Monday, March 31, 2008

Doctor in (Endurance) Training: bonking, blood chemistry, and the sleep monster

From the never-too-late-to-write-about-it file, comes a neat little piece from the venerable British Medical Journal (BMJ). Written in 2004 by then medical student Akbar Lalani, the piece, titled Endurance (pdf), chronicles his training for the ultra Marathon Des Sables, the 2008 edition of which is going on right now and finishes April 2 (race site). With his detailed yet fairly digestible approach, Lalani discusses topics like sleep, bonking, glycogen storage, and blood biochemistry in a manner quite different, and in many ways more illuminating, than that of most marathon and ultra pieces. One notable quote: "Based on blood results alone, a marathon runner might be admitted to a coronary care unit as creatine kinase concentrations rocket to 10 times normal."

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Ethiopians Sweep Victories at World Cross Country Championships

As expected Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele took the victory in today's 12k senior men's race at the World Cross Country Championships in Edinburgh, Scotland (IAAF site). What wasn't quite as expected: his victory capped off a perfect day of racing for the Ethiopians, who also took the senior women's race as well as the junior men's and women's races. Top ten for both senior races:

Senior Men (12k)
1 Kenenisa BEKELE (ETH) 34:38
2 Leonard Patrick KOMON (KEN) 34:41
3 Zersenay TADESE (ERI) 34:43
4 Joseph EBUYA (KEN) 34:47
5 Moses Ndiema MASAI (KEN) 35:02
6 Felix Kikwai KIBORE (QAT) 35:15
7 Gideon Lekumok NGATUNY (KEN) 35:16
8 Ahmad Hassan ABDULLAH (QAT) 35:18
9 Habtamu FIKADU (ETH) 35:19
10 Bernard Kiprop KIPYEGO (KEN) 35:24

Senior Women (8k)
1 Tirunesh DIBABA (ETH) 25:10
2 Mestawet TUFA (ETH) 25:15
3 Linet Chepkwemoi MASAI (KEN) 25:18
4 Doris Chepkwemoi CHANGEYWO (KEN) 25:34
5 Hilda KIBET (NED) 25:35
6 Gelete BURKA (ETH) 25:35
7 Priscah Jepleting CHERONO (KEN) 25:36
8 Margaret Wangari MURIUKI (KEN) 25:46
9 Meselech MELKAMU (ETH) 25:51
10 Grace Kwamboka MOMANYI (KEN) 25:54

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Bekele Favorite for 2008 World Cross Country Championships

On the eve of the 2008 World Cross Country Championships in Edinburgh, Scotland, it looks like Kenenisa Bekele is the one to beat in the 12km men's test. Despite missing a connecting flight in London, which delayed his arrival to Edinburgh until this evening, he's still the odds on favorite given his string of championship titles from 2002-2006. With a near miss in 2007, the Ethiopian should be even more motivated for victory. has a nice preview of Sunday's races (story), and the IAAF has a site chock full of details of the events, with links to press conferences and live updates (IAAF site).

Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Runner's High Dissected

As we all know, a huge endurance effort can let loose a crush of emotions - happiness, euphoria, melancholy, sadness, and sometimes all of these at once, plus 10 others. Whether such responses actually constitute a "runner's high" is very much up to an individual runner's point of view. If you call it a runner's high then it's a runner's high. But, Gina Kolata in the New York Times today (story) tackles the issue in detail from both a visceral and empirical stance, interviewing runners and dissecting new scientific evidence on brain endorphin levels before and after running. From a scientific standpoint, it now seems pretty clear that boosts in brain endorphin activity is a main cause of the euphoria many runners feel after a hard test. Now, how about a study that tells us why we sometimes feel like weeping at the same time?

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Kenyan Running Camps Not Just for Kenyans

Despite the post-election strife that ravaged most of Kenya recently (previous post), many international runners with Olympic hopes have been flocking to the Kenyan high plains to try and capture the magic of its fleet-feeted natives. The Kip Keino running camp in Eldoret has runners from Estonia, Guyana and Sri Lanka, and seems to be bringing out the best in them as reported today on (story).

(photo by World Resources Institute Staff, under Creative Commons)

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Bernard Lagat Sprinting for 1500 Meter Gold in Beijing.

Bernard Lagat frequently relives his close call with gold in the 1500 meters at the Athens Olympic Games in 2004. He came up second to Hicham El Guerrouj by a mere .12 seconds---so close he still sweats when he watches films of the race, good naturedly hoping that maybe this time it’ll come out in his favor. Lagat and his quest for 1500 meter gold this summer in Beijing is the topic of a great feature in today’s New York Times (story). Weaving details of his defeat in Athens with tales of his life in Kenya, his approach to training (less is more), and his reasons for becoming an American citizen, the feature is a moving portrait of Lagat with something for runners and non-runners alike.

Check out the You Tube post of the 2004 Athen's race, with Lagat in the red singlet of his native Kenya.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

RJ Review: Asics Gel-DS Trainer 13

Long a Run Junkie favorite, the Gel-DS Trainer from Asics has spawned a 13th generation, which recently received a very favorable review in the March issue of Running Times (review). With a great mix of stability, cushioning, and lightness, the DS Trainers are a hard shoe to beat for big mileage runners with a need for speed (Asics' specs).

More shoe reviews on Run Junkie (shoe reviews).

Friday, March 21, 2008

IAAF Reports Only 10 Positive Doping Tests in All of 2007

The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) reports that of over 3,000 drug tests in track and field athletes, only 10 came out positive in all of 2007 (IAAF data; IHT story) . The small number shows general progress toward cleaner running competitions. While athletes will always be able to beat the system with undetectable drugs or "smart" timing with their doping, the absolute number of positive tests is so small it seems that balance may be beginning to shift toward a cleaner sport.

