April 11, 2013

Marathon must-haves: Top picks for race day and beyond

Monday April 8, 2013 1:39 PM By Meghan Glynn - Newsday
Photo credit: Newsday/Meghan Glynn

Preparing to run those daunting 26.2 miles in an upcoming marathon? Searching for anything that might give you an edge and make the race even just the slightest bit easier?
We spoke to Dejan Popovic, the marketing director for Runner’s Edge in Farmingdale, about some customer favorites and a few of their own picks for pre-race and race day swag.
The obvious place to start, Popvic said, is shoes.

The latest trend for race day is “wearing something like a lightweight trainer, which can give you some of the stability while still being super light,” Popovic explained.
That’s not to say that traditional, “heavier” shoes don’t still have a place in the sport, according to Popovic. Most people "have a training, an everyday training shoe, which is going to be a little bit heavier more supportive, a little more material all around.”
With different shoes for different runners, Popovic highlighted the top three soles for both men and women.
Men’s recommendations
ASICS Gel GT-2000 - $120 online/in-store - "A good supportive shoe."
Saucony Ride - $110 online/in-store - "Neutral shoe, no arch-support, good cushioning."
Saucony ProGrid Kinvara - $100 online/in-store - "Super light, with some cushioning, lower in the heel -- this promotes more natural running, so that you’re landing in the mid-foot and forefoot," says Popovic. "A much more performance driven shoe."
Women’s recommendations
Brooks adrenaline GT 13 - $110 online/in-store - "This is a good supportive shoe," says Popovic adding that the model is very popular at the Farmingdale store.
Nike Structure Triax - $110 in-store - "A good, supportive shoe."
Nike 3.0 - $100 in-store - Popovic warns that runners, "should be cautious of wearing this pair for both training and race day as it does not offer much protection and has a very low heel."
Popovic’s pick for race day whether you’re a man or woman? A lighter, more performance driven shoe that’s a bit more breathable.
Popovic suggests that runners sample gels, gus, gel blocks, energy bars and drinks before race day to see how they make you feel. This way, he says, by the time you get to the marathon you’ll have your own “formula” figured out.
Gus and gels are products that you put into your mouth and wash down with water -- these break up very easily once ingested. Using these products helps to “get the nutrition you need while you’re running,” Popovic said.
He also added that these are good items to have on hand mid-run, especially if you’re going anywhere from a half-hour or more on a run, when you’ll want to get some nutrition in and keep your energy levels up.
For any solid nutrition like protein and energy bars, Popovic suggests eating approximately a half-hour to 45 minutes before you run. These items are good to take beforehand so that you’re not running on an empty stomach.
Popovic also recommends recovery drinks and powders to be taken after a workout to recover and replenish some of the electrolytes lost during your run.
For a spring marathon, like the Long Island Marathon coming up in May, Popovic says, attire will depend on the day's weather -- “base layers if it’s cold that will be snug to your body to absorb the sweat and a vest to keep the wind chill off of you.” However, if race day is on the warmer side, “most people in May are likely wearing singlets and shorts,” Popovic said.
A Timex watch is really the most basic watch that you can train with -- it gives you splits and a countdown clock, really facilitating most of your training needs, according to Popovic. For those that want to get more advanced and start monitoring things like heart rate, he recommends Polar heart rate monitor watches.
Other products:
“The Stick” --- a roller to work out muscle knots. Bodyglide -- this handy little tool looks like a stick of deodorant and helps to eliminate chafing -- for longer races marathons, Popovic explains, this is an essential. Number belts are also popular for racers to affix their race numbers on rather than pinning directly to jerseys.
Compression socks/calf guards:
These items have become more popular recently and help with circulation to keep the blood flow going. They also help to prevent sore muscles and cramping and can be worn both during the event and after as you recover.
Nutrition belts:
For runners who don't go with the nutrition provided at the course on race day and prefer to mix their own, fuel belts are a must. These handy belts come in 2-bottle and 4-bottle formats and often also include a pouch to hold gels as well. These belts are popular for marathon running and “keep everything in one place” Popovic said.
Storage pouches:
These handy little items can be worn on top of your shoe and can hold things such as ID cards, money, keys, etc.
You want to look for a pair that are made of moisture wicking material, Popovic says -- stay away from cotton, which retains moisture.
No matter what your training regimen or race day rituals, it is important to be prepared for every run. What are your must-haves? Let us know in the comments below.

