Linking Myself

Don Ledford crosses the finish line at the Sioux Falls Marathon

Finishing the Sioux Falls, S.D., marathon in September 2012

You’re desperately hunting all over town to read my celebrity profile in the Standard newspaper, only to be frustrated because my wife and my mom have probably bought out all the racks. So, as a public service, I’ve made the article available online through my blog.

Although the article isn’t available through the Standard’s website, I figured out a way to cobble together a readable image of the article as it appears in the newspaper. You can download it here.

Not that I’m letting my new-found fame go to my head …

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Breaking the Two-Hour Marathon Barrier

New York Marathon

The leaders in last year’s New York Marathon. Winner Geoffrey Mutai is fourth from left. AP Photo

From today’s Wall Street Journal:

“Amid the continuing debate over the wisdom of proceeding with Sunday’s New York City Marathon, the world’s best distance runners are focused on more than just the glory of winning the race. The elite of the elite in marathoning is chasing a larger, longer-term goal — the pursuit of breaking two hours in distance running’s glamour event.”

A few elite athletes have come close, with the current world record at 2:03:38. A faster  2:03:02 finish in the 2011 Boston Marathon doesn’t count because that course doesn’t meet international standards. So, I guess I won’t be able to set a new world record when I run in Boston next spring.

Just for the record, a two-hour finish means running the 26.2 miles at an average page of 4:35 per mile.

Boston Bound

Boston Marathon 2013

Christians travel to Jerusalem; Hindus journey to India to submerge in the Ganges River; Muslims pilgrimage to Mecca to celebrate the Hajj. Runners flock to Boston to run the marathon.

On April 15, 2013, 26,000 runners will line up in Hopkinton, Mass., for the 117th running of the Boston Marathon. In 164 days (yes, I’m counting) I’ll be one of them.

America’s oldest and most prestigious marathon is the epitome of races, the “Super Bowl” for runners. Unlike most marathons, where anyone can just sign up to run, the Boston Marathon demands more: a qualifying finish time at a sanctioned race. I’ve been on the hunt for my qualifying time for nearly two years, finally crossing the finish line at the Sioux Falls, S.D. marathon in September with a time of 3:26 (an average pace of 7:52 per mile).

In my very first post on this blog, back on July 5, 2011, I vowed to myself, “this is the year I will qualify to run in the Boston Marathon.” I also, secretly, vowed to myself that I would keep blogging on a regular basis. Honest, I had the best of intentions … but it’s harder to qualify for Boston than I thought, and it’s hard to blog consistently about running and training when you’re busy actually running and training. Looking back, I see that I haven’t written a post since last spring.

Life is in a better balance now, my Boston goal has been achieved, so I’m looking forward to returning to the blogosphere. Hope you will welcome me back by reading, and commenting, and sharing.

Want to learn more about the Boston Marathon? From the website: Managed by the Boston Athletic Association, the Boston Marathon is the world’s oldest annual marathon and ranks as one of the world’s most prestigious road racing events. Held annually on Patriot’s Day, a holiday celebrated in Massachusetts and Maine in observance of the beginning of the American Revolutionary War, the Boston Marathon is rich in history and tradition. The legendary point-to-point course starts in rural Hopkinton, passes through numerous quaint New England towns before finishing on Boylston Street in the heart of Boston.

Hibernating is not an option

 photo (c) 2009, Carly Lesser &  Art Drauglis - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

Bears have the right idea … gorge yourself and get fat in the fall, then find a dark, quiet place to sleep off the winter. I’m pretty good at fattening up in the holiday season, unfortunately, hibernating isn’t an option.

After a couple of fall marathons (foolishly spaced too close together, I learned the hard way) I needed to slow down and recuperate. But I’m planning to run a marathon in the spring, so my winter vacation has now come to an end. Time to crank up the casual running routine to training mode.

Someday scientists will figure out how bears sleep all winter and wake up fit and trim and ready to chase down unwary campers in the spring, but until then, you know what that means …

The treadmill is your friend.

I’m all for cold weather running in the great outdoors. But if there’s snow and ice on the ground, I’m not going to risk an injury. And when it gets dark before I get home from work, my favorite running trails aren’t an option. (Even the streets in my neighborhood aren’t very well lighted.) So, I’m becoming a regular at Anytime Fitness, where I’ve staked out my favorite treadmill (with a view out the front window as well as a TV screen) and have discovered that muscle-bound weightlifters are actually pretty nice folks.

