Monday, December 20, 2010

Till We Meet in Hell

Well I fumbled the ball with Blackstrap Hell but Valerie scooped it up and scored a touchdown with the Till We Meet In Hell race. The format was simple - run around a 1.15 mile trail loop for 1:30. But the race was handicapped by race times from Bradbury. More on the handicap system later.

The course was located adjacent to the USM-Gorham campus and featured a mix of cross country trail and single track with about 150 feet of elevation difference. The single track had enough circuitousness to scrub some speed but the real speed killers were the several short, steep ravines with the path moving straight down and back up the fall line.

I mistakenly believed that the course would be flattish, like the Bradbury Scuffle and Bruiser course. Why I'm not sure since I've been to USM Gorham enough times to know the terrain. I took all runners who ran both the Bradbury Scuffle and Bruiser and for each runner used these data to interpolate the distance they should run in 1:30. I then computed separate quadratic regressions of this distance on Scuffle, Breaker, and Bruiser times. I then used these functions to estimate the distance that anyone who ran any of these races should run in 1:30. Since most of us had more than one estimate, I used the maximum estimate to avoid sandbagging. Valerie then used the ratio of the entrant's distance/Blaine's distance (since Blain was the entrant with the longest projected distance) to come up with a multiplier for our actual distance. Multiply each person's performance by their own multiplier and voila - we have a handicapped race.

How good were my projections?

Runner Actual Predicted Breaker Adjusted
Blaine 10.9 12.3 11.4
Andy 10.8 11.7 10.8
Ryan 10.5 11 10.2
Jeremy 9.8 10.1 9.4

Not bad, especially given the slowness factor of the TWMIH course (and I don't think Blaine has been training optimally because of a running injury). Had I thought about this before, I would have used the "Breaker Adjustment Factor", which is computed as the average of Breaker Results/Predicted breaker results using Scuffle+Bruiser results.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Trail Monsters don't do this

Even though trail monsters don't stop when someone running in the group has to pull over and pee, you might be interested in my little experiment on the effects of stopping during your easy workout.

Friday, November 26, 2010

I've not fallen off the edge of the world

I've been rowing, and roller skiing, and hiking, and building trails, and even started running again this week. But mostly I've been resting and, after a long absence, contributing to my where's the beef blog.

1. on why I got a metatarsal stress fracture

2. a long and not very user-friendly (unless you like statistics) review of the most incompetent published paper that I've read.

I also came across a really well written blog on evidence-based running!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Is high fructose corn syrup eviler than table sugar?

No, but here is the long answer.

At least as far as your health is concerned, there is no difference. Politically and economically they are very different so you can decide there.

I'm posting this here because someone on letsrun.com innocently asked about the health of chocolate milk for recovery (which I think is a great source of carbs and protein) which quickly sunk into a HFCS bashing. Someone posted to the "proof" that HFCS is evil or at least eviler than table sugar (sucrose). That link is to a press report of a paper that got alot of attention earlier this year. I was moved enough to review the paper and write something to the letsrun message board. Here is my response, you may be interested

*************************
The study referred to in this over-hyped press report is precisely why statistics in the hands of the ignorant creates the anti-science hysteria (anti-AGW, anti-evolution, anti-evidence based medicine) that is rampant on the internet. See also http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/print/2010/11/lies-damned-lies-and-medical-science/8269

I will now use this paper in biostats 101 to test the ability of the students to find flaws in a published study. This will be an easy one.

Here are results (end point weight) from the first experiment
1. HFCS 24 hour + chow = 470 +- 7
2. HFCS 12 hour + chow = 502 g +- 11*
3. sucrose 12 hour + chow = 477 +- 9
4. chow only = 462 +- 12

First, why no sucrose 24 hour treatment?

Here is the take-home message from the authors and the press report:
1. the weight gain in the HFCS 12 hour treatment differs from the 12 hour sucrose treatment (no other differences found). Unfortunately, the authors do not actually give us the weight gains, only the table above. From the table we get the curious result that the final weight of the HFCS 24 hour treatment is actually LESS than the sucrose. if HFCS is so bad, why are these rats given 24 hours access to HFCS doing better than sucrose? The authors also do not account for multiple tests (type I error rate). Accounting for type I error rate, the statistical significance of the 12 hour HFCS v. sucrose disappears. Type I error rates is stats 101.

The authors did 2 other experiments, the "6 month" experiments, one on male rats and one on female rats. One of these didn't include a sucrose treatment so we can ignore that (interestingly, the entire paper is about sucrose v. HFCS so what is this even doing in the paper?). In the other, there is a reported difference between the 24 hour HFCS v. sucrose but not the 12 hour HFCS v. sucrose (just the reverse of experiment 1). Again, this reported difference disappears when accounting for type I error rate. What the authors failed to note at all was that the 12-hour HFCS weight gain was actually less than the 12-hour sucrose weight gain (of course this was not significant).

So what do the authors conclude in the discussion?

1. "In Experiment 1 (short-term study, 8 weeks), male rats with
access to HFCS drank less total volume and ingested fewer calories
in the form of HFCS (mean = 18.0 kcal) than the animals with
identical access to a sucrose solution (mean = 27.3 kcal), but the HFCS rats, never the less, became overweight. In these males, both
24-h and 12-h access to HFCS led to increased body weight."

Ah, no. There was no reported difference in the 24 HFCS v. 12 sucrose and even the 12 HFCS v. 12 sucrose is reported incorrectly. If you are going to make the claim that HFCS differs from sucrose, you have to explain why the HFCS 24 hour rats didn't differ.

"In Experiment 2 (long-term study, 6–7 months), HFCS caused an
increase in body weight greater than that of sucrose in both male
and female rats. This increase in body weight was accompanied by
an increase in fat accrual and circulating levels of TG, shows that this
increase in body weight is reflective of obesity."

Ah no. The authors didn't even look at the 6 month effects of sucrose in male rats so why do they make this claim? And there is no reported difference in the 12 hour HFCS v. 12 hour sucrose in females so how can they claim the difference. At least in this experiment the 24 hour results make sense, if it existed, which it doesn't.

There are numerous other smaller flaws that aren't worth bothering with given the major flaws in the design, the presentation, and the discussion. Was this paper even reviewed?

*****post script****
I posted this to LRC after someone asked the question:

thought i knew stats wrote:

Not doubting you, but would you mind elaborating what you mean by this? What are the "multiple tests", and how does the type I error rate compound?




That is a really good question. I left it out to keep the post from being too long. A type I error is a "false positive"; basically when the test is telling you there is a difference when in fact none exists.

In experiment one there were 4 treatments and so there are 4X3/2=6 ways to compare the different pairwise combinations (for example HFCS 12 hour v. HFCS 24 hour is one pairwise comparison). We don't have to compare all of these but in this case, all are of interest. So we have "multiple" tests (in this case 6. Whenever we have more than 1 test, the chance of finding a false positive (type I error) goes up (that is the chance of finding something improbable goes up if you go looking multiple times). In the case of 6 tests, our chance of finding a type I error goes from 5% (if that is what we want) to 25%. So there are very, very well known methods to control for this. Really, it is stats 101 and there are too many papers in the literature admonishing researchers when they don't deal with it. Psychology departments are known for rigorous statistics and any psychology professor at Princeton will be well versed in this. I will claim here that the last author is willfully ignoring it.

