Friday, January 29, 2010

Podcast Update and Custom Workouts

So I'm hard at work on the next installments of our podcasting adventures. Upcoming cycling podcast will be a power interval workout. It should be particularly useful for those using a Joe Friel plan or one of the plans from the Essential Week-by-Week Training Guide. These will be 20 second power blasts followed up by 5 minutes of recovery. Prepare to hurt.

Upcoming in the running podcast sector is a hill workout that you can do on the treadmill. 'Cause I know I'm not the only one stuck in a state where the only hills are interstate overpasses.

But I'd also like to announce that I'm making my custom cycling workouts available to the public. In the past, I've done custom workouts for a few of you with individualized soundtracks and Yours Truly bossing you through a kick-ass bike ride. I'm now opening that up to anyone who wants one. If you're interested in having your own custom workout, leave me a comment (with a valid e-mail address so I can get back to you) or send an e-mail to jamielynnmorton[at]gmail[dot]com. My prices start at $12.50 for a 45-minute workout. Just so you all know, that's way less money than it costs to train personally with me for an hour :-)

Expect to hear my voice soon, guys! Happy training!

Thursday, January 21, 2010


Not sure if you guys have picked up on this, but I'm kind of a stubborn, hard-headed person. I like to go my own way. I like to figure things out for myself. So when every endurance sports magazine and most of the blogs tell me about the importance of strength training for endurance athletes, do you think I listen? I do not!

Truth is, I used to love lifting weights. It was all I did, athletically speaking, in high school and most of college. I hated running. Knew zilch about cycling. And could barely swim. Also, I had almost no coordination and sucked at being a team player. Weight training was sort of right up my alley.

Even two seasons ago, I spent the bulk of my early-season training time doing hang cleans, squats, straight-leg deadlifts, and lat pull-downs with heavy, heavy weights. I made big gains in strength (and bulk). I could feel the power in my legs with every step.

Somewhere along the way, I got to really hate weight lifting. Might have to do with the fact that I work in a gym and frequently spend 10-12 hours a day around free weights, Cybex, Nautilus, Free Motion, and the like. Add to that my general unwillingness to listen to what everyone else says, and you have my current situation: I will do anything to avoid strength training.

However, about a month ago, I started noticing something on my long runs and bike workouts: my legs were getting tired. The quads and hamstrings and glutes would be crapping out, and my heart rate would barely be in the 140s. I was having trouble getting into the appropriate training zone because my legs weren't strong enough to get my heart working.

Now that's probably not all that abnormal; probably most athletes find that their hearts and lungs are stronger than their arms and legs (or vice versa) in the early part of the season, if not for most of the year. But it was a kick in the pants for me. Because I knew that I wasn't putting in enough time in the weight room, at least in terms of the results I want to see this year. So I sat down and (grudgingly) wrote out a weight training plan for myself.

I'm not going to try to convince you that you should lift weights (at least not in this post). If you want to lift weights, you already do, and if you don't want to lift weights, I'm not going to convince you that you should by anything I write (just like I wasn't convinced by anything I read). I will tell you (from experience) that Yoga--even a high-intensity kind like Bikram or Ashtanga--is not going to be enough strength training if you really want to train for your top performance. Anyway, the point is not to convince you of how great strength training is; the point is to give you the workout I do--which is as short and as concise as I could make it--so you can use it, if you want to. If you've never lifted before, find a personal trainer (or a knowledgeable friend) to show you how to do these things properly. Don't go in there without knowing what you're doing; you're too likely to hurt yourself, and then you'll really regret the strength training.

Jamie's IDon'tWannaBeHere Strength Plan

- Hold cables or dumbbells in hands. Don't use a barbell over the back of the neck; loading the spine like that is not (in my opinion) worth the strength gains. Besides, using cables/dumbbells is more work because it's an open kinetic chain exercise (can't lift as much raw weight, though).
- 1 set of 12 at 12 repetition maximum (as much weight as you can lift 12 times)
- 3 x 6-8 at repetition maximum

Straight-leg deadlifts
- These are fine to do with a dumbbell.
- Engage your pelvic floor and inner thighs to help stabilize the sacrum (if you have SI joint problems or piriformis syndrome, this may aggravate it).
- 1 x 12 @ rep. max.
- 3 x 6-8 @ rep. max.

