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

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Two and a half experiments

I have a friend who irks me by introducing me as "old school." I'm always looking for something new, though it tends to make me vacillate between different training ideas.

The Edinburgh protocol

Actually, it might be Glasgow or Aberdeen - I should look it up. Though it's gone by several names, doing sprints to improve distance running has been around forever and it's had a variety of reasons behind it. James, then Canova, then Hudson, had people doing short hill sprints, which is almost entirely dependent upon creatine phosphate and is useful for sprinters, but I was never sure of it for distance runners. Then there was Tabata and 8x20 sec.(10 sec. recovery) all-out, which pushes from creatine all the way through lactate tolerance, but always caused me injury. Researchers in Scotland got it down to 3x20 sec. all-out, which hits the upper end of lactate tolerance and found that doing it 3 times per week for 12 weeks improved maximal oxygen uptake. That I can do. It's too early to tell if it's helping me any.

The late-Foster/Furman/Hanson bros. world

Supposedly, I've reached that point in my running career where high volume is not going to help much any more. It's possible to get by on three days of running per week, supplemented by cross-training, running very hard twice per week. Jack Foster ran a 2:20 marathon at age 50 that way (though he ran 2:11 at age 40 on higher mileage). Recent plans have been advocated of running fewer days and, looking at what is essential to marathoning and to what I don't do well, the follwing looks like a plan:

Tuesday: two hours, with 3x1.5 to 2 miles @ 1/2 marathon (threshold) pace
Thursday: two hours of hills
Saturday: 2.5-3 hours, with the last 4-8 at marathon pace
Sunday: two hours speed hiking/fast walking

That whole low carb thing

 Though it doesn't appeal to me, I'm willing to put anything to the test - assuming it makes sense. Getting 45-65% of one's calories from carbohydrates is considered normal. 40% is where Zone, then paleo went; that's possible if one's careful. Then things went weird and people were advocating exceptionally low carb diets - and some were having running success with them. I kept looking at what they were eating and it made me ill, but still, I considered it.

Most people don't get enough vitamins D, E and folate, or enough zinc or calcium. These low carb diets could get those nutrients in sufficient quantity, so I started looking at it again. There is evidence for a healthy diet containing: 4 oz fatty fish, 2 oz. baking chocolate, 5 oz. red wine, 2 cups green vegetables (especially leafy greens and cruciferous), 1/2 tsp (3 cloves) garlic... not many carbs there!

Unfortunately, weird diets lead to weird deficiencies and I suddenly had to think about thiamin, of all things. If you eat grains or legumes, you get enough thiamin, but these have too many carbs. The alternatives: yeast extract (which is industrial waste, and most vitamin pills are derived from this same sludge) which tastes horrible to me, pork loin or sirloin or tenderloin in too large quantities, kidneys (which I refuse to eat) and supplements.

I've looked over what people are eating on low-carb diets and it's either nutritionally deficient, revolting in taste or just a bunch of potions and pills. Until I can find a way to test this that I can live with, this remains a thought experiment.



Robyn said...

Steve, I love watching you "think aloud" on your blog.

8.5 to 9 hours/week is still pretty high volume, especially compared to the published Furman and Hanson marathon training programs. If you're enjoying yourself and not getting injured, I say go for it, but if you're not, you could cut your midweek runs back to 1 hour and probably still get some good training effect, especially if you cross-train.

You say 3 x 20 sec all-out hills is all you can take, then describe 2 hours of hills every week. What are you doing on those hills?

I've become a hill sprint believer. I've gone from back of the pack to solid mid-pack (beating the median) at every distance from 1 mile to 50k this year by adding things like 8 x 60 sec hard hills to my run. It seems to increase my tolerance for suffering late in a race.

Paleo is not necessarily low-carb, though it certainly can be. My paleo-ish diet includes fresh and dried fruit (though not a lot), sweet potatoes, white potatoes, carrots, parsnips, and now that it's in season, a lot of winter squash. I've tried jicama but it's kind of meh.

Double said...

Right...we get old and HAVE to make adjustments. Like most I am not good at this. When it comes to training hard I still believe in the, "if you ain't blastin' you ain't lastin'," camp. As the old saying goes..."the more you sweat in training, the less you bleed in battle." Of course you have to survive which means guys like you and me seldom "race" any more. I am just some guy who occasionally bloviates on blogs like I know what I'm talking about.

Double said...

Steve, I ran out at Afton a couple weeks back and I don't know where the course meanders, but you'd have to be a beast to run a 4:08 (8:00 pace)at over 50 years old. I guess the footing is fairly decent, but unless you train in West Virginia that's a pretty meaty chud.

Carilyn said...

My concern with the low carb thing for runners is that I've seen a few (don't you just love "anecdotal evidence"?) good runners end up with endocrine issues after a few years of great performances. It just makes me wonder if the increased performance has more to do with weight loss than WHAT the person is eating, and that in the long run, the deficit will show up in long term problems. Just a thought.

Anyway, I'm too lazy to really do much more than run. I like food too much, and hate to spend time trying to figure out if I'm getting what I need. So, maybe my bias against running "diets" is just (barely) masked apathy :)

SteveQ said...

Dave, 4:08 at Afton would be like a 2:50 marathon - something I won't ever do again, but there's a bunch of guys over 50 around here that are doing that. (and they're beasts)