Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Hills

No, this isn't going to be about that MTV "reality" series. What I am talking about here is a workout all runners should incorporate into their training program. Hill repeats! With two of the toughest races on the Run & See Georgia Grand Prix Series coming up soon (The Brasstown Bald Buster 5K on 12/20 and The Hogpen Hillclimb on 1/16), this workout can really help to improve your performances.

Hill repeats are not designed to build speed specifically. This workout is for building strength. However, what you will probably discover is that building strength will lead to an increase in speed, also. A nice little bonus!

If you have not been doing hill repeats, you will want to start out slowly and build up (always a good philosophy for just about anything new). Find a hill with just a gradual slope (you can find steeper hills after you've gotten used to doing the easy ones). 100-200 meters is plenty to start with. For those of you who live in areas where there are few hills, you can use a bridge approach or even stadium steps (you may need to increase the repetitions).

First: warm up. Run easy for about ten minutes and then stop and stretch. If you are just starting out, break up the workout into sets. For example: 2 sets of 4 x 100-200 meters. The rule is "hard up and easy down." Run uphill easily enough to make it all the way without stopping, but hard enough so that you are breathing hard when you get to the top. Then jog down slowly enough so that your breathing has returned to normal by the time you get back down to the bottom of the hill. Then: repeat! End up the workout with an easy 10-20 minute run to cool down.

As you get used to doing hill repeats, you can make the workout harder by increasing the length of the hill, increasing the repetitions, or by increasing the difficulty (slope) of the hill. Just be sure that you aren't increasing too much, too soon. Do each workout at least once a week for a couple of weeks before making the workout any harder.

Unless you are trying to peak for a certain race and/or you are focusing on speedwork, I'd recommend doing hill repeats at least once a week. Do them early enough in the week so that you have time to recover before your next hard workout or race.

Try this workout for a few months and see if you don't notice an improvement in both your strength and your speed. And maybe Heartbreak Hill won't break your heart this year!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Running Through the Holidays

Does it seem like the holidays are being thrust upon us earlier and earlier? I had not even carved my pumpkin this year before I walked into a store to hear Christmas carols and see Christmas decorations. What happened to Thanksgiving?

On a long morning run on October 31st with a friend, she said “the rush starts tomorrow”. At the time I did not know what she meant, then, later that day was when I saw my first Christmas tree of the season, and I knew what she meant.

What does that mean to us runners? Well, it means that we don’t have to worry quite so much about Christmas cookies and sweet potatoes and dressing – with gravy. But it also means that we have to keep up our running schedules in spite of all of the hustle and bustle, on top of the usual hustle and bustle. Holiday parties, changes in schedules as kids are out of school, oh, and who can forget the shopping, wrapping and cooking!

But, if you are like the many who love to run late fall and winter longer distance runs, the last long runs are critical to having a great race. I know I have suffered through a Disney marathon in January when I “cheated” myself out of those last long runs because my schedule would not allow. I paid for it dearly at about mile 17 when it hurt more to walk than to run. I know I am not alone.

So, as we enter the downhill slide into the holidays, be sure to not only make holiday plans, but make running a priority. The holidays will take care of themselves.

And, let me be the first to put in a word for Thanksgiving that seems to have been skipped this year.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Cross Country Season in Full Swing

Fall is cross country season and middle school, high school and college cross country programs all over the state of Georgia are getting ready to enter (for some) the third month of competition. Some schools had their first meets at the end of August!

High school competition in Georgia runs until the first weekend in November, when the GHSA State Championships take place in Carrollton on Nov. 7 and there are meets every week until then, ranging from two-school duals to multi-team, multi-race events like The Mill Run Invitational taking place in Douglas County this weekend (Sept. 26). Thirty-six teams and over 1500 runners are scheduled to run in eight races (including the middle school races).

If you are a runner or just like to see good, clean, spirited competition, you should check out your local school's cross country schedule and attend one of their events. They would appreciate the support. And they would appreciate even more if you offered your help at some of the meets (meet directors hardly ever refuse volunteers!). And who knows... you may see a future Olympian or two!