(Photo by Mel B. used under Creative Commons)

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Torres and Flanagan Take 8k Championship, Webb Hampered by Cream Cheese

Jorge Torres and Shalane Flanagan took the honors at the United States 8k Championships in Central Park yesterday (USATF release; NY Times story). Torres won the men's race in 22:41.2; Flanagan, the women's race in 25:40. Each took home $10,000 for the effort. Pre-race favorite, Alan Webb, had stomach problems leading up to the race, ascribed to some bad cream cheese at a news conference for the event. He was able to start the race, and lead through most of it, but faltered with about 2k to go and had to walk a few steps. He eventually came in 16th, 50 second back (23:32).

(Photo by jimbowen0306, under Creative Commons)

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Beyond 26.2: Beginners' Guide to the Ultra-Marathon

See also:  Run Junkie's Your First 50 Miler

The April issue of Runner's World has a nice collection of articles for runners looking to see what's on the other side of 26.2 miles. Meant for the newbie but an interesting read for others as well, the collection includes a 50 mile training plan (link), a primer on surviving your first ultra with minimal effort (link), and, of course, a number of stories of personal triumph. The articles seem a bit scattered online. For a nice soup -to-nuts read, you may want to grab the hard copy (on newsstands now!).

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Gebrselassie Not Running 2008 Olympic Marathon

Haile Gebrselassie, citing concerns about the pollution, heat, and humidity of August in Beijing, says he won't be running in the upcoming Olympic marathon (NY Times story). The Ethiopian and current world record holder in the marathon (2:04:26, Berlin), will, however, still compete in the 10,000 meters, an event where he's twice won Olympic gold (Atlanta '96 & Sydney '00). A noted asthma sufferer, Gebrselassie seemed to conclude that it would be too much of a risk to run 26.2 miles in the frequently smog-choked city. While asthma medication is permitted under doping controls, too much use can still trigger positive controls and the career-breaking sanctions that go with it.

(Photo by kevindooley, under Creative Commons)

Monday, March 10, 2008

RJ Review: Ultimate Direction's Classic Water Bottle

It may seem silly to review a simple water bottle, but if you've ever spent four hours on the trail with leaky bottles, you know how much a good bottle actually matters. All it takes is an occasional drip to chill your hands or legs on a winter run, and in summer the drips can advance from simple annoyance to mental torture by mile 20 - turning your legs into a sticky, bug-catching mess all the while. At Run Junkie, we've tried a huge variety of bottles over the years - from the typical bike store offerings, to the typical running store offerings. And hands down, the best bottle we've tried to date is Ultimate Direction's Classic Bottle (site). What makes this bottle so great? Simple: It just doesn't leak. Year after year; dishwasher cycle after dishwasher cycle; it seals like an airlock. We know people who can baby other bottles to good performance with hand washing (read "Nathans" (site)), but the convenience of a bottle that stands up to the old Whirlpool is key. It's hard enough to find time to run, let alone hand wash water bottles. And while all of Ultimate Direction's bottles may work as well as the Classic, we just can't warm up to their bottles with the creepy rubber "kicker" valve. We much prefer the standard tops of the Classic. The relatively recent move to opaque sides was a bit strange. It makes it hard to keep track of how much Perpetuem you've downed. But that's a small nick in an otherwise great, if basic, bottle.

Braje, Beck Take Way Too Cool 50k 2008

The 2008 ultra-marathon season got off to a great start this weekend with the running of the Way Too Cool 50k in Cool, Ca (race site). Used by many runners as a first test in their summer race schedules, the men's race was won by Todd Braje in 3:32:12, the women's race by Sussanah Beck in a blazing 3:55:22 that eclipsed Ann Trason's course record of 3:59:32 set in 1993 (results).

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Injury Keeps Radcliffe Out of London Marathon reports today that marathon world record holder, Paula Radcliffe, won't be toeing the line at the London Marathon on April 13 (story; race site) The reason? Her toe, actually, which she injured in training in February. She would have been vying for her fourth London Marathon title.

See previous post on Radcliffe's plans for Beijing 2008 (post)

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Taking Things Too Far: Overtraining

If you've ever been there, you know it: the bone-crunching fatigue, the trouble sleeping, the lack of sex drive, the slow times. Yep, it's in the air: overtraining. And while many of us can wear its symptoms like a crown of motivation and dedication, overtraining really has no performance benefits, except for telling us it's time to cut back and get on track. Of course, this is tough for many of us, largely because optimal training can dance on the edge of overtraining, and it's hard to know when you cross over the line and your miles start to work against you rather than for you. In the periodic Play Magazine, put out by the New York Times, a great article talks about the ins and outs and biochemistry of overtraining (story). A key quote from the article by Bob Larsen, the co-coach of Team Running USA (link), seems to capture the training conundrum for most of us:
“You can avoid overtraining by undertraining, but then you don’t win medals.”

Monday, March 3, 2008

Paula Radcliffe: Athens behind, Beijing full steam ahead

The last summer Olympics was a tough patch in Paula Radcliffe's storied career as a standout runner. Beat by the Athens heat and humidity - reaction to which was possibly made worse by some anti-inflammatories - she dropped out of the marathon at mile 20. She had another go in the 10,000 meters a few days later, but that race didn't come together either. Now in 2008, on the heals of winning the New York City Marathon, she's keeping her Athens performances in perspective and using the experience to build toward Beijing this August. Read's interview with Radcliffe about her Athens races and views on Beijing 2008 (story).

Postscript: (3-6-08) Injury keeps Radcliffe out of London Marathon (post)

(Photo by Alan Cordova, used under Creative Commons)