Life is like music; it must be composed by ear, feeling, and instinct, not by rule.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Last evolution phase?

I know, it has been forever since I posted but better late than never, right.  Well, I am in the last phase of the 10 yr. running cycle I've referred to constantly being years 8-10 (a runner friend of mine refers to this as the "smooth it out" phase when the body makes some final last tweaks as you truly become an efficient runner).  I've been running injury free for the last 5 years but now I can feel my body take the next step to become even a more efficient and productive runner and my body feels absolutely amazing.

To this point, I was tested again and long and behold my foot strike has changed slightly from slight under-pronation to a neutral foot strike.  Of course, with a neutral foot strike you still pronate but the fine line between pronating and under-pronating is an important and critical distinction.  So what has changed?  It's simple and I know what it is.  It's "Relaxation," plain and simple.  I run completely relaxed and that has resulted in the slight change in foot strike.  In fact, there's hardly any wear and tear on the soles of my shoes in the spots that would indicate under or over-pronation . . . the wear and tear is that of a neutral foot striker.

I'm not sure how I arrived here but within the past 3-4 months, I've been thinking more about being relaxed, regardless of the pace, whether warm-up or race pace.  I've also been thinking about Fred Rohe and his writing "The Zen of Running" and how he preaches about always being relaxed and never running with stress or pushing too hard.  For me, it's about comfortably hard running but also being totally relaxed and if I need to push too hard which, by the way, results in a dramatic increase in impact forces, I find that relaxed mode and I run as hard as I can provided I'm relaxed . . . anything faster that results in me not being relaxed is something I don't do anymore . . . if I feel the impact forces are too high, my arms are tight, breathing not controlled, etc., then I re-focused and find that relaxed rhythm and stay in that zone.  By the way, the more relaxed, the faster I run comfortably, however, there's a limit how fast you can run relaxed . . . if I have to push off harder then that's the zone I do not enter anymore.  As a result, I feel tremendous and every muscle and tendon feels great (for example, I can squeeze and pinch both achilles tendons with no pain or discomfort whatsoever . . . that's what I'm talking about).

I'm all about Running Relaxed.

Happy trails.

Me


Thursday, February 6, 2014

Reflection

It's interesting as I reflect back on the last 8 years since I started running regularly.  I've averaged about 50 miles per week during this time, however, as with many runners, I've had highs, lows, ups and downs.  I remember vividly the first week I started running in 1995 when, as luck would have it, I ran into an elite runner and had a conversation that shaped my running life.  That runner was so smooth and fluid, I mean, just a beautiful runner.  I told him I wanted to run like him and he said it was possible (of course, I didn't say as fast as him) but I had to commit for 10 years.  I looked at him with confusion and said why 10 years . . . why so long.  He said it would take 10 years to become an efficient and seasoned runner and furthermore, I had to commit to the 3 phases in the 10 year cycle.

I asked him to continue and he explained the 3 phases:

