Thursday, June 27, 2013

Running in the Heat: Adjusting Your Pace

(I interrupt the report of my experiences on the Northwest Tour for a super-important post that just can’t wait, especially with the temps heating up across the country. I will be back later in the week with more tour reports.)

Last summer, as the temperatures heated up, I wrote a post on the idea of dew point and how it affects a runner. It has become a pretty popular post, as we all struggle with the heat with summer running. This year I wanted to add a little follow-up. This one was inspired by one of the runners I am coaching and a comment by one of my friends in a running group on Facebook. Thanks, Kate and Beth!

We all know that running in the heat affects our performance, and if you read the dew point article, we know a little bit about why. The question then becomes, “What do I do with this information? How can I use this to be a more effective runner?” 

Most of us realize that we need to adjust our expectations in races, but how many of us realize that as temperatures heat up to train effectively we also need to adjust our training paces as well. If we do not, we are actually putting much more stress on our bodies than we intended. At the extreme end, this could lead to heat-related illnesses. However, it also could lead to over-training or to not getting the intended benefits from each workout.

Adjustment of paces for various workouts needs to be done on a day-to-day, run-to-run basis. This could be a pretty tedious process, especially if you were trying to figure out percentages (as in at 75 degrees adjust your pace by 15%). I don’t know about you, but taking percentages of time is more math than I want to do before I head out the door for a run. Thankfully, there is a resource available to do these calculations for you.

It is available on a blog called RunnersConnect. According to their site, it was developed “with the help of legendary running coach Jack Daniels.” You enter your distance and the time you would run for the workout under optimal conditions. Then you click an “update” button, and it will give you the adjusted paces for various “feels like” temperatures. Let me show you an example. If I was going out for a 5 mile run at 9 min per mile pace, I would put in that information, and it would give me the adjusted paces and total times for various "feels like" temperatures:

So if I was heading out on a 85 degree afternoon, I would know that I should run my workout at 9:24 pace rather than the 9:00 pace that I was scheduled for. Pretty easy, right?

So where do you find this awesome calculator? To check it out, just click on this link: Temperature and Pace Calculator   Be sure to bookmark the page and use it often this summer!!

Related Articles:
Dew Point and Runners: What is it and why should we care?

Northwest Bicycle Tour: Sometimes You Just Have to Roll With It (Day 1)

Leslie and me on Day One
Okay, I know this is a running blog – it says so in the title – but life can’t always be about running. Other things are important too. Like cycling…  A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to do something I have wanted to do for decades, a multi-day bicycle tour. I survived, and it was every bit as much fun as I hoped it would be.

The particular tour is called Northwest Tour. It takes place in the vicinity of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lake Shore in northern Michigan, just outside Traverse City. It is put on by the Tri-County Bicycle Association (TCBA), which I became a member of last year at the urging of my favorite partner in all manner of craziness, Leslie. I was spending some time on the bike last summer to try to continue to build and maintain aerobic fitness without adding more pounding with running miles, so joining the club sounded like a good idea.

TCBA is best known for putting on the multi-day (4 or 5 days depending on the option chosen) DALMAC bicycle tour  each year which goes from the Michigan State University Campus in East Lansing through Central and Northern Michigan and across the Mackinac Bridge.

The DALMAC is a big deal here in Michigan, but I was not quite ready for a tour that involves setting up and taking down one’s camping gear each night. The Northwest Tour sounded perfect because although it was a 5 day ride, it started and finished at the same campground each night (which meant only setting up and taking down gear once). The tour also had multiple options for ride length each day, so there would be no pressure to meet mileage goals to get to the next camping spot. When Leslie told me about it, I could not wait to sign up. (It was a good thing I didn't because it fills in a day or so each year. The number of participants is limited, this year to 300 cyclists.) The tour is a pretty good deal, as the price includes camping and two meals a day (breakfast and dinner) on the full days and breakfast on the day of departure.

