Monday, February 28, 2011

Week in review: 2/21-2/27/11

This was a week of excuses and correspondingly, no results.

2/21/11: 6.2 miles
The only run of the week.

2/22-2/27/11: nothing
An unintentional rest. Spending the weekend (last one for the winter season) working at a scout camp never, ever helps the running.


On another note, today marks day 1 of the second phase of training. This phase is highlighted by hill workouts, fast, short repetitions, some threshold runs and is designed to build strength for the harder, more demanding phase three. Phase 2 lasts eight weeks and ends the last week in April. Tonight I did my first non-long run quality workout of 2011. It was:

Warmup: 3.2 miles slow
2x hill repeats: 1.1 mile up and down (4.4 total); pace comfortably hard
Cooldown: 3.2 miles slow

Total: 10.8 miles in just under 90 minutes. I'll take that. My legs (quads mostly) are a little thrashed and my cooldown time slowed about 11 percent from the warmup.

On tap for the remainder of the week is 55 miles with a 14 mile long run on Saturday.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Challenging conventional wisdom: even/negative splits and steps per minute

Two dissimilar thoughts compiled here together because they challenge conventional wisdom and everything I have ever been taught about running.

Is running 180 steps per minute the best stride rate?

Not according to Steve Magness at Science of Running.

His basic premise is that there are two ways to increase speed while running. You can either increase your stride rate (steps/minute) or stride length (inches/step). Conventional wisdom, dating back to Dr. Jack Daniels, is that you should only do the latter and run at a constant stride rate. That rate happens to be about 180, and is based on Daniels's personal observations.

However, Magness uses empirical data to demonstrate that runners increase both when they run faster, and runners who only increase length are artificially limiting themselves. Runners can also increase one factor to correct the other. For example, runners who wear big, bulky shoes are likely to overstride and strike the ground with their heels. They can increase their rate to shorten their stride and smooth out their form.

My take: I haven't done the empirical research like Magness has, but I'm buying what he says. I know from personal experience that when I run hard down a hill, my stride rate and length increase to compensate for the assist I'm getting from gravity.

Also, I happen to run lightly and step quickly. When I started running ultras, I transformed by running technique by increasing my stride rate (and the cost of stride length). I did this because the racing flats I ran in required me to take light, quick steps and running in them full-time reinforced this habit.

Is running negative or even splits the only correct way to race?

Not according to former 100-mile world record holder Cavin Woodward. Ian Sharman (new Rocky Raccoon 100 course record holder, who ran even 20-mile splits) gets the hat-tip for linking me to the 1975 Tipton 100 track race.

I'll just quote Ian:
In the race described, Cavin Woodward [. . .] set the world best time at that point for 100 miles in 11:38, but it's the way he did it that amazed me. He ran 2:31 for the marathon, 3:01 for 50k, a world best for 50 miles (4:58) and a world best for 100k (6:25)!
It's just nuts. Woodward finished at 11:38:54. He ran the first 50 in just under 5 hours, and the second 50 in six hours and 40 minutes. That's a huge pace drift, but he won the race and set three world records in the process.

The post at UltraLegends lists the 10-mile and 50-mile splits for the four fastest 100 mile times (including Woodward's race above). The format is not reader-friendly, and UltraStu put them into a table.

The table shows that it is not necessary to run even or negative splits to do well. You just need to go out hard enough to put up a good time and then taper off just enough to hold onto your time goal and hold off your opponents. The idea is that everyone slows down over time, so why not run hard when you're fresh? It makes a compelling argument, especially given Woodward's accomplishment above.

My take: I try to run even or negative splits in ultras, and I measure this by effort (and often, but not necessarily, pace). I do this because it feels better to me. I get a constant effort, and I don't feel like I went out too hard and lost it all in the end. Running even splits is more comfortable to me, and it is a goal I strive for in every race. Until that comfort level changes or I am looking for a speed boost, I'm going to stick with what works.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Week in review: 2/14-2/20/11

This week saw lots of miles and record-setting blizzard on Sunday. We had 30+ temps several days this week and I wore shorts Monday-Thursday.

2/7/11: 6 miles
Two with wife and four solo.

2/8/11 AM:
4 miles

2/8/11 PM: 7 miles

2/9/11: 8 miles
Four two-mile runs (to and from wife's yoga class). She ran first and last with me.

2/10/11: 3.8 miles

2/11/11: 7.5 miles
With Mankato Multisport folks.

2/12/11: nothing
Blizzard! Running nigh impossible.

Miles: 41.4
Time: 5:50:42
Year to date: 206.3 miles

I'm not sure what to do about missing Sunday's run. I was going to do a double on Saturday, but was kept busy by other things. So I effectively missed a long run and was short about 13 miles on my goal for the week. Oh well.

Up next week is my last week of base building before training kicks in. Plan: 55 miles /w 14-mile long run (day?).

