I had set out on this race with the goal of setting a new personal best on this course, first place in my age group, and a top 5 overall finish. I started off with a 6:37 split and planned on holding it till the beginning of the rolling hills and climbs. This course is packed with over 3,000 ft of climbing. It can deceive runners into setting a fast pace the first half only to kill their legs, struggle up the climbs, and having very little for the last half. I had done this course enough to respect it's ferocity and would approach it conservatively.
I was enjoying the the solitude and scenic beauty when a runner came up on my left and said, "hey man, remember me?" It was my runner friend Jose whom I ran the Morgan Hill marathon last year with. Smiles broke out and we chatted, catching each other up on life. This is one thing I really appreciate about running. Despite running being a sport practiced individually, it breeds sincere friendships among runners. I asked him if he had any specific goals for this marathon, he said he wanted to break the 3 hour mark. I responded, "let's make it happen."
We teamed up and ran in synchronized strides. You may not get the physical benefit of drafting as you would in cycling, but you get a mental draft benefit, something that links you with the runner(s) you are running with that provides a mental boost and a sense of comradery. Running together makes you run better. From mile 3 we stayed side by side swallowing up riders as we traversed the hilly course. Runners we passed gave us crazy looks as they saw us talking, thinking it was rather awkward that two runners could hold a conversation running sub 6:40 splits in a full marathon. Randomly we howled and screamed in excitement, making sure we stayed positive and didn't drop in morale.
We approached a left turn around mile 19 where a course marshal said, "great job guys, you are the top 3rd and 4th runners in the full marathon. I turned to Jose, "I think I heard him wrong. Did he say we are 3rd and 4th overall?" "Yeah man!" Jose said with an excited smile. There I was, finding myself on the brink of yet another big goal, making the podium with an overall top finish.
As much as I wanted it, I wanted Jose to also achieve his goal. We ran together, encouraging one another when one of us would start to lag. We knew that this race meant something to both of us, and the miles we ran together reminded me that you don't run against others in a race, you run with them. We reached mile 24 and that's when Jose started to fade. I was feeling strong and able to push. I turned to Jose and said, "You did it Jose. You're going to break the 3 hour mark. I'm going to push ahead. You're welcome to join if you think you've got enough juice." Jose waved me on and gave me his blessing. I pushed forward and ran the last 2 miles with all my heart, breaking the 3 hour mark (total time 02:55:49).
I stood up on the podium with the other top finishers. There in first place was a Kenyan by the name of Bihama Vedaste, who ran the marathon in a very impressive 2 hours 34 minutes. He turned to me and with his thick Kenyan accent said, "good job." I got chills from that, and congratulated him as well.
Challenges make life exciting. Overcoming them, makes life meaningful.
Be well and run on!
Interval training enhances stroke volume. You increase heart rate and blood flow during your workout interval, but your rest interval is the most crucial aspect. Your heart rate drops fast, which forces your ventricles to fill more fully. Stroke volume is one of the greater determining factors of successful running.
Unfit runners reach max stroke volume while jogging. In contrast, fit/trained runners reach max stroke volume up to 5K pace or faster.
Train your heart and it will do what human tissue does best, adapts. Cardiac muscle fibers get bigger. Your heart's connective tissue gets stronger. Your ventricle chambers grow larger. Your stroke volume goes up and resting heart rate goes down.
Train your heart
30 to 90 seconds at 1500m to 3k pace is good heart training. Hill repeats, tempo and cruise intervals are also great options.
Capillaries transport blood and nutrients to your muscles. The more capillaries you have serving each muscle fiber, the more oxygen you can transport to that muscle fiber, and the more carbon dioxide and waste products you can get rid of.
New capillaries begin development in the first week of training (only for muscle fibers that are being recruited). While riding a bike may be good exercise, it won't develop capillaries around non biking muscle fibers. In the same manner, if you run slow distance only, you'll develop capillaries around slow-twitch muscle fibers, not fast -twitch fibers.
5 Ways to stimulate capillary growth:
1) Increase muscle fiber contractions by volume (number of contractions) or rate of contraction (speed at which your fibers contract)
Long runs are a workout that stimulates capillary growth by volume. A tempo run simulates growth by both volume and rate of contraction.
2) Increase blood flow
Fast blood flow puts great stress on capillaries. When stress reaches a critical point, your capillaries either divide or sprout new ones. Interval workouts (5k pace or faster) are a great workout for increasing blood flow.
3) Increase pressure on capillary walls
Constant pressure against capillary walls can increase capillary diameter. Sustained distance runs (slow or fast) are good workouts.
