"There's only one hard and fast rule in running: sometimes you have to run one hard and fast."

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Worse than a broken leg

In my last post, I ended by saying I thought I broke my leg. I am informed that I've torn my meniscus, medial plica and retinaculum in my left knee (it's the second of those that really hurts). I'm told to try resting it.

What's worse, though, is something I realized after I posted. I said that I needed to work on sprint power and that meant running against resistance. An option for that is tire pulling. I said I'd retire before I did anything that asinine. Once a friend of mine starts pulling a tire around on a rope, I pretty much discount everything they say from that point onward.

They might have a point. Ugh.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

In Search of Lost Speed

Like most runners, I've slowed; first gradually, then precipitately. In your forties, you have those moments when you feel 20 again and have an occasional run that's unusually fast - followed by weeks of aches and slow jogging. In my fifties, I've hit the point where I have what feels like a great run, much faster than usual, then look at my watch and discover that it was as much as two minutes per mile slower than thought.

Losing speed, runners often move up in distance raced, but once you've hit 100 miles, there's not much further one can go that route. What surprised me most was that I couldn't even momentarily run as fast as I used to, the days of peak speeds of 2:38 per mile (not a typo) being replaced with peaks closer to 5 minutes per mile.

There's two possibilities: stride rate and stride length. Looking at Jack Daniels' book (2nd edition), next to where he says that most runners have a stride rate (actually step rate... two steps per stride) of 160, top runners are at 180, I had written that my sprint rate was 195, but slowed to under 160 when jogging. My watch will tell me my cadence and it's been consistently under 150 recently. By working on stride rate, I have been able to recoup some of that lost speed in the past weeks.

It's been noted among aging sprinters, however, that stride rates don't change much, but runners take more steps to do their runs, so their stride length has shortened. One old runner has said that he occasionally does runs with short choppy strides at a rate of 220! I checked - running in place, I can do a minute at 208 steps per minute, so that's not really the issue.

Increasing flexibility and range of motion seem to be the usual way runners try to increase stride length, but over-striding is inefficient and their must be another way. Brad Hudson points to "stride stiffness," the amount of recoil one gets in each step, not absorbing the shock of each foot landing. A part of this in ankle flexion and forcefully pushing off each foot in a pawing motion. Another part comes from leg drive, raising the knees higher, which seems to force the body to push off harder with the glutes. Doing drills - high knees, ankle hops, etc. - are how people work on this, but I see a fault. One can lift the knees high and push off hard at the ankle, but go straight up, rather than forward (in fact, this is what the drills have one do) and it's forward push that matters. Ideally, pushing a football tackling dummy would be the way to increase forward power, but that doesn't seem a good fit for runners.

Uphill sprinting is a favored way to do this, as it causes one to lift the knees while running fast. This still doesn't quite work for me, though, as one can sprint uphill barely raising the knees with short strides. Climbing steps 2 or 3 at a time seems a better way to do it, especially if one can do them fast.

This is what I plan to do now.

Except... it looks like I've broken my leg!

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Madcap Marathon Plan: The Last Laugh

I've discussed the marathon-length run done at a hard steady pace and the marathon-length run with the last 10-11 at marathon pace. The last step: do both every week (say, Tuesday night and Saturday morning)...

and nothing else!

52.5 miles per week works well for those racing between 3 and 4 hours. Those on the faster end might want to add up to two hours of cross-training per week, but no more runs. You need those 3.5 days to recover after each of these runs.

Strava did a study that found that 3 hour marathoners averaged 40-50 miles per week, most done at 7:31-7:48 per mile. I have a little more than that, done at 7:30 per mile.

Pete Pfitzinger suggests doing 20% of one's runs fast. 20% of 52.5 is 10.5, which is exactly what i suggest.

Marathoners from 2:30 to 4:30 run 75-90 minutes per week at race pace. 11 miles at 3:00 pace is 75 minutes and 10 miles at 4:00 pace is 90 minutes.

It all works!
Getting there is the challenge, of course. You'd spend 8-12 weeks building up to running two marathons per week. Once there, assume that you're running at 85% effort (if you're running really easy, it might be 80%, as hard as you need to for this plan is 90%) and then you can start with the faster running.

What about maximum oxygen uptake intervals? Don't need them.
What about threshold running? The last miles of every run will get you the same benefit.

It's so crazy, I think I have to try it.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Madcap 4: The Pace Run

One of the challenges of the marathon is running a hard steady pace for the entire distance; that's what I covered last time. Another is running marathon pace at the end of a marathon and that's today's post.

A workout that's become popular (and which I mentioned before) is to run 10 easy miles, then 10 miles at marathon pace. That might not get you to the finish line, though, so I'm suggesting a slightly harder workout: a full marathon, with the last 10-11 miles at marathon pace and the rest easy.

The question is (other than "what are you smoking, Steve?") what is marathon pace and what is easy pace? That's where the previous long hard run comes in. Your time in the long steady run at 24 miles divided by 26.2 is marathon pace; alternately, your time for the full 26.2 miles times 0.9 and then divided by 26.2 is marathon pace.

Your final time for both of these runs should be the same, so you can work backward to get your easy pace. Start with the total time, subtract the time at marathon pace, then divide by the distance run at easy pace.

For a 3 hour marathoner, the two runs look like this:

26.2 miles at 7:30/mile
15.7 miles at 8 minutes per mile, plus 10.5 miles at 6:51/mile

There's only one more step to this plan - and you won't believe what it is. That's the next, final post in this series.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Madcap 3: The Long Hard Run

One of the challenges of the marathon is running a steady hard pace for the duration of the marathon. Almost all top coaches will say that you can train to run the first 20 miles, but after that it's a crapshoot. That might be because of the way they train their runners.