January 25, 2013

Here's how to make every run count!

A heart rate monitor is an extremely useful training tool designed for wear during strenuous exercise to measure and record your heart rate. They are one of the most effective aids for tracking and developing your aerobic endurance which is a point of focus for almost any runner. Here is some basic information about the benefits of using a heart rate monitor: 

Monitor your fitness
Polar RCX5 Run
Using a heart rate monitor allows you to monitor and precisely control the intensity of your running. You'll be able to determine how much benefit you are deriving from your workout and tailor your workouts to meet your goals. It is the most accurate gauge as other methods, such as how hard you are breathing, or how tired you feel, can reflect other factors and give imprecise information of the effectiveness of your workout.

Lose weight effectively
If weight loss is the primary reason behind your workout, a heart rate monitor can help you achieve your goal. By adjusting your pace you’ll ensure that you are burning body fat and not just the carbohydrates in the meal you ate earlier in the day. 

Prevent Overtraining
Using a heart monitor to avoid stressing your body too much will help to prevent overtraining and in turn minimize the opportunity for injury. Injuries will be much less likely to occur and it goes without saying that avoiding injuries are critical to avoiding setbacks. Once you determine the desired intensity of your weekly workouts, you can use the monitor as a gauge. You'll also avoid depleting your body's glycogen stores which ensures you'll have enough energy to perform your intense workouts. 

Prevent Undertraining
Probably less common than overtraining is undertraining but some runners simply do not run hard enough or often enough. In this case, the monitor acts like a coach, telling you when your body can handle more, and consequently, when you should pick up the pace. Set a minimum heart-rate goal for your run, and the monitor will sound an alarm when you have dropped below your target, telling you to work harder.

Pace Yourself during training
Another use for a heart monitor is to pace your training runs. Your time is not always the best measure of how hard you are working since any number of factors – different terrain & energy levels, inconsistent distance measurements –can mislead you into thinking that you have performed well or poorly when in fact, the opposite may be true. The work-rate of your heart is the best measurement of your cardiovascular performance so pacing your training runs according to your heart rate is the best method of targeting your cardiovascular fitness.

Pace Yourself during racing
Some runners not only train with a heart monitor, but race with one as well. The monitor is a great tool for gauging effort during a race. It is an objective observer than can help you maintain a consistent pace, both over varied terrain and in areas where other factors affect your motivation and speed. Wearing a monitor while racing is perhaps most useful for preventing you from going out too fast or working too hard early in the race.

A heart rate monitor can perform a multitude of functions –tracking weight, body fat, body water, calories burned cadence and much more. Prices range from around $80 for a basic model to over $400 with GPS to track your pace and distance. Visit us at Runner's Edge, 242 Main Street, Farmingdale to get more information about heart rate monitors and how they can help you get the most out of your running!