4) Increase pace beyond aerobic threshold
Running at pace just above oxygen-fueled running can stimulate capillary growth. 5k pace intervals are a good workout for this.
5) Increase lactate
When you stop training, you lose all your new hard-earned capillaries in as little as seven days. When you reduce training, you reduce blood flow, you reduce capillaries. Exercising too hard also damages capillary growth. By training capillaries, your mitochondria also benefit (powerhouse inside muscle cells that convert glycogen into fuel).
Train Your Lungs
Stronger respiratory muscles lower psychological stress from sucking wind and lower energy use. At rest, breathing accounts for 1% of energy use. During running, energy usage can increase to 9%. Cutting that down by a few percent leaves more energy for the rest of your body to use.
Training respiratory muscles requires fast running (moderate to high intensity intervals):
-5k effort road and trail repetitions
-Fast tempo runs
-Slow tempo runs
Train hard, but not too hard. Above all, remember that rest is also a crucial part of training.
Be well and run on!
A week after the San Jose Rock 'n' Roll Half marathon, I was up and ready for a trail half marathon in Pacifica, CA. I knew the course well from another race held by a different promoter. I had done a race prep run 2 weeks before and developed my strategy. I did recovery runs leading up to the trail marathon, giving a day of rest the day before.
I lined up at the start scanning the field. There appeared to be a handful of strong runners, my eyes scanning to feel them out to sense who I should watch out for. The gun went off and I surprised the pack by sprinting ahead. I did this because of the trail race being largely on single track paths. If I stayed with the pack, I'd risk getting stuck behind runners with a slow pace and would have to spend more energy passing them. I could hear a couple of chuckles as some runners murmured that I was foolish to do such a thing. I knew the strategy was risky, and this is what I was hoping for, for runners to think it was and hold back.
I found myself alone through the first mile. Moments later, a runner passed me with a pace I felt was too strong to handle. If I was going to give chase, I would do so on the descents. I maintained fast feet turnovers as I weaved up to the summit. Just moments before reaching the summit, I heard the footsteps of a runner trying to catch me. His breathing was heavy. He had spent good effort trying to catch me, and I would use this to my advantage. As soon as I reached the summit, I attacked the descent immediately and did not stop attacking. By the time I reached the bottom of the first climb, he was no longer behind me.
I weaved my way through the second climb, which was quite short compared to the first climb. As I made my way to the bottom, I saw my chaser coming halfway down. I had at least a minute on him. Rather than try to create a bigger gap on the flat section, I took this segment as a recovery interval, saving my strength for the third and final climb. The switchbacks seemed to be endless; trying to count them would lead to deliriousness. I kept a conservative effort with a fast turnover. The last thing I wanted was to have dead legs for the final descent. I reached the summit and went straight into attacking the descent. As good as it felt, I kept reminding myself that I was being chased and remained vigilant. I imagined every sound I heard was a runner nipping at my heels trying to catch me. I wasn't taking anything for granted and pushed the attack down to the bottom. I gave a final push to the finish line, claiming second place and a drinking glass as my prize.
In a way, running is like mouthwash. If you feel the burn, you know it's working.
Be well and run on!
On September 27, 2015, the streets of San Jose were packed with over 8,000 excited runners. I took my place in Coral 1 just behind the rope that segregated us from the elites. My goal was to break my current best of 1:24:08. The increased heat in the San Francisco area made race pace runs difficult the months leading up to the marathon. I was averaging splits 8 seconds over my targeted pace and couldn't seem to break through. With two weeks to go, I slipped on my Luna Sandals and did one last race pace run. I was able to hit 6:14 splits which would put me under the 2 minute goal. It was time to taper and see how it would go down on Sunday.
The gun went off and I hit the road fast to surge through a pack of runners then settled into a pace. Runners would pass me with a competitive eagerness that proved to be costly. I found myself passing runners who surged ahead and had a pack of runners riding in my drift. I wasn't worried. I was focused on my goal and stayed to it. I checked my pace every few miles and saw I was within my goal. With runners nipping at my heels and runners in site to pick off, I made the decision at mile 11 to start my kick. I dug deep and just ran, not bothering with my watch. I wanted to run the last few miles by heart, not by head.
I made a sweeping right turn and could see 2 runners ahead. I reeled them in, making my pass and made a final left turn and saw the finish with one more runner within my reach. I ran as hard as I could, squeezing out whatever juice I had left in my legs, and beat the runner by 3 seconds along with breaking my record by 2:49 (total time 1:21:21).
It's a great feeling when the stars align. Running breaks you, and afterwards you are stronger in the broken places.
Be well and keep run on!