Friday, 23 August 2013

Tips for your first marathon!

If you've decided to take the challenge and run a marathon here are a few pointers that will help just about anybody complete the distance.

Set your goals!

I always have 3 possible goals set out at the start line of every marathon.

Goal 1; is the realistic time I hope to achieve for that race. If you are running your first marathon you should be quite conservative but very realistic when deciding what this goal time is. I should point out that this goal can vary as your training progresses. If you hit all your sessions and you have progressed well, you might realistically plan to run a little faster than first intended. 
Alternatively if you missed some session particularly the long runs then you might want to adjust your original goal time to something more realistic. The important point is that you must be realistic and the goal should be set at least 2 months in advance to race day.

Goal 2; is the optimistic goal. If everything goes to plan on race day (it often doesn't) and you feel good, stay with the realistic goal. If when you enter the last 5km of the race and you are still feeling well then you might be able to push on and run slightly faster than you had planned. 
This goal for me is usually 2-3min quicker than my realistic goal time. And I only consider it in the final 8-5km of a marathon.

Goal 3; is the back up plan for an unpredictable race day. This goal is a great idea for the first timers at the marathon distance. It's a good idea to tell people that this is your goal time. 
If all goes well on the day and you achieve your 'realistic goal' people will think you are great, if you have a bad day and struggle to go under your realistic goal time but still achieve this 'pessimistic goal' people will still think you are great for achieving your goal. It's a win win situation.

I recently managed the physical effects of distance running on a woman (age 54) running her first marathon. Although she had a personal trainer who set her training program, she sought my advice on her first marathon. I was treating her in my osteopathy clinic to maximise her performance and to prevent injury. I explained these goals. She told all her family, friends and colleagues that her goal was sub 5hrs. Her realistic goal was 4hrs40mins but during training she realised she could actually aim for sub 4hrs30. Her optimistic goal was 4hrs28mins. On the day the weather was perfect and she felt great. She ran a 4hr29min marathon and was ecstatic. All her family and friends think she is Wonder Woman after smashing her goal by so much! 
The point being if you are realistic with yourself and your training you can achieve great things. And the marathon experience for he first timer should be completely positive. A lot of first timers aim for a sub 4hr marathon and then don't enjoy the experience due to the stress of trying to achieve a difficult goal or the embarrassment of facing people after they've failed miserably to beat the time. 
Unless you are a well experienced runner of 10ks and half marathons and have comitted to the long runs in training then you won't be prepared for the final 10k of a marathon. If that is the case this final 10k can take anywhere from 50mins to 2hrs depending on how bad you feel. 

Do the training!

If you are committed to running a marathon that has to mean committed to doing the training. If you don't commit to the training, you'll either fail on the day or you'll do yourself an injury. Either scenario is no fun. A marathon is quite a distance and it should be respected for the feat it is. Regardless of our back ground or fitness if you don't do some long run sessions in training you will pay the price on the day. If you want to enjoy the day for the great experience that it is make sure you perform well and arrive prepared for the event. 
The only people I know who DNF (did not finish or start) the marathon were people who hadn't trained for the distance. 

Refuel along the way!

You must refuel at every opportunity, whether you are going for sub 3hrs or sub 5hrs, refuel along the way. Once you get about 1 hour into the race you should be consuming about 300 calories per hour. If you are not consuming this much fuel, then your performance will deteriorate in the latter stages of the race. Muscle break down due to inadequate calorie consumption is the clinically proven reason why athletes slow down in the latter stages of a race. 

So get the carbs in and keep them coming. I recommend some sort of slow releasing complex carbohydrate (sweet potatoes, baked potatoes or bananas) and for quicker release calories I chose raisins or apricots. You can use a multitude of energy gels or energy bars, cereal bars or sports drinks but beware of the dreaded refined sugar and its awful affects on human physiology. 

Rehydrate at every opportunity!

It's such a cliche but its so true, if you feel thirsty it's almost too late. When I run marathons I take water at every fuel station. Usually there is water within the first 5km and at this point I'm usually looking at my watch making sure my heart rate and pace are in range, I'm never thirsty at this early stage so I grab a bottle or a cup and take at least 5 sips. I do this at every water station and as the race unfolds I take more and more water at each station.
I don't drink fizzy drinks or sports drinks at any stage unless its a hot day and I'm feeling a bonk coming on in the very late stages, I'd need to be within the final 5km before I'd drink anything other than water. 
It's important to note that during the days leading up to the race I drink a lot of water. I get a bit obsessed sometimes and end up spending half the day looking for a toilet. As annoying as this is on the days leading up to the race it always pays off on race day, I never get cramps and I never need to pee during a race because I don't need to drink a whole lot on the morning before the race. On the days leading up to the race while I am hydrating with lots of water I also snack on pretzels to ensure high salt concentration at a cellular level. If you don't do this you'll pee away all that excess water because the osmolarity at a cellular level must be balanced. If you just pour in lots of water your kidneys will spill it all out. Don't go crazy on the salty snaks but do get some. 

