Leveling Up as a Runner

“It never gets easier, you just go faster” – Greg Lemond

The above quote was made by a cyclist, but it definitely applies to running as well.  Is it true?

I do believe there is truth to this statement, increased speed is a byproduct of hard work and training.  Where running is concerned I believe this statement is a little limited.  Obviously speed is not the only factor to consider, there’s strength, endurance, experience, mental toughness, etc.

You can even draw some parallels to the video game concept of leveling up.

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In some cases the “Leveling Up” is very literal.  Nike+ has a system that assigns a specific color as your total miles increase.  The color system is definitely a great way to encourage motivate runners.  Some runners take it further and participate in challenges as well.

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Then you have the  ‘Level Up’ training system developed by Adam and Kara Goucher and provided by Run The Edge.  The program structures the runner’s training as an actual game in which you accumulate points by completing a mix of different workout options, all assigned a certain number of points.  Accumulating a specific number of points will allow you to Level Up and move on to the next level!

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For those who grew up playing video games, all of this Leveling Up can appeal to our gamer sensibilities and to a degree, our competitive nature.  One common theme I’ve noticed is that after a certain level is achieved, there are more requirements to achieve the next level.

For me, the concept of Leveling Up in running relates to fitness, and other gains that I mentioned early in this post, (speed, endurance, strength, experience and mental toughness).  Initially these gains can make running feel easier.  The key is recognizing when we achieve these gains and stepping up our running and training accordingly.

Post LA Marathon I discovered that I had leveled up, in different areas of my running.  My tempo run pace felt much easier to maintain, previously challenging hills were no longer kicking my butt, etc.  I couldn’t help but test my new fitness during some workouts, resulting in some personal bests.  Since, I’ve decided to make some adjustments to my running and my goals.  I signed up for a 5k ready to run a new PR.

Here are 4 points if you have recently “Leveled Up”

  1. Challenge yourself – If workouts that were once considered challenging are much easier it may be time to step it up.  Feeling stronger?  It may be time to add more hills or more challenging workouts to your training.  Increased endurance? It may be time to start training for a longer race!  Faster?  You may benefit from a new pace group or training with some of your faster friends.
  2. Increase your mileage – To continue to see fitness gains it’s often necessary to increase weekly mileage as well.  Think about going from a Novice level training program to Intermediate.  Though there are different mileage options on training plans to accommodate those with busier schedules, generally more advanced training programs will include increased mileage.
  3. Recover – While stepping up your training efforts as a result of fitness gains its also important to consider recovery.  Being able to perform more quality workouts also means that it will take a toll on your body.  And while increased fitness may lead to taking less rest days during the week, recovery should not be neglected.  Whether its in the form of a complete rest day, an easy run, or cross training, its important to give your body a chance to recover to avoid over usage injuries, especially while you’re pushing yourself to new limits!
  4. Adjust your goals – I’ve touched on goals in a previous post and they will be different for everyone.  For many runners this means attempting to run a PR in a race.  For others it may mean racing a new distance be it a 5k, Half Marathon, Marathon, or Ultra.

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If you are struggling with leveling up and achieving fitness gains there may be different things to consider.

  1. Nutrition – Fueling your body is just as important as your training.  If your nutrition is suffering your performance will also suffer, at the very least, you will not be performing to your full potential.  For those struggling in this area it can be as simple as making healthier choices, for others it may not be so simple and I’d recommend consulting with a Registered Dietitian or Nutritionist that’s familiar with the needs of endurance athletes.  I, personally saw great improvements after I incorporated using my NutriBullet and made other changes to my diet.
  2. Mix up your training – If the majority of your runs are the same distance, pace, terrain, etc. mixing it up is a great way to see improvement.  Longer runs should be slower, while shorter runs, faster.  Incorporating hills, trail running, and intervals can activate different muscle groups and lead to improvements.  Running on different surfaces is also a good idea.  A good running coach can identify areas on improvement and recommend different types of training, workouts, runs, to help get you to the next level.
  3. Rest / Recovery – Once again I must harp on rest and recovery.  If you are not seeing fitness gains one possibility is that you are not giving your body enough time to recover from hard workouts.  In addition to rest days, post run recovery is key.  Getting proper nutrients, proteins and carbs following a tough workout can help speed up recovery and maximize your fitness gains.