August 6, 2012

IronMan Lake Placid 2012
Beyond the Finish Line 
By Tony Sforza

   The Peak of emotions began for me on the downhill slope of Mirror Lake Drive. As I made a right turn and then a quick left into the Olympic Oval, the next 30 seconds leading up to the moment I went through the finishing arch were filled with both physical pain and joy. It was a moment in time that will remain with me forever. I felt a deep sense of pride in what I had just accomplished but at the same time felt very humbled by; the 2.4 miles of water I swam through battling against the flailing arms and legs of other athletes, the 112 miles of road I traveled by bike dealing with heat and wind and the 26.2 miles on foot fighting physical exhaustion and dehydration. All the hours I spent training had now come to fruition, and for the first time in 15 hours and 15 minutes my body stopped moving as I stood still and absorbed my moment beyond the finish line.  
   Now rewind one week... My wife and soul mate Jen Howard developed a kidney infection and she was placed antibiotics. Two days later she did not feel any better and had an elevated body temperature so her Doctor changed her medication to a different antibiotic. At this point she began to prepare herself mentally that if by the end of the week she didn’t feel better it would be possible that she wouldn’t race on Sunday. At the same time a flare up of my chronic left shoulder impingement made it difficult for me to even raise my hand above my head. Just the thought of swimming for me was impossible. With the help of ART (Active Release Technique) I was able to get to the point where my shoulder pain was tolerable and even though I had finished two Iron distances in the past two years achieving the status of "IRONMAN", my shoulder felt more like the Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz with his squeaky arm in need of oil. By mid week, I was ready as I could be to race, but Jen was still not feeling better. On Wednesday during our trip up to Lake Placid from Northport Jen started feeling worse than she did early in the week and we ended up going to the Adirondack Medical Center in Saranac Lake. Jen was placed on an IV, had blood work and was evaluated by a Physician's assistant. When she told him she was scheduled to do the Ironman race on Sunday he said "Hey that's the Run, Bike and Swim thing here this weekend right?" Jen and I looked at each other and smiled, thinking quietly to ourselves, how many times we have heard that question posed in the wrong order. He then asked the distances, to which we responded and educated him on the correct sequence of the three disciplines. He then said, "Oh my gosh! You guys don't do that all in one day, do you? We both nodded, Jen wasn’t smiling anymore, she was worried and I knew it. He told Jen he would like to add 600mg of Ibuprofen to her antibiotic regimen and as far as the Bike, Swim and Run thing went, Jen would just have to see how she felt over the next couple of days. Friday night, Jen made the decision she would do the race but proceed with caution. For those of you who know Jen, you know she always gives everything she has not only in her training but in every race and in her life in general. I know that for her, realizing she would not be able to go full throttle when she needed to at this event with her best effort was a disappointment to say the least, but I must say I  glow with pride at the fact that she did this race and completed  it anyway. 
   This year Jen and I rented a house along Mirror Lake with friends and the days prior to the big dance were filled with a relaxed atmosphere, which certainly helped minimize some of the normal pre-race anxieties. There were lots of laughs and stories of triathlon life. A strange breed we are, and some of our stories would find your average folk shaking their heads in disbelief, but to us, this is our life. A life we thoroughly enjoy and embrace to the fullest extent. I heard stories from friends, one a cancer survivor, and another who found himself in the midst of a torrential storm just a few days prior. These and many other stories bring light to the fact that the physical condition of an Ironman triathlete seems to prepare us well for life's battles. 
   Well, Sunday was to be yet another battle and it began with a 4 am wake up knock on our door. I finished assembling my race day bags and at 5 am walked about a mile with Jen, Coach Donna McMahon and TRE mate Anne Silverman to the transition area to get body marked and slip into my wetsuit. At 6:25 am it was time for our entire team to gather and share a moment of inspirational words by Team Coach Jose Lopez who reminded us all to “give love out on the course and you will get it back ten fold in return”. These words proved to be very true for many that day. At 6:50 the Pro's began their race and I stepped through the swim start arch and entered the water. There were 2896 athletes in a very small body of water and somehow at 6:59, I along with Jen and Teammates Anne Silverman, Marc Blumencranz, Christine Grippo and Gina Giordano, we found ourselves right in the heart of this mass. Christine exclaimed "Guys, we’re in trouble!", and I thought yes we are certainly “not in Kansas anymore”. The canon shot rang out and this mass of swimmers started to move. I just buried my head in the water and began to move forward along with this wave, battling most of my way to the first turn buoy. 
   Exiting the swim was a tremendous relief and my Iron horse awaited me. The Lake Placid bike course is beautiful but very challenging. The sky was a mix of hot sun and clouds as well as wind during a good portion of the second loop. I felt great on the bike and improved my time from last year by thirteen minutes. But what I did not realize along with the majority of athletes that day was that the wind, which seemed to have a cooling effect had actually been a veil of deceit for us, for it was a lot hotter then we all thought. As I finished the bike segment of the race and proceeded to run the marathon, I started to experience symptoms of dehydration. I felt horrible during my first 13.1 miles and combined running with walking. I saw fellow athletes hunched over, or on the ground to the side of the road. Ambulances and EMS vehicles were now prevalent on the race course. Everyone’s faces were changing, the shout outs to fellow athletes diminished to merely a nod as we passed each other. I focused on that immediate stretch of pavement in front of me and nothing else. What was happening? I realized it was not just me, but just about everyone was feeling the same way. I finally made it to the half way point and grabbed my run special needs bag, in which I had some Energy Gel and a Red Bull. It was still somewhat cold from being wrapped in foil. I took a few sips and put the rest in my hand bottle. As I made my way down Mirror Lake Drive to begin my second 13.1 mile loop I passed the Team Runners Edge/ LITC band of saints. They were dancing and giving everyone high fives and shouts of encouragement. As I made my way past this band of brothers and sisters, I felt an arm around my shoulder, it was that of Bob Cook, he asked how I was doing and I said "not so good Bob", he told me "just keep a steady pace Tony, you will get through it". He gave me a tap on my back and off I went. I must have somehow been able to hydrate my body during the first loop, because I started to feel better as I picked up my pace and maintained my run without walking for the majority of my second loop. Or was it something else? In retrospect it was this special group of fellow athletes that where not racing and did not have to be there. They were there because they wanted to be there. They were there for reasons I didn't realize until I went beyond the finish line. 
   So down the last incline on Mirror Lake drive I went and sped into the oval on an emotional high. They say you can't argue with numbers. My second split time was about an hour faster than my first. How was that possible? I am not a good runner; this wasn't what I normally was able to do. My second split was usually slower than my first. 
   As I passed across the finish arch I first saw Dominic Oliviero and Jose Lopez who I gave fist bumps to, then I had the finisher’s medal placed around my neck by a volunteer, and finally I saw Jen. We gave each other a big hug. We needed no words at that moment for we knew what we had accomplished. 
   In the minutes that followed my body began to shut down. I felt dizzy and lightheaded. I grabbed Jen's arm I told her I needed help because I felt myself losing consciousness. I wasn't able to hydrate as well as I thought, in fact I was severely dehydrated. I put everything I had into that last loop. I was transported into the medical tent, wrapped in blankets and given an IV. My body temperature was 92 degrees (normal being 98.6). The place looked like a M.A.S.H unit. I couldn’t believe how many athletes were there. Thankfully, within the hour I felt much better.
   So how did I negative split my marathon under such adverse conditions? What did I come to realize beyond my finish line? It’s simple, yes there is a lot of hard work involved by each of us as individuals, but it is the collective love and support of the ones we hold close as well as the special friends who spend an entire day cheering and supporting us which enables us to really do something special. It also goes beyond just that day. It is the compounded interest of all the days of training with team mates who each in their own way inspire us to do better and who are constantly helping us improve. 
   Thank you to all of those who have helped me understand that my ability to complete an Ironman race goes way beyond the finish line. 
   Thank you most of all to Jen, for she is my ultimate inspiration and without whom, none of my dreams would have ever become a reality.

