Monday, March 31, 2014

Paris Runaround

I have drafted this post by uploading photos from my phone but seem not to be able to get to finish it. Life is little scary when you have been 2+ weeks away. I was online and I was working from the camp, but still, things pile up... So this is gonna be more photos than words. Well when I spent weekend in Paris with my dad few weeks ago, I did not expect to be back that soon! But we are working on a big international project, I am responsible for it and the kick off meeting happened to be in Paris on the day I was supposed to fly from Portugal back to Prague. Thanks to the modern era, within 30 minutes I had new tickets, called up friends if I can crush on their couch and everything was ready to rock'n'roll :)

I arrived at 11 pm, but luckily the meeting was not until 2 pm, so I managed to run around Montmartre and up to the Sacre Coeur church and by up, I mean straight up these stairs - absolute frontal attack for those who have been there :) I event went in to light up a candle! Then some more running around to make it for super easy 4 miler and back to computer at my friends' apartment. Worked on my emails and off for the meeting.

Not a bad shot for iPhone photography, hm?

One of the less famous "moulins" = wind mills.

Especially for my dear friend Gabi, thanks to buying Kusmi Tea for her as a gift, I fell in love with them as well ...

... only thought they were nice pricey gifts, but they truly taste amazin, so this time I treated myself to their "Zen collection". And yes these boxes are expectionally cool!

After the meeting it was time for drinks and dinner. I decided the day in Paris to be my treat day. We went to a restaurant La Parizienne at the nice litle square called Place du Marché Saint-Honoré in the center of Paris. Very yummy :) By 10 pm we were all tired and headed back home. Morning was sleeping in, packing up my stuff and another conference call, continued even in the cab (do you know the great service of Uber??? ... check out the link and you can get 20 eur off your first ride!)

Steak tartare parisien ... yummy, the french fries and mayonnaise are must have!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Doing Things Right ... The 22 Hours When You Do Not Run

Sadly everything exciting has to come to an end and I am on my way back to reality from the training camp in Portugal. Escaping from "reality" to a place with almost perfect conditions gave me the great opportunity to become more aware of what the great Meb Keflezighi says: it's not that much about the 2 hours you run, it is much more about what you do the remaining 22 hours you do when you don't run. So I came up with a little list as a reminder to myself for the times when the circumstances are not perfect. I hope it can inspire you as well :) What would you add?

Finally after years of work, I can see myself as an athlete .. thank you Tom Craggs, coach from RunningWithUs for taking the photo.

1) Pre-running routine - TRX activation exercise

It must not necessary be a TRX exercise, it is one part of it for me. My physio sets up a pre-run routine for me in order to get my body in the right set up, so the pounding does not do more damage than necessary. Due to a ligament operation on my knee more than 10 years ago, it turns out I have been planting my right foot incorrectly, precisely my right knee does an ugly inside turn when I land on it. So right now I have a set of exercise to help correct this. It is a long term goal and will not be corrected immediately, but I can tell you I feel the difference if I don't do my exercise.

After that of course for the tough speedy session there is also a warm up, dynamic stretches and drill sets before such a training (eg. speed, intervals, hills ...).

2) Easy runs easy

This is easy rule, but it can easily go wrong based on circumstances ... as for me, I wanted to keep up with the fast girls on the first days of camp = big fail for me! Couldn't complete the afternoon sessions afterwards! Another thing that happens often to me is getting over excited with the environment you run in - like the beach on the photo, or combing back to your beloved city as would be Paris or New York for me. Just stay relaxed! Easy / recovery runs are there to flush out the hurting substances out of your muscles and to help you recover for the next training.

3) Leg dips after each session

Much has been written and proven about benefits of ice / cold baths after running improving recovery and reducing inflammation in your legs. At home I would do them only after the really really hard or long sessions, because it takes time, it is quite uncomfortable etc. Having the cold pool next to your hotel where you can simply step in and stay in for 10 minutes makes things way easier! As you have such a chance, go for it!

Pool leg dip...

.. and sea leg dip - even more pleasant with the beautiful views :)

4) Core sessions

Same with previous points, getting in your core work might get tricky during your normal busy weeks. But especially for marathon running, your core is extremely important as your running stride is way more efficient when your core stays up through the entire race. If your core is not strong enough, it will eventually start collapsing little by little which makes you work harder to sustain same pace.

Planking selfie :o)

One of the favorites from The Coach ... keep your arms and legs as close to the ground as possible and start rocking on your back ... ufff!