Best of luck to everyone, whatever your goals are, no matter what level you are at.  I believe that running should always be enjoyed, but its always nice to see progress!

Happy Running

– Eddie D

 

 

 

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A moment of gratitude

As the LA Marathon approaches its impossible not to reflect on the journey that led me to this point!  I have been vocal about saying that this is the best season of Marathon training that I’ve ever have.  I have Team NutriBullet to thank for that, but before more than just thank the whole group (which I do), I also want to thank individuals!

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Jasmine Diaz – My loving and encouraging wife.  I wouldn’t be able to take on this commitment to Team Nutribullet if it wasn’t for her understanding and support!  I know its not always easy for me to be out on Saturday Mornings when we may want to make other plans, but she understand my passion and goals and always has my back!

Thank you Jasmine for being the best wife a guy could ever have!

John LaPointe – It was John who reached out to me to be a pace group leader for Team NutriBullet.  I started running with John back in 2012 to train for the Malibu Half Marathon.  It was that group that allowed me to rediscover the joy of running.  This experience, however, has taken it to another level.  John served as the Running Coach for Team NutriBullet and has been responsible for instilling the principals of proper running form!

Thank you for everything John!  I’m glad to call you a friend!

Kenton – Kenton is a dynamic person, he’s the life force behind Team NutriBullet whether its up close and personal or behind the scenes! When you really find out all that Kenton does for NutriBullet, its amazing that he’s able to take care of all of the runners, but he’s always there for us!  Not only does he do it all with a smile on his face, but with an amazing energy that infects everyone!

Thank you Kenton for all that you do!

Sarah Lefkowitz – Sarah, Team NutriBullet’s registered dietitian, is not only helping to make sure that all of the runners are getting optimal nutrition for our demanding training schedule, she is training with Team NutriBullet as well!  I have had the pleasure of leading the 10 min/mile group for 2 weeks, picking her brain and soaking up her nutrition advice!  It is her NutriBullet recipes that have fueled me on my runs, allowing me to push past my “limits”

Sarah, thank you for keeping us fueled for success!

Monique – Monique is our trainer and responsible for making sure that our bodies are strong enough to both keep up with the toll of the Marathon training, but also perform at its very best!  She helps in a variety of fitness areas including strength training, core strength, endurance, injury prevention, and more.  Though I have not taken advantage of her weekly sessions I have really taken to the idea of core strength and have been planking almost daily.  All of the yoga sessions I have attended have been so dynamic that honestly I wish I attended more.  The real proof is in the pudding and for those that really need and seek her help, she has been heaven sent!

Thank you Monique for molding our team into lean mean running machines!

Jeremy – The guy behind the scenes handling the production and making sure we all look good!  Its all fun and games until you’re caught on camera acting a fool!

Thank you Jeremy for capturing the entire experience!

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My 8 Minute Pace Group Members – David, Luis, Laura, Freddy, Marko, and Peter.  Its easy to lead a group like this!  This group has changed a bit since training first started.  However, down the stretch we have had our core members to count on!  The conversations on our runs have been great!

  • David – you were the first motivated one to join the 8 minute group!  You were committed to run a BQ and I was committed to get you there!  You rep ARC hard but also represent Team Nutribullet well!  I wish you all the best and hope you achieve your goals!
  • Luis – I think I approached you about running with the 8 minute group and you were more than willing and motivated for the challenge!  You’re not only a strong runner, but a great RD as well!  You are definitely a more capable runner than you give yourself credit for!  I hope the LA Marathon is a confidence builder for you; I see you doing big things!
  • Laura – It was great having you with the 8 minute group!  You have such a strong running background with such elite company and you have been generous about sharing all of the things you’ve learned!  You’ve also come up with some great discussion topics during our runs to keep things fun and free.  I hope your injuries are behind you and kill it at the LA Marathon!
  • Freddy – The famous runner who has graced us with his presence and his big heart!  Your pictures are the stuff of legend!  It has been my pleasure to get to know you better as a runner and as a person!  Thanks for letting me carpool with you, and thanks for running with the 8 minute group even though some of the rest of us had a hard time staying on pace!
  • Marko – Thanks for bringing your energy to the 8 minute group!  You’re always up for a challenge and sometimes that meant leaving the rest of us in the dust when someone faster is up ahead (usually Peter).  Even still its great to see your enthusiasm for running and your confidence.  Its amazing that you’re so swift on your feet at 200+ pounds!  Hope that epic fartlek run doesn’t bite us on Sunday!
  • Peter – You’re the Team NutriBullet Veteran along with Freddy and a few others.  You are also an incredible runner and sup-athlete.  It was running laps around Hazeltine park with you that really boosted my confidence at the peak of our training!  Thanks for all of the advice and motivation.  I’d wish you luck, but you don’t need it!  Go kill it!

