Sunday, August 31, 2008

Finally Some Better Weather

We've been running in 92-102 degrees the past several days, and starting tomorrow we're supposed to get another solid week of 92+. . . . but today the high is only supposed to get to about 80.  Being that Sunday is typically my long day, I was grateful for the drop in temp.  (well, it's not really 'long' yet, I'm still working my way back up)


Weightlifting (upper-A,  and core), stretching, rolling.

11-miles @ 7:38 pace, HR=153.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

What running "talent" means to me

I've often heard guys ask, "what exactly constitutes 'talent' when it comes to running?"  Well, I'm no marathoner - I was always a track guy, and to me how much natural talent a runner had could always be answered by one simple question:  "how fast can you go out and run a 200m?"  

A great natural runner will always perform well in the 200m almost regardless of experience.  The 100m is much more technical - a lot of the race depends on the start.  If you're inexperienced, or simply have poor technique out of the blocks, even if you're faster than your competitors you will lose because there isn't enough time to make up for your poor first 20 meters.  And the 400m as anyone who has run that event competitively knows, is not "natural" for any human being.  I don't care how great an athlete you are, getting around that track in 40-something seconds requires a great deal of endurance, desire, and an ability to block out all kinds of discomfort in addition to natural talent.  Guys don't typically just show up and run a great 400m.  It requires a good deal of training.

But the 200m is where the inexperienced, almost untrained natural runner can still shine.  Sure it would be better if he had terrific technique out of the blocks, but if not, no big deal - he has plenty of time to make up for it.  And the fact that he has little to no endurance, not a problem.  You don't need much endurance to run a 200m.  

I saw this first hand on too many occasions in my T&F days.  I was not an overly "talented" runner.  I could beat some of the top tier guys in the 100m because I was much better out of the blocks and had enough speed to hold them off until we hit the tape.  I could beat these same guys in the 400m because I was in much better shape and as these guys hit the wall at 320m I could zoom on past them like they were standing still.  But in the 200m there was nowhere for me to hide.  The fact that I could get out ahead of them in the first 50m didn't matter all that much, as by 120m, the more talented guys would begin to pass me.  And my higher level of endurance didn't help either because these oftentimes inexperienced and lightly trained runners clearly had enough gas in the tank to finish a 200m strong.  No, the 200m was the race where I felt helpless against the top tier athletes.  There was no technique I could use or training I could do to combat the raw talent these state finalists had.  Sure, some of them were also good technical runners and/or endurance trained, but even the ones who weren't would pass me somewhere between 120m and 180m if they were talented enough runners, and there was simply nothing I could do to stop it.  

As an example, there was one guy in our conference who had never run competitively in his life, but I guess his track coach convinced him to try T&F his senior year.  He was awful out of the blocks as you might expect from a newbie (but he could still run a 100m in 10.8) and he was a miserable 400m runner because he hated to train (53 seconds or so), but in the 200m. . . . 21.2 and I believe the state champion.  His teammate who was a much more polished runner w/ 4-years of HS T&F experience ran about 21.8 in the 200m, but he ran the 400m in 47.5 and the 100m in 10.6 - 10.7.  The second guy went on to have a much better college career probably due to his greater work ethic, but in terms of raw talent - no question the first guy had a lot more of it.


5 x 1000m:  avg pace - 3:43 w/ 1-minute rests.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Evaluation Day

As I mentioned in the previous post, lately Tuesday has been "rep day" for me.  Over the past 4 weeks I've been ratcheting up the speed to where on 8/19 I ran 4 x 400m w/ the last 3 at an average of about 64.7 seconds.  As Tuesday 8/26 approached, I was trying to decide what to run for that day.  Being that I'm ramping my fitness back up after the injury, I'm very eager to know "how far away am I from my fitness peak in early February?" (right before I got hurt)  I had done the usual, look thru the logbook and try to compare, but the best I could determine was that I was probably about 2 months away from being back at that level, but there was no real apples-to-apples comparison.  As I looked at the logbook more closely, I found a quasi-time trial workout I did in early December:  2-mile warm up, 600m at 95% effort, 15-minute break, 400m at 95% effort.  Being that I needed a rep workout for Tuesday, and this was almost exactly 2-months prior to the injury, running this workout would give me the apples-to-apples comparison I was looking for.  So w/ that, Tuesday's workout was set.  The times I needed to hit:  600m: 1:38.9 (2:12 half mile pace) and 400m: 62.2

Tuesday morning I was feeling a little apprehensive about this workout.  What if I missed these times by a mile?  That means I'm more like 3-months away from getting back to where I was.  Three months, how depressing.  If that were true, I'm probably better off not knowing.  I also noticed a couple other things that I hadn't noticed before that didn't make me feel any better.  #1,  back in December I took the day off before this workout and this time it was going to be my 3rd consecutive day of running.  And #2, the temperature back then was in the low 60s and today I was going to be looking at mid-80s (or so I thought), not good.

