Changes Afoot

February 28, 2006

I had a seminal moment this morning. I realized that I can run all the easy miles I want. I can run 130 miles a week if I feel like it, and I probably won’t break down. All I have to do is slow down, just like I did to get to 100s and 110s and even my 124 mile week that I was soooo proud of. 1450+ miles of running in 15 weeks.

So where did that get me?

This morning I attempted a 6:00 mile pace workout (2 mile WU, 6 miles of 2min on/2min off at slightly slower than marathon pace). I failed miserably. My shins and calves basically locked up within half of a mile at that pace, and I had to stop.

While this is most certainly an isolated incident, one thing has been apparent to me for about six weeks. I have gotten slow. Long slow running does indeed create a long, slow runner. I have attempted a few other workouts at sub seven minute paces, and, invariably, I either can’t complete the modest goals of the workout, or I complete the workout, only to need 2-3 full days to recover from the effort, usually at substantial reduction in mileage.

Needless to say, the satisfaction of running big miles is completely outweighed by the fact that I feel like shit running faster than 6:30 pace. At least before the big miles I could run 50 miles a week at a decent clip and still get in some fast workouts without completely falling apart.

So anyway, I have some thinking to do. Right now, I’m considering cutting the mileage for a couple of weeks to 80-90 and trying to get in a moderately fast workout that actually goes well. I’ll post up some more details in the next few days as I figure things out.


I Could Use A Nap

February 22, 2006

Rough couple of days. Work required a long day Tuesday, first in the office all day, then driving on treacherous icy roads to get to another office, and another five hours of work, followed up with driving back home for almost two hours on the same nasty roads. To top it all off, our seven week-old gassy little guy had his worst night so far, which agitates the two year-old, and makes for a very tough time for mom.

Normally, I’m in bed by 9:00pm so I can get up by 4:00am for my workout, so when I have to work from 8:00am to 12:30am the next day, and I know I’m going to miss my workout and have to spend my post-work family time doing the running that should have been done early in the morning, when it doesn’t adversely affect everyone else in the house…that’s a long clause. Allow me to restate. When I am put in a position to have to make those kinds of sacrifices for work, the kind that completely fuck up my family’s life and my personal ambitions, I get annoyed.

Anyway, that’s where I’m coming from this week. I’m at 68 miles for the week so far (Sun-Wed), which probably explains why I’m tired, irritable, and using the f-word in my blog. If the week continues to go well, I expect to end up with 110-115 miles in singles. In terms of running, it’s fantastic! I’ve been able to comfortably drop the pace a bit over the last two weeks, and I don’t appear to be breaking down in any way. I can’t wait for spring and clear roads!

Based on the changes I can see and feel, both objectively and subjectively, things will get really interesting when I can get out and start some strides, hills, tempo runs, and marathon pace work. My treadmill only goes to six minute pace, so it will barely cover marathon pace, and fail completely for anything faster. It will be useful even into the spring and summer for hill work though, as there are no hills within 20 miles of here. I guess I’m starting to get the itch to speed up…

Also, I wanted to say Hello to those of you who have been checking in on my blog. Most of my referrals come from Mike’s blog, which is very nice of him. I’ve seen hits coming from South Africa (how do you say hello in Swahili?), the Netherlands, the UK, and of course from all over the US. It’s very motivational to know you all are looking in the windows. Hopefully I can keep things interesting for you one way or another. Cheers!

Title Goes Here

February 19, 2006

The long run today went better than anticipated, and I was able to get 28 miles in. Overall, I felt really good, although there were a couple of tough spots. This was my longest run ever, both by time and by distance. It was done entirely on the treadmill, though, so unfortunately it doesn’t count toward my weekly mileage.

This 28 felt about as difficult as the 24 milers I did a couple of months ago, so I’m assuming that means progress. I even felt good enough at the end to throw in a half-mile at six minute pace. The Gatorade Endurance Formula that I mentioned in one of my previous entries worked well again. I would definitely recommend it if you haven’t tried it. I mix it 50/50 with water and take in about eight ounces every half-hour. I feel really good from a fueling standpoint start to finish, which bodes well for my upcoming marathon.

