This morning I ran the Boston Marathon for the first time, it was such an incredible and fun experience! There were 30k participants and 1 million spectators cheering along the course, there was so much positive energy!
I ran an 11 minute PR in a time of 2:44:15. Here is a little post about it. The first part is about my marathon preparation, the second part dives into the race specifics.
There are a lot of different advanced marathon training programs out there. Many of these programs include aerobic runs + 3 to 4 times a week intervals, hill repeats and speed-work, every week.
I approached my marathon preparation different than this. I’m a huge fan of Heart Rate Monitor training with lots of aerobic (low heart rate) miles, in line with Dr. Phil Maffetone’s method. I approached this marathon by running mostly at a lower heart rate (138-148) with occasional intervals or speed-work at higher heart rate. I choose this specific HR zone by using the 180 formula and by doing a blood lactate test. For the intervals I’d run 8 x 800’s, mostly on the track, occasionally on hills since Boston is hilly. For the speed-work I simulated running on tired legs, by running a 20 miler and increasing the pace to marathon pace or faster the last 5 miles.
Here is a breakdown of my weekly miles:
Jan 5 – 11
6h 38 min
Jan 12 – 18
7h 46 min
Jan 19 – 25
8h 7 min
jan 26 – Feb 1
6h 20 min
Feb 2 – 8
5h 59 min
Feb 9 – 15
8h 40 min
Feb 16 – 22
9h 21 min
Feb 23 – Mar 1
9h 3 min
Mar 2 – 8
12h 0 min
Mar 9 – 15
6h 55 min
Mar 16 – 22
10h 0 min
Mar 23 – 29
11h 20 min
Mar 30 – Apr 5
4h 10 min
Apri 6 – 12
6h 0 min
Apr 13 – 19
2h 31 min
A lot of people train at a heart rate and pace that’s much too high and fast for them, this causes a lot of stress on their body along with higher chances of injuries which slows down improvements. Although there is something to be said about getting familiar with a fast pace and race pace, you don’t need to kill yourself with a bunch of intervals, hill repeats and speed-work to become a faster runner. In my opinion slowing down your pace on most of your runs will make your runs more enjoyable and injury free, then over time you’ll become a faster runner.
A few other things I did:
From my previous running experience, I knew that 75 – 80 miles per week was the maximum amount of miles that my body could handle. I didn’t want to spend more time away from work and family. Also, more than 80 miles per week would cut into my sleep, so it would have minimal return for me with an increased injury risk.
Double runs and 2 hour runs max
A few months ago I started running doubles and really liked it, because it is much less taxing on your body than running higher miles at once. A few times a week I’d run 5 miles in the morning and 11 miles at night. The short morning runs kickstart your metabolism and give you alertness during the day. The evening runs felt easier because my legs and body were already feeling warmed up.
When I trained for my 100 mile run from Long Beach to San Diego, I ran many long training runs of 3, 5 or even 7+ hours. For these ultra training runs it was more important to have time on my feet than speed. I aimed to run the Boston marathon under 3 hours, my goal was sub 2:45. After interviewing Phil Maffetone, he advised to keep your longest marathon training runs at 2 to 2 1/2 hours max. Running longer than this significantly increases your chances of injuries, with minimal improvements. My longest training run was 20 miles in 2 hours and 14 minutes.
Since I started getting into running 2 years ago, I’ve been injury free, however I’ve experienced tight ankles and calves. I took a step back and realized that the muscles, ligaments and tendons in my feet and ankles were underdeveloped, even though I run 8 – 12 hours a week. Having strong feet and ankles is part of a strong foundation.
For the past 2 months I decided to walk around barefoot as much as possible. I work from home, so most of my days I’m not wearing shoes or socks, until I go running or leave the house. After just a few weeks I started feeling a positive difference. It helped reengage the weak muscles and improved mobility, stability and strength in my feet and ankles.
Rest and recovery
It might sound backwards, but we get more of our training benefits from the recovery phase than from actually training. If we don’t get that recovery, we aren’t going to allow our body to naturally progress. Even in peak running weeks of 80 miles per week, I’d still take 1 day a week off from running. If I’d feel very tired or not motived to run, I’d take 1 or 2 days off. It’s amazing to feel completely recharged again after a short break and after getting enough sleep.
I haven’t changed much nutrition wise these past months. I’ve continued to avoid eating processed food and refined sugars, with occasional exceptions for things like sushi, ramen, pizza and beer! I blend a lot of veggies in my Vitamix blender for daily veggie shakes.
MAF tests results + Blood Lactate Test results
Every month I track my running progress with a MAF test, you warm up 2 miles, then run 5 miles at your Max Aerobic Heart Rate (for me 148 bpm) and check your mile lap time:
5 miles average pace at max aerobic HR
8:21 min / mile
7:21 min / mile
6:54 min / mile
6:31 min / mile
6:17 min / mile
6:12 min / mile
During my taper I took a Blood Lactate Test for running and it confirmed the heart rate zone I wanted to target during my marathon, in particular the 157-162 zone:
LT (Lactate Threshold)
151 – 156 bpm
8.5 – 8.9 mph
AC (Advanced Conditioning)
157 – 162 bpm
9.0 – 9.6 mph
SST (Steady State Threshold)
163 – 165 bpm
9.7 – 9.8 mph
Once I go over 162 bpm (even just a few beats) I’ve noticed that my breathing gets heavier and I’m not able to maintain this HR and pace for a longer period of time.
My strategy going into the Boston Marathon
My last 2 races I started too fast and suffered a lot at the end, this was in both my 100 miler and my 1/2 marathon in Amsterdam. For race day, the temperatures were going to be mid forties with a 12mph headwind at the start that picked up to a 21 mph wind at the finish, with high changes of rain. That’s 26.2 miles running against hard wind, definitely tough race conditions.
Here is the race strategy for the Boston marathon I wrote down beforehand:
My plan is to hold back the first 1/2 of the race at 6:15-6:20 min / miles and not go over 156-159HR. I’ll still run the downhills pretty fast because my HR should be pretty low downhill. Then mile 13 – 21 I’ll not go over 160 HR (occasionally up to 165HR on the hills), this will hopefully leave me with enough energy left to finish the last 5 miles strong, with a HR in the 160-170 zone.
I qualified for the Boston marathon with a 2:55:05 and was in wave 1, corral 3, the start time was 10am. Here is how it all went down:
I prepared for a crowded start, this was indeed the case, not much I could do about this.
Mile 1 = 6:21 min / miles (warm up + people in the way, didn’t want to lose energy on zigzagging)
Mile 2 – 13 = had to hold myself back here, averaged about 6:10 min / mile. I ran on effort, not letting my HR go over 160 to keep energy in the tank for later. There was a lot of headwind, so I tried to stick to a pack of runners and never ran on my own in the open. This made a huge difference of 20-30 seconds / mile effort-wise.
Mile 13.1 = I ran the first 1/2 marathon in 1:20:59 and was feeling great.
Mile 13 – 16 = So many people in the crowd, this helped keep the stoke levels high!
Mile 16 = The Boston Hills, this is where the hard work started. I knew there were 4 hills in the next 5 miles, at mile 16, 17.5, 19 and 20. I slowed down the pace up the hills but not more than needed, my Heart Rate monitor was very helpful here so I wouldn’t go over 165 beats per minute. Although my pace slowed down to 6:47 min / mile at mile 21 (Heart Break Hill), it was ok because I had energy left to go fast the following miles.
Mile 22 – 25 I had energy left to pick up the pace to around 6:00 – 6:10. My legs started to feel so heavy and I started running out of energy.
Mile 25 – finish. My heart rate started to rise to 170+ and I knew I was in the red zone. Early on in mile 25 I started to see stars and bonking was near. I gave it one last push to cross the finish line and my legs pretty much gave out for a few seconds. A medic gave me an arm and walked with me for a bit. I checked my watch and it showed 2:44:15, I was so hyped!
Plans moving forward
Back to the trails!! I haven’t run many trails lately and definitely missed that a lot. Running fast on road is a lot of fun, but nothing beats a sunrise run with friends on a remote steep trail like the Santa Monica mountains, San Gabriel mountains or El Morro. In June I’m running up and down Mt Whitney with a few friends.
I’m also going to finish writing my first e-book “how to run a sub 3 hour marathon”.
A few days ago I had my second Blood Lactate Test with Gareth Thomas at TRIO sports science testing facility in Los Angeles. On Monday April 20, 2015 I’ll be running the Boston Marathon so to prepare for this I’ve been running a lot of miles these past few months.
The reason I took this Blood Lactate test was to get a scientific reading of my blood lactate levels at different Heart Rates. Lactate is constantly produced by the body. In rest and with light exercise, you only produce a small amount of lactate. During a blood lactate test for running, blood lactate samples are taken at gradually increasing intensities while running on a treadmill. As exercise intensity increases, your lactate production increases and reaches levels that are reflective of a loss of aerobic efficiency. In general, low levels of lactate are the sign of an efficient aerobic system.