In Jack Daniels' book (I haven't read the 3rd edition yet), he has marathoners run a longest run of "22 miles or 2.5 hours, whichever comes first." He has runners do a maximum marathon paced run of 15 miles. This doesn't really get one ready to run 26.2 miles at marathon pace.

There's a workout he doesn't consider, called the long hard run, generally for marathoners about 20 miles done at marathon pace plus 10%. Brad Hudson includes these runs in his marathon schedules in the back of his book, but he never mentions them in the body of the book, because they don't fit in well. Yet, there they are.

Renato Canova has said that training slower than marathon pace just trains one to run slower than one needs to run in the race. It could be argued that running faster than marathon pace just leads one to go out too fast and die (which was always my problem). Canova has runners do as much as 30-35km at marathon pace - with much rest before and after - and that might make sense for someone running 140 miles per week or more. Also, 20 miles at 5 minutes per mile is less than two hours and it's easier to run hard for two hours than it is for four; 4:30 marathoners would need twice the recovery of 2:15 marathoners and that would be long enough to be unmanageable in a workout schedule.

If you run at 90% effort for 90% of race distance (in this case 26.2x0.90=24 miles), it takes as long as the race. 24 miles at marathon pace plus 10% will take you as long as the marathon will. That's a useful thing to know. If you can finish all 26.2 at that pace, it's still about 91% race effort, which is about what 10 miles at marathon pace is. It's hard, certainly, but it's possible to fit into a plan.

So, a runner hoping to break 3:00 in the marathon would run a marathon in 3:18 as a training run - and do it regularly. That sounds insane at first. If one builds to it gradually, though, with adequate rest before and after, it should be okay. The other thing that one would need to work on is running at marathon pace itself, and that's the next post.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Madcap 2: A History of Failure

It's often said that the way to train for an ultramarathon is to train like you would for a marathon, but with longer long runs. I ran my first - and fastest - marathons training for 10K's. This was pretty typical for the 1970's (info traveled slowly and I was a decade behind):

Monday 60 minutes
Tuesday 90 with long intervals
Wednesday 60
Thursday 90  with short intervals (usually ignored)
Friday 0
Saturday 60 with a race, ususally 10K
Sunday 150-180 minutes

I ran 2:40 that way (with 32 minute 10K's on the way). This was pretty typical for college runners at the time, but what I didn't know was that, when training for a marathon, they'd run 4-8 weeks of specific marathon training and then a 2 week taper; the Saturday race would become longer (first 15k/10 mile, then 20K/1/2 mar./25K, then 30K/20 Mile) and less frequent, with the intervals run longer and slower and with less recovery.

I'd have no idea what I could run for a marathon, so I'd go out at what felt like a comfortable pace, then die and struggle in to the finish. If I started slower, hoping for an even pace, I ended up running slower overall. The problem was that I never did any specific training.

Other madness

One of the things I felt I needed was more rest before a long hard run, so I created a plan that looked like this:

Monday 90 minutes hills, sprints
Tuesday 90 with 4x 1 mile @ 5K
Wednesday 30
Thursday 30
Friday 30
Saturday 90 at marathon pace, or race (1/2 marathon, usually)
Sunday 150-180

This let me be completely fresh when running on Saturday. The Saturday run would deplete my glycogen stores. The Sunday run was necessarily slow because of this, but I figured I would adapt to running with low energy stores. Monday used muscles differently. Tuesday was hard and when maximally fatigued, so the times were always poor and sometimes only 1 or 2 miles could be done. It was a perfect glycogen depletion and repletion strategy... it was just not a great plan.

The run no one speaks of

What I really needed was what is rarely discussed seriously - a long hard run. That's the focus of the next post.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Madcap Marathon Plan - intro

Every now and then, I get a weird idea about training. I jot it down and store it for a while and usually it's flaw is immediately and laughably apparent when I next look at it. Sometimes, though, it seems to make sense; most of the time, if I go through my notes, I've covered the same thing before (sometimes more than once). It's good, though, to test the limits of what you think you know; for example, when I took to ultramarathons for a decade it was mostly because everything I thought I knew no longer had any bearing on what I was trying to do.

The idea I have isn't fully formed yet and I've started looking at what might be issues with it already, but before I present it, I need to go over its origin. So: back to when I was at my peak in my twenties, but never did a great marathon. I was able to run the distance - I ran 20 milers every week. I was able to run fast (32 minute 10K). I couldn't run a good marathon, though, because I couldn't do the one necessary thing, i.e. run marathon pace for marathon distance.

The last time I tried to run a good marathon (1993) was disastrous. I'd figured the problem was that I needed to run 13-15 milers at marathon pace during training, but that was so close to 1/2-marathon pace (within 15 seconds per mile), that I was never sure which I was doing. I'd enter a 1/2-marathon and run what felt like marathon pace, get my time and then wonder if that really was my marathon pace. If I did an all-out 1/2-marathon race, I'd wonder if maybe I had a bad day, or whether I was in shape to race 13 miles, but not 26.

That's the issue I have with plans like the Jack Daniels Plan A, where the first time you run at marathon pace, you run 12-13 miles at that pace. You have to know what your marathon finish time will be before you run the marathon, but my fitness fluctuates dramatically and I never know. If you can already run a 3 hour marathon, you don't really need someone to tell you how to do it.

What I needed was a plan where each workout gives a benchmark for the next one and they're all predictive of marathon finish time. One such workout frequently mentioned is to run 10 miles at an easy pace, then ten miles hard (some say with each mile faster than the one before it) and those final 10 are then your marathon pace... this will appear in my plan.