Thursday, June 27, 2013

Running Camp Begins

Running Camp Begins

Well, I've been on island for a couple days, and am starting to get into a solid new running/training schedule. I've been calling this residential fellowship a "running camp" because I would never do the type of running one does here on the island if I was still in Colorado. Here, the primary focus will be on speed, with hills and endurance thrown in to the mix, whereas if I was still in Colorado I would simply put all of my focus towards the mountains as I usually do. This, I've learned, is great for running peaks, but not the smartest training for racing. So my fellowship, beyond the scientific research I'll be involved in, is to some extent a forced focus on speed. Now, I need to give a disclaimer to that, as I already did one session that involved 1,200 of gain in 8 miles. However, early morning speed work will still be the primary emphasis.

As such, I got up early this morning and went down to Magens Bay to run the "track". This is perhaps one of the most idyllic "tracks" in the world. The loop is a .57 miles around, shaded, and has either paved or grass/sand options. Plus, it is 25 feet from one of the most beautiful beaches in the Caribbean! In the early mornings, this is a big exercise zone for the locals. Along with myself, there was a small yoga class going on, some other kind of workout/gym class, and lots and lots of people walking laps back and forth on Magens. With wild mongooses hunting on the edges, morning doves and other birds singing, and a soft tropical rain coming down, I got to business. Or, business for me, as I attempted my first speed workout ever. After a couple laps to warm up, I did eight laps of tempo down and sprint/fast back. Since the loop is just over 800 meters, I was basically doing 500s or something. After I did a couple more laps to cool down, I then dipped into the ocean and did another 30 minutes of water running, which is really tiring. Plus, I got to see a reef shark! So, around 11 miles for the morning.

I'll have to work on getting my times down and precise, so that I can start to work on slowly taking seconds off, but for a first attempt, I was really pleased. In a week or so I should know my baseline times and what I have to work towards to lower them. It will be really interesting to see how this speed work impacts my times and running once back home in Colorado and at altitude. My baseline training times for a couple of the local runs are:
  • Outer Loop of Apex - Car/Apex/Enchanted Forest/Top/Apex/Hardscrabble/Grubstake/Argos/Car - 1:12 (1,900' gain)
  • Mt. Falcon - Car/Castle/Turkey/Castle/Meadow/Tower/Meadow/Castle/Turkey/Castle/Car - 1:23 (2,010' gain)
  • White Ranch Outer Loop - Car/Belcher/Whippletree/Longhorn/Rawhide/Belcher/Mustang/Belcher/Car - 2:14 (3,424' gain)
  • South Boulder-Bear Loop - Car/Shanahan/Mesa/Shadow/South Boulder/Bear/Fern/Shanahan/Car - 1:43 (3,704' gain)

There are others, but these are some of the one's I run regularly and have solid baseline times on. I've gone faster (and slower), but these are my averages for this spring. I'm hoping that the speed work will allow me to lower these times a bit, once I re-acclimate in the fall.

 Looking out at the Peterborg Peninsula - there is a run that gets you 1,200' of gain and 8 miles heading out and back on this

 The Magen's track - perfect running surface with the beach on the left
 This is the other side of the "track" loop

Jump into Magen's for a cool off and some water running

Thursday, June 20, 2013

New Articles on Foot Striking and Pronation Among Runners

New Articles on Foot Striking and Pronation Among Runners

I run in Brooks Adrenaline ASR 9 for my trail shoes, and Brooks GTS 13 for my road shoes. Both are solid shoes, with mild "support" built into the midsole. As Runner's World noted last year, "A classic stability shoe, the GTS 13 sports a medial post that gets progressively firmer toward the inside edge of the shoe and other features that help slow the inward roll of the foot." However, the trend for a lot of people is to either go totally minimal with zero drop shoes, or to go big with some Hokas. I've yet to try either type, simply because I can't figure out if the whole "support" thing is bogus or not. I've read many arguments (written mostly by minimal adopters) about how a forefoot strike pattern and minimal style running biomechanics are the most efficient, and there has been some science to back these arguments up (forefoot striking and lumbar spine range of motion; barefoot running and ground forces; barefoot running and lower extremity movement; meta analysis on barefoot running; barefoot running and running economy). However, none of these articles/studies ever address the whole "support" issue in terms of forefoot striking, minimal shoes, etc. Can I, as a supposed mild pronator adopt this strike pattern, these minimal shoes? As I've been learning to run, I've been very focused on my form and foot strike pattern, constantly working to land fore-mid foot directly under my center of gravity, with a slight lean from the ankles up (as discussed in this video and others by Sage). This I believe has paid off, but I'm still wondering about whether or not I can adopt an even more minimal shoe to help with this (such as a zero drop shoe).

