Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Need for Substinance

One of the things I admire most about my wonderful wife is her ability to make up words. One of my favorites is 'substinance' as in, "I need some substinance, right now."  I believe the word is some aggregation of:

  • 'subsistence' (the means by which one maintains life)
  • 'sustenance' (means of sustaining health or life; nourishment)
  • 'substance' (the tangible matter of which a thing consists)
When I pointed this out, her comeback was, "you know what I meant." Indeed I did; end of discussion.
I needed some substinance during this morning's run, and when I didn't get it, I bonked. I generally associate bonking with longer runs, but today it happened just seven miles into my eleven miler. Up until that time, I'd been thinking of doing something on the order of 23 miles. But 11 would have to do today.
It shouldn't have been a surprise; there's been a whole lot of bonking going on lately - ever since I began the fast diet a week ago. Here's the problem: I fast on Monday and Wednesday. My Monday runs have been bad because I'm usually still recovering from the weekend's running, and also because I don't take the usual fruit or other carbs just prior to the run. My Tuesday runs have been bad due to lack of substinance the prior fast day. My Wednesday runs have been bad for some of the same reasons that my Monday runs were, and my Thursday runs have been bad for some of the same reasons the Tuesday runs were.
Now then, I did have a good run this past Sunday where I did about 22 on the towpath with some MCRR friends. That was fairly encouraging after an otherwise so-so week. And I'm still very much sold on the general concept of the fast diet. But I do recognize that contrary to statements by the authors, the lack of calories on those fast days does indeed have an deleterious effect on my exercise performance.
Yesterday was my third fast day since I began, and it was the easiest yet. I'm losing some weight. All I really need to do is figure out this running thing.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Don't Think About Food

Of course food is what I'm going to think about when I'm fasting.

It's my second day of fasting for the week. In case you're wondering what I'm talkin' about, I'm trying to follow the fast diet. Monday, the first day, really didn't go all that bad. It was just like the book said: it isn't as hard as it may appear. But the book also said that it gets easier. That has not been the case for me today. Maybe next week will be when it gets easier.

Monday, April 22, 2013

The Fast Diet -- I Thought it Was Supposed to Help Me *Run* Faster

I am reading the Fast Diet by Michael Mosely and Mimi Spencer. It's about the joy and benefits of intermittent fasting. There's a Huffington Post article about it. There is also a PBS Program that initially got my attention.

Now then, just possessing a diet book doesn't guarantee that you will lose weight. Even keeping it close by doesn't necessarily help. And I've now learned that even reading the dang thing, in and of itself, won't do the trick for sure. One actually needs to follow the advice for there to be any benefit at all. Isn't that a bummer?

We're going to find out just how much of a bummer it is. It's supposed to be not too painful, this fasting business. You only fast for two non-consecutive days per week, and you don't totally fast - just restrict yourself to 500-600 calories for those two days. And that's it - you can eat normally for the other five days.

The book gives all sorts of rationale. Besides weight loss, the fasting is supposed to help one's heart, aging and brain function. I won't trouble you with all those details, but suffice it to say that I'm absolutely convinced. The book also provides some suggested diet specifics for the fast days, as well as some encouragement.

And so I'm finally taking the plunge; today's my first fast day. I've been really apprehensive about this whole thing, but maybe it won't be so bad. The plan is to have a salmon salad for lunch, and then a couple eggs with asparagus tonight. Yes, I might just be able to do this.

I was only kidding about the diet making me faster. But then, if I lose even a couple pounds, maybe that will be another benefit. I'm not counting on this a whole lot, however. What I am counting on is racing myself into shape, in addition to simply stepping up the training.

I did run a small 5K in Brunswick (the Race for Blue Pride) yesterday. Even though there was a decent turnout, very few fast people showed up. I wound up as the second male (a girl passed me in the final mile). My time was 21:28. This time seems pretty slow for me, even these days. But it was cold, and the course was a little on the long side. My first two miles were at 6:30 pace, and I really didn't slow down all that much. I'll take it. And there will be more shorter type races to come.

Friday, April 19, 2013


Hoka One One shoes like mine, from the Hoka website
There's been a lot of talk about minimalism in the past couple years. Running shoes are a changing, some piecemeal, some radically. The 2009 book, Born to Run by Christopher McDougall, seems to have been the catalyst. I absolutely loved that book. I thought the minimalism information was fascinating, but the storytelling was even better.

