Tag Archives: Marathon Training

Adaptation

As any runner will tell you, adaptability and flexibility (both in the body and the mind) are important qualities to possess. There are times when one needs to adjust plans, strategies, and schedules, and seemingly more often than not these modifications are unexpected or last-minute. Such adaptation may come to play in numerous facets of a runner’s life from training all the way to race day execution.

Sometimes you need to be able to adapt in a big way such as when an injury forces you to take some time off from running. Other times you need to make smaller adaptations such as finding a different time to run when life happens and prevents you from running during your initially targeted time slot.

Still other times you need to be flexible enough to find some other running terrain when your first choice doesn’t pan out. This was the predicament I was faced with yesterday!

Remember when Nicolas Cage actually seemed like he cared?
Remember when Nicolas Cage actually seemed like he cared?

Ok, I know that I wasn’t faced with an end of the world type scenario, but I was still bummed out about the situation and thus I’ll say I employed some serious adaptability! (sorry to you, the reader, for being subjected to the whims of a blogger in such a dramatic mood)

According to my trusty marathon training schedule, I was slated to run 8 miles yesterday in what would be the last taper run before my marathon this coming weekend (how did that happen?). Using my second to none mathematics skilz (hey, I didn’t say anything about spelling prowess), I calculated that a perfect site for my 8 mile jaunt would be the Wannamaker North Trail given that this trail is an 8 mile loop. Perfect!

Well, it would have been perfect aside from the fact that the Wannamaker North Trail has a tendency to be shut down anytime that there is any precipitation more significant than fog (as the trail is primarily used by mountain bikers and thus the county is rightfully cautious so as to avoid significant and possibly irreparable damage secondary to use in adverse weather conditions). Even though it rained fairly heavily on Saturday afternoon and early evening, I somehow deluded myself into believing that the trail would still be open Sunday morning. Further feeding into and solidifying my delusion was the fact that the trail website (which is updated religiously…or so it seems) continued to state that the trail was still open all through Saturday evening.

Thus, upon checking the trail status the next morning (still open!), I headed out to the trailhead. I thought about brining some road shoes along with the trail kicks I was wearing (you know, so as to be prepared in case a trail with a tendency to be closed following rain is actually closed following rain), but then decided I wouldn’t need them (hello, any logic or reasoning anywhere?). Upon driving along the back road leading to the trail, I noticed numerous puddles (an ominous sign for a trail with a nasty tendency to be closed) but continued to keep a positive attitude. However, as you can guess, this positive attitude was very soon crushed by a big ol’ red trail sign reading “Trail Closed”.  It could have just as easily read: “Heart Broken” because that’s how I felt. Wow, this has really taken a dramatic turn…

Not to be deterred, I set out for a greenway type system I had driven by on prior occasions when heading out to the Wannamaker North Trail. After performing some Google Maps recon, I found that this greenway-ish entity was the Crowfield Plantation “leisure trail”. I also found that there is an annual 5k held on this trail of leisure (not relevant to today’s tale, but a fun fact nonetheless).

After getting my bearings and ascertaining where I could link up with the trail system, I headed out to throw down my 8 miles (in trail shoes…which was less than ideal). Footwear aside, this greenway system offered up a nice run with great shade cover, infrequent road crossings, and the occasional rolling, gentle hills. There were a bunch of other runners and cyclists out getting their fitness on, but the greenway never seemed crowded at any point. I also learned that the Crowfield Plantation space is synonymous with a whole bunch of nice houses in different developments and that it contains its own private lake. Now that isn’t too shabby!

Crowfield Lake
Crowfield Lake
Someday I'll Own My Own Lake...
Someday I’ll Own My Own Lake…

What’s the moral of this story? If it even looks like it may rain, the Wannamaker North Trail is going to shut down at least for the next 24 hours.

Oh, and that adaptability is important!

Searching For Some Upness

Well, they most certainly don’t call it the Lowcountry for nothin’! Coastal South Carolina is flat. I’m talking the if you drop a ball, chances are it ain’t rolling anywhere type of flat. That’s how vertically challenged the terrain is here.

