Pace Points: You’re ready to run, now what should you wear?

I’m getting really excited because this Saturday is the kick-off of the Marathoner In Training (MIT) 2012 Winter/Spring Session! If you’re new to my blog and don’t know, MIT is my passion! It was created here in Columbus in 2000 by a group of individuals who wanted to pursue their passion for running. Since then, MIT has grown to become one of America’s foremost leaders in endurance training. Today, MIT utilizes 45 dedicated coaches and trains runners and walkers from all levels of experience towards the successful completion of their goal race. MIT is not just for marathon training, whether your goal is a 5K, half or full marathon or even a multi-sport event, MIT will provide comprehensive training in a supportive atmosphere that will enable you to meet your goals and make plenty of friends along the way.

I trained with MIT in the summer of 2009 and went from being inactive to completing my first half marathon with my friend and training buddy Chrissy. Since then, I have made countless friends and companions through MIT, some of who have helped carry me though one of the darkest times in my life. Now, running has become my lifestyle and the people I train with have become my family.

I can’t wait to welcome all of the new faces (and welcome back the old) at our first workout on Saturday! This year, I am once again coaching the 13 minute per mile group with co-coaches Duane and Judi. We have a lot of great things in store for our runners, and I know I will have awesome stories to share with you.

Part of my job as a Pace Coach is to help newer runners find and navigate the wealth of information that exists about running and answer questions. I also hope to blog about some of this information in hopes that it can offer advice to my readers and followers.

So, without further ado, let’s get this thing going!

One of the most common questions asked by cold-weather runners is what to wear for your workout. Below are some tips that I have found helpful to dressing smart for wintery workouts.

One of the most important things to remember is not to overdress. Even though it is going to get cold outside and snowy, you should keep in mind to dress as of it is 15 – 20 degrees warmer outside than it actually is. You should be a little chilly outside when you first start running. If you are hot before you even leave the house or take a step, you are overdressed. A lot of mornings, I will get dressed to run and then take my dogs out. If I am warm just walking to the yard, I have on too much!

To stay warm and dry in winter weather conditions, be sure to dress in layers of breathable fabrics. Do not wear cotton – it is not breathable and holds in moisture. When you sweat, the moisture stays against skin, potentially making you uncomfortable and cold. Instead, you want to wear what are referred to as technical fabrics. These are breathable fabrics that wick perspiration and moisture away from the skin. You should look for fabrics that are 100% Polyester or otherwise described as “wicking” or “technical.”

It is also important to dress in thin layers. This allows moisture to be removed from the bottom layers and away from the skin, keeping you warm and dry. Dressing in layers also allows for freedom of movement when you are running and you can remove the outer layers if you do get too warm. In terms of the top half of your body, the minimalist approach is the way to go, especially with milder temperatures like we have been experiencing. For example, you may wear a long sleeve technical shirt and then a windbreaker or similar running jacket. You can find technical fabrics at specialty running shops or regular department stores like Target, Old Navy and Kohls. Champion makes a good, inexpensive technical line with a variety of styles that you can experiment with if you are just starting out. In terms of the bottom half, leggings or tights can be beneficial because they are not too suffocating and allow for increased freedom of movement. I have a pair of Brooks thermal running pants if it is going to be extremely cold outside. You do not generally need to layer up on pants because it can be cumbersome. Keep in mind to look for technical bottoms as well.

Also, don’t neglect your feet! I highly recommend getting fitted at a specialty running shop for footwear. I shop at Fleet Feet Columbus. Generally, a running store staff is experienced at assessing your gait, pronation and running form to fit you in a pair of shoes that will keep you not only running comfortable, but help to keep you running injury-free. In addition, you should wear technical (non-cotton!) socks to keep your feet warm and dry when running through snow and water. You should not double up on wearing socks, which can cause chaffing and blistering. Ladies, I have also found it beneficial to get fitted for a sports bra, which most running shops can also do.

You may also want to wear a light pair of gloves; many runners prefer the fingerless type so they can still use their hands without too much hassle.  I found fingerless gloves at Target in the dollar bin and bought a bunch of pairs. It’s great because I tend to lose them or ruin them and for $1, I don’t have to worry about it.

