Since November, I’ve been training very intensely for the LA Marathon on March 9th, 2014. It will be my third running at LA and special for a number of reasons, namely because 1) LA was my first marathon back in 2009, 2) It falls exactly on my birthday this year and 3) I’ll be raising money for The White Heart Foundation in honor of my grandfather who is a WWII Vet and all other veterans, especially those injured in the line of fire. I’ve also had the best marathon build-up for this one, despite numerous polar vortices in Chicago!
Not only have I been able to train almost like a professional athlete, thanks to the incredible studio I’m apart of at Sweat on State, I actually had the opportunity to do some Anti-Gravity training down the street at Athletico. For the past two weeks, I’ve worked with the manager of the Gold Coast Athletico, Adam Wille, PT, MSPT, to train on the facility’s AlterG G-Trainer. To use the G-Trainer, athletes or recovering patients put on a pair of shortie wetsuit bottoms which seal their lower body into an inflatable pod on top of a Woodway treadmill. The treadmill then calibrates the athlete’s weight and gradually inflates the bubble. Once calibrated, athletes can use the onscreen controls to select a certain percentage of their body weight at which to run, from 100% down to 20%. For example, a 200-lb. person could choose to run at 80% of their body weight to see what it would feel like to race at 160-lbs. When combined with an HR monitor, power output and rate of perceived exertion (RPE), the machine is very useful in determining ideal racing weight and power-to-weight ratio.
At my first session on Friday, February 14th, I spent about 10-15-minutes warming up once I was inside the pod and experimenting at different percentages, taking it all the way down to 50 or 60% of my body weight, which feels like you’re running on the moon! I decided to run a 4-mile time trial at 92% of my body weight (in my case about 180-lbs). My goal was to gauge how running at nearly race-pace intensity would feel at a slightly lighter weight, with the ultimate goal of determining my racing weight. I was able to average nearly 6:30/mile pace for the duration of the time trial and felt pretty good. My rate of perceived exertion on a scale of 1-7 was about a 6 so I was very close to if not right at race pace.
AlterG training session #2 was this past Friday, February 21st, and after a 2-mile warmup, I did a 10K time trial (6.2-miles), again at 92% of my body weight. I ran my fastest 10K, with a time of 40:45. I began the TT at a 7:20/mile pace and dialed down my pace to below 6:30/mile pace during the first 2-3-miles. By mile 4 I was running at 6:22/mile and mile 5 was nearly 6:15/mile. I closed the last 1/4- to 1/2-mile of the TT at close to 6:00/mile pace! My heart rate was almost 190bpm by the end of it and I was extremely close to my threshold. This session was at the end of a very heavy week and two days before doing Clovis Hero WOD (10-mile Run + 150 Burpee Pull-ups).
Athletico and Adam Wille work with the Chicago Bears and Bulls and just about every other professional sports team in this city, dancers, endurance athletes and have helped thousands of other Chicagoans rehab injuries and get back on their feet as fast as possible! I’m grateful to partner with them during my training for the LA Marathon and appreciate their support. Thanks, Adam and your Team at Athletico Gold Coast! I’m looking forward to working with you in the future.
It was a marathon of many firsts, not the least of which was the fact that my longest training run was 8 miles. The past six months have held a lot of changes for me including moving home to Tennessee from LA, changing my career and switching my training style. After overtraining and peaking too soon for Hawai’i Ironman last year, I knew I needed to change something, especially my running. As soon as I moved home in December I looked into running Nashville’s Country Music Marathon in late April. I also began to dabble in CrossFit training at the encouragement of my dad and sister who are very competitively involved in the sport. When I ran a 1:33 half marathon at LA 13.1 in January with only a couple weeks of CrossFit training under my belt, I knew I was onto something. And so it began.
I was rebuilding my body from the volume-based, long-slow-distance-training accustomed body that I’d been inhabiting since leaving the gym years ago to focus on endurance sports. The American model of endurance sports is that an athlete starts with volume (be that running, biking, swimming or rowing, etc.), then adds intensity (via track intervals or sprints) and only looks at technique at the end (if at all). Most endurance sports are not looked at as technique-based activities so learning “how to run” before adding volume, for example, is largely overlooked. There is also virtually no focus is on weight training or full range of motion flexibility. With nothing to lose, I was determined to experiment.
I began doing CrossFit workouts 4-5x per week and running just 3x per week. The CF workouts were constantly varied and some days they included building up to heavy back squat, deadlift or clean & jerk. The run workouts were solo time trials, hard tempo runs, intervals and Tabata runs (20s hard/10s easy for 4min). Despite the low volume, my 10K times stayed about the same (42-43 minutes for a solo TT) and I PR’d my 5K in 19:46. I also felt as strong as I ever have with my mile times.
I got my CrossFit Level 1 Trainer Certificate in early March and then took the CrossFit Endurance course a week later (taught by BMack himself, Brian Mackenzie, the founder of CrossFit Endurance!), which increased my confidence that I could actually CrossFit my way to running a marathon in a respectable time. I also began to implement Pose Running, which is a more efficient way to run, used by elite runners from Usain Bolt to Haile Gebrselassie (Olympic marathon and distance runner). [I’ll discuss Pose Running in a future post.]
I was not able to build up to as long of a run as I wanted to before the race, but I was confident that I would at least be able to finish. I kept thinking of a good friend of mine who had run a 4-hour marathon just off of CrossFit training. But, I did my best to go into the race with no expectations and simply be my own guinea pig in this experiment.
I can’t say that I was very nervous in the weeks before the race, just excited to see what would happen. I was feeling a little pressure because I was very keen to see this strategy show signs that it was working so I could feel a bit more confident and continue building upon it for future races.
I generally try to get in my last hard workout about 9-10 days out from a race so I worked up to a heavy back squat on Thursday, April 18 and then did a pretty intense 20-minute WOD consisting of 6 movements at a 21-15-9 rep scheme (HSPU, Power Clean @ 135#, Sit-up, Front Squat @ 135#, C2B Pull-up). After that day until the race I began my taper and did not do anything more than about a 10-minute workout and I included two or three rest days as well.
I was feeling kind of tired and rundown for two or three days before the marathon and that’s when I did start to get a little anxious about whether I’d be able to do this. I got pretty fired up again when I went to the expo on Thursday afternoon and was also partially relieved because the weather looked like it would be nice and cool, albeit raining, on the Saturday of the race. I definitely much prefer cold and rainy over hot sun and 80°+ with humidity, though, as this race has been known to be in years past.
I got over nine hours of sleep on Thursday night and then Friday afternoon was spent relaxing and taking a short nap. I really could not sleep very well on Friday night and don’t think I got more than 4 to 5 hours of sleep before my alarm went off at 4:15 AM. After a breakfast of five eggs on a bed of spinach, an avocado and a banana, I hit the road in the midst of a torrential downpour by 5:15!! pre-race jitters were in full force at this point but I was excited to see what my body and mind could do today. Stay tuned for Part 2 with the race recap.