As time for the tour got closer, I got more and more excited. I was a little worried about being able to make 5 days of biking in a row and to keep up, but Leslie kept assuring me that it was “touring pace” and not to worry. (I was also a bit worried about the ability of my tushie to stand up to the rigors of such a tour, but left that worry unspoken.) She also said that most days involved having breakfast, riding to a destination, having lunch, and then riding back to the campground (for dinner). Sounded like a perfect schedule to me. Still, as soon as the weather got warm enough, I was out cycling on Tuesday and Thursday evenings with the club so that I would be ready. Leslie is a veteran of many single and multi-day biking tours in various states, so I decided to trust her experience and not worry (too much).

Let me also say at this point that I am not a biker. I am a runner who occasionally dresses up in different Spandex and rides a bike. As obsessive as I am about running and knowing all I can about running, I have studiously avoided learning any more than I have needed to about biking. I did take a course on basic bike maintenance and changing flats from my friend Jonathan at Paradise Bicycles in Cape Coral, FL. He was a very good and patient teacher, but I was a very poor student. (AAA does bike flats, too, right?) 

I am also a very novice camper. Oh sure, I have done a lot of camping, but as with many things in my life, I have come under the influence of the philosophy of Jimmy Buffett. I took to heart his lyric “So, I just keep on movin’ when the forecast calls for rain…”  and have managed to never have to camp in bad weather. In fact, I do NOT camp without four absolutely essential elements: an extension cord, an air mattress, a heater, and a coffee maker. I mean why be uncomfortable, right?  

What I am is an optimist, so I took Leslie’s word for it that everything would be okay. I packed up my little Nissan Cube with all the gear it would hold, strapped my Trek bike on the back, and headed for Sleeping Bear Dunes. We were not actually staying at the dunes. We were staying in a really nice private campground called IndigoBluffs . I guess I should have been tipped off by the word “Bluffs” that there may be hills around there, but my mouth still dropped open as I drove the last two or three miles to the campground. There were some serious hills, nothing like the little lumps we call hills down in Lansing. Yikes!!

I pulled into the campground. It was awesome. Everywhere I looked there were tents and bikers. Leslie was already there. She had checked in a few days earlier. The previous weekend she had done a race up there called the M-22 Challenge, which was a kayak, bike, run event, with a few of her friends. She had just stayed up rather than drive home and back up again a few days later. I got checked in and went to hunt for the campsite I would be sharing with Leslie and another biker, Mike (more on him later).

Home Sweet Home!!
Leslie helped me get my tent set up. I had brought my huge tent, the one that she and I usually shared. It was big enough for two twin air mattresses and all our gear with still room to walk around in, but I would have it to myself for the trip. Setup went faster than expected (because of Leslie's help), and we were soon ready to get our first ride in before dinner. As we were getting ready, Leslie warned me about the hills. She said we would be doing a couple of tough ones. I just nodded and said I saw some of them coming in. “Those aren’t even the bad ones,” she warned me. Yikes!!

Our first day we opted for a short 27.5 miles into Glen Arbor and then on the Heritage Bike Trail in Sleeping Bear Dunes Park. Leslie had spent plenty of time in the previous days studying the maps and previewing the area. Plus, she vacations up there often. I could not have had a better tour guide! Thankfully, she was cutting me some slack as a newbie and did not seem to mind charting our routes each day and otherwise making sure I did not do anything stupid and/or get totally lost. (I owe her big time for that!! Left to my own devices, I would probably still be up there somewhere.)

We road toward the town of Glen Arbor. It is a little village just outside the Sleeping Bear Dunes Park on Glen Lake. Our ride toward town took us down this huge hill coming out of the campground. The fun of the exhilarating downhill plunge was marred by Leslie reminding me that what goes down must go back up. We would be climbing that baby on the way back to the campground. After the long downhill, we started around the lake. The circuit around the lake involved passing over “Inspiration Point.” I am assuming that is a native American term for “long sucky hill climb,” based on what we faced for those next few miles.

I guess now is as good a time as any to mention that this biking tour also had a running element thrown in. About two months before the tour, Leslie had messaged me. She threatened, tormented, and cajoled me until I finally agreed to enter the half marathon with her. The conversation went something like this:

Leslie: Hey, there is a half marathon at Glen Arbor the Saturday of the bike tour. It is only about 3 miles from camp.
Me: Really? Cool!
Leslie: I think I am going to enter it to get another half in.  (She is doing 13 half marathons in 2013).
Me: Really? Cool!
Leslie: Do you want to do it too?
Me: Of course!!  Where do I sign up?

