Wednesday, March 28, 2012

(Semi-) Thought experiment: how much could you run?

How many miles could you run in a week, or a month? Or average over a running season?

This is not merely a hypothetical question or a thought experiment. For example, Tony Krupicka ran over 1,000 miles in a five-week period during the lead up to the 2007 Leadville 100, averaging more than 200 miles per week over that time. And those five weeks were bookended by 133- and 152-mile week.

The world record – 408.04 miles in seven days – that’s a hypothetical question because it requires one to devote everything to running. The Krupicka question is less so because it does not necessarily (however likely) require one to leave everything else (mostly school, work, spouse and/or family for the rest of us) to accomplish it.

But the real issue is not “Could you run as many miles as Krupicka.” We’re not him, we don’t have the huge base of lifetime mileage (approx. 60,000 at end of 2011), and we shouldn't destroy ourselves replicating his training merely because it is him and we want to. Instead, the question is many miles could you put on in a week, or how many miles you could average over a season or seasons, all by taking the long view? Again, Krupicka was walking the razor’s edge of fitness during those five weeks in preparation – any more and he would have slipped into the realm of overtraining, overuse, fatigue and eventually, injury. Had he so slipped, it is doubtful he would have won the race.

So what is your max? Can you do it? What would it take to accomplish it?

(edit: this accidentally went live on 3/25/12 for a brief few minutes.)

Monday, March 26, 2012

Being sick sucks: March 19-25

I hate being sick for so many reasons: the exhaustion, congestion, and nausea just to name a few. But the one thing I really can't stand about being sick is what it does to training. Things slow down or go full-stop. It hurts your lungs to run, and when you do your lung capacity/aerobic capacity just goes to the toilet. Mucus oozes out of your nose in thick ribbons and stick to everything. Farmers' blows - the standard runner's method for clearing one's nose - becomes dangerous instead of effective. And there is nothing you can do but pound fluids, orange juice, (homemade!) chicken soup, cold meds of choice, and sleep. It sucks being sick.

Monday: Goose egg.
Sick. Ribs aching.

Tuesday: 4.4; 0:40
Still sick, pulled in early (wanted to run eight) but had weird sideache on tip of right ribs. Not side stitch, but ouch.

Wednesday: Goose egg, no. 2
Still sick.

Thursday: 5.5; 1:00
Trail run at Seven Mile Creek after stressful, overcaffienated day. Wanted to run hard to beat the stress out of me. Didn't work, as my lung capacity would not accommodate such running for more than about 1.5 miles. 
Friday: 7; 1:02
Early AM run, and cold starting to work its way though system. Getting better, but still ill.

Sunday: 21.2; 2:59:00
Finally, a breakthrough of my head cold. Sinuses aren't clear, but the gunk coming out of them is clear instead of yellow. Great run through Sibley Park, on the Minnesota River Trail and the Red Jacket Trail. More on this run later.

Totals: 38.1 miles; 5:43:23
YTD: 526.9 miles; 75:44:50

Up next: I get better. And then we'll talk. Planned is 60 miles with Yasso 800s for speed work. We'll see if that goes off as planned.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

How to track training progress: monitor rolling averages

For this year, I'm tracking four rolling statistics to monitor my training to make sure I'm training consistently and not overtraining by packing two weeks of training into a single a ten-day period.

Seven-day totals: I'm keeping track of how many miles and hours/minutes I've run in the past seven days.

Three Week rolling averages: This shows my average weekly mileage and time as calculated over the last three weeks.

The idea sprung from a portion of Relentless Forward Progress, which if you (want to) run ultras, is a must-read. Tracking this has shown a few things.

1. Zero days have a huge effect on the seven day totals.

Well duh. For every day that I don't run, the totals spike down. For everyday that I skip and then later run the following week, the totals spike up. For this reason, monitoring these numbers help me eliminate (or reduce) zero days because I care about these stats. Less zero days mean more consistency, and more consistency will lead to better race-day results. The same goes for days where I run more than my average daily run, i.e.when I did a 16 miler for a mid week run.

2. Three-week totals are much less volatile. 

Again, duh. When zero days are balanced out over three weeks (because hey, they come and go about once per week), their individual effect is mitigated.

3. What I ran seven or 21 days ago (rightly or wrongly) influences my daily mileage decisions.

I look at my training log (almost) every day. When I do, I tend to check the mileage I ran on this day of the week last week and three weeks ago. It is those numbers that will be dropped when I add in today's time. Runners have a tendency to think "more is better," and so long as it is part of a consistent training plan, more is better when achieved in small increments tends to work for most folks, including me. Thus, when I look back at what I did last week and three weeks ago, I want to run at least that mileage (or more), subject to this week's plan, so as to not diminish my rolling seven-day and three-week totals.

