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

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Long answer to some good questions

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.


Glaven Q. Heisenberg said...

The body runs on fat and sugar


My body runs on love.

Specifically, love of beer.

Karen said...

America runs on Dunkin'.

Running with MTP said...

I guess we are in disagreement on the endocrine system - The one significant change I made between FANS = 123 miles and FANS = 147 miles was adding 2 long runs per month. 1 - 50-60 KM and one 70-90 KM ... No back to back hard days.

Stress(One day) - Recover(The next day) - Repeat

But I did not over do the really long runs. Once I was a light to moderate endocrine system stress I stopped. No extended easy days before or after.

Back to Back hard days put me into stress overload and end up being counter productive.

But we are all an experiment of one.

Running with MTP said...


The other interesting thing - I haven not ever run out of glycogen in an ultra.

I consume 500 calories per hour and that seems to be enough with the glycogen / fat burn mix.

One of the 1st systems that get shut down when the endocrine system is getting stressed is the digestive system. My digestive system seems to always work like a charm.

Do you think that is because
1) I have the natural ability to process more calories
2) I have an above average fat to glycogen burn ratio
3) I have a strong endocrine system
4) Other

Serious question ?

Anonymous said...

Mike - All of the above.
Steve - I still think you train yourself to quit.

Running with MTP said...

Interesting - Comment - I do not understand "You train yourself to quit"

There have been a couple of races I have done with specific goals - Where the goal was not to finish but to hit a minimum distance to qualify for the US Team and I have pulled the plug. finishing with 133 miles would do nothing for me.

There has been 1 race where I was not physically fit and hit medical issues - I could have finished - But it would have put me at risk.

I do think that any race distance a person needs an all in mental committment to race at peak performance. Very few ultra runners try and race at peak performance to how they are physcially trained.

I believe weather I ever would quit in a race has little to do with how I train.

Can you explain what you meant?

I may have to drive up to the SHT with you some weekend in the spring for a nice long conversation as message boards and blogs are not interactive enough to really exange thoughts effectively.

Running with MTP said...

I believe that I have very little going for me in body type (non-runner) and physical ability (Running genetics). The two traits that help me do better in a 24 hour than a 5k: Ability to handle training load and ability to process calories.

Although very handsome generally - My stride is ugly and I am slow.

You are faster - Have a beautiful stride and a runners body.

Ross said...

I've always assumed that by "training the endocrine system" people were inaccurately referring to the types of long term changes that result from transcriptional activation of protein expression. This includes vascularization and mitochondrial synthesis in myocytes.

These changes have nothing to do with the endocrine system, of course, but are the result of training stressors.

Ross said...

Thinking about it more, there are two true endocrine responses to training.

The first is an increased insulin sensitivity, mostly through increased expression of the GLUT2 transporter.

The second includes the glucocorticoid responses that are varied, but do include changes in glucose and fat metabolism.

Running with MTP said...

I have no personal scientific understanding - But I have based my thoughts on the Endocrine System from reading things like this:


Again - I am purely ignorant about the Endocrine System - So I may have based my understanding from misguided information ... but to me the link I provided appears to be reasonable.

Anonymous said...

balls - just run and see what happens :)

SteveQ said...

I'll have to do another post on the matter. It's especially galling that the phrase "training the endocrine system" was coined by a biochemist who's making a living selling salt in gel capsules at a 10000% profit.