that it pays to consider our goals and to make sure we have rehearsed the requirements of the day as much as is possible beforehand.  Just like that important presentation or pitch, rehearsing your fueling patterns during your long run or embarking on routes similar in topography to your goal race will teach you how to flesh out the tricky parts and handle them more confidently.   We perform better when we can eliminate unknowns and focus on executing our plan.  Running long distances can be a great incubator for us to reinforce that habit.

 

There are many other sayings and phrases out there that encapsulate the similar challenges and successes we go through as runners in and out of our training shoes.  As runners, we are fortunate to have a great laboratory every day, and hopefully our lives are better for it even after we slip off our shoes.

logoIn July, many athletes begin training in earnest for a fall goal race. We’re glad that this year, more runners than ever are doing so with runcoach.

 

A runner announces their new training cycle with a fresh pair of shoes brought home from the running store, or an acknowledgement they are about to embark on their first official long training run.  Then, he or she often gets the fun questions to answer – Wow!  When / how did you decide to run a marathon?  Why did you choose that race?  What time do you want to run?  In contrast, runcoach wants you to be able to answer the questions no one will ask – Wow! What is your predicted half marathon time?  Do you have access to a treadmill?  Can you run on Thursdays?

 

In short, one of the significant ways runcoach is different than almost any other training solution is the amount of focus we place on you and your current profile, rather than your hypothetical goals and hypothetical self.  Don’t get us wrong – we are completely invested in providing a path to progress your running as far as you can go.  However, instead of taking a random target and working back from it, we take your actual current profile / performances (or if there are no current or relevant races, we instruct you how to produce a hard effort to approximate a race).  From this, we forge an appropriate, sustainable path forward. Achieve mastery at your present level, then recover, adapt, and perform at peak productivity.

 

What if your goal was to break 4:00 hours for the marathon, but in 20 weeks, it turns out you might be actually better prepared to run 3:45?  What if you had in mind a 1:35 half marathon time, but forgot to factor in the crazy hills and stiff headwinds notorious on that course.  Goal setting is an important motivational cornerstone, but we know at runcoach that each person begins at a different spot – in their experience level, in their current fitness, in their weekly schedules, and in their natural strengths and weaknesses.  Our system provides our athletes with a program that is unique to each person, because each person is indeed unique.

 

As with any new coach/ athlete relationship, initially an athlete might be skeptical if the assigned workouts differ from what is expected.  Often we hear from runners who are used to a “go until you can’t go any more” approach to workouts, or a pattern of going hard everyday out on the roads. Other athletes have never followed a structured plan before and maybe sell themselves short on what they can do over various distances. Hundreds of thousands of workouts and successful goal races have reinforced for us that an approach including proper stress based on your current fitness profile, followed by sensible recovery, will lead to racing at peak performance.

 

Today, an aggressive approach and an ASAP mentality are present in many of the products we buy.  It is easy to be antsy over a five-minute wait when you are used to getting your Starbucks latté made in two. Remember when traveling across the continent or the ocean meant a risky wagon or boat ride and the very real possibility that waving goodbye to home was forever? Now, we are grumpy when a five hour plane ride is delayed one hour. Patience is in short supply.   At runcoach, we want you have fun answering the enjoyable questions from friends and family, but we also want you to be knowledgeable and confident enough about your present fitness to answer the tough questions as well.  We’re ok being the ones with the answers to the unpopular questions, and we’re excited that as our athletes achieve these goals, these unpopular questions are becoming much less so.

beach_runningAt runcoach, we love the enthusiasm of runners fired up after a successful first marathon or long goal race.  Many athletes find the cycle of goal setting, progressive workouts, and solid race performance to be an enticing combination, one which quickly beckons them again.  As a runner becomes more confident in the ability to complete the training cycle, execute the race, and recover, he or she may begin to look further down the road and plan two or three goal races ahead.  But, how many marathons are too many?

 

Each athlete comes equipped with an experience level, injury history (or lack thereof), and other daily commitments specific to them.   Each race also has its challenges and advantages – course difficulty, transportation set-up, weather, etc.  A tough combination of these factors might produce a decision to take things one goal race at a time, but if things are aligning well, we suggest taking about three-four months between marathons.  At most we recommend 4 marathons per year.