Test your gear!

Make sure you do at least one long run in your race day attire before the race. Don't turn up to race day with new shoes, socks, shorts, or tshirts. One item might rub or chaff your skin, which may cause blisters that might end your race early or cause enough discomfort to slow you down significantly. 
Be sure to charge up you watch if you use a Garmin or another brand that requires wall charging. If you listen to music (I don't) on race day make sure your mp3 is charged and that all you favourite tunes are on a run mix!

Make use of the aid stations!
If you have a problem with your gear; race number falling off, snapped lace, torn shorts or tshirts or bleeding nipples (for the men) to name the most popular, try to seek help at the aid stations. The people who man these stations are usually super friendly and will do their best to get you to the finish if possible. Stopping on the lonely road without anybody to help with even a minor task can sometimes be overwhelming and can cause people to quit, only to find deep regret later that day. 

Meet your supporters

If you have family, friends, lovers or significant others coming to cheer you on and support you, make sure you arrange a place that you'll see them. Lets suppose that after consulting with the route map they are going to be at the 30km point, be sure to decide which side of the road they'll be on too. Some marathons are very big, with 40,000 plus competitors the field might be still quite deep around the 3hr45 time. If you don't arrange adequately to meet supporters it might be easy to miss them, which is no fun for them or for you! It gives a great boost to see familiar faces in the latter stages so don't miss them because of bad planning.
The last marathon I ran was Paris 2013. Both my friend and his wife were in Paris and I planned to meet them at the 30km which was right at the Eiffel tower. I tuned out of the race and began looking out for them at about the 29km point. We arranged that they would be on the right hand side of the road and it all went to plan, I saw them we exchanged the usual greeting with me mid stride. I continued on to the finish where I was disappointment not to have seen the Eiffel tower up close. The route map said we'd pass right by it but I hadn't seen it. Later at lunch with my friends I expressed my disappointment, they both laughed! They were standing right beneath the iconic landmark and I had ran right passed without noticing it!

Enjoy the day!


Thursday, 15 August 2013

The science behind what to put in your Green Smoothie!

Standing tall!
I've been juicing almost every day and sometimes twice or even three times a day since early April. When I began I used the family food processor and things didn't come out as nice as expected but I new and understood the health ramifications so I drank chunky green gunk all for the cause.

Most days I have the juice for breakfast or shortly after breakfast, which is usually a bowl of porridge. 

After about 2 weeks of this tremendous commitment to swallow a concoction of whatever greens were laying around the kitchen I decided to buy a proper piece of kit. I went with the CookWorks which retailed at £24.99 from Argos UK. 

So the questions remains, was that money well spent? 

I'd say in the grand scheme of things that was the most important purchase I have ever made in my life. "Now that's a fairly grand statement to through out there." Let me explain!
The health benefits of eating raw fruit and vegetables are countless, the studies that suggest this to be true are also countless and the feeling you get from having a green juice every day, well lets just say MasterCard would be hard pressed to beat it.
It has been shown on numerous occasions that raw foods containing many antioxidants are the key to good health, longevity. Raw foods also go a long way in preventing injuries by keeping the body in a more alkaline state and counteracting the oxidation process that occurs during exercise.

So what do I put in my juice or smoothie?
Most days it varies but these are the usual suspects
100mls water
100ml apple juice
One chopped apple* or pear
1.5 inches of cucumber
1.5 inches of courgette 
A handful of frozen mixed/blue berries*
2 large handfuls of spinach*/kale
1 tea spoon of spirulina
A small chunk of ginger*/garlic
A half of a lime*/lemon squeezed
A tea spoon of Chia seeds and a tea spoon of flax seed

* denotes preferred item!

I drink lots of water and I love apple juice. I eat lots of apples but I don't really like cucumber. I had never eaten raw courgette and I seldom buy berries. I'd never usually eat kale and although I love spinach I'd never have 2 large handfuls at one sitting. I had never heard of spirulina before I started juicing and I had never eaten raw ginger or limes. So all these foods with their multitude of antioxidants and life force goodness have made their way into my cells and I feel better for it. I've ran every single day since the 21st of May and I haven't even had a slight niggle. Most people think running that often and covering that distance could only lead to injury. But remember injuries come from one of 3 primary reasons, either

You are not getting the right nutrition

You are training too hard 

Or you are not getting enough rest and recovery.