Single-leg squats
- Focus on keeping the knee tracking over the ankle
- Stand on a BOSU trainer or Dyna Disc for more stabilization work
- 2 x 15, each leg

Single-leg straight-leg deadlifts
- Try to keep the hips square to the floor (reaching forward with the opposite hand helps with this)
- Try to keep the hips neutrally rotated
- 2 x 15, each leg

Side-lying leg raises
- Keep your body perpendicular to the floor
- Keep your hip neutrally rotated
- Don't let your leg come forward at all; this lets you cheat by using your hip flexors (particularly the tensor fascia lata) instead of your gluteus medius/minimus
- 2 x 15, each side

Yoga Ass
- Um, this one is sort of hard to describe. Start from your hands and knees. Stick your right leg straight out behind you without letting your back drop. Dorsiflex your foot. Externally rotate your leg at the hip (so it's like you're stacking your hips on top of each other). Then pull your foot forward. Your goal is to get your foot even with your right hip. Keep your arms straight.
- 2 x 30 sec. on each side

Push ups
- Keep the elbows tucked in close to the sides so you nail your triceps, too.
- 3 x 10
(No pic, because I didn't feel like hopping on the assisted pull up machine that day)
Pull ups
- I do these on an assisted pull up machine, but if you're cooler than me and can do non-cheater pull ups I commend you.
- Use an underhand grip to get into your biceps a little more.
- Focus on sliding your shoulder blades down your back, so that you really get the lats.
- 3 x 8

Hand stand
- Use the wall if you need to
- 3 x 4 breaths

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Race Report: Rock 'n' Roll Arizona 1/2 Marathon


I was totally blown away by this result. I was hoping that I could do 2:06, which seemed realistic based on a 12-miler I did a couple weeks ago at a 9:40/mile pace. When I crossed the finish line and checked my watch (after downing a bottle of water and sitting back on my heels half-asleep for about 20 minutes), I couldn't believe it. I held a 9:20 pace for 2 hours straight?! I had no idea I could do that.

And you know, I keep trying to write more about it than this, but the truth is there isn't much to say. My training for this race was spot-on. I've been consistent and strong in all my runs. I mean, I've missed a run here or there, but it's been more hit than miss (and that might be the first time I can say that about run training for any race). I got in a solid 15-mile run at the beginning of last week, and I managed to hit some really good tempo runs. When the race began, all I really had to do was show up and do what I knew I could do.

I didn't set out to run a 2:02 pace, though. Based on what I had been doing in my training runs, I decided to set out with the 2:07 group and try to hang on. I figured I would feel a little too fresh in the early miles, then end up hanging on for dear life in the last 3-4 miles. The pace group was wonderful: perfectly paced, with an encouraging leader and a good vibe. I felt good at that pace, and had no trouble surging ahead to pass, or to sneak ahead for some water. My legs felt zippy and springy every time I needed to accelerate. I knew I had plenty of gas in my tank.

I think it was around mile 8 when I started pulling away. I felt good, and I kept edging ahead of my pace group. There was another girl (in a pink "iRunLikeAGirl" shirt) who was sneaking ahead, as well; she had told the pacer early on to pull her back if she started to get ahead, because she was afraid that she would fade in the last few miles. So when she started to really pull away, I decided to pace off of her instead. At any rate, I figured if we slowed down later I could pick the pace group back up and still finish around 2:06, 2:07.

There were a few times when I lost the iRunner at water stops, then caught her up later. At around mile 10, I thought she'd dropped me for good, as she was picking up speed. I started to go with her ("She's not faster than me! I can keep up!"), but decided it wasn't worth it to pursue. So instead I just held my own pace. I passed her around a mile and a half from the finish line, when she started walking.