Here are my test results from my test on 4/10/2015:
139 – 150 bpm
< 8.4 mph
LT (Lactate Threshold)
151 – 156 bpm
8.5 – 8.9 mph
AC (Advanced Conditioning)
157 – 162 bpm
9.0 – 9.6 mph
SST (Steady State Threshold)
163 – 165 bpm
9.7 – 9.8 mph
VO2 max development
9.9 mph +
* Soon after 9.8 mph (6.07 min mile) I start to lose aerobic efficiency shown by lactate rising more rapidly and going above 4 mmol.
Here are my test results from my test on 11/26/2013:
135 – 149 bpm
< 8.0 mph
LT (Lactate Threshold)
150 – 158 bpm
8.1 – 8.5 mph
AC (Advanced Conditioning)
159 – 168 bpm
8.6 – 9.2 mph
SST (Steady State Threshold)
169 – 172 bpm
9.3 – 9.5 mph
VO2 max development
9.6 mph +
* Soon after 9.3 mph (6.25 min mile) I start to lose aerobic efficiency, with lactate rising more rapidly and going above 4 mmol.
The data from my MAF tests and from my 1 LT test show some big differences:
On my LT test on 4/10/15 I hit 148 HR at a 8.3 mile / hour = 7.13 min / mile pace.
I noticed that during the LT test my Heart Rate would elevate much faster at slower pace than running outside on a track. A few possible reasons, I never run on a treadmill so it’s harder to get into a flow than running outside. My MAF test was at 53 fahrenheit early in the morning, vs 68 fahrenheit inside at 11am during the LT test. Also, my GPS watch might be slightly off on distance which might show faster pace than the treadmill pace.
For the Boston marathon I’ll be wearing my Garmin Heart Rate monitor. In training runs I’ve noticed that once my HR goes over 162 for a while (from Advanced Conditioning to Steady State Threshold), my breathing switches from 1 breath every 4 steps to 1 breath every 2 steps. Once this switch happens, I’m using a lot more energy and this is something I want to avoid until the last stages of the race.
I think a Blood lactate test is a great way to track your progress and to develop your own training plan from there with the input from the testing / training facility. If you’re located in Southern California, I can highly recommend Gareth at Trio or you can try to find a sports science laboratory near you.
I love photography and mountains. Today we joined forces with 20 of the best Snow photographers in the world. Our photo print shop Aika Collective now sells more than 300 epic Snow and Mountain photo prints on our website. I’ve been looking up to these guys for years and I’m stoked to welcome them to our Aika Collective Team. It’s 8.30am, I haven’t slept yet, time for bed now!
This week I got the opportunity to interview Dr. Phil Maffetone. In this video we cover the fundamentals of his approach to training, nutrition and recovery.
We also dive into very specific subjects, like learning how to listen to different signals from your body, why many doctors and the media recommend food that’s not good for you and how incredibly important rest and sleep is for a healthy athlete. I learned a lot of new things in this video and I hope you will as well, enjoy!
QUESTION OF THE WEEK: What’s the best running tip you’ve ever received or learned? Please let me know in the comments.
• Improvements after training with a Heart Rate Monitor [3:30]
• Why the 180 formula is preferred over the Lactate Threshold test [7:25]
• Adjusting your MAF training HR based on current fitness and health [10:52]
• Benefits of walking to build your aerobic system [13:48]
• Floris Gierman’s progress after training with HRM [15:55]
• The importance of listening to your body [18:08]
• Why many people feel the need to do intervals and speedwork [19:00]
• Training aerobically only and run a PR [21:08]
• Everyone’s training schedule is very individual [22:48]
• Why Dr. Phil Maffetone prefers time over miles [25:00]
• Avoiding processed cards and refined sugars [28:06]
• Bad recommendations from doctors and the media [31:55]
• Eating real food [34:50]
• Making your body and brain work together [37:25]
• The Five Minute Break [43:45]
• The importance of sleep for recovery [46:00]
• Dr. Phil Maffetone’s own daily routine [49:00]
• The Big Book of Endurance Training and Racing [52:35]
• Articles on Dr. Phil Maffetone’s website [55:45]
Floris Gierman: Hello, my name is Floris Gierman located here in OC Cali, and today we have a very exciting interview coming up with Doctor Phil Maffetone. He’s an internationally recognized researcher, educator, and author, in many different fields including nutrition, exercise and sports medicine, and biofeedback. For more than 35 years he’s worked with athletes around the world, both on a professional and amateur level, and he’s written more than 20 different books; including one of my favorite ones over here, called “the big book of endurance training and racing”, and over here is one of his latest books, called “1:59, the sub 2 hour marathon is within reach” Today we’re going to discuss a variety of different subjects, including heart rate monitor training, nutrition, and also recovery. Some of the basic fundamental s will be discussed here, but we’ll also quickly dive in and looking at more specific details. Without further Adieu, here is Dr. Phil Maffetone.
Dr. Maffetone: Good morning.
FG: Good morning.
PM: Is Floris the way to pronounce your name?
FG: That is the correct way.
PM: And where is your name from?
FG: I’m from Holland. I’m from Amsterdam, I moved here about ten years ago, and where are you living at this point?
PM: I’m currently living in Arizona, I spend 1/2 the year here, and half in the Catskill Mountains of New York, my kids and grandkids are all there kind of in the area, so that’s a good reason to go there and get away from the warmer weather here, I’m in the mountains here, so it’s not that hot in the summer, but it’s warm enough.
FG: We’ll kind of dive right in here, I’ve been following your work for about 2 years now, after hearing about your work on the Trail Runner Nation Podcast for the first time with Don Freeman and Scott Warr.
PM: That’s always a fun one.
FG: Yeah it seems like you guys always have a blast on that one, and your podcast and articles and book made a really big impact on a lot of athletes, including myself. I’m sure you hear it all the time, but I want to start off with a big thank you for all your work that you put out there, it’s been a big help.
PM: Well thank you, your discipline and dedication is impressive to say the least, so keep up the good work.
FG: Thank you! I want to record this video today to share your knowledge with some of the people that are reading my blog, and my website, but I also want to explain to people the experience that I’ve had with your different approach to running, nutrition, and biofeedback. So there are three areas that I’d like to jump into today, the first one is the Heart Rate Monitor training to become a faster and healthier athlete, [The second] is the processed carbs, refined sugar and different healthy alternatives, and the third is the importance of rest, recovery, and training your brain. Does that sound ok to you?
PM: Sounds perfect.
FG: Let’s jump right in, so, your training approach is based upon building an aerobic bas first by using heart rate monitors, and by doing most of your runs at a relatively low heart rate. After you experimented with athletes, you came up with the 180 Formula to calculate and athletes maximum aerobic heart rate. Can you explain what you noticed when athletes first started training this way, and the improvements that they made over a long period of time?
PM: The first thing I noticed is that, in many cases, the training that they were doing and the training that I was doing, coming from track and field, was not a healthy form of training. There were high injury rates, fatigue, many athletes would drift into overtraining, which would lead to depression and one health problem after another. Essentially, what was happening was that their heart rates were creating fit athletes who were unhealthy, and who eventually fell apart. I was in healthcare to help people, my goal was to improve health, and so I thought that there had to be a better way. One of the first things that I noticed was that the 220 formula, which has been around for decades, was not a very good way to train, because it resulted in a higher heart rate.
FG: It would have you train at a way higher heart rate than you needed?
PM: I’ve seen 10, 15, even 20 beats per minute higher depending on how the individual figures out what their heart rate should be, based upon quite often nothing. And then I noticed that athletes who were running with a lower HR were running with a better gait. They looked better running. I got to the point where, if I was out for a run and if I saw some other runners, or if I was driving down the road and I saw runners, which unfortunately even today people are running on the road with lots of traffic, you could almost tell what their HR was. I applied that idea to the track, where I was starting to go every week with runners, and I’d look at runners, and I’d say, “well that runner looks like she’s running at a 145 pace,” and suddenly I was accurate when I stopped and looked at what their HRs were. The first thing that I noticed was gait, and I noticed the whole biomechanical issue was the main factor when a runner changed from being a lower HR aerobic to a higher HR anaerobic. That’s a significant finding, and when you look at the big picture of body mechanics when they start to falter, it’s a problem within a race, it’s a problem within the course of the season as your body becomes more stressed from training, and from health in some cases. Things start breaking down, and the end result is that runners are slower at the same HR, which is the opposite of what we want to do.
FG: There are a lot of different training techniques out there, even regarding HR monitors, you just touched base on the 220 max HR formula, and then another way to calculate the HR you should be running at, or at least the different zones, would be to go to a lab and they’ll do a Lactate Threshhold test, but even there, some of the outcomes are pretty different than with your 180 formula. I did for myself for example, I went to the lab, and actually the HR number 148 came out, and I did your 180 test, and the exact number 148 came out as well, so it was very similar, however, Paul, one of my friends, who’s 46 years old, and doesn’t have any medical conditions, he gets the number 134 [with the 180 formula]. When he goes to the lab he gets a zone from 136 to 154, so then my question is why is yours so much lower than the results given by the test, and why do you feel that the 180 formula makes more sense in that case?
