Saturday, January 26, 2013

Rest Periods Between Intervals Does Not Affect Performance Adaptations

Rest Periods Between Intervals Does Not Affect Performance Adaptations

First day back running after last Saturday nights mysterious left knee strain while running hill laps on Sleeper. I could still feel the knee a bit, which prevented me from opening up my stride. However, it was only a minor ache (and also mysteriously, it has switched from the outside middle of the left knee to the lower inside of the knee), so I was able to enjoy the fantastic temps. Did 9 miles and 1,500' of gain in 1:21. Seems like the knee will be fine after another day or so, which is exciting as February is when I start "ramping" things up and "getting after it."

A new article has just been published, which is fairly interesting. I've never really thought much of the "rest period" between intervals in terms of time. I know there are many coaches and philosophies surrounding intervals, the length (both distance and time) the interval should be, and also the period of time between interval efforts. However, despite this, I've always focused on the interval itself, and just sort of doubled the interval time/length and used that as the rest period. Well, I guess the rest period time is highly contentious, with some arguing that it must be a specific time/distance based on the interval workout, while others argue it matters little. Thankfully, we now have some science to help answer this question and settle any debates. It turns out, at least based on this (one) study, that the rest period time matters little when looking at the performance adaptations one receives from interval training. Published in Experimental Physiology, the authors found that the rest period between interval efforts among 12 highly trained women did not affect the performance adaptations that resulted from the interval training, namely improvements in muscle Na+,K+-ATPase content, PCr resynthesis and VO2max. Na+,K+-ATPase is highly complex, but basically it is a sodium-potassium pump that is found in all cells and is essential for properly working cells (you can find out more here) and thus any athletic endeavor. PCr resynthesis (again, highly complex) basically acts as a high energy reserve and is crucial in any speed type of effort. Finally, VO2max is fairly well known and understood. So, it seems that all of these things benefit from interval training, but the period of rest between the intervals matters little (up to 3 minutes of rest between interval efforts; the study did not address longer rest periods). For me, the take home message is that interval or speed training is essential, but whether I need only 1 minute between efforts (feeling good that day) or 3 minutes between efforts (feeling tired that day) will not affect the overall benefits of the training session. This is good news, as it is the effort put forth during the interval, and not how you feel during the rest period, that matters. Put 100% into the interval. If you need to take a bit longer to be able to put in another 100% effort, take it. It won't negatively affect the performance adaptations, and may even positively affect them as it will allow you to give a real 100% each interval.

Thursday, January 24, 2013



Ran into this fellow on this morning's tour. Didn't really seem to care about me at all. Did the same loop as yesterday, but in reverse. The knee felt better, which allowed me to take 6 minutes off my time for 2:13. I think this will go under 2 hours once I get a bit better at cross-country, but I don't know if I can ever get it as fast as running.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Slow Cross-Country

Slow Cross-Country

On Saturday, I really got into the hill intervals and did four laps on Sleeper up at Mary Jane. I was able to crank out 2,800' of gain in under an hour (between 9,000 and 10,500 elevation). However, at some point during the training I somehow pulled/strained my left knee. As a result, I've had to take it easy this week to let it recover. Cross-country skiing is perfect for this, as it is a slightly different motion so it doesn't aggravate the knee. I really enjoy cross-country skiing, as it lets you get out into the deep woods during winter. However, covering the same distance takes about twice as long, especially if there is any climbing involved (it is fairly close to a long slow run pace). For example, today I did 9 miles and it took me 2:19, while in the summer running the same loop takes just over an hour. Maybe if I keep working on it and get faster (and don't have a hurt knee) I may be able to go faster, but certainly not as fast as running.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

New Research On Barefoot Running Versus Minimalist Shoes

New Research on Barefoot Running Versus Minimalist Shoes

Well, based on this new research, minimalist shoes are just that, minimalist versions of running shoes, and not simulators of barefoot running. In a new article published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, researchers looked at the running mechanics of 20 trained runners as they ran barefoot, in minimalist shoes, and in regular running shoes. They found that there was only a significant difference between barefoot running and running in shoes - minimalist or not. The difference occurs in the amount of work done at the knee and ankle joints. So, it appears that there is no real difference between regular running shoes and minimalist shoes, at least in terms of running mechanics, but there is a significant difference in one's running mechanics if they run barefoot. I don't run barefoot, but I have certainly enjoyed slowly moving towards lighter and more "minimal" trail shoes recently. I guess the question is, is running in "minimalist" shoes really a separate category, or is there really only two categories - barefoot or shod?

