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

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

DOMS and Hills

I remember being shocked that my exceptional downhill running on the roads did not translate at all to trail running. On trails, I was terrible and only slowly got to mediocre in shorter races and stayed terrible at long ones. I'd quickly develop delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) which hobbled me on hills. What was the problem - the length of the hills, the steepness, the number or having to run them after having run for several hours?

A quick glance around the starting line would show that I did not look like most trail runners, who tended to be short and muscular (I have the typical build of a 1500/5000m specialist - which I was). The idea seemed to be that the more muscle you had, the less the damage of hills - specifically downhills - had an effect. Squats, lunges and a ton of downhill running seemed to be the answer.

Then, a few years later, a new subtype of trail runner started to appear, the small light marathoner type, which, while few in number, were starting to fill the upper ranks. And they were not doing the muscular work of the others. They were still running hills, but emphasizing the uphill (because one spends more time going uphill in a race than down, making that a priority) and running easily downhill. Because of the sheer volume of hills run, plenty of downhill work was being done, but done easily.

Kaci Lickteig, reportedly 5'3" and 90 lbs.
 The idea is that the faster one runs downhill, the greater the impact force and the more muscular damage. Moreover, it's not the pitch or length of the hills that was my (sometimes literal) downfall, so the theory goes, but the terrain. Because one cannot plant one's foot just anywhere, but must shift from side to side, landing with the foot turned at times rather than flat, a lot of muscle fibers not commonly used come into play; also one necessarily has to take some longer or shorter strides, also changing how the muscles are used. There is also an unconscious tensing of muscles one does when running on uneven (and even shifting, like loose rock) terrain that leads to fatigue.

The answer seems to be, then, according to the new idea, to run a lot of very technical hills, but to run hard uphill only. Being able to run technical downhill when tired from the uphill is key. I'm now seeking out hills where one can run long and gradual uphill, but steep and technical downhill (for locals, running Afton's gravel road up to the campground and down the now rutted steep campground hill seems best at 1.6 miles per loop and 300 feet of climb).

Oddly, the rehab work I've been doing on my Achilles tendons which has strengthened the small peroneal and foot flexor muscles may be more important than strengthening the large quadriceps and hip flexors; because these muscles are small, they tire easily.

It's a strange new world, if this is correct. If it turns out to be wrong, the alternative is box jumps. In the scientific literature, the way DOMS is generated in studies is doing 100 jumps off a one meter box. Logically, if one could slowly build up to tht, DOMS would not occur. This would be a small amount of time and efoort, but the amount of recovery time might be prohibitive.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Dreaded Yearly Fashion Post 2016

If the metallic trend continues one more year, I'm stopping these posts, because it's become pointless. It's been overdone and it was everywhere at the Golden Globes; if you can't come up with a new way to do it, try something else.

Okay. Now on to the show. Andrew Garfield and Ryan Reynolds seemed to enjoy each other.
Emma Stone did something to her lips before the show:
I'm a fan of big eyes and lips, but even I have to draw a line somewhere.
but ended up being the most talked-about for her dress:
This dress hit all of the typical notes of the night. It was in a near-nude shade (a dusty pink that went well with her coloring), had an extreme plunging neckline and had metallic embellishments. It might have been a stand-out, had not everyone worn something similar.

For example, Nicole Kidman wore this:
This dress had another trend: the cold shoulder with covered arms. The Alexander McQueen "shipwreck" dress on a model:
It actually looks better on Kidman! I'm not a fan of the detail at the top of the sleeve, but it's necessary to connect visually to the fabric at the ankle. The sleeve covering the hand seems unwieldy.

Michelle Williams in Vuitton:
Golden Globes hair tends to be a little more easy-going than at the Oscars, but a few had every hair meticulously in place. Williams, who can rock platinum pixie like no one else, led the way, with the Jessicas (Biel and Chastain) following. This is the one dress where the cold shoulder worked; without the added arm detail, it would've been insufficient. The choker is perfect and shows that $1 ribbon can work as well as $1M in Harry Winston diamonds, if done right.

I want to discuss a terrific idea done poorly, Carrie Underwood's dress:
Yes, biologists, it DOES look like Golgi apparatus:
The dress-as-origami is genius and the roses, individually, look great, though they're hard to see in the photo. It's just too busy. One or two roses in front of a shoulder and one in front of the opposing hip would have pulled this into the dress of the night.

I love the simple old-Hollywood elegance of Brie Larson's dress:
The sweetheart neckline does everything the other plunging necklines do, without looking ehxibitionistic or needing an entire roll of dress tape. The beading detail enhances without being distracting. This could've been a Jessica Rabbit-y disaster, but it works beautifully. Though it's very simple, I'm giving her my best-dressed title.

