The Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How of High Mileage Training

Photo Credit: 長跑 Long Run (Marathon) by Flickr user See-ming Lee, used under a Creative Commons license.

Photo Credit: 長跑 Long Run (Marathon) by Flickr user See-ming Lee, used under a Creative Commons license.

One of the bigger areas of debate among runners and coaches is the tradeoff between quantity of miles (or kilometers, of course) and quality of miles.  With the growth of the “run less, run better” and Crossfit approaches to training, there is a temptation to believe that you as a runner can perform your best by landing on the quality side of this argument in your training and cutting down your mileage to the “minimum necessary.” There are plenty of success stories claiming to prove that these approaches work.

It is, however, important to distinguish between what “can work” and what “works best”.  Yes, you can improve your race results with a low quantity / high quality approach, particularly if you are a newer runner (and don’t run with so much intensity that you get injured), or a runner who has been away for awhile but has a good aerobic and athletic base.  But these gains are going to be limited in scope and over time, as your returns on investment will begin to fade.

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Five Ways to Tune Up Your Tune-Up Race Strategy: Perfect 10 Case Study

Perfect 10 Race Start

One error many runners make is in the management of their tune-up races.  These training elements, when used properly, can be a powerful tool for providing physiological and psychological development, feedback on your progress, experience in managing pacing and other race-specific elements, and in dialing in your “A” race goal.  However, they can also quickly derail your training if overused or scheduled and executed improperly.

There are a couple of more common mistakes in the management of tune-up races that you should watch out for (and it’s an area I work closely with Team Predawn Runner members in planning and avoiding).

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From the Archives:
Tripped-Out Running – Shuffling through Shanghai (or Plodding in Pudong)

The early-morning Bund as viewed from across the Huangpu River in Pudong

A recent business trip took me from the tranquil island paradise of Phuket, Thailand to the frenetic modern metropolis of the Pudong New Area district of Shanghai, China.  After the sweltering runs through the sandy palm-laden trails, the early morning traffic-dodging of one of the world’s largest and fastest-growing cities provided quite the contrast, and plenty of memorable running experiences of its own.

Shanghai possesses a humid subtropical climate, with snow being rare; the temperatures for this four-day visit were typical for March, with high’s in the mid-50’s F (low teens C) and predawn lows around 40º F (5º C), making for pleasant running conditions requiring only shirt, shorts, and arm sleeves (stripped off on the last run).  I had the opportunity to run on three days while there; the other was dominated by a day-trip to the northeastern industrial city of Shenyang to visit a customer.

Based out of the Intercontinental Shanghai Pudong, near the bend in the Huangpu River across from the Bund, and at the intersections of Zhangyang Road and Century Avenue, I was positioned well to explore the bustling financial districts of Pudong.  Like most major cities in Asia (or, for that matter, anywhere in the world), it is essential to get out early, and beat both the awe-inspiring pedestrian and vehicular traffic and the mid-afternoon smog, not nearly as bad in March as it gets in the late summer.  If you get out early, Shanghai is an eminently runnable city, with broad sidewalks and, while urban planning was perhaps an afterthought, the streets are well-labeled with English signs, with overhead boards providing the useful navigational aide of directing you to adjacent streets.

The right way to loop near the Huangpu River in Pudong

On the first morning, I decided to head west towards the Huangpu River to try and enjoy the views of the Bund, then loop north and east along the river, taking Dongfang Road back to the hotel’s intersection.  So I followed Zhangyang Road to its end (well, to its tunnel under the river, at least), and jumped on the riverside path. Unfortunately, like too many regions of the world, fully suitable riverfront pathways gave way to private property, and I was forced back inland to the streets.

After passing near the Shangri-La, where we had hosted a customer reception the previous evening, and the Pearl Tower, I tried to weave my way back to the hotel.  Alas, I hadn’t studied the route well-enough and, after passing the circular intersection of Lujiazui Inner Ring and Century Avenue twice (“Look kids, Big Ben, Parliament”), I switched on the “Back to Start” feature of my Garmin Forerunner 405 GPS watch and, aided by the age-old approach of using the position of the sun in the sky (it rises in the east in China as well), I made my way in a generally-southerly direction until I ended up on Puming Road on my way to Zhangyang and back to the hotel, finishing 7 miles of my intended 4-5 mile route.  At least I could enjoy an extra chocolate muffin at the lavish hotel breakfast buffet with little guilt (though the muffin by itself may have wiped out the entire 3 extra miles).

The Oriental Pearl Tower in Shanghai

The following morning, I opted for an out-and-back route down Century Avenue to the Shanghai Science and Technology Museum plaza.  Other than the occasional delay at a street crossing (more so on the return, around 7:00AM), this was a smooth and easy route.  The museum plaza (also hosting the Shanghai Oriental Art Museum) provides a small oasis of peace and calm, with gardens and pools embedded in heavy concrete somehow supported above a busy city street, and Tai Chi practitioners grace the morning with their fluidity.  This was a nice brief 4 mile run.