The kiss of death seemed to appear on the car ride over to the track when the outside temp reading from the car matched the one at the house:  91 degrees, and not one damn cloud in the sky.  By the time I got to the track I had pretty much talked myself out of the workout.  Things like "I'm setting myself up for failure", "it's WAY too hot", and more specifically, "how the hell am I going to run a 63 first quarter and still have anything left for the last 200m w/ my obvious lack of cardio fitness" kept running through my head.  How about a nice threshold workout of 5 x 1000m at 6-min/mile pace instead??  After a cutting the warm up short by about a half mile due to the heat I said "the hell w/ it, just run the damn workout".  I didn't want to sit there all week waiting to run it next Tuesday.  I figured I'd just do the best I could and if the results were poor, then I just had more work to do.  However, I did stand at that starting line for a good 3-minutes before taking off.

First 200m came in at 29 and change, which is exactly where I wanted to be.  Of course this was the easy part - hell I had run the first 200m in about 29 three times last week, but then I eased up and cruised the last 200m - here I still had 400m to go and no part of it was going to be all that easy.  I felt pretty good thru the second 200m, and when I looked at my Garmin and saw 62 and change I knew I was going to be OK.  In December I ran the first quarter in 63 and change and finished w/ about a 35 second last 200m.  Although I knew I was slowing here on this last 200m, I was sure it was faster than 35 second pace.  I didn't put the pedal down because I still had the 400m coming; I ran a nice controlled final straightaway.  When I finished I knew I had beaten the 1:38.9 target, and I couldn't have been happier when I looked at the watch and saw 1:36.7 - 2.2 seconds faster than December.  (A 2:09 half mile pace, although there was no way I could have run that today)

At this point, the heat really started to become a pain in the ass.  My HR wouldn't drop below 118, craziest thing - it just wouldn't drop even if I stood still.  (no there was no shade)  But I had to run this 400m.  In December the time was 62.2 - based on my previous 600m I was targeting 61.2 - 61.5.  The other thing I decided to do here was run this 400m w/a very similar strategy I used to use back in HS - run the first 100m hard, ease up just a bit and get a nice stride going for the 2nd 100m and then run the last 200m like it were simply a 200m race (i.e. run the whole thing hard)  The only changes compared to the HS days were #1 the first 4-6 steps weren't going to be full speed because I can pop a quad that way, and #2 this was supposed to be 95% effort, not 100% so leave a little in the tank during the last 200m.  

I ran the curve nicely and settled in during the back straight.  At 200m I saw exactly what I expected to see, 28 and change.  I thought to myself, "now for the toughest part of the day". . . . except it wasn't.  Last week I ran the first 200m of those quarters at 29+ and then eased up for the 2nd 200 - partly to have enough left for the 4 repeats, and partly because I needed to, as I was fatigued and gasping for air a bit.  Not today.  I had no trouble picking it up around that back turn, and as I came around to the final straight I noticed that the issues I had w/ my running form last week were gone.  I wasn't running too upright, I had my usual body positioning and the stride felt comfortable and for a change, correct.  I made sure not to really hammer that last 70-80m and keep it an honest 95%, and I didn't notice any lack of cardio fitness until the last 20-30 meters.  (although I know it's there)  

I was sure I came in under 61.5 - being that the Garmin didn't display tenths of seconds, all I could see initially from the watch was that I was actually under 61.0  When I stored the run and took a look at the history I did a bit of a double take at the time - 60.02.  Sixty flat?  In Ninety-one degrees. . . after that 600m run?  Again, 2.2 seconds faster than December.  This changes things . . . I need to adjust my plan . . . 