The paper actually has three experiments and a total of 6 + 6 + 3 = 15 pairwise tests that are all testing basically the same thing so I would even go further and make the claim that they should be accounting for 15 (and not just 6 tests), especially given the extraordinariness of the claim (see below). The probability of making at least one type I error with 15 tests is now 54%.

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. The authors are making the claim that .45 glucose + .55 fructose does not equal .5glucose + .5fructose. This would come as a surprise to most physiologists. It's close enough to an extraordinary claim that most physiologists would require extraordinary evidence to be convinced.

* the chance of finding something improbable. The probability of being dealt four cards of the same color is 0.5 * 0.5 * 0.5 * 0.5 = 6.25%, which is not very probable. But if you dealt yourself 4 cards 10 times in a row, the probability of one of these "hands of 4" being all the same color would be much higher than 6.25%. It's why we can win at solitaire. Sometimes.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Marathon Time Comparison chart

Marathon
Ascent (ft)
Net (ft)
Time
MDF
Baystate 430 -14 3:00:54 1.0051
Boston 578 -446 3:00:12 1.0012
Maine 947 -5 3:02:06 1.0117
Manchester City 1438 2 3:03:14 1.0181
MDI 1655 -7 3:03:52 1.0215
Sugarloaf 671 -567 3:00:07 1.0007

The above data are using my new Marathon Predictor calculator based on Greg Maclin's algorithm. The Marathon Difficulty Factor (MDF) is based on the elevation profile only, not turns (which matter) and altitude (which matters, but not going to affect the New England marathons).

Don't like my 3 hour example? Your expected pace for any of these marathons is simply pace*MDF where pace is your pace on a flat course. I've worked out an example using a 3 hour flat marathon above. If you've run one of these marathons and want to know what the expected pace on another is, your unknown pace is pace(known)*MDF(unknown)*MDF(known). Very simple!

As I showed in my previous post, expected pace and time are a function of the hills and this is where my calculator differs from Maclin's. First, I'm not sure where he got his elevation profiles but at least some I think were obtained with a barometric altimeter on his Polar Watch. I would think this would nail it but he has some odd stats that kinda hit you across the face when you stare at his chart. For example, his total gain for Manchester City is only 100 feet more than Baystate. Based on everything that I've read (mostly blogs but also estimates from the various online mapping sties) this must be far from accurate. Also note that Maclin has the net elevation gain/loss for the Boston Marathon as -378 feet but a good look at the elevation profile provided by the BAA shows this is closer to 450 feet. Marathonguide confirms this. Given these are the only three marathons that I've looked at closely (Baystate, Boston, Manchester City), I don't have as much confidence in Maclin's elevation profiles as I have in mine. One other difference between our algorithms is that I use a 0.01 mile window to compute grade and pace not a 0.1 mile window. Since I smooth my elevation profile, I'm not worried too much about overestimating the MDF and I'd rather not miss important peaks and troughs that can occur well away from the 0.1 mile marks.

Thanks to Jim's suggestion, my elevation data come from the USGS NED database based on gps positional data during marathon races for runners running about a 7 min/mile pace. That is, I substituted elevation data from NED for the gps/satellite data. I found the marathon data from the old motionbased.com site. The data are then smoothed using a cubic spline and a smoothing parameter of 2.51E-04. This smoothing parameter was chosen based on a very detailed comparison of each of the hills on the Maine Marathon smoothed elevation profile and the Google USGS topo map (since I'm familiar with this marathon, this proved fairly painless). I used the same smoothing parameter for the other marathons.

I've got a system now that I can very quickly compute these for any course that I have a gpx file so I'll add some more starting with those that are most relevant to New England.



Saturday, October 30, 2010

A calculator for predicting marathon time based on elevation profile

Chuck pointed me to Greg Maclin's site and it's excel calculator for predicting marathon times as a function of hills and turns. I've now wasted 1.5 days building my own calculator in R based on hills only. R is a statistical programming language and I cannot compile it to make a web applet. Sorry.

Background info: Basically, every 0.05 miles, I compute a "pace adjuster coefficient" based on the grade of the terrain for that 0.05 mile segment. The pace adjuster coefficient is just the % increase or decrease in the expected pace on a flat course due to a hill. The formula for adjustment are from Maclin's xls predictor. Hills affect us more late in the race so the pace adjustment percentage increases for climbs but decreases for descents after mile 16 and even more after mile 21. The difficulty of a marathon (based on hills, at least) can be summarized with a single factor, which I'll call the Marathon Difficulty Factor, which is just the average pace adjuster coefficient over all segments.

The problem with any such calculator is the estimation of the elevation profile. Here are the total ascents (in feet) of 5 marathons using 4 different websites:

Marathon
Maclin MMR ARR RA
Boston
544 295 897 1129
Maine
NA 427 955 1230
Manchester
629 758 NA 1742
Baystate
526 295 552 583
MDI
NA 659 1870 2252

MMR is mapmyrun, AAR is USATF's America's Running Routes, and RA is RunningAhead.

In general, the total ascent is ordered RA > USATF > Maclin > MMR but there are enough exceptions that no general rule can be created. More importantly, these differences have consequences on the calculated running time (and Marathon Difficulty Factor). Because I can manipulate the smoothing parameter of the spline that I fit to the elevation profile, my calculator can compute the expected time based on any of the above estimates. Cool huh?

So here is what I get for the Maine Marathon based on a 3:00:00 marathon on a flat course (MDF is the Marathon Difficulty Factor, which is the same for any goal time. Multiply the MDF to your flat-course pace and you've got your hilly-course pace!):

Ascent Time MDF
RA 1219 3:02:47 1.0154
ARR 955 3:02:10 1.0120
MMR 425 3:00:53 1.0050

So which am I to believe? At the bottom of this post, I've inserted an image of the three elevation profiles for the Maine Marathon based on the above three total ascents. Based on my knowledge of the course, the MMR profile is clearly too smoothed; it underestimates both the grade and peak elevation of the hills (that is, it flattens the hills out over a longer distance). The RA estimate looks to be not smoothed enough. And the USATF estimation looks about right.

Added at 6:16PM: MapMyRun ignores ascents less than 60 meters. Holy cow! Even the downloadable .csv files though seem to be oversmoothed relative to the other sites.

For my running bro' Jamie, here are the estimates for the MDI marathon

Ascent Time MDF
RA 2112 3:04:57 1.0275
ARR 1857 3:04:20 1.0241
MMR 660 3:01:34 1.0087


Two notes:
1. I always wondered how much hills mattered. Is MDI 1 minute or 5 minutes or 10 minutes slower than Maine for a 3Hr Maine marathoner? Based on my initial results, I'm pleasantly surprised to find that something like MDI probably adds only 2 minutes on top of Maine. However, just like Mt. Washington, when things go wrong on hills, they can go very wrong. That is, if a hill is run too fast (the actual pace isn't adjusted by effort), a slow death spiral will surely result. So a well-run hilly marathon should be within 2-5 minutes of a well-run flat marathon but a poorly-run hilly marathon will be many, many minutes slower than a well-run flat marathon.

