gear, racing, running, training

What to wear running

In Texas the summers are hard, but at least we know what to expect: hot — like 100 degrees at night hot. Sometimes there’s rain, but we are prepared for that. When it’s going to rain in Texas in the summer, we are giddy with anticipation days in advance. Winter is a different story. The December White Rock Marathon or the March Rock ‘n’ Roll Half could be 20 degrees or 80 degrees. Snow, rain, 40-mph winds or beating sun, or all three, might greet you  — there’s no telling.

Over the weekend I was rooting around for my tights and gloves, since my long run featured 30-degree temps and high winds, but today, my (hill run day) features 65-degree temps and (OF FU*&ING COURSE) high winds again.

The last thing I want to think about when I prepare for a run is what to wear and I certainly don’t want to wind up out there inappropriately dressed – especially overdressed. That’s the worst.

That’s why I am digging this nifty ‘what to wear’ tool on I saw it back in the summer and thought, pffft. I know what to wear — same every day.

But now, with all the confusion of winter, I’m all: yeah, please dress me, computer.

Boston, ET Full Moon 1/2 Marathon, inspiration, marathon, Peter Snell, Philly, racing, running, training, White Rock, yoga

2011 running highlights

I had some great experiences in the past year. I meant to post my 2011 gratitude list closer to the new year. I got sidetracked. Better late than never.

January 2011—Went to the 3M Half Marathon with my buddies from the White Rock Running Co-op. It was hot. Someone had told us 3M was all downhill. Now, we should have known that was too good to be true. Oh, and did I mention it was hot (and humid)? Nonetheless, we had a fine time and most of us had a decent performance, despite the day’s unwelcome sauna-ness.

3M Half in Austin, January 2011

February 2011—I’m injured, but I discovered Bikram Yoga, which I wrote about here. Continue reading

healing and recovery, inspiration, racing, running, training

Do your best. No more. No less. Duh!

If you haven’t read The Four Agreements, by Don Miguel Ruiz, I highly recommend it. The Agreements are simple principles that, when applied, make life smooth, peaceful, successful and happy. Deal is, these principles which include — “be impeccable with your word, don’t take things personally, never make assumptions and always do your best” — while simple, aren’t easy (that’s where the fourth one comes in – you just do your best).

Last week as I was reading the book, as I often do, especially during challenging times, something new hit me from the “always do your best” section:

Moment to moment, your best will be different — better when you are healthy as opposed to sick, well rested as opposed to tired … Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse and regret.

Here’s the kicker: If you try too hard to do more than your best, you will spend more energy than is needed and in the end your best will not be enough. When you overdo, you deplete your body and go against yourself and it will take you longer to accomplish your goal. But if you do less than your best, you subject yourself to frustrations, self-judgment, guilt, and regrets. Continue reading

inspiration, marathon, other sports, people with true grit, Peter Snell, racing, running, running celebrities, training

Running legend Peter Snell, Lydiard method, other cool stuff

Peter Snell shows me the track shoes that ran a 3:54 minute mile.

In Aug. 2008 when I was writing a story, Gold Diggers, about Olympic medalists who live in the Dallas area, I learned that the legendary New Zealander Peter Snell, winner of three gold medals (1960, ’62, ’64) in the 800 (twice), the 880 and the mile (Snell broke the four-minute mile 15 times, with a best of 3:54) respectively, lives right here in the White Rock Lake area.

In fact, my running group has passed right by his home on an occasion or two. Today he ‘s Dr. Snell and he researches exercise and aging at UT Southwestern. Last week I interviewed him for a story we are doing about (in a nutshell) aging well, and I derived a little wisdom, or at least something to think about, from our talk.

Snell’s coach was Arthur Lydiard, famous for putting his short and mid-distance runners to 100-mile training weeks. Snell still believes in the Lydiard training method. Only now, unlike when he was running the miles back in the 1960s, he says understands why the method made him a great runner. “Back then I was just following directions, he says.”

It’s complex, but basically, the incredible stamina produced by weekly hilly (“slow, 6-minute per mile”) 22-mile runs and daily 17-18 mile jaunts, allowed him to have a devastating kick at the end of short races.

(Check out this video of his two record-breaking miles for an example. )

Lydiard’s method also includes plenty of hills, intervals, race pace and such, but at its heart is miles and miles. In fact, in a Time magazine article, a source remarks that when a competitive runner reaches exceedingly high mileage and the joints begin to ache and the pain is enormous, most coaches ease up, but Lydiard would keep pushing until the runner “becomes insensitive to the pain.” (You can see here why the Lydiard method is sort of controversial.)