- Phase 1 (Years 1-3), he called it the "Adaption and Hell Phase."  Now, 3 years is a long time in hell.  He said it was hell because I would suffer every injury known to a runner during this 3 year period . . . achilles tendonitis, plantar  tendonitis, plantar fasciitis, runners knee, top of the foot pain, sciatic pain, back pain, calf pulls, strains, tears, and the list goes on and on.  The point was it would take 3 years for every tendon and muscle to adapt to running regularly.  The question was whether I was committed to push through this 3 years of hell.  He said 95% of runners will not commit to continuing through this painful time but if I did, the reward down the road would be great . . . little did I know how right he was.
- Phase 2 (Years 4-7), he called it the "Discovery Phase" because it was during this phase that a runner discover his/her body, researches everything in the world about running and starts to place running as one of the more important things in their lives.  This is when you join every online group, runner's club, etc., and you and running start to become one.  This is also when you try everything from barefoot running (at least for me) and you focus on every single aspect of running whether it's landing lightly, high turnover, short stride, claw back, Pose, Chi, and then there's shoes, oh my god, there's shoes.   Flexible or rigid, support or no support, heel deviation or zero drop, light or heavy, road vs. trail vs. mountain surfaces (and don't let me get started on diet).  The point here is you discover and mold yourself into a runner.  You set PR's, finish your first marathon . . . for me, the most memorable was at the age of 43, I ran my first sub 18:00 5k (17:42) . . . that was last year.  Of course, the best part for me was after Year 4, I didn't suffer another significant injury . . . nothing that stopped me from running every day . . . no pain that impacted my running (that's always the #1 goal) and that runner told me if I made it through Phase 1, that day would come.
- Phase 3 (Years 8-10), he called it the "Refinement Phase."  My friends this is where I'm at.  He said this is when you are ready to understand the subtleties of running and you make slight tweaks that make all the difference in the world.   I'm in the midst of this right now and after all these years of a short quick stride, my turnover has decreased slightly and my stride length has increased, all while landing correctly.  I know understand what the paw back is and it makes all the difference in the world especially with respect to performance, speed and efficiency.  I understand the placement of my arms, hips, etc.  I've learned to run by feel and control my paces without the aid of a Garmin watch.  After all these years, I'm finally starting to get it.  I've learned to not counsel other runners as they must go on this journey alone (of course, I answer questions if asked).

So why did I share this?  Well, just to say, anyone can do it but the question is "Are you willing to go through hell to get to heaven."  Ultimately, it's about commitment . . . remember motivation is EASY, habit is HARD . . . all champions have HABIT.

Harry

Friday, January 31, 2014

Wow, forgot about my blog

It has been forever since I posted . . . just too busy but all is good.  I'm still averaging 50-60 miles per week, entering my 5th year without injury.  Nothing at all for me to complain about.


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Recognize mental fatigue

Just some quick and obvious advice.  Don't ignore mental fatigue because if you do, it can lead to a long host of problems.  The first step is recognizing when you are mentally fatigued and, in fact, you may be physically fine and that's why folks ignore the mental side but it's a mistake.  I bring this up because I'm suffering from it right now but I'm addressing it.

After 97 consecutive days of running, I noticed that it was "mentally" tough to run for just 40-45 minutes.  I took note of this and also took into account external factors, including the bad weather (5 straight days of snow and below 10F temperatures), inability to run outdoors and especially on the trails I love, being regulated to the treadmill due to bad weather, heavy load of work, and early morning kids activities.  My body felt fine but not my mind.  So, I've dedicated this week as a "back off week," or call it a "recovery week."  This week, all my runs will be 20-30 minutes (likely on the treadmill, barefoot) . . . heck, maybe just a 1 mile run (we'll see how it goes).

It's time to recover and heal, more mentally than physically.  When you suffer mentally, it can turn into a physical thing and you can even get sloppy with your focus which can directly or indirectly lead to bad form and technique and ultimately injury.  I have friends who don't see the connection between mental fatigue and potential injury, but it's real . . .

Trust me . . . when you feel off, start to take literal notes of what's going on inside and outside . . . don't ignore the signals . . . acknowledge and address it!!!

Harry

Monday, January 7, 2013

The role barefoot plays . . .

I was recently asked how much barefoot running I actually do and what role in plays in my running program. Well, barefoot accounts for about 25% of my overall running which is a good chunk.  Over the past 4-5 yrs., I gone back and forth from doing a lot of barefoot running to no barefoot running to a few miles, here and there.  However, when I'm running my best and feeling my strongest, two (2) things occur.  First, I do more pace workout and less overall weekly mileage.  I'm a fast twitch runner so doing heavy mileage doesn't fit my make-up.  Second, I do a good amount barefoot running because it's critical in enabling me to maintain good form, technique, balance, turnover and just keeping a good stride (basically, barefoot running allows me to be able to run in shoes, albeit minimalist shoes).