Just southeast of this plaza is Century Park, one of the larger such parks in the city.  Picture more of Grant Park than Central Park or Lincoln Park, but with an entry fee required.  This was the destination of my final run, with an extra spring in my step knowing I was heading home that day, a Saturday.  With the park still closed at 6:00 AM (and me not being interested in spending money on a run), I looped around it instead, enjoying a route uninterrupted by street crossings for a good 3 miles.  With the 2 miles to and from the park, this made for another 7 mile run, capped with some work in the hotel fitness center and at that aforementioned breakfast buffet.

Century Park and, to the northwest, the Shanghai Science and Technology Museum plaza

3 runs, 18 miles, and my hamstring worries and Mizuno Wave Riders left behind.  While some say you can only know a place by its food, I say you know it better by hitting its streets, especially early before others would even think to do so.  That being said, there are a few things to keep in mind when running in Shanghai or similar boomtowns of Asia (having also run in Tokyo and Taipei on numerous occasions, I think I’m qualified to generalize):

  • Street lights are considered a “recommendation” by some motorists, but especially by bicyclists or motor-scooterists.  Never assume the latter will actually stop.
  • Taxis generally will stop for pedestrians, but not without making you sweat first.  Remember, their time is money, though in Shanghai their time is surprisingly cheap (and tipping is discouraged).
  • Buses move faster than they appear and may not even be able to stop for pedestrians, even if they wanted to.
  • Take money with you for a cab or the surprisingly easy-to-understand subway system in the event you get lost.  It helps to have the hotel staff write out the name and directions of the hotel for use with taxi drivers, as few if any speak English (and surprisingly few know the city very well).

Finally, I have a photostream on Flickr for those interested in seeing most of the (generally post-dawn) city scenes of Shanghai-Pudong.

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Gate 1 - the main entrance to Century Park in Shanghai Pudong

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Posted in Travel by Greg. No Comments

Running Shoe Review: Pearl Izumi Project E:Motion Road N1

PI Road N1 Side

It’s not often that I spontaneously buy a new type of running shoe.  But that was the position I found myself in when I went with my wife to help her pick out some new shoes at the best shoe store in the area, Vertical Runner in Hudson, OH.

First, I think a bit of a lesson is in order – be careful in trusting the expertise of running shoe salespeople, especially when it’s not a running-focused store.  My wife got her first shoes from someone who had been “trained by Brooks” on selecting shoes.  While the young lady got one variable right (neutral running form), she missed a few other key ingredients.  My wife spends most of her work day in high heels as a hospital administrator, and has never really run before.  The Brooks Pure Cadence sounded good on paper, but the low drop and limited cushioning were a complete miss.  Fortunately, the store took the shoes back after ~20 miles, so we decided to go to a better source for try #2 (note, I had intentionally removed myself from try #1, to let my wife find her own space in developing as a runner). Read the rest of Running Shoe Review: Pearl Izumi Project E:Motion Road N1 »

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Posted in Gear by Greg. 2 Comments

Seven Ways to Support Your Significant Other’s Interest in Running

Photo Credit: FUN RUN by Flickr user whologwhy, used under a Creative Commons license.

Photo Credit: FUN RUN by Flickr user whologwhy, used under a Creative Commons license.

Many runners are in a relationship where they are the only one pursuing the sport. Obviously, partners in a relationship can have divergent interests, that either predate the relationship or developed over time.  This is a good thing, as everyone needs their own “thing”, and their time to themselves.  Plus, running is a hobby that consumes a lot of time, and it can be difficult to balance with other needs like childcare – though hopefully you are doing your fair share of more of the work and supporting your partner’s own hobbies.

However, given the great physical and mental health benefits of running, which you are hopefully humbly putting on display through your fitness and good demeanor, it’s probably far more likely that your significant other (for simplicity, let’s just assume it is a spouse, and more specifically a wife, since Mrs. Predawn Runner has just started running) will develop an interest in running than in, say, golf or poker (especially poker). Or perhaps she just wants to have something more in common, something to talk about, or another way to spend time together.

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Nine Helpful Tips on Your Running Form

Photo Credit: Dismal Days 2012 on Flickr by US Army Corps of Engineers Norfolk District, used under a Creative Commons license.

Photo Credit: Dismal Days 2012 on Flickr by US Army Corps of Engineers Norfolk District, used under a Creative Commons license.

A few Team Predawn Runner members have asked for help with their form of late. I’ve also been asked to provide some thoughts on the running form of one of the kindergarten soccer players coach.  My response? Maybe it’s a little early to worry about that…

Form is a tricky topic and in fact a bit of a “bunny hole”, particularly when coaching online. That’s partly because form is highly subjective and individual, and therefore “messing with it” can often be counterproductive. Since it is a common concern runners have, it’s worth sharing a few thoughts on a “form philosophy” that I’ve built over the years. Read the rest of Nine Helpful Tips on Your Running Form »