Pour some sugar on me!

Yes Tuesday evening, February 26th our very own Holistic Guru Christine Lynch discussed how to co exist with that sugary stuff without having to sign up for a 12-step program. Special thanks to Brett “Texafornia” Blankner host of Zen and the Art of Triathlon who confessed his addiction to pixie sticks and podcast the discussion and all of the documents mentioned here.

Christine at the 2008 Boston Build-up 10K

If you have follow up questions, or if you want to find out how much sugar we consume on an annual basis, please reach out to Christine directly at www.liveandeatbetter.com.

Brick by brick by …no not that one, the other one!

NXT Spinners

What do architecture, being particular, and indoor cycling have in common? Michael Nieminen. So as you know I’m still reeling from my illness and I’m still trying to work my way back into shape, not into fitness, just into shape, that semblance of looking like I actually know what I’m doing. This morning, I decided to cycle again at the JCC. It’s the Thursday am class that I subbed in for last week because the instructor wasn’t able to teach. So as it’s fairly hard to get up and out the door these mornings, I was late, and I felt incredibly embarrassed. I really promoted the Thursday class on Monday when I taught, and we had ten people in that class so I expected a good turnout for this morning. Now ten riders may not sound like a lot but I felt it was a great start to this cycling program and on Monday they were all in there at six am sharp and ready to roll, or well, not exactly ready to roll but almost. About half of the riders didn’t have a clue about how to set up their bikes so we spent the first ten minutes of class with half of them spinning to warm up and the other half waiting for me to go around and make sure they were either not riding like they were on a BMX with their knees in their shoulders, or equally challenging, reaching for pedals that they can’t touch – that only leads to singing soprano for 45 minutes and trust me, the worst comes the next morning when you try to pee. This was entirely my fault as I should have gotten there even earlier to set them up on their bikes before six o’clock.

So where was I? Oh yes, so this morning I figured if the same group was coming, the instructor would probably have to spend a few minutes helping them into their bikes so I probably would be late, but not functionally late. So I ran up the hallway and heard the music playing and peaked my head in to see what? The instructor, complete with cool bandanna and four bikes in front of him, but nobody there. Ouch. My reaction was twofold. One? Was I responsible for this? Did I scare them away with my class? And secondly, I know what it’s like to show up to teach a class when nobody shows up. What you wind up doing is either practicing your class to refine it or just getting in a workout of your own. Michael was doing one of those things. I hurried upstairs, threw on my cycling cleats and made my way as quickly as possible to the class where I apologized again, seriously embarrassed and started riding. He asked who I was and I said “Adam”, to which he replied, “oh so you’re the other instructor”. And there we were, two instructors spinning away for the next forty-five minutes.

To say Michael is odd would be a true comment, but he’s no odder than I am. What makes him odd is his peculiar commitment to knowing the right way to do things. Maybe that’s because he is an architect, a real one, not like I have often described my approach to solving business or people issues. He’s actually quite funny. He told me about his recent certification, being a permanent sub for classes at Equinox and his desire to show up here and have forty people fighting over thirty bikes on a regular basis because they just love to spin. Michael is an indoor rider, he is all about the guy who figured it might be even more fun to be on the other side of the room leading all of those other people on an experience. He’s in his fifties but looks like he’s barely forty. He has a 21 year old son at Syracuse studying, you guessed it, architecture. And it is really apparent that he can ride. He’s one of those technically proficient riders that if he rode outside, you’d really be curious what he could do, but you also know that riding outside would simply be too disruptive to his routine so that’s just not going to happen. In this class his favorite thing seemed to be a standing run, which if done right means that your legs are moving in tight circles under you, while your upper body remains basically motionless. It burns the heck out of your quads and quite frankly this morning, he was much better at those than I. It is a completely useless riding technique because you’d never give that much frontal surface area to the wind, but as a fitness technique it destroys your quads, but in a good way.