A hat, ball cap or headband that covers your ears is also beneficial in winter weather to keep you warm and keep moisture out of your face and eyes. In the case of extreme cold (less than 40 degrees) be sure to cover your head with a breathable hat and wear gloves because you lose most of your body heat through your extremities. If it is windy, you may want to invest in a neck gator to keep the wind off your face. You can also put Vaseline on your skin (around your mouth, nose and cheeks) to keep from wind chafing.

As with many topics in running, it’s all about what works for you! Try different things during your various runs to find the combination of clothing and footwear that you prefer.

Happy winter running, friends!

Until the next mile marker,

Now What Do You Do?

Congratulations! You’ve crossed the Finish Line of your very first half marathon. You trained for weeks – months even – and now you are done. You savor your triumph. It is not every day someone runs a half marathon, after all. You wear your medal to work, in the car; you may even sleep in it. Go ahead! After all, you earned it! Your hours and hours of hard work, training, eating smart and running have paid off into one fantastic race day.

And now it’s over. Just like that.

Now what should you do?

Recovery has to be an integral part of your training, and it begins the moment you cross the finish line. You must recover so that you can run and race again.

Take the first five or ten minutes after you cross the finish line and keep moving with easy walking – this can easily be the time it takes you to walk through the chute, collect your belongings and meet up with your family and friends. Walking at an easy pace allows the body to come down more gradually and circulates blood back to normal distribution quantities and regions on your body. It prevents fainting and blood pooling in the legs that occurs if you immediately sit down post race. It also allows your body to process the lactic acid that builds up during the race.

While you’re walking, start drinking the first liquids that are put into your hands. Keep drinking (small sips) even if you feel nauseated, you need to replace the fluids your body has lost. Sipping water is fine, but make sure you find a recovery drink such as Gatorade or fruit drinks to replace your body’s glycogen stores. Avoid diet soft drinks and alcohol – they do not offer any benefits to your body. I like to drink Chocolate Milk because it offers the perfect ratio of carbs to protein (4:1) for recovery.

After your walk, get off your feet! Sit down – or better yet – lie down and prop your feet up, easing the flow of blood to the heart. Many runners even stretch (gently to avoid further trauma to the muscles) horizontally. Your body will let you know what feels good.

Within an hour after your finish, you need to start thinking about eating some solid foods. A banana is beneficial because it is soft and easily digestible, plus provides extra potassium to your cells. They are my favorite post-race food as a matter of fact – I get upset when they are not available so I started carrying one or two in my bag just in case. As you progress throughout your day, start eating balanced food again. You need to replace the glycogen your body has burned. A 150 pound runner needs about 300 calories an hour to effectively replace lost glycogen stores.

When you get home (or back to your hotel) you may want to take an ice bath to relieve sore muscles and start returning your body to a normal body temperature. Take a cool shower instead of a hot one to further decrease muscle inflammation. Within 24 to 48 hours, you may want to get a gentle massage to help push waste products out of the body and regenerate healthy blood flow.

Next, take a nap or at least try to, for a couple of hours. I never have a problem with this. I could sleep all day after a race, but after three or four hours, you need to eat again – this time a full meal. Your first post-race meal should resemble your last pre-race meal. You need carbohydrates and protein. I usually crave a steak after a marathon or half marathon, and I make sure to pair it with extra bread, potatoes or pasta to make sure I am consuming adequate carbs. Remember, even high carbohydrate diets have some  protein in them, so don’t be afraid to eat the meat!

So, what about running? The most common post-marathon mistake is resuming training too soon.

Take one week off running and let your body heal. Research indicates that recovery is speeded and conditioning is not affected if you rest for 7 to 10 days after your race. Yes, take one week off running. Although the stiffness subsides in a few days, there is still internal healing happening and running too soon increases the chance of an injury down the road.

After your week off, you can begin cross-training easy for 20-30 minutes during the week and focus on flexibility, if you feel like you need to be active. Cross-training will also help to increase circulation to the healing muscles without major impact and pounding.  Gradually increase your mileage similar to a reverse taper. Start back running limiting the weekly mileage to only 25% of what it was before taper started. The next week go to 50%, then 75%, then back to full mileage. The general rule of thumb is to take one day for every mile to run easy and not race. Meaning, take 13 days of easy running before racing or running hard again.

