Thursday, September 29, 2011

Your favorite band sucks. A tribute to running with music and "the Empire"

There is big controversy in the running community about running with music. Some people like to run with it, others don't like to run with it, some people tell runners they can't run with it - usually concerning safety reasons - and the one thing we fail to see is in fact the music. During a few of my most memorable runs, I was accompanied by Anberlin, a true American rock band. Anberlin's lead vocalist, Stephen Christian, evokes a tone reminiscent of the 1980's, Duran Duran-ish, while the band mixes in a host of hard core guitar rifts, drum beats and a "Cadence" that nearly anyone can run to. I was of the lucky few who got to see Anberlin co headline with Switchfoot this past Sunday in New York City at the Best Buy Theater in Midtown. Brian Schantz of The Aquarian has a great review. But don't take my word for it.

Cadence is one of the most important aspects of good form running, typically around 180 beats per minute. Want to measure it yourself? Count each step you take while running for 15 seconds and then multiply by 4. This will give you a general idea of how many steps/beats, your taking every minute. A good indicator of measurement is if your counting between 42 and 46 steps every 15 seconds. But I digress.

Your favorite band sucks. How do I know this? Because it was printed on a sticker I got from Empire Discs (now closed) in Garden City - Long Island - NY. Known in my circle of friends as "The Empire," my friends and I would pile into my 2 door, 1986 Cadillac eldorado after class and go lose ourselves among the endless rows of music, waiting to be found. It was here back in 2003 that I discovered Blueprints for the Black Market, Anberlin's debut album. The first song on the album, "Readyfuels" is what turned me into a runner. If you've never run to music, it's my suggestion that to get your butt in gear and check out one of the great bands of the 2000's, run to "Redayfuels" and get back to me. You'll probably need a new pair of pants by the end of the run.

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Meat and Two Veg of One's Weekly Running Schedule

I made a vow after running Boston and Big Sur Marathons this spring that, in training for my next 26.2 miles, I'd like to run three times a week and definitely no more than five. This would be the "meat and two veg" staple diet of one long run, one tempo and one speed workout at the very minimum. Long runs I love (especially if it involves a road-trip) with tempos being social and a great time to catch up with friends; it's the speed workouts I've always had trouble with.

You see, I've always defined speed as equating to track workouts and I'm not very fond of running in circles and quickly get bored of it. Fortunately speed can also be attained via interval and fartlek workouts practically anywhere outdoors - a habit I've developed most Monday evenings. Tonight was no exception with fellow TMIRCEr's, Andy and Brian, being up for it too. The weather was cool and the sun already beginning to set when we met by the Esplanade at 6.15pm. My legs were tired following a 5K race yesterday so my expectations of completing the whole thing in a usual fast pace were somewhat low. 

Our goal was pre-programed into our Garmins of 5 miles of 0.15 mile fast / 0.35 mile slow with a short break in the middle and, after a short warm-up, we set off. Our fast pace always hovers in the low-mid 5 min/miles and the slower ranges anywhere up to a 9 min/mile pace depending on the weather, how tired we are etc. For me tonight the slow periods were slower than usual and much welcomed.

The beauty of these workouts is that time passes quickly, it's fun to see other runners you know and, most importantly, you're not getting dizzy on a track; I've found the discipline and speed comes in handy during races and it's an awesome workout to do with friends. 

We'd love to hear your thoughts and experience on track v's these more "open-road" intervals so please comment below. Thanks for reading... Martin

People of New Balance Reach the Beach Relay: Volunteers do it right

Every year, like ants preparing for the cold winter months, New Balance Reach the Beach Relay - RTB - volunteers begin hustling, bustling, and storing up sleep hours before setting off on this yearly adventure. With title sponsor New Balance in the mix, New Balance RTB has been able to explode onto the 200 mile relay running scene with some serious firepower to the 13 year old annual New Hampshire tradition.

But then there are the not so unsung hero's who are recognized as the back bone of this race by nearly all who participate and are held aloft within their own ranks. I'm of course referring to the aforementioned volunteers. Why are they not unsung? The volunteers that sacrifice their time and energy to ensure a smoothly operating event are at the forefront of every turn, literally, are praised by New Balance RTB staff and runners from the moment they begin to the last second they're on the clock. Starting at the top, Race directors Rich Mazzola and Mike Dionne forge lasting relationships that imbue volunteer organizations with a sense of pride in their massive accomplishments over the course of 4 days. That's right...some people start volunteering on the Wednesday before race day. Some volunteers show up to cook meals for race staff, some to unpack the merch tent, some pack race packets with hundreds of timing chips, while others staple banners to the walls of Cannon Mountains facade.

Spread across 200 miles of rural New Hampshire, hundreds of people turn out, some in costumes; selling cookies, hot breakfasts, showers all in support of their fire departments, local education facilities, girl scout troops, City Year programs, and even local running clubs! Organization, safety, and fun are the names of the game here. New Balance RTB commits itself to these core values by over-communicating them during several volunteer training sessions leading up to the big day. Volunteer coordinator, Carol Rainville, works especially hard at making sure every volunteer feels as if they're personally making a difference. They respond by working hard at every turn, getting their hands filthy with garbage, standing on the shoulder of the road for hours directing traffic while wearing a Mario costume, and getting personal with some of the teams in an effort to make lasting connections while teams wait for their runners to arrive. This year, like years past, New Balance RTB exceeded expectations; as volunteers, runners, and the communities of New England, came out in support of the annual celebration of endurance and ability to sleep in a smelly van.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Is Ragnar Relays stealing races?