Here is a video outlying the benefits that some of those foods bring

If that doesn't convince you, nothing will!


Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Dairy, running and poor performance!

I wrote a post "Lactose Intolerance" on 30 of April. In it I describe briefly the ill effects that dairy or more specifically lactose was having on my training and performance. I don't want to repeat what I said in that post but to use a phrase coined by the greatest manager in football (Sir Alex Ferguson), 'I had a squeaky bum!' You get the picture. The symptoms were made worse or exacerbated by running and I had to cut many training sessions short due to the nauseous feeling that accompanied the a fore mentioned.

I knew something was wrong and the 2 most likely suspects were lactose or gluten. I faced a dilemma, choosing which food group to quit, dairy or wheat. One or the other was going to make a difference. The dilemma lasted about the length of time it takes to sneeze! Life without wheat, there's no fun in that, right? 

I rushed out and bought LactoFree milk and butter and stopped eating yogurts. After 48hours my symptoms had improved by 80%. 

I finished that post by stating that after a couple of months I'd reintroduce dairy and see how I felt. However new information has made me have a change of heart. I've learned during the interim that diary ain't all it's cracked up to be and that what you gain from eating it is far from healthy. Let me explain.
Most of the information you see or hear about the health benefits of dairy is coming from the Dairy Council from whatever country you live in. Each council will instruct a certain amount of research proving the health benefits, so when you hear a statement 'milk is a great source of calcium or vitamin D' strictly speaking this is not false but it's not the whole truth either. There are some valuable nutrients to be gained from drinking milk but these in my opinion don't out weight the pitfalls. In fact they don't even come close and furthermore the valuable nutrients can be gained from alternative foods very easily without the horrific pitfalls. 

I've switched to Soya Milk. I compared the nutrient label on dairy milk and soya milk, here's what I found.  
                                              Soya milk                                     Dairy milk
                               Calcium content 12mg             Calcium content 11.9mg                             Saturated fat .3g/100ml               Saturated fat 2.2g/100ml
Sugar 2.7g/100ml                            Sugar 4.9g/100ml

So if the calcium content is almost equal, my next question would be is one more absorbable than the other? Here's what Dr. Greger of found

What happen to other nutrients in the presence of dairy?

What are some of the pitfalls of dairy consumption?

Dairy calves are obviously dairy producing cows, therefore each calf must be female and of sexual maturity. This means "Dolly or Daisy" is producing milk rich in hormones that make her offspring grow.  A baby calf will grow between 200lbs and 1,200lbs in a single year. I point this out to draw attention to the power of these hormones. These hormones have a high correlation between acne, childhood and adult carcinomas and inflammatory disease.
Dairy calves are also given specific hormones to ensure she produces maximum content of milk per day. This makes her udders nice and big and easy to milk. The daily grind of machine milking may cause sore, pus producing nipples. It would be impossible to prevent this pus going into the food stream so a number of around 3,000,000 pus cells per glass of milk is acceptable in the USA. If its happening in the US you can be pretty sure it's happening in Europe too. Everybody wants to maximise profit and ensuring pus-less milk I'm assuming wouldn't be cost effective,,,,, so give it to the kids!

Dairy has also been clinically proven to block antioxidant absorption. Antioxidants are found in most plant foods particularly those of great colour, they reverse the effects of free radical damage, which is caused by animal proteins, hydrogenated animal fats and the sun.

So does dairy make for better bones? You would hope so with all the huge risks it carries.

I was convinced by this conclusive evidence almost 5 months ago. I've had a very very limited amount of animal dairy since then and I've been feeling much much better. I've recently ran 70 days in a row covering about 640km without any hint of injury. All performed on zero animal dairy.
I started juicing around the same time that I quit dairy. That means much more antioxidants going in and less blocking of absorption by dairy, all this makes for a much healthier body. And I ran a PB in the a half marathon last weekend.

Monday, 5 August 2013

Dublin City Rock 'n' Roll half marathon race report!

It's time to Rock 'n' Roll
Today I ran the Dublin City Rock 'n' Roll half marathon 21.1km (13.1miles)

This wasn't a race I had planned to run this season. My wife had signed up to do it with a friend and when the race organisers sent me an email offering €10 off, I thought I'm not not going to miss out on a bargain and I signed up.