Runner (and blogger and author) Chris Cooper posted some clever lyrics about the joy of treadmill running, entitled, “Running in a Winter Wonderland” (sung to the tune of “Walking in a Winter Wonderland”). Here’s a sample:

In the basement I can use the treadmill,
And pretend that I’m on solid ground,
I’ll be warm and safe from ice and snowballs,
And no more bites from next door’s afghan hound.

Check out his blog for the rest of the song and some fun (and thoughtful) posts worth reading.

I’m taking advantage of the treadmill to make some changes in my running routine in order to get stronger and faster this winter. For example, since the treadmill is conveniently located near the weight room, I can add some weight training a couple of days a week. More importantly, treadmills are well suited for speed training — Yasso 800s, for example.

Check out these short videos at Runner’s World for some great treadmill workouts.

Do you have any suggestions for more creative treadmill workouts? Share them with the rest of us!

Today’s Menu: 45 Potatoes

Carbo-loading is not like cramming for a test. You’ve seen those guys gorging themselves behind a heaping plate of spaghetti at the traditional pre-marathon pasta dinner. But you can’t just feast on the eve of a race and expect the best results. To properly carbo-load, runners need to understand why it matters and how it works.

In the final week before my race at the White River Marathon, I’m focused on resting, mental preparation, and carbo-loading. Each one of these is essential: Rest, because my muscles need to completely heal from the strain of training so that I’m as fresh and strong as possible. Mental preparation, because endurance sports are at least as much mental as physical, and a positive frame of mind is critical. And carbo-loading, to insure I step up to the starting line with sufficient energy stores to make it all the way to the finish line.

I’m looking forward to the pasta dinner Friday night, but carbo-loading actually begins a few days earlier with a menu that includes a lot of pasta, potatoes, pancakes, bananas and bread.

Before we drive down to Arkansas, I’ll make sure the car’s gas tank is full. That’s the theory behind carbo-loading — carbs provide the fuel to power our muscles over a long haul, so it makes sense to fill up your tank before you start running. Don’t want to run out of gas!

Your body converts carbohydrates to glycogen, which is stored in the muscles and the liver. Glycogen is the most easily accessible form of energy to fuel hard-working muscles. As you run a marathon, glycogen levels in your muscles and liver are depleted, which causes fatigue. As glycogen is depleted, your body is forced to turn fat into energy, which is not as efficient as glycogen. As a result, you slow down. Eventually, your brain will order your muscles to stop working altogether; this is called “hitting the wall” or “bonking.” Your body just shuts down and refuses to exert. This is actually a self-preservation instinct, your brain’s way of ensuring there’s always enough glycogen to keep fueling itself, which is a higher biological priority than winning a race.

So for long-distance running, it’s important to start off with glycogen levels as high as possible, and to replenish them during the race. Today I’ll talk about pre-race fueling, or carbo-loading. Tomorrow, I’ll discuss mid-race fueling.

Two keys to successful carbo-loading are the amount and the timing of carbohydrate intake. You can’t completely fill your muscles with glycogen in just one meal, no matter how much you stuff; the process takes about three days. An endurance runner typically needs about 2.25 grams of carbs daily per pound of body weight (or 5 grams per kilogram of body weight) during training. This amount doubles while carbo-loading three or four days before a race. For a 160-pound runner like me, that means I should consume 365 grams of carbs daily during training. I should consume 730 grams of carbs in the days leading up to Saturday’s marathon.

Believe me, that is no mean feat. You really have to work at it, to consume so many carbs. For example, I could eat 45 potatoes a day. I doubt whether I’ll actually reach that level of carbohydrate intake.

On the other hand, as long as I have a good mid-race fueling strategy, carbo-loading isn’t as critical. I’ll plan dinner menus around carb-heavy meals, eat a lot of bananas for snacks (27g of carbs) and drink some extra Prolong sports drink (58g of carbs per 21-ounce serving). Most of my calories between now and Saturday will be from carbs, with less protein.

A downside to this, I’ll likely gain 2-3 pounds. But there is a silver lining … along with every gram of stored carbohydrate, my body will automatically store an extra 3 grams of water. That means I’ll be well hydrated at the starting line.

No matter how much we carbo-load, even when the tank is full our bodies can only store enough glycogen to last about two hours. Since I’m hoping to finish this weekend’s race in 3 1/2 hours, I know that I’ll run out of fuel midway through the race. That’s why mid-race fueling is so important … and the topic of my next post.

Do you have any suggestions for a high-carb diet? What is your favorite carbo-loading meal?