2. For the purpose of comparing MDF among marathons, what we really need is course elevation profiles collected and smoothed in the same way. Maybe all MMR or RA or USATF.

The RunningAhead elevation profile of the Maine Marathon. A little undersmoothed?

The USATF America's Running Routes profile of the Maine Marathon. About right?

The MapMyRun elevation profile of the Maine Marathon. Definitely over smoothed.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Fall (post-marathon) goals

1. win Wolfe's Neck 5K
2. win Pathfinder's 5K
3. sub37 at Great Osprey 10K
4. run in hell
1. row on erg
2. double pole on roller skis
3. look for snow

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

So true, Robbie

The best laid schemes of mice and men
Go often askew,
And leave us nothing but grief and pain,
For promised joy!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Physical Therapy

First, let me congratulate my running buddy Jamie Anderson for the BQ at the badass MDI marathon. Wooooohooooooooo! Sweet, we're going to Boston! I was very anxious last night and this morning and very glad that mad spectator Ryan was tweeting updates. I got the news at about the Freeport exits of I-295 (don't tell the state troopers!).

Training has gone well this season and I'm in the mood to race so I hope to jump in 3-5 races over the next few weeks, both XC and road. Unfortunately I trained for the marathon and have done no running faster than MP - 10s for about 8 weeks and prior to that my speedwork was only at 5K pace so this isn't the best prep for fast xc and road races. I also of course ran a marathon two weeks ago which itself is not good prep for fast xc and road races. So my Craig Cup last saturday was my first speedwork of the fall. I was hoping to do more speedwork Wednesday but my calves are shot from the perfect storm of marathon/craig cup/low heel shoes so I ran easy at Back Cove instead.

Physical Therapy 8K race report:
Today was my second speed workout and it was again a race - the Physical Therapy 8K in Brunswick. I had not run this race before but Floyd L., David R., and some other FODs have run this over the past few years so I was hoping to see them. The race is also free for MTC members so that sealed the decision. I punched 17:45 5K into MacMillan's calculator (which is 13 s faster than my PR but I feel good!) and got a goal time of 29:15 or 5:53/mile. I didn't see Floyd or David or any Dirigo masters but I did see Bob Ashby, who has some impressive marathon times. I also had a nice starting line chat with Mike Bunker who took my A&P class a few years ago and is a wicked fast former USM steepler. I took off at what I was hoping was 5:55ish and pretty quickly found myself alone in 5th place with a decent gap both in front and behind. It largely stayed this way for the rest of the race. I hit mile one in 5:56 and felt good. I hit mile two in 5:53, again good. I hit mile 3 in 5:56, again good but about 3s slower than I wanted. Very soon into mile four I caught and passed the fourth place runner. We had turned into a wind and I was hoping to share the pulling but he was hurting. Mile four is a slight hill - about 80 feet in 1/2 mile and it was against a slight wind. Both seemed pretty trivial but my mile 4 split was 6:07. Ouch, I was hurting throughout mile 4. Mile 5 was just brutal. I was slowly catching up to the 3rd place which was a woman that I didn't recognize. But I couldn't catch her. I was spent. Last .9x mile was at 5:59 pace. Finish time 29:42, 4th overall, 3rd male. Mike Bunker cruised in for an easy win and Bob Ashby cruised in for an easy 2nd place. The woman turned out to be a former Brown U. runner Jenna Krajewski. I was a teeny bit disappointed with my time. Its about 2-4s slower than my equivalent MD5K/B2B times but I was hoping to have gained speed since then. It was also much harder than my B2B - I was really hurting today but the B2B seemed so easy.

Physical Therapy:
I won a $50 gc to Soakology Foot Sanctuary and Tea House. Which is good because I need some physical therapy. I have both calf and lower back soreness and could use a good massage (not sure about the seaweed treatment though). My lower back mm. have been sore for about a month and last Friday was notable for being the first time that I've not run because of pain. After finishing up a meeting at USM, I was putting my backpack into the car and got a shooting pain in the lower back that felt very much like how my back felt when I played golf in high school. Yes golf really torques the back. Its not a continuous pain at all but a rapid, shooting pain that occurs when the back twists and bends just so (it's very hard to replicate consciously but not accidently). It happened again while driving over to Back Cove. At Back cove I took 2 steps and realized that each pounding foot fall hurt. So while I've taken rest days (and weeks and months) for fear of aggravating an injury, I've never actually not run because it was too painful until Friday. I tested it out with a little running in place yesterday and it felt fine but skipped the TMR SMR nonetheless. Today it was no problem. Hopefully a little soakology will put it to rest.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Craig Cup race report

Wow. Another stunning day to race. We've had a very hot summer/fall but have been extremely lucky on our race days. Twin Brook doesn't get any better than this.

Given my marathon Sunday, I was unsure if I'd race. I took Monday-Thursday off and ran an easy 5 miles Friday. Marathon recovery went well. By Wednesday I had no soreness although I had calf soreness during my friday run. I had decided to race The Craig Cup by Thursday and Friday's run confirmed the decision.

My PR on the course is 19:36ish. I thought I was in sub19 shape but given my marathon training (with no speedwork) and marathon, my goal was a PR 19:30. For those that have not run this course, Twin Brook is about 1:00 - 1:30 slower than a fast road 5K. Many people run it closer to 2 minutes slower. The first mile is a race killer. The last mile is a pace killer. I thought I would run a 6:20 first mile, then 6:15, then see if I could just hang on.

Bam! 6:19 first mile. I didn't even use my watch! I thought by the end of this mile that I had zero chance of running 19:30. But then, Bam! 6:14 2nd mile, again no watch (ok I peeked at the half-way mark, which only I knew). Now I had all those thoughts of ok I'm cooked. I cannot hang on to this pace. But there's only 1 mile left... If I can just...Bam! 6:04 3rd mile. OK hang on, it's a slight downhill 0.1 mile and Bam! 18:58. Sweet!


Props to Matt Lunt for taking home The Cup! Thanks to Blaine for the beautiful pictures and to Jamie, Ryan, Val, Rick, Kate, Dave Howard, and Cacky for all of the race day help (although there was a lot less than I'd thought I needed thanks to USATF Maine).

Monday, October 4, 2010

Maine Marathon race report

There. I've done it. It took me only 5 years of training!

The race was almost perfectly executed. I placed myself upfront but started easy. I used 1/2 marathoners on the way out by running in their wake. They kept slowing down so I'd have to pick up the pace for 30-50 yards to quickly get to the next group. But then after the 1/2 turnaround it was just me. From the 1/2M turnaround (6.5 miles?) to the finish I passed 5-6 runners; none passed me. And I didn't have the opportunity to run with anyone - no one was going my pace.

It was nice to see friends out on the course including James, Brett Hellstedt and Matt Lunt. And Mike Pratico was actually in his car waiting for me to cross Rt. 1 with its intersection with Rt. 88! It was great to have Ryan and Ian in multiple spots. And it was fun to have Cacky and Sam cheer me on at mile 4 when I was feeling invincible. And Tom and Will were working the finish line water handout with FHS XC so I had my whole family at the finish. Falmouth crowds were awesome. Cumberland and Yarmouth was a little sparse. The course is great. Challenging. Not Chicago but not MDI (not that I've run either).