You can find out more about Georgia high school cross country at gatfxc.com. Here you can check out a comprehensive schedule of meets, view team rosters, even read what runners, coaches and fans have to say on their bulletin board. If college cross country is more appealing to you, visit the college's athletic website and find out what's going on with your favorite team.

And if you are tired of pounding the pavement and want to find some trail races for yourself, check out the Race Calendar at GeorgiaRunner.com. There are several trail races of varying lengths offered during the year.

Happy trails to you!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Getting Hooked

It does not seem that long ago when I used to train for the Peachtree Road Race each year and then take the rest of the year off. Then, by accident at a local race, I placed in my age group. I will never forget the day I walked by the posted results and saw my name and later went up to the stage to collect my "hardware" as the more experienced runners called it. I was hooked. I began training for the next race, then the next distance. With each achievement, I learned that I could do it.

It is great running into a fellow runner, especially this time of year because you run into many first timers training for their first half marathon or marathon. There is an energy in the air because, as the weather gets cooler, and many runners are doing longer runs, and some are running distances that they have never run before. It is so exciting trying to describe to a first timer what it will feel like to reach the finish line when you never thought you could run that distance.

There are many different ways that runners get "hooked". The hardware is one, or a new race, distance or event, or the Run and See Georgia Grand Prix. When runners realize that by placing in the top twenty in their age group when they run a Run and See Georgia Grand Prix Race they get points. The points accumulate throughout the year and at the end of the year, the top twenty in each of 28 age groups awards, in addition to the top overall male and female point earner. You can always spot a serious Grand Prix competitor when they ask fellow runners their age or watch on turnaround race courses for others in their age group. Even if you are not competitive, it makes it a fun and a great way to meet other runners.

So, however you became "hooked" on running and forever long, I hope you find a new way to experience the joy of running this season.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Fall is in the Air

When I walked out the other morning to run, I felt a hint of fall in the air, even though the temperature got up to 90 degrees later in the day. The fall, for many, seems to be a kind of “new year”. A time to start over, get going on projects that they have let go over the summer or get back on track as they settle into their fall routine. For me, it reminds me to gear up my running to prepare for one of my favorite race distances – the half marathon.

After running 10K’s and feeling pretty confident with that distance, I set my sights on the half marathon distance, many years ago. Not knowing if I could ever run that far, I began to train. I will never forget finishing my first half marathon. Being a non-runner until my late 20’s, I never thought I could run a 5K, let alone 13.1 miles. It was such a great feeling of accomplishment. Now, 10 marathons later, and many more half marathons, I still love the half marathon the best. As I describe it, the distance is challenging, but you don’t feel like you want to die after it, like you sometimes do with a marathon.

If you have not attempted a half, now is the time to choose one of the wonderful races scheduled for the fall and begin your training. As the weather gets a bit cooler—well, maybe in the next few months – doing a long run in one of the many great running spots in Atlanta, really makes you appreciate our city. The Atlanta Half Marathon on Thanksgiving Day has always been an Atlanta running favorite, but there are many other half marathons that offer great courses and a chance to see a new part of Georgia. Check out the Locomotive Half Marathon on October 4th in Kennesaw. This is a first year for the event, but looks like it is going to be a great one, and a great way to get you ready for the Atlanta Half Marathon on Thanksgiving Day.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

My How Things Have Changed

As we get older, there are many things that happen that make us take notice of how fast the years pass. It is hard to believe that this year will mark the 40th running of the Peachtree Road Race. For avid Georgia runners, the Peachtree is a tradition – an annual event that we look forward to each year. But for those of us who have run the Peachtree year after year, it reminds us of how things are changing.

The first time I ran the Peachtree was with my brother as a teenager, when I was in college. Then as the years went by I ran with my husband, before he was my husband, before I had kids and I was a much faster runner. Now, my kids are almost old enough to run with me, which I hope will start another tradition of running the Peachtree or other races as a family.

But as I think back on when I used to stand on the Peachtree starting line with 25,000 other runners in my teens, it reminds me how time has flown. Now, there are 50,000 others on the start line and I have a teenager myself. How can that be!

The Peachtree is not the only Georgia running event that has become a tradition. The Run and See Georgia Grand Prix is another running tradition that has become a more than just a tradition. It is a community of runners – a family – who all run together and celebrate each year that includes birthdays, births of children, new running achievements, and gracefully moving into new age groups.