Crispin and Cynthia – I’ve been following all of your feats and accomplishments with LASP and it’s definitely been a motivator for me to step it up with my own running.  Having the both of you run with the 8 minute pace group, if only for one Saturday, was inspirational.  I wish you all much success with “The Speed Project” and thank you again for your motivation and support!

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To all of the Team NutriBullet Runners – You guys have been nothing short of an inspiration to me!  All of you with so many different stories, and goals.  You’ve over come so much to get to this point.  I’m proud of you all and want to see each of you cross that finish line proudly Sunday at the LA Marathon!  After the culmination of all our training, its time to execute on race day!

Happy Running!

-Eddie D

Strategic Focus or Taper Madness?

The LA Marathon weekend is 2 Weeks away and if reality has not kicked in for runners, it will very soon!  For me, this LA Marathon is about taking the next step!  I have, during the past few months, stepped up my efforts in training and nutrition in an attempt to finally get over the hurdle and qualify for The Boston Marathon.

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A Boston Qualifier has been a target of mine since I finished my first Marathon in 2009, although back then it didn’t quite seem possible!  In 2010 it was something I was striving for, and when I completed The Philadelphia Marathon only 2 minutes shy of this goal it was a full on obsession!  I came way shy in my BQ attempt when I ran The Pasadena Marathon in 2011.  To be honest, although I was telling myself I wanted to qualify for Boston I was not training like a runner who really wanted to qualify for Boston.

Boston Marathon 2014 Qualifying Times

My training schedule was a mess, with holes all over and no consistency whatsoever.  I thought I’d make it because I had some speed, but I didn’t respect what it really takes to reach that goal! There were other factors as well including a Vitamin D deficiency that I didn’t know about until before the 2012 Malibu Half Marathon.

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Fast forward to 2013, I ran my first marathon in 2 years at The Ventura Marathon.  At the time I needed to run a 3:05, a tall order for sure, but I was up for the task.  I didn’t have a Garmin during my training only a stop watch, which was both good and bad.  Good: I learned how run by feel!  Bad: Running by feel concept didn’t work during the race when I got swept up with Half Marathoners and went out too fast.  Despite my horrible execution on race strategy, I still managed to run a 3:16 which gave me a lot of confidence for not having run a marathon in 2 years!

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There are a lot of factors in play that, I hope will lead to me reaching my goal at the 2014 LA Marathon.  I’ve posted about my experience with Team NutriBullet, and while I won’t get into all of those details again, I will say it is this training experience and change of mindset that has put me in the position to reach my goals.  Training, proper running form, proper nutrition, in addition to a smart / balanced training strategy has all paid off in a big way!

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The final part of the puzzle is race strategy, and this is where I have been obsessing a bit!  (Okay, maybe a lot!)  Since I attribute my “blow up” at the Ventura Marathon to poor race strategy, I refused to let that be the case once again!  I have a Garmin now, so that should help me from going out “Too fast”, but what about after?  Do I just wing it from there?  No, I refuse to leave it to chance for my big race!  I just had to break down the miles, not to mention I’m also taking a college math class so I’ve been manipulating numbers for weeks!

The rough plan: Run the 1st 3 miles at 7:30 pace; the next 3 miles at 7:15 pace; the bulk of my miles at 7:00 pace, and the final 4+ miles at 6:45 pace if I’m feeling good!  I broke it down and it puts me under 3:05 (about 3:04:36), and if I cant run 6:45 for the final 4+?  I’d still come in about 3:07, still sub 3:10.

So then the question is, can I actually execute this plan?  According to my training its feasible!  I’ve been able to hold a 6:30 pace pretty well on my tempo runs so the 7 min/mile pace should be very manageable.  7:30 for the early miles is slower, but not that slow, it averages out pretty nicely after running all of them 7 minute miles.  (Does it sound like I’m obsessing?)