Years ago, I said that if someone wanted to stand out at the Golden Globes, they should wear a powder blue satin sheath dress. I also said it was a color I'd like to see Jessica Chastain in. This is what she wore:

Close enough! The off-shoulder neckline is almost a bateau and might have been better if it had been definitively one or the other. Then along came Isabelle Huppert, who could've told her "This is what you'll look like in 30 years... if you're lucky."

The dress looked bluer than the photo shows.
Sofia Vergara finally broke from wearing mermaid dresses. I have some issues with the dress, but she's rapidly approaching an age where she can't wear something like this, so I say "go for it." It certainly fit all the trends of the night.

Kelly Preston's dress keeps growing on me. The scallops are interesting, the belt is a needed break in the pattern and - something rarely discussed - it goes well with her husband's suit.
And now, seven more worth noting.

 Catriona Balfe went a different direction from everyone else and, except the waist, it works.
Claire Foy. I want to like this, but everything is slightly wrong.
Hailee Steinfeld in Vera Wang. The color is lovely, but nothing about this is right.
Kristin Cavallari in the most California-casual version of the night's trends.
 Lily Collins stood out from far away. The color suits her and the bright lipstick sets off the rest of the look.
 Olivia Culpo in a messy print and uncomfortable cross top that somehow isn't horrible.
 Theresa Palmer in black velvet. There were a few such dresses, like Biel's and this is attractive, if not spectacular.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Experiential Bias and Reverse Periodization

When a cyclist or triathlete tries to tell me how I should train as a runner, it bothers me because they come from a background that carries baggage with it (if I hear about power meters again, I'll scream). This was true 50 years ago when Jim Ryun's high school coach, a swim coach, had him run "swim" workouts like 50x200m and 20x400m at pace on consecutive days; that it worked for him is remarkable - no one who has tried to replicate his workouts has succeeded. What hadn't occurred to me was that, as someone who ran organized track since the age of 12, I also had similar baggage. When I started running, all distance runners were converted track runners and most tried to train for races like marathons as if they were just long track races. Make it 100 miles on a hilly course and the problems compound.

The standard idea in track for periodization has been that one can only do a little of short, fast workouts before becoming stale or injured, but stamina and endurance take a long time to develop, so one runs a lot of long slow distance and then adds a few weeks of fast intervals before racing. This is still a relevant way to train for middle distances.

Reversing that periodization by putting the speedwork first has become the standard for marathon runners, as the speed work is less specific. There have been many rationales and protocols developed, some of which are disreputable. For example, there are those who would have one perfect a single step at top speed and then try to gradually lengthen the time one can run fast. The best-known marathon plan of Jack Daniels (1996) has six weekly interval workouts 12-18 weeks out, before switching to all threshold and marathon pacing.

Brad Hudson has what he calls "non-linear periodization," where there are not set blocks of training for one specific facet. What he has wedded onto this is starting with short hill sprints and long runs, then working from both extremes to a more specific middle ground. I like this because it looked like what I was doing, namely running a variety of workouts each week, but emphasizing different ones at different times.

In other words, I fell into the trap of agreeing with those who justified what I was already doing: experiential bias.

There are some basic questions about reverse periodization that are left unanswered:

1) It is suggested that highly trained athletes can only improve by pushing each type of training as far as possible and that this cannot be done if one is trying to improve two types at the same time, hence the need for periodization. Even if this is so, does it justify the increased risk of injury that comes from abruptly switching from one type of training to another?

2) It is suggested that the benefits in each type of training accrue to the next. Let's say that you do maximal oxygen uptake intervals, then short threshold runs, then runs at marathon pace. If you raise your VO2max as high as possible, then abandon those workouts, you'll lose some of that ability over time before you race. Do those workouts cause one to be able to do better threshold runs than if one had devoted the entire time for both to doing just threshold runs?

There's no way to answer these questions, but the "start fast" idea has an added benefit. Right now in Minnesota, it's about zero degree Fahrenheit. Running short and fast seems preferable to long slow runs in extreme cold, just as a matter of comfort (and survival). This is also a long time before I'd race, so the timing works for me.

Monday, December 26, 2016

The Repeated Bout Effect

Sometimes a guy comes along and says "Everything you know about running is wrong." They're usually crackpots who disappear after some initial publicity. (Remember hearing you can run a marathon on 12 minutes of training per week? How many of those guys are you seeing at marathons?) Recently, I ran across someone who told me that I was looking at everything the wrong way and, surprisingly, he made some sense. There's so much to cover that I'm not sure it hangs together, but it certainly gives me material to write about.

Let's start with the most basic idea: Does practice make perfect?

