I was going to do a post on masters runners, as Minnesota's been a hotbed of speedy oldsters and I'm trying to find my place among them. The late Dr. Bill Andberg ran a 5:18 mile at age 60 and set a score of national age-class records. Most of his records were bested by fellow Minnesotan Dr. Alex Ratelle (2:30 marathon at age 56). Bill Fraser ran a 4:55 at age 55. All their records have fallen as more great runners continue to run for as many decades as they can.
I was looking for Andberg's then world's best VO2(max) for a man over 60 and found it in the February 1973 Runner's World magazine [back when it was relevant] - it was 61 - and there was a chart in the same article that caught my attention. It listed data for 11 national class track runners in their 40's; it's worth noting that national class then for masters was a mile in 5:10 and is now 4:30.
Their average height was 72.3 inches; mine's 72. Their weight was 158 pounds, mine 154. Their per cent body fat 11%, mine 10%. Their maximum heart rate 178, mine 184. Their resting heart rate 49, mine 36. Their blood pressure 117/76, mine 106/64. Their miles per week was 40, mine 65.
The telling number, though was that their average VO2(max) was 57.5. Mine hasn't been measured in a very long time, but my training suggests it's about 47-48. What's the difference?
VO2(max) can be affected by weight, heart stroke volume (correlated to resting heart rate), minute volume (correlated to maximum heart rate), lung vital capacity (mine's 6.6 liters, a bit above normal, possibly lowered from the pneumonia last fall), maximum breathing capacity (how much air one can breathe in a minute; I can't measure this, but it's probably not a factor), blood oxygen carrying capacity (my hematocrit is high normal), difference in oxygen tension between arterial and venous blood (again, not measured, but probably irrelevant) and the ability to maintain a maximal or near-maximal heart rate for the duration of the test.
That last factor is just a fancy way of saying "training." I ran the 2007 Nerstrand Big Woods 1/2 marathon at 93% maximum heart rate (89% of VO2(max)) for 93 minutes and the 2008 Trail Mix 50K at 84% maximum heart rate (73-74% VO2(max)) for 225 minutes. That's as good as world-class athletes could do - though, of course, their VO2(max) is much much higher.
What all of this boils down to is that I'm not running as fast as I should be able to and the only explanation is that I'm not being efficient, either biomechanically or biochemically. My mechanics are lousy, but they haven't changed that much since I ran well. That leaves me with a tautology:
I can't run hard for long because I don't run hard for long, I don't run hard for long because I can't run hard for long.
4 days ago