Although the milestone running anniversaries remind us that we are getting older, it is a great way to age – staying healthy and fit with a great group of friends who share the love of running.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Runners and Birthdays

Aging is a normal part of life. But for many of us, another birthday is something that we dread, especially the big ones- turning 40, 50, and 60. Even talking about age is not always comfortable. Many women, for instance, will not willingly tell their age.

But for runners, this is not the case. Not only do runners need to admit their actual age at each race, each passing year is something to look forward to – especially the birthdays that move us into another 5 year age group – 35, 45, 50, 55, and so on. Each new age group is a new chance to compete against a new group of runners. Being the youngest in the age group oftentimes gives you an added advantage if your prior age group was very competitive. And the “big” milestone birthdays that depress non-runners, runners look forward to, with the big “4-0” putting you into the master’s category and 50 the grand masters, which gives you a new chance to compete for an overall award in the masters division.

I remember recently standing next to a gentleman at the start of a marathon who was looking around to see if his “nemesis”, as he called him, was going to show up for the race. He told me that he was in the 70-75 age group and that in his age group he knew his competition by name because there was so few of them. He shared that he and his competitor took turns winning their age group depending on who showed up for the race. He said that his strategy for winning races was to outlive the competition and keep running. I shared that I hoped to be able to do the same.

So, with each year, I get closer to my goal of being able to keep winning another award by looking forward to each birthday, still running, and when all else fails just showing up when the competition doesn’t.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Spring Running

The weather is warmer-- most days-- and Spring is in the air. Although, in Atlanta, I think they call that pollen. But nevertheless, it's time to dust off the running shoes and excuses not to run that we sometime use during the winter months, if you are like me!

If your training dropped off during the winter months, it is time to pick some races and get your training back on track. That is my plan. Even if you missed the Chattahoochee 10K, or the ING half or whole marathon, there are several great races coming up this month alone that would be a great way to get back into the shape in time for the Peachtree Road Race. Check out the Earth Day 5K in Roswell put on by Spikes Running in Alpharetta or the Corners To Crossing 10K in Norcross, or other Georgia Runner featured races. They are all on the Run and See Georgia Grand Prix race series where you can not only win hardware at the race, but also points for running a Grand Prix race. If you don't know about the Run And See Georgia Grand Prix race series, check it out. The series turns 20 this year and offers more than just another race, but a community of runners that you see each week at the Run and See Georgia races. Even if you are in the same age group competing from the same points, you meet runners and make friends.

So, as Nike says, "Just Do It". We are out of excuses. See you at the races.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Turning 20

The Run and See Georgia Grand Prix Series is celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2009. Started in 1989 with just 34 running events, the race series has grown to over 400 races that take place throughout the state of Georgia.

Run & See GeorgiaStarted as a way to encourage runners to travel around the state, get fit and have fun participating in quality running events, while at the same time seeing some of the great tourist attractions and cities, it has now grown into an all out competition. At each Run and See Georgia Grand Prix event participants earn points for placing in their age group in 15 different age groups from 10 and under to 80 years and older. The runners accumulate points throughout the year, running as many Run and See Georgia Grand Prix Races as they can to earn the maximum number of points. Some runners run as many as four running events per weekend to earn as many points as they can, with the record being 8 running events run in one weekend. In 2008, over 70,000 runners competed, earning awards for the leading point winners at the annual awards banquet and run on January 1, 2009. The winner for 2008 participated in over 150 running events and traveled over 25,000 mile traveling across Georgia.

"It can get quite competitive", said Gary Jenkins of Pacesetters P.R. who organizes the race series. "I have many people that follow their point standings very closely and they watch what their age group competition is doing too."The Run and See Georgia Grand Prix Race Calendar and Point standings are tracked in real time on the Georgia Runner online Magazine for subscribers at www.georgiarunner.com

Thursday, February 19, 2009

New Races, New Ideas

Have you ever wanted to run and race in a particular place? Are you looking to plan a race for your business or charitable cause?  Although most races are repetitious from year-to-year, we're always interested in new ideas.  What are your thoughts?