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Workout Wedesday: The Nike+ Human Race 10K

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Two intrepid runner/writers. One race. Your inside peek at the lives and workouts of the LAist Nike+ Human Race Team. LAist Contributors Melissa Moore and Angel Magana talk all about it.

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Photo by Hamed Saber via Flickr

Name: Melissa
Most recent 5K (3.1 mile) time: 25.4
Years running: 18
Miles per week: 15-20
Age: 31
Fitness level: Intermediate
Shoe: Adidas
Normal terrain: Pavement with some trail work

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Even the best runners find themselves, at times, completely unmotivated to run. Famed novelist Haruki Murakami, in his new book, "What I Talk About When I Talk About Running," addresses the oft felt entrapment of torpor: “No matter how much long-distance running might suit me, of course there are days when I feel kind of lethargic and don’t want to run. Actually, it happens a lot. On days like that, I try to think of all kinds of plausible excuses to slough it off. Once, I interviewed the Olympic running Toshihiko Seko, just after he retired from running and became manager of the S&B company team. I asked him, ‘Does a runner at your level ever feel like you’d rather not run today, like you don’t want to run and would rather just sleep in?’ He stared at me and then, in a voice that made it abundantly clear how stupid he thought the question was, replied, ‘Of course. All the time!’”

Which is good, right? This means it is not just us, the average person with a beat up pair of Sauconys and a wicked hangover, that hears the call of greasy diner food a fair amount louder than a three-mile out-and-back. What makes us runners, of course, is running regardless, mostly because we don’t know anything but pavement and trail and shin splints and sweat, this language of punishment and exaltation all at once.

Of course, there's a good chance that it's all just muscle memory from years of training, this ability to keep running, rain or heat, hungry or jetlagged, despite the overwhelming desire to jettison this daily habit like a recovering junkie. How do we explain our need to get up before the sun while our loved ones sleep, and lay our sweat all over Los Angeles, especially after whining and complaining the night before about doing so? Could it be that this Pavlovian response to seeing our shoes at the front door is actually just hedonism? You know what I'm talking about: we run for that feeling right after. It may only be a couple of miles, and slow as hell, but afterwards things just make sense. Endorphins, clarity, oxygen, whatever. It's worth it every time.

That said, let's face it: 5 miles is still 5 miles. And 6.2 miles? Holy hell. Especially when daily running has petered down to a comfortable (and somewhat lazy) 9 min/mile pace with some extended stretching (ahem) at traffic lights on a 4-mile loop. Getting in racing shape is a Thing To Do, and with the Nike + Human Race 10K looming ever closer, the energy of activation to both speed up and go farther grows exponentially. Having been mailing it in for the last year or so training-wise, despite an overheated 4th of July 5K in Orange County, the question becomes, "How do you get out of a run rut, especially when pavement is your normal terrain?" Going back to the early, competitive years of high school cross-country practice, the answer is clear: mix it up with some trail work. Runyon Canyon Park in Hollywood offers two main choices accessible from the ends of Vista Street and Fuller Avenue, or off 7300 Mulholland Drive to the north. If you're pushing your mileage, try doing a Figure 8: head up the right side trail off the Fuller entrance, run down the fire road that cuts through the middle of the canyon, and watch for the sharp turn off on your right before you hit the dog water fountain. Pick up the pace and head up the left-hand hike before making your way back down the fire road. Bonus points for pausing only briefly at the top of the mountain to sip some water and take a mental picture of your accomplishment. You'll need it for the next time the bed calls more loudly than the street.

Name: Angel
Running level: Intermediate
Years running: 5
Miles per week: 15 - 20
Age: 36
Fitness level: Intermediate
Shoe: Saucony
Normal terrain: Treadmill, pavement, some sand

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Nike running events have a special place in my memory. Running the 10K distance for the first time at the Nike Run Hit Wonder event a few years back and completing a more "serious" distance was a great feeling. It was also a painful one, and one that forces a runner to focus on aspects of running one may not consider much for shorter distances.

Coming from a long history of recreational soccer, running was nothing new to my prior exercise routines, but certainly not a major focus point. Switching to training for 10K events forces one to adjust training focus in various ways. While some of the skills from one sport carry over to the other, there are dramatic differences which were quickly uncovered after completing the first 2 events.

First and foremost: strategy.

Running a 10K requires discipline. If one goes out too fast, the middle portion of the run will be difficult, and subsequent to that, as one approaches the finish line, one is likely to find oneself struggling to catch the people one left in the dust after the first kilometer.

To more appropriately balance out the run, one must be in tune with how one's body is performing and how much effort one is exerting throughout the run. Many current training techniques emphasize the use of heart rate monitors as a means to obtain this insight and in turn, run the distance more efficiently. Being a firm believer in technology, I quickly incorporated the use of a heart rate monitor into my training routines and use it on regular basis for base, cardio and fat burning runs.

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Heart rate monitors are useful because they help one better correlate the amount of effort required to maintain a certain pace during a run, especially when one can measure said effort against a speedometer on a treadmill. This is perhaps one its greatest uses and one that quickly provided noticeable results. Once out on the pavement, tracking one's heart rate is a good way to calculate current pace, without the advent of a real-time speedometer. In essence, one learns to associate a certain amount of effort for a desired speed which one can then easily use to calculate the time required to complete the race. More importantly, it helps one stay within certain exertion levels, reducing the possibility of starting too fast and dying out in later stages.

The second important lesson: nutrition.

No, a 10K is not a marathon, but nutrition is still important. One of my scariest experiences during my first 10K was getting a feeling of being cold around 8K into it, especially given the air temperature was about 85 degrees. Calories had been exhausted through the effort exerted. There simply wasn't sufficient gas in the tank.

Books pertaining to nutrition for runners contain a wealth of information pertaining to the matter of nutrition and do not require an in-depth discussion here. However, the most important point to be learned is the importance of hydration and consumption of complex carbohydrates.

With those two lessons learned, my training for 10K events normally consists of runs on a treadmill, with the goal of sustaining a steady speed/acceleration combination and/or steady heart rate, over a period of time closely aligned with my overall target time on race day. The distance is close to race distance, but in addition, some longer runs on pavement are also included in my program, preferably at the beach where a run in the sand can also be thrown into the mix. Albeit, the longer runs are normally run at a slightly slower pace as the objective is to build endurance.

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Speed work gets added from time to time, usually on the treadmill and consisting of what is often referred to as tempo runs, along with some runs emphasizing quick recovery by running slower paced distances sandwiched in between much faster paced segments. The latter are usually distances much shorter than race distance. Heart rate monitors are extremely helpful for all of these runs and are easily the most important and useful bit of technology for runners.

Along with the heart rate monitor, another piece of technology that is popular in running circles, including myself, is the Nike+ Sports Kit which works in conjunction with your iPod to track distance run, pace and other information. The accompanying Nike+ web site is a great tool for creating training plans and equally important, logging runs, making it a cinch to track one's progress over time. If there was a way to add one's food intake, it would be the greatest thing on Earth since sliced bread.

Nothing exciting to my training routine, but it seems to work for my needs, having allowed me to reduce my times by at least 10 minutes when compared to my first 10K event. Here is to a new personal record at the Nike+ Human Race on the 31st!