PM: Well I spent a long time evaluating runners, mostly runners, back in the 70s into the 80s. the running boom had exploded, and most of the athletes that I saw were runners. I was looking at runners, looking at gait, evaluating health in various ways, what I did was calculate an HR based upon my evaluation. It really took 3, 4 years, to realize that this lengthy evaluation, which could take two hours on top of going to the track to evaluate gait and look at the HR in relation to that gait, it took a while to realize that there was probably a simple formula to come up with that would determine the same thing that I could determine in my clinic. That became known as the 180 formula, because you subtract the age from 180. What’s unique about it that we don’t rely upon the max HR to obtain that formula, instead I relied upon the health of the athlete, those who are healthier ended up with higher HR, and those who weren’t as healthy ended up with lower numbers. It relied upon fitness levels, it relied upon gait changes, but in the end the 180 formula always gave you a good gait, although gait was not so much involved in the process of determining the HR. It didn’t involve max HR, which has severe limitations in terms of accuracy, and I think most formulas out there rely on that max HR. What was most important for me was to look at that individual and come up with an individual number and base it on their level of health and their level of fitness.
FG: With the 180 formal you also take into account whether you’ve had two or more colds per year, you have to adjust you aerobic pace. For example, I have a two year old daughter, and regardless of me trying to live as healthy as I can, I’ve noticed that sometimes I’ll end up a bit sick just from her catching a cold and me being around her, as much as I try to avoid getting sick it can still happen in cases like this. I do notice that if I change my training zones a bit lower that my body is more in line.
PM: That’s a good observation, you know, even though you’re exposed to more viruses and bacteria and more potential infections the bottom line is still that your immune system is taking the brunt of it. As minor as you might consider them, they are still significant factors from a health standpoint. If on top of that, you put some running at a heart rate that’s a little bit higher than your body wants is that it’s an additional stress, and the issue with stress, be it mental, physical, emotional stress is that it’s cumulative. So, if you have a stress here, and a stress there, and you go for a run, even if it’s supposed to be a low stress thing and to help counter that stress, if the HR is too high, it’s actually adding another stressful even into your day, which isn’t a healthy thing to do.
FG: One other question, to do with the 180 formula as well, when people are a little bit older, for example are 50 or 60 years old like my parents, and they run somewhat irregularly, or don’t at least have that base of two years of consistent training, would they really have to be training at 180-60-5, which is an HR of almost 115, for them it’s often basically walking, with part of it as slow running. Do you still see improvements with this type of training?
PM: Sure, you do still see improvements, what a lot of people don’t understand is that most of the studies that show that exercise is healthy are done on people that are walking. Just going out for 20-30 minutes 3 or 4 days a week, which doesn’t sound like much to those of us who are working out a lot, tremendous benefits can be gained from that. Sure, they wouldn’t be able to run a marathon in under three hours, but that wouldn’t be their goal. When someone says, well I want to run a 10k, or a 5k, and build up my aerobic system, that relatively lo HR becomes a starting point, because that’s the level of their aerobic fitness. Unless they start at that level where their body can handle the workout, then building their aerobic system will never take place. The problem with a lot of runners, especially those coming into the sport later, at 30, 40, 50 years of age, but really, even a young person, they’ll start to progress, developing their body and then they’ll kinda jump or skip ahead. You know, it’s like being in first grade, second grade, third grade, and then saying, you know, I’ll jump ahead into high school, I don’t like these. It doesn’t work, because your brain and your body won’t envelop efficiently, and it puts your aerobic system at a deficit that it can never recover from. Then, when you start hitting 30, 40 years of age, your body makes some changes, one of the most evident ones being that we become more insulin resistant, and we start relying more on fat as a source of energy, or at least we should, but if we’re not able to at least produce that energy from fat, then we just stay in that slow category and that’s a reflection of the dietary component of the aerobic system.
FG: That’s a really good point, and just to go back on what you’re just saying that a lot of people are training at too high of an HR relative to what they should be training at, I’ve experienced this same thing myself while training for my first marathon a few years back. I was often training at an HR that was very high, even though I didn’t run with an HR monitor, I could notice that the signals from my body were indicating that I was very low on energy, when I was finished with a run, I would feel very tired and very hungry, in the afternoons I would have the hard energy dip and everything. When I first heard about your training method, it was pretty controversial compared to some of the things that were out there, but I thought to give it a try. One of the tests I did that you describe to measure your progress is the MAF test, where essentially you warm up for 15 minutes, and then on the track you run for 5 miles and you calculate once you’ve run it, your maximum aerobic HR, based on what your pace is. I did this about 18 moths ago, and at that point, my average MAF pace was about 8:21 per mile, and then, as I only started running aerobically, I was able to drop that pace in 1 month time by 38 seconds. So the next month, I ran the same MAF test at 7:43, and over time, by a combination of things, including increases in mileage and improving my nutrition, as well as steady training within the correct zones, I was able to shave off time almost every month, although sometimes after a race I noticed that progress stopped or went backwards a little bit, just because the body had more stress. It was crazy to see, this last weekend I did an aerobic test at an HR of 148, and I was able to hit 6:31 per mile.
PM: Wow, that’s great. You know, you’re very observant, and that’s a problem that many runners have is that they’re unaware of their body. For too many athletes it’s all about the workout, and there’s a big social component, and they don’t realize that their body is hurting, or maybe they do, but they won’t admit it. Being aware of your body, this is why I don’t like to see athletes listening to music or podcasts while they work out, there’s plenty of time to do that in the car or at home instead of turning on the TV. Listen to your body, and you’ve done that very well which is a very important thing.
FG: Some of your athletes have won races without doing any interval training or speed work, they trained only aerobically. To run fast, like in the half or full [marathon], or even a 50 miler, how important is the role of interval and speedwork? Why do so any people feel the need to do it?
PM: We have a “no pain no gain” society, and everyone thinks that more is better and that speed is important, you know what happened in the 60s and 70s when the running boom hit, there were very few coaches, and the need for coaches evolved from track and field, a lot of coaches came over from T&F, and started coaching 5/10k runners, marathoners, and eventually ultramarathoners, and with that they brought their approach to training which was intervals. How big of a role does it play, it plays a minor role, when you look at the marathon or other endurance sports, in the marathon its 98% aerobic system. If 98% of your effort is going to be generated by the aerobic system, why would you spend so much time doing anaerobic training, then it plays a relatively minor role? I’ve seen so manny athletes in all the endurance sports from 5k to ultras and the double ironman, and other longer events I’ve seen many many [athletes] who only did aerobic training and avoided speed work altogether, and they performed their best. In the early 80s I did a study where I had 223 runners that spent 3-6 months building aerobic base, with no lifting or anaerobic training whatsoever, and 76% ran a PR. These are experienced runners.
FG: So they already had the base going into it, not the aerobic base, but they already had the high volume of mileage.
PM: They had been training yeah, but many of them haven’t run a PR in years. Just ask around at a race, the thing is in the ultra scene it’s hard to relate to a PR, but in a 10k or a marathon, start asking people when the last time they ran a PR, the new runners will be running them more often, but with the experienced runners, many of them will say that it’s been years since they ran a PR 10k, 5k or marathon. That’s unfortunate, since the aerobic system doesn’t really peak until our 40s, and after that peak it doesn’t just drop off, it can stay pretty high, as we all know there are some great 45, 55, 65 year old endurance athletes who are beating a lot of 20 year olds.
FG: There’s a question about training volume that I want to dive into. Let’s say that someone is training for a marathon, an ultra, even a half marathon, and they want to peak at around 60-70 mpw, with your approach it’s mostly aerobic miles. Is there anything that you can say with regards to how you would diidid those 60-70 miles, I understand that you don’t recommend going much over 2 hours, since you don’t see much added benefit relative to the risks that you’re going to be having. Can you explain a little bit? Would you say to run 6-7 days a week, or would you say to combine long and short runs, or even 2 runs per day?
PM: It depends on the person, it really makes a difference if we’re talking about a professional runner who doesn’t have to work 5 days/week, if we’re talking about someone with a family, if they have a house that they need to take care of, if there are other social obligations. These things all should be looked at as part of your schedule, because they are part of your life and they influence your training, and they potentially create stress whether it’s good stress or bad stress, and usually it’s a combination. It depends on the individual, but you’re’ right, I’m not keen on going much over 2 hours, maybe 2.5 hours. If people need to better understand what it’s going to be like for say a 50 miler, or something that’s going to be a lot longer than 2.5 hours, they can add a half an hour of walking as a warmup and another half an hour of walking as a cool down. Now they’re up to 3-3.5 hours, and that should give them a much better sense of the time factor, because controlling time is just as important a factor in the longer races especially. I like to use time instead of miles because the brain relates to time better, and most people can run in a race about 3x what they normally perform in training, so if you can run for 2 hours in training, 6-7 hours in a race shouldn’t be a problem physiologically and mentally either. So, I think changing to time in your log, rather than mile sis a very important thing to do.
FG: So, even for an ultra, a 50 miler, you wouldn’t go any longer runs than 2.5 hours. You think that the walking for 30 mites before and afterwards would get you in a good enough preparation?