To summarize: Drink plenty of fluids, carbo-load after the race (as well as before), and don’t start running again too soon.

The bottom line? You know your body best. If you are experiencing aches and pains or sore, take more time to rest. If you get sick, this is not uncommon since your immune system has taken a severe hit, rest until you are better. Listen to your body, recovery is important to keep you running happy and healthy for a long time to come.

Another important part of post-marathon healing is recovering your mental health, yet is one of the aspects of training that people do not seem to talk about very much. You may experience not only physical, but mental fatigue if not mild depression. This is a normal part of racing! Not much can be done except for you to understand it is normal, sleep more if you can and don’t exert yourself physically or mentally. Many scientists believe this mild state of depression is a result of depletion of neurotransmitters in the brain.

There is a wealth of information about post-marathon recovery. Two of my favorites are The Lore of Running by Tim Noakes, MD and Marathon: The Ultimate Training Guide by Hal Higdon. You can find a great deal of information and apply it to your specific situation.

Until the next mile marker, 

Final Race Day Preparations

On Sunday, October 16th the Lucky13’s will be running the Columbus Marathon. For many in our group, it is their first half (or full) marathon! I know the anxiety and excitement has been building all week. Even I have had trouble sleeping because I am anxious (not to mention fighting a cold). Yes, this will be my 7th half marathon and I still get extremely nervous. For tips on relaxation (read: how to avoid a freak-out) check out this post. 

It is not uncommon to feel a great deal of anxiety this week and to feel wound up. It is important to relax, though. Worry and tension create fatigue and sometimes illness. So, make sure you take some time this week to do whatever most relaxes you. I remember being completely terrified for my first half marathon, nearly unable to function (I’m really not kidding), but looking back there was no need to stress myself out so much. I followed the same training plan as you and I made it through – it was the single greatest accomplishment of my life thus far. I have no doubts that you will also look back on your race with fond and proud memories.

Remember these three things, if nothing else:

  1. HAVE FUN – It’s what brought us all together in the first place!
  2. RUN YOUR OWN RACE – We’re not in it to win it. Our victories come from achieving what others may have said we couldn’t
  3. HAVE CONFIDENCE IN YOUR TRAINING AND IN YOU – You can do this. I have every confidence in you. You are prepared. You are ready. You will succeed! I, for one, believe in each and every one of you.

That being said, here are a few helpful (I hope!) hints to keep you ready for YOUR day!

Two Days Before the Race (Friday):

  • Start your carbo-loading and hydrating as if you were preparing for any normal long run.
  • Get to the Expo on Friday or Saturday to pick up your packet. If you are like me and get panicked easily, you may want to pick your packet up on Friday or even early Saturday. There will be fewer crowds on Friday night and you won’t have to go out on Saturday if you do not want to.
  • Get plenty of sleep Friday night.
  • You do not need to run on Friday. If you feel like you need to loosen-up or burn off some excess anxiety, a short walk is often beneficial. If you do decide to run, keep it slow and short. Two miles should be the most you run. 

The Day Before the Race (Saturday):

  • Try to keep off your feet as much as possible. Again, you do not need to run. I typically choose not to run the day before a big race.  
  • Increase your hydration. Keep water with you all day and drink it constantly. By now you know there is nothing worse than feeling dehydrated on a long run.
  • Eat fairly early on Saturday evening. I often have stomach issues due to anxiety the night before a big race so I like to eat early just in case.  
  • Carbo-load (but don’t carbo-overload) and do not eat fiber rich foods. Again, prepare for the race as you would for any other long run.
  • Get all your gear packed and ready before you go to bed, including pinning your bib number on your shirt. I thought this was trivial until the one time I didn’t do it and then I was flustered trying to get my bib on while walking to the corrals.
  • Go to bed early. Even if you can’t fall asleep right away, your body needs to rest!
  • Set an extra alarm clock just in case. 