October 24, 2011

Cadence As a Running Tool

by: Grant Robison
October 2011

In the last few years minimalist footwear and running form have become hot topics of discussion, not just in print, but online and in shoe stores everywhere. Ideas and techniques that have been mentioned by elite coaches for many years have now crept to the forefront of conversation in the running world. Ideas like ‘running tall’, and focusing on ‘shortening the stride to increase stride rates’, are not new ideas. Renowned coaches like Arthur Lydiard, and Gordon Pirie would be proud to know that many of the same methods they used to train their elite athletes are now helping runners of all abilities. Now days, one has to look no further than Google or YouTube to find an abundance of information and knowledge relating to running technique. However, for many runners, this flood of ideas and opinions can at times create more confusion than education. One of the key, and often misunderstood, aspects of running form that can be extracted from the mass of available information is cadence. Cadence is arguably the most effective tool for maximizing the efficiency of your running stride.

With regards to running, cadence is simply defined as the rate at which you move your feet. It is measured by counting the number of times each foot contacts the ground in the span of one minute. While cadence is one of the basic parts of running mechanics, it is not one that comes without work and practice. Many runners take between 150-160 steps in a minute. A cadence of 20 more steps per minute (170-180) has the potential to greatly increase the efficiency of each stride, and dramatically decrease the stress and impact on your joints. To better understand the value of cadence as a tool, it is important to first understand its purpose.