This is not terribly intelligent because it tends to prevent recovery days or recovery weeks from being entirely effective. But it is effective at getting me to run higher mileage weeks, especially going forward with this week and next when I am shooting for a weekly effort - 60 miles with two quality runs - that I have so rarely in the past achieved with any consistency.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Don't skimp the long run: March 12-18

Don't skimp the long run. You'll regret it if you do. And I did. And I regret it.

Monday: 7.9; 1:06
Easy run with the guys - up the Minnesota River Trail, down via Riverfront. Nice run.

Tuesday AM: 4.4; 0:43
Easy, slow, sluggish jog out to gazebo by Mt. Kato. Sometimes, early morning running is just awful this way.

Tuesday PM: 2.7; 0:24
Speed work: warm up, 16x 200M repeats at repetition pace (~0:37-0:39) with send offs every 65 seconds i.e. start each rep 65 seconds after the last one started. Hard workout, was seriously gasping toward the end and times suffered (slipping up toward 0:40, 0:41 or 0:42), but good early-season test of the legs. I just wish it didn't make me feel old and feeble.

Wednesday AM: 5.4; 0:49
Easy jog out to Mt. Kato, which is seriously starting to lose its snowpack. 

Wednesday PM: 4.6; 0:34:30
Gassed it up Main Street and down Glenwood at a just-less-than comfortably hard pace. Came down with 7:30/mile, and felt great. Once again, it is amazing how the body responds when the winter doldrums disappear for the year (crosses fingers).

Thursday: 4.4; 0:45
Same as Tuesday, except even more sluggish.

Friday: 7.6; 0:57
Great run, just like Wednesday PM, except with route extended to include Warren and Stadium hills. I call it the Big M run because the route looks like an M on Google maps. Again, pushed it a little bit and ran it just like Wednesday PM and once again, felt great...

Except for my feet. I made the decision to run this one sans socks, a la running Jesus (see FAQ, at right). Terrible decision - I came back with blisters in abnormal spots, like on top of the ball of my right foot (wtf?!) and my feet felt like I just raced, or more descriptively, been hit with a meat tenderizer. I drained the blisters and nursed my protesting feet.

Saturday:  12.7; 1:42
I cur my long run short, should have been 15 or 16 or so. Took first three or so miles easy, pushed miles five through nine, and easy to the finish. Average pace was around 8 minutes/mile, but actual pace was close to 9 minutes, then low 7:00s, then back toward 8 minutes/mile. Fun run, just short. Feet still sore, but better.

Sunday: 7.5; 1:05
Woke up with a nasty head cold and sore abs. Trail run at Seven Mile Creek Park and included all of the big hills - including the lollipop hills nos. 10 and 11. Solid run at comfortable pace and great first test run for May's Seven @ Seven trail race.

Miles: 57:075
Time: 8:07:14
Miles, YTD: 488.8
Time, YTD: 70:03:27
Miles on MT10s: 664 (and still going strong!)

Next week: Another round of 60 miles and the introduction of tempo runs. This week's Q2 is a 30-minute tempo run with two miles of warm up and cool down. I haven't set my pace yet for the run, but my guess is it will be somewhere between 6:30 and 7:00/mile. My schedule has the run set for eight miles, which would be 7:30/mile, so I'll easily exceed that. It all depends on what "comfortably hard" means this early in the season.

Monday, March 12, 2012

The recovery week that wasn't, and the end of 2012 base building: March 5-11

I had scheduled this week for a recovery week, 35 miles of easy running and nothing longer than about 10 or 12 miles. My will power left me, and I ran a little too long and did a few too many hills for Saturday's long run.

Monday: 4.6; 0:39
Easy up Main, down Glenwood. A good start to a recovery week.

Tuesday: 5.4; 0:42
Ran in shorts for the first time in March. It's amazing how liberating and speedy one feels when stripped of winter's tights, hats, and gloves.

Wednesday: 5.4; 0:48
Same route as Tuesday, just six minutes slower. Ugh.

Thursday: off
Other obligations called.

Friday: 6.0; 1:03
Slow and easy hill run with a co-worker. More of a time-on-feet run than one for pure mileage.

Saturday: 18.8; 2:42
Too long for what was planned (I should have done about half of this) but I have no regrets. Until Sunday.

Sunday AM: 5.2; 0:48
Test run at Seven Mile Creek. As anticipated the sun-bathed northern trails were clear and more or less dry. The southern trails were ice rinks. Lots of time spent for the miles and felt OK. Was a little tired initially, likely because I wasn't fully recovered from Saturday. Oh well.