My favorite surface for barefoot running is the treadmill or an astro-turf football field.  I tend to have a 4-6 stride per minute delta between unshod and shod, that is, I have a quicker turnover while barefoot which is pretty normal but the key is that barefoot running allows me to maintain a healthy turnover while in shoes and, as importantly, it keeps my stride controlled to avoid over-striding.  I don't believe in the super short stride that folks talk about with barefoot running because you can under-stride just as much as over-stride and both are damaging although over-striding is more problematic.  I true barefoot runner actually has a healthy stride length yet still lands balance, controlled and with a good center of gravity (just watch Zola Budd).

Best of all, when you really have tired legs and need a true recovery run, there's nothing easier than barefoot running, nothing lighter than your barefoot and nothing as light and easy as barefoot running.

Harry

Saturday, January 5, 2013

In case you doubt the impact of running shoes . . .


What do Orthotics and shoes actually do? Looking at data from a professional runner (click here if you can't read this post)



Often times in research we focus on norms.  We look at the average effect of different
interventions and then apply them to everybody.  In this way, as a whole we get what 
the effects are for most people.  By doing this, sometimes we miss the individual effects.  
So in today’s first blog of 2013, I want to share with you some data on the effects 
of running shoes on data with one  individual athlete, Jackie Areson, who runs 
professionally for Nike.

In this data, what we did was stick her on a treadmill running at the same speed 
for every trial and set up my poor man’s high speed video analysis system 
(Casio Exilim + free motion analysis software), and took side and back views 
of her running.  What I was looking at was a comparison of shoes impacts on 
her mechanics.  Using barefoot as the “normal” and comparing from there.  We
 looked at all sorts of different Nike shoes (because that’s her sponsor), 
her old shoes she trained in in college (Brooks Ravena) and then just for the 
heck of it, each shoe with custom orthotics and without custom orthotics
 (she does NOT wear them) to see the effects orthotics had on her mechanics.

 So what you'll find below is a chart comparing I’ve included pictures below 
for you guys to take a look at that give a good indicator of things and includes
a few other shoes not included in the chart (because remember, this data is 
analyzed the old fashioned way so it takes a while to analyze it all!).






PronationPronationFootstrike
Orthotics?changeChange (deg)Degree    Ground ContactFlight TimeFootstrikeHeel-toe drop
Lunar FlyNO
7
10
93.6
0.214
0.114
whole10mm
Lunar FlyYES
7
9
10mm
KatanasNo
9
10
92
0.195
0.128
midfoot4mm
Lunar RacersNo
9
13
93.4
0.2
0.123
whole7mm
Lunar RacersYES
9
11
98
0.209
0.119
Heel7mm
PegasusNo
8
10
100.7
0.214
0.104
Heel12mm
Pegasusyes
9
11
101.6
0.214
0.109
Heel12mm
VomerosYes
10
12
96.5
0.204
0.114
heel11mm
BarefootNo


93.8
0.195
0.119
forefoot
0mm









 Footstrike degree- 90deg= knee and ankle of foot are at 90deg angle. So 
greater the degree, means further out ankle is in front of knee at footstrike.
(Heel toe drop is using data from outside sources, not measured)


Pictures of shoes at footstrike- NO Orthotic on left.  Orthotic on right  
(except for Nike free, Katana, and streak XC- NO Orthotics on those)





What did we find with Jackie. 
 1. Orthotics almost always switch to a more pronounced heel 
strike (probably for a few reasons- They add weight, bulk, and increase 
the heel to toe drop.

2. Orthotics don't decrease pronation really, and don't have a uniform 
effect across shoes.  They tend to change things in different degress.

3. Footstrike is greatly influenced by shoe type.  It's hard to pick out 
definite trends, but the less heel-toe drop the more likely she lands forefoot 
or mid/whole foot.  Additionally, the lighter the shoe the more so.  Interestingly 
(and the data isn't up there) but for some reason she lands more whole foot with 
the Brooks Ravena then with comparable shoes in terms of heel/toe drop and 
weight.  My guess is because of the high toe spring changes her loading/landing 
pattern (because at this period of time, she protected her past foot injuries by not 
"pushing off" her big toe.) Also, the contrast between flats and shoes is remarkable.