I have to say, the last 2-3 miles were difficult; they were tough. There were a few very slight inclines (like in Kansas, they were slight but noticeable) that were enough to hurt, but not enough to really offer an excuse to slow the pace. During those last 20 minutes or so, I kept glancing down at the clock, wondering when the pain would be over. I repeated to myself, "Strong and steady and strong and steady" as a mantra. I focused all my attention on that point just between and behind my eyes (the Third Eye). And all of it paid off. I didn't slow down, or at least not much; my last mile split was 9:30.

I ran without an iPod, because I wasn't going to be like all those one-timers in their basketball shorts with their music-players strapped onto their biceps; I am a runner, and I don't need music to have a good result, thank you very much. It was nice to have bands right on the course, although I was running by them at such exceptional speeds, I'm afraid I didn't get to enjoy the music for very long (I'm just kidding, of course).

One of my favorite parts about the race is that the Super Official and Very Expensive Thank You Very Much race photos of me all came out very well. I'm not going to pay $80 for them, but I can tell you that I actually look like a runner, I am not making any funny faces, and my legs aren't doing that wonky displacement thing that you often see in race pictures.

I am so happy with this time. Like my 70.3 time, I'm right on the cusp of breaking through a Big Number Barrier--in this case, 2 hours. I can surely knock off a measly little 2:21; all I have to do is run 20 seconds faster per mile next time (and all I have to do to break 6 hours in a half ironman is not stop at the toilet in T2). I can do that. I'm still nowhere near my potential.

You know, the great thing about endurance sports is that the horizon is forever receding. Today I ran 2:02:21; tomorrow I'll start trying to run 1:59. And once I do that, I'll lower the bar a little more. In fact, the whole endurance sports process is very much like a very long, very painful game of Limbo.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Running Podcast 1 - Overspeed

 It's been ridiculously cold all over the country (windchills of -15 here). I hope warmer weather is on its way. Really really. But until it is, we're all going to need some incentive to get our butts on the treadmill. Hope this workout helps!

I've been reading Joe Friel's blog. And one of the things that's really struck me, as I've been writing my training program for the next season, is his emphasis on speed drills.

Since we're dealing with running today, here's a break down of the concept as it applies specifically to running: the only ways you can become a faster runner are to take more steps and to take longer steps. So with this workout, we're trying to develop faster leg speed. How are we going to do that? Overspeed training!

For this workout, we start at a cadence of 88, which should be manageable. If it's not manageable, I've included a list of songs that are at an appropriate BPM for running in order to gradually up your cadence. As the workout progresses, you have intervals of faster and faster cadence, followed by recovery periods at 88-90 BPM. Intervals get longer and longer, too. If at some point, the cadence becomes too fast for you, just go back to a speed at which your comfortable. After a few weeks with the workout, you should be able to hit those faster cadences. Keep in mind that the taller and longer-legged among you will have more trouble holding a faster cadence, and will probably be more efficient at a slower cadence anyway. Hopefully, you'll eventually find a cadence that feels optimal.

The danger in this workout is in losing form due to fatigue. Remember to keep your body loose, especially your legs and knees. Maintain an athletic posture. Imagine that you're being hauled forward by a cable that's attached to your sternum. Relax your facial muscles. Align your breathing with your footfalls.

As far as when you do this, treat it like an early-season speed session. You're not doing intervals right now (probably), so do this instead!

Running Podcast 1 - Overspeed

Wonderwall (4:19) - Oasis (87 BPM)
Whole Lotta Trouble (2:27) - Cracker (87 BPM)
Extra Ordinary (3:42) - Better Than Ezra (90 BPM)
Inside Out (3:39) - Eve 6 (90 BPM)
The Swimming Song (2:33) - Loudon Wainwright III (93 BPM)
Cool Blue Reason (3:28) - Cake (88 BPM)
Soldier (3:46) - Eminem (95 BPM)
Healer (3:51) - Ten Shekel Shirt (90 BPM)
All My Life (3:37) - Shihan (97 BPM)
I am the Way (3:57) - Mark Schultz (90 BPM)
Don't Call me White (2:37) - NOFX (100 BPM)
Superstones Strike Back (2:42) - The O.C. Supertones (91 BPM)
Deeper Than Crying (2:38) - Alison Krauss (88 BPM)
Everloving (3:26) - Moby (90 BPM)

Monday, January 11, 2010

Runner's High - T-Shirt

I don't know if you guys have noticed, but it's been cold.