So somewhere during our indoor ride/kibitzing session, I realize just how particular he is, which makes him fun to watch because I am the exact opposite – well sometimes. As I’ve written about before, I have ADD/OCD which means I’m all over the place until I land on one thing randomly and then I beat the hell out of it until everyone around me either leaves or cries uncle in despair. This architect personality, however makes for a great ride instructor. Even with me being the only other rider, and knowing I was an instructor – which can be somewhat unnerving – he put on a class that was detailed in every way. He even scotched taped his ride program up on the mirror behind him and it was typed up. He matched cadence with effort, he made sure that he was communicating visually and verbally and that both of those messages were in sync. He shouted out pedaling cadence and was even particular in how he explained pelvic tilt when standing up. You wouldn’t have known that he is only recently certified; you can tell that he rides often and regularly and equally important, he rides with quality instructors. You can toss the lack of credentialed experience out the window because he probably has as much or more indoor riding experience than anyone I know. Why? Because he gets into his routine and that means that every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, he’s at his regular gym spinning with what he calls the “aggressive crowd”.

Being particular can sometimes mean being so caught up in the details that you can’t see context and rhythm. Not so with Michael. He said something really profound during one extended standing climb. He said that he really enjoys group indoor rides because they are not complicated like the relationships that he has with his family and professional colleagues.  He said that he has made great friends while riding in this group and the reason why they have remained friends so long is because of the simplicity of the relationship. They are all there to ride and sweat. And that’s it. For someone who likes a routine, group indoor rides can be a great way to get that communal support but also know that you can count on what you’re getting. In that, group riding, group running, group workouts or any other type of group fitness activities can be incredibly powerful. The key as with most things is finding the right group.


-Coach Adam

An Auspicious Start to Ironman 2008

So the 2008 Escape from NYC is completed and in the books. Congratulations to Eugene Koenig who is this year’s successful Escapee. For his efforts he received a one of a kind winners certificate that Christine painstakingly created and since we couldn’t afford to give him a car, we got him a card, a $10 Starbucks card to be exact, along with a bottle of Ethos water because we couldn’t resist promoting their brand slogan of “Helping children get clean.” Okay, so it’s actually “Helping children get clean water” but given how nasty and ripe we all were after this run, we liked our version better.

With 66% of the participants not completing the event, this may go down as the toughest marathon ever. Our percent of finishers was lower than Chicago’s in 2007 and they had 90 degree weather and 90% humidity. Okay, so there were only three people that ran our race and two of us came down with injuries that precluded us from finishing but even Eugene, the ultimate champion and Sole Surviving Escapee, arrived in Scarsdale beat up and heavily fatigued from the ordeal. He especially liked the four rolling climbs and valleys that concluded the race over the final five miles. When Michelle and I rode this off a few weeks ago, her quote was, “the runners are going to hate you for the finish to this race”.

The one thing that we all agreed was that you don’t need to spend $70- $130 for a great marathon experience. This marathon is the only race that includes Grand Central Terminal, Times Square, the Westside Greenway, the Little Red Lighthouse, the George Washington Bridge, instances of domestic violence, bathrooms, police support, crack dealers slinging on corners, Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz, a cab driver named Jim, snowmen spectators, views of the Palisades, cheering spectators and aid stations set up by community churches and it all cost nada, nothing, bupkus except a few hours of time. No matter where you live, if you are a runner, you probably already know the best places to run, so map it out, invite some friends and have at it. Sites like 140dot6.com are great resources for creating your own self supported races.

We’ll post an entire report complete with pictures and audio on this event later but the reason why I bring it up here is because it represents a validation that there is no way that I am ready to compete in the Los Angeles Marathon next weekend. This flu beat me up in so many ways and today was validation that my muscles and my supportive structures are in full on melt down leaving me entirely exposed. Specifically, I ran fairly easily for fourteen miles and then my left knee tightened up and the left ITB fired and that was all she wrote. I ran/walked/skipped/stretched/limped for another three miles trying to work it out and then I simply called it a day. I walked with Christine who as having back issues of her own until the 23-mile mark just to put time in and then we hopped into a cab to take us to the finish area at the Starbucks in Scarsdale. Over the past four weeks, I have run three times and cycled five times. To those who think, what an idiot, how would he think he could just show up and throw up a marathon with such little training, please understand that up until I got sick, I had one heck of a base going with multi-hour rides and 18 to 30 mile runs as the norm. And these runs weren’t survival runs but, hey let’s pop off a 23-miler and the go teach a Spinning class afterwards, runs. Additionally, I wasn’t looking to compete in this Escape, simply to complete it and let’s be honest, if I can’t complete 26 miles in some combination of running, walking or crawling, I’ve got a long way to go to get back.

