Run Less to Run Faster

You read that title right. Running while in graduate school has been quite eye-opening this summer, but I learned something important that I only had an inkling about prior to this summer: it is possible to run less yet still run faster (in my opinion and experience).

The nutrition program at National University of Natural Medicine where Val and I now both go to school has been incredible on all levels. Meeting new people was and always is wonderful. Learning about nutrition and whole foods as medicine has been great. Getting into the community and visiting local farms was a new and rewarding experience that occurred weekly.  But the busy-ness that comes with school eventually caught up with me and began to affect my running. At the beginning of the program, I had no choice but to keep up with my training. I was scheduled to run The Oregon Marathon 2 weeks into the summer term and so I was still fitting in short speed workouts during week 1 of school and a few workouts during week 2 as well.With only 7 weeks of training after 2 months off from running due to a glass-puncture in my foot, I still managed to run a 3:01 best time at that marathon on July 16th and secured a second Boston Qualifying time. I was thrilled and excited to see what this heightened fitness would lead to this summer, but after the next week of just a few light runs to keep my legs moving yet still allow me to continue recovering, graduate school was definitely in full-swing and my hopes at achieving running goals diminished.

With my energy and ability to train every day newly diminished, I needed to make adjustments to my goals for the summer and fall. I had to reevaluate my desire to run an ultramarathon in August or even September–I just didn’t have the time for the required training–and if I was going to set any shorter distance goals, I had to make the most out of the times when I was actually able to get out for a run . The biggest change to my training was that I was (and am continuing) only running about 3 days (sometimes 4) a week. It wasn’t that that’s all I wanted to do; it was all I had time for. When I realized this, I didn’t want to waste a single one of those runs. I ran some 10 milers and one 15 miler, but I did a lot of shorter distance training runs which were run at quicker paces than I was used to running even on a speed day. I quickly found myself running 7 miles at 6:30 pace without much effort. I had a couple track workouts where I recorded the fastest workout splits of the year that included: back-to-back mile times of 5:18 and 5:19, 400m at 68s, and a 200m sprint at 28 seconds on a wet surface. All of these timed intervals, as well as all of the track workouts I do, were run as part of a workout and not as a solo time trial so I’m never running them more than 90% of my current ability. But it was the result of running a few 6-8 mile runs and hitting a 5:50-5:55/mile pace for a couple miles without intending to do so or feeling like I was putting in that much effort that I knew I had to focus on 5ks to half-marathons this fall.

A possible running week for me looked like this:

Monday – zip.

Tuesday – 8-10 mile run; moderate pacing

Wednesday – zilch.

Thursday – 5-7 miles; intense pacing

Friday – nada.  (or maybe a 4 mile run; easy pacing)

Saturday- 7-10 mile run; combination of moderate and intense pacing

Sunday – 90 minutes of pick-up soccer; moderate activity

There were some inclines and declines and those runs and occasionally I would swap out a moderate run with a track day or if I was lucky I got to run 4 days in a week instead of 3, but I never stressed about it. Why? Because I was getting faster without trying to and all I could do was scratch my head and wonder how this happened. Did I gain a bonus fitness level from the marathon back in early July? Did graduate school somehow give my energy levels a boost? No. None of that. Rather, I attribute my noticeable bump in fitness to more rest. 

Let’s be clear: by  “more rest” I do not mean more sleep, although that wouldn’t be a bad thing; the benefits of increased rest and sleep are well known and supported. Rather, I simply mean that my body was allowed to rest and better recover from linear running more this summer than I can ever recall in recent years of running/training 5-7 days a week. I suppose you could say that graduate school has been a bit of a Catch 22: I get less sleep due to being so busy, but being so busy has been forcing me to take more rest days from running.

Resting and super delicious and healthy Made in Nature snacks? Most definitely part of my summer.

min2 I cross-trained with soccer a lot this summer and still consider this a rest from the demands of road running.

In August, I ran the first ever 5k at the Portland Meadows horse track on a hot August morning and clocked a 19:48 on a sand course which made this 5k one of the most difficult 5k experiences I’ve ever had.

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I also raced a 5k this past weekend and I ran my fastest time of roughly 17:03. The best part: it was in the rain, on wet pavement, I started about 3-5 seconds behind the line (no separate time for gun time and chip time as there were no chips), and I ran well in the lead for the entire race. I know my body can go 16:45 with better conditions and am hoping to achieve that this fall as well as achieve a half-marathon PR. With the support of great people and teams such as La Vida Veggie, Nii Foods, and possibly others, I’m hoping for a great fall running season.

I wanted to end with what I think a possible week could be or should be if you were to try and alter your weekly routine to include more rest days. Here’s just one possible scenario and it should certainly be modified depending on your experience, goals, and fitness:

Monday- Rest

Tuesday – 10-12 miles (medium distance run; final couple miles or 15 minutes at a slightly faster pace; include some hills on the route if possible)

Wednesday- Rest

Thursday – 5-8 miles (shorter distance run; a few of these miles–middle to end miles–should be around or slightly slower than half-marathon race pace) OR Track day- intervals can include 1 mile repeats, 800m repeats, 400m repeats, or a combination of these and other speedier short distances)

Friday

Saturday- Long run (relative to your goals and fitness; easy to moderate pace); e.g. 15-20 miles

Sunday – Rest

If you’d like help with your own running goals such as running a faster time, running your first race of any distance, or any other goal, I would be honored to have you reach out to me so we can discuss! Comment below or email Wilfredoben@gmail.com so we can connect.