Was the race worth €39?
Absolutely yes! I've ran lots of half marathons in many different cities and this was one of the best, I suppose I am being generous since I ran a PB but in all honesty it was a great race. The registration was a bit annoying, they stated on the web site that all runners must attend with identification. My wife was contemplating turning up late to work in an attempt to get there. However I chanced going across the city and getting both our race numbers and on the day it was all fairly relaxed. I picked up both our race numbers and swag bags having only shown my own id. I empathise with participants from further counties who had to travel up a day early to register. This would have more than doubled their cost of their race, after paying for hotel accommodation and it is something race organisers should address in future, if the race is to grow.

Race day was great. Good weather, good crowd (lots of Americans) and lots of people dressed in Rock 'n' Roll gear. My favourite was the 3 participants I saw dressed as KISS. There was only one real let down of the day and it was a minor let down at that, the guy who they chose to do the warm! It was one of those moments where I felt embarrassed for the guy, he was awful and obviously hadn't any experience addressing a crowd. He spoke way too fast, and I couldn't hear a word he said, judging by the actions of everybody around neither could they. The MC of the day was holding a mic up to his mouth while he bounced up and down while swinging his arms. The whole thing was a mess and he ended it super quick without showing any stretches. He must have felt the huge discomfort when nobody joined in. The count down started and the race was on,,, wait a minuet, I hadn't really warmed up,,, Oh well it's time to Rock 'n' Roll!

I felt good at the start, the 1hr30min pacer was about 50m ahead and I made it my goal to reach him asap. I did but I had to bustle through a lot of people who had put themselves way too close to the front. I never understand why people do this, I brushed shoulders and elbowed a few people and I'm sorry for that, I really didn't do it with intent. However when I've spent countless hours training and put myself in the correct spot to run at 15km/hour and you are running at 11km/hour but you've chose to stand in front of me, well we are going to meet very soon and if I need to pass you to get my position and I have 6,300 people on my heels you can expect a few bumps. 
I saw one girl being knocked over, it was a nasty fall but my sympathy was for the guy who did it. He stopped to help probably feeling guilty, his race was ruined because she was way out of her comfort zone surrounded by people running much quicker than she was capable of maintaining.

A new PB 1hr28min16sec
I caught the pacer within the first kilometer and settled in to a good rhythm, I'm not near peak performance so my goal was to try and run in under 1hr30mins. The morning before the race I ran 15km on my first outing with Portmarnock triathlon club. And in the early kilometer I was questioning if that was a good or bad idea. This race was really a gauge of my fitness, a test to make sure my marathon training was going to plan. I drank a few sips of water at every aid station. At the 12km point I snacked on a small box of raisins and at 17km I took a gel from one aid station. I had been feeling really comfortable running with the pacer. At the 17km point I felt I had a little bit in reserve so I grabbed a caffeinated gel, took two mouthfuls, tossed the rest and put my head down for the final 4km. I pulled away from the pacer I'd been drafting on all day and as the gap opened I sensed a PB becoming more likely. In retrospect that was a gutsy move, I really could have ended up walking the last kilometer at that pace but I was sure I had enough fuel in reserve and I took the chance.
Sometimes those chances pay off in a race and sometimes they blow up in your face, however if you are feeling good in the later stages of the race I'd say always have a go.
I crossed the finish line with a time of 1hr28min16sec on my watch. I'm not sure of the official time yet. My previous PB was 1hr29min12sec so I was really pleased to have pulled that time out unexpectedly. 

I owe a big thanks to the pacer, I personally thanked him after the race and got his name and club. My pacer "Brian Maher" of Kilkenny City Harriers has some notoriety in the Irish running world. He came second in the National half marathon in a time of  66mins40sec. He paced today's race perfectly, he didn't change speed on the slight inclines or declines and he kept it all very steady right the way round. He even threw in a bit of wit and a joke or two, which helped settle the nerves on the day.

The aid stations were well stacked, they had plenty of water and lots of gels, energy drinks and bananas too. There is no need to carry anything with you when this race rolls into town again. And personally I wouldn't miss it, especially if you want a good day out, a fantastic course that takes in a lot of the marathon route and some live Rock 'n' Roll music. I'll be at the start line next year!

My wife ran with her friend who was doing her first half marathon, her longest distance before today I believe was a 10k. They both finished in a very respectable 2hr18min and looked good running the final 400m.  I always say if you finish well you'll have no regrets, they both finished well and we very pleased with their time, which included a toilet break,,, GIRLS!!!

Myself and my fantastic wife!

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Which is the best herbal tea to drink a after run?

Herbal tea is always a good way to get antioxidants, which will negate the minor negative affects of exercise. Free radical damage is caused during the oxidation process which is enhanced during exercise so having a hot tea after isn't a bad idea!
So which tea is best I drink after a run or heavy bike session?