5) Stretching

Not much to say, find stretching routine that works for you and stick to it after every run. OK, OK, I might have several options = a "minimal" version if I am pressed for time and then full option that I would do if I have enough time or after the tough sessions. Obviously, doing the stretches in the nature and beauty of Portugese sun is little more fun than at my kitchen floor at home :)

My favorite stretch that stretches out your flute but mainly the spine.

Stretching those inner sides of your thighs - very important, almost every runner is shortened and not really flexible here.

6) Afternoon naps

There is always so much to do ... but finding those 20-40 minutes to take a nap can make huge difference in your afternoon session! Trust me, I tried :)

7) Recovery tools

Again, there are many of those, what works for me is legs up, compression socks and I have fallen in love with the Compex Runner device. You actually place electrodes on different parts of your body and choose appropriate program and let the device work. It can strengthen your muscles, improve recovery by bringing more blood to the muscles or treat your little aches and pains. The last two have been the big thing for me lately. Really great! More detailed review is coming ...

Of course, the great thing is to get an actual massage, but that is not always available - no people or no money :) But as an active runner who demands lot from your body, try to treat the body from time to time with nice massage. Don't forget things like sauna or steam bath. They are very nice especially during winter when they perfectly warm you up to the deepest tissues. What I have learned though with running is that I cannot stay in as long as I was used to. If you overdo it with sauna and get all maxed up and exhausted, they are very good health benefits for your cardiovascular system, health etc., but unfortunately you will be quite maxed up for the next session. So don't do intensive sauna before hard sessions, just a quicker, shorter ones. Trust me, I tried! :)

Well, I will talk about the "real" nutrition = real food in the next part, but if you are really in the intense phase of training, it is very hard to go without any supplements, vitamins etc. The Coach suggests for me to have those vitamins: C, B, E + coenzyme Q10 before the big races (it improves nutrient metabolism). I also drink Matcha Tea throughout the day to boost the antioxidants and not fall asleep at the desk :) Another thing is the fuel for your hard sessions or for the immediate recovery after the tough or long sessions. I have been using Generation UCAN for few months and am very happy with it. It is a starch but one that does not spike your insulin and can last you for 90-120 minutes of effort = no gels for my half marathon, YAY! Lot of stomach issues solved :) 

Back to business ... all the coaches at experts at the camp and in all the running media emphasise, that you should have some quality calories in in the 20-30 minutes after your hard/long session. It does not mean that you need to eat immediately. Banana shake or such a nutrition shake will definitely work. What it does is that it makes your body more ready to absorb the nutrients that you get in the real meal you will eat probably one or two hours later. (you know after the bath, phone call with The Coach, Garmin data upload, cooking etc :) ).

8) Good nutrition

Well, this is realatively easy for me, what I would emphasize is the #JERF hash tag = JUST EAT REAL FOOD. Please! It actually does not mean whether you are vegetarian, paleo, vegan or raw eater, most of those "new" directions of nutritional thinking have one in common = avoiding the processed stuff. And if you avoid the processed stuff, you will naturaly eat healthier choices with more fruits and veggies.

Personally, I have been eating not super strict Paleo diet for almost two years now and I love eating this way. Paleo = no grains, no legumes (beans etc.), no dairy. I had troubles when I went to low-carb / ketogenic diets. It can work for the "volume" part of training, but as you ad speed work sessions, you need those carbs. Lot of people ask me where do I get my carbs from, basically tons of fruit, sweet potatoes, little honey here and there, the Gen UCAN shakes and occasional rice usually in the form of sushi (rice is not paleo, it is grain, but one of the less harmfull grains and I do not do it very often).

I think the 80 - 20 % rule is what you should aim for. 80 % time stick with the clean diet, 20 % time treat yourself. We should enjoy our lives! I would also have "recovery" period after my two A races each year = about a week or two when I treat myself to whatever I want = croissants in Madrid after Berlin last autumn. Croissant = 1000 % not paleo :D The only thing is that the longer my body is used to the good fuel, the less I crave the other stuff and the worse I feel after eating it. Burger with bacon and cheese with fries is my biggest treat still :) (no bun of course!)

... this was usually my breakfast at the camp, one more smaller plate of just fruits would follow.

Alternative recovery meal when you want to skip the "powdered" stuff and have time to go for the real thing.

One of the dinners ... salmon & shrimp kebab and ton of veggies :)

This was great treat, went for a fancier dinner one night, the first picture is "amuse bouche" and I didn't eat the ravioli, goat cheese salad for starters, steak with just veggies and pineapple "carpaccio" as dessert. Oh YUM!

