Last Sunday, I did a long run when I was already tired from a tough run Saturday and a moderate ramp-up in weekly mileage. It generated a couple of questions that take a bit to answer.
"Why do you set yourself up to fail and teach yourself to quit?"
There's a philosophy of training that one should run easy, run long and improve gradually and naturally as one's mileage increases. I get it; I even advocate that for some runners at some times. It also happens to be why American distance running tanked between 1985 and 2010. If I wanted to train to finish 100 miles comfortably, I could do that, but it's not my way. Pushing oneself (one's self?) to a collapse point and then a bit beyond, if it doesn't lead to injury or burnout, works better for me.
"Why not recover completely and run your long runs faster?"
In January of 2007, I ran 40.5 miles indoors in 6:00:30 and thought, because it felt relatively easy, that I was in great shape to run a 24 hour race later in the year; as it turns out, I was in shape to run 9 minute miles for 6 hours. It was a race done in training, even though it felt easy and it did not do what I wanted.
I have a tendency to take a few easy days before a long run and that causes me to run the long run faster than the easy pace I should be using. In races, I'll get to the same point I get in training runs and then collapse, having to walk or shuffle from that point to the end... and this is true, no matter how slowly I start! I've tried starting slow and it hasn't helped; I just collapse at the same time, but at a shorter distance.
Mike mentioned "training the endocrine system." That phrase is utter balderdash; it took me 2 years to even understand what it was supposed to mean. There's some basic biochemistry that needs to be covered:
The body runs on fat and sugar; there's a limited supply of sugar and an unlimited supply of fat. If the sugar runs out, the body cannibalizes protein and converts some of it to sugar. The runner tries to have the sugar last as long as possible and there are a few ways to do it: Train to use a higher percentage of fat from the start, either by running in a continuously depleted state (the high protein, low carb diet) or doing high mileage and two-a-days (Mike ran 130 miles per week and can run faster than 10 minutes per mile for an entire day); this method works after about 6 weeks of training, as the body has a survival mechanism that switches the body from using strictly glucose in the brain to using about 2/3rds ketone bodies (which come from protein and fats). The downside is that not everyone can do it - I can't - and it puts a limit on how fast one can run. One can run faster on sugar and fat than on just fat.
The way I train has me using both sugar and fat until the crash point, when I switch to just fat. I train to push that point as far as possible. Then I train to run as well as possible after the crash on just fat. To get to that point, I either have to run very hard at the start of the run or do the long run when depleted of sugars from previous runs, or both.
Sunday Night Musings
5 days ago