Not running related, but curling is actually an interesting game. I won’t call it a sport any more than I will call golf or NASCAR a sport, but it is more interesting than I ever gave it credit for. I ended up watching an entire match, which is 10 ‘ends’ over the course of my 3:28:07 on the hamster wheel. Basically, each team tries to get its respective rock as close to the center as possible of this big circle at the other end of this long sheet of ice. That’s as simply as I can describe it. There is a great deal of finesse and strategy involved, which is what caught my attention. I could hardly believe that I was cheering after about twenty minutes of watching this stuff!

Ice skating still sucks, though.

Trial of Miles

February 16, 2006

Okay, that title is a bit presumptive as I have only been doing the trial of miles for 14 weeks. It’s a good start, anyway. Mike was interested in seeing a log and some graphs, and I think everyone can appreciate a graphical representation many hours and miles of effort.

Click on the graphics for a closer look.

Zeke’s Paradox

February 10, 2006

Zeke posted a question to his blog today regarding the issue of using devices such as heart rate monitors and gps in training and racing. Specifically, he was trolling for examples of the positive benefits of using those devices. From the tone of the entry, I would say he is skeptical of the benefits and tends to be more the ‘listen to your body’ type. Here’s my answer.

How can you listen to what your body is telling you if it is speaking a language you don’t understand? Well, you can employ a translator, like a heart rate monitor, or you can spend a lot of time (without question time well spent) learning the language. I’ve done both, and had good results.

I’ve been using hrms off and on since high school. My first hrm experience was in Pueblo, Colorado during a set of three 1.5 mile repeats. The idea was to run the repeat, then recover to a heart rate of 120 and go on the next repeat, and then, er…repeat. It was the first hrm I had ever used. Pretty simple to operate. Just place your index finger over your opposite wrist right underneath your thumb, then count the number of beats you feel in fifteen seconds. Did it help me somehow? Well, that’s debatable. I thought the idea of measuring my physical response and reacting to that measurement was cool. It struck me as very logical. Also, I suppose I had a positive reaction to this heart rate training concept because it was a kick ass workout. I’m sure the course was short, but as a young kid, I believed I had run three 1.5 mile repeats in 7:35 with a 1.5 to 2 minute recovery at 4600 feet of altitude.

Another time I used an hrm extensively was the summer before my final collegiate season of cross country. Almost all of my base training was done at 140-150 bpm, and the hrm really did keep me from going too fast on a lot of my runs. The payoff of the hrm was I could run 80+ miles a week without getting overly tired, and I didn’t get injured. I was able to race very well that season and qualified for the NCAA II meet. Maybe if I had been using an hrm during the 12×400 workout I did ten days before nationals, I would have realized that my body was telling me I was an idiot for doing a 12×400 workout ten days before nationals.

Now I’m using a combo gps/hrm on all of my runs for the benefit of knowing how far I have gone and what kind of relative effort I have put in. Also, with the gps, I get hr data that corresponds exactly with the course that I ran. This can range from simply interesting in the case of an easy run to somewhat useful for something like a time trial or a test set, especially if you’re comparing repeated courses over time. While I understand the value of listening to what my body and mind are telling me, I like the objective data that I get from the tools. That, and I’m a gadget freak. And I like pretty graphs.


February 10, 2006

It’s Finally Friday is the headline, but I’ve included an expletive for your reading enjoyment. I do enjoy my weekends.

Eighteen miles this morning, starting before 5am, finally. I am a very pokey person in the morning. I was out of bed at 4am, dithering over some blogs and looking up some info on the Winnipeg Marathon. Then I spent some time gassing up the engine with some tasty Froot Loops–the variety with 1/3 less sugar. Very highly recommended for the over 30 palate. These are not your children’s Froot Loops. Much more sophisticated.

