Plan for Next Half Marathon

My next race is the San Diego Holiday Half Marathon on December 28th.  It is only 5 weeks away, so I’ve decided not to put a formal training plan together.  Instead, I will run 3 to 4 times a week along with some strength and cross-training on my non-running days.  In general, here is my basic daily guideline I’ll be following:

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The majority of my runs will mainly keep within an aerobic heart rate zone of 132 – 142 beats per minute.  In addition, once a week I’ll do some short intervals, maybe 6 x 30 seconds to 1 minutes of either sprinting or hill repeats (running or on the bike), but not too much, just enough to stress the muscles a bit.  On my non-running days, I will usually get on my indoor bike trainer and keep the effort easy to moderate, just enough to get a good sweat, but ensure a good recovery between running days.  The strength training is twice a week and mostly body weight exercises – pull-ups, push-ups, squats, overhead push-ups and planks. When I have time, I also may incorporate a few dumbbell exercises. And I also incorporate active stretching routines daily just to stay somewhat limber – but nothing to extreme.

If I’m able to mostly adhere to this training schedule, it should put me in a position to run a decent half marathon.  My knee injury from a few weeks ago seems to be about 85% healed, so I should be able to get a good amount of quality running in before this race.

Also, I’ll continue to monitor and provide a weekly report on other aspects of my health – blood pressure, weight, body fat, sleep, stress, hydration, body condition, diet, and daily activity – for a more holistic approach to my training.

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Race Report: 2014 Silver Strand Half Marathon

IMG_20141122_185709336Time:  1:52:48

Overall:  351 / 1,647

Division (M 40-44):  37 / 89

Gender (M):  244 / 765

My sole goal going into this half marathon was just to finish and avoid any setbacks from a lingering knee injury.  I figured if I got under 2 hours, that would be a bonus.  Fortunately, my knee held up relatively well and I finished within 2 hours.  I kept a relatively moderate pace of about 8:30 per mile throughout the entire race until the last mile where I picked it up some after knowing my knee was not going to be an issue.  The course was very flat and probably helped to avoid aggravating the knee.  So I am happy with he results and it was a good training run – although a pretty expensive one :-)

The race was well organized and the weather was a little warm, but sunny.  There was another half marathon across town, so the number of participants this year was about half the size of last year, which was fine by me, I like smaller races.  As I mentioned early, the course is very flat and point to point, starting in Coronado and ending at Imperial Beach. Not the most scenic race, but it’s considered a fast course.

My next half marathon is in about 6 weeks.  Hopefully, my knee will be fully recovered by then so I can put forth a hard effort.  I don’t really have a training plan at this point and not sure I will put one together since it is only a few weeks away.  But my knee seems to be getting better each week, which has been encouraging.

Below is my report card and training plan leading up to his race.  Although the training started out well, it fell apart after only a few weeks.  Sometimes that happens, but I’ll just keep pressing along and focus toward putting together a good training cycle for my next A-race.  In the near term, I’ll continue to try and stay healthy on all facets of my life and eventually the running will improve in time.

Report Card

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Training Plan

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Sleep

sleepI think we can all agree that sleep is an important component to good health.  However, I think it is much more important than most people realize.  I’ve found that I’m a much better and different person in all areas of my life when I get a good night’s rest.  I’m calmer, think clearer, get sick less often, feel awesome during my runs, relate to others better, just to name a few of the benefits of being optimally rested.  Yes, diet and exercise are also very important, but if you lack adequate sleep and rest, the effort to eat nutritious food and the hours spent each week at the gym are sub-optimized if you compromise sleep.  In fact, I would argue that sleep is as important as any other pillar of good health and should get the same attention as eating well and exercising.

How much sleep you need is probably dependent on the individual.  However, I subscribe to the early to bed, early to rise philosophy.   Obtaining about 8 hours of sleep each night seems to be about right for me personally.  Some may get by with less and others may need more, it’s just trial and error to determine your sweet spot.  However, I am skeptical of people who say they need 6 hours or less of sleep each night.  Normally, I try to be in bed no later than 8 pm each night and wake up around 4:15 am each morning. Because I like to workout early in the morning and have to be at work by 7 am, it requires me to go to bed relatively early.  I’m also in the habit of taking a quick 20 to 30 minute nap during the afternoons, usually right after lunch.  Although I could probably skip the nap, I just feel much more energized when I get that quick rest mid-day.

I recently got a fitness tracker to monitor my sleep and found it very insightful.  On most nights, although I’m in bed for 8 hours, I may only be getting 5 to 6 hours of good deep sleep.  I often wake up throughout the night and sometimes it may take 30 minutes to an hour to get back to sleep.  But the point is, now that I can monitor and track my sleep each night, I can begin finding correlations of daily habits and routines that contribute to a good night’s or bad night’s sleep.  One thing I did find out is when I eat dinner after 6 pm, I usually have a restless night of sleep.

