Sunday, August 30, 2009

If you wonder if run-walk works...

At today's Inaugural Santa Rosa (CA) Marathon I got a very strong reminder of how effective the run-walk race method can be, as I was beaten to the finish line by a woman in my age group doing a 10:1. She averaged about a 7:40 mile when running and benefitted from the walk breaks to recover some energy. I talk to a lot of runners who don't want to do run-walk because they think it really isn't running or that you can't go fast or get a good time. Well this woman finished 26.2 in 3:36 and has a PR of 3:30. That's just 10 minutes behind my PR which got me into the Boston Marathon.
There's a lot of benefit to the run-walk method and many of the top marathon coaches including Jeff Galloway are fans. The very biggest being the recovery time you get in the walk breaks.
Our TNT program encourages new runners to start with run-walk as it lets you really determine what level of endurance you can sustain. You can adjust your run-walk ratio as your endurance increases. There's no need to move to full-time running unless you feel up to it and want to.
I've never been a run-walker, myself, but may need to revisit this method after today.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Santa Rosa's going to be hot!

Tomorrow is the inaugural Santa Rosa (CA) Marathon and we've been having unseasonably warm weather here in the SF Bay Area. The forecast is a high of 78 this Sunday and I hope the weatherman is right because it was 104 here in Redwood City yesterday and is expected to top 100 again today.

Some quick tips for the 499 other runners joining me for this event, or anyone else planning to run a hot weather marathon:

* Bring your own hydration - while most marathons are well supported with water and sports drinks at water stations every mile or so, you really don't want to rely on this service. First off, you may need a drink well before the next water stop and second, as people who ran Chicago in 2007 learned, on a hot day, they may just run out of water. I run with an Amphipod Hydraform. It slips over your hand so don't have to grip it throughout the run and is form fitted, rather than round like other bottles, so it is much more comfortable to carry.

* Eat regulary - If you have a routine of taking in nutrition every 30-40 minutes or so, such as Gu Energy Gels or PowerGels, stick with it. The heat will drain your body of nutrients and you'll need this replenishment, even if you aren't hungry. Definitely don't wait until you are hungry; by then it's too late.

* Extra protection against chafing - If you are prone to chafing in certain areas take extra protection because the heat raises your level of sweat and increases your risk of rashes and rubbing in these areas. It goes without saying that you should be running in wicking technical fabrics like quality Sugoi Ts andshorts. Take the extra step of applying Body Glide to your sensitive areas and nip guards.

* Keep your heat releases uncovered - During exercise your body releases heat through the top of your head, cheeks and hands (among other places) so consider a visor instead of a hat. If you do wear a hat be sure it is a light-colored (or white) running hat made from a wicking technical fabric and is porous throughout the top so it lets your head breathe.

During hot runs, they often pass out cool wet sponges in the latter 10 or so miles. These can really help bring your core temperature down so take one if you are feeling really hot. I like to press them to the top of my head so the cool water runs down my head in all directions and gets down my back a bit. These sponges are preferable to running through sprinklers or having someone hose you down because you don't want to get your feet wet. This can lead to chafing and blisters.

Hope this is helpful and that you have successful hot-weather runs. Got other tips? Share them here.

-- James

James is a Sugoi Brand Champion, serial marathoner and running coach for Team in Training. He's attempting to be the first person to complete all the Rock n Roll Endurance Series events in 2010 - 7 marathons and 4 halfs. Follow him on Twitter at RnRJames.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Way to go Survivors!!

What a wonderful morning for a little challenge. Today was the first ever Coach James' Survivor Challenge and we had some serious competition. We couldn't have asked for better conditions at the
CSM Cross-country course
. If you haven't been here for a run, I highly recommend it. It's nearly a perfect 3 miles with hills and incredible views overlooking the Crystal Springs Reservior and 280.
Since we'll be doing this event again next year I can't give away the challenges but we had some very creative participants.

Hats off to our winners:

Kat took first place with some very creative thinking and mad skillz!
Krissy was right behind her having mastered the challenging games in no time.
Steph & Bob tied for third when they climbed the hill together all smiles and three bands showing.

On this figure eight course contestants could yield their competitors for 5 minutes and the board saw a lot of action. Poor Gia was the biggest victim getting two back-to-back yields costing her 10 minutes. "Thanks, guys!"
Big thanks to the volunteers who helped run the challenges and keep the challenge humming: Santi, David, Riya, Reesa and Alan.

Thanks also to PowerBar for the great prizes.

More great photos from the event here:
Survivor Challenge

Be sure and join us in December for Coach James' Scavenger Hunt, this annual favorite takes on a new city. You won't want to miss it!

Follow all the action and lock in all the runs at

- Coach James

Monday, August 3, 2009

Getting the most out of running

I hated running when I was growing up. Nothing was more boring than running track during PE. Now I run 3-4 days a week, have finished seventeen marathons and live for the incredible gains running provides.
I got the joy through Team in Training, an incredible endurance training program that benefits the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. They took me from the work-travel runner (only way to see the cities I was in, since the rest of the time was in conference rooms) to marathon finisher in 5 months. Now I'm addicted.
TNT taught me three very important lessons which I think are the key to getting the most out of running.

1. Friendship. Nothing beats running with friends. Turn off the iPod and tune into the people around you. I've made the most incredible friends through the program - friends I still run with to this day and hope are with me the rest of my life.

