Ever think that if you could not feel pain, you'd run, bike, swim faster? The idea of not feeling a thing as you physically exert yourself appears to be a grand idea. You may imagine yourself performing at faster speeds, soaring effortlessly. Such an idea........couldn't be farther from the truth.
In 2006, Markus Amann and his colleagues performed an experiment with a pain inhibitor known as fentanyl. During a 5k self-paced time trial, participants were given fentanyl to block afferent feedback. No superhuman performance occurred by any of the cyclists. Instead, the cyclists performed much worse than without taking fentanyl. Because the pain information that comes from the muscles could not be communicated to the brain, they did not know how to manage their pace. Without that feedback, the participants ran like an inexperienced runner, going out crazy and harder, building up a greater degree of peripheral fatigue because the brain had no incentive to control let alone monitor the pacing strategy.
In the second half of the trial, the participants faded tremendously and had trouble walking and standing afterwards. This study showed that pain/afferent feedback is crucial to a good performance. The brain utilizes the amount of pain you experience to ensure that exhaustion occurs at the finish line, not before. When you block pain entirely, you have no way of knowing if you are pushing too hard too soon.
So the next time you're out there training or racing, remember that pain is your friend. It helps you to perform better. Embrace it, welcome it, and harness its power. Pain is like fabric. The stronger it is, the more it's worth.
Be well and run on!
Cloudy overcast with temperatures in the low 60s made for ideal conditions for the 2015 San Diego Rock'n'Roll marathon. Just 9 weeks after completing the Modesto Marathon, I set my sights on the hilly course of San Diego. There much debate over how much time one should take for recovery after a marathon. I've tested the general time frame of 5 weeks and found that after the 2nd week I was developing the urge to start training again. After the 3rd week, I was bored, going crazy, and really itching to get back into intense training. After the Modesto Marathon, I took the following week to recover and did 8 weeks of intense training. I kept a close watch on each training session to be sure I was making progress and not headed towards burning out or injury. Week after week, the data was showing I was improving, getting stronger and faster.
I made the trip down from San Francisco to sunny San Diego. I arrived a few days before the race so I could enjoy the sites, culture, and amazing food. The closer I got to race day, the more I could feel the intensity of the race. I woke up and took some time to meditate and get myself in the zone. Lining up at the start, I had the sense that this was going to be the kind of race where will power is what would get me through the final handful of miles. I couldn't have been more right.
The race started out flat with some nice downhill segments and subtle rolling hills. But as the race progressed, so did the severity of the hills. A good amount of runners increased their pace and passed me having not even reached the halfway mark. At this point, runners are still charged with adrenaline and feel strong and confident. It's tempting to make moves at this point and they might pay off. From my observation, I've seen it cost runners than pay them.
I adjusted strategy and pace to stay on track with my sub 3 hour goal but around mile 20 when I reached the base of the climb going up highway 5 and looked up, I knew this hill was going to cost a lot of energy, and I was willing to accept the fact I'd have to forego the sub 3 hour goal and make a new goal. I climbed with a consistent stride but with a conservative effort, passing up a few runners who had broken postures and heavy breathing. When I reached the top of the hill, I felt it was too risky to chase after the sub 3 hour goal. Instead I chased after my previous best of 03:02:21 from the Modesto Marathon.
The hills put the hurt on and every stride reminded me of it. Running is, in a way, just like mouthwash. If you feel the burn, you know it's working. I took advantage of the downhill sections and was conservative going up the hills, knowing my tank was running near empty and any hard efforts could be costly. The last 5 miles I caught much of the runners that had surged ahead of me before the halfway point. I could see the pain in their face. Two runners I passed pulled off to the side and stopped completely. Coming into the final stretch I could hear the crowd at the finish line and felt recharged by their support for runners. I rounded the last turn to the left and saw it was a downhill finish from here. In the near distance I could see the finish and one runner inching his way to it. I ramped up and gave one final kick, passing him just meters before the finish. Later I had found out that I beat him by a mere 5 seconds. Nonetheless, I was happy that I left everything at the line. My best was given and it was time to enjoy the endorphins and delicious recovery treats.
Overall: 39th out of 4218
Division: 8th out of 394
Gender: 36th out of 2426
Upon reviewing my GPS watch data from the marathon this past Sunday, when I had achieved 26.21 miles, my time was 3hrs 1min 55sec. When I crossed the finish line and stopped my watch, the watch read 26.52 miles with a time of 3hrs 3min 42sec (I ran a few meters past the finish line to slow down before stopping my watch). I expect a margin of error (a few meters give or take), but a margin of 338 meters is too big of a deviation to overlook.
It'll be a few weeks till I they give me their decision. Nonetheless, I'm happy with how I ran and see this as a big accomplishment. I'll enjoy the next few days to recover then hop back into training.
Be well and run on!
On March 29th I lined up at the start of the 2015 Modesto Marathon. All the training the months up the marathon was showing I was capable of running a Boston Qualifying time. Now, it was time to put it all to the test. I set out with a 6:45 pace. Monitoring my splits, everything was going well. It was at mile 4 I made a judgment call that would make the difference. The marathon started at 7am in the central valley of California. The temperature was around 63 degrees Fahrenheit. As strong as I felt early on, I knew the heat would take a toll on me and cause havoc. I dropped my pace gradually to 6:55. Around mile 16 I could feel the heat and fatigue creeping on me, but still had it in me to hold the pace. At mile 18 I was fading slightly but as long as I kept up the effort, I would qualify.
It's hard to describe the flood of emotions I felt as I ran the last handful of miles. This was a dream I had since I started running 4 years ago. Marathon after marathon, I kept chasing after it. There were times I questioned if I really was capable of achieving Boston. I thought of my girlfriend, Nicole, who supported me through the years I chased this goal, and kept me in the fight when I spoke of wanting to quit. I thought of my Mom, who would tell me constantly when I was a child, that I could do all things through Christ who strengthened me. I thought of my Dad, who told me if hard work is not paying off, keep working till it does. Knowing people believe in you gives you a sort of second wind when you're in the final stretch. At mile 25 I could hear the crowd and music playing, hinting the finish was close. I mustered up one last good effort picked up the pace. I sprinted the final 200 meters crossing the finish with a time of 3:02.21 (2:39 under the time for my age group), finally achieving my dream of Boston.
Each time you achieve a goal, it empowers you. You see that you are capable of accomplishing challenging and great things. Qualifying for Boston has motivated to set my sights higher. This May, I aim to run a sub 3 marathon at San Diego, progressively working to qualify for next year's New York City Marathon (needing a time of 2:53.00), and by year's end moving up to the elite category. I'll keep you guys updated and make some posts regarding new insights on nutrition and training. Be sure to check back soon. Thank you for your support! Find your limits, then exceed them.
Be well and run on!