The goal of cadence is simply to eliminate over-striding, reaching out in front of your body with your feet, so that every ounce of energy put into your stride moves you forward efficiently. Cadence is effective in achieving this by providing a simple, measurable tool to hone in on. By focusing on counting your steps to shortening your stride, or just keeping up with a metronomic rhythm, you can essentially eliminate over-striding and train your body to operate a more efficient set of muscles. When over-striding is minimized and your foot is landing beneath your hips, it requires less energy to propel you forward. Plus, the braking and torsional forces created by over-striding not only make you less efficient, but also more susceptible to injury. Basically, when you take 180 steps in a minute it is difficult to heel strike, which fundamentally contributes to many running injuries. Additionally, for runners who run on their forefoot or who have a bouncy stride, an increase in cadence will minimize inefficient push-off and save energy that is otherwise lost in unnecessary vertical motion. An awareness of cadence is necessary for any runner who wants to run efficiently and stay injury free.

To begin refining your cadence, go for a run. A few minutes into the run, count how many times your left foot touches the ground in 20 seconds. Multiply this number by three and this is your ‘strides per minute’; your cadence. Once you have an idea what your cadence is, work to fine tune it by trying to get a few more strides into those 20 seconds without speeding up your pace. You can use a metronome, or music that plays at 180 beats per minute, or just by counting you steps. The most important thing to remember is that cadence is about making your stride extra efficient, not just running harder. In fact, the best speed to work on cadence is 10-15 seconds per miles slower than your normal pace. You don’t need to run faster to increase your cadence, you want to ‘shorten’ your stride to increase cadence. Stride rate is only part of the equation in determining speed, and it happens to be the more constant part. More than cadence, pace is controlled by stride length. A stride should increase in lengthen by using a pawing like motion to pull your foot through underneath your body (like riding a skateboard), and thus creating a ‘longer’ stride behind you. Trying to lengthen your stride in front of you is what creates “over-striding” and the negative forces that come with it. This ‘pawing’ motion is how two people can run at a similar cadence but at very different paces. The important thing to remind yourself when you are running is that using cadence as a tool to create a ‘short’, quick, light stride, helps to minimize over-striding and maximize efficiency.

Runners of any age or ability, regardless of pace, can focus on cadence as a means of improving their efficiency. The idea of a quick stride rate has been taught by elite coaches for many years and scientifically published by physiologist, Jack Daniels. All of that is of secondary importance for most of us as runners. We don’t have to hit 180 exactly, and we don’t have to run any faster. We just want to run as easily and as pain free as we can. Cadence is a tool to help us do that.