 

Many avid marathoners have found a rhythm with an annual fall or spring marathon, or maybe two marathons per year with plenty of time to recycle and train between each.  Other runners prefer to include goal races of different lengths interspersed between marathon attempts.  That could mean a target half marathon in the spring and a big marathon goal for the fall, or a season of running shorter races such as 5Ks and 10Ks to work on speed, while leaving a longer distance race for later in a particular year.  There is no “one size fits all” answer for these race choices, except our desire to make sure you leave enough time to train properly and arrive at race day ready to do your best.

 

It is not uncommon for runners to go through a period of time where enthusiasm is high and things are coming together so nicely a successful string of narrowly scheduled races can come off well.  However, it is also not uncommon for runners to change that pattern by necessity only after something has not gone well or nagging soreness has turned into an injury.  Your runcoach schedule is designed to progress you toward your short-term goals but also keep you healthy so that you can keep striving toward other long-term goals.  It is far better to have six excellent experiences over the course of two years with more to look forward to, than three experiences followed by a long string of injury and uncertainty.

 

Yes, there are those that can manage a spectacular workload and race frequency, but there are also those who must take the greatest of care to arrive intact at one goal race per year.  Most of us are between the two, and are hoping to continue our running and racing for years and decades to come.  Stay patient, and keep a sane race schedule.  We’ll help you train well, and together we can plan for many congratulations and “high-fives” ahead.

Each week on the runcoach Blog, we draw your attention to a different issue related to running.  If you’ve never had a chance to really mine all the topics on the blog or if it has been a while, now might be a good time to revisit a few of the more basic topics we haven’t covered in a while.

 

Although you may prefer flat and fast courses, eventually you’ll need to scale a hill or two.  Read up on our tips for getting both up and down here.

 

While the relative luxury of long daylight hours and seasonal temperatures have caused you to temporarily forget about winter running in the dark , cold, and storms, as well as the hot weather ahead this summer, it is never a bad time to review a few ideas for how to manage those more tricky weather conditions ahead.

 

Regardless of the weather or the terrain, while you are out on the roads, you’ll want to move more efficiently.  Sometimes things we take for granted can make an impact if we invest a little energy in improving their effectiveness.  Arm swing, breathing patterns, well fitting shoes that suit your feet – all of these can make a huge difference.

 

Even the most efficient runner must learn how to manage the occasional ache and pain, and wise habits to prevent as many of these as possible can help a great deal.  In the blog, we have compiled some good advice from practitioners who have had a great deal of experience with common ailments such as achilles tendonitis , plantar fasciitis, sciatica, high hamstring tendinopathy, shin splints, and IT Band Syndrome.

 

When you finally get to the race itself, consider some of the factors that can have a big impact on your experience between the starting gun and the finishing tape.  We’ve covered topics ranging from planning your travel, managing race day stress preparing for mental toughness, getting sleep the night before when nerves take over, and recovering when the job is well done.

 

Whether this is your first time training for a goal race or you have been running for decades, the details can always make a difference. A few minutes spent refreshing the basics can mean avoiding a much larger problem down the road!

heel_strike40 years ago, the Boston and New York Marathons had only a couple thousand finishers between them, and the average running shoe was pretty spare (we’d say “minimal” today), without a great deal of cushioning and support.  Today, the average wall of a specialty running store yields a bewildering array of shoes.  Options include maximum cushioning, support, stability, and motion control.  Meanwhile, New York will likely have upwards of 45,000 finishers this year, and the increased popularity of Boston means that having a qualifier no longer means you will actually be able to secure a spot in the race.

 

These trends are related.

 

The increased technological complexity of running shoe design has provided a gateway to the sport of running for many individuals who are outside the physical  “ideal” for world class running.  In fact, the definition of “ideal” itself has arguably been shifted as many recreational runners who strive for personal bests and accomplishment take pride in the capabilities of their bodies to finish, regardless of how fast.  Along the way, the number of runners who may not be built for speed in the Olympic sense have been protected from injury by new technologies offering previously unheard of support and cushioning in a shoe.   That said, the shoes they wear may also have unintended consequences.

 

One of the major ways in which the average running shoe has changed from a generation ago is the amount of heel cushioning coupled with a higher incline off the ground for the back of the foot.  While many runners have a natural stride that lends itself to landing first on the heel, these shoes make it much more easy for anyone to land first on the heel.  Here’s why:

  • -The psychological feeling of protection  - try running barefoot on your heels…just doesn’t feel nearly as good!
  • -The amount of material extending off the bottom of your foot hits the ground first, mainly because it is in the way.