Snell poses with other sub 4-minute milers — can you find Roger Bannister?

Snell says the mile race begins at the 3/4 mark. The first three quarters are about positioning and relaxing, he says.

That translates too to marathoning — the marathon begins at mile 20, I’ve heard many more- experienced- than- me runners say. The key is feeling good and staying on target up to that point, then having enough in the tank to go strong for six miles. A good, sturdy base and frequent race-pace running, it would seem based on my studies and experiences, is key to making this happen.

That doesn’t mean 100-mile weeks, but it means significantly more than the 35-45 mile weeks I once relied on for marathon preparation.  But the problem with upping that mileage is balance/knowing when to say ‘enough’ — at 60-70 mpw, I am hurting. My knee is swollen, my heel is sore and my achilles is tender and tight.

Running Times a while back ran a comprehensive piece about Lydiard training. It addresses my issues. Here are some highlights; I totally recommend that serious runners read the whole thing:

Miles are “money in the bank”. The more you have the greater your currency to buy ATP’s (the units of energy your muscles need for contraction) and the faster you will eventually be able to race in any event that has a large aerobic component.”

Train based on feeling. Lydiard looked at modern technology — whether a coach yelling split times from the sideline or a watch that beeps — as training wheels. He would prescribe runs at half effort, full effort, or seven-eights effort and said the runner needed to develop a rapport with his/her body — we need to learn to trust the inner coach, he said.

Balance workouts/ breakdown and buildup. This is tricky. Despite what the aforementioned Time article said, Lydiard believed recovery is important. *”While Lydiard pushed his runners, he offset the overtraining syndrome by preparing them for optimal recovery with base training, gearing the training to be feeling-based, and adjusting workouts according to the athlete’s recovery response. The art of good training calls for an accurate assessment of which side of the adaptation curve the runner is on — catabolic or anabolic — and prescribing appropriately: a recovery run or a workout. There are simple ways of assessing this: An elevated morning heart rate, poor sleep, low energy, sore muscles and bad mood are all indicators that the runner needs further recovery and a workout of any intensity is contraindicated. Once the “spark” has returned the runner is ready for the next “stress.”

Have good timing. Three-four weeks taper, higher mileage during earlier weeks of training, more skills and speed in the weeks before taper … *”It is one thing to maximize the amount of energy at the disposal of an athlete. It is another to channel that energy into the event that matters. To ensure one’s best form is achieved on competition day, a Lydiard schedule is always written from the goal backwards, allotting the amount of time needed for each phase and using the remaining time for base training …  There is nothing more confidence-building than the somatic knowing of thorough preparation.”

Miki and Peter Snell, at home near White Rock Lake

After the 1960s, Snell didn’t do any competitive running. He met his wife Miki at a speaking engagement. She was also a runner — in the 70s she won the Turkey Trot three times. Together they have done a few short triathlons, and they are really into orienteering. They are both still quite competitive, especially with one another. They call exercise “the fountain of youth”, and they , now over 70, are living proof.

So whether you are running 100 or 15 miles a week, keep it up. Consistency, Snell says, is far more important than anything else.

More story in the November Advocate magazine, coming soon.

*quotes from Running Times 

inspiration, marathon, running, running as religion, training

Why run with a group? Because it rules.

If ya really love running, being part of a running group can be enormously beneficial. (If you just kind-a like to run sometimes, you will more than likely find it annoying). I suffer at times from a bit of social anxiety. I don’t generally care for crowds or small talk and and I really savor running alone—but I equally love my running-group members, with whom I meet about twice a week.

A random night's running group comprising Dallas Running Club and White Rock Co-op members

The group isn’t always the same. We don’t always agree or get along. The faces change and people come and go; some people are always there. But everyone has this one thing in common — a passion for a sport that high school coaches use as punishment and in which our coworkers and spouses would only partake if “they were being chased”, they tell us. Here are some of the reasons I like group running.

6. Accountability. Alone running – any excuse to skip will do. Group running — if you miss, you’re going to get sh*t. Others are counting on you to show up. Valid excuses dwindle.

5. Support. Everyone has habits. Some are annoying and harmless, others such as drinking, taking drugs and running can be harmful if not practiced in moderation. Seriously. I’ve seen it and done it myself — we get that good feeling from running and try to do too much too enthusiastically and get hurt, and then we sit around moping and hating our more-sensible friends for their good health. By being part of a group, I got good advice about how to train smart. I didn’t always follow it and learned some hard lessons. But — like the recovering alcoholic attends meetings because fellow alcoholics are the only people who can understand and relate to their affliction — we need a support group, because, face it, some of us have a bit of a problem.