As we were pedaling up the hill to Inspiration Point, Leslie said, “This is on the half marathon route.” “What?” I gasped. “But I think we go the other way,” she said. “Good,” I said, “because there is NO WAY I want to climb this in a race.” She said, “I think this is around mile nine.”  I smiled then and felt better, thinking of the nice long downhill to the finish. 

Eventually we made it to the top and pulled into the Inspiration Point viewing area.

The view was incredible. 

Several other bikers were up there taking pictures. Some had come the other way. We soon learned that we had gone up the “easy side.” That did not seem possible, but as we flew down the other side (faster than I had ever been on a bike), I got a good look at what would be a really long and even more seriously sucky uphill on the other side, the one we would be running up. “Are you kidding me?” I thought, “A hill like this after three days of nonstop biking? I don’t think so.”  Right then, I said a prayer to the running gods: “Please, please let them allow me to switch to the 5k at packet pickup.”

After a brief stop at the bottom of the hill in Glen Arbor, we split off from the main route most cyclists were riding to do the Heritage Trail through Sleeping Bear Dunes Park. It was a paved bike lane that went out to the dune climb that Leslie had done during the M-22 Challenge. In the middle of the Heritage Trail there is the Glen Haven Maritime Museum  we stopped for a few pictures before we continued on to the dune. 

Gassing Up!

The dune was pretty impressive. It reminded me of something you would see in the Southern California desert out near Glamis. I was even more impressed that Leslie had run up it during a race. Leslie assured me that it wasn’t even the “big” dune. She said she would show me that later.

As we rode back toward the road to the campground we both were aware of the “elephant” in the sidecar, so to speak. We had to go back up those hills to the campground… We stopped briefly at the base of the first hill to catch our breath and contemplate our fate and then off we went. It was horrific. Nonstop steep hill as far as we could see. And, once we crested the first hill, there was another one even steeper just behind it. It was horrible. In case you have any doubts about the horribleness of what I am describing, see for yourself. I was NOT exaggerating.

Well, eventually we did make it back to camp, and no there was no dismounting and pushing the bikes (although the thought did cross my mind). Actually by the time I finished I felt pretty darn good. Nothing left then but a trip into town (by car) to stuff our faces at Art's Tavern and plan the route for the next day. At Art's I got my favorite picture of the whole trip: 

Day One of the Northwest Tour was a definite success!! But what did Leslie have in store for Day Two???

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Post #100: Race Report Dansville Aggie Duathlon

I have been a bit remiss lately on the postings and the race reports, but now that my work is winding down a bit I am hoping to catch up on the race reports and get some new material posted. Also, this posting is a huge milestone. It is my 100th post as a blogger!

Two weekends ago, I did my first duathlon. For those who may not know, a duathlon is a run/bike/run event, similar to a triathlon but with an extra run added in place of the swim portion. This was perfect for me because the water in Michigan is still way too cold for a wimpy girl like me.

This particular duathlon was held in conjunction with a local 5k, which is fairly unusual (they are usually held in conjunction with triathlons). However, the race director, J.D. Pepper,  is an avid and accomplished duathlete, as well as being the coach for the cross country team at Dansville High School. His wife, Chere, who is also an accomplished runner and duathlete (and musician), is on my Playmakers' Masters Women's Racing Team. They had decided to add a duathlon onto the 5k to see if they could promote interest in the sport. I had been dying to try one, and this seemed like a great one to test the waters. It turned out to be even better than I had hoped.

First the details: The race itself was a short one (called a “sprint”), with a 5k run (in conjunction with the regular 5k), a 12 mile bike ride (later shortened to 10.5 because of traffic concerns) and a final 5k run over the same course. The 5k course was an out and back and fairly flat. The bike course was on country roads with wide shoulders. The course was also fairly flat, but with some rollers. The course was not closed to traffic, but the combination of the wide shoulders and the sparse traffic on Sunday morning meant that the course was safe and traffic really wasn’t a worry. J.D. had designed the course with mostly right turns and had police directing traffic at the only left turn and intersection crossing.  The course was also well marked.