4.  Using the simple measure of ground contact time tells you how minimal a 
shoe is.  It's a kind of "duh, that's obvious" conclusion, but a simple measure of 
comparing barefoot ground contact time versus shoe GC might be a useful measure.  
The difference (at the same speed) could give an indicator of how much the shoe 
"interferes".  So maybe a simple yet effective measure might be change in GC with 
each shoe?  (Just hypothesizing but how cool would it be to go to a shoe store and 
run barefoot, get a GC, then compare shoes effects on it, instead of doing pronation junk?)

5. Pronation- It varies.  And having junk in your shoe to stop it really didn't do much 
at all for Jackie. (and yes, pronation is natural, I just included in this analyse because 
it's easy to measure, everyone measures it, and I wanted to show the effects shoes 
had on it...)


Hopefully this data makes you think a little bit and gets you to see the individual 
differences that shoes create.

Thoughts, comments????  Mr. Magness always has good stuff to share 

. . . great job Steve!

Harry

Thursday, December 20, 2012

180 stride rate test

So it was too cold to run outside, so I headed for the treadmill for an easy run and decided to calculate my stride rate (for the heck of it).  This wasn't a race pace workout so my fastest pace was 6:42:

Pace     Stride Rate (average)
10:00    156-158
9:00      164-166
8:00      172-174
7:00      176
6:42      178-180

You'll hear may folks say that 180 strides per minute so stay consistent regardless of pace.  This is largely a lie and inaccurate.  I'm sure a few runners do but many runners will increase stride rate (and length) as they increase pace.  As reported by Steve Magness, here's some date from top NCAA runners at UTEP:

Pace     Stride Rate
7:40      175.68
6:43      181.76
5:58      185.82
5:22      191.83
4:58      196.93

Given that, I'm quite satisfied with my 178-180 strides per minute at 6:42 pace.  My 5k race pace is slightly sub 6:00 pace so it's safe to say, I would be over the 180 threshold.  Even Steve Magness (very accomplished runner in his own right) reported the following after testing himself:

Pace     Stride Rate
7:30      166
5:00      192-198

So why is there such a focus on the "180 stride rate?"  Well, because many recreational runner over-stride and that causes many problems and ultimately injuries.  However, after you achieve a certain level of competence with respect to your stride, you can start to focus on strength length and becoming an even more efficient runner.  Remember, the "180" comes from analysis provided by legendary coach Jack Daniels but he was analyzing elite level runners at tempo pace.  Many elite Kenyan runners has been measured as low as the mid 160's while warming up but they are all largely over 180 "at tempo pace," and that's the key.

There's nothing wrong with forcing shorter and quicker strides while learning to run but you'll hit a level of competence where a baby steps not only feel wrong but are inefficient and instead of over-striding, you will under-stride and that can also causes issues.

Remember, keep it in perspective.

Harry

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

What a typical speed day looks like for me . . .


I've had a few inquires as to what a speed day workout looks like for me.  So, today, I did a 5k trial run with a few folks on dirt.  Here's what my workout looks like:

1.  Wake up at 5:45am and do 5-10 min. of foot exercises consisting of towel crunches and rolling over a golf ball, both feet.

2.  Massage my calves with a tennis ball and hard form roller over the IT band

3.  Walk around the house for 5-10 min.

4.  45 min. of barefoot running on the treadmill.  I break it up in phases which helps mentally with running on the treadmill.  First 20 minutes is the warm-up, then I start to steadily increase pace.

5.  1 mile warm-up outdoors, running to the location for the 5k run on the trails

6.  5k run checking my form, feel and pace every 400 meters.  Completed the 5k in 18:39.  My goal was sub 19:00 so mission accomplished.

7.  .5 mile easy run back to the house

8.  15 min. of barefoot running on the treadmill as the cool down.

9.  10 min. of light stretching, mostly the quads and hamstrings + balancing exercises.