Thus, one has to be somewhat creative when seeking out any sort of elevation gains round these parts. They call the hills here “bridges” with the most famous of them in the greater Charleston area being the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge. This beauty of a bridge stretches over the Cooper River and links up downtown Charleston with neighboring Mount Pleasant. It is a very popular spot for runners, cyclists, walkers, and even rollerbladers (with the most hardcore ones wearing jean cut-off shorts…obviously). Furthermore, it is the center piece of the uber-popular Cooper River Bridge Run, which I plan on running this coming April along with 39,999 of my closest friends.

Climbing into the clouds...
Climbing into the clouds…

I try to run the Ravenel from time to time, but it can be a bit of a pain driving over to it when in a time crunch. Thus, I occasionally run on a much smaller (and less famous) bridge, the Paul Gelegotis Bridge, which is nearer to my home and thus more convenient. The “PGB” as it’s called around here (nope, that’s a lie), is short but offers a little bit of an elevation gain and is not nearly as crowded as the Ravenel. Chances are you’ll have the PGB all to yourself if running it, and at the very worst will have to share it with a handful (or less) of cyclists and co-runners.

Unsuccessfully attempting to get a few miles in before darkness fell, I headed out to the PGB yesterday evening. I parked in a dirt lot towards the Johns Island end of the bridge where I’ve seen people park before and thus assume it must be legal (air tight logic, right?) and headed off on my run. I had the bridge all to myself in terms of those seeking fitness (probably due to the fact that nightfall was rapidly enveloping the world in darkness), but there was a ton of vehicular traffic. The only reason I mention that tidbit is that it made the initial (and end) portion of the run a bit hairy given the fact that there is maybe a quarter of a mile where you find yourself running on a very thin shoulder or off in the grass before you hit the walkway of the bridge. Furthermore, there’s a turn in the road leading up to the bridge that most certainly will blind drivers coming from the Johns Island end to any runners that may be approaching their way until the very last moment. Note to self: Work on lateral jumping movements in anticipation of running the PGB again in the future…

All in all, I got in a total of 4 miles with a couple of nice views as the sun was going down. Bonus points were earned for not getting hit by a car. Not a bad way to end the week!

View from atop the PGB.
View from atop the PGB.
The sun was lighting up the clouds with some crazy coloring!
The sun was lighting up the clouds with some crazy coloring!

 

 

Beach Running

Yes, you read that post title right. Tonight’s edition of largely pointless and meandering thoughts will indeed be dedicated to running on the beach. And yes, I am posting this in the dead of winter.

Ok, I realize that a more intelligent or macro thinking “blogger” would in all likelihood pen such a themed post in the summer time, or at the very least in the spring when anticipating the arrival of summer (such a post would probably be seen as “timely”). Well, not this guy! I ran on the beach today, and thus the topic is on my mind. Plus as an added bonus, I hope that such a post about running on the beach (which is inherently thought of as a warm weather activity)  can bring some hope and spiritual warmth to any readers that are stuck in more Arctic like conditions currently. Conversely, this post may also fuel hatred and scorn in those readers for yours truly. Let us see, shall we?

While out for my beach run this afternoon, I was thinking about the pros and cons (at least in my mind) of using the sand and the ocean as your running backdrop. As I’ve alluded to in a previous post, I don’t think I allowed myself to enjoy running on either the beach, road, greenways, or really any surface that wasn’t my beloved trails upon first moving to the Lowcountry. Luckily, I’ve gotten less stubborn with time and now definitely enjoy running on the beach when I get the opportunity. Sure, it can get monotonous like any other running route you utilize often (that’s why you have to mix it up!), but I find myself saying to myself more and more while running the beach, “Dude, you are out on a beach. How bad can things be? Seriously. Just get over it”. Such self scolding (or mindfulness to put it in gentler terms) helps me keep things in perspective.

So without further ado, here are my thoughts on beach running broken down into “pros” and “cons” (as one should analyze all aspects of life).