Well, to add confusion to the whole thing, a couple new articles have just been published that 1) say pronation is not necessarily linked to injury risk; 2) wedged insoles can work for those needing support - up to 30 minutes at least; and 3) forefoot striking is better for knee injury prevention, but may lead to more ankle and foot injuries. I find these article interesting for someone in my situation as initially zero drop and minimal shoes had no support version - they were all made the same. Recently, however, zero drop and minimal shoes have begun to include some form of support for those looking to try out this type of shoe but who also want a little something for their pronation. Altra shoes, for example, have begun using a wedged insole in their support model shoes. As the article noted above suggests, this may be a workable alternative, although I have yet to try the shoes out (or even on).

I don't really have a point, other then I am interested in trying out a more zero drop shoe to go along with my form work. However, I have been hesitant because I don't want to cause an unnecessary injury by simply adopting a new shoe type. It is exciting to see the minimal come back a bit to the old school style with the inclusion of support versions. The science seems to continue to back up the importance of foot strike position on running efficiency, and zero drop shoes seem to be the way to go when working on that. Is it time to invest in some Altras or other shoes? Thoughts?

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Summit 67

Summit 67

67 summits so far this year (49 above 11,000'). That trend will come to an end really soon, but although I love running in the mountains almost more than anything, I'm actually looking forward to "running camp." Running/speed hiking up peaks is great, but I've noticed that I basically have one gear, at least in terms of developing lung capacity. I can maintain this gear forever, but as a result, I really am not improving my overall running ability and V02max. That is where the running camp will come in. If I want to get faster, and become a stronger runner, I need to do speed work - work that forces me to push beyond my high gear. That is simply not possible by running peaks. In fact, I'm still on the fence with just how much vert. one should go for each week/month. Of course it all depends on what you are training for, but simply running peaks or vert runs doesn't seem to make me any faster, nor does it seem to increase V02max beyond a certain level. That is where speed work and other training exercises come in. Too bad, because running peaks is WAY more fun... So, with that I'm looking forward to a forced break from all the vert. running and a focused effort on speed, tempo, pace, etc. I'm sure I'll sneak in some vert. (I've already found some possible runs that gain 1,200'), but it will be hard compared to if I was here all summer with the mountains calling. I'll try and establish some baseline times first thing when I get down there to see how slow I am, and then see what happens over the course of the two months. Then, when I come back, it will be interesting to see if I don't improve my times here on my standard runs (after I re-acclimate). If nothing else, I can always just use some Digital EPO to make myself think I'm faster...

Monday, June 3, 2013

Summer Change - Training Plan

Summer Change - Training Plan

So, I've mentioned over the past two posts that I had to make a radical change in my summer running and racing plans, resulting in a disastrous early ultra race. I found out last week that I was awarded a residential fellowship in sustainability studies at the University of the Virgin Islands. I will be going to the island of St. Thomas on June 26th and staying there until September 2. Although I am honored and extremely excited, it has caused a big change in my running plans and how I was going to approach the summer. I'll be on an island that is only 31 square miles - not very big for a runner! As a result, and as an outcome of my terrible race, I've come up with a training plan that I will try and execute during my stay, hoping that when I come back I will be stronger, faster, and better at certain distances. I will be at sea level, but I don't think that will take longer then two weeks to regain most of my acclimation to altitude. I've never run in any serious way before, coming from an alternative sport and climbing/mountaineering background. Last year was my first year running in any consistent or serious fashion, and although I took November - January off from running to ski, I have reapplied myself this spring. As such, I'm focused on continuing to progress while "on island" and hope that the following plan will help with that. Thoughts and feedback are always welcome.

This is a 10 day plan.

