Saturday, 9 August 2014

Canadians are slow

I was browsing this year's half marathon standings over at Marathon Canada.

The top ten include familiar names like Eric, Reid, Dylan, Kip, and Rob, much of the same crew that appeared in the top ranks in 2013.

While browsing the current results, the record-setting half marathon time of Florence Kiplagat came to mind; her run of 1:05:12 is faster than all but six Canadian men runners in 2014 (so far) and 2013.

At first glance this seems rather disappointing with respect to the canadian men with so few athletes running anywhere near their potential.

But is it fair to compare the men's time with a world record female run? Consider the CIS standard for the 1000m, which for men is just under 2:25. For those unfamiliar, running below this time automatically qualifies any athlete for the finals. Usually a half dozen or so athlete manage the feat in any given year. But the women's world record time for the same event is just under 2:29 (set by Svetlana Masterova, a non-Kenyan much to my surprise). In other words a National University-level performance for men is 2.8% faster than the world's best female time.

Were the half marathon to be judged by the same criteria (of being ~2.8% faster than the female WR), we might expect a certain number of male Canadian runners to achieve times better than 63:30.

As it happens the fastest 2014 Canadian male time for the half is 63:30. Over the past six years between 1 and 4 athletes have run faster than this time.

If it seems as though I'm picking on the half marathon, consider the same criteria applied to the marathon make matters worse: With Paula Radcliffe's time of 2:15:25 and using the same 2.8% yields 2:11:43. Between zero and two Canadian men achieve this standard each year.

Now keep in mind that men, compared to women, generally get faster as distances get longer (ignore what you may have read in Born to Run). The fact there fewer male runners capable of a "quality" road time that's routinely achieved on the track is troubling.

There are many hypotheses to explain this away. My observation is that Canada is too insulated in the world of road racing. Too many road races and not enough athletes means everyone can win a race without having to truly 'compete'.

By contrast the CIS university circuit is artificially constrained and condensed, which perhaps encourages faster times with the top performers comparing each to the other. The road racing talent is there, but more dilute, and it seems possible Canada -being a large country- is below some competitive critical mass.

I had an idea the other week about a series of road races that had time bonuses, and ONLY time bonuses, as prize money. You still get to stand on the podium if you win, but the money is entirely from how fast you run. I know, every road course is different so sometime it wouldn't work. But the idea is to stimulate the same results as seen in the CIS. There must be ways of improving the top performances among our best, for they can do better.

Monday, 4 August 2014

Work and exercise

As I sit leisurely on my couch at home, I am reading an NPR piece titled What Makes Us Fat. The argument goes (until the next study comes out) that physical activity has been going down faster than potion sizes have been going up.

That very well might be true. Part of the support for this line of reason is that work-related energy expenditures have been going steadily down. To quote the NPR piece:
[Dr.] Church took the findings one step further and calculated how many calories were no longer being burned. He found it was about 140 fewer calories burned a day for men and 120 fewer calories burned a day for women. "That doesn't sound like much, but when it's day after day after day, it adds up," he says.
I found data agreeing with this claim. Dr. Joyner, in a piece titled How the USA Got So Fat incorporated the same data from Church's paper on his own blog:


Thursday, 24 July 2014

Not that skinny


It's weird being normal weight. It feels like everyone who's gained weight assumes everyone else has too. I wear a size small t-shirt, sometimes an extra small. But I'm not small. Body proportion-wise, I'm what a doctor might call "nothing unusual". Mentally it's another story.

Below this is me, my BMI that is. The entire range in which it's existed since the last 10 years.



My height is 5'11", weight ranges between 140 and 155 lbs. I used to weigh about 160 lbs before I ran as much as now, losing about 10 lbs in the process. Now as someone who runs regularly, that's supposed to mean I'm a skinny person. But really I'm not skinny in any clinical sense, just a tiny bit below the absolute middle of the "Normal" range.

But I can understand the misinterpretation. Six in 10 Canadians are well above that mark, so it makes sense standing next to most anyone I look skinny. It's entirely an illusion.

There are underweight runners, but they're easy to spot, and they lose races. Pretty much all track and field athletes are in a rather normal weight range. Don't anyone be afraid they'll get "too skinny" while running.



Sunday, 20 July 2014

Multi-cycle training: outline of a possibly-new training method

It's about time I pin down the thoughts circling in my head over the past few weeks. I've made analogies about how to perceive running training. A fugue was one, arches another. But these are merely analogies to something that I haven't yet fully described. Here and now I will outline a meta training scheme that may -or may not- be useful. My only claim is that I have not seen it before, hence it could be worth considering.

If you'd like to skip ahead, in a few paragraphs I will describe how overlapping different cycles for different training elements could lead to possible added stimuli in a training plan without a strict need to "up the mileage". Just look for the *****text and asterisks in bold*****.

If you are interested in reading the early stuff, let's outline what these training elements are.

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Too many notes

Most runners don't see the sheer possibilities inside a training schedule.

Consider a weekly training block, one which the runner is going about 80 miles per week. This leaves plenty of room to play. Here's a theoretical week for such a runner broken into mornings and evenings:


You can see the running is semi-distributed, with chunks of big miles followed by rest days. But let's change things a little, moving miles here and there, and modifying workouts a little to spread the miles even more:


And again let's return to lumpier mileage, but still different from the first:

Or for that matter let's try having only single-run days


Sunday, 15 June 2014

Cortisone injections in athletes


It is a well-known fact that many injured athletes get cortisone shots when joint inflammation becomes too painful to play (translation: I'm too lazy to provide a bunch of references).

What's less well-known is that repeated injections lead to no good. Clearly inflammation occurs in joints and other parts of our body for good reason. Except for critical cases like swelling of the brain, one should hesitate alleviating such inflammation, which usually is a sign of bodily repair underway. It's important to know exactly what you're doing and why.

The following two papers are concerning back pain but this is as good a place to start as any since back pain can be crippling, hence the solutions sought provide immediate relief. Let's combine the quest of athletes and back pain in one fell swoop. Browsing Google Scholar I came across an old-ish (1980) paper that stated
Thirty-two young athletes (ages ranging from 17 to 30 years) with a clinical diagnosis of a symptomatic lumbar disc and sciatica [read: back pain] were treated with lumbar epidural cortisone injections. All had had disabling symptoms persisting for a minimum of 2 weeks, with an average duration of 3.6 months. Dramatic abatement of symptoms and a significantly hastened return to competition (a positive response) was seen in 14 (44%) of the 32 athletes following injection.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Weekly training

Though I'd start a weekly training log. I haven't done one in a while. Problem is I don't really write down the miles I run. So here goes

Monday: Might have take this day off.  Can't remember. I dunno.

Tuesday: Think I ran twice this time. Once in morning, once in evening. The second time I did some intervals. Was it 5x800m in 2:20-something? Probably.

Wednesday:  Guess I ran for an hour. Sound about right.

Thursday: More running. Nine or ten by 200m. Didn't bring a watch so no idea how fast they were. Felt nice though.

Friday: Some pool and regular running.

Saturday: Ran a 5k in 15:30. Didn't feel very fast. Would someday like to do one in 14:30.

Sunday: Two hours, more or less. Didn't time it exactly. How many miles? Don't care.

That's all! I imagine other weeks will be the same, so I won't do this again. TTFN.