In some ways, I've been a minimalist from day one. I never carry a cellphone, a water bottle or anything else that I can get by without. I wear as little clothing as I can legally get away with. I don't even have a working GPS device. I try to run from home rather than drive to a run whenever possible - this even though my nearby running routes are devoid of large parks, trails or tracks.

And I do like light shoes; I've been experimenting with a couple different models. I'm generally fine with the minimalist movement, so long as we don't go too far over the crazy-cliff. Some cushioning is a good thing, I say.

But in other ways, I'm at the other end of the spectrum. Even though I'm reevaluating this, I generally prefer high mileage to the alternative. I run as many group runs and races as possible. And I wear Hoka One One shoes.

The Hokas certainly look like the opposite of minimalist shoes. There is an enormous amount of volume in the midsole. They're simply huge! The heel to toe drop, however, is four millimeters, the same as for many of the 'barely there' models. And they're relatively light in weight. This always comes to a surprise to anyone trying them on.

Even though I've got nearly 400 miles on my Hoka One One Stinson Evo's, as far as I'm concerned, the jury's still out on them. I don't wear them every day, but when I do, I have the sense that my body doesn't take quite the beating as it does for shoes of less cushioning. I'm not even entirely sure about this point, however. When I wore them for the Buckeye Woods 50K, as well as several training runs before and after that, I appeared to wind up with knee problems as a result. There was a suggestion that I try wearing an orthotic with them, and I've been doing this for the past couple weeks. This does appear to be helping to stabilize them, and my knee is better, but as a result, the shoes have taken on more weight. So instead of being bulky but light, they're bulky and heavy. Bottom line: ask me in another couple hundred miles.

Other ways in which I'm more maximalist and minimalist can be illustrated by some of the things I've been heard to say from time to time:

"Give me all the carbs that you removed from that low-carb meal"
"Give me the gluten that you removed from that gluten-free meal"
"Give me all the darkness, heaviness, hoppiness, maltiness, etc., that you removed from that beer in order to make it a 'light beer'"
"Give me the thickness that was removed from that thin pizza crust"

And so on.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


This is going out in our next newsletter, but I think it's also an appropriate blog post. If you are reading this and also receive the MCRR newsletter, I apologize for the duplication.

There are many kinds of loss. First, there’s the loss of words that almost, but not quite, happened to me. So much has already been said, so many eloquent words about the terror in Boston, that I don’t feel as though I have much to add. Yet I’ll try anyway. It may be better than the usual dribble that you get from me. Or not.

There’s the unimaginably painful loss experienced by a few families where a loved one was killed. There’s the loss of health and mobility of many more of those who were injured. For all these folks, the only crime was that they happened to be near the location of the explosions.

And then there’s the loss of the feeling of safety and security; our loss of innocence. We all felt this on 9/11, and now it’s happening again. It hits home a bit harder for those of us who run. Large events and gatherings, including those wrapped around running events, will need to take more precautions. In fact, they won’t be the same, especially because we won’t view them the same way.

Every now and then, some incredibly small percentage of the population of humanity gets their brain wires tangled, gets hold of a weapon, attacks some people in some way, and inexplicably causes horrible pain and suffering. The fact that so few are of this bent doesn’t make it any less painful. But what does make the whole thing a little more bearable – at least for those of us watching from a safe distance – is the response of the good people. The volunteers, the medical and emergency personnel, the police, the race organizers, and even the runners are to be commended for their courage and valor.

Boston is such a great event. Running-wise, it’s the celebration to end all celebrations. It’s something nearly all runners aspire to, and for good reason. Speaking for those of us who have been lucky enough to have had the opportunity to participate, it really is everything it’s cracked up to be. I understand that not everyone will be able to run it, but I would certainly encourage all to try.

Thank goodness that all our MCRR runners are safe. Those runners who participated in this year’s Boston Marathon are: Connie Gardner, Ladd Clifford, Roberta Gangl, Beth Bugner, Jeannine Nicholson, Jack McDaniel (and family), Bob Pokorny, Debbie Hicks and Delores Manhoff. Great job you guys! We’re all proud of you.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Spring Classic 10-Mile

Going out for the second loop.                Photo by John Pavlick
At 40F, give or take, it sure felt cold. At least there was only a little wind, and no rain. And the heavy layer of clouds actually helped as well. I saw a bunch of friends before the start - some from MCRR, some from CWRRC, and a few others - more than I thought there'd be. It was nice to chat with everyone, although aside from the conversation, our teeth were chattering too.