LAM Course Map

So then there’s the part about negative splits.  According to my plan I’ll run the first half at about 1:33:15 and my second half at about 1:31:21 (Obviously numbers are never exact)  a 2 minute negative split is not a huge stretch right?  After all I have run a lot of progressive paced runs during my training to prepare for just that!  As I continue to crunch these numbers it may be easy to second guess myself, or try to alter the strategy.  I mean even as I type this I was thinking of ways to modify the plan.  With 2 weeks left is this just another form of Taper Madness, or is it the type of Strategic Focus that I’ve been missing for my previous races.

To be honest my training has been very solid and focused, my mileage has been the highest, and most consistent that it has been since, ever? And once again the x-factor is my nutrition!  All of my previous marathon successes have come despite my training shortcomings, now its time to see what I can do when I’m doing things the right way!  Who knows maybe writing all this in my blog will get it all out my system.  Yep, then I can move onto obsessing about other things, like the the race day weather! 😉

LAM Weather Forecast!

Happy Running!

Team NutriBullet – The Final Stretch!

With three weeks left until the Asics LA Marathon, I’m literally in the final stretch of my training with Team NutriBullet!  If you missed my previous posts and am unfamiliar with Team NutriBullet, you can read about my training here and here!

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Team NutriBullet!

This Saturday morning was Team Nutribullet’s final long run before the LA Marathon.  We ran from Joes gym to Marina Del Rey and back one of our rare long runs that did not include a tribal run or loops around a park.  It served as a dress rehearsal of sorts for the LA Marathon.  We were all wearing our Team NutriBullet gear, we stayed in our groups and ran our paces.  I had the honor of “leading” the 8 minute pace group!  I say “leading” because at this point in our training we are pretty much a well oiled machine!  We stayed together and hit our target pace for most of the run, though some nagging pains forced a couple of runners to fall back a bit.

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All Smiles Halfway Through 20 Miles

I had the honor and pleasure of running with 2 sub-elite athletes and members of the Los Angeles Speed Project (LASP) Crispin Lazarit and Cynthia V Zarate, who were both original Team NutriBullet Members!  For our groups final 20 miler this was a great opportunity to pick their brains and get some great marathon advice from 2 runners who have both qualified for Boston many times.  For me, personally, it was a huge boost of motivation to run with them and I just felt the positive energy and good vibes!  As happy as we all were to run with them, they were both very gracious in joining our group and running those miles with us!

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This 20 miler was the culmination of a training program that started in December and will bring us all to the starting line of the LA Marathon as stronger, healthier runners!  As I’ve mentioned in my previous posts about Team NutriBullet, we have lots of expertise at our disposal, from dietitians and nutritionists, to strength and fitness trainers to running coaches.  All of this, to impart wisdom to all of our teams runners, to help us all to be more balanced as athletes.  In short, all of these areas are important, proper diet, strength and core training, and running form all make for a much more successful running experience when applied!

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8 Min Group w/ Coach John LaPointe

When I was asked to be a member of Team NutriBullet, I was also asked to be a pace group leader, which was a great honor for me, and not an opportunity I took lightly!  I was asked to pace the 8 minute group, which was a bit nerve racking in the beginning since I didn’t know how many runners would actually be in my group!  For the first 2 group runs there really wasn’t a set established 8 minute group, but slowly the group came together!  Looking at what it is now, all of the runners are exactly where they need to be! Being able to keep a conversational at a specific pace is one tell tale sign that its the right pace for a long run!  As much fun as I’ve had pacing the 8 minute group throughout this training program I have been willing to do what has been asked of me!  Some weeks this meant running as a “tribe” during the first few miles of our long run!  This “tribal run” helped to unite the group and give runners in different pace groups, who would not otherwise have the opportunity to run together or strike up a conversation to do just that!

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Tribal Run

I have also had the pleasure of leading the 10 minute pace group for 2 weeks due to necessity by the group.  I’ll be honest, in a small way I dreaded my first run with the 10 minute group because I thought it would be much too slow for me, but something happened, I settled in and enjoyed it!  Actually, I enjoyed it a whole lot!!  So much so, that when I was asked to pace the 10 minute group again the next week I was happy to take the task!  I have learned that every pace group brings their own energy!  Their own goals, and their own experiences!  When I went back to running with the 8 minute group it was bitter sweet!  I was thrilled to re-join my 8 minute group, but sad to leave the 10 minute runners as well!  I almost wished both groups would run at a happy medium pace, but that wasn’t realistic for anyone involved!