Florida? Cold. Dallas? Cold. Kansas? Really fucking cold.

It has been so cold that the weather actually constrained me to indoor running for a week and a half. Now I'm a pretty tough cookie, but when the wind chill is -15*, I take it as a sign and run on the damn treadmill. Or sometimes skip the run in favor of hot chocolate and donuts.

But today, when I walked out to my car in the morning, I smelled spring. It's not spring here in the Midwest, and won't be for some time. In fact, the air was so cold that I could barely breathe it in deeply enough to really taste the air. But there was no mistaking the smell of fresh earth, the smell of grass and dirt thawing in the balmy above-freezing air.

I was lucky (depending on whether or not you think I need money) enough to have the whole afternoon free, so I took the time for a long run. How was I dressed? In a T-shirt, tights, and light thermal jersey. No arm warmers. No gloves. I did wear a stocking cap. And for most of the run, I could have left the stocking cap and jersey in my locker (running into the north wind, I was glad I had them, and wished I would have brought gloves as well).

But the sun! The glorious, warm, sunny sun! It's hard to endure those weeks of cold, snow, ice, and wind, but they really made me grateful for the good weather, this time around. And now I'm that much more willing to get out there and work hard when the weather's nice.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Making Tough Choices

How badly do you want to get better?

I don't ask what you're willing to sacrifice. If you're serious about this sport, it's clear already that you're willing to put your social life on the line; you have no problem spending copious amounts of time on a sport; and dropping hundreds (maybe thousands) of dollars on gear, racing, and travel is nothing new to you.

But let's say, for example, that running is your limiter. You can put in a decent swim, create a big lead on the bike, but then get re-passed by 50% of your competitors on the run. You're a strong athlete. You may not be "a runner," but you know you're strong. So you figure you should at least have a 45-minute 10k hidden deep inside you.

Here's the problem: In order to access that speed, you might have to focus just on running.

In my foray into cycling this year, I fully grasped something I should have known already: I cannot realize my potential in the individual sports of swimming, cycling, and running simultaneously. Neither can you. That's why pro triathletes don't win big-name marathons; it's why pro cyclists never win Kona.

Now in amateur triathlon, I have an awesome bike leg. That's where I do the most damage; that's where I gain my edge. But my 20-21 MPH speeds will not cut it for me in road races, criteriums, or even time trials. Part of this is a mental block (at least for me). When you've trained yourself always to save a little bit on the bike, it's tough to lay it all out in a bike race. Subconsciously, your body doesn't want to go 110% in a bike race, because it figures it's going to have to run after. I got to where I started asking myself, "Would I be able to run after this?" And if the answer was yes, it was time to get the lead out.

But most of the issue was with training. Even at the top of my game, I'm not going to be as strong cycling as a triathlete against dedicated cyclists as I would if I were only biking. In other words, I have untapped potential.

That doesn't mean that you never win a 5k or a time trial when you're training for triathlon, of course. I've gotten a few medals at local runs this year, and I've won some prize money in the bike scene. The problem isn't that I'm not competitive with runners/cyclists; the problem is that I'm not achieving my potential.

That's important, too, because there are triathletes out there who come from a background of competitive, dedicated running and cycling, and they're much closer to their potential in those sports--even when training for tris!--than I am. And if I want to beat them, I'm going to have to access some more of my own potential.

Which brings us back to the original question: how badly do you want to get better?

It's apparent to me, at this moment, that I will eventually want (or need) to put in a long-term, dedicated running focus. That means more than just a month or two in the offseason (like I did this year, after my ankle healed enough); that means like a season. And during that time, my swimming and cycling will go by the wayside. It's not that I'll never swim, or never ride. And it's not that I'll lose all the fitness and speed I've developed in those disciplines. But they won't be my focus, and I probably won't see the kind of improvement in those sports that I've become accustomed to. I'll still be able to race tris, too, although I may not have the cycling and swimming legs to be placing top 10 like I have been.

Can you tell I'm trying to talk myself into this?