After we got moving, the conditions actually felt great. In fact, running weather doesn't get much better.

I started out by trying to keep up with Heidi Finniff. Heidi's been running really good lately, so I knew that  if I could stay with her, I'd have a solid run.

The first mile went by in around 7:30. Having only run the Hinckley Buzzard 25K trail race in recent months, I didn't know what to expect this day. I'd originally thought that maybe staying around an eight-minute pace would be a worthwhile goal, but I just wasn't sure what would happen. Now that I'd started out at a seven-thirty pace, I figured that my goal had now been defined: stay at this same pace throughout the run.

Easier said than done. At some point I passed Heidi, but she stayed close behind. We could see each other, as well as most of the other runners, at all the turnarounds. There were a few guys that were just in front and back of me, and except for one or two, I couldn't quite seem to shake them.

I went through half-way point in 37:40, hoping that I could pick it up at least a tiny bit for the last five. I did manage to stay at 7:30 pace for most of the miles, and then I picked it up for the final one, which was around seven minutes flat. I wasn't able to catch a few of those other guys, but it was still a strong finish, and I was quite happy with my finish time of 1:14:35.

Funny thing: they give you your award as you cross the line (a really wonderful idea), and when they presented me with my second in age group plaque, I said, "please don't tell me it was one of those guys right in front of me who got first!" They understood the need to lie to me, and said, "no, don't worry - first place was WAY in front of you!" I still don't know for sure whether that was the truth or a very nice lie, but I feel much better not knowing.
At the finish with my usual grimmace. Photo by George Themalis

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Protein Supplementation

It was around 2010 when I began my experimentation with protein. I'd always known that it was important for recovery, but now I began doing some serious supplementation, especially right after a run or other workout. It started with Hammer Nutrition's Recoverite, which is made specifically for recovery of aerobic exercise. Recoverite has a 3 to 1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein, which is pretty much what all the experts say is good. Then I moved on to pure protein supplementation - Cytosport 100% Whey Protein, which was available at Costco for a good price. I figured that with all the fruit and cereal, I was already getting plenty of the carbs that the Recoverite was giving me. Now I had the protein (usually mixed with almond milk) to go with it. Never mind that I had been using almond milk to reduce my dairy consumption, and now I was adding it back in. Not everything I do makes perfect sense. Actually, I'd been considering moving on to some sort of plant based protein for my supplementation. More on this later.

Whether it was directly related to the protein or not, my running improved. I increased my training volume fairly significantly. I ran some pretty darn good marathons and half-marathons. The greatest improvement was in my ultras. Arguably, the best of them was my run at the Mad City 100K in April, 2011, where I ran a 9:31.

Things kept going well, until my debacle at Mohican that summer. Although I still had some decent runs later that year, it was definitely a turning point. After that, the injuries really took over - the plantar fasciitis, the piriformis, and the rest - and things went downhill. 2012, of course, was a complete waste.

So was it the protein? Did that have anything at all to do with this rise and fall? If so, why didn't it shield me from all those injuries? Maybe it enabled me to run more, and that actually caused the injuries? I have no idea. But let me talk about a more recent, albeit much smaller, rise and fall. 2013 has started out kinder and gentler. My training volume is down. I'm only slowly increasing the intensity. If I feel any injury at all coming on, I back off. Most importantly, I am trying my darnedest to stay injury-free. With the reduced number of miles, I began to wonder whether the extra protein was helping at all. So I stopped taking it for a few weeks.

It was imperceptible at first, but then I began to notice it more and more. The soreness, the aches and pains. Not being able to run hard two days in a row, or even less often than that. Last weekend I met up with a gang of old friends in Broadview Heights for their Saturday morning long run. The pace wasn't all that terribly fast, and I should have been able to keep up. But I couldn't. I had run only moderately hard the previous two days, and I was just plain tired when it came to hitting the roads that Saturday. This was discouraging since I had been showing some slow but steady improvement throughout the year.

Setbacks happen, sometimes for unknown reasons. But am I back on the protein? You bet.

But wait - it gets even more interesting. In the wake of all this is some new information about l-carnitine. It seems that a study by the Cleveland Clinic has shown a link to heard disease. An amino acid that is a nutrient in red meat, and also an ingredient in many milk based protein supplements, including the one I'm taking.

I'm going to take a closer look at the plant-based protein supplements.

North Canton YMCA 4th of July 5-mile

Since I have participated in the Ohio Challenge Series many years, I've done this race many times, albeit many moons ago. It's a fun...