Red meat is pretty crucial to keep your iron and ferratin levels up. I am getting to get those checked asap after talking about the usual deficiency in lot of endurance athletes with Nick Anderson.

9) Enjoy the process and have fun!

Well, you should not obsess about your running, it is very good to have other interests becose there might be times when you cannot run. 

My office by the swimming pool some of the days. Love my espresso ... only decaf now before the race :(

Definitely a treat meal, I also thought it looked very funny (can you see me blushing now?), did not eat the pastry though, only the banana and ice cream. They would not have real whipped cream, I did not want the chemical stuff from the sprayer, so better went without it.

Thank you for staying with me up here :)

What are your golden rules to stick with?

What do you need to work on more?

Have you ever been to running camp?

Saturday, March 22, 2014

New Kids On The Track

As you might know from my previous post, I am spending two weeks in south of Portugal taking part in a training camp organized by 2:09 events. This is not only my first time taking part in such a camp, there are many other first timers: running barefoot on a beach, having the luxury of cooling off my legs after each run in the cold pool and especially doing my speed session on the track!

Many runners I know use track quite regularly, surely those who come from the shorter distance track background. I don't really have an easy access to the track and am not sure how my two running buddies (my dogs) would take that kind of training, so my speed work consist of repeats in park where there is a part with measured distances or is based on my Garmin or done on a treadmill. As the terrain here is not that even to find nice "flat" 1 km and doing back and forth on a 500 m piece of road seems more painful to me than cruising on a track, I chose the track for my speed sessions - two of them that I have completed so far.

Broth of the sessions were not truly speed sessions that would make sense on the track rather several sets of 2-3 km intense repeats = cruising around the track for many times. But given some of my long runs happen on 3 or 4 km long loop, I am used to it and I don't really mind. At least it is consistent :) After the first two days at the camp, I learnt the hard way, that easy morning run should be really EASY ... If it is not easy and you try to impress others and go with the speedy people = your afternoon MAIN session is probably SCREWED!!! So took those morning runs really easy and had some rest, ideally nap before the afternoon session. That is the bonus of training camp = vacation :)

Workout #1 : 8 x 2 km
I got in the first 4 repeats and had hard time finishing the fourth one, so decided to do the next repeats by 1 km, in order to be able to keep up the pace and go close to the planned volume.  Result: 4 x 2 km + 6 x 1 km, only 2 km short in the total volume. Still it means I ran 14 km at sub 7 min/mile pace!!! Very happy about that :)

Workout #2 : 4 x 4 km progression

Was supposed to be 4 x 4 km progression of 4:30 - 4:20 - 4:10 - 4:00 min/km (7:14 - 6:58 - 6:42 - 6:26 min/mile). 
Reality of the intervals: 
1) 3 km 
2) 2 + 1 km 
3) 2 + 1 km 
4) 1 + 1 km 
My HR wasn't going up towards the end = I am on the edge of overtraining, I couldn't virtually push the pace more for the final repeats... Pretty happy with the session anyway! I managed that 1 km for sub 4 min/km (= sub 6:30 min/mile). Still long way to go for me speed-wise :D

And last but not least little selection of yummy things I have been eating here:

My usual breakfast would be bacon, eggs and huge amounts of fruit (as I eat Paleo diet = no grains or legumes, fruits are my staple for carbs...), I would go for seconds for fruits after this plate :)

What would life be without morning espresso!

Parma ham and melon for starters...

... and honey crusted fresh salmon over bed of salad for the main course.

Have been really good with the nutrition here and I can feel the benefits!

Do you do track sessions? How often? Like them?

What about your nutrition, are you good or you eat all you can? :D

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Training Camp - First Impressions

Success in distance running comes mainly out of consistency and gradual increase of volume and quality. As I go through my relatively short experience in distance running, the time has come for me to add another logical step - dedicating my vacation to a training camp. I found the 2:09 events simply by writing spring running training camp in Google. I liked the description, program and location so I decided to sign up for it. The owner of the company is Mike Gratton who actually won London marathon in 1983!

First morning - gorgeous view from my room :)

Day at the camp

We would head out for an easy run at 8 am in the morning, unless it is a day of long run. The easy run would be anything between 3 to 6 miles depending on what you want to do. Great advantage is having runners of all capabilities, you basically never run alone. For me,  I just have to be careful not to go out too fast for those easy runs (as I did yesterday) in order to be able to power strong throug the afternoon session... Great thing is the swimming pool that is actually too cold to swim in but perfect to dip in your legs for quicker recovery after each session. I also take advantage of having more time to Compex my tight knee regularly. Quick shower and then breakfast it is! YUM!