 

Hitting the ground first with your heel can have a couple of problematic results.

  • -If your foot lands on your heel first, it is likely in front of your body when it hits. This means that it will take an extended amount of time for your body to travel over the foot and for it to push off again.
  • -With your leg extended in front of you, it is possible your knee and hip can take some jarring forces
  • -You are spending needless energy each stride, transferring your weight horizontally from behind the foot.

Essentially, landing heel first isn’t the most efficient way to get from Point A to Point B.

 

Preferably for most of us, the first surface to touch ground on each stride should be the midfoot to forefoot, or right around where your shoe is the widest.  This is for a couple reasons:  one, it is really hard to land that far forward on your foot when your foot is extended out in front of you.  In fact, unless you are a ballet dancer, it is hard to even walk like this. So, in order for you to land on this part of your foot, it will be closer to your body, or ideally, pretty much right underneath your body.  This means that you will spend less time horizontally transferring your weight over your foot before push off, and can use the large muscles of your body to both land with everything aligned, and push off immediately, lessening the chance for the type injuries caused by your hip and knees absorbing chain reaction forces when heel striking.  Two, if you are taking steps that allow for your foot to land under or close to underneath your body, you are likely taking more frequent steps, what we might call a quicker cadence.  Although it might be tempting to think of long extended strides as the way to pick up speed, all that time in the air is just spent slowing down.  So, a quicker cadence means you are likely making more rapid progress in the direction you want to go.

 

“Minimalist” shoes, which have come into vogue over the last few years, have a much lower heel profile.  This discourages heelstriking  Particularly for anyone who makes the big jump from a highly cushioned shoe into a minimal model without a gradual transition, the extra work required for your calves can be felt without much need for explanation upon waking the next morning.   For some runners, these shoes are a good supplemental tool or solution if their bodies are ready for that type of transition and their stride naturally might lend itself to a more midfoot to forefoot strike already.  For heel strikers, these shoes might be a supplemental tool to help encourage good posture and start to work on running form, but should be used with caution.  If the support of the current shoe has been a positive injury prevention tool, it should continue to part of a runner’s arsenal.

 

Sometimes, we think of ourselves as a completely different brand of runner than the African athletes we might see at the front of the pack in races.  However, when researchers studied the foot strike patterns of Kenyans, they found that those who grew up running to and from school without shoes were more often forefoot strikers than those who grew up wearing shoes.  So, even among a group that we as recreational runners tend to see as homogenous, significant differences have been found based on their history of footwear.

 

While more research has yet to be done on this, what can we conclude about those of us who currently heel strike?  Regardless of how our foot strikes the ground, we all want to move forward efficiently.  Practicing short stretches (30 seconds or 2 minutes at a time, etc) with a quicker cadence will help teach yourself how to increase speed when finishing in a race and allow you to experiment with what it feels like to land more toward the midfoot.  If you are a steadfast heel striker who has relied on padded shoes to stay healthy, quicker, more frequent strides vs longer, bounding strides is still the way to go.

 

In short, we are in an age where shoe technology has allowed more people than ever to run for recreation.  Some of that technology has also reinforced not entirely ideal habits our body may naturally have, even as it allows to stay healthy enough to run at all.  We may be content to enjoy the race from our spot in the pace or we may be anxious to move up the standings.  Either way, mindfulness about how our foot strikes the ground and how we can increase our efficiency can allow us to have more fun along the way.

Take Care on the Trail this Summer!



This summer, the call of the wild might draw you out of the neighborhood into your local trail system, or vacation travel might bring you closer to nature and out of your comfort zone.  What are some things to look out for when venturing forth on the trail?

 



Poison Oak / Poison Ivy

PoisonPlants
As the old adage warns, “Leaves of three, let them be.”  For both poison oak (found mostly on the west coast with variants in the mountain region and the south eastern United States) as well as poison ivy (mostly found on the east coast), even a slight brush can cause a nasty irritation for the next several days.  Poison oak can feature a reddish tint, while poison ivy is mostly green. Both plants have a surface substance that causes a skin irritation ranging from a row of small bumps, to significant swelling.  While on the trail, take care to avoid plants that appear like these. If you do come into contact with poison ivy or poison oak the rash may take a couple of days to appear, getting worse through about five days after exposure.  Then it can take  as long as a couple of weeks to resolve in bad cases.  The sap of the plants doesn’t dissolve into water, so it can be tricky to treat.  The blisters on the rash won’t spread if opened by scratching, but if hands or clothes that have interacted with the resin at the initial site of infection brush other areas, the rash can jump there as well.  Also, burning poison oak can send the poisonous material into the air, where it can even find its way into an unsuspecting nose or throat.  Let your imagination run wild with that one – definitely avoid!