PM: For the average person yes, however, there have been situations. For example, I worked with Stu Middleman for many years, Stu had many american and world records in various ultra distances, and many of his races were on the track, so it was not unusual for Stu to do a 6 day race, where the whole race took place on a 400 meter track, or a 200 meter track. The world championships, I don’t know if they’re still in [France], which was an amazing event that I’ve been to a few times, full of spectators and the best runners in the world, but it’s on a 200 meter track. If you’re not used to running on a track for that long it an really get to you, so what Stu did, I recommended that he spend more time on the track running one direction for a while, and then reversing and running in the other direction. those workouts could be 2, 3, 4 hours or longer. He’d always begin with a long walk, and then the walk would speed up, he’d start jogging faster, and at the end, the reverse would take place. In that situation, there’s an exception to the rule, one could benefit by doing longer track workouts like that. If you aren’t used to trails and you’re going to be doing a trail run, you could benefit by spending some time out on the trail, getting used to how your body works.
FG: Moving on to the nutritional side of things, because you really opened my eyes, as well as the eyes of many athletes around the world with your views on nutrition, and one thing that stood out to me the most was the dangers of processed carbs and refined sugars for your long term and short term health. Many people eat a significant amount of processed carbs and refined sugars, some of them don’t even know that they are processed carbs. Can you explain why processed carbs are so bad for you, and what health benefits you can gain by avoiding these things?
PM: That’s a huge topic, the trend in having pasta before the race, and having sweet cereal in the morning, most of that came from the companies that make those products. It was “here’s some sugar, sugar equals energy” and there isn’t anything recent about those ads. They began in the 50s, and people were told that sugar, white flour, are healthy, and those are where our energy comes from. Hardly anybody talked about fat, even though the first book I saw on fat on and fat burning was called “eat fat to get slim”, and it was a best seller in 1958 I think. When I became interested in nutrition, which was in the 60s, it was clear from a scientific standpoint that refined flour and sugar, which were very popular, were unhealthy. People didn’t react well when they ate it, the studies were showing that it could be a problem. So, for a runner today, the dietary component, in particular refined carbs, is as important if not more important than building up the aerobic system. There are many reasons for it, but one of the big ones is that when people consume refined carbs, we make insulin, and what insulin does is reduce fat burning and increase sugar burning. Sugar burning is a very limited fuel, and fat burning is our long term energy. Then we’ve been noticing this for the last 10-15 years, for the first time, many athletes in all sports are becoming overfat. The fat burning is low and the sugar burning is high, so the fat stays stored up in the body, and that’s a serious problem. Number one, for the sport, because your endurance is going to be diminished, and number two it’s a serious health problem. They’ve associated excessive carb consumption with everything from cancer, to cataracts, heart disease, and hair loss, diabetes of course. There are health issues, and also the lack of aerobic development will impair performance.
FG: It’s so crazy to me hearing what you are saying, and at the same time, hearing the mixed messages coming the media, and even from some doctors who would recommend these foods as part of a healthy diet.
PM: It wasn’t that long ago, and I have some ads on my website, that doctors recommended the smoking of cigarettes. So you have to ask yourself, who controls the media, and that’s an easy answer, it’s the advertisers that control the media. I’ve had this happen many times at a running magazine editorial meeting, I‘ve had someone say “I want to talk about burning fat and how sugar can impair that process”, and the top editors will say “we can’t run that because we have three regular advertisers who won’t allow that”. You have to look at who controls the media, and it’s a big problem, because people follow the media, people follow running magazines. I used to say to runners, partly as a funny comment, partly serious because I saw it in practice, that invariably during lecture in front of runners, someone would ask why there are so many knee problems, and I’d say it’s from reading runners world magazine. A few years ago, I had three runners who all had knee problems, and they all had the same story. They are following a program from a magazine, and that’s when they first hurt their knee. We have to think as individuals, we have to think about what every run is doing for us. Is it beneficial, is it hurting us, are we or our coach individualizing our programs? If that’s being done, you will find success. The idea of one size fits all programs or diets is very unhealthy.
FG: So what are some alternative things that people could eat that are more healthy and beneficial?
PM: Real food, when I had my clinic, I would give the runner a report after doing a diet analysis to look at their nutrients. I’d be able to say, 3 of your vitamins are below minimum levels, and 8 of your nutrients are below minimum levels, and so I don’t want you to eat pasta, bread, potatoes, etc. and they’d stop me in the middle of this list and say “that’s all I eat”, and I’d say, “that’s why you’re here”. People don’t know what real food is quite often, and they’ve been brainwashed by the media until they don’t know the difference between junk food and healthy food. And those are the two options that you have, junk food and healthy food. Junk ofd includes processed, packaged things, that are somehow interfered with. White flour for example, they’ll take a wheat kernel that most people have never seen, and they’ll process it, getting rid of the bran, the nutrients, and the healthy oils, and they’ll put synthetic vitamins into it and they’ll call it healthy. And things like that are the foundation of the diets of most athletes. And of course, there’s the sugar issue, sugar is found in so many packaged foods, that many people will tell me “I don’t eat sugar, I take my coffee without sugar, I don’t eat desserts”. Yet they’re eating a lot of packaged foods that if you read the label, you’ll find sugar high on the list. Being aware of healthy food, and separating it from the junk food is a very important plea to start for people.
FG: I wanted to move on to the last subject that I want to discuss, that is rest, recovery, and training your brain. The other day I went for a run, and after 5 miles into the run I just realized that I’d run for 5 miles, but it was as if the 5 miles didn’t happen. I was on the other side of the lake, and I thought “wow, that’s really crazy”. So my brain had switched really early on from the beta waves to the alpha waves, and I was able to maintain that for a very long time. I analyzed my HR afterwards, and it was 5 bpm lower than it would have been in a normal run where I was more conscious. So can you explain why sometimes when you run, you can’t remember several parts of your run, while other times this doesn’t happen, and what can be done to make your body and brain work better together.
PM: That’s a great question, I’ve been encouraging athletes to use their brain from the very beginning, because that’s where it all begins. The brain says “let’s move this arm forward, this leg forward” the brain dictates all movement, quality and quantity of movement, the brain is continuously getting information from the body about how much energy exists, how much wear and tear we have, how well the muscles are working, all this information from moment to moment is being fed into the brain, like a supercomputer. The brain is able to respond to this information, if fat burning starts to diminish it may make some adjustments, if blood sugar is lowering it may convert some glycogen to blood glucose to maintain a stable blood sugar during training. Having a healthy brain is a big part of it, and the diet influences the brain considerably, because the brain is 60-70% fat, it means that all the fats in our diet have a chance to potentially get into the brain, and the good fats make the brain function better, for example EPA and DHA, two very important fats in fish or in fish oil, help the brain, but trans fats, hydrogenated fats, or the vegetable oil omega 6 fasts can be unhealthy for the brain because they can create chemical imbalances which are a problem for the brain. States of consciousness are very important, and you mentioned that, you went 5 miles without realizing it, and it’s not unusual for people in sports to get lost into their world, especially with running because we tend to go out for a long period of time. I’ve been lost more than once on my bike, which is why I got rid of my road bike, because I’d go out for a 2 hour ride, and after 3 hours I wouldn’t know where I was anymore. That’s going into an alpha state and runners for many years have hear about the runners high, and I think what it is in part is that we develop a certain state of consciousness when we’re out there. We can do it at home, at work if we want to take a 5 minute break we can just close our eyes and go into this runners high, if you want to call it that, but all sports have this type of thing. It has to do with the state of consciousness where you brain is making alpha waves, like a meditative state, it also has to do with brain chemistry. There are opioid receptors in the brain that are similar to receptors for cannabis, and those get triggered off, and we get this wonderful feeling of runners high. You might get it on the bike, and that’s fine, you might get on a long hike, it’s a wonderful thing to experience. If you’re running with a group of people, or even one other person and talking, or if you’re listening to a podcast or music, you’re not going to get that runners high. Again, I’d like people to focus on their brain which is focusing on the body. What is your body doing, how is your muscle functioning, how do the shoes fit, how is your hydration, do you need the water, or are you just drinking it because you think that you are thirsty, do you need extra energy or is your fat-burning doing ok? This is a critical part of training, and using the brain for it is really the way to go.
FG: You mentioned earlier, a 5 minute break, can you say a little bit more about that?
PM: Yeah, the alpha waves that we’ve been talking about, meditative state is a great way to describe it, is a very healthy state. One of the things that it does is reduce high stress hormones. While we’re at work we tend to have high stress hormones, and if we could reduce those hormones that would be terrific. What alpha waves also do is correct muscle imbalance. Injury rates are unfortunately extremely high, with some studies showing 60%, and higher in some of the anaerobic crossfit type activities, with 74% in one study. The problem with inures is that they’re always preceded by some sort of muscle imbalance. Runners may go out for a run, and have some sort of muscle imbalance that’s causing wear and tear, and the process of recovery should try to correct that. If you can sit down or lie down, close your eyes, and go into this alpha state for five minutes, you can have a little mini therapy session for your brain and body by going into alpha. You can reduce stress, reduce muscle imbalance, balance blood sugar, improve fat burning, do a lot of very healthy things for both fitness and health.
FG: The good thing is that you can do it anywhere.