Sunday PM: 5.4; 0:41
Went running because I was jumpy and a little stir-crazy with the nice weather we've been having. First run in Luna Sandals of 2012. Don't have the gait down yet, and end of run revealed a blister on a toe of each foot. Still, refreshing and quick run.

Miles: 50.8 on seven runs and six running days.
Time: 7:23:40 (~63 minutes/run average)
Miles, YTD: 431.7 (~ 7 miles/day average, more per running day)
Time, YTD: 61:56:13 (~52 minutes/day average, more per running day)

My knee pain which I experienced and wrote about last week is now gone. It disappeared sometime this week and was so little trouble that I didn't even notice that it was gone until it hit me. When it left, I don't even know - I'm just thankful that it is no more.

Up next: Big and important week next week, as this was the last week of my base building/injury prevention phase of my long-term training. Next week is week 1 of phase 2, the Early Quality phase. This phase is designed to build mechanics and introduce structured, faster reps and short threshold runs into the training. Taking the long view, these workouts help build a base from which to launch into harder, longer and/or faster training runs in phase 3.

With the coming of phase 2, I will start adding defined quality workouts to my week - particularly mid-week quality runs, called by Q2 runs (Q1 are weekend long runs). This week, I'll do one of my favorite early-season workouts, 200-meter repetitions (16 to 24 of them) with send offs every 60 to 65 seconds. Weekly mileage will be set at 60, as it will for the coming three weeks, then a rest week, and then Zumbro (which happens to fall on a week, conveniently and coincidentally, I planned a back-to-back long run).

Finally, registration opened on March 8 for the Afton Trail Races and the Superior Fall Races. I put my money down for Afton because that is guaranteed to fill up and I don't want to miss out. Look no further than Afton for a top-notch mid-season 50K. It's a race I have wanted to run in the past and have either been unable to (2009, 2010) or have run it at Afton Alps (2011). With no risk of a government shutdown, I'll be ready to hit it hard on July 7 for two loops around the park.

I'm holding off registering for Superior/Sawtooth 100 until later and will watch to make sure it doesn't fill up (cap is 200, there are 22 registered as of right now). Similarly, I haven't put my money down for Zumbro - but will - simply because registration is still open and there is almost (30 registered right now, cap of 200) no chance that it will sell out.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Review: New Balance MT10s

I needed to change shoes. My flats were destroyed by Sawtooth, and I needed to be able to run through winter. I also wanted to be rid of my flats' sole holes. When I started looking for shoes to replace my venerable Hyperspeed 3 and 4s (Asics is now up to 5's), I went looking for a lightweight, durable, minimalist trail shoe with minimal heel/toe drop that could easily substitute for a road shoe. In many ways, the Hyperspeeds were lightweight, minimal, and built for the road with their soft soles and openings in the sole for breathability. Trails destroyed them, and rightfully so. Of my criteria, durability was key - I was confident I could find a shoe with the remainder of the factors given the current push toward minimalism in trail shoes. I just couldn't afford to replace a pair of shoes with every or every other trail race simply because the rough terrain shredded the soles beyond recognition.

I've been running in the New Balance MT10s for about three-and-a-half months now. Over trails and roads, dirt and snow. And I like them. A lot. More than any other shoe I've ever worn. Here's why.

For starters, the MT10 is an all-business, no-frills, minimalist trail shoe.

For example - there is no insole or midsole. The shoe is essentially a slab of Vibram rubber sewed/adhered/etc. to a multilayered mesh upper. The upper is three layers - a thin, sturdy mesh; a large, checked lattice, and a durable, thick, sock-like inner (remember, these shoes were designed partially by Anton Krupicka, and he almost never wears socks (second item on FAQ, and I don' know how he does it)). The tongue and top of the toes is a flexible mesh outer sew into the sock-like inner.

The upper is also wrapped in rubber strips in two places - from the inside/outside of the midfoot arch to the top of the Achilles, and from the ball of the foot to the outside of the little toe. Cross-crossing this are a few strips of strap which run from the arch to the laces.

These straps gives so-called support to the foot or strength to the shoe itself. I find the forefoot strap slightly constrains my foot, which wants to naturally spread out when it lands. Instead, the strap squeezes the ball of my foot and the structures in line with it. This is more problematic because the shoes force you to land on your forefoot/midfoot. (If you need to learn how to do this, watch, learn and do.) Sizing thus becomes critical - I opted for the size I did simply because a 7.5 was too tight on the forefoot. This problem has gone away over time, but these shoes make you earn it.

The forefoot strap is a minimal issue. Once I get running, the constraint caused by it releases and I have no issues. But the constraint was noticeable when trying them on in the store or when walking around at home.