My drink/feeds went surprisingly well considering I have little experience with either. I gu'd at miles 6, 12, and 18. I gatoraded at miles 3, 9, and 15 and I took water everywhere else except the last station. There were definitely plenty of stations for this schedule. The last gatorade didn't sit very well (I really never run on gatorade) but the feeling left after about 1 mile. I also got a bit of that last gatorade in my eye, which stung.

I started to feel the legs as early as mile 8. I made the turn in what I thought was 1:29:05 (a little fast) but the results say it was 1:29:33. By mile 16 I was anxiously awaiting miles 18-20, waiting for the wall. Never happened. Ian ran with me for a short stretch at mile 19 and I felt strong and confident in a 2:58-2:59. I still felt quite strong at 20. At 2o.5 Ryan cheered me on. I thought I was good at this point; Ryan thought otherwise. My split agreed with Ryan. I noticed the high split at mile 21 (6:56) and tried to return back to my goal pace (6:50). Miles 22 and 23 were fine but mile 24 was a disaster. I didn't feel it and was shocked when the watch returned the split. Over the last 2 miles I had really heavy legs and simply couldn't turn them over. I kept trying to increase the pace and I just as quickly fell back. With 1.5 miles left, I knew I wouldn't go sub3. With 1 to go, Ryan tried to convince me otherwise. I thought all it would take is something just under 6:30 but I just couldn't do it. In fact I didn't increase my pace at all.

The end of a marathon is really weird. I wasn't especially tired or exhausted at all, but my body was broken.

My watch finished with 26.44 miles so in the splits below, I include what my watch displayed, the corrected split, and the corrected cumulative split. I did recognize that my watch splits were a little fast (I thought they were 2s fast but, alas, they were 3s fast, and that mattered).

Mile Watch Pace Corrected Pace Cum average pace
1 06:50 06:54 06:54
2 06:48 06:51 06:52
3 06:43 06:47 06:51
4 06:43 06:47 06:50
5 06:47 06:50 06:50
6 06:47 06:50 06:50
7 06:51 06:54 06:50
8 06:51 06:54 06:51
9 06:50 06:53 06:51
10 06:50 06:54 06:51
11 06:45 06:48 06:51
12 06:44 06:47 06:51
13 06:48 06:51 06:51
14 06:46 06:50 06:51
15 06:47 06:50 06:51
16 06:43 06:47 06:50
17 07:00 07:04 06:51
18 06:49 06:52 06:51
19 06:48 06:52 06:51
20 06:48 06:51 06:51
21 06:56 07:00 06:52
22 06:46 06:49 06:52
23 06:50 06:53 06:52
24 07:05 07:09 06:52
25 06:58 07:02 06:53
26 06:59 07:02 06:53
26.22 06:58 07:02 06:53

Final time: 3:00:36

Monday, September 27, 2010

Sign test


Humans look for signs to predict the future. We're pretty good at it, but far from perfect. Two contrasting signs emerged this weekend.
1) My HR on the 7+ miles on the Oak Hill/Campus loops at Pineland was very low for my 7:49 pace. I had the static-induced HR spike during mile 2-3 but over the last 4.3 miles, which was net uphill, my pace was 7:43/mile and HR averaged 136.5 (77.6 MHR). Compare this to April/May, when I last ran Pineland. The chart above shows five data points - the four to the right are from the spring and the one to the left was yesterday. I'm basing my marathon training on my Mother's Day 5K time from May (which was reinforced by my Beach to Beacon 10K). Either I'm now in much better fitness or my watch was broken or I was having an intense parasympathetic experience.

2) I scanned the results of the Maine Marathon since 1998 and was stressed by the uncommonness of sub 3 marathons among runners that are about my 5K/10K speed.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Twin Brook

I started my weekly Friday morning MP runs on Rt. 88 the week after Mt. W. way back in June. Today I blew it off. Instead I did a 2X Craig Cup at Twin Brook at my MP + 19s (with a 1/4 mile jog in between). I've looked at lots of people's road and Craig Cup 5Ks and about 20s/mi is a pretty good conversion so I was right on target. That course is fun to run at a brisk pace. So much more fun than running a road.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Optimal training for busy, chaotic lives

ante-script: I've made some corrections to my original post.

My long run post sparked some spirited discussion and Danielle's comment raised the issue in my mind of: what is the optimal training for someone running 20 miles per week? or 30? or 40? I guess that depends if optimal is defined by general fitness, or not getting injured, or setting PRs (and if this, what distance race 5K or 100 miles?).

Chuck mentioned something about FIRST training recently, which is designed around maximizing performance with minimal running. Here is an example of a 3-day a week marathon schedule. All the key workouts are there: speed, tempo, and long. And that's it! None of the regular old runs that we throw in between the speed, tempo, and long runs. Instead, the authors suggest that you cross train on two other days of the week (and rest the other two). The point of the cross training is to maintain cardiovascular fitness without the added "pounding" of running.

All of the FIRST runs are hard, if properly done.
1) The 400 meter reps are 15s faster than mile pace. The 1600 m reps are 20-25s faster than 5K pace - and these are the slowest of the interval runs. I find speedwork like this very hard on my body, but maybe that's because I don't do them very often (any anything done intermittently is hard on the body.
2) The Tempo runs are run at 10K (short tempo runs) up to a little faster than 1/2M pace (for long tempo runs). This is a pretty typical Daniels T pace (or Pfitzinger). But many good coaches advocate a little slower (and longer) tempo runs - something in between 1/2MP and MP.
3) The Long run is about 30-45s above MP. 45s is right at the fast end of my easy (E) pace according to Daniels, and the range (30-45s above MP) is generally considered by many coaches to be the pace that one should generally run the least. Regardless, a weekly long run at this pace is a hard workout.

Notice that the interval runs are very fast for marathon training, the long run is very fast for marathon training (although maybe averages out to a 10 mile slow + 10 mile at MP run) and NONE of these runs are at goal pace.

Does cross-training twice per week increase race speed above simply resting those days? Does cross-training reduce injury risk relative to running those days? Yes to both questions seems intuitively obvious, but lots of things that seem to be obvious turn out to be wrong (e.g. Newton's first law). I have no dogs in these fights but I could mount a number of criticisms of what might seem the obvious answers.

The "study" done by the Furman professors is laughable (at least as reported in the RW article). It really is. They took a heterogenous group of recreational runners and gave them a training plan and we learn that some physiological measures correlated with race speed improved. No duh! What kind of training were the participants doing before FIRST? Where was a control group?

FIRST is an interesting approach if you have a very busy chaotic life. But I'm not sure I'd want my only runs to be hard if I had a very busy chaotic life. I guess my modification would be:

1) fun & fast - fartlek on a trail, or hill repeats, or intervals on a trail, or a race, whatevs!
2) a "run to the barn" tempo run - not at a Jack Daniel's tempo pace (as in FIRST) but at something between 1/2MP and MP (whatevs, right?). Nothing fast here. If you're out for a 7 mile run and you're feeling good then "run to the barn" over the last 3 miles. What's more fun than that?
3) a long, very easy, run

That and $2 will get you a small cup of coffee at Starbucks.