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10 Min Pace Group

So what’s next?  It’s time to taper and rest up for the LA Marathon!  We still have a few group runs left before March 9th, but the core of our training is complete!  I am extremely proud of everyone who has trained with our group, and am hopeful that everyone will reach their goals!  Whether its a first marathon, a PR attempt or a BQ attempt I believe everyone is now in a better position to achieve what they are set out for!  For those runners dealing with nagging injuries, now is the time to heal up and get healthy for race day!  I am thrilled to share my LA Marathon experience with this group, and when I wear that Team NutriBullet logo on my chest and back I will be representing the entire group proudly!

There are so many great people in Team Nutribullet so in my next point I will try to share about some of these amazing individuals!

Happy Running!

~Eddie

How can I enjoy running?

One of the questions I get the most from friends, family and new/beginner runners is: “How can I actually enjoy running?”. Many people recognize the health and fitness benefits of running, but I’ve also noticed many of those same people automatically think of the bad.  “Oh this is gonna suck”, “Running is boring”, “I can’t wait for it to be over”.

When people read one of my running posts, see me coming back from a run, or hear me talking about running I often get asked, “do you actually enjoy running?  Is it fun for you?” and the comment “I would run more if I actually enjoyed it”.

Here are 7 tips to start enjoying running!

  1. Go at your own pace – Really, its just that simple.  You can decide how far, how fast, or how slow you want to run.  Alternate running, walking, and jogging if running the full distance at once is too intimidating!  The great thing about this approach is that you can set your own personal goals without letting someone dictate them for you.  Even if your walk break is shorter than your previous run, its a victory!
  2. Run with groups and friends – Running on your own can get dull, get a friend involved and tackle it together!  This can give you a training partner you can trust and creates another common interest for conversation.  Maybe your friends are flakes, fortunately there are many running groups out there that train at a conversational pace.  Visit a local specialty running store, chances are they have a weekly group run!  Even if they don’t, they can point you in the right direction!  Running with others can be a great motivational boost and make those miles fly by!
  3. Find a fun / scenic place to run – Maybe running laps around your block is not appealing to you, find a more interesting location! Does your local area have a scenic trail, a beach w/ a bike path, maybe a high school or college track is more appealing?  Websites like http://www.mapmyrun.com can help you find the most popular running routes in your area to keep things fresh and fun!
  4. Switch it up – Now that you have found new routes, try switching up the type of runs!  Short quick runs, longer slow runs, hills, interval runs, track workouts, etc.  The idea may sound intimidating at first, but just remember there are no rules!  If you want to try a different type of run just do it!  Be like a kid, let your imagination run wild!  Literally, if you like to run down hills, start off doing that!  Why not?
  5. Join an online community – Online running/fitness communities such as http://www.dailymile.com, http://www.strava.com, http://www.nikeplus.com and many more, are increasing in popularity.  These communities can give you some extra motivation by allowing you to meet runners from all over the world who share the same goals!  You can comment on others’ workouts and have them comment on yours, and you can join and participate in challenges to give your training that extra push!
  6. Rock the run – Music can be a great boost for a new runner.  Uptempo music can rev you up and motivate you to run longer, further, and even faster.  It can also get you through a tough part of a run when your getting tired!  I have 2 tips for running w/ music… Be safe and Use it accordingly.  You don’t want the volume of the music so high that it is distracting you from your surroundings and you cannot hear traffic around you.  Keep the music at a reasonable volume, where you’re still able to hear ambient noise.  If running with a friend or a group, it can be considered bad etiquette to listen to music when others want to engage you in conversation.
  7. Sign up for a race – Some people simply need to be challenged, and feel that running is boring, or not as exciting without a goal.  The easiest way to set a goal is to sign up for a race!  Start off with a 5k and go from there!  Find a training program that fits your schedule and lifestyle, (there is no shortage of variety in this area).  Most importantly, remember to keep things fun!  In addition to traditional road races there have been a flurry of new “event” runs like mud runs, color runs, electric runs, and even zombie runs!  The point is to make these events fun, party atmospheres.  Find the event that suits you and go for it!

So these are my 7 tips for how to make running enjoyable.  Remember these are just tips and not rules!  The main rule is that there ARE no rules;  experiment and explore!  Find what works for you and just have fun!