Anyway, I was finally able to get on the treadmill at 4:45 and get started. I’ve been struggling the past couple of weeks with improving my training pace. I’ve been reading about Hadd training and its analogue, Low Heart Rate training. Both basically say when you are in your base training phase don’t let your HR go over about 150 (there’s a formula), but try to keep it close to there for a lot of your training. The idea behind this is that most people are poorly aerobically trained, and maxing at a HR of 150 tends to slow these people down. Say your normal runs are 7:30 pace. You may find, if you are not aerobically fit, your HR is in the 155-160 range during these runs. Hadd training would suggest you slow down to a pace that may seem uncomfortably slow in order to achieve a training HR of 140-145, which, over a period of time would address the aerobic imbalance. Eventually, you would be back to running faster than the original 7:30 pace at a lower HR, and have a more balanced system.

I probably butchered the whole concept, but that’s what I got out of it. Well, I tried it myself, and found that I needed to run about 6:30-6:40 pace for every run in order to achieve an HR of 145-150. That’s way too fast as indicated by my legs after two days of doing LHR training. Hopefully that tells me I’m way too aerobically fit and I’m ready to do some speed.

Having abandoned that method, I needed to find a way to speed up my daily training, and I think I’ve found it. Since moving up to higher mileage over the past 13 weeks, I have found myself running at 7:25-7:30 pace. For a while, it was the only way to maintain the mileage without getting to tired or inviting injury. Now that I am handling the miles, and should be more fit, I still find that 7:30 pace feels *gasp* fast more days of the week than I would like. So, I’ve started running the first mile really slow 8-8:30 pace, then down to 7:30 over the next mile, and then down to the paces that I think I should be running, anywhere from 7:15 on down to 6:30 by the end of the runs. This way I’m getting my average pace down without hitting myself over the head at 5am with an uncomfortable early pace, becoming frustrated with how I’m feeling, and bagging the run for a comfy 7:30 pace jog.

I’m almost done with the week. Ninety-three miles down and one run to go. Happy Friday, everyone!


February 8, 2006

I have been using Gatorade Endurance Formula over the past week or so. It’s pretty good stuff compared to my old routine of 2:1 water to Gatorade. The ‘formula’ is triple the potassium and double the sodium of the regular stuff. It’s a great alternative to eating bananas or using spendy supplements for potassium.

It has made a huge difference in my long runs. For example, I was able to do my 25 miler on Sunday with absolutely no residual soreness, cramping, or tiredness. Previously, following even a 22 miler, I would need a nap and a few bananas to keep the charlie horses away, and I could count on feeling better on Tuesday. It’s only one run, but it seems to do the trick. I’m a pragmatist.

So far I’ve logged 63 miles in my first four runs of the week. Three to go. Quick post…I’m off to work.


February 7, 2006

Talent alone won’t make you a success. Neither will being in the right place at the right time, unless you are ready. The most important question is: “Are you ready?” –Johnny Carson

Ok…it’s 8:30 p.m. and I need to be in bed so I can get up at 4:00 a.m. for a 2+ hour run. Which explains why I am writing a long overdue entry and eating Doritos in the kitchen.

Anyway, I haven’t missed a day of running since November 10 or so, and I’ve logged 1168 miles since then. There are six weeks over 100 miles in there, with a seven day high of 124, and nine weeks over 90 miles. This is by far the most I have run since I started training in earnest 17 years ago.

So, what the hell am I doing all of this running for?

I’m planning to run my first official marathon this fall at the Twin Cities Marathon. As far as specific time goals, I don’t really know yet what is realistic. I am not yet again a 32 minute 10k runner, and I don’t expect to be by October, so sub 2:30 is likely a longer term goal. But, given the amount of effort I am putting into training now and over the next 235 days, sub-2:40 is a foregone conclusion.

What happens after TCM depends somewhat on the result. More about that another day.