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Long Run

For the last few years, I've been under the impression that a 20+ mile long run was the key workout for marathon training. Indeed, I thought the 20+ mile long run to a marathoner was like Sunday church to a southern baptist; we'd rot in hell before missing it. But reading the Running Times article on the Hansons' marathon training turned me into a a long run atheist.

The article (and many threads on letsrun.com) convinced me that the long run is not the key workout. It's important, but not as important as the MP runs and the speed/strength intervals (intensity!) and far less important than total weekly mileage (volume!).

I've heard a couple of reasons to do 20 or 22 mile long runs:
1) 20 miles is where you hit the wall so running 20+ miles trains your body to not bonk or hit the wall (or variants of this). Indeed, 20 miles is about the distance that our muscles run out of glycogen but we avoid this in a race by taking gels during the race, not by running 20+ miles during training.
2) 20+ mile runs get us mentally prepared for the distance and allows our legs to adapt. But we're not doing the 20+ mile runs at race pace during training so how does a long, slow 20+ miler prepare us for anything other than long, slow runs? From all I've read and heard, it's the last 6 miles that make the race, not the first 20. Adding 10 miles of MP to our long run is a good training strategy but how close does these come to preparing us mentally and physically for racing those last 6 miles (and what is the toll on our bodies during the next week)?

I suppose if one's goal were to simply finish a marathon, a 20+ mile run may be useful mental preparation, but that's not my goal. Rather, it's to run it as fast as I can. And to run it as fast as I can, I need to have my legs prepared for the other weekly workouts. And if I'm tired and sore from a 22 mile long run, I cannot do these workouts as they should be done.

20+ mile runs do have their place on a marathon training schedule...if you run 80+ miles per week. A good rule of thumb is that the long run should be about 20% of your weekly training volume. Or 25% maximum. For our sub 2:30 marathoners running 120 miles a week, a 22 mile long run is nothing; these guys are running 20 miles most days of the week (but in doubles). As a percentage of weekly volume, it's equivalent to a 7.5 mile run for someone running 40 miles per week. But a 20 mile run for someone running 40 miles per week seems crazy. If you throw in a proper interval day and a MP day, you've pretty much exhausted your mileage total and you'd have to rest the other days. I don't think 3-4 days of running is going to get you your fastest marathon.

Many coaches combine a 6-10 mile MP run with the long run. I've followed the Hanson's schedule and separated these. I don't disagree with the combination, I've just not done it. So my long runs have all been easy pace and generally <=16 miles. I did one 18 miler just because. My weekly mileage is about 15% more than the Hanson's advanced schedule but those miles have been added to the other weekly runs and not the long run. Most of my long runs have been on trails. This has kept me out of traffic (like) and added much more hill work, which is good for maintaining strength. Plus its much easier to keep it at an easy pace on trails than on the road. I've run only two long runs on the road. Two of my long runs have been mountain runs (Mahoosuc and Pemi loops). Both of these runs included significant walking sections and both short (Mahoosuc) and long (Pemi) rest breaks. But both were significantly harder than a 16 miler on the road.

There are many, many reasons that I might limp in 5-30 minutes slower than my goal time, but not running a 20+ miler is not one of them.

P.S. a good question is why not do a 20+ mile long run if it is >> 20% of weekly volume. My decisions rested on two reasons:
1) recovery time. 20+ mile runs, especially if they are on the road and at a decent pace, are hard and recovery can be long. I didn't want my long runs to compromise my midweek workouts (intervals and MP runs)
2) risk of injury. Given my increased weekly mileage, which by itself increases my risk of injury, I didn't want to further increase this risk by running 20+ mile long runs.

We all vary in our ability to recover and resist injury. If you recover quickly from a 20+ mile run (or you don't care about midweek workouts) and if 20+ mile runs don't seem to increase your rate of injury, then a 20+ mile long run is a great tool to have in your running toolkit, regardless of your weekly mileage.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Still stacking...

One of my goals this summer has been to race through training - that is avoid tapering before and rest days after races. Maybe I'm tempting injury fate?

Sunday - 12 mile trail race @ Bradbury Bruiser
M - 4 miles, Dan Cardillo+ loop, very easy
T - 5.5 miles, TMR TNR @ TB, very easy
W - 4 X 2 mi at MP - 10s, Back Cove. 11 miles total. Felt good.
Th - 5 miles at Falmouth Community Park, very easy
F - 10 miles at MP + 1 mi wu + 1 mi cd. 6:47 min/mi, 148 HR. legs began to feel it by mile 8 but overall felt great. This HR was surprisingly low (maybe 84-86%Max), which is good!

Last long run (hey my long runs are only 16 miles) this Sunday! Then 85% volume next week and 50% race week. What is it Jamie says about barns?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

MP runs

A key feature in the final phase of marathon training seems to be twice-per-week marathon pace (MP) runs.

run 1) Canova, Hudson, and Hansons have their runners do intervals at slightly faster than MP. 6 x 1 mi at MP-10s (and other variations of 6 miles at MP like 3 X 2 mi and 2 X 3 mi) seems to be the bread and butter. High mileage guys seem to like 3 to 5 x 3 mi.

run 2) The Hansons advocate the continuous MP run (6-10 miles) be separate from the long run but it seems Hudson and Canova (and lots of other marathon coaches) combine the two, so a 20 miler might be 10 at MP - 1 minute and the final 10 at MP.

Regardless, a commonality of Canova, Hudson, and Hansons is putting in about 25% of the weekly volume at MP. Since I began my sharpening (MP) phase, I've been right on 25% although I was a little low the week of the pemi loop (because of an absurdly long, long run) and really low last week although I did get in 12 miles (the Bruiser) at about HMP.


Monday, September 13, 2010

Bruised but not broken

Perfect racing weather and conditions for fast times at the Bradbury Bruiser Sunday. Typically, wet ground makes the many lateral push-offs on the tight turns tricky. This year, it was grab a tree and swing! I went out faster than I typically do but still got caught behind a train of fast starters that slowed. My 2nd mile was slow, either because I was too complacent running behind other runners or because, well, this section is just slow. But it was about the end of mile two that I took the lead in a chase pack and started pulling a very long train of runners. Toot toot!

We slowly caught more runners including Nathan Alsobrook. Then around mile four we started catching some Bates runners. About mile 5 Nathan decided to put the hammer down and passed me like I was standing still. I picked up the pace and kept him in sight until we got to the long uphill climb at mile 6. I closed the gap a little on this climb but he opened it back on the downhill single track.

I started to get the pre-sidestitch feeling very early - maybe mile 4, and concentrating on breathing helped to keep a side stitch at bay. But when we came out of the single track at the last aid station two things contributed to a full blown stitch: 1) I called out gatorade and 2) I tried to drink the gatorade on the steep little downhill after the station. All this created a series of short, rapid, shallow breaths and bam! I had my stitch. Bad location because I thought my only chance of beating Nathan was catching him on the climb to the start of the O trail. I did a pretty good job and closed to within maybe 10-15 s. I had also put a gap on the runners behind me.