That's about it.  A lot of stuff just to run a 5k, huh?   Well, speed and hard runs are not to be messed with.  If you approach them wrong, the only guarantee is a guaranteed injury.  I basically had to run easy for more than 1 hr. in order to prepare for a hard 5k run.  As a masters runner, I have to pay even closer attention to properly prepare my body for hard workouts.

Monday, December 17, 2012

The journey to be what I want to be . . .

My 7+ years of dedicated running has been an amazing journey and I look forward to where it will take me next.  However, I've had to veer off in different directions to learn what I like and what works for me.  Recently, for the 2nd time in 7 yrs., I significantly increased my weekly mileage from 40-45 miles per week ("mpw") to 60-70 mpw and I learned (yet again) a few things about myself.

1.  The heavier mileage is very time consuming (well, that's obvious :) and I tend to shed another 5-7 lbs. which sounds great but I'm already thin and it really is the threshold between to types of bodies for different purposes.  When I'm at the lower mileage range, I do a lot more race pace training and I tend to do a lot more upper, lower and core training . . . long story short, I'm stronger at the lower mileage range although I don't have the level of endurance I have at the higher mileage range.  At the high mileage range, my body looks like a marathoner as opposed to more of the 800 meter to 1 mile runners who tend to be slightly heavier with more muscle and definition.   Well,  I like the latter.  I don't like the feel of the marathon body, plus I like speed so I'm returning to what I call my "5k body" vs. the "marathon body."

2.  Running is an important "part" of my life but not my life.  The more you push toward 100 mile weeks, running become more than just a part, especially for us folks with spouses and kids.  I run to be more fit, happier and a better person but running is something I do and weave into my life and not the reverse where I weave life into running.  So, in my world, that's the difference between a 5-6 mile weekly day run vs. a 8-10 mile weekly day run.  The former allows me to see my kids in the morning and watch them head out the door.  The latter requires me to leave before they get up and return after they've left for school.  I choose the former.

3.  I'm ultra competitive which is just in my DNA from being a high school and collegiate athlete so I admit I need something I can excel at and I can do very well at the 5k and still have a normal life vs. the time and training required to excel at the marathon.

4.  I don't like being injured and less miles reduces my chances for injury as well as it eliminates having to constantly run in a fatigued state.  That isn't fun.  I've gone months where I run every day in a fatigued state and I don't like it.

5.  I like running every day and with this approach, I'm stronger and it allows me to absorb workouts on a 7 day a week basis without overloading my body to maintain a level of fitness for the longer distances.

I've been reminded that you clearly need to answer, for yourself, "why do you run and what makes you smile"  While I try different things with my running, my answer tends to be the same.

Harry

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Chugging out the mileage isn't the answer (at least for me)

Isn't the relationship between running and emotions amazing?  I realized as I increased my mileage from 40-45 mpw to 60-65 mpw my emotional state changed for the worse.  Although my body was able to absorb the mileage increase (which is a big positive), running started to become a chore and it wasn't nearly as fun.  It's a reminder how we are all wired differently and you have to find your personal zone and identify what makes it fun b/c if it's fun, then everything else takes care of itself.

I think any of us can get caught up in the sheer numbers, that is, the weekly and monthly mileage number which shouldn't be focus.  Just hitting "a number" may result in destroying the love and fun of running.  It's why I seldom run with a watch (other than my race pace runs which only occur once every 7-10 days).  Data can be very useful but it can also be very harmful.

I've gone back and forth in my training over the years but it's pretty clear that I'm a 5k/10k runner and that's what I am.  While I have run, and can run, half marathons and full marathons (even one 50k to my credit), it just doesn't map to my emotional make-up and I'm coming to terms with that.  In a runner's world where many define running by the longer distances, I realize that's about money and popularity.  As one race director told me, "the 5k, 5 mile and 10 mile races are absolutely wonderful but they take the same amount of work to setup and maintain as the half or full marathon in many respects and the money is in the longer distances as that's why folks want to run."