So Los Angeles is officially off the list and in the crapper and more importantly, I lost probably two months of training, a month of being sick and a month to make up for all of the gains made in January that I no longer have. With 146 days until IMLP, I now am faced with returning to base when I really should be starting to build. What’s worse is that as crappy as I have been in getting in runs and rides, I’ve been even worse with my weakest link, the swim. Because I had that lovely upper respiratory thing going on, I have been really gun shy about heading back into the pool, which I desperately need to do.

Getting back on track isn’t rocket science, just revising the plan and expectations a bit, getting back to frequency and consistency over performance. Hopefully next week will be my first full week of training where I am “healthy” and it would certainly be great to do something as simple as get in three rides, three runs and three swims without winding up back in bed with a thermometer in my mouth.

As Erin says, here’s to Better Days Ahead.

When Spinning is Spinal Tap

I can’t enjoy Spinning classes. This is my curse. In fact, Javier said it best today when he said, “Adam, your problem is that you are just too much of a performance coach.” I think he may be right, but then again…So here is the issue, Race with Purpose is helping the JCC of Mid Westchester to launch a triathlon club and providing a spring triathlon training program in concert with the upcoming Long Island Gold Coast Triathlon on June 15th (Father’s Day) in Port Washington, NY. To clarify for the non New Yorkers out there, Long Island, which may look like two words, is actually one single word with a Gollum-like sound in the middle, technically pronounced Lone-Gisland. Before going on, will someone – preferably female – please explain to me why it is completely cool to hold a triathlon on Father’s Day but a triathlon on Mother’s Day is considered verboten? With the fastest growing group of triathletes being mothers, I think this may need to be revisited.

So back to Spinning. As part of the repackaging of the JCC of Mid Westchester, one of the board members and her husband decided that incorporating indoor riding and triathlon at this facility would be a good idea. The reality though is that until they put their money where their mouths were and ponied up the money to buy 15 new NXT Spinning Bikes, nothing would have moved. The new Spinning bikes are to replace the current rusted Reebok bikes, which provided necessary modern art in the back of the main aerobics studio for years. Now the next logical question one might ask is, “Gee Coach Adam, if there were already bikes there what makes you think that anyone will come to ride now even with new bikes?” The answer like growing any good business is simple. You have to let your community know you exist and you have to provide them with something they need. It isn’t rocket science and part of delivering on this equation requires instructors, good instructors, not the kind like they have had in the past. Seriously, when I first took an indoor riding class at the JCC, the instructor was having a random conversation with one of the riders and no two riders were doing the same thing – and she didn’t seem to even care. What made it really bad is that when I came in wearing cycling cleats and sort of looked like I knew what I was doing she began pleading with me to take over the class for the day to give her a break. That experience was exceeded during another class I took there a year or two later where the male instructor came in wearing gold rings on every finger, the Mr. T starter kit around his neck and he taught the class without ever getting on a bike. Now I learned how to spin back in Santa Monica, CA at the original Johnny G studios and have taken and taught hundreds of classes since, so this experience was simply not what I was expecting or, quite truthfully, what I would consider acceptable.

Fast forward to the present time. There is now a full schedule of indoor ride classes at the JCC and one of my goals was to help the JCC cast an umbrella of consistency and quality over the top of these classes so that we all teach through a common philosophy and provide the members with a level of confidence knowing that attending any of these classes will provide them with a fun, effective and safe workout. I would also add that it would be one that would fit within the other aspects of their health and fitness goals. The first step to doing this is to take the classes being offered, as a participant.

This past week I took two classes from one of their instructors. I would describe this instructor as determined with a lot of energy and that ability to look like she would hurt you if you ever contradicted her or even thought about mixing it up with her. I took my first class with her on Thursday evening and then a second with her on Saturday morning. In both instances, my intentions were to get a workout in and to answer a few simple questions that I use with instructors everywhere to provide them with feedback on the effectiveness of their classes. And before you ask, yes, I am asked to provide this service, I don’t just go up to people and say, “hey can I give you some feedback? unsolicited. In any case, here are the four very basic questions:

  1. What is the purpose of the ride?
  2. Can I follow the instructor either by simply watching or by listening?
  3. Does the instructor walk the talk, does the instructor instill confidence and based on their own riding technique, have they established credibility?
  4. Will I get a better ride and experience in this class than if I simply rode on my own? Would I want to come back?