Race Day (Sunday):

  • This is the day you have been working hard for and looking forward to! Enjoy it! Have fun! Relish every moment because you only get one first race.
  • Don’t do anything new on race day! This is not the time to experiment with your food, drink, clothes, shoes, socks, etc.
  • Eat your normal pre-long run breakfast. If you think you may be hungry before the start of the race (or have a significant amount of time to wait), bring a snack with you. I sometimes eat a half a banana after I have had breakfast and about 30 minutes before the race. Again, if you don’t normally do this – don’t try it on race day. 
  • Continue to hydrate!
  • The weather will be cool on Sunday morning (low 50’s). Consider wearing on old sweatshirt or long sleeve shirt to the start line that you can pitch once the race starts. Some people come to the start line dressed in a garbage bag to stay warm. Do not plan to run in long pants or long sleeves; it will be too warm for that (mid 60’s). We will be in the corrals about 25-30 minutes before the start of the race. After the start of the race, we may have an additional 5 – 10 minutes to wait before we begin. You want your muscles to be warm while you are waiting.
  • Plan to start out slower than normal. It is very easy to get caught up in the flow and excitement of the race and start out too fast. You want to conserve your faster pace for the second half of the race if you are feeling great – not at the beginning. My confidence has been shot a time or two by mile four because I darted out of the gate (like a race horse) and felt horrible later. If you feel comfortable with the pace at the beginning, then you are most likely going TOO FAST.
  • Make your adjustments early. This includes adjusting your fuel belt, tying your shoe, fixing a sock, stretching, going to the bathroom etc. etc. If you have to slow down or move to the side and fix what is bothering you, do so early on. It won’t take that much time. Remember, 13.1 (or 26.2) miles are a long way to go with something irritating you. I have stopped to stretch out a muscle and even use the porta-john early on in the race and felt much better after doing so. 

“A marathoner is a marathoner regardless of time. Virtually everyone who tries the marathon has put in training over months, and it is that exercise and that commitment, physical and mental, that gives meaning to the medal, not just the day’s effort, be it fast or slow.  It’s all in conquering the challenge.” 

-Mary R. Wittenberg, president, New York Road Runners Club

Until the next mile marker, 

It’s Taper Time!

You’ve heard the talk and noticed a mileage decrease in your schedule – we’re tapering! But, what exactly does thatmean? I had no idea when I first started training. Taper means you need to run less and rest more. The taper period generally varies depending on what distance you are training for and ranges from two weeks for half marathoners and three weeks for marathoners. In fact, the final weeks before your goal race are the most important in any training program.  

But wait! You’ve been running hard for monthsand now you are supposed to back off right before the big day? How could that possible help you finish the race? While the idea of easing up on your miles and intensity so close to race day seems counter-intuitive to many runners, tapering is a part of any solid marathon training plan.

Still, there are undoubtedly many runners who continue to train hard up to the day of their race. This is mostly due to a fear of losing their recently obtained fitness level. What most people don’t realize is that in those last few weeks it’s the rest more than the work that makes you strong. During your weeks of taper, you will not lose any of your fitness. Studies have actually concluded that your aerobic capacity, the best gauge of fitness, doesn’t change at all during this time period. The study also concluded that levels of muscle glycogen, enzymes, antioxidants, and hormones–all depleted by high mileage–return to optimal ranges during a taper. The muscle damage that occurs during sustained training is also repaired. Immune function and muscle strength improve, as well, which reduces the odds you’ll catch a cold or get injured just before the race. The average performance improvement by the subjects who tapered in these studies was 3 percent. That works out to 5 to 10 minutes in a marathon. 

The Lucky 13’s will be running what is for many their first half marathon on October 16th in Columbus. I, for one, am really excited to participate in the race and cheer them on – the race is sold out! So, how should we taper for the half marathon? I’ve outlined a plan below. For more information, including specifics on tapering for the full marathon, please visit

The Half Marathon: How to Taper

  • Limit your long run on the previous weekend to 8 or 10 miles, and cut your usual run distances in half the rest of the week. 
  • If you do any speed work in the last 3 to 6 days before a sub-marathon-distance race, make it only a third of a normal speed session.
  • Carbo-load in the last 3 days before a half-marathon if you wish, though it’s less crucial than it is for a marathon.
  • If you’re nervous in the days before a sub-marathon race, remind yourself that you can run another one in a few weeks if it doesn’t go well, the recovery time is significantly shorter than after running a full marathon. 