PM: It can be done in five minutes, people can go to my website, it’s called the five minute power break. People who know how to do it know what I’m talking about, but a lot of people are just so caught up with stressful things that they never go into an alpha state, and that’s a really sad thing because it can really help with your sport.
FG: Now, rest and sleep is a very important part of training, but many athletes don’t sleep and rest enough. I’ve read an article online that a big part of recovery happens in the third and fourth 90 minute sleep cycle. Why is rest and sleep so important, and what is the minimum number of hours of sleep for optimal performance.
PM: We usually talk about healthy sleep bing about seven to nine hours of solid, uninterrupted sleep. For someone who’s running 50-60 miles per week, 7 hours probably won’t do it, and for a triathlete, for example, who’s working out 25 hours a week you’ll need to be closer to 9 hours to get that recovery. The recovery process is really where it’s at, we get more of our training benefits from the recovery phase than from actually training. If we don’t get that recovery, we aren’t going to allow our body to naturally progress. Humans should naturally get faster over time, if we aren’t, something is blocking that. It’s like people starting an HR training program using the 180 formula and they have to run slow and a month later they’re still running slow, and they say that this doesn’t work. Well, it doesn’t work because something’s blocking that progress, you’re eating too much sugar, your stress levels are too high, or you’re not sleeping enough, recovering enough, of course you won’t make progress. Sleep is a very important thing, and interestingly enough, one of the things that wakes people up in the middle of the night, other than kids, is stress hormones. If your stress hormone levels are high, one of the things that happens is that in the middle of the night, your stress hormone levels start to elevate, and it wakes you up. A lot of people are tired during the day, and they wake up at 2 AM, and they have all this energy, and they wonder why they don’t have this type of energy during the day. Well, that’s what stress hormone does to you, that’s an indication that there’s some very serious problems. So the 5 minute power break, eating right, training in a balanced way, those will all lower the hormones and help you be a healthier, more fit athlete.
FG: I’m curious to hear, since you’ve talked about the different healthy ways of living, training right, and eating right, what is your morning routine look like? Do you do meditation, do you do the 5 minute power break, what do you eat for breakfast?
PM: I get so many questions about that, here’s one I got the other day, “how often do you cheat?” and they were talking about food. I don’t cheat, I practice what I preach. Some people call me a fanatic for doing that, but I want to be healthy. I’ve got 12 grandchildren, I want to see my great grandchildren graduate college, and I want to see their children graduating from college, and we control a lot of that. As far as genetics, we actually control a lot of the genetics with the foods that we eat. I grow most of my own food, and the meats and things are either raised here on the farm, or their from a nearby farm that we barter with. I’m very strict, I’ve spent my entire adult life trying to figure out the best way to be healthier, and it seems like every year I make an adjustment, because I’m finding that I can’t eat as much of that, I need to eat more of this and so forth. So what I’m eating today may not be what I’m eating a year from now. I’ve learned to reduce my caloric intake significantly, and I’ve done that by increasing my fat burning ability, and so today I eat about 300 calories in the morning, I have some heavy cream and coconut oil in my coffee, along with an egg yolk in the coffee, and that’s technically my breakfast. I had that around 6 this morning, and then about 9:30, just before this broadcast, I had 3 eggs and vegetables. That was my first real meal in terms of solid food. My day will go like that and I’ll probably end up having 5 meals per day, and everything is healthy. My workouts vary with where I am, what I’m doing, the weather, and I could run, swim, although we’ve gotten rid of our pool, so no more swimming until next summer, bike, hike, occasionally, I do some weights if I’m not working on the farm lifting rocks and cutting would and that sort of stuff.
FG: Last question, [the Big Book of Endurance Training and Racing] made some of the biggest impact in my life, and I’m very serious about that. It goes with great detail into the subjects that we’ve discussed. Where can people find out more about you, and where can people buy your books?
PM: They should be able to buy the book anywhere, amazon, Barnes and Noble for people who still use bookstores. They can also go to my website, there are 100s of articles, some of which have not appeared in books, that they can read on the site. For the first time, I’m announcing that there will be an addendum to the Big Book of Endurance Training and Racing, that will be called Endurance, or Endurance Addendum, it’s all the things that I’ve ben writing about and a lot of new things that I’ve been writing for that book since the Big Book came out, and I believe, although I haven’t been given a date yet, but I’m thinking that that’s going to be coming out in mid to late spring some time.
FG: Is there a specific color for that book, because this is the big yellow book, and the other one is the big red book (laughing).
PM: I don’t know, the publisher is Sky horse, the same publisher, and I’m waiting to hear back, I’ll be expecting the manuscript any day now, and I’ll probably be sent some cover ideas. I suspect it’ll be a smaller yellow book. The Big Book is maybe too big, I haven’t gotten any complaints other than that it’s too big. The Big Book of Endurance Training and Racing was as big as it was, likewise for “Health and Fitness” because it spent a lot of time explaining things, how did I come up with the 180 formula, how did I come up with the 2 week test? There’s a lot of stories about why this and why that, and more scientific and varied explanations of things, that can be helpful for very many people. I’ve done 20 books now, and maybe that’s enough, but I keep writing them, and I keep writing articles on a regular basis. The articles appear on the website because it’s easier for me to not have to deal with an editor, and not have article go back and forth, and “what do you mean by this word?”. I’d rather do it unedited, my writing has gotten a lot better, though I’m not a great writer, but I like to put the information down, and say here’s how you do this, and here’s how you can figure out the best way to do that. I do write for some of the online publications, IronMan Online has some of my articles, and the Natural Running Center, but I do most of my own writing and they go on my own website PhilMaffetone.com.
FG: I’ll link to some of these articles in the show notes as well. Thank you so much for your time, and hopefully at some point down the line we can connect again.
PM: Thank you, it’s been fun. These are fun venues to do, and it’s a great way to educate people out there who are looking for information.
We’re 5 weeks into the new year already, I hope your runs are going well these winter months!! Today I wanted to share an interview I did with Greg White for the LA Leggers Running Club. Many details are being discussed about the Phil Maffetone training method, my running progress with this method over the past 18 months, what running means to me, balancing running with family and career and much more.
By Greg White - If you’re reading this, then I’m guessing the prospect of running a sub-3 hour marathon sounds pretty good, right? But damn, that sounds real hard, right? I mean, all that speed work and all those long, crushing tempo runs…tough stuff, right? Yes. Except: no. I’d like to introduce you to 32 year-old Long Beach resident, Floris Gierman. After years of on and off running with no real structure, Floris decided to try and beat his 4ish hour marathon time. His journey lead him to Phil Maffetone’s aerobic conditioning plans, and brought him some pretty amazing success at 26.2. Based largely in heart rate zones, Maffetone’s approach is a holistic one that all endurance athletes should consider in their own training. I spoke with Floris about his adventures in speeding up by slowing down.
Running some hills in El Moro, photo by Mike Bell
GW: You had a great deal of success training using the Maffetone Method. Could you talk a little bit about what goes into that training and why it works?
Most runners (recreational, amateur and pro) run with a Heart Rate that is too high. This means their body generates energy primarily from sugar instead of body fat. If you slow down and train with a lower HR (in combination with proper nutrition) you teach your body to use mostly your body fat for energy. Body fat provides more than twice the energy than sugar. Over time once your aerobic base develops and metabolism improves, your pace will improve as well. By slowing down you, over time you’ll become a much faster runner with less effort.
To give you an example, on 5/23/2013 I started training with a Heart Rate Monitor at my max aerobic Heart Rate. This is the training heart rate that reflects optimal aerobic training, when you go above this HR there is a fast transition to more anaerobic training. For me this max aerobic HR was 150, so for several months I ran almost all of my runs at 140 to 150 beats per minute. To calculate your own max aerobic HR, read this article about the 180 formula.
A great way to monitor your aerobic progress is a Maximum Aerobic Function test, aka MAF test: You warm up for 15 minutes, then run 5 miles at your max aerobic HR, on a flat course (no hills) with minimal wind and normal temperatures to avoid inaccurate data. Here are a few results from my MAF tests over time:
5 miles average pace at max aerobic HR
8:21 min / mile
7:43 min / mile
7:21 min / mile
7:26 min / mile
7:02 min / mile
6:54 min / mile
6:50 min / mile
6:44 min / mile
6:37 min / mile
6:31 min / mile
This means that with the same Heart Rate, on 5/25/13 it took me 41 minutes 45 seconds to run 5 miles, on 1/30/15 it took me 32:35 to run 5 miles, 9 minutes and 10 seconds faster.
The first few months of training aerobic, almost everyone has to slow down their pace significantly. It’s best to avoid speedwork while building your aerobic base. If you add high Heart Rate workouts during your base building period of 3 – 6 months, you add stress to your body and you slow down your aerobic base development.
Speed work is still an important part of this Maffetone Training Program when done right. After 3 – 6 months of aerobic runs, there is a chance you notice your improvements slowing down or stopping. This can be an indication that its time to add some speed work: 1 to 2 times a week, 15 to 30 minutes intervals, 3 to 4 weeks in a row max, then back to aerobic runs only for a few months until your improvements slow down again.