In the O trail I really focussed on breathing. I probably slowed a little too because I noticed by about 1/2 way through that the train of runners had closed on me and Nathan was now far ahead. The focused breathing allowed me to run without intense pain but it was hard to focus on the terrain at all. Plus the terrain just wreaked havoc on my breathing. I saw Floyd Lavery and Andy Kiburis and Don Medd behind me but it was impossible to tell how far back they were (close enough!). I was catching up to and ultimately passed a broken Mike Dowling but with what I thought was about 3/4 mile of O to go, I let Greg Goodhue pass me but I stayed on his tail. Very soon and quite unexpectedly we ran into Knight Woods trail (not running the O at all I didn't have any markers to know when to GO) and I threw everything I had at Greg and passed him. According to my watch the runout is only .15 mi (it sure seemed longer than that). Greg tucked in behind me until maybe 50m to go then passed me back. I crossed a fraction of a second behind him. I assumed that meant Greg took the AG prize but in fact, some guy from Camp Hill PA (is there still a Book-of-the-month club?) smoked us both by 5+ minutes.

This race really is an awesomely fun trail race. The tortuosity of the mtn. bike trails is really like nothing I've seen in other trail races.

Average pace: 8:06 (about 27% slower than my road 20K/half-marathon pace)
Pre-O trail pace: 7:46 (about 22% slower)
O trail pace (not including last 1/2 mile): 9:30 (about 50% slower!!!)

These paces assume of course the distance is 11.5 miles, which is certainly an underestimate...

Note on distance: The distance estimated by the Garmin (11.49) 305 is short by at least 1/2 mile if not a full mile. I once walked the Bradbury 12 mtb. race course (basically the bruiser course minus the O trail) and I got 9 on my Garmin while he got 10 on his bike wheel.

Splits:
Distance Pace Avg HR Total Time
1 Mi 7:53 151 0:07:52
1 Mi 8:29 158 0:16:21
1 Mi 7:27 158 0:23:47
1 Mi 7:44 158 0:31:31
1 Mi 8:02 156 0:39:32
1 Mi 7:21 157 0:46:52
1 Mi 7:26 156 0:54:18
1 Mi 7:41 154 1:01:58
1 Mi 8:01 155 1:09:59
1 Mi 9:25 153 1:19:24
1 Mi 9:36 156 1:29:00
0.49 Mi 8:13 157 1:33:01


Sunday, September 5, 2010

Chariots of Fire

I took a rest day on Thursday and watched Chariots of Fire (instead of, you know, actually running). I love this film and don't find it in the least bit slow or dull. Even the Vangelis score doesn't bother me. It helps that I generally like period pieces. The movie does a great job developing the two main characters (Eric Liddel, the original flying Scotsman, and Harold Abrahams). The two Cambridge masters are superb. And the movie just makes me want to run. Kind of ironic that I was watching it on a rest day then. The movie does have a few fictions in it. One interesting one is the character Lord Lindsey, the hurdler, who is modeled after Lord Burleigh (who ran hurdles for Britain in the '28 Olympics). Lord Burleigh is descended from the Lord Burleigh who advised QEI (watch the Kate Blanchet films).

Training pretty much a carbon copy of last week except that I did my long run on the road (and took a rest day)
M - Very easy 8.8 on Blackstrap Hill with James and Emma
T - Easy 9.2 (last two at MP) at TMR TNR @ TB
W - 3 X 1 + 1 X 3 at MP - 10s at Back Cove
Th - Chariots of Fire
F - 1 m wu + 9 mi @ MP on Rt. 88 with James
S - Very easy 9.7 at Bradbury (Bruiser minus O)
S - Very easy 18.2 on Falmouth/Cumberland Roads with James

Total - 65.9

That's 4 long weeks in a row so I will reduce volume about 20% this week and run the Bruiser.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Trail Week


We've had a nice burst of trail building activity these last few weeks of summer in Falmouth. The top picture is on the segment of the Cross Falmouth Trail behind Falmouth High School. The picture was taken Friday afternoon - by Sunday morning when the Trail Monsters ran through here, the bridge was done, thanks mostly to Caleb Hemphill (thank him when you see him). The bridge makes this section of trail soooooo much nicer than what we had cut last year.

The 2nd picture is a small crew of FHS xc runners (including sons Tom and Will) who helped me polish off the Field Rd. trailhead into the Community Park trail system. Bob Shafto has been working hard on that system all summer and its super fun to run now. James and I will be using this trail head to get the xc skiers into Community Park from FHS.

Ian Parlin, Chuck Hazzard, Blaine Moore, Jim Dunn, Mike Pratico, Don Medd, and I took advantage of both of these trails in our Sunday morning Tour de Falmouth. The section from Hannaford to Winn Road is just really fun single track. The west side of Winn Rd. is a confusing network of snomo trails and everyone discovered that my proclivity for wrong turns is not limited to races. I'm eager to cut some single track in this area next summer. After reaching Gray Rd., Blaine, Chuck and I hung on for a little more trail running through the Blackstrap Hill Preserve. Coming out of the BHP, we hit the full length of the gas line, which is about a 3/4 mile of roller coaster (Hell does just a short section of this) but a net 180 foot climb. Its a butt kicker at then end of a long run.

The week:
M Easy 6 mi at Community Park with Ian, James
T Easy 10.8 mi TMR TNR @ Twin Brook
W 4 X 2 mi @ MP-10s @ Back Cove - very windy. 1st mile very hard, not bad after that. 10 mi total (2nd was actually 1.5 mi since I mistimed my start)
Th Easy 4.1 mi at Back Cove
F 1 mi wu + 9 mi MP on Rt. 88. Much harder than last week's run. Bummer.
S Very Easy 9.6 mi at Bradbury Bruiser course with Ian and Joe. Very tired for first half.
S Easy 15.1 mi Tour de Falmouth. Felt great.

Total 65.6 miles

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

dull training post

M rest
T AM 6.8 mi easy Mountain Rd. loop, PM 5.5 mi easy @ Twin Brook
W 2 X 3 mi at MP-10s (6:33, 6:29/mi) @ Back Cove, total 8.4 mi
Th easy 6.1 mi at Community park
F 1 mi wu + 9 mi MP (6:38/mi - 4s fast!) - felt good
S 9.8 mi easy at Bradbury
S 16.1 easy on Woodville Rd. (7:38/mi)

Total 62.8 mi
Elevation profile of Sunday long run. Did inner Woodville loop clockwise then counterclockwise

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Does anyone at Garmin actually run?

In 4 years I've had three 205s and one 305.

1 One 205 loss was partially my fault. I read the spec "water resistant to 1 m" and interpreted that to mean that I could swim with it. At the surface. Using the breast stroke. I swam about 10 m (out to a canoe) and the watch took on water behind the glass plate. Garmin kindly replaced the watch but...

2 In discussion with the Garmin tech I was told that "water resistant to 1 m" means the watch should be able to handle being dropped in a puddle but that they recommend to customers to avoid running in the rain with the watch. Wait what? It's crazy enough to build a sports watch that's not resistant to 50 m (which Casio built soon after digital watches first appeared) but to build a running watch that shouldn't be used in the rain? WTF?