4. Opportunity to share the wisdom. “If you want to master something, teach it.” —Yogi Bhajan. A group like our White Rock Running Co-op enjoys a steady stream of new runners — it’s a ripe opportunity for giving back and mastering the sport though sharing experience and acquired knowledge.

3. Competition. I am no bible thumper, but I once read The Bible for the specific purpose of being able to argue intelligently with religious people. This Ecclesiastes character was my fave. This line of his always stuck with me: “I observed the basic motive for success is the driving force of envy and jealousy.” So insightful. He was cynical, I think, but it is true that when we see others achieving great feats —especially when they are our own peers — we want to get some for ourselves! And as a result, we work harder to obtain it — even if it means saying, “Sure, I’ll run at the track with you at 5 a.m.” or “yes, I am up for an evening run, during which it is 105 degrees in the shade” or “I know I just lost my lunch on the sidewalk, but don’t worry ’bout me; I’m right behind you.”

2. Entertainment. On group runs, I’ve heard stories about dysfunctional families, cocktail party faux pas, encounters with celebrities, bad dining experiences, witnessing drug deals and more dirty jokes than I can count. I’ve heard ideas for documentaries and brainstormed new and strange ways to replace the planking craze. You just can’t get that type of entertainment from an ipod.

1. Enhanced victories. My friend Marlena recently moved to Southern California and she does not belong to a running group. She had a very successful half marathon race a couple weeks ago. Despite an unplanned race a week prior, she ran a personal best in the half — a 1:41 — by about three minutes. She called me immediately after the race. I gave her due accolades, but I am really the only person in her life who fully comprehends her accomplishment. Sure, her non-runner hubby and friends in California are rooting for her, but they wouldn’t really know the difference between a 1:40 and a 1:50, right? When I finished the White Rock Marathon in 2009, reaching my goal with room to spare, my buddy, Chris, who had been working with me for a year to reach said goal, greeted me at the finish line with open arms, happier for me, perhaps than I was for myself. When I finished the Boston marathon this year, a dozen people had congratulated me via text message or Facebook before I even got the medal around my neck. When I finish a local race, there is always a crowd of people I know around. If the race went well, I can go from friend to friend getting (and giving) all the kudos I desire. If it went south, there will no doubt be an empathetic ear nearby.

running, training, Uncategorized

Formula for effective speed work in the heat

We all know the heat sucks and that it is hot, but thanks, everyone, for posting pics of your car thermometer on Facebook, just so we all know for sure.

It is a challenge to incorporate quality running during a hot season. We have a few choices when it comes to speed work and tempo runs including:

1. Don’t do it. That’s it — many runners just stop doing hard outdoor workouts at all, and that’s not a terrible idea. Sometimes you just need to have fun and rest up for the fall season (unfortunately, when the fall season starts here, it’s still in the 90s).

2. Die trying. Try to do your slated speed workout and make yourself sick. You won’t be able to do this on a regular basis or very many times. I know. I’ve tried it.

3. Join team insomniac. I know several people who hit the road/track at 4 a.m. or even earlier, in order to take advantage of the crisp 82-degree air. I’ve joined them (and anyone who comes in contact with me later on those days regrets it). I think they might be putting a little something extra in their coffee (meth?) but I have no proof.

OR (these are my picks):

4. Adjust your workout. There is no shame in this, guys. It is proven by doctor-scientists that heat, even temps just above 55 F, can start decreasing performance. 106 F? Fagitaboutit!

Here is a very helpful calculator for determining heat-adjustments that works for speed and tempo training runs. For example, if your training calls for mile repeats, you plug in the temp of 104 F, and you see that a 7 minute mile is equivalent to a little under a 6:30 minute mile pace effort. A 4-mile tempo run at an 8 minute mile pace in 100 F would be equivalent to about a 7:28 pace in sub-60 degree temps. And so on.

5. There is also the treadmill option, which I don’t hate (I know many of you do). I find masochistic entertainment on the treadmill by using it for grueling 400 or 800 meter repeats, or ladders (where you increase then decrease the distance on each repeat: 400, 800, 1200, mile, 1200, 800, 400 … ).