Monday, January 4, 2010

Spinning Workout 28 - Endurance

Ha! Finally!

This workout is all about endurance. I tried to write it as a base-building workout with a little intensity. There are easy spinning sections, hard time trials, seated climbs, and standing climbs. There are also some overspeed sections to force you to turn a fast cadence (almost 140 RPM); if you want, you could also try those sections as one-legged drills, switching legs every minute. The main thing is to get some cadence/drill work into the base building period.

Try to keep everything in high zone 2/low zone 3. Probably won't make it the first time, but I hope that as you get more and more fit this workout will keep you right in the sweet spot of base building intensity. Or you can just go balls to the wall the whole time, just like you might in an actual spinning class.

Spinning Workout 28 - Endurance

I Woke up in a Car (4:13) - Something Corporate (107 BPM)
I Want You Back (2:58) - The Jackson 5 (100 BPM)
Walk This Way (3:32) - Aerosmith (104 BPM)
Heart of Glass (4:34) - Blondie (110 BPM)
Relax (3:56) - Frankie Goes to Hollywood (115 BPM)
Canned Heat (5:32) - Jamiroquai (128 BPM)
Beep Beep (6:29) - Beep Beep (132 BPM)
Kiss Kiss (3:24) - Holly Valance (98 BPM)
How Bad do You Want it? (3:45) - Tim Mcgraw (88 BPM)
If Looks Could Kill (3:41) - Heart (79 BPM)
Burning Up (3:47) - Madonna (137 BPM)
I Get Around (2:13) - Beach Boys (148 BPM)
The General (4:07) - Dispatch (90 BPM)

Looking for more workouts? Go here!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Race Report: Resolution Run 5k

Oh yeah. I forgot. I actually like this.

What a fun race. Last one of the year. Snow on the roads. Temps are biting. Wind chill is sub-zero. Sun is setting, leaving us all in the freezing shade.

But there's beer.

This isn't a PR kind of race. For one thing, if you're doing it properly, you're stopping to drink at three points on the course. There is no other reason to drive to El Dorado and do this race except to show up and have fun by drinking lots of beer while running. If you live in El Dorado already, you are excused. Besides the beer drinking aspect, there's also the fact that a good third of the course has slick patches of ice and/or snow. So imagine running like *stride* *stride* *stride* *stride* *tippy tippy tippy toe* *stride* *stride* and so on. Unless you prefer to go *stride* *stride* *st--*slip!* *fall on ass* *swear profusely.* Whether you take the tippy toe option or the full-stride fall-on-ass, you're not going to be setting any records.

And I certainly did not set records. But I did have fun.

First beer stop was at the start line. There was some issue with open containers in public places, so the "aid stations" had to be strategically placed. I had maybe 4 ounces of beer before the start (Budweiser Select 55, just in case you wanted to know). I lined up about halfway back, thinking that I didn't want to get caught up in the high-speed scrum at the line. The sidewalk was only about 4 feet wide, with hard-packed snow piled up on either side. So it was going to be tight quarters at the start.

I left all my best warm-weather gear at the Firehouse (where I take a spinning class, and which is actually, if possible, colder than it would be to ride outside), so I had no arm-warmers and (most importantly) no gloves. Well, I had a pair of $1 gloves. But I threw them away because they smelled like wet dog and sardines. Stupid, stupid, stupid. My hands were freezing during the first mile. I eventually caved and tucked them into the sleeves of my sweatshirt (trying to hold my beer mug at the same time, by the way). They were so cold it felt like my thumbnails had been stepped on by a full back. Then, at about the 1 mile mark, they just magically stopped being cold. Not sure what that was all about. I guess it takes me exactly two miles to warm up (I did one before the start).

There was another woman who was running about the same pace as me from the beginning, and we'd kept each other close the whole time. Well, around the 1-mile point, I put in just enough of a surge to (in my mind) break her. Didn't look back, but I didn't hear her breathing or her footfalls anymore. Then we got to Aid Station #2. And I, being the fun-loving spirit that I am, said, "Ah! Now this is what I've been running for!" Upon which, the volunteer with the pitcher said, "Oh, well let's just fill you up here!" and filled my little plastic mug up almost to the top. That's gotta be 12 ounces. Crap.