Let’s start with the “pros” as we strive to be optimists here…

Pros:

  1. Excellent for Barefoot Running                                                                                    I know that there are a lot of people out there that barefoot run on all terrains (trails, streets, treadmills, volcanic ash), but I am definitely not one of those people! In fact, I do not do any barefoot running at this point in time. However, after getting a little beach running under my belt and having heard the benefits of barefoot running for years now (and having just finally read “Born to Run” which further touts the benefits), I’m seriously considering working in some barefoot running on the beach once the weather warms up. Now unless you’re running on the Jersey shore and thus may very well risk running over broken glass or used syringes (I can say that since I’m from Jersey!), I can’t think of a better introductory terrain for barefoot running than the beach!
  2.  No Stoplights, No Street Crossings, No Fuss!                                                 Though the beach may offer some other obstacles (as discussed in the Cons section below), it is generally a great spot to get in a run without worrying about needing to stop every 50 yards for traffic or a street crossing. This fact in and of itself  has been a strong motivator for me to hit up the beach on many days!
  3. Decreased Stress on Joints/Utilizing Different Muscles                As one would expect, running on the sand is generally less impactful and punishing than pounding away on the pavement while road running. Concurrently, you are working muscles in the knees, ankles, and feet that you do not typically target while running on other terrains. While both of these facts are most likely good things, one has to always be wary of increasing mileage or pace on a new terrain too quickly or transitioning to training solely on one type of terrain as either can increase your risk of injury (again, mixing up running terrain/routes/habits is good for your body and mind!).
  4. The Scenery                                                                                                                          This is probably the biggest selling point for me. Even on the worst weather day, it is still an amazingly beautiful experience to throw down some miles on the beach. Simply put, nothing compares to running with the ocean as your backdrop and the sunrises and sunsets are all that more crisp and vibrant when seen from the vantage point of a beach run. The only downside to this is you may want to spend more of your time snapping photos than you do running!
You could most certainly do worse with respect to running views!
You could most certainly do worse with respect to running views!

 

The Cons:

  1. Crowds                                                                                                                                        Due to the fact that the beach is so innately and unquestioningly amazing, people tend to flock to it. Crazy, right? Thus, you can sometimes find it difficult to even spot the sand under the throngs of people, let alone run on it. In addition, you may also find yourself dodging run away toddlers, unleashed dogs, frisbees, bocce balls, and drunk undergrads as you weave your way along the beach in a twisted version of “Frogger”. My advice: Hit the beach early or later in the day for your run so as to avoid the masses.
    "Excuse me please, runner coming through..."
    “Excuse me please, runner coming through…”

     

  2. Not Much Variability                                                                                                 There isn’t any elevation gain, pretty much all piers look alike, and the terrain can become monotonous to a degree overall. In the end, beaches are amazing and awesome but kinda look the same after a while. Though it is pretty neat seeing dolphins, crabs, and huge jellyfish during your runs at times…
  3. Gosh Darn Tarnation Overpronation                                                Apparently in contrast to the overall positive benefits beach running can have for your joints and muscles, there are also some papers and studies out there that suggest beach running (especially when barefoot) can increase the odds of overpronation. I’m not a sports med/ortho doc or PT dude, but I’m guessing that such terrain would thus not be ideal for you if you tend to overpronate at baseline. However, I also believe that variability in terms of your training regimen can nullify this risk at least a bit.
  4. A Tale of Two Runs                                                                                                              As I chronicled in a prior post, the wind is a fickle mistress while joining you on beach runs. For half the run, she’s supportive and making you feel invincible, while she berates you and tries to hold you back on the other half of the run. This fact could be flipped into a pro if you like significant resistance training built into half of your run. However, it could also be seen as a significant con when you tend to do as I do and run with the wind for the first half of your run and into the wind for the second half. When will I learn?
Wind or no wind, these views are poppin'!
Wind or no wind, these views are poppin’!

 

Enough random rambling from me, how do you feel about beach running? What have your experiences out there on the sand been like?