It not only running and fun all the time, one has to work. 
But I am grateful to be able to be here and squeeze in the work - thank God for the internet :)

Then there is free time, where I would work on my computer, eat light lunch and try to squeeze in a little nap before the afternoon session. Yesterday I realized that I should probably check out the beach. I did beautiful barefoot walk in the sand and little bit in the sea as well which is actually great way to engage the little muscles in your feet properly. 

At 3 pm we would have session of Pilates, yoga or strides and technique. And 4 pm comes with the afternoon session. As I have my training plan laid out from The Coach, I would tweak the afternoon session so it matches my training. There are many roads and nice trails around and there is also a track and then a cross country "track" - something I have never seen before which is actually pretty cool! 1.2 miles (almost 2 km) of trail going little up and down. Pretty convenient as you can have your drinks and gear stashed and do not need to carry anything around.

In the evening we would have different lectures on marathon training, injury prevention etc. Usually going out for a dinner afterwards. There was big pizza dinner of all the participants on Friday night, fortunately they also had very good steak on that place to suite my Paleo nutrition needs :) 

Yummy tuna steak and veggies from Saturday night dinner!

I realized my races are actually getting quite close, especially the Prague half that is just a week after I come back from this training camp. So I need to test drive my nutrition and gear. I am using Generation UCAN to fuel my runs and fell in love with the Nike Lunaracer3 that I got shipped just one day before arriving here!

Nike Flyknit Trainer (left) and Lunaracer3 (right)

Today's program was different as it is the long run day, where we head out at 7:30. Most of the guys here are going for the London marathon in April, so this was their last big long run. Compared to me, this week was an easier week after the big mileage last week. So "only" a half marathon for me today. We ran little less then 4 miles to a loop that has little less than 3 miles, so everyone can choose their distance. I did the loop twice so together with the 4 miles back it totaled for a half marathon. I was very happy with my paces averaging 7:50 min/mile (4:46 min/km) including 50 s stop where I forgot to stop my Garmin :) The great thing is that there is a van at the beginning of the loop, so you can get your drinks and fuel easily. The loop is actually pretty challenging with quite some hill as you can see on the Garmin activity detail.

Test riding the nutrition :)

I had a chia seed "pudding" (basically chia seeds soaked in water) and a banana like 50 minutes before the run. And one and half scoops of Generation UCAN (the protein added variety) just 20 minutes prior my run. This kept me very comfortably fueled for the whole run of 1 hour and 43 minutes without bonking afterwards! Wow I am getting to the point of only water no fuel for the half marathon which is great because I can avoid the stomach issues this way.

Recovering, treating my knee

As I mentioned there is the great dip your legs in the pool after each run thing. And I also use my Compex Runner very regularly, which I don't have enough time for in the normal busy days. I don't step correctly on my right foot and we are working towards a proper form and correction with my physio therapist and The Coach (precise stability and activation exercise before each run). As it is changing the knee tends to get sore no tight and using Compex Acute tendinitis program really helps me a lot!

2nd phase of the training - the Compex "Long run optimization" program ... it gives your muscles extra work out without the excessive pounding and cardio stress :)

My training here so far

PM: afternoon session on a treadmill in a hotel near Lisbon airport (I had 5 hour overlay there)

AM: easy morning run (6+ miles)
PM: pilates

AM: "easy" morning run (5.7 miles)
PM: form and stride session
PM: 2 km + 4 x 1 km (4.25 miles - was supposed to do 4 x 3 km at the pace, but simply couldn't - I blame the fact that I was running it on a slight incline and did not adjust the pace)
PM: steady easy run (4 miles)

AM: longish run alternating 8:02 and 7:38 min/mile paces for each 5 km - adjusted to the terrain (13.1 miles)

I am for another barefoot walk at the beach now! :o) 

What was your Sunday long run / race? Tell me all about it!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Dreams ... NYC Marathon 2014

There are two things I want to talk about here: dream big and don't be afraid to "chase" = fulfill your dreams. Thanks to my mental coach I had the great opportunity to meet Věra Čáslavská Olympic champion in gymnastics (7x gold, 4x silver!!!)! This amazing and inspiring lady signed her book for us and when I asked her for what she would suggest for me to help me achieve my marathon dreams, she wrote this: Weak is only the one who's will is weak, small is only the one who's dreams are small. It is actually a quote by the Czech author Svatopluk Čech. And she said it always helped her to keep on going, training and achieving her best.