The standard idea is that if you do something repeatedly, you improve. Let's say you can run six 800 meter repeats at your 5K pace with three minutes rest in between. The next time you try to do that workout, it should be easier; you might be able to run seven or eight repeats instead of six or you might be able to run them slightly faster or maybe you run exactly the same, but it feels easier (perhaps you wear a heart rate monitor and your heart rate doesn't peak as high the second time). Each time you do this, you get better, but there's diminishing returns and eventually you start to plateau; this means you're in peak shape, at least for doing this one workout.

The new idea is that the first time you do the workout, you're the most rested you'll ever be. The next time you do it, unless you wait until you're completely recovered, you won't be able to do it as well and if you wait until you're fully recovered, you're not training often enough to see any improvement. If you try to match what you did the first time, you'll become overtrained and risk injury.

This is a bit of a shock if you're used to measuring progress with benchmark workouts. After all, if you're not measurably improving during your training, how can you expect to improve in your racing? First, you have to race often and see if your race times improve. Second, you have to not leave your best races on the track, to not be overly competitive and perfectionistic in training (this hits awfully close to home for me), but leave the really hard work for the races.

This suggests that the guys who are beating me in races but aren't training very hard aren't just more talented, but better rested. My argument against this is that a proper taper would compensate. The first time I'd run 6x800m wouldn't be my first workout ever - like in a science experiment - so the idea that I'd be most rested then doesn't really hold.

What started to click for me was that there is no race where everyone's running 800m repeats. The answer is that you do less of that type of running in each workout, but make it better conform to the race for which you're training. If you're training for a trail race, perhaps you move the repeats to hills. If you're running a long race, perhaps you add repeat 800s to the end of a longer run. Being able to throw in one or two hard 800 meter bursts at the end of a race could be an asset, as could learning to return to a base pace after running them. This fits in with both trains of thought.

It does have me thinking though that my trying to both train harder and more specifically at the same time may be my undoing.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Stages of Running

1) Anything helps.
2) Nothing helps.
3) Everything hurts.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Steve, Meet Wheel

To succeed in the sport of running, you have to do what others aren't willing to do. What I keep forgetting is that you also have to be willing to do what those who are successful do. I posted some ideas on training for a 100 mile trail race, but overlooked the fact that everyone agrees on some basic points, which I chose to ignore because I didn't care for them.

A brief question and answer with John Horns, who won the Superior 100 at age 51 (23:16, a slow time - a hot year) brought back some old ideas to me, which I've managed to gel into a coherent plan that looks like what others have done.

M 10 miles hike
T 5 miles with 3x20sec. hill sprints
W 15 miles hills with 7.5 miles hard
Th 5 miles with 3 sprints
F 10 miles hike
Sa 19 miles with last 13 hard
S 31 miles easy

Improvement comes by increasing the pitch of the hills on Wednesday and increasing the difficulty of terrain on Saturday and Sunday.

Every third week is an easier week, though the mileage stays steady.

10 walk
5 w/3
15 hill WALK
5 w/3
10 walk

That's almost 100 miles per week, which John was doing at his peak training. So how does one build to that? I just went from running 20-30 miles per week straight into it! Ten days in, I'm not hurt, but I  haven't been doing much of the hard running and my weekend runs haven't been long enough. I'm doing 75 miles per week, just as the weather starts turning cold.

Ideally, the times for the above would eventually be

M 2:00-2:15
T 45 min
W 3:00 (done on Hyland ski hill, 500 ft. climb per mile)
Th 45
F 2:00-2:15
Sa 19 @ Afton  in 3:00
S 31 @ Afton in 5:30.

Given that running the Afton course in 5:30 is what I've done in races there, it's "a bit of a reach."

Monday, November 7, 2016

A Brief Rant (no politics)

Runners tend to divide into two camps, the "do less" and "do more" camps. Most middle-of-the-pack and beginner runners want to know "what's the absolute least I can do and still succeed?" One of the best-selling running books is entitled "Run Less, Run Faster" and is inevitably bought by people who think the title means "run faster while running less: when in fact the book's about "running less, but running faster can get you similar results."

When runners decide to turn professional, they suddenly have an entire day to fill that used to be filled with a job. There's only so much more they can do; after diminishing returns, they start to become counterproductive and end up over-trained if they just keep trying to do more. That's why you start to see them talk about things like sports massage. Mostly, however, they decide "well, I could probably eat better" and then suddenly they try to convince you that they're experts and tout some fad diet... as if running 180 miles per week with much speed work has nothing to do with their success.

Then the beginner runner turns to the pros to see what they're doing and they see some dietary advice. They decide that they'll follow suit, because better runners are doing it and changing diet feels like they're doing something, when what they need to do is train better.

Put down the diet plan and go for a run.