 

Snakes

sirtalis1
Springtime means snakes are coming out from hibernation.  They may be unfamiliar with their new terrain, and may be looking for sun while it is still not warm around the clock.    Be on the lookout for them in places and at times along the trail where it may be warmer and sunnier than average.  These include exposed flat rocks, sunny patches in an otherwise tree-covered path, and midday sun when morning and evening are still cool.  If you do see one, leave a wide berth move slowly whenever possible.   Snakes typically are not aggressive, but defensive, so avoid picking at them with sticks or letting others with you do the same, even if you think the snake is not poisonous.  You never know.

 

Ticks


12-11-09tick
Now found more widely than the traditional hotspots of the northeastern and Appalachian Trail areas of the United States, these insects can cause great havoc if left undetected.  Small and black insects (usually encountering humans in nymph form), ticks grab onto the skin and eventually deposit eggs under the surface, which can lead to all sorts of diseases, but most famously, Lyme disease.  In an area where ticks are known to have been a problem, take care to wear insect repellent, light colored clothing (so ticks can be easily seen against the skin), long sleeves and pants (when possible in the weather), and to do daily checks so no ticks remain on the skin for any extended period of time.  Symptoms include a bullseye shaped rash, fever, chills, and muscle aches

Lightning

460px-Lightning-with-streamers
Spring and summer months may bring warm weather storms to your favorite local trail or far flung destination.  Without external warnings, you may be left to make your own judgments as to how to safely manage the situation if you have been caught unprepared .  Keep an eye on the sky to get a visual glimpse of any approaching storm or lightning flashes.  If the thunder has begun to close in rapidly (count seconds after seeing lightning until thunder sounds – then divide by five to estimate how many miles away), stay away from lone tall objects such as a single tall tree or open air picnic structure.  If wearing / carrying a metal object, leave it aside for the time being and try to move to a low lying place (between two boulders or hills, among a bunch of lower trees, etc).  If near your car, make sure not to touch any metal while taking shelter inside.  Finally, wait 15-30 minutes past when the storm has crossed over to ensure you won’t still be in range of stray lightning.

 

Running on the trail can be one of summer’s best treats.  Stay alert and make good choices which hopefully will allow you to enjoy yourself all season long!

 



118-Marathon-Runner-Costume-33322Even the most experienced among us was once a rookie.  Those of us who have raced for years at shorter distances can also feel like beginners when it comes to the humbling aspects of the longer events.   Whether you are trying something new this training cycle or hope to in the future, read on to inoculate yourself against these common pitfalls.

 

Don’t OverEXPOse yourself

Two to three weeks of taper, deliberate sleep hours, and careful treatment of your body cannot be completely undone by spending hours walking and shopping at the expo on the day before the race, but it definitely won’t help!  Resist the urge to spend hours walking up and down the aisles of the expo at your first big race.  If possible, visit the expo two or three days before when there are smaller crowds.  If you have things you need, like a particular souvenir for someone, some gel packets, or a container of body glide, look at the map before heading over.  Then, stick to your list and keep a hard time limit after which you promise yourself  (in advance) that you will leave.  Combined with what may include lots of walking to get into the facility and any other activities you may do, minimizing the walking at the expo is in your best interest to keep the legs feeling fresh.

 

Read My Lips, No New Gear (the day before the race)

A rookie racer might be tempted to try cool new shoes (without breaking them in), a new pair of shorts (without testing if they will chafe), a new fueling item (my friend said this gel works really well for her!), and so on.  The enticements of the expo can make this one even more difficult.  As the saying goes, “dance with the girl you brought.”  Your weeks and weeks of training have helped you to figure out the shoes, shorts, and fuel that will work best on race day.  You’ll be a bit nervous anyway – no need to leave more to chance with the essentials!