I'd further state that many marathon runners are not equipped to run the marathon because they haven't become efficient runners yet and if they learned how to master the 5k, then 10k, then half, they would do much better but that's not our society.  We think "big" and want immediate satisfaction and this may also correlate to the very high yearly injury rate of runners.  Many folks know my story.  After many years of solid running, I came across an elite runner who ran along side me and we started talking and, long story short, he said if I wanted to become a good runner, I needed to learn how to "run one block efficiently, then 2 blocks, then 1 mile, then 2 miles, etc."  Talk about a blow to my ego but I so appreciated the honestly as I marveled at how smooth a runner he was and he reminded me he had been running "shorter" distances as a kid (to school and back) and over time became efficient enough to tackle longer distances.  He went on to recommend that I spend 1 full year "only" running 5k's which I did and that was the beginning of me become not yet a runner, but a pretty efficient and talented runner (from a recreational perspective :) of course).  Then I started to lower by 5k time to sub 20:00, sub 19:00, and sub 18:00.

So what's the point of this post?  Great question as I jumped all over the place.  You decide if there's any value in what I've said :)

Harry

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Indoor vs. Outdoor running

I utilize the treadmill as does many of my other cold weather running friends but never mistake the treadmill for outdoor running and understand the pro's, con's, advantages and disadvantages with treadmill vs. outdoor running.  This is an excellent article with lays it out in simple terms.


Indoor vs. Outdoor Running: 3 Things to Know About Treadmill Training
By Caitlin Chock • For Active.com
The rain is pelting down, hail slices through the night air like bullets, and the cracks of thunder and flashes of lightening set the backdrop for any great horror movie. The sounds of your footfalls are lost in the chaos, but the miles ticked off aren't done on the slick pavement, but rather, in an indoor haven on the treadmill.
The treadmill can be an excellent training tool for runners when weather conditions are uninviting or downright dangerous, or when running outside isn't an option. Not to be scoffed at by "running purists," there are times and places when a treadmill is a better bet:
  • Safety: When it is too dark out to safely navigate your route, or when the weather has left the terrain iced over or slick enough to invite a fall and possible injury.
  • Workout Quality: If the conditions outside don't allow you to run safely at a faster pace, you can turn to the treadmill to make sure you're able to hit the proper level of exertion.
  • Hills and Incline Training: If you don't have access to a steep hill or an incline that is long enough, you can create your own using the grade on a treadmill.
  • Injury Prevention: The belt of the treadmill is more forgiving than the hard pavement; running on a treadmill reduces impact and is easier on the body. This can be especially important for those coming back from an injury.
  • Family: Leaving the kids unattended to go out for a run isn't exactly a glowing parent strategy. "I use a treadmill because I need to be close to my family, and we got our treadmill the day our second son Grant was born. I watch both our sons most mornings and I can still do my workouts and spend time with them," explains Michael Wardian, an elite ultrarunner who does much of his training on the treadmill.
Indoor Versus Outdoor Running: The Differences
While there are treadmill benefits to boast of, there are still key differences runners need to be aware of between indoor and outdoor running.

Hamstrings: Because a machine powers the treadmill belt, the mechanics of your running stride differ when you run outside. When running on the treadmill, you use your quads to push off. But, unlike outdoor running, where you would typically rely on your hamstrings to finish the stride cycle and lift your leg behind you, the propulsion of the belt does much of that work for you. This means your hamstrings aren't firing as much and don't get worked running inside as they would outside. The extra effort demanded of your quads is also a factor to keep in mind.

Terrain: Or more correctly, the lack thereof. "Something that I try and keep in mind is that the treadmill is really consistent and even, but outside things are constantly changing. Each change takes energy and thought, so I remind myself not to zone out while outside and especially on trails, where a bad footfall can mean stitches and a new tooth," says Wardian. 
Outside of a potential fall due to unsteady outdoor footing, landing wrong on your foot can cause strains and other injuries. If you've been doing much of your running on a treadmill, your body is used to a nearly even and constant stride. Should you run outside, your risk of an injury from even a minor misstep would be higher because the small muscles, tendons and ligaments of your ankle haven't been forced to get used to a variety of landings. (i.e.: sharp turns, curbs, uneven pavement, trails, etc.). 