Day 1: Speed Development - 2-3 mile warmup, 8 x 150 meters (2 minute recovery), 5 x 8 second springs (2 min. recovery), 2-3 mile cool down. This workout is for neuromuscular development and to develop initial speed from the gun. To get the brain/body reaction time down.

Day 2: 8-10 mile run

Day 3: Speed Workout - 2-3 mile warmup, 4 x 400, 4 x 800, 4 x 1200, 2-3 mile cool down. A standard speed workout to learn leg turnover, proper running form, and to increase running speed and V02max.

Day 4: 8-10 mile run

Day 5: 2-3 mile warmup, hill repeats (8 x 30 secs., 8 x 1 min.), 2-3 mile cool down.

Day 6: Core workout, polymetrics, legs in the gym.

Day 7: Long run of 20+ miles or 4+ hours

Day 8: 10-15 mile run or 3 hours

Day 9: Off, swimming

Day 10: Tempo run working on pace

I'm not sure how I will pull this off "on island", but I think it is possible, I'll just have to get creative. However, hopefully this will help with my two main weaknesses right now which seem to be speed and distance. Speed from the gun and ability to keep a pace over a set distance.

Dirty 30 Race - Crash and Burn

Dirty 30 Race - Crash and Burn

Well, this past Saturday I ran the Dirty 30 race up in the foothills outside of Golden. I had signed up for the race at the last minute do to a change in summer plans, and as a result, I had a terrible race. I've been thinking over the last two days about my performance, running through my head the various things I did wrong leading up to the race and during the race. I'm fairly bummed about my time, and it has been difficult to process the experience. I've come up with a couple of solid excuses for my performance, but I also know in my head that that is all they are, excuses. Now that it has been a couple days, I've gotten over the sour experience and have reset my sights on future races with a much stronger commitment to properly train and execute.

Lack of Miles: Going over in my head the various reasons or possible reasons for my performance, one thing stands out - no long runs. I mean, why race an ultra if you have only done 3 long runs of 20 miles each over the past several months? Seems silly now that I think about it, but that is what happened. I was originally planning on peaking more in July and August for several races then, but had to change plans and sign up for this race at the last minute. After working on a solid base and solid vertical this spring, my original plans were to start ramping up the longer runs for the races later this summer. But with a change in plans, I didn't get to do that and so attempted the race on only 3 longish runs; all my other runs have been averaging 7-15 miles. This, I now realize, is simply not adequate enough to perform during an ultra, as I clearly started to fad after mile 19 during the race. This lack of miles is also evidence in my stats for May, during which time I only ran 227 miles. Not nearly enough miles or time on the feet.

Dehydration: New this year was the movement of Aid Station 3 to the parking lot, and not at the junction of Horseshoe and Black Bear. As a result, runners had the option of basically skipping the ~.1 mile run from the junction down to the aid station and back. I opted to not add that bit on, and as a result, ran out of water on the long climb up Horseshoe and then over Mule Deer to Snowshoe Hare. This was clearly a mistake, as I was struggling when I got to Aid 4. Upon arrival, I slammed several bottles of water and Heed and instantly felt better and picked my pace back up. I lost 30 minutes during this section. Again, this might have been avoided if I had done more long runs this spring.

Motivation: I signed up for the race last minute, and mentally I don't think I was really ready to race. Even from the gun, I was apathetic about "getting after it" and simply rolled in with a large group about 20 places back. Normally I'll try and stay a bit closer to the front, but from the get go I just was not into it. It's hard to say why, but I think in the back of my head I knew I was not ready for the race and therefore lacked the necessary motivation to really try.

I've come up with a couple other excuses in my head, but it seems to me the lack of miles and mid-race dehydration are what caused me to crash and burn on this race. Either way, they are still just excuses. I guess the biggest lesson is to not do a race you are not prepared for. Simple when you think about it. I finished in 6:17:16 which was good for 59th place.

However, now that I have gotten over all of the negative aspects of the race and feeling bad, I'm now even more determined to properly train. This involves speed work, real long runs, tempo runs, etc. Not just running hills every day. I'm developing a 3 month training schedule that I'll post next - any thoughts or training ideas would be greatly appreciated.