 

Keep Anthony Boudrain away from your table

A fun new city, maybe a great dinner spot the night before your race…seems like a great time to ask the waiter what the “specials” are, right?  Wrong.  Running a marathon or a half marathon can be a gastro intestinal adventure with a number of twists and turns, and there is no need to court danger.  Avoid adventurous eating the night or two before.  Plan on eating food that your system will recognize and that you know will digest according to plan.  Again, you might have some butterflies anyhow.  Do not risk anything here.

 

Hydrate, but don’t overdo the water

One of the most common tips a newbie racer likely hears is to STAY HYDRATED.  However, too much water in the final day or two before a race can wash crucial electrolytes from the system when they are needed most and leave you in the portapotty when the gun goes off.  Balance your water intake with a sports drink your body trusts.  Very light yellow or almost clear urine is a good sign you have consumed enough.  If you proceed incrementally, you should only need to sip a bottle the morning of the race, thus lightening the near term load on your bladder.

 

Plan to Work and then Work the Plan

With a first big race looming on the calendar, a race plan or splits schedule towards a goal time can be helpful to ease the feeling of the unknown going into the race.  When a big wave of adrenaline carries you out to sea on the first few miles of the race, do not fall prey to the urge to throw your plan out the window.  Stick to the plan you have formulated when thinking logically and with plenty of time.  If during the second half of the race you realize you have undershot the mark, you will still have a chance to finish strong.  However, the reverse situation (going out way too fast and trying to hang on for dear life) can be much more difficult.  Use your first race as an opportunity to try something new.  This debut experience will then establish a baseline and create a springboard that will give you the confidence to move on to faster and more adventurous performances in the future.

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Quick Guide to Running Lingo

 

Like athletes in many other sports, runners have a vocabulary that may seem completely foreign to beginners.  Even experienced runners may be confused by some of the lingo.  At runcoach, we’re here to help!  Read on for a list of some common running terms.

 

For more info on specific terms used in your workout schedule, mouse over terms on your pace chart or contact us with your questions!

 

Negative Split/ Positive Split

Contrary to what these terms might imply, usually negative splits are more fun than positive splits.  A negative split is when the second half of your run, race, or interval is faster than the first half.  A positive split means you slowed down in the second half.  It only takes a few painful positive split efforts to remind you of the difference!

 

Kick

This is a general term for the final part of the race when an athlete is really going for it.  Another term used when talking about the kick might be “change gears.”  The runner increases frequency of their stride cadence and embarks upon a faster pace or harder effort level.  Don’t start kicking too early!  Make sure you have enough energy left to sustain this pace through the finish line.

 

Shake-out

This term can be used to describe a run that is light and easy and done just to get the kinks out.  We often describe the last run before a big race as a shakeout.  You might hear, “I went on my three mile shakeout this afternoon, before heading to the pasta dinner.”

 

LSD

Although running can indeed provide that “natural high,” when athletes refer to LSD, they are usually talking about Long Slow Distance, which is known on our runcoach schedules as aerobic runs or Easy / Long pace.

 

Fartlek

Eeeew!!! No, no, fartlek is a term for “speedplay” in Swedish.  It can mean a semi-unstructured run with varying periods of up-tempo running interspersed with easy recovery running.  These days, fartleks are often structured, but unmeasured sets of work at a perceived effort, such as 8x 2minutes comfortably hard with 90 seconds of easy running in between each.

 

Hitting the Wall

No need for a definition if you have felt it even once.  Hitting the wall can be described as a sudden and steep decrease in energy level and ability to perform at the previous pace due to the onset of fatigue, a lack of fueling, or both.  Mile 23 is a fairly common place to “hit the wall” in a marathon.  See “Bonked”.

Chip Time vs. Gun Time

In races where your time is recorded by wearing a computer chip that is read while traveling over mats along the pavement, you will often be given 2 different times in the race results.  The gun time is the time elapsed since the race was started,.  The chip time is time that begins when you actually cross the starting line mat.

 

PR or PB

These stand for Personal Record (usually US speaker) or Personal Best (usually everyone else).

 

Taper

The portion of your training cycle where you cease the really difficult workouts and attempt to get cumulative rest with lighter workouts while preparing for an upcoming race.

 

Bandit

A competitor running in the race without having officially entered.

 

Rabbit

An athlete charged with setting an early pace for the benefit of (usually) the top athletes in the race.  The rabbit usually then drops out at the agreed upon time, although there are examples of races where the pacer continued on and won!

 

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