Happy Running!

 

 

 

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Foot Traffic Holiday Half & 5k: Lessons Learned

This weekend was the 5k I’ve been looking forward to for the past month or so: the Foot Traffic Holiday Half & 5K in Portland. When Betsy’s Best Bar None agreed to sponsor me for this event, I opted to run the 5k as I didn’t think I had enough time to race the half-marathon distance and achieve a personal record (PR) finish. I did, however, think that I could achieve such a result in the 5k distance and that was the plan going into Sunday.

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After the Portland Marathon on October 4th, where I qualified for Boston, Betsy’s Best sponsored two 5k’s, one during each of the weekends following the Portland 26.2 race. I recovered well during that week following the marathon and would have achieved 2 consecutive official PR’s if it wasn’t for an error in race organization in each of the races–the first race involved volunteers sending me the wrong direction, not realizing that I was finishing my final lap and the second race lacked a sign at the turn-around point, causing runners to run further than 3.1 total miles, in addition to a passing train that forced many runners to what was about a 3 minute halt.

 

Heading into this past Sunday’s race, I was sure that my training was going to pay off big! I pushed myself much harder on the track; included more hills into my training; and did everything else I needed to do to ensure I was healthy and strong in my training. I made sure to hydrate more during the two days before the race and made sure to eat smart as well. I had my potatoes for dinner which is my go-to pre-race dinner food that I’ve learned my body really responds well to. Turns out…none of that made a difference. I didn’t run a PR time at the Foot Traffic Holiday 5k, but I did take some lessons with me as I do after every race no matter the result.

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And we begin! 

The following are a few of the lessons I learned  from the Holiday 5k:

  1. Designate and dedicate at least 15 minutes to a proper warm-up. I jogged out and back for maybe 3 minutes and then did some strides and dynamic exercises/stretches to loosen me up. I then finished with some strides to get my heart rate up before the start of the 5k, but it just wasn’t enough time. Allowing for a proper warm-up with just enough time to rest and recoup before the start is great for priming the body for the fast pacing that racing a 5k requires.  Perhaps what distracted me from dedicating more time to my warm-up routine was my running into Alberto Salazar and an Oregon Project colleague while they were discussing Galen Rupp’s race strategy. I’m pretty sure I wasn’t thinking straight after Salazar responded to my question with a response suggesting Rupp’s sole goal was an Olympic marathon trials-qualifying time–something I’m not sure many track news agencies could confirm before Sunday’s race.                                         8
  2. Don’t second guess the racing strategy. Going into this 5k, I knew that I needed to go out and hit the first mile mark at no slower than 5:22. I knew I could do it, but I allowed the slight inclines of the first mile to slow me down and cause me to second guess the strategy. That resulted in a 5:35 first mile and I found myself in 2nd place with an increasing gap while I rapidly tried to recreate a racing strategy that undoubtedly ended up using more of my energy and caused me to slow down while I figured out a plan instead of focusing on my pacing and mechanics. It would have been great if the new strategy ended up working, but it didn’t and this was a most valueable lesson that I learned and I’m glad I did.
  3. If an elevation profile is desired, but not provided, go and run a preview of the route. Even though I would have liked to have known what the course would have looked like as far as inclines and declines, the organizers did not provide a profile map on their website. Because my event was a 5k, I completely understood why the elevation profile is not too significant due to the shorter distance and the course being a relatively flat course. Since I did want to know, though, I should have taken the time to drive the 10 minutes to the race route and run it as a preview. Had I done that, I believe I would have been prepared for a possible headwind during the last mile of the route due to the exposure of this neighborhood section to the Willamette River with no trees to block the winds.

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I may not have run my best race, but I had a great time running and representing Betsy’s Best Bar None. I gave it a decent effort, learned valuable lessons, and  got to be a part of a great event put on by Foot Traffic that gave thousands of people the opportunity to come together and celebrate health, running, and community…three of my favorite things!

What are your most valuable lessons that you’ve learned from a race that you’ve completed, attemped, or perhaps did not get to start? Let’s talk in the comments!

 

Recovering from the Marathon and Bouncing Back for 5ks

So I’m really excited to write this post. Really excited.

It’s been 1 week since I qualified for Boston with a 3:04:10. It’s likely I won’t actually meet the cutoff time to register for the most renowned marathon in the world, BUT…I got the BQ. I guess the old saying is right: Third time’s a charm (the Portland Marathon was my 4th marathon, but only my 3rd time going after a BQ).

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Val rarely misses a race. She’s definitely my biggest supporter.