3 A second 205 loss occurred because sweat corrodes the little metal plates on the back of the watch. This is a well known issue and my solution is to swap out the Garmin strap with a strap that covers these. Still, bad move building a running watch that is destroyed by sweat.

4 Garmin again kindly replaced my watch and the new 205 lasted about one year before the batteries just died on me and the watch wouldn't start. I could have replaced the batteries but I wanted a HRM and the 305 was now at a reduced price so I purchased the 305. At one point I thought I had lost the 305 and borrowed James 405. I had read reports that runners had a hard time turning the bezel with sweaty hands. I had a hard time turning the bezel with dry hands before the run. And with sweaty hands it was impossible. Again, bad moving building a running watch that becomes afunctional with sweat.

5 This issue doesn't affect me but Polar and Suunto seem to be able to make a HRM that can be worn *and actually record HRs* during swimming.

6 This summer (and last) I've had increasing trouble with artificially high heart rate recordings. Not short spikes but extended bouts of HRs ranging from 170 to 220. My HR max is 175ish and the only time I'm ever over about 165 is hammering a steep hill. This is also a known issue but is only supposed to occur at the beginning of the run. I had these extended bouts throughout my 16 mile run today. I googled the problem looking for solutions. It seems the Garmin HR monitor is sensitive to the static in a shirt (although more people complain about this with the 310xt and not the 305). That cannot be the complete explanation because I have this issue when I don't wear a shirt. Garmin suggests that runners wear a cotton t-shirt, which has less static than a tech tee. WTF?

7 While I'm on my Garmin tirade, I'll add that I loved the old motionbased site. This site was built by what, 2 guys in their spare time? Garmin purchased the site and promised upgrades. Then a year went by. Then another. Then they dropped the project. Now I use RunningAhead, which is an awesome site developed by a single guy (I think).

Apparently the staff at Garmin can run in cotton tees because they neither sweat nor run in the rain.

I'm not hating on the watch. Indeed, I love the big face of the 205/305 with it's screen divided into 3 or 4 parts. I can easily read HR, average pace, and distance while running with sweat in my eyes. But I find it curious that the watch is not resistant to common running related phenomenon, like, uh, sweat, and, oh, rain, and, let's see, tech tees. Is it that no one at Garmin actually runs?

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Pemi newbie

This was my first pemi loop run. It was my first mountain run over 18 miles. It was my first run of any kind over 19 miles. Jamie has a post describing our run and Ian has a post from last year with cool Google Earth images of the route. My feet and legs were thrashed last night but have no residual soreness today, just a little stiffness that lasts about 30s after getting up from sitting.

The scenery is stunning and its pretty cool to stand on the Bondcliff summit and view the whole loop. It doesn't seem doable (at least in one day). But it was. I do wish Maine/NH mountain trails were more runnable. Dancing on the edges of boulders is mentally challenging and exhausting. Plus, I just like to run faster than the rocks allow. I actually enjoyed the steeper climbs, such as Garfield. But I disliked the jarring of the steeper descents.

Some stats: Distance - 31.5 seems to be the consensus but my Garmin 305 gave me 29.4 (I turned it off at the two rest stops to save battery so had to merge the three segments and I missed about 1/4 mile of one segment). Time - 11.5 hours including all stops. Fluids - about 160-180 oz. water and one small cup of lemonade. Feeds - leftover pizza for breakfast at 3:30AM, nutrigrain bar, lots of honey roasted peanut/mm's/raisin mix, one blueberry crumb cake, one pb&j. By Liberty/Flume, I was in the mood for another sandwich and not trail mix. Gear. Camelbak snoblast. Not a great running pack but it had the room that I wanted for jacket, first aid, food. inov8 hat (thanks Ian!). Tifosi Tyrant glasses - These are photochromic but I had these up on the head for the 2nd 1/2 of the loop while in the trees because I was tired and really wanted to see where I was planting my feet. Socks - old Wright socks Lo. The holes were fine but the low cut allowed my shoe to bother (but not really aggravate) a previous blister on the heel. Running buddies - Jamie, Jim, Joe, David, Greg. Well matched and fun group!

postscript. Adding this for my own records. I could feel a little soreness following a 4 mile run Sunday evening. Yesterday I had an unplanned rest day because of stress over work-related stuff. Last night, I had a very minor ache (left foot) that may have been more mental than physical. I ran a nice 7 miler this morning with three fastish hill climbs and everything feels great. The 31+ miles has been (so far!) non-consequential on recovery and continued training.

Some pics:




Monday, August 9, 2010

Quad B part deux - Bradbury Mountain Breaker

My penalty loop. The little bump before mile five in the elevation profile was the off-course section.

Because of the many flaws in a 7 day/week, 365.4 days/year calendar system, the Beach to Beacon and Bradbury Mountain Breaker fell on the Saturday and Sunday of the same weekend this year, so several of us had to double up and run the B2B2BB or Quad B. The Beach to Beacon report is here.

The beautiful Maine summer weather we had Saturday continued into Sunday. It was a nice break from the record warm Spring and Summer we've been having (hottest March and April, second hottest May, June, and July).

This race was an important Trail Monster Running event because Acidotic Racing came out of the woodwork of the tarpaper shacks they inhabit in NH (anyone ever read "An Arsonist's Guide to Writer's Homes in New England"? It's bloody hilarious). Bragging and Beer were on the line.

I wasn't expecting a fast race because of my 10K the day before. But I felt surprisingly fresh and started passing people after a moderate-paced start. This included sailing past Chris Dunn, guru of acid-and-pothead racing. Dunn smoked me at Pineland 2009 and Exeter trail races, but was pwned at Pineland 2010 and Mt. Washington. James Demer was impatient with the pace and passed David Roberts and I on the rolling part of the Boundary Trail before it starts climbing. Demer is a fearless downhiller, so I was surprised that we caught back up to him near the bottom of the go-as-fast-as-you-dare South Ridge trail. I mostly ran the summit trail but walked the steepest bits, especially near the top. Peter Keeney was running the whole thing and passed me but at the top he was only a step ahead and my walk and his run were effectively the same pace. We also closed in on Adam Zukowski and Steve Wolfe at the top. Sweet. Just before the crest, I started running again, passed Keeney and took-off, feeling pretty good about my strategy. I seemed to have dropped Keeney, Demer, and Roberts and was now running in Wolfe's wake and he was unaware of me. Perfect. Wolfe is an Acid-robotic racer who smoked me at Pineland but I pwned him at Mt. Washington. So I had a strategy now. Stealthily stay in his wake until either the 2nd climb up the Summit Trail, or even the Northern Loop trail, then run as fast as I can and see if I can hold him off to the finish. Unfortunately, this strategy failed spectacularly for two reasons:

1) at the top of the Northern loop climb (the 2nd and much, much easier ascent of the summit), Dora yelled out something like "go Jeff". Very sweet of her but I was outed and easily noticed on the switchbacks. I noticed Wolfe pick up the pace - he's a wily racer, no doubt. So I needed to alter my strategy. Hang back and let him think he dropped me. He was running fast so running slower was an easy strategy!