The race was a great opportunity for first timers. Despite the fact that the race was small, it was extremely well run. The transition area was well thought out and set up. There were plenty of volunteers to watch over the bikes and direct traffic.  

Because of my nerves, I wanted to get there early.  I went a little overboard in this area. I got up bright and early, got dressed, Jerry loaded my bike on the car, and we drove out to Dansville. I was mentally rehearsing and preparing for the race the whole way. We pulled into the parking lot right on time. The parking lot was empty…. What?? Chere said the race would be small, but there was literally nobody there. A quick check of the entry form solved the mystery. There in black and white, bold print, it said “Sunday, June 9th.” Unfortunately a quick look at my cell phone revealed that it was Saturday, June 8th! What a duffer I am!! Seriously, in all my years of racing, I have never made this mistake!! So, back home we went.

When Sunday morning rolled around, we did act two – this time minus the nerves. I was over it by that time. I took my previous mistake as a sign from the running gods to lighten up and roll with the punches, so that is what I was going to do. Oh, I still got to the race way earlier than I needed to (some habits are too hard to break), but this time I was not a nervous wreck when I got there.

Packet pick-up went smoothly. I took a quick look at the course map and then went over to rack my bike. Since the race was small, there were no assigned spots for the bikes, and it was first come first serve. I vaguely remembered from my triathlon days that I wanted to be at one end or the other of the transition area, but I could not remember if it mattered which one. I picked one and set up my gear. I still had plenty of time before I needed to warm up, so I chatted with my friend Melissa and got a few pictures to commemorate the occasion.  
Melissa and friend -- Happy Finishers!!

Next I went out for a quick mile warm-up and headed for the start. As I stood at the starting line, I looked around and saw a woman who appeared to be very fit and also who appeared to be possibly in my age group. I heard snippets of her conversation with the woman next to her: “coming back… stress fracture… lots of time on bike…”  Yikes! I was going to need to keep an eye on her.

Sure enough, the race started and within just a few seconds she was ahead of me. I looked down at my watch. We were at a pretty brisk pace in the low 7s. My goal had been to be about 7:40 pace for the first 5k. (I had read that for a duathlon like this I should aim to run somewhere around my 10k to 15k pace for the two 5ks if I wanted to keep them even.) I dialed it back a notch and started counting. There were only about 5 or 6 females ahead of me, including “Fit Woman.” The first two or three were young, and with the way they were out, I was pretty sure they were just running the 5k (the 5k and the duathlon started together).  I was satisfied with where I was. I figured I was either 2nd or 3rd in the duathlon, and I had settled into my pace for the 5k.  

I figured I would know in another half mile or so whether “Fit Woman” was out too fast and going to fade or whether she was the real deal. At the turnaround for the 5k, I got my answer. She was still holding that pace and looked incredibly fresh (As she passed, and I said “Good job!” My always snarky inner voice could not help but chiming in with “I hate women who look incredibly fresh when they are running fast! Grrrr!!!”)

As we approached the first transition, I was anxiously looking to see how many of the women had stayed in the duathlon and who had finished the 5k. As I came into the transition, Fit Woman was coming out on the bike. I was also dismayed to see that the blond girl directly ahead of me was also in the du.  I glanced at the clock and was super happy with my time, 23:15 for the first 5k. I pulled off my running shoes, slipped on my bike shoes, helmet, and sunglasses, and headed out. Chere and Jerry were there at the transition to give me helpful advice and cheer me on.  I thought the transition went pretty smoothly, with very little wasted time.

Once on the bike I felt pretty good. Biking used to be the weakest link for me when I did triathlons, and I would often drop several places in the standings because of that. I was hoping that the biking I had been doing recently would pay off this time.