1) What is the purpose of the ride? The answer to the first question was absolutely not. Well not absolutely not but pretty damn close. I ‘think’ the purpose of the ride was to work as hard as possible for 45 minutes using a mixture of overload and confusion both in terms of resistance, body positioning and cadence. Now a lay person may look at this and say, “Wow, that was a great ride.” Unfortunately, this is my curse, because all I experienced was chaos. I couldn’t tell if this was a lactate threshold ride, a max VO2 ride, a strength ride, a speed ride or anything else. Why does this matter, you might ask. The reason is that we spend a lot of time training and very time we do this, it only makes sense that we contribute to achieving a desired benefit. The benefit of chaos is to help to pull you out of a plateau. Confusion and overload are core tenants in increasing one’s health and performance, but not all of the time, all that leads to is burn out, over training and injury.

2) Can I follow the instructor either by simply watching or by listening? The second question was answered with a B at best. She communicated what she was doing but not why and changes took place quickly and without much regard for common expectations of balancing hard efforts and recovery time. Again, this ride seemed to be more about just kicking one’s ass then achieving any particular physiological benefit. To make matters really confusing, she stared the ride out by saying that she uses a 0 to 10 scale. What she didn’t answer was of what. Is that a zero to ten scale of effort expenditure or of bike resistance, or of bike cadence? I decided to let the ride answer this question. As we rode, she would instruct us to increase the resistance from a seven to an eight, and so I began to believe that her 0-10 range was based on resistance. What also helped with this is the fact that she went to level ten maybe six or seven times during the 45 min ride. If 10 represented a max effort then one might think that this could only be sustained for a very brief period of time and certainly not repeated six more times during the ride. So content in my belief that the scale was a range of resistances and not effort expenditure, I rode on. And then it happened. As she was going through another one of her incremental increases in resistance intensities, we were out of the saddle and we were at 8 and then 9 and then 10. Now if ten represents maximum resistance then I would think that this would be the maximum amount of wattage or even more simply the max amount of resistance I can push without the cranks stopping. Given that we are more powerful out of the saddle, we were pushing this level-ten gear and I looked up at her and she was spinning around. How is that a ten? And if that’s a ten then is there an eleven? I immediately had a Spinal Tap moment. I know I’m being literal in my interpretation but if I’m not suppose to be literal, then why even point out that there is a ten point scale with ten being the maximum? To make it even more irritating, we then proceeded to go into a seated climb increasing from level 7 to level 8 to level 9 and then to level 10. “Resist the urge to stand up”, she instructed us. Are you kidding me? If ten has already been defined as the maximum resistance that you can push on the bike and if you know that you can push more by standing than by sitting, then how the hell are you supposed to get up to a level ten while seated? I’m sorry but the laws of physics seem to have been set aside for this cycling class. I know I sound a bit like Simon Cowell, but come on!

3) Does the instructor walk the talk, does the instructor instill confidence and based on their own riding technique, have they established credibility? This lady can clearly spin her legs quickly, but her body was bouncing all over the bike while she was seated and there was enough vertical oscillation when standing to provide suspension for a small vehicle. Her ankles looked frozen in a plantar flexed position as if her calf muscles were in a state of tetanus. She can clearly ride hard and she’s very powerful, but as a pure cyclist or as someone who uses the bike to train and race on, there are some improvement possibilities. Again, please understand the context here. This is an instructor who was quick to point out to me that she is an Ironman Kona finisher and an accomplished ultra marathoner. Someone with this pedigree should hold themselves to a higher standard and understand that what they do in front of class matters, because the students will pick up on everything and as instructors we all need to be bullet-proof.