The Czech society is still learning not to be ashamed about ambitious dreams and especially about sharing them and saring the achievements. Unfortunately, historically there has been lot of jealousy and watching what others do and how are they doing. There is a saying: I don't mind that my goat died, the most important is that two of my neighbor's goats died. That pretty much speaks for itself. But I can see the twist and positive changes, even though it will take time.

So this is my invitation and encouragement to not being afraid about dreaming big and to living your own life according to yourself and not to others! I am fulfilling my dreams this year by truly committing to my marathon training. I am writing this on a plane to Portugal where I go for my holiday and my holiday consists of two week running camp - first time ever. I will have to do quite a lot of work stuff, but this is actually first time when my running is the main thing. The main purpose and not a little thing I would do here and there when the busy vacation schedule allows it. 

I realized it already this past weekend when we went to Paris with my dad. One or two years ago I would take my running gear with me, but out of three days I would actually do one or two short runs just for the pleasure of running through a city I love on the same places where I used to run at the university. Now everything is different for me, the first thing I do when I thing about the next day is to check my training plan and then plan my day around it. So on the long weekend in Paris I spent about 2 hours or little more everyday running to put in my miles and get my training done. It was great that my dad took the Velib (rent bike) on Sunday and joined me for my long run - that was lot of fun and I truly enjoyed it.

Support system

Having a strong support system helps a ton in this. One thing my mental coach taught me is that by sharing my goals and dreams actually helps people around you to understand where are you going and what is the purpose of your actions. And honestly this really helps. My friends and family start to understand that sometimes I don't have time to spend that much time with them and be that much of fun. As they show the understanding they help me to stay committed because when I influence their schedules and programs then I don't want to waste the sacrifice they did for me. Like so many people cross their fingers for me, support me, try to help me, so I won't quit this workout just because it feels little harder than it should. This is what makes me jump on the treadmill at 11:30 pm after landing to finish the last 5 miles of my daily mileage. I am truly extremely grateful for my support system that consists of my family, friends and also lot of friends and runners I know many times only virtually throug blogging, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. THANK YOU!!!

NYC Marathon 2014

This is the thing of longer flights - you finally have time to share the thoughts you wanted to share for quite some time :) Finally I am getting to the second dream I am going for this year = NYC Marathon 2014. NYC was my first half marathon in 2009 and first full marathon in 2011. New York is also the place where I actually started running in 2009. As my schedule for 2015 will be quite given by searching for the optimal fall race to get in really fast time, I decided to reward the tough work this autumn by doing NYC again. I have applied for the lottery but if that does not work out, I am definitely joining the race through one of the charity programs. This way running NYC would have one more positive impact.

Dream your dream! Come with me to NYC!

I know that NYC has been on radar for quite a few of my friends. I have completed the rraces me have a sound support system in the City as I used to live there. Here I am setting up the project NYC 2014. If you want to join the group and come to NYC to run or to cheer, please let me know as we will be renting a appartment and we need to plan out everything qute soon. This is gonna be fun!!!

IMPORTANT: There are only 5 days left to sign up for the NYC marathon lottery - you have to do that by March 18! Go ahead to the official site in order to sign up for the lottery.

Inspiration to dream big

Check out the super inspiring interview with Ariana Hilborn at Runner Academy. She went from 4:36:58 everyday runner first marathon to 2:37:28 elite runner in just 3 years!!! Another proof this can be done! :)

Saturday, March 08, 2014

Saturday Longish Sightseeing Paris Run

Just a quick post in photos to share with you the beautiful time we have in Paris - it looks more like end of April than beginning of March :) We are here just for a long weekend, one thing changed for me with these trips - I am committing to my training. So 6:30 wake up on Friday to do my interval run, have breakfast and be ready for 10 am conference call. I did the intervals on hotel treadmill, but headed out today! Gorgeous Saturday morning, unfortunately this run felt little harder than I would have wanted, but not all the runs are easy.

Leaving from the Westin where we stay...

... Towards Tour d'Eiffel and Champs de Mars ...

... Using the pathway on the riverbank of Seine all the way to Notre Dame...

... Where Bertie's Cupcakery (Bertie = DC Rainmaker's wife) that was unfortunately still closed ...

... Coming back through Louvre for the second round ...

... Of beautiful weather ...

... There are many installations and attractions sat the riverbank - 100 m "track" is one of them = lucky Parisians! ...

... The "track" ...

... And back to the hotel :o)