This super cold weather is slowly getting to me. It was -22F this morning, and I just didn't have the motivation to run (and skiing was out of the question as you can't slide when it is that cold). So, I opted for the 15 x 15 treadmill challenge again. I've done this challenge twice, each time suffering as I banged out only 1.27 miles (PR at 9,000'). As I've cut back on my running here over the last month or so, I was interested in seeing just how much I would suffer. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I was not too far down on my fitness, managing 1.21 miles at 9,000'. Looking forward to start ramping up come February.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Trying To Get Verticle

Trying to Get Verticle

During the winter, it is pretty hard to get big vert in here in the valley. My "standard" run only has 1,000' of vert in about ~8.5 miles. Most everything else has less vert, as the mountains are buried deep in snow and the valley is the only place to run. However, last night I came up with a super fun new hill challenge that I think any mountain runner could dig - run up Mary Jane! Yep, just run right up the damn ski hill. Last night was my first go, so still working out the kinks, but here are the basics:

Park at the base of Mary Jane.
Start your watch at the Iron Horse Lift.
Run/Speed Hike up Jane Trail to the top of the Iron Horse Life.

It is 1.4 miles and ~1,800' of vert. For my first attempt, it took me 28:41 to get to the top. That's going from 9,400' to 11,200'. Then you run right back down Jane Trail, turn around, and do it again. I did it twice and boy is it a fun workout. Going up is no problem - the run is either groomed or snow packed slopes so you don't have to worry. Going down is another story. I don't have any form of traction (yet, I just ordered some...) so I had to pick my way down on some of the steeper stuff, but otherwise, with traction, it should be no problem. I was just over 1 hour for the double round trip effort. Bringing it below 1 hour is the goal. That would give you 3,600' of gain in 2.8 miles or 7,200' total over 5.6 miles. My plan is to incorporate this run at least once a week and see if I can't lower the total time to below 1 hour. If anyone wants to join in, I am starting it Saturday nights at 5:15 pm.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Winter Running At Night

Winter Running At Night

These days, my only running is taking place at night after I get off work. Night running is nothing really new, nor is it anything special. Tons of people do it. But do they run at night, at altitude, in the winter? Sure, I've seen others every once and awhile out and about here in the valley, but it is fairly rare. Plus, it is damn cold! For example, over the past two weeks, I've run six times at night in -5 to -15 F on snow covered roads and trails. When it is below zero, running at night takes on an entirely new realm. If you carry water, it will freeze (usually around the one hour mark), and depending on how you dress, you may just never warm up. However, running in the winter in below zero weather is not impossible, and actually can be quite enjoyable. Here is what I do and wear:

Outdoor research Radiant Hybrid tights
Running shorts under the tights

A synthetic long underwear shirt (Patagonia, REI, etc.)
A t-shirt over that
A nylon running windbreaker jacket

An old Pearl Izumi running hat
Petzl Tikka headlamp

Cheap gardening gloves

Brooks Adrenaline Gore-Tex trail runners
Running socks (I like SmartWool)

That is it. Even on really cold days like last week when it was -15 F this set up works. I'm basically running the Winter Park Hill loop, which is an easy 8.5-9 mile loop with 1,000' of gain. I usually warm up about halfway up the first climb, and although my hands are only covered in cheap cotton gardening gloves, they also get warm. I don't wear any form of traction, and unless there is no moon, I usually try and run stealth. Running with no traction and in stealth mode forces one to "feel" the ground and work on finding a "flow". Once I get warmed up and in a good groove, I don't seem to notice any traction issues (on the ups or downs). My time is not as fast as say during the summer (I'm averaging around 1:17 for this run either direction), but I also wouldn't run this run in the summer. There are only a few more weeks of the bitter cold before the generally warmer Feb. and March storms start to roll through (and longer days), and although I've cut way back on my running for Dec. and Jan., I don't feel like I've lost a ton of fitness. Feb. and March are building months, with a general goal of being ready to start real training in April (unlike last year when I started running in April). Hopefully if all works out, I'll be ready for some goals I have in mind for July and August in the mountains.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