There are some good books out there regarding sleep, but the best one I’ve read recently is titled Sleep Smarter: 21 Proven Tips to Sleep Your Way To a Better Body, Better Health and Bigger Success by Shawn Stevenson.  The author also has a podcast called the Model Health Show, which I also find very informative.

There are a lot of things that can impact your sleep.  I won’t get into all of them on this post, but the top five things that seemed to have worked (and I’m still working on it) for me are as follows:

1.  Blackout Curtains:  I recently installed some blackout curtains in my bedroom and it has made a huge difference.  Not only is the room very dark, but the curtains have noticeably reduced the outside noise.  I live relatively close to a major street and would often be awoken by loud cars, trucks and thumping car stereos, but it now happens much less often.

2.  Avoid Television and Internet after 6 pm:  I try and stay away from the television and Internet after 6 pm.  This seems to calm the mind and helps the wind-down process.

3.  Routine and Consistency:  My body loves routine and I find when I stay relatively consistent on my evening routine and go to bed at the same time each night, I can fall asleep much faster.

4.  Avoiding Caffeine after 12 pm:   I usually have one cup of coffee in the morning before I head to work and that is the extent of my caffeine intake for the day.  I may have some dark chocolate during the day, but avoid it in the evening.

5.  Stretch, Pray and Read 1 hour Before Turning Out the Lights:  The hour before I turn out the lights, I have a routine of stretching for 15 to 20 minutes, praying, then reading a book before getting my sleep on.  This process seems to tell my body that we are winding down and chemicals are beginning to be released for a restful night sleep.

I’m sure there are a number of other things that can help with a good night sleep, but found these are some of my core principles that seem to work for me.  I’ve come to realize that sleep can’t be compromised if you want to become the best all around person you want to aspire to be.

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2014 Silver Strand Half Marathon Training Update (Week 10 of 11)

My left knee (MCL) is improving but begins to hurt about 30 to 45 minutes into a run.  This was better than the last two weeks, when the pain started about 15 to 20 minutes into a run.  I switched back to my old Nike Frees, which seems to help, but the damage is already done and the slow healing process continues.  I was able to run 15 miles this week and completed a slow one hour run this morning with some mild pain, but it was encouraging. I’m somewhat hopeful I can at least slowly jog the half marathon next Sunday, but I would say my chances are 50/50.  We’ll see how the running feels this week, then I’ll need to make a decision by Saturday.

Otherwise, things are going really well.  I’m continuing to sleep well and all my vital signs and weight remain relatively consistent.  Without much running the past few weeks, I’m really surprised that my weight did not really increase.  For cardio, I have been using my indoor bike trainer in lieu of the running, but it is not nearly the same.  I credit the weight stability primarily to minimizing the grains and sugar in my diet.

I decided I won’t taper this week since I don’t plan to run hard for the half marathon.  I’ll do a normal workout week, which includes running, biking, short intervals, strength training and stretching.

Well, I hope I’ll be able to at least participant in next weekend’s race.  If anything, if I can get at least 10 miles into the race at a slow pace before the knee starts hurting too bad, I figure I could walk the last three miles in.  But again, we’ll see how this week’s running goes.  What I want to avoid is dropping out of the race halfway through or pushing myself through the pain and then setting back the recovery period for several more weeks.

Weekly Assessment

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Training Plan

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Heath vs Fitness

About a month and a half ago, after reading The Big Book of Endurance Training and Racing by Dr. Philip Maffetone and beginning to make a daily habit of reading Mark’s Daily Apple blog, I’ve started to focus primarily on my overall health and well-being, rather than fitness – primarily measured by running times.  Implementing many of the ideas and core principles of Dr. Maffetone’s book and Mark Sisson’s blog over the past six weeks has been an enlightening experience.

To put everything in a nutshell, basically it comes down to not running so hard by using a heart rate monitor and staying under a certain maximum threshold; eating real food and avoiding sugars and grains; getting a good night sleep; diversifying my training; moving more frequently; obtaining a moderate amount of sun exposure; hydrating well; minimizing stress; and adequately recovering.  There is a lot more to it, but in general, the focus are in these areas.  But the goal, in terms of running, is to be able to teach the body to burn fat instead of glycogen.

The philosophies laid out by Dr. Maffetone and Mark Sisson have yet to result in any improvement in my running times, but I feel a whole lot better.  My prior training plans included a lot of speed work and fast long runs, which was contributing to a lack of motivation and burnout.  Since I’ve adjusted my diet and severely cut down on my speed work, my energy throughout the day is relatively high, without the peaks and valleys that I would normally experience during the day.  I’ve been sleeping much better and seem to be much better able to handle and respond to stressful situations.  Also, my blood pressure, morning pulse, body weight, fat percentage and daily mood have never been better.