I knew before marathon day that I would need to really focus on recovery immediately after the race. It was highly likely that a local food bar company, Betsy’s Best bar none (B3N), was going to be sponsoring an upcoming race and I had a feeling it was going to be really soon. Turns out I was right. They decided to sponsor two races and the first, the Race for the Rescues, was yesterday. I opted for the 5k distance as there was no way I was going to push my body to race a 10k only a week after giving the 26.2 everything I had. So with a 5k to get my body ready to race, proper and speedy recovery was absolutely necessary.

I’ve never had to actually try to recover. What I mean is, I’ve only just let recovery happen naturally. Typical stuff: sleep more, rest more, run a bit less, eat well, etc. But with just less than 7 days to bounce back, I needed to be much more active in my recovery approach. Below are sectioned details of how I consciously sped up my recovery in order to race a 5k one week after a personal best and Boston qualifying marathon time. I was hoping for my fastest 5k time (previous PR set back in 2012: 17:50), and despite some confusion and running off-course and through dirt, I was able to achieve that in what was approximately 17:04.

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And they’re off! Sporting Betsy’s Best bar none who sponsored me for the Race for the Rescues 5k. 

Nutrition during the week: I didn’t set out to eat more calories and I didn’t set out eat less calories. Instead, I ate every calorie with a purpose. Granted, I may have eaten more calories but as I don’t count my calorie intake, I have no way of knowing for sure and, in any case, I didn’t plan to do so. I knew that hydration was something I really needed to focus on so I increased my water intake by quite a lot. As you lose electrolytes every time you pee, I knew I had to make sure that I took in more electrolytes than usual. For this I looked to extra bananas (3 a day at least; a couple of days I had 5) and I also added salt–for sodium, which is the electrolyte that is most lost when you work out and sweat–to my breakfast oatmeal and my dinners. I ate a very good amount of starchy carbohydrates in the form of oatmeal or muesli (every day for breakfast), pasta, and potatoes to restock my glycogen stores. Lastly, I made sure I had protein at every meal. In the morning, I added cacao powder, flax seeds, and chia seeds to my oatmeal. For lunch, I brought along a Nii bar to ensure some protein intake although I eat nearly entirely fruits and veggies at lunch (apple, bananas, carrots, spinach, celery). And for dinner it was a mix of lentils, quinoa, and soy (tofu or tempeh) with veggies and a starchy carb.

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Peanut butter chocolate-chip toast and chocolate chip pancakes…Carbs right? 

I was very conscious of my nutrition this past week and was overly set on eating mindfully to ensure I was taking care of what my body needed to recover well.

Running: I knew I needed at least a couple of days of complete rest. I could have perhaps got a couple of miles in on Tuesday but I decided to give it another day just in case. As you will be able to see, I eased into running again with an easy 2 miler and since I felt good, I decided to run another 4 later after work. Thursday’s and Friday’s runs were really able to get the movement back into my legs. I didn’t test speed until Friday’s 5.5 miler, when I decided include a two miles between 6:28 and 6:35 pace to get some decent speed and turnover back into my legs. I was careful not to overdo any of the running and took a complete rest day Saturday to let my legs rest up for the 5k.

Sunday: Marathon

Monday: Rest

Tuesday: Rest

Wednesday: 2mi AM run (easy pace); 4mi PM run (7:34/mi avg.)

Thursday: 5mi easy pace

Friday: 5.5mi (6:58 avg.)

Saturday: Rest day (aside from stretching my legs with some dynamic stretching and light jogging < quarter mile)

Sunday: 5k (17:04 watch time)

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A huge majority of the people at the race ran with their dogs. It was so cool to see so many fit four legged friends out on the course! 

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Betsy’s Best bar none is a super tasty food bar unlike any other food bar I’ve had before. They have unique flavors such as chili chocolate chip (pictured; talk about a kick!), savory rosemary, and orange poppyseed. Their peppermint chocolate chip and chili chocolate chip have to be my favorite though. They’re Portland-made so I love that I can support a local business and fuel with their product as well. Vegan, soy-free, gluten free, organic…it goes on and one with B3N.

Sleep: Another important part of recovery is sleep. I didn’t increase the amount of hours I slept, but I never felt any kind of fatigue that was unusual. I sleep and slept anywhere from 6 – 7.5 hours.

So that’s how my recovery has been. I’d like to say that I’m completely recovered, but there is not way that is possible only a week from a marathon race. Even though I had a great 5k race yesterday and am not sore or feeling sluggish in anyway, I know I need to still think “recovery” for this week. As I have another race this coming Sunday with Betsy’s Best as my sponsor, I’ll be tip-top with my nutrition, stretching, and running just enough and nothing extra to ensure a healthy race.

Question time: How do you recover from your races? What does the following look like for you: nutrition, running, rest, stretching, sleep, etc.? What’s the shortest or longest amount of time it took you to recover from a race or hard workout and what was the distance or workout? I’d love to chat about these topics and any other comments or questions you have!

CONGRATULATIONS to everyone who has been racing this fall season, especially to those tackling racing and/or new distances for the first time!