4) Will I get a better ride and experience in this class than if I simply rode on my own? Would I want to come back? This is actually a toss up. What I mean by this is that given that I have been sick for almost a month now and have ridden all of three times and run three times during that period, a class that taxed my overall fitness in multiple ways wasn’t such a bad thing. I only wish it was announced that way from the start. I also think that as I get out of my base training phase and begin focusing on more specific elements of my training, I probably wouldn’t want to show up and hope that a class will help me to improve some specific capability and then find out that it won’t address it. For example, the Saturday class was almost entirely out of the saddle – except for the level ten during the seated climb – and that really taxed my lower back. Given that I’m running 26 miles tomorrow, had I known that this would have been the case, I may have opted to do something different. On the other hand, her music was entertaining, and if I want to find a way to burn off some steam, get over a tough day at work, or cool off from an argument with Cindy, this class may be just the ticket.

In the meanwhile, I’ll keep in mind that some amplifiers go to eleven.

Nigel Tufnel: The numbers all go to eleven. Look, right across the board, eleven, eleven, eleven and…
Marty DiBergi: Oh, I see. And most amps go up to ten?
Nigel Tufnel: Exactly.
Marty DiBergi: Does that mean it’s louder? Is it any louder?
Nigel Tufnel: Well, it’s one louder, isn’t it? It’s not ten. You see, most blokes, you know, will be playing at ten. You’re on ten here, all the way up, all the way up, all the way up, you’re on ten on your guitar. Where can you go from there? Where?
Marty DiBergi: I don’t know.
Nigel Tufnel: Nowhere. Exactly. What we do is, if we need that extra push over the cliff, you know what we do?
Marty DiBergi: Put it up to eleven.
Nigel Tufnel: Eleven. Exactly. One louder.
Marty DiBergi: Why don’t you just make ten louder and make ten be the top number and make that a little louder?
Nigel Tufnel: [pause] These go to eleven.

Running when run down

Wow!, so I didn’t make it the full 10K. I could have, but I figured for my first run back, I’d play it at least a little smart. My legs felt like Jello, it was as if I hadn’t run in years. The inside of my stomach actually felt bruised and like every step was taxing an already sore muscle that had been heavily worked out the day before. I focused only on one thing, technique – placing one foot after the other properly on the ground under my center of mass and encouraging my body to absorb each stride through the joints of my ankles, knees and hips. Given how I felt I’m more than a little concerned that my weakened muscles and lack of support will expose me to odd little annoyances like shin splints, another reason for shortening the run. As it is, I ran for 45 minutes and approximately five miles. I wouldn’t say it was exactly a struggle because I didn’t press at any time, but I also know that my heart rate was elevated far higher than it should have been for that small level of effort.

When I got back to the house, I slowed to a walk and realized that I couldn’t pick my feet up very well, essentially the entire run felt as if it was equivalent to the final miles of a 20-plus mile run that I was unprepared to run. My knees actually ache as I sit here typing this, reinforcing the damage that was done to me over the past ten days. On the brighter side, after completing the run, I dropped down to do my traditional post run routine of push-ups and abdominal work, and I was able to complete my push-ups without too much trouble, except for the fact that I was completely out of breath when I finished. My oxygen carrying capacity has been dramatically reduced.

It’s been quite awhile since I’ve been this ill and at this moment, I can’t even fathom running, let alone racing a marathon in less than a month in

Los Angeles. That said, the human body is pretty amazing, so we’ll see how it goes. I do vaguely remember that the return to form can take less time than one thinks and it takes a bout a week to ten days of regular and consistent running to remind the body what it’s supposed to do. I’ll let you know how it goes.

P.S. I’m not sure what’s happened to my blog. The whole theme seems to have gotten screwed up. The only thing I did recently was add Google analytics to it, so maybe that’s what’s going on. I did that a few days ago, so I’m not quite sure why it would be all squirrelly now. I’ll see if I can get it back working again because as it stands, it pretty much looks like crap!

Back outside again

It’s been eleven days since I’ve run or worked out, due to this lovely illness I have. I’m still not fully over it as I still have these uncontrollable coughing fits and I’m still completely void of any energy, but I figured enough was enough. I did the dutiful and responsible thing for the past week and a half, and to tell you the truth I’m sort of surprised by the entire experience. I really wasn’t climbing the walls because I couldn’t go out and run. I guess that means either I’m not so addicted to running anymore or the illness consumed more than my lean body mass, it had me fighting and active internally so that I didn’t feel the loss of my workouts which are usually my first defense against wild blood sugar swings.

