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My training these past few months are about to be tested, as my first race of the season is upon me. Tomorrow’s Snake River Half Marathon sounds like the perfect opportunity to see where my fitness level stands coming off a successful 2011 season and 2012 winter training fest. Since last fall, I’ve made what I consider to be a significant number of changes with the way I approach each day with regard for my workouts and training. I included a picture of the four biggest components that will affect the way I race tomorrow, all of them somewhat new to my racing mindset.

The Timex Run Trainer has probably afforded me the biggest training improvements I’ve witnessed in the past few months. Before I ruined my Garmin Forerunner by swimming in Bear Lake, I used it primarily for tracking my progress by feet and my effort by pace. The Timex has introduced to me a third way to evaluate my progress: heart rate. While it has served as a great indicator of my effort, it has also posed an incredible challenge—a significant pain in the butt. Don’t get me wrong: it’s a phenomenal tool, and I don’t know what I’d do without it, but I’ve come to realize my heart rate doesn’t lie. What shows on the screen is no fabrication of reality. One hundred seventy-three beats per minute is exactly that—173bpm. For me, this translates to a certain effort that may or may not be acceptable when considering the type of run I’m supposed to be running. Usually, it’s the wrong effort. In the end, I’ve learned more about my body from my Timex than I’ve learned by trying to judge my perceived exertion by feel. Tomorrow, I will use it to compare what I used to consider my “race pace” to what my heart rate monitor says it should be.

Everyone has a favorite energy source. I have experimented with a number of different products: Hammer, Powerbar, and even honey and baked potatoes. My body has settled with GU, a company that not only provides gels, but chews, electrolyte and recovery drinks as well. If it weren’t for the information and advice that Steve Anderson—Field Sales and Service Representative for GU—provided to me, I wouldn’t be as confident when I say that GU has demonstrated far superior quality in their products than other products I have tried. While everyone is entitled to their own opinions and beliefs—of course, everyone’s bodies respond differently to different foods—I have far fewer stomach upsets and much more energy for longer endurance events using GU than I did when I experimented with Hammer or Powerbar. I most often use the electrolyte tablets, gels, and chomps. Tomorrow I’ll be fueling through the race using GU gels…they haven’t let me down yet! For those interested in more information about GU and how to use it, you can visit the link below for more information. (I’m sure Steve wouldn’t mind if you contacted him with questions, too.) This article by Chris Carmichael provided some great suggestions regarding when and how to fuel using GU:

If the athletes you ask don’t have an opinion about energy, then they most definitely have an opinion about shoes. To be honest, I’ve been experimenting with different shoes for the last three years. I’ve always been a heavy pronator, a characteristic that encouraged my physical therapist to place me in orthodics at an early age. Having since began physical therapy school, I’ve used the last 2 years to defy my need for them and have slowly—I mean slowly—worked my way out of orthodics to more of a minimalist style of shoe. With stronger feet and a transformation to a different style of running, I believe this change has improved both my form and my speed. In addition, I struggle with fewer injuries as a result of teaching myself to land on my mid- to forefoot instead of my heels, thereby encouraging a softer landing with each footstep. Tomorrow, I’m testing out Saucony’s Guide 4s and their ability to carry me over 13.1 miles. I’ve never worn Saucony before starting this winter, so I’ll report back with an update!

Finally, my newest experiment revolves around the use of glutamine, a non-essential amino acid (meaning, the body makes it) whose stores become quickly depleted as a result of intense physical exercise (i.e. triathlon J). Matt Cusack recommended I consider using this supplement in order to bolster my immune system, especially after hard training efforts. Matt has done far more research than I have on the subject, and you can find more information about what he has found by following the link to his blog post, Some may be familiar with Recover Ease, a supplement that is very similar and works in much the same way. I’ve tried both, and while I have not experienced a difference (granted, more time and experimentation will give me a better idea of what I prefer), I hope taking several capsules post-race will help me recover faster and stave off any impending post-race cold that hopes to take advantage of a weakened immune system. Since I'm technically "training" through this race, I need whatever "support" I can get to make a 1.5-hour swim and 2.5 hour bike ride on Sunday possible, so…

Here’s to Snake River! Just please…a headwind going out would be so much more appreciated than tackling a head wind to the finish…


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