You don’t have to think too much about the pace, and you don’t have to worry about the weather. And with this awesome treadmill pace conversion chart, you can make sure you aren’t making things too easy on yourself. Just pray —god, please no— that your gym staff doesn’t decide to tune all channels to E!, where you’ll be forced to run to Kardashians or Sex in the City. That’s just sick.

probably a bad idea, racing, running, training

Long-distance running relationship

One of my former co-editors at the magazine moved to San Diego about a year and a half ago. In Dallas, we ran together a time or two and she came out and cheered me at the White Rock Marathon, but when she moved to Cali, go figure, she got a little more serious and turned to me for advice — don’t fault her for this. She’s actually a very smart girl. She just didn’t know any better.

Last night, I was reading over our correspondences, which capture the oft-ridiculous conversations that occur among runners, but in the form of Facebook messages.

I decided to pull some of the highlights because they are entertaining, occasionally informative and also because readers can let us know if I’ve given her any terrible advice.

Part one: what is hill work? (And don’t you wish you hadn’t asked)

1.19 2010 Marlena:

So…one of girlfriends asked me to run a half-marathon with her … but I’m feeling totally bummed about how much my run times have been sucking lately, so I’m feeling discouraged. I fell out of my routine over the holidays and I can really feel how much speed I lost over those couple of months. But she has run this half-marathon twice and she said it’s one of the prettiest courses ever because the whole thing goes along the cliffs overlooking the Pacific. It sounds fun, but I have to whip my ass into shape before I’ll even entertain the idea of running it.

Do you have any tips for building speed?

I remember you saying that every week, I should do about two tempo runs, one long distance run, and some hill work (see, I really WAS listening). But I have a few questions: 1. Should my tempo runs include hills, or avoid them?

 2. What is “hill work”?

 3. I’m training for a half-marathon, so how long should my long runs be?

 4. My boss (who has run several marathons) said cross-training has really helped her improve run times. She also does swimming, yoga and strength-training. What are your thoughts on that? And are there any other complimentary exercises that are good for runners?

 5. I have never done an organized race. Do you think I should try out a race before my half-marathon? Any input/tips/guidance would be much appreciated. Sincerely, your bummed runner friend : (


1st of all—yey! Soo excited. What’s the date of the half? Does the course have hills? If you’ve been running distances, your base is there. The best thing to do for speed is speed intervals and progression runs or tempo runs and then of course you want to do slower long run once a week.

For a half I would start at about an 8-mile long run and build up to 14-15 miles.

If the course has hills, I’d do a few hill workouts, if not, you can work some good hills into your long runs and be OK. You need 2-3 tough days and the rest cross training or VERY easy running. The recovery days are AS IMPORTANT as the hard days. Do not make the mistake of ignoring rest!

My cross training now is straight Bikram yoga. I think it has not only helped my recent injuries, but I also see it having a great affect on my running already after only a month of going 3 x a week. (I ran my fastest 10k ever during a training run the other night!) I would enter a 10k a few weeks or a month before the big race, to test your race pace and get a feel for the race environment.


Sweet! I’m glad to hear that I’m on the right path!! Whoot-whoot!

OK, so the race is April 17. I have three months to get ready!! Right now my long runs are 10 to 14 miles. Should I drop down my distance, or keep it there?

Also, I’d like to do the half in under 2 hours. That’s respectable, right? I don’t want to set the bar too high because I don’t want my first big race to be a heart-crushing disappointment…so I was thinking anything under two hours would be OK? Or is that unrealistic?

I get what you’re saying about the speed intervals (my boss tells me these are called “fartleks” in the running world), and progression runs. I’m pumped to try both because right now, but tempo run method has been “run-so-fast-you-want-to-blow-chunks.”

So….I dunno…I’m thinking I might do this damn thing…and I’m kinda giddy and paralyzed with fear all at once.

P.S. I forgot to tell you that yes, the course has hills. I know there’s at least one brutal hill, but seriously, I run some pretty damn big hills several times a week right now. I could probably use some more “hill work” though???  Here’s a link, in case you wanna check out the race!!


2 hours is a good goal for a hilly course like this—totally realistic. Since you are so familiar with the course you will be able to reassess your goal time as you get further in training.

Here is the most basic form of training schedule my friend who just ran a 3:15 marathon gave me (she improved from a 3:30 to a 3:15 in a matter of months and when you are already that fast, taking off 15 minutes is a huge accomplishment) … marathon and half-marathon training are similar, only you won’t be doing any 18+ mile long runs.