So it snowed here in and around New York City the night before last and then poured rain all day yesterday. The sun is just coming up and it looks pretty gloomy outside. My plan is an easy 10K around the neighborhood, but I guess we’ll see how it goes. It’s entirely possible that I’ll take a few steps, get dizzy and turn back around, content to try another day. Think good thoughts. I have my iPod shuffle – first generation, by the way – which has carried me so far and I’m looking forward to catching up on the podcasts I’ve missed. If you get a chance check out Brett’s most recent Zen and the Art of Triathlon episode “Rocky Raccoon Trail Race Podcast” which includes a the lead vocal track of David Lee Roth singing Running with the Devil. I listened to it last night while taking the train back from Manhattan and it is absolutely hilarious, especially for those who have never heard an isolated track like that before. I’m also looking forward to catching up to the most recent editions of Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me with Peter Sagal. It has nothing to do with running except that Peter Sagal is a Boston Qualifier and the show is one of the smartest and funniest out there on the web (and on NPR if you are a traditionalist listening to radio). I actually wish Peter would include a few runners as his guests but alas, he seems to think that talking about running would bore the masses. F-them if they can’t get into tempo runs, blisters, and the snotten and spitting that goes along with any good workout.

Speaking of which, it’s time for me to go do some snotten and spitting of my own. At least this time, I’ll be doing it because I want to.

Forget Paris: The best on-course nutrition, open-water transition treadmill workout

Japanese Treadmill Challenge Video

With so many training now for the Boston Marathon or heading into triathlon season, I thought now would be the right time to discuss on-course fueling. My favorite race for on-course fueling is the Paris Marathon or Marathon de Paris. The aid stations are only set-up every 5K, which means they are more spread out than US marathons, but what really makes these water stops unique are the food items available and the expected behaviors/etiquette of the participants. Being able to successfully navigate both of these factors should be required training for any competitive racer.

So let’s begin with the selection of items. Throughout the route the Paris Marathon supplies 8,500 kg of bananas, 14,250 kg of oranges, 2,750 kg of lemons, 1,935 kg of dried fruit, 2,00 kg of sugar cubes, 400,000 bottles of Vittel water, 11,400 litres of Amino Vital sports replacement drink and 30,000 energy tablets.

When I first ran this course, I remember that at the first mile marker (yes they actually have mile markers as well as kilometer markers) I wondered where the water would be, at mile two I began to think l I had missed it, and then around mile 3 just before making a right-hand turn there it was in a plaza and a freak’n Vegas-style smörgÃ¥sbord of food. There was food everywhere. For those that have done a well-supported Century bike ride, like the Montauk Century, it was just like that without the bikes or the friendly people. I remember thinking to myself that the French had made up during the marathon for all of the portion control I experienced at the previous nights’ dinners in Paris.

It also made for one of the most dangerous running experiences of my life. On the slick cobblestone, there were banana peels everywhere, okay not so bad but then mix banana peels with sugar cubes and water and, well, you can figure out the rest. The most dangerous by far are the orange peels, avoid them like the plague as they absolutely make it seem like you are running on ice.

Lastly, if you avoid all of that, you’ll then be dodging and jumping over the 400,000 plastic water bottles and water bottle caps laid out along the course. That’s right boys and girls. The French provide you with 30cl bottles of water and most of those bottles wind up on the ground in front of you, either empty or partially filled. I hope you’re getting a proper image of how treacherous these stops can be, which is why I figure they only place these stops every 5K apart. The body count would simply be too large if they placed them any closer together. The nature of these stations almost demands that you slow down, stop, get what you need and then carry on.

Ordinarily, this is a technique that I recommend for most marathoners unless you are shooting for a PR qualifying time, where seconds count. For the majority of runners, however, slowing to a shuffle or a walk, during the aid stations, is not only okay, it is preferable as it provides your leg muscles an opportunity to lengthen and flush. It also means that whatever you eat or drink may actually wind up inside you instead of all over your face and clothes. Lastly, it helps to lesson the air that gets swallowed along with the fluid which can become problematic as your GI system is progressively taxed throughout the race as more and more muscles compete for scarce and valuable oxygenated blood. Being bloated and gassy during a race can be uncomfortable at best and debilitating at worst.