 Two Weeks Out:


  • Your mileage this week should be about half to two-thirds the amount you ran during your highest mileage week.
  • Almost all running should be slow (1 1/2 to 2 minutes slower than marathon goal pace) except for a 2 miles run in the middle of the week. Even this small amount of goal-pace running is important because it physically and mentally reinforces the pace you want to run on race day.
  • Weekday short runs should not exceed 5 miles.
  • Your weekend long run (1 week before the race) should be 8 to 10 miles. Any longer and your muscles may not be able to fully rebound before the race.
  • Set goals such as FINISHING, not walking, finishing strong, or simply enjoying yourself.
  • If you’ve been lifting weights as part of your training program, stop. Weight training at this stage of the game can’t help your race, but it can diminish your strength or cause an injury.  
  • Check the race Web site for race-morning particulars such as start time, and work out the details of how you’ll get to the start on marathon day. Logistics you’ll want to consider: where you’ll park; how early you want to arrive (an hour before start time is ideal); where you’ll stow your gear during the race.


  • Your mileage may be dwindling, but keep those calories coming in as usual. Your body still needs to repair tissue damaged during your mileage build-up. No dieting!
  • Even though you’re running less, resist the temptation to cut way back on fat. A reasonable proportion of dietary fat (30 percent of your daily calories) is beneficial because it can be accessed as a backup energy source when stored carbs are used up. Eat foods that are high in unsaturated fat, such as nuts or fish cooked in canola oil. Limit foods that are high in saturated fat and Trans fats, such as pizza and ice cream.

One Week Out:


  • Do no runs longer than 4 miles. And when you do head out, remember that these jaunts are more for your head than your body, because training has little effect this week.
  • Almost all running should be at 1 1/2 to 2 minutes per mile slower than marathon goal pace.
  • Three days before the race, run just 2 to 3 miles easy.
  • Two daysbefore the race, don’t run at all.
  • On the day before the race, jog 2 miles to take the edge off if you’re feeling pent-up energy so you’ll sleep better that night.


  • Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate! Your urine should look lemonade – look at it! Light yellow to clear is what you need to see.
  • Eat sensibly. Don’t change your normal eating habits or eat something new prior to the race. By now, you know what works and what doesn’t – save experimenting for your next training session.
  • If you are nervous, which is normal, remember to trust in your training. You’ve worked hard for this! You are a runner and, barring race-day injury, you will cross the Finish Line.
  • RELAX! Do your best to eliminate everyday stressors at work and home. Breathe in and out as slowly and deeply as possible, letting your belly expand as you inhale. Focus your attention on the breathing and any positive, calming image. If you’re too super-charged with energy to sleep, try this relaxation exercise. First tense, and then relax your muscles, one at a time, starting with the muscles in your face and working down to your toes. Sex can also help relax your mind and body. 

Enjoy the taper time – you’ve earned it! See you on race day.

Until the next mile marker,

Keeping the Pace: When the Going Gets Tough

The not-so-much what kind of ill-fated fortune could possibly befall us next and I’m just waiting for us to be struck down by a lightening bolt, don’t laugh, that really almost happened once Lucky 13’s have had our fair share of misfortune lately, or so it seems.  From injury to burnout to over-training to feeling depressed we’ve suffered through many heartaches and losses both on and off the running trails. It seems like for every victory we achieve or triumphant event that occurs, we get knocked back down the next time, even harder than before. One or more of us always seems to be struggling or downright hurting. Granted, it pulls us together as a team and has brought us closer than ever, but sometimes I just want to scream, “When is enough, enough already?!”