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Some Recent Workouts

As I mentioned in the previous post, my weeks have consisted of your basic boring easy days, a longer day (still not very long, 9-10 miles) a threshold day, and an up-tempo day.  For the past month, the up-tempo day has been Tuesday.  Here's a recap of the previous Tuesday workouts:

Tue 8/5:  3 x 800m 
This was my first real rep day since the injury.  I had been running since May, but everything was either easy or threshold, so nothing all that fast.  The interesting part about this for me was that I forced myself to run these reps very relaxed and mandated that my heel had to strike the ground first on every step.  So I wanted to go at a decent pace, but have it feel more like part of a longer run - try and stay very relaxed and just get a good heel striking stride going - the target pace was 2:40 per rep.  The workout was successful as the reps came in at 2:38, 2:36, and 2:39.  A good first rep day.

Tue 8/12:  3 x 600m
Similar idea to the 3x800 the previous week (i.e. good quick heel striking stride)  The difference this time was that instead of 2:40 half pace, I wanted to quicken it up to a 2:20 pace.  In order to accommodate this, I decided to shorten the reps to 600m.  The target pace for each rep was then 1:45.  After a first rep of 1:48, I got into the swing of things and did the last two in 1:43 and 1:46.  It felt nice to go that quickly in a comfortable heel striking stride, however my lack of aerobic fitness certainly came into play on the 2nd and 3rd reps - I can tell I'm just not in great cardio shape.

Tue: 8/19:  4 X 400m
OK, time for some faster stuff.  This time I didn't have any restrictions on forcing my heel to strike first.  This workout was meant to get in a little more speed and work on my running form.  I wasn't exactly sure where to put my target pace on these guys, so I figured I'd just see how I felt after the first one and adjust accordingly.  I did want to run a nice first 200m and then cruise home during the last 200m.

First rep I came through the first 200m in about 31 flat, eased up a little and finished up at 65.9.  Not a bad time, but I felt I could run these a little faster, so I made an adjustment.  For the last 3 reps I targeted running the first 200m in 29 seconds before cruising home.  The next 3 reps fell into place perfectly at 64.8, 64.7 and finally 64.5.  

Not bad.  Like the previous week, I can tell my cardio isn't terrific, but it will get there eventually.  The thing that bothered me about this workout, however was that my body angle never felt quite right.  I felt like I was running a bit too upright and thus I wasn't running as economically as I should be.  But, then again - that's what this workout was for, to work on running form and economy.  It was only the first time I've run faster w/o the heel striking restriction, I expected to run better next time.

Back to Blogging

Hello boys and girls.  I haven't posted in a very very long time (a good 6 months) When I bailed on the posting back in February I was struggling w/ an ITB injury.  Perhaps at a later time I'll get into the details of what happened there, but for now I'll just say that it took almost 4 months to find the root cause of the issue which has subsequently been rectified and I should not have those issues again.  I'll also say that it was a very frustrating experience, and had I not taken the advice of a supposed "foot expert" I never would have had this injury at all!

The "pain free" running started up again in May, but in June our family took a nice 3-week trip to Hawaii, which temporarily interrupted the training.  The trip was great - highlighted by a 17-mile ocean kayak journey down the Na Pali Coast off of Kauai.  (National Geographic rated this trip the #2 adventure in all of the US in their top-100!)  I picked up the training again in mid-July and have been running 4-5 days/week since then.  The cardio isn't quite where it used to be obviously, however I began a much more serious weightlifting routine (almost back to the college powerlifting days) along w/ a lot more stretching, rolling (foam roller), and several exercises that strengthen the hip-flexors, adductors and abductors.  

After almost 6-months of lifting, the result is that my body is getting closer to what it was when I was in my mid-20s, and even though my cardio isn't at a very good level yet, my running on the track is already as good or better than it was before.  I can feel it every time I do anything up tempo - I'm simply running with a lot more power.

For the past month, my weeks have consisted of a couple of easy days, a longer day and a couple of up-tempo days (either threshold running or faster reps)  And I'm in the gym 4 days/week as well.  In another couple of weeks, I plan on getting back into a base phase where I'll work on getting the mileage up and continue the lifting.  After the long layoff due to the injury I really need to work on my endurance.

Anyway - I've been healthy since early May, and it certainly is nice to be healthy.  I probably lost a total of 8-months from the injury (4 months being hurt, and another 4-months to get back to where I was prior to the injury)  But on the bright side, I learned a lot during my down time, and I've incorporated everything I've learned into my training which is already paying dividends.  I don't think you ever want to say losing 4-months to an injury was a good thing, but I'm certain my overall training would not be nearly as comprehensive had I not suffered that set back.  At this point, I'll just continue to work hard and see where it goes. . . talk to you guys soon!