If you are running with friends, or in a pace group, an easy way to keep the group together at water stops is to do the following. First, check with your group members before you get there to discern who needs to to hydrate or fuel so you’ll know if you even need to stop in the first place. If you do, assign someone as the pace group leader, with the very important task of holding his or her arm up high in the air so the rest of the group can see it and regroup. Agree to swing wide around the first set of tables and also agree which side of the street you’ll be getting fuel from as in some races like Chicago and New York, there are aid stations on both sides of the road. Additionally, you should know in advance how they lay out their tables. New York, for example lays out their water on the first tables and Gatorade Endurance at the next set of tables. Knowing this means that you can avoid dipping in between other runners, only to not find what you are looking for. I always instruct my runners to go to the last tables where water or sports drinks are available as by doing this, they can avoid the majority of the congestion that occurs inevitably at the first few tables of each stop. As for walking through, you lose very little time and if you have a complete goal, rather than a compete goal, the break is well worth it. Quite frankly even if you have a compete goal, if you aren’t trying for anything less than 3:45, it doesn’t pay to try and bust through these stations in full stride.

So let’s get back to Paris. Wasn’t Remember Paris a movie with Billy Crystal as a NBA basketball referee? Oh wait that was Forget Paris, which is probably something you’ll never do if only because of the behavior of the runners at these water stations because they are anything but water stops. If you’ve already run a marathon on US domestic soil, you’ve probably experienced the water stop, where the person on your right, suddenly realizes that there is water to their left and they cut across in front of you in delirium to refuel, annoyingly forcing you to adjust your stride a bit to avoid running into them. In most cases, they realize what they’ve done, and mumble a quick apology, hoping you realize that in their lowered blood sugar state, they are not responsible for involuntary directional changes. You get over it, go get your own cup of water or Endurance Formula Gatorade, and step to the side of the street to drink it while walking or jogging, to allow the runners to pass through unobstructed.

Not so in Paris. In Paris, runners run like they drive, very aggressively. These guys (and they are mostly guys) are there for a purpose, a reason, and that is to run their race, and they are quite annoyed that you are even in their race to begin with. At the start of the marathon (which touts the greatest percentage of sub three-hour marathoners of any marathon in the world) these very serious runners stand around smoking Gauloises or Gitanes cigarettes before tossing them aside without regard to who they hit just as the gun goes off to start the race. At the water stations, they carry on this attitude by physically pushing, shoving and wrestling their way through anyone and everyone to get what they want.

Now I come from a basketball background, so I have no problem mixing it up with a bunch of skinny frogs. It’s just that at Mile 3 of the race I just wasn’t expecting it, so in that instance, I get shoved off balance and wound up running into three other people in front of me. With a few brief “pardons” from me, not anyone else, and thinking it was an anomaly, I carried on, only to be shoved yet again which is when this brilliant American looked around to see what was really going on. And what was going on was the push-shove-grab-and-go behavior that was endemic to this race. There is no slowing down to stop and politely take what you need; there is no walking while you drink, and there certainly is no stopping unless you ned medical attention – and are willing to admit it.
The goal is very simple, to run as fast as you can or to slow down as little as necessary at each of these stops while still getting what you need to carry on. It’s quite the experience, and I admit that I had some fun with the frenchies who were not used to someone throwing out a quick elbow into their unsuspecting ribs sucking the precious air out of them for just a minute, making them slow down and of course then becoming the victim to the shoving of all of those behind them. Fun times! In retrospect, it’s also what prepared me for the swim portion of Ironman – my apologies to my friend Dave who tapped me on my shoulder coming out of the water on the first loop at IMLP in 2005 to say hi, only to have me wield on him and almost punch him in the face because I thought he was the same jerk that was using me as a pontoon throughout the first loop of the swim course. Yes, I believe that those of us who come from a contact sport background find these experiences quite amusing and we, or I guess I should say I, tend to revert back to my natural instincts of athletic battle first and run second.