I passed a few men in the first mile, and could see my blonde girl target directly ahead. I checked my speed. It was really good… too good … it was up over 20 mph.  I thought “Either I am having an exceptionally amazing day, or there is a tailwind…” This worried me some, as that meant the second half of the course would have a headwind, but I decided to “make hay while the sun was shining.”  I passed blonde girl.  I was in 2nd place!!!  I could see “Fit Woman” up in the distance but could not tell if I was making headway or not. A few more minutes of riding answered that question, as she seemed to be pulling away just a bit. Dang!! Well I was doing all I could, so all I could hope for was for her to slow down.

We made the first of the big turns in the bike (the main part of the course was a big rectangle), and I felt the crosswind. “Yikes, there was a wind. Okay, well this is not too bad. I can do this!” This was one of the short sides of the rectangle, so in a mile or two we were turning again to go back the other way. Bam!! Yes, there was a wind, and now it was a headwind. A sucky headwind. With hills.  Grrrr. By this time I was riding in a “hole.” I could not see anyone ahead of me or anyone behind me (which was good).  I just got down on the drops, tucked myself in as best I could, and kept pedaling. I had slowed down. Considerably. I was struggling to stay a consistent 14 going in this direction. I was thankful for those 20s in the bank from the earlier miles. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, we made the last turn. Again there was a crosswind, but it was so much better. As I made the turn, I caught a glimpse of another rider out of the corner of my eye. Dang!!! As we finished the last two miles of the bike, a guy passed me. I was happy he was a guy, but I was still pissed at being passed!  As I entered the driveway at the school, heading toward the transition area, I saw Fit Woman heading out on the run. It would take a miracle at this point to catch her.

Transition number two was a bit of a train wreck. I had not practiced transitions, but I decided I was going to try to be cute and slip out of my tri shoes so that I would not have to run through the transition area on my cleats. Step 1, undo the Velcro – check. Step 2, slip foot out -- check. Step 3, almost fly over the handlebars as the shoe swings around and wedges between the pedal and the ground…  Wait, that wasn’t on the checklist. Ever helpful J.D. who was announcing at the transition area says “Ewww that is hard on the shoes!!” No kidding. Grrrr. I am glad there were no pictures of the transition because I am sure I was bright red from embarrassment.

I slipped into my running shoes, remembered to remove my helmet, and headed out. There was the usual half mile of shear torture as the blood switched over to the appropriate muscles, but I was somewhat diverted from my focus on that by the fact that I was gaining on the guy who passed me on the bike J.  Yes, it did make me smile. As I passed him, I paused long enough to tell him that it was a pretty rotten thing for him to do to just blow past me like that – then I blew past him. (Okay, my inner brat may not have been completely under control that day. Or maybe I was just feeling spunky because I was actually having fun.)

As we hit the turnaround for the second 5k, two things became apparent. There was no way I was catching Fit Woman, and there was no way 3rd place was catching me. I could relax. It was a great feeling to just be able to finish up, feeling good. I am not sure if I actually crossed the finish line smiling (what is on my face when I run often has no relationship to what is going on in my head), but I was smiling inside. I was having fun!!
Thanks race sponsors and Time Frame Photography!
After my congratulations hug from Jerry and grabbing a bottle of water, I stalked Fit Woman into the transition area. I had to know if she was in my age group. Well, of course, she was. My next question was her name. “Connie Benedict” – hey, I know that name. I knew the name because I had seen it so many times as the master’s, grandmaster’s, or age group winner in almost every race she entered. She was actually one of my teammates from the Playmakers' Masters Women's Team. I had not met her yet because she had been out with a stress fractures. If I had to take 2nd, I couldn’t think of anyone better to take second to.

The way the awards shook out worked out great for the Playmakers Masters Women. Connie took 1st Overall, I got 1st Masters, and Jenny Transue, another teammate took 1st Grandmasters. We all got gift certificates for a Jacuzzi suite at the Holiday Inn Express and Suites, which is totally awesome.

The 50+ Women Sweep the Day!!

As a whole, despite the false start, it was a great day. I LOVE duathlons. They are right up there with trail running for putting a smile on my face. In fact, I loved it so much that I canceled my fall marathon plans to allow more time for biking and am reworking my schedule to fit a few more duathlons in, including an Olympic distance, in the future.  What about you? Do you du?  (I highly recommend you pencilling this race in on your calendar for next year!!)