The laces are one area which leave something to be desired - the laces are held in place by alternating loops of strap and through a stiff fabric/rubber. The issue arises when it comes time to loosen, tighten, or tie the shoes. The laces do not flow freely through the loops and less so through the holes. This makes it difficult to evenly distribute the tightness of the laces. As a result, certain portions of the laces are tight, some may be loose, etc.

Soles, with approximately 200 miles on them. Check the noticeable wear pattern: from outside of heel, through arch, to underneath ball of foot. Nothing else has much wear.

The sole is Vibram rubber, a flexible, exceptionally durable rubber that is starting (finally) to appear on running footwear. Thank Five Fingers for that. The tread is minimal, especially when you compare it the fell-running creatures put out by iNov8. The sole has rows of circular tread with tri-star holes in between the circles.

The sole's flexibility causes it to wrap around items underfoot - including shooter-sized rocks and other items. I haven't done a long trail run with them, but I imagine that you'd still want to use good foot placement to avoid stepping on obstacles if possible.

The height of the shoes is minimal - 5 mm on the forefoot, 9 mm on the heel, or a 4 mm drop from heel to toe. New Balance provides a disclaimer, similar to what Vibram provides on their Five Fingers:
Caution: This product increases the strain on the foot, calf, and Achilles tendon. Overuse of this product or use of activities outside of running and walking may increase the risk of sustaining injury.

This product should be introduced slowly into a running exercise routine. New Balance recommends limiting initial use to 10% of overall running workouts and very gradually increasing training time and distance.

I can attest to the necessity of the warning. The lower heel drop puts more strain on my calves because they are not artificially shortened by a higher heel-toe drop.I have run in BFT's Luna Sandals and racing flats for several years now, and the MT10s caused me tight calves and Achilles the first few runs.They still do if I'm not warmed up when I crank up the first hill of the day.

Even with the criticisms above, the MT10s maybe the best shoes I've worn and are much loved at (their review). The conform to my feet, and force me to run with good form. Heel-pounding is not optional. It's midfoot or forefoot - nothing else. Running on pavement in this fashion creates a resounding slap, and the sound is one which I use to gauge how tuned-into a run I am - if I don't hear it and don't notice that I'm not hearing it, I'm in. If I can hear it, I'm not there yet.

The sole are also incredibly durable. The photo above shows the soles at 200 miles on them and the miniature dots of Vibram are only starting to wear. The remainder of the lugs are not even close to showing wear. The shoes are now closer to 555 miles, and the wear pattern is more pronounces, but soles are no where near to dead. I had my first failure with them this week when I found a hole in the mesh behind the strap on the inside of my foot behind the ball has formed. Thankfully, the durable lining is still intact and I'll run in them until total failure.

Although only racing will tell, the MT10s appear to fill my durability niche - they are just enough to shoe to provide adequate and durable protection and nothing more. I've never been one for overly-lugged traction, and if anything, my finish at Sawtooth in racing flats confirms that it is unnecessary (granted, I've never run a really muddy ultra where huge lugs were allegedly necessary, but that is another story).

Monday, March 5, 2012

Another solid week: Feb. 27-March 4

Weird week with some achiness in my right knee that may have started with the 22-miler last weekend. Long story short, I have a dull ache in my right quadriceps near my knee, likely my sartorius or vastus medialis or their related tendons.

Monday: off
Yeah, I know, but that 22-miler from last week really did a number on me.

Tuesday: 6.4; 0:55
Slow and easy hill run. 

Wednesday: 16.1; 2:20
Mid-week long run while wife was out of house, and done in a light snow to boot. Weird winter, no?

Thursday: 4.4; 0:40
Really light run out to Mt. Kato gazebo and back. Still not 100 percent OK from last Saturday. Quad at inside tip of right knee is a dull ache.

Friday: 5.4; 0:48
Again, and easy run out to Mt. Kato.

Saturday: 15.8; 2:20
This week's actual Q1 workout was a nice and easy pace and same route as last week, just not doubled and an added out-and-back at the end to get to 15 (and then add my 0.4 each way to the group's meeting location). Tweaked something on the back of my right knee (hamstring tendon?) (same side as quad issue) bounding down grass on Stoltzman. Stretched on run and it went away, applied ice, heating pad, and took some ibuprofen when I got home. Knee felt weak (may be a little loose?) when I got home. Better today with good night's sleep, but still.

Sunday: 8.5; 1:18
Mt. Kato lollipop, which happens to be 8.5 miles instead of 9.25...gotta go correct January and February stats.

Miles: 56.6 miles
Time: 8:20:54
Miles, YTD: 380.9
Time, YTD: 54:32:33

Next week is a rest week for me, 35 miles of slow, easy work with no anticipated long run (i.e. nothing longer than about 9 or 12). I'll take it as I monitor the situation with my right quad.