Saturday, 10 May 2014

Tidbits and updates and thoughts of stuff

Where does the time go? I was surprised to realize my last post was in March, not April. This when I'm supposed to say I've been busy with other things blah blah, but truth be told there were plenty of chances to sit down and write. I have the curious habit of not writing about the thing I do while doing it. For instance during April and early May I ran three races and did a lot more actual training intervals, tempo, strength. Next week I'll run in the Bluenose half marathon. It may go well, or not. I cannot say.

The past, however, is safely behind me so I can talk about that. The training went well, hence so did the races. In the last two weeks I had the good fortune to set two bests. April 27th was a trip to Montreal for a half marathon, running in 70:15, beating my 2008 time of 70:27. Last week I ran 15:15, which beat my old 2009 time of 15:27. Neither are huge improvements, but significantly (to me, at least) they were done on few, if any, intervals. They were build on a foundation of tempo, strength, and easy stuff. I have learned a ton about training since my mid 20s. And perhaps equally as important I've learned to unlearn things, namely that a massive warmup routine is mostly BS, strides are overrated, intervals are best used in very small quantities (imagine them as a powerful spice), and finally run easy. If I could go back in time to days I ran 'easy' while still keeping my 7min/mi pace I'd tackle me to the ground while yelling 'slow the f*** down'.

Unsolicited advice/random tidbit: beware any coach who has honed their knowledge base during the 90s. More boneheaded running theories came from that decade than any period since WWII.

Still been thinking of stuff to write about. There's no shortage of ideas floating out there. Here's a few topics I had been thinking about. I may as well write them down here and now:

Running and hunger

I've taken it for granted that I lose my appetite in the hours before a run, knowing full well running on a full stomach is a bad idea. And rarely does anyone eat much while running, and post running you tend not to eat that much until a few hours later. What's my point? My wife pointed out that it's may not be common knowledge that exercise is pretty damn fantastic at controlling how much you eat just by stealing a few hours a day that might otherwise be spent eating. You simply can't eat do both at the same time. That's just one of the many reasons exercise helps people lose weight.

Everyone is a competitor

My favourite type of analysis is when when you take data everyone else took for granted and show them something new. Alex Hutchinson linked to a wonderful study by Allen et al. that was the epitome of this kind of work.


Simply put, those who run 3:59 marathons take their times as seriously as those who run 2:59, 3:29, and 4:59. We people to all run without watches, the above bell curve would be smooth. Finishing times matter, to everyone. Pace bunnies exist more than anything to help achieve certain key times, just as they do for elites. To quote a study mentioned in the original article "86.3% of marathoners ... indicated that they had a time goal".

The deeper implication is that a very large percentage of all runners see themselves as competitive. By 'competitive' I mean someone who cares how fast they run. Yet I have seen many races that claim to be 'for the masses', i.e. non-elite (Halifax Bluenose, I'm looking at you…). However, this study provides good evidence this marketing strategy is fantastically misguided. If most runners take their times seriously, it paradoxical to invite large numbers of such people to a race and to then say 'thanks for coming; we don't care how fast you run'. Consider that completive races like Boston are more popular than ever. If I had to wager, I'd say when the current running boom subsides the victors will be road races that emphasize quality over quantity. (actually, when you put it that way it sounds kind of obvious)

Training paces: mutual support

I wanted to expand on my last post regarding how running at different speeds offers mutual support to overall quality. It's a though field to breach since there's too much advice already out there on training tips. Despite there being so much out there, there's not a lot of information that emphasizes the feedback loop aspect to training. Most people think it goes

easy running + strength => tempo + strides => race pace

But really there's a lot of feedback that's hidden in this pyramid structure (and it's why I don't like pyramids).  Consider that one needs some volume of tempo in order to be capable of running high mileage, which leads to a more relaxed running posture, which allows for more relaxed strides. So that it makes equal sense to write

                                          tempo => easy running  => strides => race pace

All the while 'racing speed' is an ever-changing quantity, hence byproduct, of these other items, therefore ill-advised to base all your training paces on a speed you can't yet define.  Food for thought. If this is old news to everyone that's fine. It's fun to test whether 'obvious' training tips are in fact sensible. You never know...

Anyhow that's all there's time for today (or so I claim…). Off I go run and stuff. 



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