Because I am no longer hammering almost every run workout, I actually look forward to exercising and training when I wake up in the morning, whereas before, it was a drag to wake up in the morning.  The heart rate training has also resulted in less stress on the body since I let my body tell me how fast I need to be running rather than overriding this instinct to hit some arbitrary pace I set for the day.  The more holistic approach to health, I believe, will translate to better long-term fitness and just as fast, if not faster, running times.  It may have already happened, but my recent traveling and knee injury have set me back and I’ll need to build the fitness back up over the next few months.

Given how well I feel over the past several weeks, I plan to continue to focus primarily on improving my overall health and let the level of my running fitness be a secondary consideration.  It doesn’t mean I won’t continue to train hard, it just means the amount and intensity of training should not compromise my health.  Although related to some degree, I’ve come to realize that being “fit” does not mean you are healthy!

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2014 Silver Strand Half Marathon Training Update (Week 9 of 11)

I tried running again today, but the MCL in my left knee began hurting 3 miles into the run and I decided to stop.  I thought with a week of rest, it would get better, but I still seem to be at the same place I was a week ago.  The only thing I’ve done recently prior to the knee pain was change shoes from Nike Frees to Hoka Clifton (with Superfeet inserts), so I think that may be the issue.  So I’m going to try and run again on Tuesday with my old Nike Frees to see if there is any difference.

Otherwise, my health and supplemental training is going well. It is frustrating not being able to run, but I’ve been substituting indoor cycling for the time being.  It is not nearly as good as running, but it is better than doing nothing.

Been sleeping a lot better lately.  Not sure if it is the cooler weather or not training as hard. I’ve also been tinkering with my diet, trying to stay away from any processed food and grains, and eating lots of fruits, vegetables and a moderate amount of organic meat.  Also, been drinking a lot of spring water lately.  I’m still not sure what the ideal amount of water to drink daily, but I figure when I’m going to the bathroom every 20 minutes, I’ve probably had enough and need to ratchet back the water intake.

My morning weight, pulse, and blood pressure seem to be within a healthy range despite the lack of running.

I’m still hopeful I’ll be able to at least run moderately for the upcoming half marathon, but if the knee problem persists, then I may have to skip this race to avoid any longer term issues.

Weekly Assessment

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Training Plan

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2014 Silver Strand Half Marathon Training Update (Weeks 4 through 8 of 11)

It’s been five weeks since I last posted. The reason is due to being very busy at work during the end of September, followed by a two week vacation to Japan. As a result, my training has suffered and I’m also in the process of recovering from a sore left knee (MCL sprain). Needless to say, I’m WAY off track on where I should be. My goal at this point is to just try and get to the starting line healthy and complete the half marathon that is three weeks away.

However, the past 5 weeks have not been a total waste. I read a few books on running, which were really impactful and has changed my mind on how to train and where I want to go with my running in the future.  The three books were 80/20 Running: Run Stronger and Race Faster By Training Slower by Matt Fitzgerald, 1:59: The Sub-Two-Hour Marathon Is Within Reach—Here’s How It Will Go Down, and What It Can Teach All Runners about Training and Racing and The Big Book of Endurance Training and Racing by Dr. Philip Maffetone. I’ve come to the conclusion, based upon reading these books, that I needed an overhaul of my training plans, eliminate refined carbohydrates from my diet and manage stress better. I’ll discuss theoretical details in future posts, but the bottom line is I need to significantly improve my aerobic base by keeping my heart rate below a certain threshold and drastically cut back on the speed work – although there is much more to it than that.

Not a great week of training when it comes to running. I’ve aggravated the MCL in my left knee again, most likely from not allowing my body to adjust to some new shoes that I recently purchased (Hoka Clifton). Don’t believe it was the fault of the shoes, but doing a long run in them right out of the box wasn’t a smart thing to do. I’ve had this injury before, and basically, I just need rest it for about a week, then monitor it from week to week. This probably means my running will be very limited for the next few weeks and the best I can hope for is to be able to finish the half marathon without any significant pain.

Otherwise, other aspects of my health and fitness are going very well. My weight and fat percentage is at an all time low, which I attribute to eliminating most grains and sugar such as bread, flour, rice and processed foods and adding more protein and healthy fats. I’ve never really been able to get under 140 lbs, but by just eliminating the wheat and rice, the weight just fell off. The funny thing is that I still eat pretty much all I want and feel satiated most of the day. I’ve also been trying to make an effort to hydrate better during the day.