A few advantages I’ve experienced running this way:
• My energy levels are a lot more consistent. I used to be very tired and hungry after some of my longer runs. Now I run much more controlled and it’s a lot more enjoyable. It feels like I can keep running forever and never stop. After every run I feel energized which is a great feeling.
• You learn how to listen to your body. If you have a cold or flu, you’ll noticed an increased HR. Once you notice that your body is off, you can adjust your training pace accordingly.
• The risk of injuries is a lot lower. In the first few months of aerobic training, you slow down your running pace. This way you give your muscles, ligaments and tendons time to properly develop. Once your aerobic base develops and your pace increases slowly over time, your body is ready to run at a faster pace.
Sunrise run in the forrest, best way to start your day!
GW: What did your training look like before you started this?
FG: I used to run pretty irregular; some months I wouldn’t run at all, other months I’d run once or twice a week. Before May 2013, I trained often at 7:00 or 7:30 min / mile on road and 9 ish min / miles on trails. My pace during most runs was too high, so my runs felt hard and not very enjoyable.
GW: How did you change your running after you heard about the Maffetone method?
FG: With this Heart Rate Monitor Training, at first I had to slow down significantly to about 8:30 min / mile on road and 11 to 13+ min / miles on trails. I’m not going to lie, it was frustrating at first because I was used to running fast and now I had to hold back while other runners were passing me. Patience is the most important thing here. After 1 month of HRM training, I dropped 38 seconds per mile at the same HR. This was such an eye opener, to run much faster with the same or less effort.
GW: What was your PR before and after training this way?
FG: A few years back I ran my first marathon race and bonked at mile 19, I finished it in 4 hours 11 minutes. In October 2013, after 5 months of HR training, increased miles and improved nutrition, I ran a 2:55:03 marathon. PR-ed by 76 minutes.
In 2012 I ran a 1:46 half marathon and bonked because I didn’t train smart and went out too fast. In October 2014 I ran a 1:20:01 half marathon.
GW: What nutritional changes have you’ve made to improve your running?
FG: Nutrition is really the foundation for performance and recovery. Until early 2013 I had never paid much attention to what I ate or drank. Then I decided to eat a lot healthier. I cut out all refined carbohydrates, no more bread, pasta, pizza, chips. etc. I also cut out milk, coffee, alcohol, soda, fruit juices, most fruits, sweets, potatoes and rice.
The reason for me to do this was to change my body metabolism to burn fat instead of glycogen. When you eat refined carbs, your body produces a hormone called insulin, which slows down fat burning. As soon as you get rid of refined carbs, it takes your body 2 meals before it shifts into a high fat burning metabolism. This happens very quickly, my energy levels increased, I slept much better and didn’t have fatigue headaches anymore.
Nowadays my meals consist of: veggies like spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots etc, salads, tuna, salmon, bacon, chicken, beef, burrito bowls, avocados, egg whites, beans, lentils, bananas, nuts, chia seeds, almond milk, coconut water, green tea and a lot of water. I use a Vitamix blender every day with mostly loads of veggies.
GW: How has running a sub-3 hour marathon changed the way you look at training and racing?
FG: There are a lot of so called experts out there claiming you need to put in many fast miles to become a faster runner. I just didn’t want to believe the NO PAIN – NO GAIN mentality.
I decided to slow down in my training pace to eventually become a faster runner with less effort. It was a nice confirmation when I ran a 2:55 marathon with mostly aerobic training runs and minimal speed work, this Maffetone Method works and it’s fun and enjoyable.
GW: What does running mean to you?
FG: Running to me is a feeling of freedom, clearing your mind in nature with friends or alone. Being present in the current moment and thinking about nothing else. It’s a reset button for my mind, a natural chill pill. Sometimes I feel stressed, angry or sad, a 30 minute run can change my mood entirely, it’s rad when that happens.
Running up Mt Baldy, photo by David Villalobos
GW: How do you balance training with family and career?
FG: I’m not going to lie, it can be pretty tricky to balance 2 start up businesses with a family life. Last year my business partner and I co-founded an online photo printing business Aika Collective and my wife and I run an online stationery business together called Love vs Design. My daughter is 22 months old and I’ve run 1500+ miles with her in the stroller, we take breaks to play by the beach or feed the ducks, it’s fun. In the weekends I usually get up pretty early for my longer runs.
GW: What are some of your proudest moments in your running career?
FG: On June 21st 2014 I left my house in Long Beach at 2am and I ran 100 miles south to San Diego in 17 hours 47 minutes. This was a solo running mission, so there was no crew, pacers or support, just me running with a backpack with water and food + Go Pro Cam.
It was the ultimate test to see how far I could push myself, always keeping my Heart Rate below 149. At mile 62, on Camp Pendelton after about 9 hours of running, I hit the wall for the first time. It was a physical and mental battle to keep moving forward. After a bottle of Coke I was able to run again for many more miles. At mile 81 I hit the wall for the second time, but I didn’t want to give up. A few miles later I was running again. I was so happy to make it to San Diego in time to take the last train back to Long Beach!
GW: What’s your next goal?
FG: I’m running Boston in April 2015 and I’d like to run it in 2:45. I’ll probably sign up for a race later in the year, I haven’t decided which one yet.
GW: What would you say to someone who wants to run a faster marathon, but can’t wrap their head around running slower to get faster?
FG: It takes patience, but try it for 4 weeks and see your progress. A lot of people try this for a week or less and give up because they have to take walk breaks to lower their Heart Rate, or they have to jog very slow. This means your fitness level needs to improve and that’s very normal. Give it some time and you’ll see the benefits soon enough.
A heart rate monitor takes the guess work out of training and can help increase your aerobic speed. It can also help prevent injury and burn more body fat.
GW: Where can people find out more about you?
FG: My Flotography blog has several running articles about Heart Rate training and nutrition. All my runs are tracked on my Strava account. If you have any questions at all, just leave me a comment below.
Happy New Year!! I wanted to start the new year by sharing some marathon running tips. I brought a little Go Pro camera on my sub 3 hour marathon to discuss the marathon racing process. Many details are being discussed in this video, such as pacing strategies, watch settings, hydration, nutrition, race gear, mindsets, battling tough spots, and much more.
The video may be a bit shaky at points with some wind in the microphone. Below the video is a transcript of the video. All the run details can also be found on my Strava. Hope these tips can help you improve your next marathon!
VIDEO TRANSCRIPT: Video 0:00: Hello I’m Floris Gierman, here in Newport Beach, California. I’m about to run a solo sub 3 hour marathon and I’m bringing a little Go Pro to share a few marathon running tips along the way. Hope you’ll learn a few things.
Today I’ll try to run a 2:57 marathon. That’s a 6:45 min / mile pace or 4:12 min / km pace. I’m trying to have 3 minutes extra there just in case the course is a bit longer when you try to run a marathon, or if you have to zigzag in between people. Its also nice if there is a little room for error in case you get it really tough at the end. Let’s get started here!
Video 0:50: I started my run this morning at 7am. I woke up at 5.30am, that gave me 90 minutes to eat some breakfast, get ready, put all my gear on and have a proper warm up.
Last night I ate a regular dinner of what I normally eat. I wouldn’t try anything different on race day or the day before. I ate a normal dinner with veggies and a steak. It works well for me, I trained with that, and it works good. This morning I just ate 3 baked eggs, with a banana and some water. That’s my magic formula. Try to see what works for you and eat that before your race.
Video 1:46: First mile in 6 minutes 43 seconds, that’s about right on target. A lot of people start very fast, especially at the beginning of the race. They see other people start fast. They have all their race excitement kick in, probably have done some sort of taper so you’re really hungry to run. Start slow! If you shave 1 minute off at the beginning, it might cost you 5 minutes later on if you start cramping.
Video 0:00: I’m running with a water pack. For any marathon race, I always recommend drinking at the aid stations. A water pack is very heavy and I wouldn’t recommend it. But I’m running solo, so it’s the best option. AIRPLANE!!
You might want to practice with some water stations because for a lot of runners it’s new. Try to grab a water without choking. Maybe set up a little table in your front yard, get some weird looks from your neighbors, wondering what the hell you’re doing. But yeh give it a go.
I see a lot of runners wearing very warm clothes. I like wearing not too many warm clothes, I’m rather cool at the beginning, kind of cold even. So later on in the race when I’m properly warmed up, I do not overheat.
This morning it was 44 fahrenheit when I started, that’s 4 degrees Celsius, so that’s pretty cold. So I’m wearing a long sleeve shirt and later I can roll up the sleeves, I’m wearing shorts as well.
Video 3:34: The 4 settings I have up on my watch display are overall time, overall distance, HR and average pace per mile.
3rd mile in 6 minutes 46 seconds. Pace per mile is a great function, it gives you a great idea how you break down each of your miles. You can really tell how you’re on schedule. If you’re trying to run somewhat of an ever split, like right now I’m pretty close in range of my target goal of 2:57, because I’ve run 3 miles around 6:45. Now I just have to keep that going for another 23 miles
Another great watch setting I’d like to use is the time alert, that was the time alert right there. That way I can tell myself, every 25 minutes I should be taking a gel. When the alarm goes of, it reminds you.