2) I had the 2nd run through the Northern Loop all by myself. Wolfe and Zukowski were maybe 50 yards ahead and no-one was in sight behind me. I'm not sure what I was daydreaming about but at one point I noticed that I a) no longer saw Wolfe and Zukowski on the straighter sections and b) didn't recognize what trail I was on. b, at least, didn't surprise me since I rarely run these trails and hadn't run the Breaker course since last year. So I kept running. But the climb was getting steeper and I realized I was climbing the mountain again but I was hesitant to turn around. Then I reached orange flags crossing the trail I was on. Oops. I turned and ran back downhill and reached the Boundary Trail turnoff just as Phil Dirusso was making the right hand turn. How many people had passed me? I saw one runner in front. This turned out to be Bob Poirier. It took some time but I caught and passed Bob. I ran hard down the South Ridge trail. The second climb up the Summit Trail was much, much tougher. I walked much more of it. I took off on Tote Road but had no clue about my relative pace. No sight of anyone in front of me and no one was closing in on my behind. I tried to run hard up the last climb - It's a perfect grade for fast hill climbing. And I ran hard down the Terrace Trail. At the hairpin turn back onto Northern Loop - the final flat stretch to the finish - I met Keeney coming from the wrong direction, I guess he had taken a left at this turn (or more correctly, gone straight) and had turned around. I outraced him to the end and crossed in 1:13:32.

Shit, there's Dunn with a smirk on his face. Did he just finish? No, he finished 20s ahead. Demer and Roberts finished about 1:15 ahead. Bowdoin Nordic coach Nathan Alsobrook finished 2:41 ahead. Wolfe, Zukowski and TM Andy Kiburis finished about 4:15 ahead. Shit - had I lost 4:15? No, the good (or bad in this case) thing about wearing a Garmin is I can go into the file and look at the time stamp from when I left and re-entered the course. I only lost 2:45. So Wolfe/Zukowski dropped me by 1:30 over the last lap.

Acrid-despotic racing finished 1st in the team race and my 2:45 diversion wouldn't have made any difference (but would 4:15?). The team competition this running season has been great. Lots of Trail Monsters had great races - especially the many lady Trail Monsters. Ian and Ryan did another terrific job directing the race. Apres-race beer and food at Gritty's was most excellent. After two days of racing, the quads are in revolt today. Looking forward to the Bruiser.

Quad B part I - Beach to Beacon

Ok I'll admit it. I registered for the B2B for selfish reasons: I wanted to see how I stacked up against other runners from the area. My expected pace based on Mother's Day 5K was 37:19, which would be a big PR (which was 38:12). But the 5K was in May and I should be in better running fitness after a great summer of running. But...

I race only 1-2 10Ks per year and while I like the distance, I tend to get side-stitches at this distance. These are not the little niggling stitches but the kind that feels like a knife twisting in my abdominal wall. I have to stop and walk. This happened in my last raced B2B, where the side stitch kept me from my first sub 40.

My risk-averseness won the day - I'd rather have a great run and PR then a side-stitch and walking. The day was perfect for racing, cool temps (60F?) at the start and relatively dry. My 6ish/mi pace seemed easily maintainable; at least I never had the "racing is stupid, why am I doing this?" voice in my head. Still, I was tense about a side-stitch that usually occurs between mile 4 and 5 so I had to focus on my breathing. Felt great at mile 4, felt great at mile 5. But somewhere around the last hill before the downhill before Ft. Williams park entrance (maybe 1/2 mile left?), I got the stitch. Too bad, but I'm running through this one given less than 3 minutes left to race. I think that I had enough endogenous morphines flowing through my CNS that it was all quite bearable and I ran hard enough to pass quite a few people on the final climb after entering the park. Remarkably no one passed me toward the chute, despite my lack of anything resembling a kick. Crossed in 37.24.3 net time. 9th in age group (they didn't include the two Africans who were running as open runners).

Awesome. Except that I couldn't breathe. My diaphragm was spasming, just as it had at Mt. Washington. I find it interesting that when the diaphragm is in a spasm (the source of the side stitch), it is easier for me to breath while running then when stopped. Something about running helps to ventilate the lungs. This is well known in quadrupeds (like a dog or cheetah) but I wasn't aware of it in us.

My son Will ran it for the first time. He ran it as a fun, training run. We waited in the line for the bus back to Sprague field but the line was huge. We decided to run back to the car. A Cape policeman gave us the shortcut, which made the cool-down only 4.5 miles. This was a little more than I wanted, given the 9 mile Bradbury Mountain Breaker the next day.

Elevation Profile and Splits (my Garmin mapped my run as 6.25 miles).
Distance Time Total Time Pace
1 Mi 06:00.7 06:00.7 6:01
1 Mi 06:06.6 12:07.3 6:07
1 Mi 05:57.8 18:05.1 5:58
1 Mi 05:58.8 24:03.9 5:59
1 Mi 05:58.4 30:02.2 5:59
1 Mi 06:05.4 36:07.6 6:06
0.25 Mi 01:19.0 37:26.6 5:16

Friday, July 30, 2010

Panthertown Valley


(click on pictures to enlarge)

The Sexton-Walkers have been in Highlands/Cashiers, NC with my parents and sisters and their families. We're staying in a big house on Lake Glenville; the same house we stayed in three years ago. My family used to spend a week at my granddad's cabin in Shooting Creek about 1 hr. west of here, but the whole area has many, many more summer residents than when I was a kid.

The National Forest Service has developed a wicked nice multi-use recreational trail system in Panthertown Valley, which is a couple of miles east of Cashiers. It's a mix of old logging road, old school trail, and singletrack. There's a nice map, which is really necessary to have because the area is big and there are multiple trails that exit the official Natahala National Forest boundaries.

The marketing around here calls Panthertow Valley the "Yosemite of the East". I've not been to Yosemite but I suspect there is a reason that Yosemite is a National Park and Panthertown Valley is not. Actually, other than a small knob called "the lookout" there really are not good views of the valley.

Nevertheless, the trails are exceptionally...runable. Many of the trails are rated for mountain bikes so the climbs on these are quite easy. There are a few short steep climbs on the hiking-only trails and the climb out is a bit cruel after a long run, but otherwise, the terrain is stunning and perfect.

The map above shows my three runs in the forest, which included
1. a 7.6 miler (plus a 1.4 mile hike out with Cacky, Tom, and Will) in red
2. a 9 miler in green
3. a 16+ miler in cyan.

Most of the trails in the middle of the map and the north end of the forest are old logging roads. The trails on the south end are more hiking/single track. In general the trails range from packed dirt to loose rock and are generally (but not entirely) free of the nasty roots we have in Maine. The rocks are also flattish and not sharp and jagged like a typical Maine trail rock.

The long run this morning was beautiful. My average pace over the whole run was an easy 9:30, which is way faster than I could do on mountain trails in Camden or the Mahoosucs or the Whites. But yet it was much more of a moutain feeling than Bradbury (and Pineland of course). I'd love to have this trail network in my backyard.

After my long run, my cool down was a sweet 2 mile hike with the family along the Whiteside mountain cliffs, which I think are the highest cliffs in the east (1000 ft). Super easy hike and gazillion dollar views. Plus a pair of nesting Peregrine falcons flying at eye level made it even betterer.