I recently purchased a fitness tracker called the Misfit Shine. It primarily tracks your activity level and sleep. So far, I’m impressed with it’s accuracy and can now track how many steps I take during the day along with how long and well I slept the night before.

I’m still seeing a chiropractor for adjustment almost every week. The jury is still out on whether it’s effective for me, although I do feel better after each session and anticipate over the long term there will be some positive effects.  I did get some adjustments done today to address my MCL injury, so it will be interesting to see if there is any improvement this week.

Since I’ll be resting my knee this week, I’ll primarily be getting my aerobic training on my indoor bike trainer.  Not as good as running, but still get a relatively decent workout. Hopefully, by this time next week I’ll be able to begin running again.

Weekly Assessment

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Training Plan

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2014 Silver Strand Half Marathon Training Update (Week 3 of 11)

Not a great week of training. Been extremely busy and stressed at work, which seems to bleed into every other facet of my overall well being. I notice when I’m stressed, my motivation and focus to train hard is not there. I also tend to eat more unhealthy foods, don’t hydrate enough, and have a more difficult time sleeping. Definitely not a good place to be, but sometimes that’s what life throws at you and you have to adapt, slow down and make some adjustments.

I completed all my planned runs for a total of 26 miles, but had to cut my long run short, just wasn’t feeling it. Weight went up 1.5 lbs, which again I attribute to the stressful week. Morning pulse and blood pressure continue to be relatively consistent from week to week, so don’t see any issues there.

I’ve had another chiropractor adjustment today and really liking it. Not sure how it is helping my running, but my back and neck feel great after I have it done. However, still experiencing some foot pain, which seems to be getting progressively worse. Probably time to look for some new shoes.

Overall, a disappointing week of training.

Weekly Assessment

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Training Plan

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2014 Silver Strand Half Marathon Training Update (Week 2 of 11)

Solid week of training.  Completed all my planned runs for a total of 28 miles, although the my pace and splits have been relatively slow.  I think this is primarily due to taking some time off from running a while back and the warm weather and humidity we’ve been experiencing here in Southern California.  Also, got in all my planned cross-training, including a moderate amount of strength work and stretching.

Weight is down to 140.1 lbs with 7.6% body fat.  Morning pulse averaged the same as last week and my blood pressure was a slightly lower.  However, although I’m as light as I ever been, I don’t really feel it making me run any easier or faster.  Makes me wonder if 140 lbs may not be my ideal running weight.  I’ll give it a couple more weeks, but I’m thinking of adding some weight back on.

I’ve had two chiropractor adjustments within the past two weeks.  It does seem to help me feel more balanced with my running, although it could just be in my head.  Combined with the adjustments and changing my work station where a stand for at least half the day, my back feels great.

Been sleeping better, usually only wake up a couple times a night, but get back to sleep within a few minutes.  Been eating pretty clean as well, mostly plant based. Stress levels have been moderate, although I’ve been putting in a lot of hours at work.

Overall, a good week of training and health.

Weekly Assessment

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Training Plan

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2014 Silver Strand Half Marathon Training Update (Week 1 of 11)

I started running again this week after taking a full two weeks off. The first couple runs earlier in the week felt a little off, but I felt great during this morning’s longer run. Taking the time off from running seems to have been good for me, I seem to be more motivated going into this training cycle.

I am starting this training cycle in relatively good shape. I still experience some aches in my feet when I first wake up in the morning, but disappear after walking around for a few minutes. The foot pain does not bother me when I run.

I’m at an all time low weight and fat percentage and my vital signs seems to be good (see table below). I attribute this to keeping my food portions moderate and increasing the amounts of super foods in my diet. Eating higher quality food rich in nutrients tends to keep my appetite in check. Although I’m not a vegan, I tend to minimize any meat or dairy in my diet and eat mostly plant based and organic when it’s an option.

My sleep and rest has been good, but not great. I have nights where I’ll sleep through most of the night and that’s when I feel really great during the day. There will be other nights where I seem to be waking up every couple hours and then it will take 30 minutes to an hour to get back to sleep. I’m trying to figure out what triggers a restless night of sleep, but haven’t been able to really pinpoint it, although I’m sure it has something to do with stress and my cortisol levels.

I’m doing a few things differently this training cycle than in the past. First, I plan to see a chiropractor every week or two for adjustments. Although I don’t really have any significant spinal or back problems, I know a lot of elite runners use a chiropractor and claim it does wonders. Second, I plan to get a massage every couple weeks to help with recovery after a long run. I got acupuncture massages when I lived in Japan and it seemed to help with my alignment and recovery. Third, I plan to stand at work when on the computer. I sit for the large portion of the day and I know it is not healthy to sit for hours on end at a computer screen.

Overall, it was a good week to start the next training cycle.

Weekly Assessment

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Training Plan

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