Ask The Old Guy… (Again)

Here to distill the kind of wisdom Confucius would have, had he focused on running as oppose to morality, justice and sincerity, I give you our very own Mr. James Bates, here to transmit his own considerable insight…

Jim Bates asks: Hey Old Poop. I sure hope your mind is still coherent enough to help me. I am a 50-ish year old who had a terrible Chuncheon Marathon, overheating at around Mile 13. Yes, it was unexpectedly hot and humid, but I was hydrated prior to the race and I drank 2 or 3 cups of water at every station. Just between you and me, I have over-heated numerous times in the past during my marathons and it is starting to get on my nerves. What’s the deal?

Jimmy, Jimmy, Jimmy, what am I going to do with you? Listen, you are on the wrong side of 50 and as such you need to realize that your body‘s cooling mechanism is not as efficient as that of a normal, err, I mean younger person. Overheating is not just caused by a lack of water and electrolytes; it is also caused by the body‘s inability to circulate blood to the outer extremities and the skin, where it otherwise would be cooled by the transfer of body heat to skin to atmosphere.

During the first 13 miles you forced your blood to deliver oxygen to your inner muscles to power your body. Your blood never got much of a chance to circulate to your skin for cooling. Once your subconscious mind realized that your body had reached an unacceptable temperature threshold, it overruled all else and you automatically stopped running; walking was no longer an option.

Remember, death is nature’s way of telling us to slow down. Now quit your whining and get out there training.

Brad Anderson asks, ―When you‘re really trying to push yourself, how do you know when to pull back? I think it‘s the difference between annoying pain and injury pain, which I know comes with experience, but I‘d prefer to not have the experience of another injury.

Dear Brad. Yes, experienced runners know the difference between common aches and real pain, the latter has the potential to cause serious in-jury. The only time I think a runner should really push him or herself is during a race. Track work-outs should be at pace that is uncomfortable but not painful. The same applies to the last few miles of a long workout. Runners who run nearly every day know their bodies better than runners who run 2, 3, or 4 times per week. When you have a slight pain or ache, don‘t let this stop you from your daily run. However, be cautious, especially during the first mile or so. If the pain becomes much more intense even at a slower pace, stop running. If you can comfortably walk, go for a quick walk instead. If the pain gets gradually worse, cut your workout to only a few miles. If the pain doesn’t get worse but stays the same, finish your standard workout, but at a reduced pace. Let pain be your guide. Still, don’t let an ache or a very mild injury stop you from running entirely. If we ran only when we felt 100%, we‘d only run a few times per year. Then we‘d feel so good that we’d surely get hurt; we wouldn’t have had the proper training base.

A first time Half Marathon Runner asks, – I‘m training for my fist half marathon. Will I need any gels during training or race day? I want to make sure I take on the proper amount of electrolytes.

Perhaps a gel or two might be helpful during a half marathon, especially if you will be on the course for more than an hour and forty five minutes. Nonetheless, I think that the body absorbs electrolytes much faster when they are in liquid form, as they are in many of the water (and electrolyte stations) along the course. If it is hot, take fluids at every station. Sometimes the volunteers fill the small cups only a third of the way so you may need to take three of them. You have to understand though that there is no magic elixir that will help you run significantly better. What will make you run better is consistent, smart training over several years.

Do you have any suggestions of a decently priced runner‘s watch?

Yes, the Timex Ironman has a chronometer and a feature that allows you to track 24 separate laps. They cost about $35 and are a bargain at thrice the cost. Ask a knowledgeable runner to show you how the lap counter works. It is invaluable in learning how to pace oneself.

Since this is my first half marathon, I am more worried about my endurance more than speed (at the moment), but I don‘t want to overdo it. What would you advise?

I think you should run about 10 to 15 seconds slower per kilometre in a half than you would in a 10K. If you don’t know your pace per kilometre then buy the Timex watch and use the lap counter that I mention in the above paragraph. Otherwise, run the first half cautiously. If you feel good at the 11 Kilometre mark (the race is 21 KMs plus about a 100 meters) then pick up the pace for the second half. If you still feel good at KM 18, then really push it for the last three kilometres. Keep in mind though, that your primary goal in your first half-marathon is to finish it, time is not important. One of the most important things you should do however after finishing your first half marathon is to sign up for another one, preferably one that occurs a month or two after your first one.

The past few days of training my calves have been getting pretty tight…could you suggest some calf stretches to help?

Try holding onto a railing and place your feet on the ledge of some stairs. Then dip your heels so that they are lower than your toes. But wait!!! Your calves should not hurt. Just as there is no magic energy elixir, there is no magic stretch to ease leg pain. You have been over-training. Reduce your mileage until your calves don’t hurt anymore. Remember, your pending first half-marathon is just one of many than you should (will) run in your life-time. There is no need to rush to get into shape.

I like to lift weights to stay toned. I have heard it is a bad idea to do weights on your legs while training. Is this true?

Although I do not personally lift weights, I’ve heard that under the right tutelage that their use will improve performance in almost all athletic events, to include golf, basketball, and running. Still, you will find that long distance running and leg weight training are probably not synergistic. If you run lots of hills and cross country miles, your legs (both your hamstrings/calves and your quads/shins) will get all the exercise they need.

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