I’ve been thinking about why we seem to have so many problems
all right in a row and have concluded that, relatively speaking, we are all pretty “young” runners. I don’t think any of us have been running for more than three or four years. In the world of running – we might as well be newborns! In addition to that, I have only known these people for less than a year, yet I feel like I have known them all of my life. I forget that we just met in December of last year when something magical happened (truly) and we bonded like nothing I have ever seen before. One might surmise that God really does put people in your life for reasons you don’t understand until you need them. Just look at me. I wouldn’t have made it through these last few months without the support, encouragement, friendship and love of my running partners.

Yet, where does all of this leave us when the going gets tough? And believe me, it does and it will. With no truly veteran runners in our immediate group, it can be challenging to keep your head held high and set a good example when you’re struggling to get the miles in or keep the pace. It’s hard to tell someone else to keep it up when you feel like giving up yourself. It’s hard to find the energy to lead a group of 30 plus runners when you feel fatigued just thinking about running. I know I’ve been struggling this season, as well as several other leaders within our group.

Whether you are a novice runner or a runner who has been running for years, it can be difficult to stay motivated to run on a regular basis. It may start out slowly with skipping one or two runs here and there, but then progresses to rarely running at all. Factor in injury or strenuous life circumstances that prevent you from running and it can be downright disheartening to get back on your feet. We’ve all been there and if we haven’t, it’s only a matter of time before we are. Even professional athletes go through seasons in their running career and take periods of time to rest, reflect, relax and cross train. I remember my first training season I faced no burnout or injury or boredom – you mean there were others that did?! – and this season I seem to have struggled through more runs than not.

And it is precisely this struggle that makes us stronger – as runners and as human beings.

I like the way ultra-runner and bestselling author Dean Karnazes says it best:

Most people never get there. They’re afraid or unwilling to demand enough of themselves and take the easy road, the path of least resistance. But struggling and suffering, as I now saw it, were the essence of a life worth living. If you’re not pushing yourself beyond the comfort zone, if you’re not constantly demanding more from yourself—expanding and learning as you go—you’re choosing a numb existence. You’re denying yourself an extraordinary trip.


Dean has an impressive resume, to say the least. Heck, he’s even been dubbed the “Fittest Man on the Planet.” Dean has pushed his body and mind to inconceivable limits. He has raced and competed on all seven continents. Among his many accomplishments, he’s run a 135-mile ultra-marathon across Death Valley in 120-degree temperatures and a marathon to the South Pole in negative 40 degrees. He’s run a 200-mile relay solo, racing alongside teams of twelve, and has completed a 350-mile run. In 2006, he ran 50 marathons, in all 50 US states, in 50 consecutive days, finishing with the NYC Marathon, which he completed in three hours flat. And, all of that aside, Dean is passionate about healthy and active living and it is his compassion for helping others become the best that they can be that is his true gift.

So what makes him special? Besides the fact that he is super-human and has nothing to do all day but train. How can he run hundreds of miles at a time, but I fumble through 2.5 miles on any given day? Forget how his body holds up under so much stress, where is his brain when he is running hundreds upon hundreds of miles in less than ideal conditions?

When the going gets tough, Dean keeps going. 

And that is exactly what will make the Lucky 13’s stronger too.

We get out there and give it our best – and our best is always good enough. Whether it is one mile or 11 miles, we run what we can, we push through and we come out stronger on the other side. We support each other when we are down, ask for help and advice and know when to take it easy or when to persevere through the pain.

What I am learning is, for the Lucky 13’s right now, seeing the leaders of the group struggle and keep moving on – time on your feet, guys! – is exactly what a young group of runners need. It is not now and will not always be easy. We are not running Gods – far from it, in fact – and we have not reached some herculean level of athletic excellence. I for one know I never ever will! We are everyday people with jobs and families and stresses and problems and schedules and illness and injuries and groceries and cooking and cleaning and running errands and kids and school and projects and multiple passions.

Yet, we arerunners. We run because we can and even if we can for 5 hours one day and 5 minutes the next, we endure and we don’t give up. Because runner’s don’t give up, either. And when we see our leaders struggle and persevere and achieve great things, it inspires us to do the same.

And just like Dean, when the going gets tough, through the good times and the bad, the strength and the weaknesses, the fun and the pain, we keep going on this one, very extraordinary trip.

Until the next mile marker,