2012 In Review

2012 In Review

I've never done a "year in review", but read a couple others on some running blogs and liked them. If nothing else, it's nice to reflect on what you've done over the past year. 2012 was an interesting year for me. The winter was one of the worst on record, and Tara and I spent most of our time in the park practicing tricks, etc. We did not run, nor did we really climb - just day after day of park. This meant that when spring arrived, our fitness was oriented towards power and short bursts of effort. Park is all about jumping, which translates to power and fast-twitch muscles. On April 1 we did our first run since the previous October. At the same time, because there was no snow over the winter, the snow pack melted extraordinary fast, opening up the Titans, the C Boulders, the Trout boulder, Waitangi Boulders, etc. The previous year it was not until June that we could climb at the Titans (I need to do a post on the Titans and other bouldering we have developed here in Grand County - they were posted on a different blog that I used from 2010-2011). By mid-April we were climbing and running every-other-day. At the end of April I opened "Surfing the Grand" which is a classic V10 boulder problem at the Titans. Shortly after, for some reason, our bouldering motivation shifted (although we still opened new problems at Guanella Pass, the Swamp boulder, and the Titans), and on May 1st we started running 6 days a week.
A problem opened this April at Guanella Pass - nice crimp face.
Surfing the Grand (V10) at the Titans

Along with doing a summer of running, we also decided to do our first races. I've never raced before, and other then doing competitive snowboarding, I've never participated in any types of competitions. Needless to say, the summer was a massive learning experience. Learning to race (and control one's adrenaline) involved most of the summer, and only by the end of the summer did I feel like I was starting to get somewhere with racing. Here is a breakdown of this past summer's races:

  1. May 28th: Sageburner 50K - my first race ever with only 2 months of running. Bonked hard, but still finished in 6:57.
  2. June 2nd: Balarat 21K - after only a week of recovery, I tried my second race. Really tired, but still pulled off a 30th place finish overall.
  3. June 16th: Habitat Hobbile 10K - an easy local race. Got 2nd overall, which was great.
  4. June 30th: North Fork 50K - fourth race ever and 2nd ultra. Felt OK going in, but still didn't have my fueling system figured out, nor was I fully aware of the distance. Got 26th overall in 5:47.
  5. August 4th: Mt. Werner 50K - third ultra. I was feeling much better prepared going into this ultra, and did fairly well despite getting heat stroke at the end and losing a couple places. 15th overall in 5:56.
  6. August 26th: XTERRA Snow Mountain 20K - second attempt at this distance. I was not familiar with it and held back way too long to try and catch anyone towards the end of the race. 6th overall in 1:50.
  7. September 2nd: Breck Crest Marathon - Another new distance, which again my unfamiliarity with proved to be a downfall as I bonked on the last couple miles. 21st overall in 4:33.
  8. September 30th: Snow Mountain Ranch Half Marathon - third attempt at this distance. I did much better, going out faster and holding a faster pace as I knew the race would only be 13.1 miles. 2nd overall in 1:37.
  9. November 4th: Bear Creek 10 Spot - final race of the season, and the shortest. I never trained speed over the summer, but wanted to get another race in before the end of the season to gain experience. 32nd overall in 1:20.

So, nine races in only seven months of running. Not bad, but certainly a crash course. In between, I also put in some good mountain runs:

  • A FKT on St. Louis Peak in 2:19
  • A FKT on the RMNP North Inlet to Tonahutu Loop in 5:37
  • A FKT on the Indian Peaks Three Pass Loop in 5:42
  • A FKT on the full version of James Peak in 3:23
  • A FKT on the full version of Byers Peak in 3:48
Byers Peak
Indian Peaks Three Pass Loop
 The RMNP Loop
St. Louis Peak
 The red dot indicates where I was going on this run along the Divide

All of these FKTs can be lowered, and I plan on working on several of them next summer.  I also am excited about racing next summer, although I have not signed up for any races. I'm waiting to see how this winter and spring plays out. My plans are to keep running over the course of the winter, as well as get in some cross country days to keep the endurance base high (or at least higher then last year). I also have some FKT attempts I want to try. Other then doing the Mt. Werner 50K again (I have a free entry), I don't think I will do Sageburner or North Fork. I'd rather try other races and see other places, but I certainly want to work on the distance, as well as tackle a 50 mile race. 

Overall, 2012 was a blast, and the new shift from climbing to running is very exciting. It gets me back to my roots when I was running and climbing all the 14ners in 16 days. Back then I did mountain runs all the time, but over the last 10 years or so, I've focused more on climbing and bouldering. Now, however, I'm excited to get back to long mountain runs and trying my hand at races. So here is to 2013 and a successful year of mountain running and racing.