Video 3:34: When there are hills on the course, I try to go not too fast up the hills, so you keep your heart rate under control and not burn too much energy up the hills. When you go down, you can really let go and make up for some of that time. Right now I ran about 7 min / mile up hill and I can run 6:30 min / mile down hill, so use those hills to your advantage.
I have my virtual pacer set to 6:45 min / miles. If I now click here, I can see I’m 6 seconds ahead of my virtual pacer. So especially for further on in the race, you can see if you’re still on goal or not, so it’s a very handy feature.
Every 50 minutes or every hour I take a salt and electrolyte pill, in my mind this helps me against cramping later in the race.
Video 5:57: I think marathons can be split up in 3 parts. The first part is mile 1 to 13, this is really the part where you have to hold back, you’re very excited to race, but just hold back for a bit. Mile 13 to mile 20, is really that getting to work part, focus on your nutrition, focus on your pace and your form. Mile 20 to mile 26 is where the race really starts. Up to mile 20 is really foreplay, then mile 20 and on is where it’s getting to work. It’s the part where people either fall apart, or where people can run through and run a good race. This last part of the marathon is tricky to train and for many runners this is a pretty unknown territory.
Video 5:57: I just passed the half way point in 1:28:26, 4 seconds ahead of schedule. The half way point is always good to give you an idea of where you are, how you’re doing and what you need to be doing the second half. I’m on schedule so we’re going to keep it going.
In a race, don’t try anything you haven’t tried in training. So don’t try any new gear, no new shirts, new shoes, new belt pack or whatever, run what you trained with, so you don’t get any surprises.
Video 7:20: I just finished mile 18 in 6 minutes 44, this is the part where your mind start the play tricks. To run a marathon you have to be strong physically and mentally. Mentally I think is pretty underestimated. When things get tough, I usually start talking to myself and focus on the little things. Run the next mile really good, run to the next aid station and you’ll be fine. Or just little pep talk, like “you’re doing good, come on, you got this!” Anyways, it’s going well, 6:44 last split, let’s see how it goes.
Video 8:00:Mile 20 in 6:47. One thing to accept in advance when you run a marathon is that you are going to hit tough spots. At some part your mind is going to start playing tricks. You might start to feel some aching, just take it step by step. Don’t think about the long distance you still have to run. Just think about the next 500 meters or ½ mile and you’re totally going to work through it.
Mile 22 in 6:46, still on schedule for a 2:57 marathon so all good. This is mile 22, the part that is make it or break it. If you feel shit, just smile, laugh, slap a high 5 to a volunteer or someone in the audience, you’ll instantly feel better. So give it a go, smile and keep going!
Mile 24 in 6:45, this is the part of the race where you have to dig deep, this is where you have to go into those reserves and really go for it. 2 miles to go and a little bit.
Mile 26 in 6:46, almost there, so I’m just going to go for it now.
Video 9:20: Yaaaaa, timer stopped, so that was a marathon in 2:56:59, about 1 second off my goal, but I’ll take it!
After my races within 30 minutes I try to eat and drink. I also enjoy taking an ice bath. I know there is no scientific evidence to show really that ice baths help speed up the recovery process, but I enjoy ice baths, so that’s why I’m going to jump into the cold water in a second here. It’s going to be a cold one, AHHHHH. Well, there we have it.
Video 10:16: Marathons can be pretty tough, but at the end of the day it’s all about having fun out there. It’s totally normal to hit some tough spots, everyone has that, it’s just the mind game to get over that. As I said earlier, break the race up in little chunks and take it piece by piece. The most important part is to have fun out there. You trained really hard, believe in your training! Go out there and do it. It’s totally normal that things start messing with your mind, just stay calm and go out there and have a good time, enjoy the journey.
Hope you guys enjoyed this video. Check out my blog flotography.com for more videos and articles. I’ll be posting the Strava details of this run below. Happy 2015, later!!
——— end of video transcript ———
A lot of the advice in this video is from trial and error and from my running friends at the Coyotes, especially coaches Jimmy and Kate. If you have any additional marathon racing tips that work well for you or if you have any questions, let me know in the comments below!
This morning I set my alarm at 4am to run in the snow at Mt Baldy, an hour outside of Los Angeles. I got out of bed quietly without waking the rest of my family. All my running gear was ready on the kitchen table and the night before I had prepared a bag with my breakfast to eat in the car (3 baked eggs + banana + water).
At 4:30am sharp I left our house to drive an hour North East. This way I was able to beat LA traffic and arrive at the mountain by 5:30am, more than an hour before sunrise. Once I arrived at the mountain I realized I left my backpack with water, Gu gels and Salt / Electrolyte pills on our kitchen table at home.
I was bummed for a minute that I wasn’t able to run my planned 18 mile route starting at 4000 feet elevation to the top at 10064 feet. My new plan was to start at 4000 feet and run up until the snow would get pretty un-runnable, then head back. At about 5000 feet the rain turned into snow. Here is a little video from the snow conditions between 6000 and 7000 feet. Running downhill is definitely much easier than going up!
The last mile on the way down the road wasn’t slippery anymore, so I ran as fast as I could. Stoked to run a new downhill PR, 1 mile in 4:37. Can’t wait to go back with a full running pack and a few friends soon.
This week I had an awesome 2 hour conversation with Roelof Veld, former Dutch marathon champion. He ran a 2:14 marathon in 1978, unbelievably fast. He had some great advice, like “drinking beer is an important part of training“, “running a fast marathon just comes down to starting fast, maintaining your fast pace and then speeding up at the end” and “the most important part of it all is to have a lot of fun doing it“.
At his peak, Roelof trained 12 times a week, for example Monday – Friday 5miles / 8k in the morning and around 12 miles / 19k at night, then Intervals on Wednesday and a 2 hour run on Saturday. Many of his runs were at a low Heart Rate. There were no Heart Rate monitors in 1978, so he would count his own HR directly after completing a trainings run or interval.
He’d train for 2 fast marathons a year, each had a training cycle of about 4 months to prepare. His peak training weeks were around 124 miles / 200k. There were 3 building weeks, then 1 step back week. For example:
– week 1 = 75 miles / 120 k
– week 2 = 81 miles / 130 k
– week 3 = 87 miles / 140 k
– week 4 = 81 miles / 130 k
– week 5 = 87 miles / 140 k
– week 6 = 93 miles = 150 k
An example of his interval training:
– 20 x 400m @ 70-72 seconds, with 200 meter (1 minute) recovery, or
– 10 x 1000m @3:10 – 2:45 minutes, with 400 meter recovery
Sport heros Roelof Veld en Egbert Nijstad. Photographer unknown.
In 1978 Roelof won the Dutch Championship marathon in a time of 2:14:02, this was also a new Dutch record. Currently he is an active consultant for the Dutch Athletics Union, a sports association committed to the development of the sport of running in the Netherlands. It was a pleasure meeting him and an eye opener to hear about his training approach.
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A few years ago I was hiking in Sequoia National Park with my family. Right when we started our hike we saw 2 snakes which made me extra alert to the fact that they were around. I was walking in front with my wife and parents behind me on a single track trail. The trail made a pretty steep left turn against a rock wall that was head high and out of no-where from the left a rattlesnake striked at me from about 2 feet away.
Photo by Jimmy Dean Freeman
I FREAKED OUT and within a split second I jumped to the right, the snake moved quickly from the rock onto the trail. I thought he was going after me, so I got up and fell again, this time almost down the steep side of the trail. Luckily I came out with no injuries but it definitely scared me.
In the past few years of hiking and running trails, I’ve encountered about 10 snakes, including a few poisonous rattlesnakes. I run a lot of trails solo in the middle of nowhere, so I wanted to figure out exactly what to do if a snake bites me on a remote trail?
Photos by me, Floris Gierman
Below is a summary of things I’ve learned about first aid for snake bites after talking to the Snake Bite Poison Line (1-800-222-1222 available 24/7), after doing my own online research and after posting my snake questions on Reddit Running. The best info came from Jordan Benjamin, a herpetologist specialized in venomous snakes. I’m just sharing this info because it might help you one day:
• No first aid is much better than performing bad first aid. Don’t cut at or around the site of the bite, don’t compress the bitten limb with a cord or tight bandage, don’t attempting to extract or neutralize venom using electricity, fire, permanganate, salt, black stones, mouths, mud, leaves, etc.
• All Snake Bite Kits are dangerous and should not be used. This was also confirmed by the Snake Bite Poison Line.
• A lot of snake bite patients injure themselves by panicking directly after a snake bite, by tripping over a rock or tree trunk, or by falling off the side of the trail. Staying calm is important! After a snake bite, walk about 20-30 feet away from the snake.
• Find a safe place to sit down asap. The venom can rapidly diffuse into your system, this can drop your blood pressure too low to pump all the way to your head while standing. Sitting down reduces your chance of fainting within the first few minutes. If you faint, it shouldn’t be more than a few minutes.
• Remove any rings, watches, tight clothing and anything else from the bitten limb, because the swelling will make it a lot bigger soon.
• Take 5 minutes to calm down and plan your evacuation. The only effective treatment for a snake envenomation is the right anti-venom to neutralize it.