Wind Resistance: Even in ideal outdoor conditions you run against air resistance; you don't get inside, so the paces you run on a treadmill are a bit easier than they would be outside. To negate this, you can put the treadmill incline up to 1.5 percent to account for lost wind resistance and make the paces comparable to those run outdoors.
With these key elements in mind, you can adapt your training as need be. If you're doing much of your running indoors, make sure to supplement with extra hamstring-strengthening exercises. 
To safeguard your ankles, work on balance and mobility drills such as balancing on one leg on a Bosu ball or pillow. After you can hold there, test your balance further by moving your arms or reaching down with your opposite arm towards the foot you are balancing on. This will build strength in the ankle area.

How to Transition Between Indoor and Outdoor Running 
If you have been doing nearly all of your training indoors, you need to be especially cautious as you begin to move back outside. You need to transition gradually in order to avoid a resulting injury. So start with one or two of your easy, shorter runs per week outside and build from there; you can also split runs up—some miles can be completed on the treadmill and the rest outside. 
Of course it works both ways: If you're moving from all outdoor running to more treadmill running, rely on the gradual transition method.
As we head into the winter months, if the wind is hollering, the snow has left your running route only navigable by snow-shoe, or you need a training partner who doesn't care if you're tired and would like to slow down, the treadmill can be your respite.

Hope you enjoyed it and I'd be interested in your feedback.

Harry

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Adaption rate, recovery and muscular stress cycles

Well, it's been interesting as I've increased my weekly mileage to the 60-70 miles per week ("mpw") range having exceed 70 mpw a few times.  To reach this threshold, I've also had to throw in 2-3 doubles per week.  My body has been able to absorb the increase, however, to no surprise, I've lost some leg punch given my legs are trashed at times.  It's been a great experience because it's forced me to reassess the recovery process as a masters runner.

Like it or not, I've over 40 years old and I have to recognize changes in my body, adaption capabilities, recovery and muscles stresses.  It's just life and you acknowledge and start to build a plan around it or you ignore and end up seriously injured and/or unhappy.  I just listened to a great interview on Masters Training by Coach Greg McMillan which you can pull up on iTunes in the podcast section (it's free).  Coach McMillan identifies 3 types of masters runners:

1.  the one that competed in high school and at the collegiate level, left the sport after college, and comes back
2.  the one that picks up runner later in life, generally in their mid to late 30's and realizes they are pretty good
3.  the one that competed in high school, college and never stops.

The #3 category is extremely rare as Coach McMillan points out.  #1 and #2 account for the vast majority of  masters runners and I'm clearly a #2.  Having played high school and college basketball, I picked up running around age 37 and realized as I was pretty good having regularly finished in the top 5-10% in races against my similar aged counterparts (and I've won a 5k outright against collegiate runners).  Coach McMillan had different advice for the #1 vs. #2 runner and I'll selfishly focus on the #2 runner because the #1 runner, as he pointed out, has a tremendous amount of experience and knowledge from their prior running life which has pro's and con's.  The #2 runner has no mental remembrance so it's all new.

The key that he points out is focusing on the "adaption" cycle.  Generally speaking it will take a masters runner 1-2x additional days to recovery from hard and long runs so the key is to spread the stresses.  He recommended the following approach:

1.  decrease the number of total workouts and mileage
2.  focus on recovery
3.  focus on "key" workouts (speed and long runs for example) and make sure you are recovery before and after such key workouts

The basic message is to match the training to the adaption capabilities.  Just running sheer miles for the sake of miles will significantly increase your chances for injury and burnout.  The other factor to support that which another coach highlighted is that it can take 3-5x longer for a masters runner to recovery from injury.  A injury that might take a few days for a 20 something to recover can take 2-4 weeks for a masters runner to recovery so the message is clear that the best way to avoid injury is to "not" get injured, hence the focus on recovery and smart running.