Tues. Intervals/speed

Thursday. Progression run or hills (alternate weeks)

Saturday Long run with hills 10-15 miles

Intervals: The key is hitting a certain speed and increasing the amount of time, week by week, that you are able to hold it. Start with running 800 meters (.5 mile). This is a great calculator that tells you how fast your repeats should be relative to your goal. Plug in goal time: 2:00:00, distance ½ marathon and then it will show you, for example, that your 800 meters should be run in 3:22.7, which is a 6:45-ish pace. These should get you pretty tired. You follow each interval with a sloooow jog for about 2-3 minutes (recovery), then you do another. Start with 4 ½-mile intervals. Add one interval to the workout each week. You can also change this up by doing mile repeats or 1000 meter repeats — use the calculator to figure out how fast those should be run. (For the half marathon, I think 800 meters are the best interval distance, plus they are easy to measure.)

Progression run: warm up for a mile slowly. Run 2 miles at a 9 min pace, 2 miles at an 8:30 min pace and 2 miles at under an 8-min pace. As long as you are getting a little faster with each set of 2, you are doing the workout correctly—pace should feel tough by the end. End with a 1-mile cool down for a total workout of 8 miles. This is probably your toughest workout of the week. Add miles or go faster as you get comfortable. You just don’t ever want this workout to feel easy. Do it every-other week.

On the opposite weeks, do a hill workout: find a half-mile long hill. Charge up it (hard and fast –that’s what she said!-) run back down easily. Repeat. Start with four and add one hill each time you do the workout. I got up to 8-10 repeats — no need to ever do more than that. (oh and do a half-mile warm up/half-mile cool down w/ hills)

Long runs: run easy (I don’t even time long runs sometimes) starting at about ten miles and adding a mile every week. Every 3 weeks or so, back off and run 8-10 miles. By the end, your long run should get up to 14 miles or so.

On the off days either jog about 3-4 miles really slow, or do cross training like power yoga, cycling or swimming. Take at least one total rest day per week.

Note: this is a somewhat advanced training plan. Most people running their 1st half will just build miles — 3-5 miles twice a week and a long easy run on weekends. Beginners don’t usually do speed work and all that, but I don’t consider you a beginner!

I think running the actual course during training will be the biggest advantage you’ll have. You won’t have surprises on the course, which will be to your great advantage. Use it as often as possible.

Guess what — this half is the day before Boston Marathon! Oh that reminds me. Go register right now. Once you are in, you’ll have to stop worrying and get to work!!!

See: McMillian Running Calculator.


subject: quick question

I’m going to do speed work today. I’m going to do the 800 meters, like you suggested because that’s easy to keep track of. I know I’m supposed to do a total of 4.5 miles. Just making sure: that distance does NOT include my little recovery jogging in between, right?

Also, how is your training for Boston coming? I’m so pumped for you!


OK, your speed portion of the workout is 4×800, which is 2 miles. you’ll do a mile warm up and a mile cool down and 2-ish minutes of recoveries after the first, second and third 800s, so altogether it might be slightly more than 4.5, but not by much. Does that make sense? Next time you will add 1-2 800s to the workout until you are up to about 8.

See this link for the history of the 800 as it relates to marathon: Yassos, cause you’re on the road to becoming a running nerd 


Sweet! I thought I had to start with 4.5 miles of hardcore fast running, so I fully prepared to barf…I’d scoped out a bush by the track and everything.

Thanks for the link, I’m well on my way to becoming obsessed.
Also…when I do my slow long runs, what kind of pace should I go for? Right now, I am feeling challenged but not at my max. Should I slow it down? (this weekend I ran 10 miles at 1:27, which was not a piece of cake, but again, not to the point I wanted to just throw it on the ground. Is this an OK pace…faster? slower? keep it there?)


No barfing early on. You have a long way to go. Your long slow runs should be about a minute to a minute and a half slower than your planned race pace. So if you hope to run an 8:30 pace, run your long run at about 9:30. Long runs, especially the 1st few miles will feel ridiculously easy. That’s how it is supposed to be. The purpose is getting the time on your feet and working at an anaerobic level. Occasionally you might throw in a mile at the end of race pace, but you never want to push the pace too much on your long run. It will be a different kind of tired that you feel in your body later, but you should never be huffing and puffing during long run! You are building endurance.


oh wow, that blows my mind! I’m so glad I asked you about that!

OK, OK — there’s lots more: like when I give Marlena the wrong paces for her 800s and nearly kill her. One of our biggest challenges is that we are both writers, read: very bad at math. Plus, I’ll tell you the results of her half marathon (hint: she does way better than the original goal of 2 hours) in part 2. Coming soon after I edit out the profanity and gossip.