• Do not wait for symptoms to appear if bitten. It’s important to get in touch with emergency personnel as soon as possible to get you to a hospital. If you have a cell phone and service, great, call 911 or the Park Ranger. If there is no service, think about the last time you had phone service.
• A sharpie can be a great help for emergency personnel to assess the severity of your snakebite. Circle the location of your snake bite and write down the time next to it. Draw a circle around the border of the swelling and write down the time. Write down all the things you’re experiencing that are not normal, with the time next to it. Examples are: metallic taste in your mouth, changes to sense of smell, sudden loss of vision, double vision, visual disturbances, ringing in the ears, headache, nausea and vomiting, bleeding from anywhere, dizziness, shortness of breath, etc. The most common signs and symptoms are pain and swelling.
• Update this info every 15 or 30 minutes as the swelling moves up the limb and your symptoms develop.
• Make contact via cell phone. If this is not possible, walk slowly to get help. Drink some water and take some calories if you have any. Some snake bite victims walk several miles after serious snake bites to their legs. They make it out fine because they made it out to medical care. This is much better than waiting for help if you can’t reach anyone. Don’t let the fear of “raising your heart rate and increasing the speed of venom circulation” prevent you from moving to get to care. Be very cautious about driving yourself to a hospital, since some bites have serious side effects that could suddenly limit your ability to drive.
Photo by Eric Compton
Preventing a snake bite is obviously better than dealing with a snake bite. Here are a few ways to reduce the risks of snake bites while trail running:
• Be aware that there could be snakes where you’re running.
• Watch where you’re placing your feet, be extra aware on rocky, sunny areas, pockets of leaves and logs across the trail. If you’re off trail, the odds go up because there are more rocks and cracks and less people to scare the snakes away. Watch out when running through tall grass and weeds.
• Step on a rock or log, not over it. This way you can spot a snake that may be sheltering under it and take action quickly.
• Watch out when sitting down on a rock or tree stump, you might be sitting on a snake.
• Don’t try to chase the snake off the trail, this is why most people get bit by snakes.
• Don’t run with headphones on trails, or have at least 1 earbud out.
• Snakes tend to be near water, especially if it’s in a dry environment. If you’re near a spring or river, keep an extra eye out.
• Since snakes are cold-blooded, they’d like to come out when it’s warm and sun themselves on rocky areas or trails. They like to be on the edge of a sunny patch. If you come across a sunny patch, your encounter chances increase.
• Most venomous snakes in the US rest during the day. The chances of running into one are higher in the mornings and early evenings, when their activity might be a bit higher.
• In the spring, after snakes have hibernated together, the frequency of sightings goes up. In the fall, when they retreat to a hiding place to spend the cold winter months, they are on the go, so higher chances to encounter a snake. Most snake bites occur between April and October.
Photo by Chris Gilbertson
Things to bring on your trail runs that help with a snake bite:
Getting bitten by a snake can be deadly, especially if you’re on your own on a remote trail. The following story is a good explanation of how a snake bite would feel: I Should Be Dead. Each year, about 8,000 venomous snake bites occur in the US and about 5 of those people die. You’ve got a good chance of survival if you seek medical attention immediately.
To summarize: try to stay calm, sit down, remove anything tight, document your situation, contact help
Last Saturday, June 21, 2014, was my first 100-mile run attempt, from Long Beach to San Diego. This was a solo run, without any crew, pacers or aid stations. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life, with a lot of ups and downs. Last week I wrote a post about How I Trained for My First 100 Mile Run, so I’ll skip that part. Below is a recap of my first 100-mile experience. My Strava run details can be found here.
I started my run at 2AM in Downtown Long Beach. My plan was to run all the way south, mostly by the coast, to reach San Diego. Cities in between would include Huntington Beach, Newport Beach, Corona Del Mar, Crystal Cove, Laguna Beach, Dana Point, San Clemente, Camp Pendelton, Oceanside, Carlsbad, Encinitas, Solona Beach and Del Mar.
I brought along a Go Pro camera, so you’ll get to experience first hand what happened on this adventure. Here is a 9 minute recap video, sorry its pretty long, but I couldn’t leave out more clips without painting a good overall picture of this adventure.
Below is a detailed breakdown of the distance and progress at each city along the way. A mile by mile breakdown can be found on my Strava.
10 miles / 16k in 1 hour 21 min – Huntington Beach
15 miles / 24k in 2 hours – Huntington Beach Pier
20 mile / 32k in 2 hours 46 min – Newport Beach
26.2 miles / 42k in 3 hours 40 min – Crystal Cove ** HR higher than I expected
30 miles / 48k in 4 hours 14 min – Laguna Beach
35 miles / 56k in 5 hours – Monarch Beach ** Feels like I’m just getting started
40 miles / 64k in 5 hours 43 min – Dana Point
43.5 miles / 70k in 6 hours 18 min – San Clemente
48 miles / 77k in 7 hours – San Onofre ** Feeling Rough
50 miles / 80k in 7 hours 17 min – San Onofre ** Half way point!
55 miles / 88.5k – Camp Pendelton ** Able to run 5 good miles
61 miles / 98k – Camp Pendelton ** I underestimated this
62.6 miles / 101k in 9 hours 23 min – Camp Pendelton ** Lowest I’ve ever been in running
68 miles / 109k in 10 hours 37 min – Oceanside ** last few miles rough, walking running
71 miles / 114k in 11 hours 22 min – Carlsbad ** Happy!
79 miles / 127k in 13 hours 5 min – Encinitas ** Playing game with myself
85.6 miles / 138k in 14 hours 44 min – Del Mar ** I’m running again!
90 miles / 145k in 16 hours – University of San Diego ** Made it to San Diego!
98.7 miles / 159k in 17 hours 33 min – San Diego ** Ouch ouch a curb, nearly there!
100 miles / 161k in 17 hours 47 min – San Diego Finish ** That was a long one!
Detailed mile by mile breakdown with Heart Rate data on my Strava
3 LESSONS LEARNED
Lesson 1: Pace Yourself, slow down!
Running 100 miles is a long way. During my Long Beach Marathon and Avalon 50 mile race, I held back at the beginning and slightly regretted afterwards that I didn’t start faster. For this 100 mile run, I projected to run 8:15 min / mile at the beginning and finish with 9:45 min / mile + some walk breaks + water stops. I ran the first 50 miles too fast, in only 7 hours 17 minutes. I was overconfident and thought I could keep that pace up, but my legs were pretty beat with 50 miles to go. Then mile 50 – 100 took me 10 hours 30 minutes, more than 3 hours slower than the first half. Don’t start too fast, if you try to shave off 1 minute early on in an Ultra marathon, it might cost you 5 minutes later in your run. My friend Jimmy warned me about this in advance and I had to experience this for myself.
Lesson 2: Sugar and Caffeine will bring you back alive!
Taking in enough gels, food, water and electrolyte / salt pills is absolutely crucial. In this ultra run preparation, metabolic efficiency was an important part of my training. I’m able to burn body fat very well for energy, however sugar is still a very important fuel source as well. After 50 miles I got sloppy with my Gu Gel intake every 30 minutes and instantly noticed my performance go downhill, energy levels decrease, Heart Rate increase etc. I hit my lowest points at mile 62.7 / 101k and mile 82 / 132k when my glucose levels were depleted. As soon as I drank a Coke, it was if a curtain was lifted. Within 5 minutes I had energy again, my legs felt better and I could continue running again. I had never experienced this before. Next time I’d drink a Coke much earlier on.
Lesson 3: You can achieve the unachievable
A few years ago when I ran my first marathon, I thought I was going to die at mile 20. I never thought it would be possible to run further than a full marathon, 26.2 miles. One day in 2013, after several months of training, I ran 28 miles, another day 35 miles and eventually 50 miles. When I decided to run my first 100 miler, it was a big jump up from 50 miles, however I’ve become less scared to aim beyond what I’m capable of.
The ‘unknown’ makes a lot of people feel uncomfortable and scared. Ask yourself, what am I really afraid of? When you hear your answer out loud, it is often because of uncertainty, and in most cases you don’t have to be afraid of this unknown. Aim beyond what you’re capable of and ignore where your abilities end, amazing things will happen!
Running such a massive distance was a great experience and I’m glad I did it. Thank you for the motivation and inspiration Jimmy Dean Freeman, Kate Martini Freeman, Coyote friends and Trail Runner Nation crew. It’s been 5 days since my run and my body is still very sore, but it’s starting to feel better. My energy levels will stay low for a few weeks. The impact on your body and energy levels is heavy with a long recovery period.
I enjoy running fast on both road and trails. I don’t have any desire at this point to run another 100 miler, however I could see myself run another 50 miler one day because I can run a much faster pace than a 100 mile run. My next race will be the Boston Marathon in April 2015, I’d like to run it in 2 hours 45 minutes.
In July I’m moving to Holland with my wife and daughter until early November. We’ll hang out with family and run our online businesses Aika Collective and Love vs Design from there.
I’ve started writing an e-book about Running Faster with Less Effort. Also, I’ll be posting several other running articles on this blog in the next few months.