Paul Vanderheiden thinks so. Mr. Vanderheiden claims Ragnar Relays is acting unethically by violating an unwritten code of ethics.
...there is an unwritten code of ethics between race directors that you don’t steal someone’s course, and you don’t piggy back on an established race’s date with a nearby, similar event.
Whether a race course is intellectual property and whether it is immoral to plan similar events near already established races are interesting questions. I understand planning a relay race is not a trivial task. However, every business makes decisions under uncertainty, faces barriers to entry, must navigate down learning curves, find returns to scale, etc. To the extent that new entrants learn from incumbents, costs can be minimized. Although I am not sympathetic to Mr. Vanderheiden’s views, I am not surprised he is frustrated: the history of business is filled with pleas by incumbents who find their competitors’ ethics questionable.

Putting ethics aside, will consumers (i.e. runners) be adversely affected by Ragnar Relays? I think the answer on the whole is unambiguously no. While some will not like what Martin Potter fears will be a “Wal-Mart” effect on running events, the average runner will most likely benefit from Ragnar Relays in the same way the average runner benefits from the rise of more corporate races. The popular Rock ‘n’ Roll marathons might be huge corporate events, but they certainly do a great job of motivating runners who would not otherwise run a 26.2 mile race.

Counterintuitively, Mr. Vanderheiden may even benefit from Ragnar Relays. If Ragnar Relays succeeds in growing the market for relay races, an entirely new generation of relay runners might emerge in much the same way the marathon has grown in popularity in recent decades. Consider the words of Mr. Vanderheiden’s governor in Colorado, John Hickenlooper, who in the 1980s owned a restaurant in Denver and actually advertised other nearby restaurants in his own restaurant: Our competitors are not other restaurants but TV sets.”

Morning run motivation bleg

Waking up early to go running is tough. I know some people love it. I am not one of those people.

But I would like to be.

Is there a trick to getting motivated for morning runs? What suggestions do you have? Add your advice/tips/etc. in the comments.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Defying physics at the Harvard Track

In typical New England fashion, summer has tucked tail and run for the hills. What should we expect then? One thing we all know is that rain sucks. Sure a light sprinkle might be nice when it's 90 degrees and humid; but when the temps start to drop and layering becomes necessary for those nightly runs, sogginess is an inevitable result.

Here's my suggestion. If you have never been to a track workout at the Harvard Track with TMIRCE, you might want to consider attending on those rainy days. Why do you ask? Well, watch this clip of Adam and Jamie from Mythbusters before reading on and you'll get the idea.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Top 3 ways to mentally prepare for a race you know you won't PR

Training? Training? We talkin' bout training? C'mon man...
This summer has been a tough time to train. The heat, the thunderstorms, the aches and pains, and yet somehow the running continues. With sore legs and mental exhaustion, looking ahead to the Quebec City Half Marathon had been daunting to say the least.

I've been lucky enough to have PR'd - attained Personal Records - in a bunch of races this year already. I have a feeling that I won't be doing to much more of that since as we runners plateau, we reach the peak of our abilities and then begin to decline - or chase the dragon (don't do drugs kids.) So I got to thinking, as the Quebec City Half marathon approached, that I probably won't PR the race; which led to instant depression and sapped all motivation I may have had. I'm not a terribly competitive runner, but like most, staying motivated to compete can be difficult. Here, I've devised my top 3 ways to mentally prepare for a race that I knew I wouldn't PR:

Background: Hotel Frontenac
  1. Suck it up and remember where you came from. So what! I started running for fun years ago, but not until recently, when I started breaking my own records did I start getting competitive with myself. Thinking about past running struggles has helped to some degree. I remember as a young tween, being able to pull off two miles before collapsing in my driveway on Long Island. Or the bursting pride I felt when I finished my first 5 mile run without stopping. Running at it's core is plain old fun so don't you forget it!
  2. Stay the course. Sometimes running day in and day out, whether training for a race or not, can be monotonous. Us runners can become fixated on a number, a time, a distance, and get deflated if a training run doesn't go so well or the past few races didn't yield positive results. It's important to remember that you've already been running and your training won't completely abandon you. Get up in the morning, look those sneakers in the face, and take um out for a good old pavement beating just to spite them. 
  3. Run with friends. It's more fun. Remember before when I said running should be fun? I wasn't kidding. Running is inherently and individual sport. When you've had enough of yourself, take it out on someone else - so to speak. Running with your friends or groups of people can be motivating and help you get through the tough times. Someone's probably going through what you feel right now so talk about it while they try to keep up with you - after all, you've been training all summer! 
Come race day, you might be surprised. For the last 6-8 months you trained, beat your body, experienced the elements when no one else dare go outside. I didn't PR last week in Quebec City, but at mile 4 I felt great and found my rythem. I finished just one minute slower then my goal and feel pretty proud of that, as crossing the finish line I remembered the dog days of summer (heat index was 108F). I guess that's why they call it training. Who might even get a sweet picture in the end.

Spread the word