So now that you have the picture of what is necessary to successfully navigate the water stops at the Paris Marathon, let’s turn our attention to Boston or another upcoming race you might have where you are there to compete for a PR or a qualifying time, a race where every second matters.

For years as a coach, I’ve been looking for a workout with that perfect mixture of speed, technique, power and enthusiasm to help train our runners how to effectively eat and drink while still maintaining pace. Wouldn’t you know it but the Japanese have discovered a way to do just that. In this video, they have created an event that incorporates 100 meter finishing speed on the run, requires improvement in technique, challenges the athlete to learn how to effectively fuel and throws in the useful task of a beach start open water swim at the end. This is just absolutely priceless.

Thinking about Boston and also about triathlon season, I analyzed the technique of these athletes and my first observation is that these guys transitioned to the run while still wearing the bike helmets. That’s a social faux pas if there ever was one. But I can overlook that for the amazing information provided by the runners themselves. Look at the differences in the foot strike and recovery mechanics between those that fared the best to those that didn’t.

Clearly those that tended to over-stride or held a more upright form could not generate sufficient speed or increase their turnover as much as those with a slight forward lean of 7-10% and those more importantly who kept their foot strike under their center of balance.

Lastly, one of the athletes reminds us that trying to change your top before entering the transition area in an effort to save time can be done, but requires practice so as not to become distracted from the task at hand.

All in all this is a great training tool and I highly recommend incorporating it into your program. Like all things, max speed work should not be included more that one to two times in any week and should be part of an overall build period focused on speed with adequate recovery before and afterwards to insure appropriate muscular adaptations. Oh yeah, and squeeze the mouth of your cup when drinking from it while on the run to ensure the maximum amount of fluid winds up inside your mouth and not on your face, up your nose or on the person running on the treadmill next to you.

Sick Coach Adam

Sick Coach Adam

It’s all around New York City right now. This awful flu that leaves no part of your body untouched. Irritating, isn’t it? I just was hitting my stride with an easy 50-mile bike ride followed the next day by a 12-mile trail tempo run at Rockies. Both seemed absolutely effortless. Instead of building on that with a great week of training, I’ve been limited to getting excited if I can sleep for two to three hours at a time before I’m forced to wake up, and sit up vertically while I allow my sinuses to drain either by themselves or through some mechanical facilitation.

I haven’t taken any antibiotics this time around, I guess for two reasons. The first is that the flu is more likely than not a virus against which antibiotics are relatively useless, which leaves the sinus infection as the only other target. The problem with antibiotics is that they create forced Darwinism in the wrong direction. Given that the human body is not comprised of one single species but a community of multiple species all living together, where the number of visiting species cells outnumber our own, there is a constant battle going on between good and evil, where more often than not, good holds a very fragile advantage.

But what happens when a particularly virulent strain enters the fray? Well then the balance gets a little out of whack and at the top level we suffer through the waging war. If we are otherwise healthy, our good side fights back fiercely and eventually, hopefully, it wins and erradicates the unwelcome attacker. Antibiotics, however do little against the viruses, but against invading bacteria, they can be particularly effective against all but the most resistant. And therein lies the problem. Antibiotics, especially broad general types destroy everything, the good and the bad, leaving us completely defenseless. That means that only the bacteria that are resilient enough to get past the antibiotic survive and it is they that then replicate, build homes, schools, Coffee Beans and Jamba Juices while hanging out until the next opportunity to attack. Only this time, the antibiotic we used previously will be feckless. Some researchers believe that the appendix isn’t a useless gland at all, but rather a super creator or at least a repository of probiotics, that replenishes the good troops in our digestive tract after a particularly fierce battle to reinstate that fragile balance.

Our body’s homeostasis is maintained through this give and take, and while it sucks to go through it, being sick is part of the process of getting stronger. The downside is that in our culture, we really aren’t given the time or the flexibility to simply rest. In today’s competitive work environment, leaving for a week only give the hyenas reasons to come sniffing around. Knowing this is happening adds to the stress on our already weakened system, further beats us down, and hinders our ability to repair and heal. The good news is that not being able to sleep allows me to wake up at 3:00am after a few hours of restless sleep and post to my blog. See there’s a silver lining in every rain cloud.