All of this has me re-assessing the increase mileage against the ultimate strategy and goal of "quality over quantity."  At the simplistic level, I'm comparing my 40-45 mpw and hitting key workouts vs. 60-70 mpw and continuing to run in a fatigued state and not being able to incorporate as many key workouts (i.e., having to do more easy and medium effort runs).

Harry

Monday, December 10, 2012


A good article for folks that focus on the 180 steps per minute. Be careful as it is often over simplified. Speed is a combo of stride rate and length and, what is often disregarded, is the pace at which the spm were counted. Jack Daniels measured the 180 which has become religion with elite runners at tempo pace.  I see runners out take these extremely short baby steps, however, you can only increase your cadence by 5-10% as there's a point where you can take as many steps as you like but you'll quickly max out.  You can't disregard stride length and, regardless of what you hear, both stride rate and length increase as you get faster and it's the same for the vast majority of elite runners.  

This issue is the point in time in which we analyze elite runners.  It's one thing to watch a runner at 5:30 min. pace increase to 5:00 pace as they were already flying at the 5:30 pace :).  It's another to take a runner at a 9:30 warm-up pace and compare that to a 9:00 pace or 5:00 pace.  The fact is many elite runners are in the 160-170 range at slower paces (8:00 - 9:00 pace).  I tested myself on the treadmill and at a 9:30 pace, I'm around 164.  At that pace, if I try to force a 180 stride rate, not only does it feel wrong, it's inefficient especially for my body type as a slightly taller runner.  I don't hit 180 strides per minute until I'm around the 6:45 pace range and I'm around 184-186 at the 6:15 pace range.  The 6:00 min. mile is basically my aerobic threshold (although I can hold 5:45 for a 5k) and at that pace, I'm around 186-188 strides per minute.  My point is to keep the 180 gospel in perspective.   

Remember, you can have too long a stride but you can also have too short a stride (both can be inefficient):

http://www.scienceofrunning.com/2011/02/180-isnt-magic-number-stride-rate-and.html.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Base mileage, trying to find the sweetspot

As I posted last month, I increased my weekly mileage from 40-50 miles per week ("mpw") to 50-60 mpw. On the high end, that's a 20 mpw difference and I can definitely feel the impact after 4 weeks of averaging 60 mpw.  Now I'm asking myself "why" and what's the advantage of maintaining a 60 mpw base as that's a heavy base for a 40-something :).  To maintain the 60 mpw, I have to throw in 1-2 doubles per week and it can take a toll in terms of limiting recovery time which can be an issue as you get older and, of course, there's always some differences based on the individuals make-up, including genetics.

As such, I'm taking a very close look at the impacts and value of the increased mileage.  It makes sense when I'm training for a half or full marathon but since I'm not training for a longer distance race, is it worth the increased weekly mileage just to increase my base mileage?  It's a tough question and something I'm looking at for myself.  I've also run 57 consecutive days and I'll also re-visit the value of a rest day although I'm less concerned about a rest day and more focused on the impact of the increased mileage.

My body has always responded and recovered from speed workouts faster than too many long runs and that may be an individual thing.  The deep question will be the "why" for me . . . why run 60 mpw vs. 40 mpw and it's a deeper analysis than just saying "because I can."  I've proven I can but I need to go deeper and correlate the mpw to happiness and health.  I'm in the process of doing that right now :).

Harry

Thursday, December 6, 2012

New Vivobarefoot reviews forthcoming

As a early supporter and proponent of the original Vivobarefoot Evo running shoe and later becoming one that heavily critized the design of the Evo, I've been in discussions with Vivobarefoot and I'll be testing several of their new models, specifically:  The One, Stealth and Evo Lite.  I look forward to trying them out and I'm hoping that, at a minimum, the blister issue is resolved with the Evo lite as well as the One and Stealth.

I'll keep you posted once I have a good feel and have logged enough miles to provide some level of substantive feedback.

In the meantime, here's pics of the models:

http://minimalistrunningshoes.org/sneak-peek-vivobarefoot-one-stealth-evo-lite-ss-13

Harry

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