2. Cadence. If you think the key to running is long strides, think again. The key to distance running, endurance running, is a high cadence, or number of foot strides per minute. The higher your cadence the shorter your stride, the more you conserve energy and the less impact on your body. Elite runners average close to 95 strides per minute (that's a left and a right footstrike). It took me about three days of training to get it, but once I got it, I got faster, stronger and more efficient.

3. Get the right equipment. I learned all the equipment lessons the hard way. Big mistakes: cotton underwear, socks, shirts, shorts and hats (cotton seems to be the enemy), fashion running shoes, the wrong food, the wrong hydration. You name it, I've made the mistake with equipment. If you only plan to run 1-3 miles you can do fine with just about any equipment, but up it to 10-26, forget about it. Now I'm very particular about my equipment and it makes a world of difference.

Why is there such a dearth of good, objective running advice and product reviews on the Internet? Why is there such a dearth of good advice on where to run?
Enough. Do something about it. That's the goal of this blog. Hope it helps a few of you out there.

I don't work for any company affiliated with running and have no bias. I'm just an enthusiastic amateur runner hoping to help others enjoy the sport that has brought so much joy to my life.

My favorite equipment (right now):
Shoes: Asics Gel Culumus - An excellent cushioned running shoe that is great for long distance training. Highly recommend them if you have a neutral strike. Go at least a full size up from your usual dress shoe size so you avoid black toes.
Socks: Adidas UltraTech Cusion No Show. Breathable, skin tight, no blister, no sweat socks. Socks are crucial to running. Don't skimp here. Nearly all the Adidas running socks are good. These have a nice feel and last many washings.
Shorts and Shirts: Anything Dri-Fit or ClimaCool or from a similar fabric. Nike has some cool looks and wild colors. Adidas is more neutral and its styles are pretty consistent from season to season. Asics and Brooks are nice too, but harder to find. Sugoi is a bit pricier but has some nice features like wicking patterns, iPod pockets and other features you may like. Pick up Sub4 gear if you can find it. They used to be huge in running gear but have faded badly. For shorts make sure they are real running short, with the built in underwear. Another alternative is to get compression shorts and wear them underneath a DriFit-style short that doesn't have the built in underwear (but not advisable in hot weather).
Underwear: Forget it. Don't even bother with the sports underwear from UnderArmor and others. You don't need it.
Sensitive Area Protection: BodyGlide. This is a must, people. If you run more than 6 miles without it, its your funeral. This stuff protects your sensitive areas from rubbing and creating a rash. It is essential stuff.
Hydration: Accelerade Lemon Lime. You can run short distances with water and go a bit longer with Gatorade, but if you plan to do 15miles or longer get a solution that keeps the carbs up, helps you manage sodium and tastes good. This is my favorite. I store it in an ingenious bottle called the Hydraform from Amphipod that is shaped to fit your hand and has a comfortable strap that goes over your hand so you don't have to grip the bottle the whole way. Very nice.
Food: GU Energy Gel Plain or Vanilla Bean. Forget the PowerBars, Granola Bars, and other foods, when you are running you need nutrition that gets to your muscles fast and nothing is faster than energy gel. There are lots of makers of this kind of stuff. For me, GU is the right amount, the right taste and right consistency. When it's really hot out I switch to their Sublime Lemon flavor which is easier on the stomach.
When selecting a running food, try as many different varieties as you can, until you find one you really like, then stick with it. Carrying energy gels can be an issue. Some shorts have pockets on the side where it flops around, others have a pocket in the back and others have no pockets at all. So I store my GU in a small clip-on pouch from Amphipod. It's lightweight, comfortable and stores up to 4 GUs at a time - perfect for a marathon.
Watch: Garmin Forerunner 305. Killer app for the distance runner. It's a bit bulky but doesn't weight very much and for the features, totally worth it. It's a GPS watch that tracks (and maps) where you go, gives you distance, pace, heart rate, calories burned, time, splits, elevation and more and stores up to 6 months of runs at a time. You can download the runs to a PC with some good software called Training Center. My favorite feature is the virtual partner where you can set a pace you want to hit for a certain run and a virtual runner on the watch will run with you. The watch alerts you if you are ahead or behind this pace runner. Very valuable.

I'm kind of a sucker for running equipment so will share my reviews and thoughts on some of this equipment in this blog from time to time. If you have favorite equipment or comments on the equipment mentioned here, let me know.

See you on the trails!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Goal for 2010 - The entire Rock n Roll Endurance Series

It's time to announce my running goal for 2010. I plan to be the first person to complete the entire Rock n Roll Endurance Series in a single year. This popular series of marathon and half marathon events has expanded to a total of 11 events for 2010 including 7 marathons and 4 more halfs and I plan to run them all.

I know this sounds crazy but I'm confident I can do it. This year I will complete 7 marathons and 3 halfs so I know it is doable. Even for a 42 year old masters runner like me.

But what might be the biggest challenge is covering all the costs, so I'm seeking sponsors to help me through this quest. Sponsoring me represents a unique marketing opportunity for your company as this is a full year sponsorship covering 11 major cities, training throughout the year and media and new media exposure opportunities. If you sponsor me, I will wear your corporate logo, use your products and promote healthier lifestyles to your constituents especially those in the important 25-55 year age groups. Having completed 17 marathons thus far and shooting to complete 50 marathons by my 50th birthday, I am a living example of staying healthy for life and how you can to; because I only took up endurance running six years ago.

Won't you sponsor me and help me achieve this incredible goal?