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Week in review: 2/7-2/13/11

Along the same lines as Tony Krupicka, I will be posting week-in-reviews as I progress toward the Sawtooth 100 in September.

2/7/11: 4.8 miles

2/8/11: 6.8 miles
AM run in -18F/-35F windchill!

2/9/11: 6.6 miles

2/10/11: 3.8 miles

2/11/11: 9 miles
Friday night fun run.

2/12/11 AM: 10.5 miles
5x loops around Sibley Park /w Mankato Multisport. Did some slight hill work on ups and downs.

2/12/11 PM: 3.8 miles
First two-a-day of the year, and in shorts no less!

2/13/11: 7.7 miles
Sunrise run spoiled by clouds.

Week total: 53 miles
Total time: 7:26:30 (h:m:s)
Year-to-date: 164.9 miles


I was supposed to run about 50 miles this week, the sixth week of the year. I have two more seeks of base building left (essentially the rest of this month) and then hill, repetitions and Dr. Jack Daniels's Phase II training kicks in.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Clothing Matrix

In honor and with homage to Chris Crocker's (in)famous Clothing Matrix, I am putting together my own such list. My idea is to be able to recommend clothing combinations based on temperature and windchill (in groups of 5 degree increments lets say). It's a work in progress right now with only a handful of days of empirical data, so look for it toward the end of this month. I'll post it in Google doc form, as always.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Gear for winter running

Winter running presents a challenge. On one hand, your body is a tremendous furnace. Stoke it with food, water, and start moving and you'll generate sufficient heat to keep you going in the coldest of weather. On the other, your need some amount of protection from the elements. Not insulation per se, but something. Too much and you'll overheat and sweat out your clothes; too little and you'll freeze. A middle is necessary. This is an easier task when you are moving slowly or sedentary, but it becomes much more difficult when you are generating so much heat from exercise.

Such is the issue with winter running. This post is an attempt to explain my clothing choices for winter running. It is not based on any scientific method; I never set out a hypothesis with the intent to prove or disprove it. It is (particularly) based on my experience running this past month and all of the cold-weather months before it.

Perhaps a ridiculous picture would best illustrate:

Top to bottom, here's what I have on:
  • Windproof balaclava
  • Thin fleece headband (for ears)
  • Windshirt, half-zip, hooded
  • Thin base layer top
  • Thin fleece gloves
  • Spandex compression shorts
  • Fleece tights /w gridded interior (Patagonia R1 fleece)
  • Wool socks
  • Marathon-style racing flats
The above was worn in ~10F temps with 15-25 mph winds. The windproof balaclava was an absolute necessity. When I returned, I looked like this:

The frost makes it interesting. When I fail to ventilate my windshirt enough, sweat condenses on the inside of the shirt and freezes in a thin layer of frost. When I open it up, the frost just falls to the floor and melts.

I tend to have a few other things in my closet that tend to take our running:
  • Hooded windshirt (worn when in lesser wind when I don't need to protect my
  • Hooded fleece shirt with thumbloops (for really, really cold weather)
  • Windproof ear muffs (for warn weather, with wind)
  • Baselayer tights (for ~20F and warmer weather)
With variations of what I was wearing in the photo and the ideas above, I can handle just about anything most days will throw at me.

How can you change from fall running to winter? The biggest change in clothing comes in the form of tights and the windshirt. Your legs have too much exposed skin and it is generally too windy in the winter to show off your runners legs. However, I have not found windpants necessary, and I use a pair of tights that are designed for warmth and ventilation.

Similarly, a windshirt is absolutely necessary in 95 percent of winter running conditions. I just so happens that I live on top of a river valley now and am surrounded by flat farmland in three directions. the wind picks up here and doesn't really stop. A windshirt helps prevent strength-sapping wind from freezing your core. With your core warm, you can generally wear less clothes on the rest of your body.

A friend of mine, Chris Crocker, has put together a matrix of clothing choices for weather that goes all the way down to a deep-winter -26F. Chris heads up Mankato Multisport, a local triathalon group in Mankato. I joined it (it's free!) for camaraderie during winter runs.

As a final note, please remember that winter does a couple weird things to your body: first, you are breathing in drier air and expelling moist air. Winter dehydrates you with every breath, so drink plenty of water. Second, everything takes longer in winter. Take it slow, especially around the curves (you could slip if you don't!) and run for time, not distance.


Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Running Stats for January 2011

Here are my running stats for January 2011.

Distance: 99.3 miles
Time: 14:02:23
Average pace: 8:29
Running days: 18
Miles/day: 3.2
Miles/running day: 5.51

This is about 30 miles less that January 2010. It is not something I can too concerned about. I have been able to get in my long runs on weekends because of my participation in Mankato Multisport, and have recently completed Day 2 of Week 4 (third column) of Hundred Pushups; day 3 is today and a progress test is on Friday. The mileage is also less than my average month goal to hit 2011 miles this year, but this month is for base building and not high mileage.

In February, I plan to run more consistently and seek to run closer to 120 miles.