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 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.

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.