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August 1, 2011

Ironman Changes Everything

written by Runner's Edge Teammate Tony Sforza

On July 20, 2011, Jen and I left a balmy Northport LI, and traveled to an even hotter Lake Placid NY. The Northeastern part of the United States was having a heat wave. Well it was certainly a lot different than the 37 degree temperature of Panama City for Ironman Florida in November 2010. Thankfully, the weather gods were on our side because on the morning of July 24, we woke to a cool 60 degree temperature and clear skies. But because of the recent heat, the water temperature was still very warm. Race officials measured a water temperature of 77 degrees on race day morning and that caused them to declare wet suits optional. This meant that if you wore a wet suit, you would not qualify for an age group award or a KONA World Championship spot. After hearing this news I simply smiled and proudly put my wet suit on.
To complete a full iron distance race is probably one of the most rewarding individual athletic accomplishments that there is. A reward that offers a state of being so powerful which words cannot describe, it changes everything. It changes the way you think feel and look at life. It allows you to see the good in people and the positive aspects of life when a lot of what surrounds us is the bad and the negative. There are so many good people in this world, unfortunately our attention is sometimes drawn to those who hurt others or have negative attitudes. Everyone who crosses that finish line has a more noteworthy story to tell, but those stories will never make the headlines. They should. Completing this task makes you realize that if you want to, and if you choose to, you can do anything. Where there is a will, you will find the way. If for some reason or in most cases multiple reasons you did not find your way to the finish line, I can’t imagine the cascade of emotions that must occur and it causes me to think of a quote from Coach Donna McMahon’s Retroverse, - “a step back must be viewed as an opportunity to spring forward again.”, and also of The V Foundations motto, “Don’t give up… Don’t ever give up”.
Two hours worth of time on race day morning goes by like minutes. From last bike check to inflating tires, body marking, special needs bags, and of course the line for “nature calling” As we stood in line with our teammates we watched as the pro athletes took off at 6:50am. There was not much time to think about anything now. We headed under the Start archway and quickly into the water to begin the 2.4 mile swim. Last second high fives and a kiss from Jen, and before we knew it, the sound of the canon blast echoed across Mirror Lake. In May, just a couple of months back, we had attended the Fireman Ironman training camp so we became somewhat familiar with the bike and run courses. The bike had an initial and deceiving first climb followed by screamer, a 7 mile rapid descent. Then there was a relatively flat alley way to Route 9 N. The course continued into a steady upgrade on Route 9 towards Jay, up further through Jay into a 5.6 mile out and back towards Ausable Forks. A right turn onto 86 took you into a series of hills towards Wilmington. There was the short out and back on Haselton Road, followed by the challenging switch backs of 86 leading up to the “Three Bears” and finishing back at the Olympic Village. The loop was 56 miles. After finishing the first loop, you circled the outer perimeter of the oval and headed back out again, another 56 miles totaling 112 miles.
The run course is 13.1 miles, out and back and also done twice totaling 26.2 miles. I found myself thinking a little different about completing my second Iron distance race, especially during the run. I knew I had to go from the Olympic village oval down a significant drop in altitude to the depths of River Road and back, and then do it a second time, so I found myself visualizing where I had to go as opposed to what mile marker I was actually at.
Team Runner's Edge was well represented and along with Long Island Tri Coach athletes, we stood almost forty strong. The support from our team was amazing. As I was running along River Road, I waved across at an oncoming teammate. The guy running next to me said, "…Hey who are you guys? There sure are a lot of you ! Did you come up here in a bus or something?..." At the moment my body was hurting, but I managed to muster up a grin and proudly say that we were Team Runner's Edge.
I think one comment from this race I will always remember was from Jose Lopez at our Team prayer prior to the start of the swim. And to paraphrase he said “…when you are out there give love and you will get it back in return”. Those words rang so true because the support from the general volunteers and the Runner's Edge team was amazing. The last hill of the bike course is called Papa Bear. On the first loop, I felt as if I was in the Tour de France climbing Alp d’Huez, because the road was packed with spectators on both sides and there was colored chalk writing all over the road, and cow bells were ringing all around us. For most of the run course there were people cheering us on, people you didn't even know. They didn’t know you but would do anything to help because they could see in your eyes how important it was for you to finish.
My legs ached so much as I picked up my pace in the last mile. My adrenaline level was soaring as I passed the Runner’s edge tent on Mirror Lake Drive. I was so focused at that moment that I almost ran past Jen without even noticing she was there. She shouted out to me “Go Tony”. Running into the oval at the finish, a place beaming with Olympic history where so many athletes made an impact in the 1980 Olympics was a surreal experience. As I entered the oval I made my traditional sprint to the finish. For less than a minute I experienced a state of “flow” where my mind and body worked together effortlessly leaving me with a feeling as I crossed the finish line that something special had just occurred. A moment in time I will always remember.
I wish to thank all of my Runner's Edge mates both on and off the course. I would like to thank my step-son Frank Pitti, who spent the entire day watching the event and waiting to see us. If you know Frankie he has the true Ironman spirit. Most importantly I want to thank my wife and soul mate Jen, for without her I would not have completed this journey.
We finished this time in Lake Placid with friends who all judged each other not by the times on the results page but by the joy of the journey we all shared.
Shortly before his death Jimmy Valvano spoke at the ESPY awards in March of 1993. One particularly poignant section of Valvano’s speech is as follows:
“To me, there are three things we all should do every day. We should do this every day of our lives. Number one is laugh. You should laugh every day. Number two is think. You should spend some time in thought. And number three is, you should have your emotions moved to tears, could be happiness or joy. But think about it. If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that's a full day. That's a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you're going to have something special”.
Completing an Ironman race is one heck of a day!
It is something special and it changes everything.