So, wanting to keep the spirit alive, I walked quickly and tried to guzzle as quickly as I can. As with any endurance activity, you have to walk a fine balance between going fast and puking, and I definitely wanted to stay out of the puking camp. It took me probably 2-3 minutes to drain the beer and get moving again. And by that time my companion/nemesis from earlier had re-passed me and put a little bit of time into me. Because she didn't even stop, the pansy.

As I neared the turn-around, I started counting warm, female bodies coming back the other way. There were at least 10 in front of me. I hit the turn-around (I estimate it was about the 2 mile point) and turned on the speed. I was really surprised by how much faster I was running. It was like I'd just finished the warm-up, and was finally ready to race. I started reeling those girls back in. Shortly after the turn-around, the beer hit me; I went from zero to tipsy in about a second. Felt like I was running on clouds. I ran myself back into the top 10 while slightly drunk, then saw that my original running buddy was within reach. She had maybe 50 yards on me. I knew I could catch her; I had about half a mile left to go, at that point. I passed her not 200 yards from the last aid station. At this one, I told them, "Just a swallow!" I knew that she wasn't going to stop, but I was gonna do the beer thing right, dammit! So I stopped long enough for a swallow of beer, then tore after her again. I passed her with about 20 yards to go, and finished in a time of 27:15.

27:15 is 8:47 pace. Not fast, but definitely faster than I could have run last year. Did run last year, actually, at the Jingle Bell 4-mile. Just makes me wonder what I could do at a race with a decent temperature (or at least the right clothes) and no ice/snow on the roads and no stopping for beer. Although jury's still out on whether the beer helped more than it hurt or vice versa.

And a few more special things about the race: My client Kim came out too late to run in the race herself (the original plan), but did take pictures and cheer and run with me for a bit. And I got to meet a reader, Lindsey, who won the women's overall! Always nice to meet you lurkers, especially the local ones :-)

I had a ton of fun at this race. Felt like I got a good start to 2010. And I rediscovered my competitiveness in an unexpected (and unobnoxious) way.

Friday, January 1, 2010


Well, might as well call it what it is.

It's been--what?--a good two months since I've posted. Know what else I haven't done in about two months? Haven't swam or biked over about that same span of time. Well, except for spinning classes. But that's my job. And the SpinStrong Firehouse workouts. But we go out for margaritas and Mexican food after that.

I'm beginning to understand my lack of ambition, though; the reasons for my missing mojo are becoming clear. I'm starting to feel restless, here in south central Kansas. Nothing I can put my finger on, exactly. But I think I'm ready to move on. It feels right. I feel ready.

But when you're getting ready to make a big transition, it's difficult to plan for things like training and racing, even though (for me, anyway) training and racing is more central than periphery. How shall I train? Should I peak for Shawnee Mission? Incorporate Mudwater and Rock 'n' Route? Plan to run the newly-designed Wichita Marathon course? See, I'm not sure I'm going to be around when all those things are going down, so I'm not sure what (if anything) I should target in the coming season.

Still, I miss having something to shoot for, a reason to go out and work up a sweat. And I've gained weight, over this holiday/off-season period. So I'm working on getting back on a plan. It's tentative, of course, but I figure that wherever I am in six months, they will have triathlons, and I will be able to find something within driving distance that I can do that will roughly approximate the events for which I've been training. So I'm trying to proceed as normal with this season, planning-wise. And if none of it works out, that'll be fine too.

None of which addresses my extended absence from the online community. I still read most of your blogs, by the way. I've become a little bit of a lurker, but I'm still out there, following your progress. Congrats to those of you who finished IMs in the past two months. You are all awesome and rock. As to writing, what I should have done was prepare a series of drafts that would take minimal work to complete, so that I could have kept publishing during my down-time. But I did not do that, and the result was a short . . . let's call it a sabbatical. Had my time off. Recharged a little bit. Now I'm back fresh, with some new ideas, ready to bring more info to you (and not just about my little life).

And really, that's what an off-season is supposed to be.